Sunday, May 3, 2009

Plume paperback with new preface!

» Endorsements from 6 Nobel laureates
» Praise from other science luminaries
» Responses from diverse religious leaders
» Purchase softcover online for $10.88

What follows is the new preface...

As we recently observed the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his landmark book, On the Origin of Species, evolution has become firmly established as the central organizing principle of the biological sciences. Natural explanations for the growth of complexity through time ground all the other sciences, as well, from cosmology and chemistry to neuroscience and psychology. That everything within this universe has emerged through natural processes operating over vast spans of time is now well beyond dispute among scientists and the educated public. Yet even today, families and public school systems remain divided and the evolutionary worldview is still shunned by millions, perhaps billions, of religious believers around the world. Why?

One reason is surely that big changes in thought and perspective take time to be assimilated. A deeper reason is that humans do not live by truth alone. We require the sustenance of meaning—of beauty, goodness, relationship, and purpose. We require comfort in times of sorrow and suffering. We also require perspectives that encourage us to cooperate in ever-wider circles in order to solve ever-larger problems—problems that today encircle the globe.

So long as the scientific worldview is presented in ways that ignore these basic human values—values that religions excel in providing—there is little hope that the devoutly religious will appreciate science for anything more than its technological fruits. The good news is that the coming decades will see each of our religious, ethnic, and cultural stories embraced within a larger sacred context. The scientific history of cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity is our shared sacred story—our common creation myth. It is an epic tale that reaches back billions of years and crowns each and every one of us as heir to a magnificent and proud lineage. This Great Story is open to improvement, as the revelations of science yield new insights, offer new ways of seeing, and alert us to misperceptions. It is open to change, too, whenever more helpful and inspiring interpretations of the facts become available. All this is possible, moreover, without scientists needing to fear that religious interpretations will skew or shade the truth. Nor must religious peoples join the ranks of atheists.

In public lectures that distill the contents of this book, time and again I have seen faces light up when I explain the distinction between private revelation and public revelation and when I advocate the importance of both day language and night language. Both pairs help us value the contributions of objective science without dismissing the subjective realms—artistic, emotive, and spiritual—that served our ancestors for thousands of years and still vitally serve us today. During seven years of itinerant evolutionary evangelism, I have watched young and old alike delight in the astonishing fact that we are made of stardust—that the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood, and other atoms of our bodies were forged inside ancestor stars that lived and died before our Sun was born. I have seen, too, this naturalized and cosmic understanding of death comfort those whose grief would not otherwise be consoled.

Scaling down to the inner realm, I have witnessed tearful testimonials from those freed from years of guilt, shame, or resentment after learning our brain’s creation story—that is, how the brain, with its embedded instincts, reflects an evolutionary trajectory from reptilian ancestors to early mammals, primates, and hominids. Others are grateful for the practical tools for improving lives and relationships that an evolutionary understanding of human nature affords. Still others have found that the supernatural claims that linger in the creeds and liturgies need not drive them from cherished traditions of their faith.

Sanity, health, and joy each emerge and are sustained only in right relationship with reality. Thank God for Evolution is thus a call to integrity, to wholeness, to sustainability—individually and collectively. In the year since its publication, events have validated and expanded the understanding of deep integrity outlined herein. From sex scandals in politics to crimes of greed on Wall Street, the underbelly of modernity and postmodernity is now vividly apparent. Thanks to discoveries in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary brain science, however, we can begin to improve institutions so that vital social structures can thrive despite human foibles. Equally, we can look to a future in which religious worldviews are free of the fundamentalism that fuels extremism.

How was the world made? Why do earthquakes, tornados, and other bad things happen? Why must we die? And why do different peoples answer these questions in different ways? The big questions that children have always asked and will continue to ask cannot be answered by the powers of human perception alone. Ancient cultures gave so-called supernatural answers to these questions, but those answers were not truly supernatural—they were prenatural. Prior to advances in technology and scientific ways of testing truth claims, factual answers were simply unavailable. It was not just difficult to understand infection before microscopes brought bacteria into focus; it was impossible. Without an evolutionary worldview, it is similarly impossible to understand ourselves, our world, and what is required for humanity to survive. For religious leaders today to rely on prenatural answers puts them at odds not only with science but with one another—dangerously so. Their resistance, however, does make sense. Until scientific discoveries are fleshed into the life-giving forms of beauty and goodness (as well as truth and utility), scriptural literalism will command power and influence.

A meaningful view of evolution is good news for individuals and families, and also for communities, nations, and our world.

It is good news at these larger levels because a sacred, deep-time understanding of history and our evolutionary heritage is the very foundation needed for facing global challenges of our own making. It will encourage us to act, moreover, with compassion and inspired dedication. I offer this book and its stories of awakening toward this noble and necessary end.

» Hear Michael Dowd read the new preface to the paperback here.

Book description

Free sample pages (Table of Contents, Preface, Promises, Prologue, Introduction, and Chapter 1)

» Purchase softcover online for $10.88

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stuart Davis talks with Michael Dowd on Integral Life

by Corey deVos

Michael Dowd, celebrated author of the book Thank God for Evolution, talks with Stuart Davis about his own journey from religious fundamentalism to evolutionary spirituality, the contours of his evolutionary approach, his relationship with his wife and teaching partner Connie, his response to the New Atheist movement, and his hopes about the future of evolution on this planet. He and Stuart also discuss the secret to Michael's conciliatory approach to teaching, which has enabled him to speak amicably with both religious fundamentalists and scientific materialists alike, while helping to build conceptual and relational bridges to cross the gap between science and spirituality.

"I certainly think that the new atheists are providing a tremendous service at one level. They are critiquing and attacking mythic, other-worldly, supernatural religion. And I think that is one thing that needs to be done in the world at this time. It's certainly not the only thing, and I'm glad they're doing what they're doing and I'm playing a different role in the Body of Life. I'm glad that the creationists are playing their role in the Body of Life! It's certainly not a role I want to be playing—but you know, I wouldn't want my anal sphincter cells and my heart cells to be doing the same thing! I found that the Integral model helped me to formulate a way of holding the whole, a way of holding diversity that allows me to say 'yes' to the role that other people are playing in the Body of Life, but also differentiating passionately...."

Listen free...

The Future of Religion

by Jon Cleland-Host

One of the many empowering realizations that an evolutionary worldview gives us is that we can make some reasonable guesses about the future based on long term trends of the past.  We can enter the future with trust and with our eyes open, poised for some likely scenarios, instead of being blindly buffeted by inscrutable Fates.  In chapters 16 and 17 of Thank God for Evolution, Michael Dowd shows that if the 14 billion year history of the universe were compressed into a single century, then the next minute on the cosmic century timeline would represent 250 years. Surely, we should be able to make a few accurate assumptions about the next minute if we know the past 100 years of history!

Some events can't be predicted very well, such as distant supernovae or the direction of next week's stock market movement.   Others, however, are the result of long-term trends, and can at least be estimated based on those trends.  For instance, world population has been increasing rapidly for centuries, and it appears likely to continue to do so for several decades into the future.  When our day-to-day experience is affected by long-term trends, those trends can predict part of what our future (and our kids' future) will be like.  Out of all the aspects of society that affect our lives, let's look at religion.

If you are an American Gen X'er like me, you probably grew up in a world where the dominant religion was an unquestioned, moderate, mainline (Protestant or Roman Catholic) Christianity.  I remember some religious conflict in society (such as the fight over female ministers), but also remember times without conflict.  How much should I trust those memories of mine?

Anecdotal evidence (the memories and experiences of one or several people) is naturally a powerful force in our evolved minds.  After all, it's the only kind of evidence that our Ancestors had available for well over 99.9% of our existence.  It makes sense that we have evolved to pay a lot of attention to it.  However, our experiences are terribly limited, our recall quite selective, and our memories malleable by desire and expectation.  This is why anecdotal evidence is often not worth the paper it is (sometimes) printed on, and why it takes a conscious effort for us to go beyond it.

Luckily, the modern world often gives us powerful and effective supplements to anecdotal evidence.  The 20th century, unlike any century before it, generated a wealth of detailed data on an astounding array of subjects.  To ignore this evidence when looking into any subject is like driving with your eyes closed.  It's stupid, pointless, and often harmful.  So let's look at some recent religious trends...

The First Measured Century, by T. Caplow shows us some of these data, while many other studies provide additional data.  Since 1900, moderate Christian denominations, like the Episcopal Church, have been shrinking, while more fundamentalist groups, like the Pentecostals, have been growing.  Even though this growth has been going on for a long time, in comparison to moderate-to-liberal Christianity, mainline Christians were still the overwhelming majority until recently.  Now, even evangelicalism is in serious decline in America.  For more about this, read the provocative and much discussed recent article in the Christian Science Moniter: "The Coming Evangelical Collapse", written by Michael Spencer, a well-respected evangelical blogger.)  The last two decades have also seen an increase of the "non-religious": Agnostics, Atheists, and a resurgence of Deists.

The recent data from the ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) just published on March 9th confirms that these trends are continuing today.  For instance, this survey found that the non-religious continue to increase, now reaching 15%, up from just 8% in 1990.  Similarly, the proportion of Christians in the U. S. continues to decrease, down to 76% from 86% in 1990 and 93% in 1965 (Rasmussen data).  Minority religions experienced growth of over 10% per decade, from 3.3% in 1990 to 3.9% in 2008.  However, the biggest shock was the drop in the mainline, moderate, Protestant Christian faiths that defined much of American culture for so long.   Nearly 20% of Americans were mainline Protestants in 1990, 17% in 2001, and just 12.9% in 2008.  Perhaps most importantly, the young are the least likely to identify with mainline Protestant Christianity.  We've also seen an explosive growth of "ex-Catholics"

So what does this tell us about our future?  Because these trends have been going on for decades or centuries (depending on the trend), it seems likely that they will continue.  It seems hard for many of us to imagine a United States where Christianity is a minority religion, yet that appears likely within the lifetimes of many of us.  The remaining Christians will be mostly fundamentalists.  Religious diversity will be the norm, with large proportions of the non-religious and increased Muslim, Hindu, and other populations.  Can you imagine a future world where many people haven't even heard of tiny sects like Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Baptists?  How can we imagine such a radically different religious landscape?

One easy way is to simply look across the pond to Europe, where these same trends are farther along.
  Like the probable future United States, Europe currently has growing minority religions, a shrinking Christianity, and a large Non-Christian (or Post-Christian) population.  This can be seen in the 2005 Eurobarometer poll, which found that only 52% of Europeans believed in God, with even lower rates among the young.  Because the countries in Europe vary greatly in regard to religion, some countries show this much more than others.

Do we need more confirmation of these trends?  What is going in Australia, a third large chunk of western culture?   In 1901, Australians were over 95% Christian.  This dropped to 76% by 1981, and to 64% by 2006.  Minority religions are rapidly growing (and were at 5.6% in 2006), and the Non-Religious have grown from near zero in 1966 to between 20 and 30% in 2006, and are even higher among the young.

In all of these Western cultures, the highest numbers for both the non-religious and the minority religions are among the young, who will become the culture of the future in all these areas.  As a result, as the young grow up these trends will likely continue, in addition to any acceleration due to the cultural changes that are driving them from the start. 
Confirmation of this comes from recent data on Canadian teens.  Compared to mid 80's, 30% fewer teens identify as Catholics, over 60% fewer teens identify as Protestants, and today there are more teens in Canada who identify as Muslims than as Protestant.  Over the same period, the number of professed Atheists among Canadian teens tripled.

These data certainly came as a shock to me.  They may come as a shock to you.  They no doubt would come as a major shock to the millions of Americans who wrap Christianity and America together in their minds.  In fact, a 2006 study found that in America, Atheists are more widely hated than any other studied group, including homosexuals, Muslims, and African Americans.  Unlike being homosexual, Muslim, or African American, simply being an Atheist disqualifies a person from being president of the United States in the minds of most Americans.  With the non-religious being second only to Christianity in numbers in the United States, it's no surprise that we've all seen the growing animosity on both sides of the God debates, as well as the escalation following the appearance of the New Atheists.  (See Connie Barlow's blog post: "A Place at the Podium")

Are these trends and the attitudes of millions of Christians (especially in the United States) on a collision course?  Is our near future and that of our kids going to be marred by hatred and conflict between Christians, Muslims, Atheists, and others?  As we've seen throughout history, few human differences can result in as much violence as differences over religion, such as when the religious wars of the Protestant Reformation killed literally millions of Europeans over the course of two centuries.  It is chilling to realize that most of the religious carnage that has occurred in recent centuries did so without the aid of nuclear and chemical weapons, which have since become a common addition to arsenals around the world.  What will religious conflict be like with them?

A tragic future is not, of course, inevitable.  An evolutionary worldview provides us with a way to call into being new interpretations of every religious (and non-religious) path, interpretations that are vibrant, healthy, living, and perhaps most important of all, harmonious.  As someone on the Evolutionary Paganism (Earth-honoring) path, I'm happy to see the growth of Evolutionary Christianity, Evolutionary Islam, and so on.  I happily promote Evolutionary Christianity among those whom it will fit.  I'm a Pagan promoting a form of Christianity?  Yes!  The evolutionary forms of religion really do fit together harmoniously, and they really do expand our circles of care and concern to embrace the whole planet.  This harmony is but one of the many gifts of the evolutionary expressions of each religious tradition.

What are these new, evolutionary forms of the venerable religious traditions?  They are simply the core religious concepts of each tradition, practiced in the light of the current discoveries of science and our evolutionary past and future in ways that inspire and empower.  They are discovered when those within each tradition translate their own religious metaphors and symbols to make them relevant, real, inspiring, and universally true.   This is nothing new.  All religious paths grew and changed as their adherents revitalized their religions again and again over time.  To see this happening today is evidence of a living faith that has not stagnated.  Michael Dowd goes through this process for Christianity in Section III of his book, Thank God For Evolution (and in the recent blog posts "Christian Naturalism" and "How and Why I'm a Pentecostal Evangelical").  Others have begun this process for other faith traditions.

Evolutionary forms of all religious paths also evaporate the conflict between believers in God and Atheists.  An evolutionary understanding of God is not something can be disbelieved in - the evolutionary God is as obviously and undeniably real as our own bodies.  This is discussed in detail in many previous blog posts here, such as "Metaphorical Gods vs. Reality: Part 1 and Part 2".  When evolutionary forms of religion and non-religion are adopted, the whole Atheist/Theist question becomes irrelevant, and we are all freed to celebrate our lives together, and freed to concentrate on the real problems of building a bright and sustainable future for our great great grandchildren.  (See Michael Dowd's blog posts: "Creatheism: Evolutionary Emergence Ends the Theism-Atheism Debate" and "The Silly Debate Over God's Existence."

The trends we are seeing today are moving faster than many of us realize. 
As the past four billion years of life on our Earth has shown us, Evolutionary Emergence generally speeds up over time.  To keep our species from being caught unprepared for these changes, pioneers across the globe are helping to usher in the religious revival needed to prevent much of the future religious conflict before it happens.  The fact that traditional, flat-Earth religions are withering even without a clear competitor shows how needed all of these real, fulfilling evolutionary forms of spirituality are today.  In the West, perhaps the second most important evolutionary spirituality that must be built is that of a meaningful, purposeful, Evolutionary Humanism.  It is a path so poorly developed that the majority of Americans have never even heard of it, or its sister paths of Religious Naturalism and Neo-Pantheism.  Few attempts have been made at this important part of the Great Work of building our future culture - though some great beginnings do exist, such as the ongoing work by Connie Barlow and Ursula Goodenough.  In discussions with other people with a naturalistic worldview, I rarely hear more meaning and purpose than the banal nihilism of "we all just decompose eventually anyway".  The Great Story—the Epic of Evolution—can be a tremendous source of meaning and value for evolutionary forms of all religions, traditional and non-traditional, and for freethinkers as well.

We each make decisions every day that speed or slow the emergence of a just and thriving future for planet Earth and it's diverse species.  For the sake of your kids, and mine, I hope we are making decisions that will help us build this inclusive, evolutionary, science affirming culture sooner rather than later.


All of the estimates of the religious landscape in any area are likely to change depending on the wording of the questions asked as well as methodological differences (such as whether or not children are included).  For this reason, sources are provided for all the numbers used in this blog post, and the reader is encouraged to check the data from various sources.  Some of the main sources used include:

The Cosmic Century (the 14 billion year history of the Universe condensed down to 100 years) is explained in greater detail starting on Page 277 in Thank God for Evolution, by Michael Dowd. A similar condensation (Earth's history condensed to a single year) can be seen in Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Episode 2.

The First Measured Century by Theodore Caplow is available in many bookstores, including online bookstores.

The entire ARIS 2008 Survey is available as a free download, which also contains a summary.

Pre-1990 data on the proportion of Christians in the US can be found here.

Detailed statistics on the explosive growth of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity can be found in "Spirit and Power—a 10 Country Survey of Pentecostals" by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, October 2006.

The Entire 2005 Eurobarometer poll can be downloaded here.  Note that the poll allows for the selection of "some universal spirit or life force" instead of "God", however, being the question being address was the prevalence of Christianity, only belief in "God" was considered so as to separate Christians from those with a more Deistic or New Age view of divinity.

Data on the religious landscape in Australia give slightly different numbers depending on the source. The approximately 30% non-religious estimate is from Flinders Social monitor (Gladigau K., West, Dr B., Flinders Social Monitor, No. 8, April 2007 (ISSN 1834-3783), while the 20% non-religious estimate is from the Australian Census Bureau, and can be accessed here.

Data on the beliefs of Canadian teens is available HERE.

Poll data on hatred in the United States toward Atheists can be found in Penny Edgell; Joseph Gerteis, and Douglas Hartmann (April 2006). "Atheists As 'Other': Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society". American Sociological Review 71 (2): 218.

From Mystery to Wonder: Science vs. God of the Gaps

by Connie Barlow

"Science cannot explain the origin of life," a man told me as I managed the book table at my husband's evening program recently.  The man had been explaining how he had come to accept evolution while maintaining his belief in God.  Then a younger man entered the conversation, warning, "But science may one day crack that mystery, too." I concurred, "A God of the Gaps is a dangerous approach for resolving science and faith."

Michael's program that evening (23 March 2009) was his newest illustrated talk, "Evolution and the Global Integrity Crisis", which he also will also be presenting at the United Nations.  We were at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church near Philadelphia.  The event drew an audience from the surrounding Philadelphia community.  It was co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia, Metanexus Institute, Narbarth Havurah, Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, St. Luke United Methodist Church, and The Earth Center of the Delaware Watershed.

In order to make time for the global integrity theme in his new program, Michael had dropped some of the theology that he ordinarily presents (and that entails a large chunk of his book, Thank God for Evolution).  Specifically, he had excised the arguments leading up to a bold assertion: "An understanding of God that does not at least include the entire creative process of the Universe is, given our modern understandings, a trivial notion of God."  Alas, absent this perspective, moderate Christians will have little option but to continue taking refuge in today's version of "God of the Gaps" theology—that is, Intelligent Design.

Just how secure is the mystery of life's origin?

Is this argument in favor of a designer God well fortified from possible intrusions by explanatory science?  That is, how great are the gaps in scientific understanding of (a) the formation of complex organic molecules on or within the early Earth, and (b) natural and unguided processes for linking up such molecules into precursors of living systems?

A stunning gain in understanding the formation of complex organic molecules was reported in December 2008
- and not just in the science media: Nature Geoscience.  USA Today also printed an article titled "Life from Asteroid Collisions?".  A team of Japanese scientists performed experiments that simulated (in miniature) the chemical conditions of Earth's early atmosphere and ocean during the time of the late "Heavy Bombardment" of asteroids in Earth's pre-life history.  The heat and shock of such impacts would have destroyed any complex organic molecules in the vicinity of the impact, but the subsequent fallout of materials raining down through the atmosphere over a vast area would have generated far more complex molecules in the process—molecules that would persist in the chemical conditions of Earth's early ocean.

In 1997, as a freelance science writer, I was privileged to help a brilliant scientist write his final book.  The education I gained in his presence opened my eyes to the prospects of an eventual solution to the mysteries of life's origins.  The scientist was Thomas Gold (1920-2004), and the book is titled, The Deep Hot Biosphere.  Back in 1992 Gold had published a scientific paper by this same title (now available online here), and it had entranced me from the outset.  The origins of life ideas he presents in his final book include a speculation that he made in one of the interviews I taped of him, but which he hadn't yet published.  Knowing that this book would be the only place that particular idea would appear, I made sure to work it in.  The gist is this: So long as scientists go about their work as "surface chauvinists"—that is, assuming that the best conditions for life to originate would be at or near Earth's surface, they will fail to experimentally test chemical interactions under conditions of exceedingly high pressures.  Gold hypothesized that catalytic organic molecules (organo-metallics) may actually originate easily and in abundance by natural processes operating at depth within Earth's upper mantle.

Time will tell.  Meanwhile, may secularists and religionists alike find awe and a sense of the sacred in not just the unknown mysteries of the universe, but the known wonders—the workings of which simply could not have been perceived, much less understood, in the time of the biblical writers.  Thank God for evolution—and thank God for the scientific endeavor that consistently works toward filling mysterious gaps with known wonders!

United Nations Values Caucus welcomes Michael Dowd

by Michael Dowd
In the Spring of 2009, I had the honor and delight of presenting my program, Evolution and the Global Integrity Crisis, at the United Nations, in New York City. The event, sponsored by The Values Caucus at the United Nations, was attended by 40 people representing a wide diversity of religious, political, and philosophical worldviews. (See event flier and photo essay.) My program was very well received and afterwards several members of the Values Caucus began talking about the possibility of inviting me back to speak to a much larger audience at the United Nations. Naturally, I told them that I would be thrilled to do so. Here is what I offered:

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: From crumbling economies to collapsing ecosystems, humanity is experiencing an unprecedented global integrity crisis. In a richly illustrated presentation, Michael Dowd proposes that the lack of an evolutionary worldview made the current crisis inevitable and that a deep-time view of human nature, values, and social systems provides a clear and inspiring way forward.

A few days after the event, Anne Creter, one of the organizers, sent me this touching note:
Dear Michael: On behalf of the Values Caucus at the United Nations, please accept our heartfelt appreciation for sharing your brilliant, rousing, thought-provoking and awe-inspiring April 2 presentation on “Evolution and the Global Integrity Crisis” with us. We were honored to be the first to introduce you at the UN, a place which needs to (and hopefully will) hear much more of your message. You really captivated us with your masterful insight and articulation of the complexities of the universe that puts it all in such a hopeful, uplifting perspective in these troubled times. We received an overabundance of praise of you and your material. Thank you and Connie for all the effort you put into making this such a grand UN event.

Christian Naturalism

by Michael Dowd

I am a Christian naturalist, not a supernaturalist. I do not deny the possibility of what some may call 'supernatural', but my focus and locus of inspiration is found in this cosmos and in this life. My understanding of the divine and experience of the gospel relate to this very real Universe, not merely to a mythic unnatural realm.  I do not value what is unnatural over what is natural. Indeed, the core concepts of my faith tradition—sin, salvation, the kingdom of God, heaven and hell, Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life—are real for me in a this-world, undeniable way (and in a way that non-Christians and the non-religous can appreciate too), as I discuss in several chapters in my book, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World.

The idea of an eternal life-after-death without pain or struggle, yet with awareness of the everlasting torment of others (those who did not believe as I did), I consider hell, not heaven.

I no longer merely believe in God.  Thanks to the worldwide self-correcting scientific enterprise, I now know that facts are God's native tongue.  Evidence reveals God's nature, God's ways, and God's guidance far more accurately than could have possibly been revealed to the biblical writers.  This is in no way a dissing of scripture.  It is, however, honoring God as a truly divine communicator and lifting up scientific discoveries as revelatory.  Few things are more unflattering than imagining that God spoke more clearly to goat herders and fisherman in the distant past, through dreams and intuitions, than God does today through cumulative evidence discerned by the global community of scientists.

In an evolutionary context, theism is trivialized if it is thought to be solely, or even primarily, about otherworldly matters and unnatural entities.

Christian naturalism is an evo-theistic, or creatheistic, perspective that transcends and includes traditional notions of God that made sense when people assumed the earth was flat and the universe revolved around us.  Like Evolutionary Christianity, it doesn't reject the possibility of a supernatural realm.  But it does focus on, and primarily value, what is natural and unquestionably real.  And the fact that such a science-based way of reframing and celebrating the core insights of religion has been endorsed by 5 Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, as well as by religious leaders across the spectrum, suggests to me that Christian Naturalism has a glorious future.


The Unnaturalist Fallacy
Imaginary gods vs. Reality/God: Part 1 and Part 2
God is NOT a Supernatural Terrorist
How and Why I'm a Pentecostal Evangelical
Traditional Religion's God Problem
Evolution as Meaningful, Inspiring Fact
The Great Blasphemy?

Born With a Bang

by Jennifer Morgan

8-Year-Old Recites Universe Story onYouTube

Introduced by Jennifer Morgan, author of Born With a Bang

More than fifty years ago,
Maria Montessori observed that the elementary age child passionately seeks answers to the great cosmic questions:  Who am I? Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  That's why she developed the Cosmic Education Curriculum and made teaching the universe story the centerpiece for the elementary level.  The story is such a gift for children during this precious window when they think cosmically.

I recently received a message and YouTube clip from Tom Weiland, father of
Ava, an 8 year old Montessori student in Seattle. The video of Ava reciting from memory volume 1 of my Born With a Bang trilogy powerfully demonstrates this thirst for the universe story.  Ava’s presentation is remarkable and mesmerizing.  Although she's never heard me speak, I was delighted to witness not only her passion in this recitation but also many of the same inflections that I use when telling the story.

Thanks so much Ava!  You're a huge inspiration!

Editorial note: Tom Weiland approves of our writing about and linking to the video of his daughter. Here is a clip of the e-message he initially sent to Jennifer Morgan:

Hello Jennifer Morgan,

I'm writing to you because my daughter is such a big admirer of yours.  Your books are in her classroom.  She picked them up about a week ago and has been totally entranced by them.  So much so that she set out to completely memorize Born With a Bang.  Her name is Ava and she is eight years old.

I sat down with her a few days ago, she was anxious to show me that she was memorizing it.  To my amazement, she'd memorized about half the book. I was stunned that she retained that much — word for word. She was so passionate about it.  I encouraged her to keep going, and a couple of days later she'd memorized the entire book. I thought you might find it fun to see, so I captured it on video.

Thanks for writing such an engaging, informative, and fun book.  It is truly a great work and our whole family has enjoyed it — especially as told through Ava.

Links to the 2-part video . . .

Part 1
Part 2
Link to the Born With a Bang website . . .

Part 1

Part 2

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Gospel of Big Integrity

by Michael Dowd

The gospel according to science—the saving good news from an evolutionary perspective—is this:

A deep-time worldview makes coming into integrity, or "getting right with God", individually and collectively, a no-brainer.

This is really good news because integrity is everything; it's the only thing that truly matters.
At this time in history, focusing on anything other than right relationship at and with all nested levels, from the personal to the planetary, is a distraction.

Religion has always recognized the centrality of integrity. In the language of my own tradition, what is 'conversion' other than coming home to Integrity? What is 'abiding in Christ' other than living in Integrity? What is 'the fruit of the Spirit' other than evidence of Integrity?

The two types of religious leaders that Jesus was most critical of were the Sadducees and the Pharisees—those who thought being right with God meant being in the right tradition, having the right beliefs, or performing the right rituals. To both of these kinds of believers Jesus emphatically said, "No, that's not it! Follow me. Walk the path I'm walking. Abide in integrity. It's by your fruit that you'll be known." When we forget this, we betray God (and belittle the gospel).

While we naturally feel whether we are in or out of integrity with respect to our values and our closest circles of relationship, without an evolutionary worldview we can't know whether we are in integrity at larger scales. And without a deep-time view of grace and creative emergence, we certainly cannot see our way forward.

Here's an initial sketch of what I suggest integrity looks like at multiple levels:

EDUCATION that includes how each subject fits within the big picture has integrity.
EDUCATION that ignores the larger ecological and cosmological context lacks integrity.

RELIGION that celebrates the divine at all scales of reality has integrity.
RELIGION that values the unnatural over the natural lacks integrity.

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION that helps children interpret science in inspiring, faith-enhancing ways has integrity.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION that fails to help children interpret science in sacred, meaningful ways lacks integrity.

SPIRITUALITY that helps each of us work through resentments, secrets, and unfinished business has integrity.
SPIRITUALITY that fails to transform peoples lives and relationships lacks integrity.

GOVERNANCE concerned with aligning individual and group self-interest with planetary self-interest has integrity.
GOVERNANCE that fails to reflect back to the parts their impact on the whole lacks integrity.

DEMOCRACIES that effectively harness collective intelligence have integrity.
DEMOCRACIES controlled by moneyed interests lack integrity.

ECONOMICS with accountability and an understanding of our evolved instincts has integrity.
ECONOMICS that fails to take into account a scientific view of human nature lacks integrity.

HUMANITY committed to a thriving future for the entire body of life has integrity.
HUMANITY unaware or dismissive of our impact on other species and the planet lacks integrity. 

From Edward E. Morler's The Leadership Integrity Challenge

“Integrity is spontaneous responsibility.  It is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.  Without integrity our self-image and self-esteem become dependent on what other people think.  Every time we compromise our integrity we sacrifice a bit of ourselves—we shave off a piece of the wholeness of who we are.

“People with integrity have positive control over their lives and over the events in their lives.  They have a clarity and certainty about what they want and will allow.  They do not see life as happening to them, but rather they make life happen.  Without the cement of integrity, we are left distracted, unclear about what to do, ineffective in action, and weighed down by negativity.

“Integrity is the bedrock and the cement of our purpose, principles, and character.  It is the foundation that provides the willingness, ability, poise, presence, and certainty to deal with the entirety of what is.  Out of that develops our sense of purpose and vision of what can be.  In living our values and moving toward this ideal vision, we become more of who we truly are.” 

A Brand New Thing Under the Sun

by Tom Atlee

As a civilization we face challenges to our usual ways of doing things, our social, economic, and political systems -- all our systems, and even our cultural stories and technologies.  50, 100, 250 years from now, there is no way that we will look anything like we do today.  No way.  We are going to be radically different, one way or another. Some of those possibilities are truly thrilling, such as creating a truly sustainable, just, wise, enjoyable civilization for the first time on earth.  Other possibilities are downright terrifying.  For example, by continuing on our current path we could push climate change so far, we could make the climate so hot, cold, and/or wildly variable that Earth becomes unlivable for most complex life forms, including ourselves.

Whatever else we believe or know or do or don't do to address the crises of our times, there are three overarching fundamental realities that will shape what happens for us humans in the next 50-250 years -- and ALL of them have to do with evolution.  Here are the fundamental realities of our times, which are fundamental realities of life:

  • Those living beings, communities, and species that do not fit do not survive.
  • Those that change to fit the realities of their situation, do survive.  And finally
  • CONSCIOUS living entities thrive and sustain themselves into the deep future to the exact extent that they continue to craft their fit with elegance and wisdom.

In short, the only way we'll make it, folks, is to get real about evolution -- to get really real about our role in the evolutionary process.  To get real about the role of evolution in our world, our lives, our destiny.  The only way we'll make it is to wake up into the evolutionary perspective and start acting in ways that make evolutionary sense.

Because our ignoring evolution does not make us any less subject to evolution's laws and creative potentials than the still-evolving finches seen by Darwin in the Galápagos Islands 173 years ago, or the long-gone dinosaurs our children love to worship, or the rapidly changing viruses and bacteria medical science works so hard to stay ahead of. We're all subject to evolution.  We humans are part of this evolving world, and we will survive and flourish to the extent we find new ways to fit well with that world and partner well with the emergent possibilities that are always gestating within it.  The consciousness with which we find our fit, the wisdom and choicefulness with which we make our way into the future, will determine our survival and who we become as our journey unfolds.

And another thing:  This consciousness, this wisdom, this choicefulness are no accident.  They, too, emerged out of the creative dynamic interactivity of our world -- that miraculous process we now call evolution.  Our ability to observe, to think, to know, and to envision and choose -- the very capacities we call consciousness and intelligence -- these are emergent properties of evolution.  They came out of the intensely interactive past, the 13.7 billion year great star story and life story of evolution.  Most important of all, they are in the process of evolving right now, right here in this room, in this community, in this country, on this planet.  And they will continue to evolve through us all in whatever happens after we leave this room.  As long as we exist, we will evolve.

Everything we notice, think, feel, do, create -- individually and together -- our consciousness, our knowledge, our cultures and social systems, our technologies, our stories -- all these unique realities of our humanness are now evolving at an unprecedented rate.  And well they should.  Because their evolution is the key to our survival.  How we shape them, how they shape us, and how we use them to shape our world will determine if and how we flourish or vanish as communities and as a civilization.

Our 21st century predicament did not just happen to us.  We have created the conditions in our world that now challenge us so thoroughly.  We have done and are doing things out of our perceived self-interest that are degrading or destroying the life-support systems upon which we depend.  We will only make it to the extent we wake up to this great evolutionary karmic fact:  We reap what we sow.  Our capacities have evolved from shaping hand tools, vehicles, communities and landscapes to shaping nanotubes, spaceships, global economies and climates.  We have evolved to shape the evolution of our world.  The question now isn't whether we will evolve -- we WILL and are doing that. The question is how consciously and wisely we will go about it.  Because all our individual and collective evolution will only SERVE US to the extent it helps us engage with our world and each other in harmonious, mutual, co-creative ways.

If we fail to harmonize our individual and corporate self-interest with the well-being of the whole of life, we will soon be gone.  We have become too powerful for it to be otherwise.  This is not a fate to which we are doomed.  It is a challenging opportunity to which the evolutionary process has brought us.  And rising to that challenge will constitute a heroic evolutionary leap -- one we can only take consciously.  The more consciously we leap, the more likely we'll succeed with the least unnecessary suffering and the most powerful learning and thrill.

That is why an evolutionary worldview is absolutely essential for humanity in this century.  Because we are not separate from evolution.  All the changes we make and live through are evolution happening now, right here, through us.  To the extent we make those changes consciously -- aware of the big picture of who we are, the Great Story we are part of, and what we are doing in it -- we not only vastly increase our chances for success, but we become a piece of evolution, itself, waking up into consciousness of itself, taking responsibility for itself.  And THAT is a brand new thing under the sun.

There is something important going on there, something that seems to have escaped the notice of most of humanity, but which has been going on for almost 14 billion years.   We humans -- and all our non-human brothers and sisters -- are living manifestations of a Story that has been around, in one form or another, a long, long time.  And now we get one chance to wake up and become the Story conscious of itself.  Our challenge is to wake up fully enough, and in time, to become what evolution is obviously trying to make us:  A conscious, wise version of vibrant Evolution.

It would be sad to waste this opportunity by clinging to business as usual just because it is familiar.  That would mean evolution would have to try waking up through robots or raccoons with intelligence, opposable thumbs, and a lot of complex garbage left behind by a nearly wise species that almost made it.  It is much more thrilling to awaken and tackle the job of conscious evolution with everything we've got and pull off one of the greatest miracles in the history of the universe.

To pull it off we need to focus on three interrelated evolutionary dynamics which, if we apply them wisely at all nested levels of our existence -- to our lives, to the cultures and systems we live in, and to our knowledge and technologies -- we will generate the world we want and transform ourselves into who we most want to be.  The three key evolutionary insights are these:

1. Interacting diversity generates change.
2. Alignment with reality as it really is generates survival.
3. Harmonizing the self-interest of the parts with the well-being of the whole sustains vibrantly evolving complexity.

Underlying all of these is the reality that the dramatic bustle of evolution is actually wholeness transforming itself.  I believe that as we apply these three key evolutionary dynamics to ourselves and our world, we will become increasingly aware of this.  We will come to notice that every moment, thought, and response is exactly this.  And then, as we gradually and thoroughly awaken to ourselves and our world as Wholeness transforming Itself, we will simply become evolution, seamlessly and joyously unfolding.

Science, Wisdom and the Future

Humanity's Quest for a Flourishing Earth

A five-day conference, “Science, Wisdom, and the Future,” will be held in San Luis Obispo, California, from June 24 – 28, 2009. Michael Dowd and I will both be participating, as will many of our colleagues and friends in this Epic of Evolution movement. Among the other presenters are: Duane Elgin, Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack, Brian Swimme, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Peter Corning, Russell Genet.

The conference organizers have crafted a blend of presentation, arts, and mixed time for conversations and concurrent events. We have been told that there is still room to register.

Conference home page
Details on speakers and agenda

Awaken the Dreamer, Be the Change

by Joshua Gorman

A New Initiative Connecting Young People with the Great Story

Young people across the planet know that something is profoundly wrong with the world today.  We are keenly aware of the challenges we are inheriting as a generation, yet so often we lack exposure to a larger context that helps us understand the full nature and significance of the times we are coming of age in.  More than ever, today's students and youth need to be exposed to the Great Story that we are a part of, and an inspiring new initiative called
Awaken the Dreamer, Be the Change is working to do just that.

For the first time ever, the
Awakening the Dreamer (ATD) project of the Pachamama Alliance is offering a Facilitator’s Training specifically for young adults (ages 18-30).  This training will prepare a new generation of storytellers to facilitate a youth version of the symposium titled "Awaken the Dreamer, Be the Change."  At its heart is a powerful sharing of the New Story, presented in such a compelling way that it allows individuals to begin awakening from "the Dream of the Modern World" and to discover the profound shift that is taking place around the world.  As the youth version will portray - young people are helping to lead the way.  

The forthcoming young adult facilitator training promises to be an extraordinary experience for all of the participants.  As the Awakening the Dreamer website shares, "Jon Love (director of ATD) and a team of top notch facilitators, will lead participants through a week long immersion into the contents, background and purpose of the ATD Symposium.  Through dreamwork and dance, ceremony, community building and intimate dialogues with nature, you will explore extensively what it means to Be a Vessel and a Catalyst for a New Guiding Principle for Humanity.  You will discover how your own particular gifts can be channeled into a life of meaning, connectedness and social relevancy.  And, you will learn the art of hosting a Symposium and become woven into the international community of leaders and change-makers who are ATD Symposium Facilitators."

If you're a young person or if you know a young person who is called to help bring forth "an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just presence on planet Earth," learn more about the upcoming
Awaken the Dreamer, Be the Change training.

May we celebrate this good news...a new generation of storytellers are rising up to share the Story of our awakening World!

Watch the trailer

The Clergy Letter Project

by Jon Cleland-Host

The Clergy Letter Project was started in 2004 by Dr. Michael Zimmerman (photo left) in response to creationist successes at the local (Wisconsin) school board.  Working with local Christian clergy, a letter was drafted confirming the compatibility between Christian religion and evolution.  The letter was signed by 200 Christian clergy and delivered to the local school board, contributing to their reversal of the creationist polices.  After this initial success, the Clergy Letter Project went nationwide, quickly gathering thousands of signatures from Christian clergy.  As the movement has grown, “Evolution Weekend” was introduced (the weekend closest to Darwin’s Birthday February 12th) as a focal time for congregations to address the need for understanding evolution.  The website (Google it) has expanded to include over 200 sorted example sermons, free scientific consultants, news releases, and articles.  The next article is a report on Evolution Weekend 2009 by Dr. Zimmerman.

In the weeks leading up to Darwin’s 200th birthday this past February, several of us discussed and implemented projects of various sizes to support the event.  My contributions were sorting the sermons for the Clergy Letter Project (see their article in this issue), working with Connie Barlow to put together a Darwin Day service packet for UU ministers, and to supply five sample letters to the editor to use as input for writing to local newspapers about Darwin Day.  With the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species coming this fall, there soon will be more opportunities for all of us to help others find the joy and purpose that an evolutionary worldview brings.

Successful 4th Evolution Weekend!

by Michael Zimmerman

The fourth annual Evolution Weekend was a resounding success by any measure used to evaluate it. Evolution Weekend is sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project and it is designed to provide an opportunity for individual congregations around the world to discuss the compatibility of religion and science while elevating the quality of the discussion on this important topic. Although each congregation acts independently and designs its own activities, each is connected thematically to every other participating congregation. In this way, congregations around the world are linked together and, collectively, all make a unified and powerful statement about the compatibility of religion and science.

This year 1,049 congregations representing each of the 50 United States as well as 15 separate countries participated. In this, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of Species, participation soared by almost 30 percent over last year. Indeed, participation has increased every year by this impressive percentage!

Additionally, the media significantly increased its coverage of Evolution Weekend this year with reports, for example, both on NPR and on Fox News as well as in a host of other media outlets. You can scan some of the coverage on The Clergy Letter Project’s media page.

Many of the clergy members participating reported that attendance at their services was increased because of the topic. And the comments from congregants have been overwhelmingly positive. According to a report out of Maryland, “One woman came up to us afterwards and said, with tears in her eyes, that she’d been waiting 50 years to hear this message from her church.” A minister from Connecticut had a similar response, “This is the first year I have preached this, and in a church that sits enmeshed in Yale and has grad students and professors as members, the response was tremendous, with people saying they had waited many years to hear a pastor speak on this topic.” Another clergy member from Colorado commented about Evolution Weekend 2009 as follows, “The only complaint I received from the congregation was they wanted to make a bigger deal out of the event.  So in 2010 we’ll see what we can add to make it more of an event above and beyond just the worship service.”

Yet another clergy member, this one from Ohio, noted that “The response to our sermon was very positive.  As one of our members said to us today, ‘It's great to belong to a church where we are encouraged to think.’” And one from Oklahoma enthused, “My series on science and religion - and showing a movie on Darwin was a hit!  People thanked me for speaking out.  I guess I don't think of it as speaking ‘out’ rather it is what I passionately believe!  Make sure you put us on the list for next year!” A similar response was received from New Zealand, “We enjoyed hosting a special evening at which we showed the excellent movie Paradise Lost and had an invited speaker.  We drank some good wine together and enjoyed lively debate.  Some young people who attended were amazed that a church would host such an evening.”

In one Texas congregation where science education at the state level is under attack by religious fundamentalists, Evolution Weekend sparked quite a flurry of activity. “Friday night, we had a guest speaker, a young assistant professor from the University of Texas who helped everyone understand the issues of science, Darwin, creationism and intelligent design.  Sunday morning, we watched the video “Kansas v. Darwin” and then had an hour with our local member of the State Board of Education (who happens to be on the correct side of our state-wide debates).  That, in turn, led to a campaign to get members of the congregation to write their friends in districts where other members of the SBOE are iffy and to ask doctors, scientists and others to push these people to keep their votes in favor of high-quality science and not to give in to pressure from the rightwing.”

The Clergy Letter Project has become fully enmeshed in the battle for high quality science education and broad respect for religion in Texas.

Along with The Center for Inquiry, The Clergy Letter Project has sponsored an informative web page presenting a wealth of information about the controversy. The site has received rave reviews from many sources. Not everyone is so positive, however! Don McLeroy, chair of the Texas State Board of Education and the person most responsible for undermining the science standards proposed by a group empanelled by the Board, has recently endorsed a self-published book entitled Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences’ Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They’re Descended from Reptiles by Robert Bowie Johnson. In his book, Johnson attacks members of the clergy who have signed The Christian Clergy Letter and makes the following outlandish statement, “In my judgment, only morons—more than 11,500 morons in this case—could sign a letter maintaining that the ‘timeless truths of the Bible’ are compatible with the billions of unpredictable aberrations of evo-atheism. What do these apostate morons celebrate at their Sunday services, the lies about humanity’s origins told by Moses, Jesus, and Paul?”

How utterly appalling that supposedly reputable people would take a serious issue and devolve it into name-calling that would be out of place on an elementary school playground.  It is clear that the more than 12,000 clergy who have signed the Clergy Letters (there are now three such Letters: The Christian Clergy Letter; a Rabbi Letter; and a Unitarian Universalist Clergy Letter) are beginning to scare those whose world view demands that their narrow view of religion be considered the norm.  These folks seem to be lashing out out of fear and insecurity.  The members of The Clergy Letter Project obviously have far more respect for various religious traditions and proponents of those traditions than do those extremists who view their beliefs as the only appropriate beliefs.

If you would like to join this growing movement – a movement characterized by high quality dialogue, respect for science and respect for various religious traditions – and if you might be proud to be called a “moron” for your deeply held beliefs, please visit The Clergy Letter Project on the web or on Facebook. If you’re a clergy member who is either a US citizen or working within the United States and if you would like to add your name to one of The Clergy Letters, send a note to Michael Zimmerman and you’ll be added immediately. Similarly, if you and your congregation would like to participate in Evolution Weekend 2010, drop Michael Zimmerman a note and you’ll be added to that list.

Finally, The Clergy Letter Project has a list of more than 640 scientific consultants from 29 countries ready to help clergy members deal with scientific issues that might arise when discussions of the compatibility of religion and science. If you’re a scientist and if you would like to be added to that list, please contact Michael Zimmerman.

Michael Zimmerman is the founder and director of The Clergy Letter Project. Additionally, he is the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of biology at Butler University in Indianapolis.

The Debate Over God's Existence

by Michael Dowd
Few things are more antiquated than the debate over the existence of God.  Prior to an evolutionary worldview, such debates made sense.  In an evolutionary context, however—in light of what Ursula Goodenough and Terry Deacon call "The Sacred Emergence of Nature"—such arguments are outdated at best.  (I discuss this at length in chapters 4-7 of my book, Thank God for Evolution, the section titled "Reality is Speaking".) Here's how I begin Chapter 7, titled "What Do We Mean by the Word 'God'"?

Do you believe in life? What an absurd question!  It doesn’t matter whether we “believe in” life.  Life is all around us, and in us.  We’re part of it.  Life is, period.  What anyone says about life, however, is another story, and may invite belief or disbelief.  If I say, “Life is wonderful,” or “Life is brutal,” or “Life is unimportant—it’s what happens after death that really matters,” you may or may not believe me, depending on your own experience and worldview.  What we say about life—its nature, its purpose, its meaning—along with the metaphors we choose to describe it—is wide open for discussion and debate.  But the reality of life is indisputable.  This is exactly the way that God is understood by many who hold the perspective of the Great Story—that is, when human, Earth, and cosmic history are woven into a holy narrative.  Our common creation story offers a refreshingly intimate, scientifically compelling, and theologically inspiring vision of God that can provide common ground for both skeptics and religious believers.  For peoples alive today, any understanding of “God” that does not at least mean “Ultimate Reality” or “the Wholeness of Reality” (measurable and nonmeasurable) is, I suggest, a trivialized, inadequate notion of the divine.

The crux of the problem, as I see it, is the failure of millions of people, religious and non-religious alike, to distinguish meaningful metaphor from measurable reality.  God as a subjectively meaningful interpretation simply cannot be argued against.  God is always a legitimate interpretation.  But God is NOT (and never has been) an actual, physical Being, as science and common sense define reality.  (Those who would attempt to argue that God is a REAL Father or King, but just in an unnatural, otherworldly sense are left in the bizarre position of claiming that God, the Creator of the Universe, is less real than the Universe, as I discuss here.)

HERE IS A WAY OUT OF THIS IMPASSE:  Whenever you hear the word ‘God', think ‘Reality'.  "I have faith in God" can be translated "I trust Reality".  "God is Lord" means "Reality rules".  Throughout the world, God has never been less than a mythic personification of Reality as a Whole, Ultimate Reality, or what today some call "the Universe".  If we fail to recognize this, we miss everything.  ALL images and characterizations of God are meaningful interpretations of Reality As It Really Is.  When we forget this, we will inevitably trivialize God, belittle science, and desecrate nature.  As renowned systems thinker Gregory Bateson has said,

If you put God outside and set him vis-a-vis his creation, and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you.  And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration.  The environment will seem to be yours to exploit.  Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against the environment of other social units, other races, and the brutes and vegetables.  If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell.  You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or simply of overpopulation and overgrazing.

God does not have multiple personality disorder, as a literal reading of the world's scriptures might imply.  Cultures that tell stories of God as Mother have known reality as mother-like.  Those who speak of God as Father, or as a steadfast rock, have known reality as father-like and as solid and unchanging as a boulder.  And as we all know, reality at times can be like a trickster—a fox, or coyote—as some indigenous stories remind us.

There are an infinite number of metaphorical images and instructive (or misleading) interpretations of reality, but there is only one Reality, a Uni-verse.  Religions are all about meaningful interpretations.  Science is all about trying to understand the nature of measurable reality.  The two really can work together, but only if we distinguish what in my book, Thank God for Evolution, I call, descriptive "day language" and interpretive "night language".

This is not theological rocket science.  Theists are right when they insist that God is real and faith (trust) is transformative.  Atheists are right when they insist God is imaginary and supernatural claims are fiction.  If we do not understand how both of these can be true, we don't understand the evolved nature of the human brain and the metaphorical nature of human language.  Arguing whether it was God or evolution that created everything is like debating whether it was Gaia or plate tectonics that created Mount Everest.  Such silly and largely unnecessary confusion will remain the norm until we distinguish and value both metaphorical and descriptive language.  In the meantime, I'm grateful to Richard Dawkins and the other "new atheists" for bringing this debate front and center.  Perhaps in the coming decades we can finally move beyond the mistaken notion that science gives us a meaningless universe and religion is primarily concerned with unnatural (supernatural) entities.


The Evolutionary Epic

by Cheryl Genet

As Manager of the Collins Foundation Press, I am pleased, along with my co-editors Russ Genet, Brian Swimme, Linda Palmer, and Linda Gibler, to announce the release of The Evolutionary Epic: Science’s Story and Humanity’s Response, a 406 page, hardbound book, with a foreword by David Christian, author of Maps of Time, and the acclaimed The Teaching Company course Big History.
As an update on the “epic of evolution” and its impact on human thought, the essays in
The Evolutionary Epic begin with the story of humanity’s evolution from primeval stardust to planetary stardom. They take you from the struggles of our primitive ancestors on the savannahs of Africa to a theologian’s evolutionary epiphany on the snow-capped heights of a stratovolcano. Thirty-four chapters and forty-seven authors lead you to explore the mysteries of the quantum world and the vast reaches of the universe.  They consider the evolutionary epic as education and Big History as enrichment of our imaginative and spiritual dimensions.

Order a copy...