Saturday, December 17, 2016

Post of August 11, 2015

In looking back over my blog archives I found an entry missing, it is part of my Teilhard Series of seven which ran between June 28 and October 1, 2015.  I don't know why it disappeared nor how to put it back into its appropriate place so I enter it here, out of sequence.

Teilhard is one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century.  He was a noted scientist and a mystic.  He saw beyond Darwin's identification of the 'without' of evolution to its 'within' of pattern, direction and goal.

Teilhard Series - 5th  (evolution)

What is evolution?  Some say it is the scientific theory that explains how species became what they are through changes over long periods of time.  Some say it is the ‘crazy idea’ that claims our most distant ancestors were apes.  Others say it is an idea expounded by atheists to prove there is no God.  And still others say it is a lie spawned by the devil to lead people astray.  A dictionary describes evolution as the gradual development of something, especially from simple to complex form.

Darwin’s explanation of evolution did not include pattern, direction and goal; that is what Teilhard’s work shows us.  From atoms clustering to form molecules, then cells; to human consciousness continually building to greater awareness, there is movement toward increasing complexity.  The goal is realization of the interconnectedness of all that exists.

Although evolution is implicit in all of Teilhard’s writing, he actually uses the word sparingly.  As a scientist he worked with the data that discloses the pattern that is hidden behind all life-struggles at all stages: the simple moves to the complex and so opens to new and greater possibilities.

            Evolution is the underlying principle of all that is.

Nothing in the known world materializes in a ‘poof’ from nothing; development comes through gradual change programmed in the pre-existing state that holds the blueprint for the final product.  Throughout Teilhard’s life-long study of development in all aspects he came to realize that everything unfolds in a direction from simple to complex that expands possibilities for the organism evolving.  Within the earliest stage of the simplest form there exists the possibilities of the ultimate form . . . within the acorn is the potential oak tree, within the egg is the potential bird, within the DNA is the blueprint of the person, and within the energy leading to the explosion of the ‘big bang’ was the universe that came to be.  There is direction: movement is always forward from simple to complex.  We can search all the way back to the ‘primordial soup’ wherein we see and recognize a pattern emerging: elements with affinity join to form new units.  As pointed out in my last blog, our material world took shape through the building of layer upon layer moving from the inorganic foundation to developing the layers necessary to support the emergence of life, then the layer of teeming life forms, and ultimately life that birthed thought which enables humans to discover, evaluate and create. 

            Evolution is the name for the process by which all comes to be.

Even thinking is an evolving process.  We have discovered so much about how our world works!  How do we discover what we know?  By beginning with the simple and expanding to the complex.  We see and wonder, we ask questions and follow leads; we have new thoughts and ideas and test them against what we understand from previous discoveries . . . and if the new discovery contradicts what we thought we knew we re-define our knowledge.  All that thinking, analyzing and concluding takes place in a realm that is not material.  Our ability to think and reason is a quality of our being—a unique human quality.  In the modern world we’ve come to over-value the material—the ‘things’ of life that can be weighed and measured—but we take for granted and overlook the non-material, yet it is with those non-material qualities we have changed the earth we occupy.

Teilhard de Chardin calls us to consider the non-material realm of our existence that he calls the ‘within’ of things, and he does so by study of the material substances that he calls the ‘without’ of things.  He maintains “the internal aspect of things as well as the external aspect of the world [need] be taken into account.” He was a respected scientist devoted to the study of science but also a Jesuit—a man of faith.  He believed in evolution and believed in God as the author of the process.  He saw no conflict between them.  The world has order and is intelligible, that bespeaks design by an intelligent source.

Not a random happenstance; Teilhard sees meaningful order in life.  We see all of nature as balanced and purposeful.  The earth and sky provides conditions for trees and plants to produce their yield; all living creatures are provided with the means necessary to develop and flourish.  When given the freedom to exist in their environment there is a natural balance between predator and prey and each species instinctively knows how to self-protect and seek appropriate shelter and sustenance.

Only the human, gifted with intelligence, has the ability to alter the course of nature . . . and/or to disrupt it so as to threaten the planet’s very existence.  That quality—intelligence—must have a better purpose!  It will be discovered when humanity comes to truly recognize that all of life is interconnected—with that realization we will ‘learn to think in a new way’.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Our Global World

The Age of Nations is past, the task before us now,
If we would not perish, is to build the earth.
                                                                                                      Teilhard de Chardin

It is not easy to see and acknowledge that we are one world, interconnected and interdependent, but that IS the reality: earth is one tiny unit in this vast universe that will survive or perish by the human choices made.  To say we live in a global world is somehow threatening because it has political connotations which can be used divisively to make people want to retreat to ‘their own corner’ and protect themselves against ‘other’.

That protectionism is the strategy that was used successfully by Donald Trump to win the election.  His slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ has a subtly implied anti-world view, a nationalism that sets us apart at the ‘top of the heap’.  Throughout the campaign he carried a slightly different message to each group, bringing their fears and prejudices forward invoking a ‘them’ as enemy, saying he alone held the answer.  There was no message of unity or hope, no strategic plan, just fabricated lies about the opposition (the ‘enemy’, “lock her up”) and the fantasy that, given the power and authority, he could/would ‘fix it’.

There are reasons for the alarm being felt by many in this country and around the world—Trump has duped the American public.  While claiming to be for the average working citizen he was primarily in it for his own aggrandizement.  He is now building his cabinet with billionaires and planning to tear down the advances made for improvements in our country’s health care system and reverse the steps taken to improve the environment of the planet.  Without providing an alternate plan, Trump’s expressed intent is to repeal Obama care, and consider privatizing Medicare.  His choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Scott Pruitt a fierce EPA critic, climate change denier, and is closely linked to the oil industry.

Trump’s multiple real-estate holdings all over the world makes conflict of interest unavoidable and that is not amended by appointing his children to run the business.  He has been openly disdainful of: government (“the system is broken”), our voting system (“its rigged”), studied intelligence (“I know more than the generals”)—undermining the public’s faith in our democracy.  Beyond that he is also disdainful of verbal restraint, diplomacy and protocol, as well as facts and honesty.  As president, Trump’s cavalier attitude toward truth weakens the moral fiber of our country.  His arrogance is astounding!  His expressed admiration for Putin as a “strong leader” gives evidence to his penchant for authoritarianism.

Everything about Trump’s approach is a step backwards to less enlightened times.  All scientific evidence confirms Global Warming and warns of the advancing unprecedented crisis that can only be averted by unified action; yet he claims climate change is a hoax and plans to curtail green energy development while expanding reliance upon fossil fuel.

The human species has developed the ability to destroy our world in many ways, the most catastrophic way being with atomic weapons . . . those weapons have already been produced and awaiting the finger willing to push the button—that specter makes working toward cooperation between nations a necessity.  These are perilous times.  Cooperative interaction used to be optional, but daunting though it may be, in the 21st Century it is mandatory. 

Earth, the common home to us all is the only world we’ve got, protecting it is paramount for continuation of the human species.  To ignore the perils facing it is blasphemy.  Stirring divisive nationalism and shamelessly promoting exclusive self-interest above global concerns while justifying withdrawal of support from international globally conscious organizations is heresy!

It may not be easy to accept that planet earth is one interconnected, interacting, interdepended world, but that is the reality . . . and its survival as a habitable planet depends upon our recognition of that.