On July 3, 2016 Ray Hertzler, Beryl Lawson, Linda Dove, and Amy Thompson presented “Perspectives on Evolution.”
Linda A. Dove
In 2006, in his last book, Evening Thoughts, Wendell Berry, cultural historian and eco-theologian, was concerned about our human devastation of Planet Earth through our aggressive commercial industrial Western culture. As a Catholic monk, he argued that this destructive behavior was sanctioned and encouraged by Christianity. (As you know, most UUs were Christian for many centuries until recently, and some still are).
Berry made these points:
- The Christian Church rejected the earlier feminine Earth-dwelling deities and made God into a patriarchal deity above and separate from the natural world. The result was that we humans withdrew our previous reverence for the sacred in nature and, having created God in our own image, we saw ourselves as spiritual and separate from nature which we viewed as merely material.
- Secondly, the Christian story of redemption encouraged us to see ourselves as saved and so separate from and transcendent over nature. Thus we could treat the natural world as a resource to be exploited for selfish human benefit.
- Third, since the Cartesian division of the world into mind and matter, we have claimed mind for ourselves and we have “de-souled” nature, adopting a metaphor of the world as mechanistic, and mere machinery for human use.
- This in turn has led us to use technology to overwhelm and dominate nature—to undermine natural population limits, to preserve our lives and delay death, to extinguish other life-forms, and to subvert the entire chemical composition of the Planet in a way that it cannot easily remedy.
- Finally, Berry argued, the Christian theology that gave us the vision of a transcendent destiny in some heavenly other world served also to diminish our concern for other, “inferior” life-forms and our living Earth.
Previously, Berry had showed that we are in the midst of a shift to what he called the Eco-zoic Era—a time when humanity is present to the Earth community in a mutually-enhancing manner. Scientists typically characterize new eras by a massive change, usually caused by catastrophic events like the extinction that killed off the dinosaurs. He said that the ecological disasters now happening all around us, including the sixth major mass extinction, are signs that a deep-time shift is happening again.
This could mean the opportunity for the Eco-zoic Era to begin.—or that is is perhaps already underway. But, Berry said, care for the planet and all life in this era must begin with one human being at a time. Humans have the capacity to make choices. So we must each choose to have the Eco-zoic vision guide our actions in the world.
Is this an unrealizable utopian vision, or can we make this vision happen if we choose?
In 2002, Wendell Berry, the Christian, avowed this: I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that the world subsists, coheres and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.
Many other spiritual leaders echo Berry. The Dalai Lama, for one, wrote his book The Universe in a Single Atom: the Convergence of Science and Spirituality in 2005. He deplored social Darwinism and said that we humans must find a compassionate spirit. He argued that the idea of the survival of the fittest has been misused to condone…excesses of human greed and individualism. Thus, we ignore compassion in our ethics for relating to our fellow human beings [and the natural world-I would add].
At the 2016 UUA GA this June, Krista Tippett, journalist-author on religion and spirituality, gave the keynote Ware Lecture. She talked about the words and language we use and how they frame culture. She pointed to the brutal political and economic injustices in the world and the brutal language that goes with them. Many thousands of UUs sat listening in our yellow T-Shirts bearing the logo, Standing on the Side of Love. She said we need to bring the word LOVE into our public and political discourse. She challenged us to resist greed, hate and meanness, to be generous in talking openly of love and to put love into action in our public life.
Here’s a poem by Diane Ackerman, the Canadian author. She says it all for me.
In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,
I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,
I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.
[From I Praise My Destroyer (Vintage Books, 2000) Used with the author’s permission.]
As we Unitarian-Universalists tomorrow celebrate our country’s independence with other peoples of these United States of America, can we commit to speaking out courageously about LOVE and COMPASSION for all life-forms. We humans can choose how we put into practice our relationship with the web of all life. Is this love and compassion the next evolutionary step we may choose on our spiritual pathway as human beings?
The concept of a god creating the entire universe is one that goes beyond reason. Similarly the concept that the wonder of the world as we know it is the result of chance is equally untenable to my mind. There is too much order, beauty and universal laws of nature in the world to settle on the concept of chance.
When science decided it needed to throw out the ideas of narrow religious beliefs it threw out the idea that there is more in the world than just what we discover on the material plane. Thus arises the fight between creationism and material science’s concept of evolution.
“There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt in your philosophy. Horatio.”
The way I see it as stated in our seventh principle we are all part of One Whole. The creative consciousness of the whole is manifest in its numerous expressions to the degree that the part is capable of expressing that consciousness.
Time is endless in both directions. Energy or matter cannot be created nor destroyed, just change form and evolve in the ability to express a portion of the One Life consciousness.
Everything we can observe in the physical world is an expression of the law of cycles, weather, seasons, business cycles. The beating of the heart, etc. That law of cycles is evident on all parts of existence, both physical and spiritual. The perfect way all acorns follow the plan to become oak trees, the perfect plan that an invisible seed can become a human baby. How can these be the result of endless accidents? We’re told it’s all in the DNA or “it’s in the genes.” The DNA is the record not the cause just as a computer contains all manner of information that we can use but who put the info into the computer. Intelligent beings, not happenstance.
We are one small speck in the vast consciousness of the unending universe. How can we possibly see the big picture when we are limited to just an infinitesimal portion of the entire vast and every changing living something which is the life and consciousness of the universe.
An ant crawling over the surface of an oil painting might well come to the conclusion that each bump of paint is a mountain to climb and that there is all there is to understand. One who can stand back and observe the whole painting can see the whole picture, the purpose the artist had and the possibilities of understanding more than the eye of the ant can manage or even imagine. Could it be that we are no wiser when we look at our tiny earth, our tiny existence on this earth and wonder why we can’t see the expression of consciousness, of eternal and ever changing life in this vast and never ending something we call the living and intelligent universe?