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Reading Genesis after Darwin$
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Stephen C. Barton and David Wilkinson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195383355

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195383355.001.0001

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Propriety and Trespass

Propriety and Trespass

The Drama of Eating

(p.203) 12 Propriety and Trespass
Reading Genesis after Darwin

Ellen F. Davis

Oxford University Press

Contrary to the popular view, the first chapters of Genesis do not attempt to instruct us about the process by which the species came into being ("the origin of species"), but rather about the relations that obtain, or should obtain, among them. In the context of reading Genesis after Darwin, it is noteworthy that the theme of eating is central in Genesis 1 and 3, for an important part of Darwin's legacy is the understanding that food chains are the means whereby all creatures are bound together with one another and with the earth itself. Further, we learn from Darwin that, for each species, survival is a matter of propriety. That is, it depends upon behavior that observes the limits of a particular place within the larger web of life. This chapter focuses on what the opening chapters of the Bible suggest about the divine provision of food for all creatures, the intended role of humans, and the tendency of the human species to violate the limits. Contributions to the exegetical conversation come from contemporary agrarian writers (e.g., Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Norman Wirzba), who argue compellingly that industrial agriculture represents an unsustainable disruption of the food chains that sustain humans and numberless other creatures.

Keywords:   Wendell Berry, Genesis, Darwin, eating, food chains, agriculture, sabbath, agribusiness

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