The Prodigal Species

Science: Old and New

The Prodigal Species
Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The universe is a single reality—one long sweeping spectacular process of interconnected events. The universe is not a place where evolution happens; it is evolution happening. It is not a stage on which dramas unfold; it is the unfolding drama itself. . . . This [great cosmological] story shows us in the deepest possible sense that we are all sisters and brothers—fashioned from the same stellar dust, energized by the same star, nourished by the same planet, endowed with the same genetic code, and threatened by the same evils. This story . . . humbles us before the magnitude and complexity of creation. . . . It bewilders us with the improbability of our existence, astonishes us with the interdependence of all things, and makes us feel grateful for the lives we have. And not the least of all, it inspires us to express our gratitude to the past by accepting a solemn and collective responsibility for the future. —Loyal Rue [1]

Today, Rev. Michael Dowd continues explaining how integrating science with Christianity can change the way we live:

What matters most in how we use this new origin story is what has always mattered in the framing and tweaking of a people’s sense of inheritance and kinship: how well that story leads us toward living in right relationship to reality—that is, in more intimate communion with, and subservience to, God-Nature-Ultimacy.

[Philosopher Loyal Rue writes:]

The most profound insight in the history of humankind is that we should seek to live in accord with reality. [I, Richard, believe that reality is the greatest ally of God and God is fully aligned with Reality, both life and death.] Indeed, living in harmony with reality may be accepted as a formal definition of wisdom. If we live at odds with reality (foolishly), we will be doomed, but if we live in proper relationship with reality (wisely), we shall be saved. . . . [2]

Increasingly, the generations alive today (the devout included) relate to scientific, historic, and cross-cultural evidence as more authoritative than the dictates of an all-male, ecclesiastical body or a literalist reading of Scripture. . . .

Just as Augustine reinterpreted Christianity in light of Plato in the 4th century, and Aquinas integrated Aristotle in the 13th, today there are dozens of theologians across the spectrum re-envisioning the Christian faith. Whose ideas are they integrating now? Darwin, Einstein, Hubble, Wilson and all those who have corrected, and continually contribute to, an evidence-based understanding of biological, cosmic, and cultural evolution. . . .

Few things are more important than how we think about our inner and outer nature and our mortality. Thus far, the Evidential Reformation has been centered in science. Now is the time for our faith traditions to honor evidential revelation—facts as God’s native tongue—and carry on the vital tasks of interpretation, integration, and action.

Ours is the prodigal species. Having squandered our inheritance, we are waking up to our painful predicament. Thankfully God—Reality personified—awaits us with open arms and a welcoming heart. As Thomas Berry would remind us, the entire Earth community is rooting us on!

Richard here: I believe we have squandered our inheritance, which is the earth itself, the majesties and mysteries it holds. We’ve taken it for granted, using it too freely for our own selfish purposes while ignoring the deeply divine messages communicated in everything from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the largest black holes. Surely it is time for us to bring science and religion together.

References:
[1] Loyal Rue, Everybody’s Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution (SUNY Press: 2000), 42-43.

[2] Loyal Rue, Religion Is Not About God (Rutgers University Press: 2005), 135.

Michael Dowd, “Evidential Mysticism and the Future of Earth,” “Evidence,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), 18, 19-20, 23-24.

Image credit: Chestnut Trees at Jas de Bouffan (detail), Paul Cézanne, 1880/1891. Minnesota Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: In the old times, our elders say, the trees talked to each other. They’d stand in their own council and craft a plan. But scientists decided long ago that plants were deaf and mute, locked in isolation without communication. . . . There is now compelling evidence that our elders were right—the trees are talking to one another. —Robin Wall Kimmerer
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