Bruce Thornton

Nature Fakery

At the turn of the twentieth century, President Theodore Roosevelt became embroiled in a public controversy over how some writers and naturalists described the natural world in overly anthropomorphic and sentimental terms. In a 1907 article attacking Jack London, among other writers, Roosevelt popularized the moniker “nature fakers,” those writers whom Roosevelt called “an object of derision to every scientist worthy of the name, to every real lover of the wilderness, to every faunal naturalist, to every true hunter or nature lover. But it is evident that [the nature faker] completely deceives many good people who are wholly ignorant of wild life.”

The “nature” the sentimentalists described was not the real nature, but one conjured from old myths and imaginative projections of human ideals onto an inhuman natural world. Unfortunately, a century later “nature fakers” are still promoting their sentimental myths about nature, only now with serious repercussions for our national interests and security.

These days “nature fakery” lives on in school curricula and popular culture, from Earth Day celebrations to Disney cartoons like Pocahontas. Only now this myth is renamed “environmentalism” and disguised with a patina of scientific authority. Worse yet, this allegedly scientific information provides the basis for government policies that impact our economic productivity and national security. The furor over global warming illustrates this unholy alliance of ancient myth and misleading science. For years we have heard claims that the evidence for global warming caused by human-generated “greenhouse gas” is “incontrovertible,” as the American Physical Society claimed last year in a policy statement, and that “if no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur.”

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