Nervous about sharks and other dangers

Simon Smart

A couple of shark attacks in recent weeks, in Sydney Harbour and at Bondi Beach have left me feeling a tad nervous. I love surfing and although I admit without false humility, that I am not very good at it, the pull of the ocean is a strong one. I especially love surfing at dawn, a time that the experts tell me is, along with dusk, the most dangerous time to be in the water. 

Whenever an attack occurs a range of voices are inevitably heard debating the methods of protecting beaches from dangerous sharks. The issue of shark netting employed off the Australian coast is controversial. It is designed to discourage large sharks from establishing a territory near populated beaches but it comes with a cost to marine life. Many harmless dolphins, turtles, even whales are sacrificed and evidently many of the sharks that are caught appear on the beach side of the net, which begs a few questions.

There are some passionately held views that the nets are cruel and ineffective and detrimental to already endangered populations of sea life. Humans are entering the territory of the animals and these creatures should not be made to pay the price for our enjoyment, so the argument goes. There is definitely something to this. Humans should seek to protect the natural environment, and our record on this score is very poor.

But while my I vainly lift my toes onto my board while waiting for the next wave, my nervousness comes also from another place. Among those searching for a good answer to the problem are people who suggest that marine and other animal life is of equal value to that of a human. Philosopher Peter Singer believes this to be true, and his influence is growing. But such an idea denies a key Judeo-Christian notion that all humans are made in God's image and therefore are of immeasurable value.

Of course you don't need to be Christian to have a deep appreciation of the precious nature of a human individual. The "sanctity' of human life means it makes perfect sense to all of us to send helicopters and planes and hundreds of people in search of one lost swimmer, when we would never do the same for even a much loved animal.

We must work hard to find ways of communing with nature that are not destructive or cruel. Yet the notion of human life as the pinnacle of creation is a value we dare not lose

This article was provided courtesy of The Centre for Public Christianity