Attenborough on Genesis

by Paul F. Taylor on February 9, 2009

A well-known atheist recently claimed that God’s command in Genesis is the root of environmental issues. Paul Taylor, AiG–U.K., shows that this skeptic hasn’t done his homework.

Editor’s note: The author of this web article participated last Sunday morning on the BBC TV program “The Big Questions,” along with evolutionist Lord Carey. Among the topics discussed were Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday this Thursday, plus the comments made by TV presenter and well-known British evolutionist Sir David Attenborough on Christianity. Here are Mr. Taylor’s comments on Sir Attenborough.

Much has been made of Sir David Attenborough’s comments recently in the United Kingdom. Negative comments about Christians in general—and creationists in particular—were made by the “National Treasure” (as he has been called) in his programme about Charles Darwin on February 1.1 It was commented on by various newspaper reports of his thoughts in the article “Famous Evolutionist Told to “Burn in Hell”” on our website.

One particular comment, however, is worthy of greater analysis. By quoting Genesis 1, Attenborough accuses the Bible of being responsible for all the pollution and environmental damage in the world. These were the comments, as reported in The Independent:2

Sir David, 82, said the devastation of the environment has its roots in the first words that God supposedly uttered to humankind, as detailed in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
An atheist raised in an academic, non-religious family, Sir David said Genesis peddled untruths about how animals and plants appeared on earth and was also at the root of why there was now serious environmental degradation due to the greedy overexploitation of the earth’s natural resources.
“The influence of the Book of Genesis, which says the Lord God said ‘go forth and multiply’ to Adam and Eve and ‘the natural world is there for you to dominate’, [is that] you have dominion over the animals and plants of the world,” Sir David said.
“That basic notion, that the world is there for us and if it doesn’t actually serve our purposes, it’s dispensable, that has produced the devastation of vast areas of the land’s surface.
“Of course it’s a gross oversimplification, but that’s why Darwinism, and the fact of evolution, is of great importance because it is that attitude which has led to the devastation of so much, and we are in the situation that we are in,” he told the science journal Nature.

Attenborough’s words show a lack of understanding of the plain meaning of Scripture. He has read into the word dominion what he wants to see because of his atheistic background. An unbiased reading would not suggest that God’s words in Genesis 1:28 imply that people can do what they like, damaging the environment. In my book, The Six Days of Genesis, I said this:

Our dominion over the world gives us the right to use the world, but also a responsibility. We do not have a Gaia-type link with the world. We are not to worship it. Industrialization is not necessarily wrong, and is frequently the right exercise of our cultural mandate. But coupled with this is a responsibility for creation. As Christians—indeed, as a human race—we are to protect our environment. This is not because we see industrialization as inherently bad, but because we have the responsibility that comes with dominion. Basically, God is saying, “The world and all its animals are yours to use. Don’t mess them up.”3

In this bicentenary year of Charles Darwin, we are seeing more open intolerance. Sir David is generally seen as a “gentleman” of television. But in these comments, we see his dislike of the Bible and of Christians. This militant atheism is going to become more prevalent as the year progresses. We need to be on our guard for subtle and no-so-subtle attacks on God’s Word.


  1. Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, Sunday, February 1, BBC1.
  2. D. Attenborough, “Genesis? It Can Go Forth and Multiply,” The Independent website.
  3. P. Taylor, The Six Days of Genesis, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2007), p. 77


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