Nature has a way of surprising us pretty much every time. At least that is what the journalist Jack Hitt believes.
With this introductory remark in mind, Hitt, a contributing reporter for Harper’s Magazine and the New York Times Magazine, entertained an audience of about 60 people Friday afternoon at Bowers Auditorium in a lecture sponsored by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
In his speech, the acclaimed writer — introduced by FES Dean Gustav Speth ’64 LAW ’69 as “one of the best and most prolific journalists in the United States” — analyzed the unique relationship between the environment and religious faith. Citing a wide array of anecdotes and authors mentioned in his recently published article, “A Gospel According to the Earth: Sown by Science, a New Eco-faith Takes Root,” Hitt offered a new approach to the study of the modern environmental movement.
Throughout his speech, Hitt referred to various religious and theological sources and explained that the spiritual aspect of environmentalism is being woven into certain literary works. He noted that science is beginning to emerge as a separate way of thinking about the world and focused on the variety of effects that scientific advances can have on one’s beliefs.
Hitt stated that environmental language is taking on a new meaning, and familiar concepts are currently being reconstructed and debated again in scientific terms, such as the recent discussions regarding cloning and stem-cell research, both of which relate to birth. In addition, Hitt introduced a new concept which he referred to as “intelligent design,” which examines the idea that “we cannot ‘know’ without God.”
“Whatever it is that we can’t figure out about nature, God created it,” said Hitt, expounding on a three-centuries-old biblical debate about how the world works.
The majority of the audience members, most of whom were graduate students and professors, seemed to appreciate Hitt’s energetic and humorous delivery, frequently interrupting the speaker with spontaneous bursts of laughter.
Responding to a question from an audience member, Hitt acknowledged that his article — which alleges that some environmentalists are too religiously fanatic about the environment — has received mixed reactions from readers. The audience’s responses to the actual content of Hitt’s speech on Friday seemed to be diverse as well.
Brett Golden FES ’05, praised Hitt for his straightforwardness.
“I was surprised that he wasn’t afraid to say what he wanted to say. I wouldn’t have expected him to say some of the things he mentioned,” Golden said.
In contrast, some people expressed disappointment in his lack of personal opinion and the extreme abundance of excerpts from the original article.
“He had some interesting ideas, but I don’t think he actually showed what faith can do for the environmental movement,” Amanda Chavez ’05 said. “[I thought] he was picking and choosing what he wanted to bring up.”