Cover image for Twilight of the clockwork God : conversations on science and spirituality at the end of an age
Title:
Twilight of the clockwork God : conversations on science and spirituality at the end of an age
Author:
Ebert, John David, 1968-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Tulsa, OK : Council Oak Books, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
xi, 211 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781571780799
Format :
Book

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Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library Q125 .E362 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

Brian Swimme, Ralph Abraham, Stanislav Grof, Deepak Chopra, Rupert Sheldrake, Lynn Margulis, Terence McKenna, and William Irwin Thompson present their ideas concerning the evolution of consciousness.


Author Notes

Lynn Margulis was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 5, 1938. She graduated from the University of Chicago at the age of 18. She received a master's degree in genetics and zoology from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. She taught for 22 years at Boston University before joining the faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1988.

She was best known for her theory of species evolution by symbiogensis. The manuscript in which she first presented her findings was published in 1967 by the Journal of Theoretical Biology. An expanded version, with additional evidence to support the theory, became her first book entitled Origin of Eukaryotic Cells. Her other works include Symbiosis in Cell Evolution, Luminous Fish: Tales of Science and Love, Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature, and Mind, Life, and Universe: Conversations with Great Scientists of Our Time. She died five days after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke on November 22, 2011 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The clockwork god is the deity who, in Isaac Newton's universe, set the great celestial clock in motion and then walked away to let natural law take over daily regulation of the spheres. According to this neat but limited understanding, religion worshiped the clockmaker god, whereas science examined the clock. The universe, twentieth-century science has found, is much more mysterious than a clock, and science is not as divorced from spirituality as Newton and his heirs thought. In this excellent collection of interviews with those working at the interface of science and spirituality, Ebert looks at such fascinating fields as chaos theory, the Gaia hypothesis, and nonlocal reality. The stellar cast of interviewees includes popular authors like Deepak Chopra and Terence McKenna and less well known but significant thinkers, such as Rupert Sheldrake and Brian Swimme. A woeful inattention to women in these burgeoning fields is the only real shortcoming of a book that is full of clear, accessible descriptions of the complex science behind theories. --Patricia Monaghan


Publisher's Weekly Review

From The Tao of Physics to At Home in the Universe, most successful books on science and spirituality have come from scientists whose research led them to embrace previously marginalized religious views or to develop a new understanding of the divine. So Ebert's argument that "the worldview of materialism is currently undergoing transubstantiation into a more spiritually-informed way of regarding the cosmos" is surely tenable. But his call to overthrow a Clockwork God is outdated, for most scientific theories have already moved beyond Newton's mechanistic vision of the universe. Ebert has assembled some important or influential thinkers for this book of interviews, however, including evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, Deepak Chopra, biologist Rupert Sheldrake, chaos theoretician Ralph Abraham and mythologist William Irwin Thompson. Ebert seems inordinately enamored of LSD and other hallucinogens, so his discussions with Stanislav Grof and Terence McKenna, for example, focus on this topic to the detriment of other subjects. Throughout, Ebert remains a sensitive interviewer, willing to stay in the background while his subjects expound. Anyone interested in the confluence of spirituality and science will find material to engage and challenge in this congenial introduction to some of the most exciting and daring scientists of our era. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Ebert, a scholar of mythology and contemporary culture, here interviews nine unorthodox thinkers. His main thesis is that our concept of the universe is shifting from that of a machine to that of a living organism and that scientists therefore need to find more organic images that will help link them to the universe instead of making them external observers. After presenting a basic historical context and discussing the importance of mythological symbols, Ebert presents his interviews in question-and-answer form. His experts come from many different fields, including anthropology, ecology, medicine, psychology, and philosophy. Though they do not always agree with one another, they all have strong qualifications and new ways of approaching old questions that are fascinating and thought-provoking. The interview style helps keep the reader from becoming lost in unfamiliar and often complex ideas. The book also has an excellent annotated bibliography for further reading. Recommended for public libraries.C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

In this lively look at the current debates in science and spirituality, Ebert candidly and informally interviews eight leading thinkers who represent what he terms the "transubstantiation of science." Ebert insightfully explores the opposition between mechanistic science and its transformation into new ways of thinking about the cosmos. His participants discuss their intellectual development, present work, and the kinds of transformations science is presently undergoing. Ebert argues that we are at the dawn of a new scientific horizon and are finally leaving an epoch that has outlived its usefulness and can no longer help us. This shift from reductionism, objectivism, and mechanism to a more human and holistic conception of science has arrived. But the question is, Will fellow scientists welcome this new conception of nature? In many of Ebert's conversations the participants believe that it is not being well received. But these prized conversations do not leave us despairing for very long. The conversations are also as engaging and hopeful as the subject matter is unorthodox. The book not only will interest the academically curious but will appeal to everyone who has an interest in science, psychology, math, and spirituality. General readers; undergraduate and graduate students. D. James; Stevens Institute of Technology


Excerpts

Excerpts

Part One: THE DESCENT TO EARTH "This brings me to ... an idea that is expressed in the old myths, in Plato, in almost every religion: that of a fall, a descent into matter, often though not always followed by an ascent back to celestial spheres and a higher state of being." -- Arthur Young     We begin with origins. In a discussion with mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, we explore the creation and evolution of the universe, which, in the words of Abbé Georges Lemaître, "can be compared to a fireworks display that has just ended. A few red wisps, ashes and smoke. Standing on a well chilled cinder we study the slow fading of suns, and try to recapture the vanished brilliance that gave rise to the origin of worlds."     Then, in a movement that evokes the shift in the imagination of Plotinus from the unknowable One to the unfolding of Nous, the Mind of the cosmos, biologist Rupert Sheldrake sketches for us the Cosmic Memory which guides and shapes this process. With Sheldrake, we linger for a time amongst the disembodied souls and ghosts that inhabit the astral plane, and explore the paranormal abilities of human beings.     Then, from our contemplation of God and the swarming magnitudes of his angels, we hover above Chaos with Ralph Abraham, for whom the swirling vortices that give rise to the creation of forms possess an inherent orderliness. Abraham's fractal landscapes are evocative of Leonardo da Vinci's imagination of the earth as a living being, whose rocks were like bones and whose ever-circulating rivers, lakes and turbulent streams like the arteries and veins of a huge, dreaming giant.     Finally, our descent to earth is completed with Lynn Margulis's descriptions of the genesis and evolution of Gaia. Margulis emerges from the center of the drama like the goddess Erda in Wagner's Ring cycle who periodically rises from the earth to remind Wotan in his battles with destiny that all the universe is encompassed within her Fate and not even the gods can escape their doom. Margulis reminds us that whatever we humans do, we are firmly encompassed by Gaia, and she will destroy us if she sees fit, regardless of what we do to her. Chapter One Cosmology GOD AND THE QUANTUM VACUUM: A CONVERSATION WITH BRIAN SWIMME     It was a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître, who in 1927 drew the initial sketch for the big bang hypothesis when he said that the universe must have originated from a sort of "cosmic egg" of matter and energy. Consciously or not, Lemaître was invoking ancient myth, for the image of the cosmic egg as the origin of the universe goes back to the Orphic cults of Greece, and even beyond, to Egypt. For when the human mind is confronted with realms which transcend the bounds of experience, the mythic imagination goes to work, populating the dark hinterlands of our maps with dragons and chimeras. The narratives of science, accordingly, almost always conceal mythic patterns, if you look closely enough.     Another Catholic priest, Teilhard de Chardin, attempted a more deliberate synthesis of science and religion, but the veneer of scientific imagery which he painted over his theology was more like a vast, crumbling Diego Rivera mural of evolution beneath which the older canvas of Christianity and its mythic structures is still visible. Chardin's two main cosmic principles are really God and the Devil in disguise: the benevolent force of Evolution is driving the cosmic drama to its Omega Point, in spite of the resistance put up by the dark force of Entropy. It is the same drama, precisely, in Zoroastrianism, in which the god of light, Ahura Mazda, is in cosmic contention with the lord of darkness, Angra Mainyu, and as in Chardin's narrative, the victory of the former at the end of time is already assured.     Science and religion may have a lot more in common than most of us realize, and on the basis of these shared archetypal patterns, a reconciliation of sorts might be built. That they may share identical archetypes, however, does not mean that they perform the same functions. The function of religiosity is to awaken a sense of awe with respect to the mystery of the cosmos, and to do so through a transformation of consciousness. The function of science, on the other hand, has never been the alteration of human consciousness, but to render an accurate knowledge of the cosmos through an explanation of its processes. Science is addressed to the intellect, whereas religion normally bypasses the intellect to galvanize emotional energies. The Scholastic debates of the middle ages between Aristotelian rationality and Augustinian faith have reawakened for us, today, in the conflict between science and religion.     For mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, resolving this antinomy has been something of a life task. He was educated at Santa Clara, a Catholic university, where he discovered the works of Teilhard de Chardin, who first introduced him to the interface between science and theology. When attending graduate school at the University of Oregon, he realized that this interface was of no interest to most of the scientists there, and in fact, was largely an embarrassment because "as scientists we were trained not to ask these deeper questions." Although he took his Ph.D. in gravitational dynamics, the nature of the cosmos as a numinous revelation remained for him the primary interest. He taught at the Institute of Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College in Oakland, California from 1983 to 1990. His first book Manifesto for a Global Civilization (written in collaboration with Mathew Fox) is a brief exploration into the shortcomings of Augustinian theology and the mechanistic paradigm, emphasizing the need for a synthesis of science, religion and ecology.     In 1984, he published The Universe is a Green Dragon , a delightful Socratic dialogue sketching out the lineaments of this synthesis. The book was dedicated to Thomas Berry, his most important mentor. Berry's lifetime of investigation into the religions of the Far East and current ecological concerns immediately caught Swimme's attention when in 1980 he came across a paper written by him, called "The New Story." For Swimme, the paper echoed his own thinking about the possibility for a new cosmology that transcended the antagonism of science and religion. For the next decade or so, he and Berry worked out the contours of this synthesis, which was published in 1992 as The Universe Story .     He has also produced a series of video courses: Canticle to the Cosmos (1990), Soul of the Universe (1991), The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos and The Earth's Imagination . His most recent book is A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us . Currently, he teaches at California Institute of Integral Studies in the Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness Program. JE: In your first book , Manifesto for a Global Civilization, you write, "whereas the machine was the primary symbol for the world in the previous age, in the emerging age, the primary symbol for the world is music." Can you elaborate on that? BS: Well, the main idea there is the sense of presence. Where is something? Where does it exist? And at least from the point of view of modern science, the simple way of talking about it was that something exists where its atoms are. But our discoveries have deepened our understanding of that and so we don't think of an atom as being in one particular place anymore. We think of it as having a presence that is co-extensive with the universe. So we've begun to conceive of a reality that's interpenetrating, that somehow or another, even at the level of atoms, we can't think of them as simply located in one spot. And so if we have a reality where the parts are woven into the whole and they are in some way present throughout the universe, then I was trying to imagine what would be a way of capturing that image of an interpenetrating whole and I thought of music. The simple analogy is that instead of atoms, we have notes and the notes themselves are all interwoven to make this new thing, a chord.     But even beyond that, if you're in the middle of a song and you really are present to the music, the beginning is there, as well. As the music goes on, the whole is always present, so that to hear the last notes of a song really well is to be feeling the first notes. So if you're watching a lizard scampering around in the dust, to really be present to it, you have to feel the ancestry of the lizard. You know, the backbone came from the fish and so the lizard is making this whole story present. And that, to me, is like listening to a work of music. JE: You also state that in order for science to thrive in the coming global civilization, its mystical core should be celebrated. Does this mean that science should be transformed into something that more closely resembles the function of religion? BS: I'm not suggesting you're saying this, but let me just make it clear that I don't think science should become religion. I think science is a distinct activity. Religion and philosophy are distinct intellectual achievements, but they're really not separate and to pretend that they are is no longer viable. During the nineteenth century, scientists were happy striving after knowledge; the questions beyond that somehow were seen as non-scientific, whereas today there's a realization that every activity of the human has multiple implications. When I talk about the mystical core, I think the urge of the scientist to understand is ultimately mystical. It has to do with a deep desire to taste and touch reality. So it's not that science should become religion, but that science and religion should work together toward something else.     Niles Eldredge is a paleontologist and he is now giving talks on the sixth great extinction that we're in. He is talking about how we have to start thinking about reducing the human population. It would have been inconceivable even a couple of decades ago that a paleontologist would be talking about human population. But he's gone beyond that type of rigid separation in a very admirable way. So that would be closer to what I was talking about. His love of life is now, as a scientist, leading him to speak on these huge issues that sometimes we would say should just be dealt with by religion. JE: You also suggest in your first book that Augustine's various dualisms, spirituality versus sensuality, God versus the cosmos and so forth, should be done away with in favor of a cosmology that transcends the separation of the divine and the physical world. Can you describe what this sort of a cosmology would be like? BS: Well, for example, the Deism of the seventeenth century, where you have a god that's separate from the universe and the universe, then, is wholly separate from the divine origin; that doesn't appeal to me, particularly, because then it's easier to think of the universe as a sort of neutral stuff. So the religious writers that have impressed me more are pantheists. They're the ones that speak of a divine reality that is interpenetrating all physical reality. And that seems to be a much more attractive theology. JE: How certain are we of our model of the Big Bang? What's the evidence for it? BS: The evidence would be threefold: the first is the expansion. If you look at other galaxies in the universe, they're moving away from the Milky Way. And if you look at galaxies that are twice as far away, they're moving twice as fast. So if you think about that for a minute, it means that the universe is moving apart like some rapid expansion from an initial point. And so that would be one major piece of evidence.     The second would be -- and Lemaître was the first to speculate about this -- that if this began at the great explosion, there should be evidence of that explosion around. George Gamow and his collaborators actually calculated that the remnants from that explosion would be a form of radiation at ten degrees above absolute zero. Then in 1965, Penzias and Wilson actually located this background radiation at 2.75 degrees. So it was lower than even Gamow calculated it, but again, a remarkable discovery.     The third major piece of evidence is the presence of hydrogen and lithium and helium in the Big Bang scenario. Early on in the universe there was a moment when light elements could be created, but only in a certain amount. There are exact predictions made in the model about how much hydrogen, helium and lithium there would be in the universe and these have been remarkably consistent with the empirical findings. So the background radiation pretty well eliminated the other models, but since that time more of this has come in. The most recent one would be from the COBE satellite, discovering the ripples from around 300,000 years after the birth that we now think gave rise to the galaxies. JE: Stephen Hawking is excited about these quantum fluctuations. Can you explain why they're significant? BS: If we go back 15 billion years, we have this expanding universe. If the universe is perfectly symmetric and homogeneous -- and we imagine that's how it began -- then the universe would simply expand forever and never form any structures. But for structures to actually come about there had to be some break in symmetry, some sort of fluctuation. One way to imagine this is that at the quantum level we have this foaming of material, space and time and energy. Our current theory is that this initial foaming was inflated very rapidly so that those fluctuations at the quantum level suddenly became macro fluctuations -- and those are what Mather and Smoot captured on the COBE satellite. They're what gave rise to the structure of the universe.     You see, if the universe were perfectly symmetric, then early on, for every particle of matter there would be another particle of anti-matter. Everything would just annihilate and there would be nothing left but light. But there's a slight, tiny, tiny asymmetry. So for every billion anti-protons, there turns out to be a billion plus one protons, and so this strange little piece of asymmetry is what gave rise to everything. The same thing could be said now about the structure of the universe in terms of the galaxies: these fluctuations at a micro scale are what enable the Milky Way and Andromeda and other things to come into being. It's just overwhelming. JE: Where does the idea of God fit into our current cosmological narratives? BS: I would say most scientists would just ignore the question. But many really good scientists have thought about it, too, and there would be a variety of opinions there. My own way of relating a sort of classical theological thought with this modern scientific story is to think in terms of the origin of the universe coming out of emptiness. That would be the way in which some scientists would talk about it. We would say that the quantum vacuum, really, is the origin of the universe. And the quantum vacuum is a mysterious realm. It has nothing in it; there's no thing there, but it's a realm of generativity. This is remarkably similar to the kinds of speculations coming from such theologians as Meister Eckhart, who talked about the super essential Darkness of God. Now obviously, when they're investigating the quantum vacuum, scientists are not saying to themselves, "I'm investigating the Godhead!" I'm simply pointing out that there is a remarkable correspondence between these two ways of investigating ultimate reality. If you simply identify them and say that the quantum vacuum really is a scientific way of exploring the Godhead then you begin to see the contours of a new kind of theology, one that would draw upon both traditional sources and contemporary science. JE: You contrast the current view of time given by our scientific narratives as essentially linear and irreversible, to that of the old mythic view of cyclical time. Can you describe what implications our current cosmology has for cyclical views of time and history? BS: There are cyclical patterns that we're involved with and we're quite aware of them. There's winter, and new people are born, new people are dying, and they go through this cycle over and over again. And that I think is a deep understanding from cosmologies all around the world. But the scientific one adds to that the discovery of irreversible time. For instance, we have no way of validating the statement that if life extinguished on earth, it would recreate itself. But rather, the mainstream theory would be that the emergence of life on planet Earth is a one-time event because the actual emergence of life alters the conditions which enable life to come about. So that irreversible aspect to creativity, I think, adds a degree of drama to the other cosmologies that they would not otherwise have. There's something dramatic and even tragic about the loss of a form of life. For instance, we're on the verge of losing the higher primates, like the gorillas. Well, in a cyclical cosmology one could fail to really feel the depth of that event because there would be a sense of earth replenishing itself and the gorillas would come back. But in our understanding the gorillas would never come back, ever. JE: James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis have put forth their model of the Gaia hypothesis, in which the earth seems to behave like a living organism. Likewise, you have suggested that the universe can be thought of as analogous to an organism. Can you describe how the universe can be seen as a self-organizing being? BS: Well, for instance, Lovelock and Margulis point out that the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere is not a random number. It's the highest concentration that the atmosphere can really bear and support life. If it were much higher, you would have spontaneous combustion. So there would be a big destruction of life. If it were much lower, the more complex organisms would not have come into being. So, one of the things they point out is, it's not an accident that the earth organizes itself so that oxygen will be around 21 percent.     In an analogous way, if you look at the universe as a whole and go back to the expansion of the galaxies, you see they're moving away from each other at a certain rate, and you can measure the rate, but it turns out that it isn't random. Again, like the percentage of oxygen, if the rate of expansion had been just slightly higher, then looking back over fifteen billion years, we would have a situation where the universe would have expanded rapidly and never would have formed a structure. The formation of a structure is such a delicate event. So even a slight change in the expansion would have made the galaxies impossible. On the other hand, if you slow the expansion down just slightly, even a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of one percent, the universe would have expanded out and then collapsed back into a massive black hole after maybe a million years.     So you can think about the expansion of the universe as a way in which the universe is proceeding so that life might come forth. Now, that statement I just gave you would be a cosmological assumption. Some people call it the strong Anthropic Principle. I'd just like to point out that in a certain sense, it's a conception of the universe that's new. The idea that the universe could be involved with its own unfolding simply wouldn't have been conceivable scientifically a hundred years ago. Now, in no way has it been advanced as a theory, it's simply in the minds of some scientists as a new way of thinking about the universe as a whole. JE: In your lecture series Canticle to the Cosmos, you draw an analogy between chlorophyll and human beings when you say that the reason the universe created chlorophyll was to capture sunlight and that the reason the universe created the human being was to capture the depth of things. What did you mean by that? BS: I meant that there seems to be the possibility of developing human sensibilities so that we can become deeply moved by the magnificence of existence. Now, it's quite possible to avoid that kind of development and to throw yourself into a more simplistic pursuit of money or whatever else, and that too is a human life. But I just mean there is the possibility for evoking sensitivities and sensibilities that respond very deeply to the majesty of the universe. So it seems to me that the whole tradition of poetry and music and art and religious expression comes out of humans who have developed this capacity to be moved to awe.     But to give one example: a person can go outside and look up and see Andromeda galaxy. You can see it with your naked eye, no telescope or anything, it's just there. It's slightly different than the other stars and if you have really good eyesight or a set of binoculars you can actually see that it's a galaxy. You can see the spiral structure. And it's just so remarkable because as you're looking at that, the light that's entering your eyes took two and half million years to get here. It left Andromeda right when the first humans were discovering how to use stone tools. The eye that I'm using to see Andromeda has been shaped by two and a half million years of human development, starting with those first stone tools. You know, it involved mathematics and language and all this; and eventually we've arrived at a place where we can now see Andromeda and know what we're seeing. And the light that we're seeing has been traveling toward us all that time, for two and a half million years. So that to experience Andromeda is to experience not only the depth of the galaxies, it's also to experience the depth of the human. I just mean that kind of experience is something like what a chlorophyll molecule does in capturing sunlight. We capture instead wonder or amazement that so easily could have been missed otherwise. JE: In your book The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, you suggest that drug abuse is actually built into the structure of a materialistic society. What is the connection between our current views of the cosmos as a collection of dead objects and the high volume of drug usage? BS: The consumer culture seems to be something like the opposite of what I'm talking about in that the focus is on an ephemeral and I would say, shallow experience of things. The whole idea is not to cherish, because if you're going to cherish things it's going to be harder to throw them away and buy some new things. So the drive in consumerism seems to be to get us to be attracted to things. And so we want them and we get them. Simultaneously, once we get them, we're bored by them and we want to throw them away and get some new ones. So it's based on the conviction that the things themselves are really important to get and then really important to get rid of. This isn't the whole story on drug abuse by any means, but if we are putting so much energy into a culture that is convincing us that things are ephemeral and to be cast aside easily, then that makes it even more likely that people will resort to drugs to break out of that superficiality and at least taste something deep and real at whatever cost.     So I think there is a relationship. More important would be to point to a cosmological tradition -- and this is something that every indigenous people I've looked at knew very well -- that would spend enormous amounts of energy teaching gratitude and appreciation so that instead of a throwaway attitude, there would be a profound reverence for everything. I think it's really this reverence that would be a way of tasting the depths of things. JE: In your book The Universe is a Green Dragon, you articulate a philosophy of cosmic allurement. Can you explain that? BS: It's just the idea that in physics we're always looking for what causes things to happen and we've arrived at four fundamental interactions: the gravitational, the electrical and then the strong and weak nuclear forces. Basically everything we've looked at in the universe involves a combination of these forces. There's nothing we've found that doesn't involve these. So I was reflecting on that and I realized that if you look at fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution, it means that everything that's happened is a weaving of these fundamental interactions. It doesn't matter what level you look at: asteroids, stars, galaxies, planets, the first cells or multicellularity -- at any level these four will be at work     So then I thought, well, what if you looked at the human world from that perspective? If you look at the galaxy, the reason stars are moving about the center is this common gravitational attraction. I realized when I thought about my own life that so much of what I do comes down to fundamental attractions of various sorts to things that I was interested in or drawn to. And we say, "well, I'm interested in studying cosmology because I find it fascinating and whatnot," but why do you find it fascinating? See, ultimately, it comes down to this power we call fascination, so it's similar to trying to understand why a star goes around a galaxy. It's attracted by gravity. Well, but why? What's gravity? So it's a way of simply pointing to the fact that things happen in the universe because of these fundamental powers and one of them is the power of attraction. On the plane of stars, we use the word "gravity" but we're really using the word "gravity" to point to a fundamental power of attraction. And on the level of the human, we say "fascination" or "interest." But once again, that's pointing to the same power of attraction, just in a different form.     Much of my work is always an attempt to understand the human in terms of the cosmos because during the last 300 years we've isolated the human from the cosmos. We think of ourselves as an appendage or an addendum, but it's so wrong now that we understand it's all one story. So I was trying to reflect on the ways in which our understanding could be deepened if we embedded it in the larger story of the galaxy or of the earth. It's simply a way of recognizing that what fascinates us, what draws us as individuals is utterly mysterious. There's no reason for it, it's something we discover and experience that's at the core of our lives. And it's to be explored with a real sense of awe. JE: You co-authored with Thomas Berry a book called The Universe Story. In that book, both of you say that we are moving into an Ecozoic Era. Can you explain what that means? BS: The Ecozoic Era would be a vision, and our hope is that the human species will move in this direction. It's a fundamental shift. If we look at our situation today on the planet, there's a great deal of destruction taking place. In our own thinking, a lot of this comes from the gap between the human and the natural world. So if we're talking about human rights, the natural world has no rights. Or if we talk about the GNP we're talking about human economics. We're not thinking about the economics of the birds. In terms of our religions, we're talking about the relationships between the human and God and we don't imagine that the natural world is the locus of God. So there's a separation between the human and the natural world that permeates society and the Ecozoic Era would simply be an era when we would see ourselves as embedded within the earth community. We would begin with the fundamental respect for all of life, in fact, all of the components of the earth. That would be the basic orientation of the Ecozoic. And the one challenge of entering the Ecozoic would be to invent a way of human life that is mutually enhancing throughout the natural world. So rather than just focusing on human benefits, we would look for a way of increasing human benefits while at the same time increasing the benefits to the natural world. Copyright © 1999 John David Ebert. All rights reserved.

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