The third aspect of the New Science/Social Paradigm I'd like to
consider today is more amorphous and far more sensitive than the
two I've suggested so far. It is the melding of science and religion.
Perhaps in no time since Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door
of thdoor of the Castle church at Wittenburg (1517), or Calvin published
his Institutes (1534) has religion been in such spiritual chaos.
No one set out the serious concern of this age of religious chaos
better than did Fritz Shumacher in "Guide to the Perplexed."
Other scholars of the times like Gregory Bateson, Buckminster Fuller,
Margaret Mead and others had a clear but unproclaimed religious
character to their works.
Schumacher's was the first, most profound, and most open declaration
of the age of spiritual turmoil.
The religious chaos of the 1960s and '70s was most clearly and dramatically
proclaimed by the beads, incense, granny dresses, long hair and
horned rimmed glasses of the hippies. It was also declared by movements
such as T.M., est, Hari Krishna, the search for Eastern religions,
the return of paganism, shamanism and Wiccan. It was expressed in
the Broadway musicals Hair, and Jesus Christ Superstar, and in the
attempt to escape from social hills with psychedelic drugs.
The concept of "New Age" started out to be, more like
Shumaker's "Small is Beautiful," a critique and correction
of the excesses of the Industrial Age. It ended up being identified,
particularly by its critics, and the press, as being an off beat
and occult religious movement, more likely to end up with the Jonestown
and the more recent UFO induced suicides or other strange behaviors
than in any serious revival of a deeper sense of spirituality.
Schumacher in "Guide to the Perplexed" took the high road
and recognized that the meandering search for meaning of the hippie
generation was a deeper and more profound expression of the age
than was being recognized by mainstream society. In "Small
is Beautiful" Schumacher had been concerned with what we do.
In "Guide to the Perplexed" he was concerned with why
we do it. He recognized two kinds of science. One was "knowledge
for manipulation," the other "knowledge for understanding."
The former led to techniques and technologies for the satisfaction
of the lower visible level of human wants. The later led to the
higher values, meaning and purpose for life. As he said:
"It may conceivably be possible to live without churches; but
it is not possible to live without religion, that is, without systematic
work to keep in contact with, and develop toward, Higher Levels
than those of ordinary life. Everywhere in the modern world there
are experiments in new life-styles...and it is sometimes
tolerated even in polite society to mention God."
The Evolution of God
Belief in powers beyond the human level have been with us since
humans first became conscious of themselves and the world into which
they were born. Stories of creation, and speculation on the higher
power have filled the human mind, and were the rocks on which cultures
were built in every part of the world.
Throughout history humanity's understanding of that great power
that created and controls the universe has grown, like the understanding
of the physical cosmos and of biological life, through many transitions.
The evolution of our understanding of the Christian God is the one
most familiar to us.
The first God of the Bible was a fierce and vengeful god to be feared.
He was one of many gods (or baals) each of whom ruled over a limited
people in a limited territory. The God of Abraham could command
human sacrifice. Jacob wrestled all night face to face with his
God. By the time of Isaiah, God had grown to be the creator of the
world, the greatest among all gods. Jeremiah taught, God was not
in the Temple but in the heart of humans. He had created the world
for human use.
The god of Moses lived on a Mountain in the Sinai desert from which
he handed down the ethical rules for his chosen people, the Jews.
With the teachings of Jesus, god took off his demeanor of wrath
and punishment to become an all loving god promising eternal life
for his people who did not sin. 12 With Paul there was one all powerful
Christian god for all people. To Augustine the universe was a Chain-
of- Being with humans near the top, and a hierarchy down through
women, children, and lesser animals. Vastly above man sat God, with
the Chain-of-Being filed with angels and other demigods. For Saint
Thomas Aquinas, God was a omnipresent spiritual form more than a
human like being. His existence was as discernible through reason
as through revelation.
The view of God as creator of the universe that was to be ruled
by man, was amplified by the Greek philosophers who first conceived
of the idea that the universe was an ordered unity, and that man
had the capability to understand it. To Socrates, Plato and Aristotle
the ordered and purposeful universe was obviously for human use.
All plants and animals were in a natural hierarchy with man at the
The Roman Empire, Mediaeval Church, and European Monarchs, continued
and expanded the idea that humans (more correctly 'man') was the
caretaker for all creation.
The Dichotomy Between Science and
This view of man's dominion over the Earth prevailed until the
time of Bacon and Descartes who had little respect for the non-human
world, but divided human life into two realms, the physical and
the spiritual. They did not challenge the concept that the purpose
of the universe was the use of humans. But, did contend that humans
were created with the power to understand and dominate that universe.
With the founding of economic theory on the principles of self-interest
and survival-of-the-fittest, the material side of life became dominant.
In the past 200 years mastery of the external world has become the
single most powerful driving force of humanity. A belief in God
has remained as separate from the material world, as the 2000+ years
in the evolution of God has reached to the edge of chaos.
This dichotomy between science and religion was established when
the mediaeval Christian clerics refused to look through Galileo's
telescope. For them, the scriptures had revealed that there could
be no moons around Jupiter. It was not fear of knowledge that held
their hands. It was fear of social dissolution. The moral certainty
of the Mediaeval Church was based on man being at the center of
the spiritual universe. This in turn rested on man's home, the Earth,
being the center of the physical universe. It was feared that if
the Earth were proven to not be at the center of the universe, the
whole fabric of spiritual and social adherence could disintegrate.
The Galileo compromise, later clarified by Descartian dualism, was
that scientific knowledge should be developed to aid man in his
understanding and domination of the Earth. That is, in creating
technology. Religion should dominate the realm of the deeper meaning
of life and the moral codes which create harmony among the people
of the Earth. Science would not be recognized as a process for enlightening
humans as to their place in the universe.
This bifurcation was operable as long as the development of technologies
was beneficial to humanity. That is, before the challenge of the
excessive use of natural resources, the pollution of air, water
and soil, the threat of global warming, the discovery of thinning
of the protective ozone layer, increased health risks due to toxic
chemicals, the loss of jobs brought on by labor saving automation
and foreign trade, biotechnology threatened to privatize all life,
automobiles and highway separated citizens from one another, and,
in general, technology became our master rather than our slave.
These unanticipated consequences of technology have spurred the
creation of technology and environmental assessment programs by
the government. They also initiated a deep reassessment of the value
and use of science as well as technology.
God and Gaia
Part of the reassessment of science has been lin conert with the
reassessment of religion in a holistic revaluation of the place
of knowledge in society. A new search for meaning and spirituality
emerged from the peace, human rights, feminist, and ecological movements
of the 1960's. The search for meaning was
intensified by the bold adventures into "New Age" cults
and fancies, the deep searches through Eastern Religions, and the
unfettered acceptance of questionable pseudo sciences. However,
it was brought to fruition, with some deep scholarly theological
redefinition's of deep religious and scientific tenets.
Pope John Paul II, in acknowledging that homosexuality is a phenomena
of nature, in his apology for the Church's condemnation of Galileo,
in his acceptance of evolution as a valid scientific theory, and
in his admission if the Church's error in failing to opposse to
the Holocaust, has made the Catholic Church seem to recognize it
own fallibility, and to see science as a joint venture in the search
for knoweldge of the cosmos and humanity's place in it.
Fr. Thomas Berry has been one of the leaders of this movement. He
holds that our modern society's creation myth is the scientific
story of cosmic evolution.13 No creation myth could produce more
awe, wonder, and mystery than the revelation of how the universe,
the planets and life emerged from the Big Bang. Other theologians
like Bernard Lonegran S.J. and Laurent Leduc have gone a step further.
They suggest that religion, like science, is a search for the truth
not the last immutable word. Theologians like those in the Institute
for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST) see
theology as accepting the scientific view of nature, but acting
as a sort of watchdog for recognizing that there is a bigger picture
that we can not completely understand nor appreciate from a natural
From the scientific end there is a growing humility. Science accepts
justifiable condemnation for the technologies derived from it, and
their detrimental affect on society and the environment. In addition,
the certainty that surrounded Newtonian Mechanics and Darwinian
Evolution was taken to extremes by many disciplines and by some
scientists. As Alfred Whitehead warned. the success of physics in
explaining and predicting one set of phenomena led many so called
scholars to apply the methods of physics beyond their sphere of
relevance, in what he called "misplaced concreteness."
That is, building mathematical structures on uncertain premises.
Both the limits of and the fallibility of science are now emphasized,
giving more room for a rational religious speculation.
A New Age of Science
At the same time, the advent of quantum and relativity theories,
and even more in the new sciences of Gaia, Chaos and Complexity,
it is being recognized that science is relevant, to use Schumacher's
words, as "knowledge for understanding."
Today, science is not just as a base for new technologies; but science
reveals what little reasonably certain factual knowledge we know
about the cosmos and cosmic evolution. This limited knowledge is
relevant to humanity's place in the universe. It implies rules to
live by if humanity is to continue to exist. A new age of science
We made one mention of this in our discussion of learning above.
That is the scientific fact implicit in the Gaia Hypothesis that
evrything is dependent on everything else. That is, that humans
belong to Gaia . We "belong" to Gaia not just as parts
of it, but "belonging" is a proto values for our lives.
Belonging implies both being subject to and being responsible for
one another and for the Earth.
Beyond that, as Gregory Bateson points out in Steps to an Ecology
of Mind, a living organism can continue to exist only if it meets
three biological principles.
1) Health, the ability to exist within its environment,
2) Competence, the ability to draw
sustenance from its environment, and
3) adaptive flexibility, the ability to change as its environment
These principles are as applicable to social systems as they are
to biological systems. They instruct us as to how we must live if
humanity is to sustain itself. Tom Ellis states the ethical implication
of the Gaian theory in a new categorical imperative: "Make
all decision based on whatever promotes the
health, competence and adaptive flexibility of oneself and of all
the larger system of which one is a part."14 Science joins
with religion in uncovering the code of conduct necessary for human
This melding of science and religion follows Spinoza's belief that
God is nature and Einstein's concept that a religion is feeling
of cosmic awe, wonder and mystery which comes with the deep concentrated
study of what is, science. It surpasses human understanding. It
is 'feeling' the ultimate reality. God, in this sense, cannot be
reduced to human characteristics. God, so defined, is pure spirit
humans. God is beyond the materialism and foibles of human frailties.
For humans to quibble over His attributes is to diminish His grandeur.
You just can't use the word God and describe it. It is a state of
being rather than a conscious attribute. It transcends definition.
The new sciences of Chaos, Complexity and Gaia provide a new world
view, that humanity is an integral, and equal, part of a self-organizing
cosmos. Each part of, the cosmos as a whole, is equally sacred and
to be revered. The Gaian paradigm, that all there is -- is webs
of being, suggests a new concept of God-as-
cosmos, and Science-as-revelation.
Humanity may well be on the verge of a new age of science and a
new age of religion. A unified search for fundamental knowledge,
which may save it from the apocalypse by which it is threatened,
These three brief examinations only hint of the holistic and comprehensive
cultural transition in the offing. They were not meant to be accurate
prediction of the future. A central theme of chaos and complexity
theories are that self- organization cannot be fully guided by human
intervention, the best we can do is to
examine possible option and prepare for any of them to happen. The
emerging New Scientific/Social Paradigm radically changes the way
we will look at all aspects of our culture in the millennium ahead.
The future of economics, health, transportation, habitat or all
other social institutions could as well be taken as examples examples.
Or we might have examined the lifestyles we will live if this Gaian
Paradigm become universal. in the decades ahead Earth citizens may
well look back at the society in which we now live as not far removed
from our cave dwelling ancestors.
Technophobes can point out a myriad of technological possibilities
now on the shelf awaiting development and exploitation. Highly respected
scientists, like Freeman Dyson in Imagined Worlds, speak of radio
telepathy, designed biomechanical intelligent beings, bioengineered
biomes in space, and other wonders we now read of in science fiction.
The coming millennium, will first have to solve the social, economic,
health, education, ecological and other problems which beset today's
world. Without solution, the current world problematique dooms humanity
to a degraded existence reminiscent of H.G. Wells The Wars of the
In Gaia, Complexity, and Chaos theories we see the opening of an
opportunity to choose between a number of possible scenarios. The
coming of the 3rd millennium is a chance to set that direction.