The political theology of the Anthropocene
already really enjoying this series, rhyd. i've got to get caught up on The Mysteria in the meantime!
Start and end dates for things are always discretionary. When does red end and orange begin in a rainbow? Time flows, so picking a point in it is a fallacy, and is only needed if useful in some way, like if you want to blame something for the shit we're in.
I can't remember the publication but there is an essay by Bernard Charbonnau on the Ellul forum about the Christian roots of modernity. Just replaced Christ with The Science as redeemer, with hilarous consequences all around. I reckon it's black magic, myself. Newton and all those cool kids back in the day were alchemists and sorcerers.
I don't think it's wrong to compare science and religion but I do think you are being a bit unfair here. I think that a council voting in this way is silly but understandable. I don't think it's fair to suggest it's the same as a council voting on whether the Son is of the same essence as the Father, or on whether fossil fuels really do come from fossils. Because, as Benn says below, the boundary between Holocene and Anthropocene is like the boundary between red and orange and that's the only reason scientists feel they can vote on it. They aren't quite claiming the authority that bishops claim. It's more a liturgical than a theological point, I think.
That said, AFAIK we only think red and orange are different colours because Newton wanted there to be seven colours for alchemical reasons. Although he failed to get 'indigo' and 'violet' separated for anything other than the spectrum itself; you don't get indigo and violet crayons - just purple.
In that context, setting 1950 as the start date is definitely going to cause problems; although probably less than if we set it to 'dawn of agriculture' or 'start of colonial expansion' because a lot of people actually do believe that those points mark 'when it all went wrong'; whereas nobody can seriously believe 1950 was when the Beast suddenly popped out of the sea.
Personally, I'm very much in the holocene = anthropocene camp; as I work on large mammal conservation, I kind of have to see it that way. But I suppose we can just start talking about 'the long Anthropocene,' like people do with centuries.
I suppose it might be possible to argue that the IPCC marked a sort of 'council of Nicea' moment; though without a single emperor who was very obviously on side. I think the IPCC has done a lot to introduce the dangerous idea of 'scientific consensus', which could be considered an oxymoron.
I read this thing a couple years ago, it might interest you Rhyd.