I can’t prove that holding that the earth is alive and possesses an intellect and will is heresy, but I think it is for the following reasons.
On my Stream article “Vatican Hosts Conference With Pantheistic Theme: The planet is not alive“, a commenter calling himself Mensa Member said:
I can’t imagine how seeing the earth as an organism is heresy. There is nothing wrong with something being organism. It strikes me as an odd point to disagree with.
Besides, I suspect he wasn’t using “organism” in the narrow biological sense but in the “complex interdependent whole” sense. It’s common usage.
The “he” refers to Johnny Schellnhuber, who does indeed hold that the earth is some kind of giant, self-aware computer, i.e. that it is alive and possesses rationality. See the links to the original stories showing this. Whether Johnny really believes that is irrelevant here. We’re interested in the proposition itself.
Mensa is right, of course, that some when they say “the earth is alive”, they mean it in the metaphorical sense of a “complex interdependent whole”. Yet this “whole” is everywhere trivially true. The place where life exists, even if it’s a spaceship isolated from all contact, is a “complex interdependent whole”. Nothing, then, can imperil this state on earth, except by killing every living thing. And the only real risk of that on earth is from the Lord or from giant rocks from space. An increase of temperature of a degree—or even ten, or twenty—is not going to come close.
It is absurd to suggest the earth is alive. It has none of the characteristics of a “life form”. And since it is not alive, it is even more absurd to suggest it is a rational animal, akin to men. If the earth were alive, it must mean that either we are part of that life and not therefore independently alive, but only something like earth-pancreases, or that we are separate from it, intruding upon and inside this life, like a cancer. Indeed, that latter claim is made by environmentalists.
Suggesting we are earth-pancreases, and thus that we do not possess free will, but that we only serve the “body” of the planet, is surely heretical.
If we are a cancer, how did we get here? It is either by transplantation or by evolution. Transplantation is a heresy. We are not an alien invasive species. This is also quite shockingly an anti-Science position! No environmentalist makes the claim of our transplantation directly, but it is often hinted at.
If we rational animals got here by evolution, then rational beings are a cancer, and this is heretical. There are too many instances of God giving people dominion over the world or certain lands to say we are a cancer. You don’t put cancer in charge.
Skipping over that difficulty, suppose as all believers in Gaia (in whatever form) suppose, that the earth is a rational animal of some kind. Then the earth—excuse me, Earth—has free will. What choices can it make? What choices did it make? Has Earth sinned? Is it in need of salvation?
Earth is clearly unlike angels, which are beings of pure intellect and will. Earth is made of rock. We are made of bones and blood. And both we and Earth possess intellect and will. Now angels also possess free will (and intellect) and have made their choice (most likely at the time of their creation) to serve God or rebel.
Earth did not have a moment of instantaneous creation, but evolved. So it must either have been like Mary and conceived without sin, or that it at some point sinned. Either way, Earth has killed many men. Landslides and tree falls (most recently), hurricanes, lightning, fires, and so on.
If Earth was conceived without sin, then since Earth has free will all those killings were deserved. Next time some “natural” event whacks a few of us, best we can say is, “We had it coming.” Earth is, after all, doing these killings with God’s knowledge.
But if Earth sinned, then it is clear we have a serial murderer on our hands. We are thus justified in taking action against Earth, like cutting her trees down and releasing chocking gases into the atmosphere; building dikes and levees; try to warm the place to make it more comfortable.
If Earth is alive in the way Schellnhuber says, and if it was not conceived without win, then this is war.