Evolutionary Cosmology

by Scott Morrice on 02/10/2012

I just finished a fabulous book on evolutionary cosmology, The Universe Is A Green Dragon, by Brian Swimme.

Brian Swimme, Ph.D., earned his doctoral degree in the department of mathematics for work in gravitational dynamics at the University of Oregon. Currently he is a professor teaching evolutionary cosmology to graduate students at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Swimme is also the author of The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos and he is co-author of The Universe Story, which is the result of a ten-year collaboration with the well-known cultural historian, and Catholic priest, Thomas Berry.

Swimme’s book reminds me of one of the themes I was addressing in my Quantum Physics and Religion post. That post, in part, speaks to the cultural dualism that seems to currently permeate our Western civilization, that separation of the scientific viewpoint of our world, from that of the spiritual. As I mentioned, Rene Descartes, and then Isaac Newton, are credited with giving birth to this dualism.

There were obvious good reasons for this separation at the time. Our understanding of our universe, and the way things “worked” was then strongly influenced (probably an understatement of the highest order) by the existing religious organizations, and clearly needed a different approach. But then, because the subsequent scientific approach was so successful in explaining our world, science became, as Swimme says, “…entrenched in mechanism”, and never moved beyond that. And, for its part, the religious traditions re-focused on spirituality, and decided to leave creation, for the most part anyway (with notable exceptions), to the scientists.

The result—the dualism that seems so prevalent today.

And I take it, although it is never stated quite so explicitly, that it is Swimme’s view that without more, without a completely different approach to humanity’s current issues, the potential horrific future promise of complete annihilation on many different, and perhaps all, levels of our existence is actually a concern.

However, against this rather depressing potential future, Swimme sees a tremendous change underway.

He believes that we are undergoing a major shift in our fundamental view of world as we become more aware of the importance of our cosmic origins and development. And, as he points out, he is not just referring to the origin and development of the human species, but of our entire universe! Evolutionary cosmology!

His view is that the universe needs to be considered as actually a developing being. He sees the universe as having a beginning, and as being, even now, in a state of developing. He doesn’t see it as the “…result of a chance collision of materials, nor as a deterministic mechanism.” (Note: When he refers to “deterministic mechanism” I think he is referring to the idea that the universe exists, and is therefore best understood, in the context of it being merely a mechanical system operating under a system of natural laws).

But so what?

Well, in order to adequately deal with humanity’s current concerns, Swimme sees it is as imperative that we approach our understanding of humanity, not merely from the perspective of a newly formulated sociological or psychological theory, which he regards as being too limited in scope to be of any assistance, but in the context of humanity being no less than a property of the developing universe. As he says: “Alienated from the cosmos, imprisoned in our narrow frames of reference, we do not know what we are about as a species. We will discover our larger role only by reinventing the human as a dimension of the emergent universe.”

Central to Swimme’s approach is his understanding that the universe, and earth, be considered almost as living entities. And he believes that the human person, rather than being a separate unit in all of this, is the result of a multi-billion year process and is actually a part of this entity. At the end of all this, and at the risk of over-simplifying things, Swimme sees humanity as nothing less than the universe’s manifestation of its need to see and experience itself.

What an incredible thought!

I will have much more to say about this book and its fascinating theme in later posts.

I’ll keep you posted.

Previous post:

Next post: