Otters, Jesus, and Human Flourishing

Y daughter loves otters. I even made her an otter book for her last birthday. That’s why I was excited to show her a chapter in an apologetics book I read this last week. It’s not that she is overly interested in apologetics, she’s seven-years-old. In his book Jesus Skeptic, author and apologist John Dickerson, uses otters to illustrate the positive influence of the Christian worldview.
Did you know that when there are cuddly, cute, California sea otters present, eco systems flourish? Dickerson highlights studies that show when sea otters are active in an environment they benefit other ocean life. This makes them a “keystone species” as other life forms from plankton to even great white sharks depend on them.
In Monterey Bay, California, many ocean creatures survive by feeding on the enormous forests of sea kelp. Dickerson describes how the sea kelp are “giant seaweed trees that can be as large as 175 feet tall under water.” There is a particular type of se urchin that destroys the kelp thus starving other ocean animals. Larger creatures that feed on species dependent upon the kelp thus suffer as well, disrupting the entire eco system. Dickerson explains the only animal that eats these sea urchins and keeps them from destroying the kelp is the Californian otter. When they’re around, they bring the entire environment up with them.
Dickerson summarizes how his study as a journalist of Christianity led him to see the connection between the Christian religion and human flourishing. He writes, “During my ten-year investigation into Christianity’s impact, the Primary Evidence continually surprised me. I reach a point when – looking at hundreds of pieces of evidence – I found myself wondering, Could Christianity be a keystone species for human society? Could it be that society improves in fundamental ways when Christians are present?” He chronicles numerous objective ways that the Christian worldview positively influences cultures where it has taken root.
The next time you see a picture of an otter, think about the good they do for their watery communities. And think about the good that Christianity has done for every culture it touches. From leading to the establishment of hospitals, schools, orphanages, and other philanthropic organizations, the Christian worldview is a lot like a keystone species, blessing the environments it inhabits.