Spotted owls have become the butt of many jokes, much derision, and sometimes outright hatred by conservative commentators, unemployed lumberjacks, and struggling timber-town businessmen. The raging controversy isn’t the owls fault, though. They are just high-profile pawns in a very heated war of worldviews.
Whether the owls are even “endangered” is a matter of debate. The “data” varies depending on the viewpoint of the researcher. The real issue, though, is much deeper – it’s a question of values and of man’s opinion versus God’s Word. Are owls just as “valuable” as people? Is human life fundamentally different from other life? When there are apparent conflicts of interest between people and creatures, who wins? The answers depend upon one’s worldview.
According to evolution, people are fundamentally no different form animals – their existence and dominance today are just the result of lucky accidents. According to traditional Darwinism, the “fittest survive.” Thus, as the dominant species, people are free to do as they please until some stronger species evolves and humans are eliminated in the ongoing “struggle for survival.” Modern man has often acted upon this philosophy, devastating the environment and other living creatures in his greed for power and “things.”
Lately, though, an ancient evolutionary twist which emphasizes the inter-relatedness of life is gaining wide support. In this view, the animals are our “brothers” or “sisters,” the earth itself is a living entity (Gaia or “Mother Earth”), and all life has equal “value.” Thus, rats have just as much right to live as people, cows eat while children starve, whales are saved while babies die, and spotted owls are protected at all costs.
The Bible, however, teaches that man was created in the image of God and given the responsibility of being caretaker of God’s world. This was a pleasant and easy task before sin and death entered the world, but now it involves hard work and often difficult decisions. God certainly cares for all His creatures, but they are fundamentally different from mankind, made in the image of God. We are His special creatures, the crown of creation, so valuable to Him that He sent His Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.
God expects us to be wise stewards of His earth, but not to worship it. We are to honor and give thanks to Him – to worship the Creator, not the creature. This earth will surely be replaced by a “new heavens and new earth,” but until then we are to obey God, to value people as He does, to share the Gospel, and to exercise wise dominion over the earth. In order to do this job well, we need quality research, free from the influence of pagan philosophies, economic greed or political power. As in all areas of life, we need to know the truth of God’s Word and live it consistently.
(Relevant verses to read: Gen. 1:26-29; Gen. 2:15; Gen. 3:17-19; Gen. 9:3; Ps. 8:3-8; Matt. 6:26; Matt. 10:31; Matt 12:12)