Time for a history lesson, where I debunk two historical myths related to the exegesis of Genesis 1:26-28:
The myth spread by Lynn White and others that the command to have dominion is the main cause of the present day ecological crisis.
The myth spread by some conservative commentators such as Dennis Prager (In his commentary on Genesis) that the notion of mankind having dominion over the earth is what led to the west’s unique advances in science.
Firstly, with regard to myth one, whilst Christianity has a long history of anthropocentrism, since Augustine, Judaism does not, with early figures such as Philo claiming some Torah laws (such as the milk and meat prohibition) show concern for animals, whilst later figures such as Maimonides explicitly rejected anthropocentrism. Keep in mind that Jews and Christians both read the same Tanakh.
However, a more serious problem with both myths is that the text was not read in a way which prescribes the exploitation of nature until the scientific revolution, when figures such as Francis Bacon used Adam’s supposed dominion over nature as a license to exploit the earth in the name of science. This suggests that exploitation of the earth ‘preceeded’ interpretation of the passage in a damaging way, rather than being indebted to it.
The point I’m trying to make here is that Anthropocentrism should not be sugarcoated, as Prager and others do, as something positive to human civilisation, at least not using the evidence which they use, which is rather flimsy. On the other hand, Secular environmentalists should stop laying the blame for the ecological crisis on the Hebrew Bible, as George Monbiot does in his (otherwise excellent) book Feral, (though the NT may be more to blame with 1 Corinthians 9:9 and other passages) which is too convenient of a bogeyman.
My main source has been Harrison, Peter. “Subduing the Earth: Genesis 1, Early Modern Science, and the Exploitation of Nature.” The Journal of Religion 79, no. 1 (1999): 86-109. See also the presentation that I made here: