The Gaian Paradigm Part 4 – Religion

The Gaian Paradigm Part 4 – Religion


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 possibly be possible to live without churches; but it is not possible to live

without religion, that is, without methodic 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 already 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 strength 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 strength that produced

and controls the universe has grown, like the understanding of the physical cosmos

and of biological life, by 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 confront to confront 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 produced 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 by women, children,

and lesser animals. greatly 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

by reason as by 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 clearly for

human use. All plants and animals were in a natural hierarchy with man at the top.

The Roman Empire, Mediaeval Church, and European Monarchs, continued and

expanded the idea that humans (more correctly ‘man’) was the caretaker for all


The division Between Science and Religions

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 continue

that humans were produced with the strength to understand and rule 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 principal. In the past

200 years expert 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 division between science and religion was established when the

mediaeval Christian clerics refused to look by 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


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 rule

the vicinity 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 course of action for

enlightening humans as to their place in the universe.

This bifurcation was operable as long as the development of technologies was

advantageous 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 inner, 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

instead of our slave. These unanticipated consequences of technology have

spurred the creation of technology and environmental assessment programs by the

government. They also initiated a thorough reassessment of the value and use of

science in addition 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 thorough

searches by Eastern Religions, and the unfettered acceptance of questionable

pseudo sciences. However, it was brought to fruition, with some thorough scholarly

theological redefinition’s of thorough religious and scientific tenets.

Pope John Paul II, in acknowledging that homosexuality is a occurrences of

character, 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, surprise, 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 information. Theologians like those in the Institute for Theological Encounter

with Science and Technology (ITEST) see theology as accepting the scientific view of

character, 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 ecosystem. 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 occurrences 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 arrival of quantum and relativity theories, and already

more in the new sciences of Gaia, Chaos and Complexity, it is being recognized that

science is applicable, to use Schumacher’s words, as “knowledge for understanding.”

Today, science is not just as a base for new technologies; but science discloses what

little reasonably certain factual knowledge we know about the cosmos and cosmic

evolution. This limited knowledge is applicable 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 is


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 unprotected 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 ecosystem, 2) Competence, the ability to draw

sustenance from its ecosystem, and 3) adaptive flexibility, the ability to change as

its ecosystem changes. 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 in any case contributes 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 existence.

This melding of science and religion follows Spinoza’s belief that God is character

and Einstein’s concept that a religion is feeling of cosmic awe, surprise and mystery

which comes with the thorough 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 invisible to

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

information God and describe it. It is a state of being instead of 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 holy and to be revered. The Gaian

paradigm, that all there is — is webs of being, indicates 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 basic knowledge, which may save it from the

apocalypse by which it is threatened,

(2267 words on Religion)


These three fleeting examinations only hint of the holistic and comprehensive

cultural change 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 in addition 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 Worlds.

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.

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