The Gulf Revisited: When a Species Thinks with its Ego
American outrage over the BP spill cloaked the original culprits: the authors of Genesis. The hunt for the villains who “let this happen” nurtured a comfortable delusion—that mankind can ravage the earth without repercussions if we “do it right.”Like a plague of locusts or the wrath of God, the disaster in the Gulf reached biblical proportions—an apt description because our philosophical beginnings may have trashed our southern waters.
A 2004 study at Emory University used functional MRIs to chart the mental gymnastics humans enact to cast a rosy glow on unwanted facts1,2. The authors concluded “everyone” may reason to biased interpretations when confronted with facts that challenge our ambitions, egos or beliefs. Consider this finding in light of Genesis and our reaction to Deepwater Horizon.
Genesis portrays a serpent as tempting Eve to eat a forbidden fruit3. Eve in turn convinces Adam to take a bite. The Islamic version blames the couple equally while portraying Satan as a “whisperer” whose sole power lay in tempting Man astray4. As a young boy schooled by Catholic nuns, I recall my first impressions of this myth: Duped by the devil, Adam and Eve were more to be pitied than blamed.
By inventing a non-human scapegoat to muddy human guilt and endanger our souls, the authors of Genesis one-upped a proven PR technique. Greek Mythology, for example, claimed the people of Troy ignored Cassandra not because they fell for a scam they wanted to believe but rather Cassandra was cursed5. Likewise, Homer claimed the Trojan War stemmed from a beauty contest between three goddesses rather than a self-centered prince seducing the queen of a powerful king. Stories throughout mythology blame the gods for human folly, hence their enduring appeal.
In tagging a “British” corporation for the disaster in the Gulf, the White House provided voters with a foreign target for domestic anger despite two-thirds of BP employees and half its directors being American6. Sarah Palin blames environmentalists for trying to protect our shores7. Former V.P. Dick Cheney attacked the president’s management of the crisis8, and yet Federal deregulation under Cheney’s direction freed the drilling industry from using a safety device designed to prevent disasters such as the BP spill.9
Far more effectively than industry efforts to cap the leak, anyone with an oil-agenda—except environmentalists with the courage to voice unwanted truths—spun the disaster to feed the delusion we’re victims in the Gulf rather than its underlying cause.
Had the authors of Genesis sought to raise human consciousness and avert misery, they would have crafted a story without Lucifer that said in effect, “Adam and Eve suffered because they deluded themselves to justify doing what they wanted to do.” Instead, they blurred Man’s accountability to cause and effect by involving a snake in their eviction while ceding the earth for the “dominion” of their flock. Sanctioned by Genesis, we slaughtered the whales, massacred the buffalo, polluted the oceans, poisoned the air, and damaged the ozone.
In 2009, the United States guzzled more oil than the next four nations combined,China, Japan, India, and Russia10, and yet our current population represents a tenth of the world’s top five oil consumers11. Less than five percent of mankind lives in the U.S., but we burn over twenty-two percent of its oil. Because Americans choose to drive when we might ride a bike or walk, because we choose to buy oversized vehicles to feed our egos, and because we drive anywhere and everywhere to escape boredom, corporations such as BP will continue to poke holes into the earth’s crust and all mankind will suffer.
Genesis poisoned the relationship between our species and Earth by telling us we’re apart from nature rather than a part of nature. For example, an American off-shore drilling supervisor recently defended his industry by claiming the earth “has a way of taking care of itself.” Together with our ability to filter facts to match our beliefs, our philosophical roots lead us to treat the planet like an inexhaustible storehouse of natural resources and a bottomless landfill, but at least we’re not to blame.
After all, the devil makes us do it.
Paralyzed by a 1997 spinal cord injury, J. Perry Kelly twice served as a surrogate stem cells spokesperson for the GW Bush White House. Conservative denial regarding global warming caused him to abandon his activism, cut his political ties, and write “The Sibyl Reborn,” a cli-fi psychological thriller.
- Westen D, Blagov PS, Harenski K, Kilts C, Hamann S., Neural bases of motivated reasoning Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 11/06;18(11):1947-58.
- Political bias affects brain activity MS-NBC Jan 24 2006
- Adam and Eve in Genesis and the Book of Jubilees (chapter 3, verse 7) Wikipedia Online
- Koran 07:20 The Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, The University of Southern California
- Cassandra in Mythology The Greek Mythological Prophetess, Wikipedia Online
- Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen White House Press Release, 07 June 2010
- Madison Gray, Sarah Palin’s Facebook Oil Spill Rant, Time’s News Feed, 04 June 2010
- Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sex, Lies, and Oil Spills, Huffington Post, 5 May 2010
- Dick Cheney breaks silence, blames Obama for oil spill, Newsweek Online, 17-06-2010
- U.S. Energy Information Administration, Independent Statistics and Analysis: 2009; 18.68 million barrels (U.S. daily consumption), 18.31 million (next four consumers), 83.631 million (total world oil consumption)
- United Nations: Population Division; World Populations Prospects: updated 11 March 2009: 310 million (U.S. projected 2010 population) compared to 3 billion, one-hundred and fifty-two million (projected 2010 populations of top five oil consumers)
- C. Leonard and A. Sayre; BP employees find their company attacked as public enemy No. 1, try to lay low. Associated Press on Fox News, 18 June 2010
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