Ian Barns worked in the School of Sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth from 1988 until he retired in 2011. He was involved in teaching and coordinating a range of inter-disciplinary courses in the social, political and cultural aspects of science, technology and sustainability as well as several research projects in the social aspects of biotechnology and genomics research. Before that he completed an Honours degree in Chemistry (at UWA), a BEd (U. of Melbourne) and a PhD in the social studies of science (at Murdoch). He was also employed at RMIT from 1984 to 1987 teaching in the Institute’s ‘Context Curriculum’. Underlying his teaching and research and continuing into the present is an ongoing interest in the nexus between theology, technoscience and sustainability. He has published in a range of academic journals and co-authored two books.
The recent publication of Defiant Earth by Australian public intellectual Clive Hamilton is an important reflection on the emerging role of earth system sciences as a trans-scientific framework for the task of global governance in response to the advent of the Anthropocene. Hamilton has been an active contributor to recent debates about the naming, timing and appropriate responses to the Anthropocene. As was the case with his earlier book, Requiem for a Species, Defiant Earth is also a significant contribution in opening up the deeper theological issues raised by the disruptive impact of the Anthropocene. In this paper I argue that despite this, his presumption of what Charles Taylor has characterised as the ‘immanent frame’ of secular humanism prevents him from engaging seriously with such issues and in particular with the challenge that the ongoing ‘technologisation of the world’ (manifest most notably in the rapid diffusion of the digital economy and in the anthropocenic modification of the earth system) poses for the taken-for-granted immanent frame itself. In response, I argue that a constructive theological response to the issues Hamilton raises is to articulate an alternative ‘Trinitarian frame’ (tentatively explored by Taylor in A Secular Age): a vision of God and the world that is grounded in the ‘theo-drama’ of the Bible, embodied in a renewed theo-politics of ecclesial life and articulated as an alternative meta-frame for the ongoing challenge of earth system governance in the emerging Anthropocene.