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Aaron
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PostSubject: God enough   Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:16 pm

This is an excellent piece.

Quote :
We should see the ceaseless creativity of nature as sacred, argues biologist Stuart Kauffman, despite what Richard Dawkins might say.

Biologist Stuart Kauffman has plenty of experience tilting at windmills. For years he's questioned the Darwinian orthodoxy that natural selection is the sole principle of evolutionary biology. As he put it in his first book, "The Origins of Order," "It is not that Darwin is wrong but that he got hold of only part of the truth." In Kauffman's view, there is another biological principle at work -- what he calls "self-organization" -- that "co-mingles" with natural selection in the evolutionary process.

A physician by training, Kaufmann is a widely admired biologist; in 1987, he was a recipient of a MacArthur "genius" award. He's also one of the gurus of complexity theory, and for years was a fixture at the Santa Fe Institute, the renowned scientific research community. A few years ago, he moved to the University of Calgary to set up the Biocomplexity and Informatics
Institute.

If this sounds heady, it is. And getting Kauffman to explain his theory of self-organization, "thermodynamic work cycles" and "autocatalysis" to a non-scientist is challenging. But Kauffman is at heart a philosopher who ranges over vast fields of inquiry, from the origins of life to the philosophy of mind. He's a visionary thinker who's not afraid to play with big ideas.

In his recent book, "Reinventing the Sacred," Kauffman has launched an even more audacious project. He seeks to formulate a new scientific worldview and, in the process, reclaim God for nonbelievers. Kauffman argues that our modern scientific paradigm -- reductionism -- breaks down once we try to explain biology and human culture. And this has left us flailing in a sea of meaninglessness. So how do we steer clear of this empty void? By embracing the "ceaseless creativity" of nature itself, which in Kauffman's view is the real meaning of God. It's God without any supernatural tricks. Kauffman is now approaching 70, and his advancing age may partly account for the urgency he seems to feel in grappling with life's ultimate questions.

When I spoke with him, I found him in an expansive mood as we ranged over a host of big ideas, from the prospects of creating life in a test tube to the need for a sacred science...

...Why do we need a new understanding of God and the sacred?

First of all, because of global communications and commerce, a global civilization of some kind is emerging. But there's also a natural retreat by some people into religious fundamentalism, and people are killing each other. So I think a shared sacred space across all of our traditions will lead us to coalesce around a sense of what is sacred; for example, all life on the planet and the planet itself. I hope we can find our way to a global ethic, beyond just the love of family, a sense of fairness, and a belief in democracy and free markets.

Historically, God has had a very specific meaning, particularly in the Western tradition. It refers to an all-powerful, transcendent reality. Can you take such a loaded word and give it a new meaning?

Maybe. I have a very explicit reason for wanting to use the word "God." It's the most powerful symbol humanity has created. We have been worshiping God or gods at least since the sacred earth mother 10,000 years ago in Europe. In the Abrahamic tradition, our sense of God has evolved. For example, the Israelites, 4,500 years ago, had Yahweh, who was a ferocious warrior, a law-giving God. That's a very different god than the one that Jesus spoke of, a God of love. So our sense of God just in the Abrahamic tradition has evolved.

The question is whether we choose to take our most powerful, invented symbol and use it in a new way to mean the creativity in nature itself. Is it more astonishing to believe in a God who created everything that has come to exist -- planets, galaxies, chemistry, life and consciousness -- in six days? Or is it even more astonishing and awesome to believe what is almost certainly the truth: namely, that all of this came to be all on its own? I think the second.

Most scientists talk about the origins of the world strictly through naturalistic means. Why are you so determined to invoke "God"?

"God" carries with it a sense of awe, reverence and wonder that no other symbol carries. It's a choice. Can we give up the creator God -- the all-powerful, omnipotent, all-loving God who confronts us with the problem of evil -- and instead find reverence for a ceaseless creativity in the unfolding of nature? I think we can.

I also feel parts of the religious person's sense of awe. I sense the solace that prayer to a transcendent God brings. But I don't believe in a transcendent God. I do believe in this new scientific worldview.

Forget the "God" word for a second and just try to feel yourself as a co-creating member of the universe. It changes your stance from the secular humanist lack of spirituality to a sense of awed wonder that all of this has come about. For example, I was sitting on my patio and started thinking about the trees around me. I thought I'm one with all of life. If I'm going to cut down a tree, I better have a good reason. It's not just an object. It's alive. Then I thought about the river I'm sitting next to. I can dam the river if I want to. But I'm going to change the ecosystem downstream from it and change the planet.

So even without talking about God, this new scientific worldview brings with it a sense of membership with all of life and a responsibility for the planet that's largely missing in our secular world. In a materialist society, being spiritual is -- if not frowned upon -- what you do in the privacy of your own mind because there's something flaky about it for those of us who don't believe in God.

It continues here...
http://www.salon.com/env/atoms_eden/2008/11/19/stuart_kauffman/index.html

And there's more here...
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/kauffman06/kauffman06_index.html

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Steve Esser



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PostSubject: Re: God enough   Tue Sep 29, 2009 11:51 am

I respect what Kauffman is trying to do, but I've been worried that if you don't believe in a personal deity of the tradtional sort, using the word God will only confuse people.
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PostSubject: Re: God enough   Tue Sep 29, 2009 7:13 pm

I've run into that problem from time to time when discussing spirituality with some secular humanists and philosophical Taoists. They have no problem with the meat of my beliefs but as I'd mention the "G" word they get all up in a tizzy.

It used to really bother me and I spent a lot of time explaining myself and trying to justify my use of the "G" word. But frankly I don't really care anymore. I've found something that works for me, if other people accept it that's fine, but if they don't, that's fine too.

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PostSubject: Re: God enough   Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:16 pm

Steve Esser wrote:
I respect what Kauffman is trying to do, but I've been worried that if you don't believe in a personal deity of the tradtional sort, using the word God will only confuse people.

I can be flexible in my terminology : e.g. "G*D" or "Omniverse" or "ALL" or "Eternal".. But I haven't found anything other than a meaningless jumble of letters that would convey the core idea without triggering a slew of unintended connotations.

Hence I believe in "Gdo", hereafter defined as . . . . . .

Perhaps we should just give the deity a number. I believe in "The One", hereafter defined as "1".

Typically, both Atheists and Theists will interpret the "God" spelling in terms of the bible-god. That's why I use a distinctive spelling, to at least evoke a "huh?" It all gets back to the old communication problem : "what you think you heard me say is not what I said". That's why we dialogue and define, define and dialogue . . . . . Smile
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