Building Paradise

Six months ago in the Arizona desert, eight people in red jumpsuits stepped into another world--a huge, futuristic greenhouse where they've vowed to live for the next two years, cut off from the rest of the world. Funded by Texas billionaire Ed Bass, it's called Biosphere 2, and it's touted as a great scientific demonstration of how humans will colonize other planets. But if you look closely, you'll find a lot less science in this project than religion. The huge greenhouse of Biosphere 2 is designed as a miniature Earth. It's supposed to be a closed, self-sustaining ecosystem, with its own rain forest, savanna, desert, and even a small ocean. Its inhabitants are supposed to grow their own food and breathe the oxygen given off by the plants. Only weeks after its initiation, however, word leaked out that the greenhouse wasn't a closed system after all. For example, instead of growing all their own food, the Biosphere group had stored up several months' worth of food ahead of time. And the supposedly balanced ecosystem ended up being off balance, so that fresh air had to be pumped in from outside. Various scientists associated with Biosphere 2 have recently disassociated themselves, saying there's been too much fudging for the project to qualify as truly scientific. But that hasn't deterred the participants. Because as I said, their motivation isn't so much scientific as religious. Biosphere 2 is the outgrowth of a philosophy concocted years ago in a counter-cultural commune of the 1970s. The commune leader used to preach that Western Civilization was dead, that the world was coming to an end, and that an elite group of people would flee to Mars, where they would evolve into a superior race. Now, 20 years later, many of the commune members are still together--and they form the core group of Biosphere 2. The commune's doomsday philosophy is now being dished out in literature available to tourists who visit the project. They can read all about that elite group destined to colonize Mars, living in a structure similar to Biosphere 2. It appears that the former commune members see themselves as a key link in a vast cosmological saga, that began with the Big Bang, went on to the evolution of the planets, the emergence of life, and now is going to take a giant leap forward in the evolution of a race of intelligent superhumans. As one of their books puts it, they're going to "transform themselves from localized planetary lifespans to cosmic immortality." Human beings evolving to cosmic immortality? This has the ring of Satan's promise so long ago in the garden of Eden: "You shall be as gods." And it is the same promise, dressed up in modern scientific trappings. Well, the media is treating Biosphere 2 as a tourist bonanza, with its flashy greenhouse windows and space-age jumpsuits. But the message it teaches to anyone who picks up the literature is a philosophy of cosmic humanism: that evolution will soon produce a race of immortals--"citizens of the world of science." Well, thanks anyway, but I'm already a citizen of a heavenly city. And that heavenly city is going to be a lot better place to spend eternity than any green glass box on the planet Mars.


Chuck Colson


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