Although today is the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere) we have already lost 2 minutes of daylight in the morning and in about two weeks the Earth will begin its tilting process that will lead to the autumnal equinox in September.
For 1000s of years, people have used the stars as guides for physical, mental and spiritual direction. In terms of oceanic and land travel, this guidance can be a matter of life and death. Proper attention to seasonal changes could also be a matter of survival. However some observations may be more playful as in the case of tonight’s Strawberry Moon. “Strawberry Moon” is the title some Native Americans have used for the full moon that occurs in June, which marks the beginning of strawberry season.
Although physical survival is of paramount importance, for thousands of years people have been aware of the importance of religious and or spiritual traditions for personal and community survival. Although the terms religion and spirituality may not be interchangeable, I find it intriguing that the origin of the word “religion” is biological. The word derives from the Latin, “re-ligare.” Literally, this means to re-apply ligaments to hold your spiritual life together. There are countless ways of doing this, however naturalists like Muir, Thoreau, Emerson, etal recommended “going for a walk” into Nature for “recreation” or perhaps a “religious,” or “born again” experience.
Although John Muir knew all of the Old Testament (and Psalms by heart) he kept a tattered pocket-version of the New Testament (with the Psalms) with him on all of his adventures.
In “The Wilderness World of John Muir,” Edwin Way Teale wrote:
“Repelled by the harsh fanaticism of his father’s religion, John Muir belonged to no church. He gave freely when solicited by Protestant and Catholic alike. But he affiliated himself with no formal creed. Yet he was intensely religious. The forests and the mountains formed his temple. His approach to all nature was worshipful. He saw everything evolving yet everything the direct handiwork of God. There was a spiritual and religious exaltation in his experiences with nature. And he came down from the mountains like some bearded prophet to preach the beauty and healing he had found in his natural temple where he worshiped. He spoke with the fire of the old Covenanters. This religious fervor and spiritual intensity in Muir’s response to nature contributed much to the power of his pleading for the cause of conservation. He never based his arguments on economic considerations alone. He always appealed to men on a high moral plane. I know of no other writer, with the exception of Henry Thoreau, who had so pure and lofty vision of man’s ultimate relationship to nature.”
The summer solstice just may be a perfect time to pause, look up at the stars (or the Strawberry Moon) and be grateful for our physical, mental and spiritual seasons.
INTELLIGENT MEN DECIPHERING “INTELLIGENT DESIGNS”:
“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Hebrews,” 3.
“All of Nature is but a metaphor of the human mind.” Emerson
It is illogical to assume that physical, mental and spiritual designs can be more complex than the artist/creator of the designs.
In the early 17th century, natural “philosophers,” using the light microscope, began to see things that could not be seen with the naked eye. Englishman Robert Hooke observed pockets of air within cork, which he called “cells;” Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek saw “wee cavorting beasties” in samples of pond water. I strongly suspect that he also saw images like this array of desmids and diatoms in a drop of pond water.
The origin of words has always fascinated me. In biology, many of the structures are self-explanatory; that is if you know Latin or Greek. The word “ecology” is a good example. The word is derived from the Greek words “oikos”= house and “logos,”= the study of: ergo ecology is the study of “houses.” Whoever coined the word fully comprehended the fact that every living thing lives in a “house” and the study of the interactions of all living “houses” emerged as ecology. John Muir was an “ecologist” before the term was coined.
With annual sales of over 100 million copies, there are estimates that over 5 billion Bibles have been printed. Regarded by many scholars as the “world’s greatest novelist,” Charles Dickens was often at odds with the “formal church” yet he opined:
“The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.”
I suspect that if John Muir were asked, he would have agreed with Dickens. Muir carried a pocket version of the “New Testament and Psalms” with him nearly everywhere he traveled.
Religious arguments are generally a waste of time, however, there can be some areas of agreement. E.g., St. Paul’s contention that every human being is actually a “temple,” is a concept that is not incompatible with many world religions and many people who may not consider themselves as “religious,” but regard themselves as “spiritual beings.”
Understandably, modern scientists, atheists and agnostics are not equipped to deal with a spiritual parallel universe, however, St. Paul’s concept was not only clear to Dickens, it was perfectly clear to John Muir who saw Yosemite Valley as a pure reflection of the temple that he was.
It was fun to see students discover that they were “living, breathing, walking houses;” however, regardless of their religious or nonreligious background, it was thrilling to see some of them begin to regard themselves as “living, breathing, walking temples.”
As a retired, holistic-biology teacher, it is disheartening to see that, in the name of “political correctness,” our public schools and universities are being “spiritually sanitized” and millions of students are tacitly being taught that they are meaningless, soulless, random acts of chance and competition.
I have returned from Yosemite and Grand Canyon with 100s of high school seniors, nearly all of whom saw visions marvels and wonders that they could not describe in words. Regardless of whether they saw themselves as “temples” or not, nearly all of them felt renewed and spiritually invigorated with an enhanced sense of hope, purpose and meaning.
“To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Henry David Thoreau
In a bizarre synchronicity, after I wrote this blog I went to a local hospital to have some lab work done. A middle-aged couple was sitting next to me. I thought it was odd that the man had a large suitcase with him. After a few moments, he looked at his wife and blurted out, “I want you to promise me that you will shoot me in the head if I ever touch another drop of alcohol. It will save me a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge to end my misery.”
When I got home I Googled the hospital and discovered that they offer a 28-day alcohol/substance abuse recovery program; the cost is $18,000.
John Muir was amazed that people willingly trust their lives to a little glass-covered dial with a simple, wavering magnetic needle and not see that God, Nature and an inner awareness could guide them as well.
For some mysterious reason, early in the evolution of the Biodesign Class, I felt “guided” to attend a local “A-A” meeting. I was probably motivated by the fact that in the mutual process of exploring the deeper levels of our personhood, it was not uncommon for students to share the horrors of living with an alcoholic parent.
It might have been naïve or rude of me, but I did ask a member of the local AA chapter if I could attend. He thought it was a great idea.
It was not without doubt and trepidation that I entered the meeting. The first, and most shocking discovery was the wide range of members in attendance. The year was 1974 and somehow, I had not imagined that medical doctors, lawyers, CPAs, nurses, teachers, school administrators, clergy members, leaders of the community, even a few housewives would be there.
After the meeting began, the intensely high level of honesty and disclosure in their conversations shocked me. After reading about the program later, it became clear that some (if not all) of the members were dealing with a potentially self-destructive disease and allowing vague, deceitful or disingenuous comments could not be tolerated.
I also learned about “Uncle Bill,” who nearly died of alcoholism before he began the self-discovery process that led to the current program known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
I located a copy of the A-A “Big Book” co-authored by Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson. It was immediately clear that the heart of the program involved trying to master the “12-Step-Program.”
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I an absolutely stunning example of what one person can do for the world, as of 9-1-2013, A.A. has a presence in over 170 countries, with an estimated total of 114,070 groups and more than 2 million members. And perhaps most extraordinary, the entire operation is operated by volunteers. These are people who have experienced the horrors of alcoholism and, more importantly, the joy of on-going recovery. This joy is frequently enhanced as they share with and guide others. This is tremendously important because recovery and rehab programs can be overwhelmingly expensive, often costing thousands of dollars per week.
Understandably, a program doing so much good work cannot do so without conflict. Secular-humanist psychologists go to great lengths to discredit AA. They often rail against the possibility that a mythical god could be involved in a person’s recovery. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the alcoholics can cure themselves and that A-A is “cult-like” organization that is dangerous and counter-productive.
In an interesting twist of fate, “step 12” on the AA list is a perfect corollary to John Muir’s life and work:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Muir’s daily life typically involved “spiritual awakenings” and he dedicated his life to encouraging others to go to the mountains and be “reborn.”
Buckminster Fuller is described in Wikipedia as a: “designer, inventor, engineer, mathematician, architect, cartographer, philosopher, poet, cosmogonist and visionary.” He wrote over 30 books and qualifies as a true renaissance thinker. Among his many inventions is the “geodesic dome,” which inspired scientists who discovered “Carbon 60” (hollow carbon molecules) to name them “Buckminsterfullerenes,” or “buckyballs,” for short.
Two titles that could be added to Fuller are prophet and theologian. Fuller died 33 years ago, but his concept of “Design Science Revolution” has proven to be a prophetic foreshadowing of the “Intelligent Design” movement which is currently gaining acceptance in wider and wider circles.
As for theologian:
When I first heard about Fuller, I assumed that he was most likely another post-renaissance (“New Age”) practitioner of scientism who threw God out along with the pre-renaissance baptismal water. However, after reading his quote, “I seem to be a verb,” I became more curious and wanted to know more about him.
What I found was that Fuller retained the open-minded spirit of the true renaissance thinkers (Galileo-Kepler et al)) who attempted to integrate the physical, mental and spiritual essences of humanity. As a “free-thinker,” Fuller was not concerned with whether his fellow scientists (or anyone) agreed or disagreed with his views. This could not have been more evident than by his view on religion. He was clear to point out that, although his religion was vitally important, it was an extremely personal issue and not something that people should be “wearing on their shirtsleeves.”
Fuller must have appreciated the mystery of synchronicities and therefore would not have been surprised that by such an event, someone on Facebook shared this extraordinary link to “brainpickings” website and the shocking proclamation from Fuller:
“The synergetic integral of the totality of all principles is God, whose sum-total behavior in pure principle is beyond our comprehension and is utterly mysterious to us, because as humans — in pure principle — we do not and never will know all the principles.” Buckminster Fuller
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain
This is a wonderfully interconnected triad that gifted naturalist Annie Dillard would regard as a “bright snarl.” Without a Creator there would be no “astronomy” or evolution. Without evolution the universe would be oxymoronically stuck in the first nanosecond, before time began, with no cosmos. And with no cosmos, humans would not have evolved with the ability to contemplate the works of the Creator.
Two gifted writers have properly suggested that “Mystery” reigns supreme and only egoism and arrogance motivate scientists and theologians to assume that they have all relevant answers. Robert Jastro, former director of the National Aeronautics And Space Administration (“Until The Sun Dies,” and “God and the Astronomers”) acknowledged the limitations of “The Big Bang Theory:”
“At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Jastro was a self-described agnostic, yet he used candor and levity to describe the inadequacy of his own thought process.
In an equally terse self-analysis, Fr. Robert Capon, “Hunting The Divine Fox stated:”
“Theology therefore is fun. The inveterate temptation to make something earnest out of it must be steadfastly resisted. We were told quite plainly that unless we became as little children, we could not enter the kingdom of heaven, and nowhere more than in theology do we need to take this message to heart.”
The “Big Bang,” the origin of life and the eventual evolution of human beings remain three of the great, unsolved mysteries of planet Earth. Anthropologist Loren Eiseley concluded his work, The Immense Journey with:
“Rather, I would say that if “dead” matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, ‘but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind.’”
In his own words, “The Autobiography of Charles Darwin:”
“When thus reflecting [‘on the universe, including man’] I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man’ and I deserve to be called a Theist.”
Shame on Richard Dawkins, and other science atheists who deny, obfuscate, pervert or “cherry pick” Darwin’s words. They have sabotaged Darwin’s message to make it conform their soulless world, and what a cold, heartless world it must be. If one of Dawkins’ minions decides to initiate a nuclear war, he could shrug it of as a “random” result of Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” It is staggering to know that an overwhelming number of high school, college/university biology teachers agree with Dawkins.
Secular scientists are quick to point out that human beings and chimpanzees share 97% of the same DNA. While the fossil evidence suggests that humans and chimps evolved from a common ancestor over 5 million years ago, the obvious fact remains that chimps are chimps and humans evolved into the most extraordinary animals on the planet. Evidently that 3% increase led to the world’s greatest artists, poets, sages, musicians and, ironically, even scientists like Dawkins.
Much of Darwin’s theory can be proven in the laboratory and in the field. For 1000s of years, people have used “selective breeding” and “mass selection” as a means to develop more productive and useful plants and animals. However, this does not mean that his theory is complete and flawless. After a discussion with Alfred Wallace, he acknowledged that he failed to explain human “gifts” such as mathematical, musical and artistic genius. These qualities are almost totally absent in chimpanzees.
All of the genetic changes Darwin observed were minor and only rendered the offspring a small advantage of survival. Loren Eiseley quipped; the human brain grew “like a mushroom in the night.” This has equipped man with an indeterminate period of time of mental growth. There is no known biological cause for the rapid expansion of the two human cerebral hemispheres.
Lamarck’s theory of use and disuse is of no value.
The Leakey family, Louis, Mary and Richard verified the increased cranial capacity of modern man, but they did not demonstrate the compelling factor.
Stephen Jay Gould was a big fan of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” however he failed to show why or how the human embryo (in evolutionary time) suddenly gained the ability to generate a triple-sized brain.
Gould was also a fan of “punctuated equilibrium” which may explain the “fits and spurts of evolution,” but he could not explain the evolution of the human brain.
Pathetically, human geneticist, Richard Dawkins, recently inferred that the human brain evolved out of “nothing.”
The latest wrinkle in the evolution battle is the emerging consideration of “Intelligent Design.” Although the theory suggests that evolution is not a random, chance-born process, it does not describe a “designated designer.” Therefore, “Intelligent Design” does not explain the emergence of the human brain.
The fact of the matter is, by virtue of the laws of chance and probability, the human brain should never have evolved and so it is not surprising that its origin remains a mystery. Considering the universe, with its boggling time/space dimensions, life on Earth is supremely enigmatic. The Earth has been evolving for 4.5 billion years and yielded millions of plant and animal species before man arrived. Darwinian evolution does not need or explain “man.” If all these living forms survived by “instinct,” what need is there for consciousness, values, or free will? If “modern man” evolved 5 million years ago, we have lived on Earth 0.01% of its history and yet arrogant practitioners of Scientism claim that Mystery is irrelevant and that they have all the necessary answers.
Meanwhile, there is a moral and ethical disease that is pandemic in our society and had afflicted scientists as well. It is called “situational ethics” and scientists use it frequently. Lacking any evidence for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of the first cell or the tripling of the human brain, secular scientists either ignore or obfuscate the issues or make up their own ethics and pander them as truth.
Photo credit: Toscano: Darwin’s Ape. Available Amazon.com
Typically, it is a literary travesty to reveal the end of a book to those who have not read it. In this case, however, I think it is justified. Readers seeing the words “INTELLIGENT DESIGN,” on a book are likely to mistake its meaning and importance. Ironically (and unfortunately) the term has become toxic, in part because of some Christian Fundamentalists who like to use it as a euphemism for God in an attempt to sneak Him in the backdoor of public schools. The term has also been obfuscated by skeptical, secular biologists who distrust all visions but their own.
Therefore, the last paragraph of Meyer’s extraordinary book reads:
“The theory of Intelligent Design is not based on religious belief, nor does it provide a proof for the existence of God. But it does have faith-affirming implications precisely because it suggests the design we observe in the natural world is real, just as a traditional theistic view of the world would lead us to expect. Of course, that by itself is not reason to accept the theory. But having accepted it for other reasons, it may be a reason to find it important.”
Modern scientists who are devout Darwinists can be just as guilty of narrow-mindedness as some literal interpreters of the Old Testament. Neither side of the evolution debate can withstand a word-for-word dissection. Galileo was aware of this when he properly suggested that the Bible includes many metaphors that are obtuse and difficult to comprehend. One of them is the Earth being created in 6, 24-hour days. This is problematic with the sun not being created until the fourth day. Another involves the procreation of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren, without some kind of “sinful,” incestuous behavior.
However, Darwin himself admitted in, Darwin’s Autobiography: “This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having and intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.”
Furthermore, he conceded that his theory could not explain the origin of life, the emergence of flowering plants, the emergence of the human brain and the role of spirituality in human beings.
Isaac Newton wrote about the universe (circa 1677): “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an Intelligent and Powerful Being.”
Approximately 150 years later, Thomas Jefferson agreed with Newton and thought that there was scientific evidence for design in nature. In 1823, he insisted so in a letter to John Adams: “I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.” As a classic renaissance man, Jefferson was a brilliant scholar, skilled in both letters and science. As one of the most gifted “founding fathers,” he was a major contributor in the writing of the Declaration of Independence and US constitution. He was a strong supporter of the laws that separate church and state, however, he was also an advocate that; “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” These rights include freedom of thought and expression.
“Darwin’s Doubt,” should be required reading for all college/university biology majors. Furthermore, all college/university biology professors, pastors, priests and rabbis should read it as well. Of course they are free to take issue with any of Meyer’s positions, however, if they can temporarily set aside their petty prejudices, they may discover that more questions than answers remain in the evolution debate.
When “Intelligent Design,” “creation” and “evolution” are all presented to students as the mysteries that they are, they neither favor nor disfavor any religion and therefore do not violate the laws of separation of church and state.
However, this kind of “open-minded” thinking is not encouraged in most high school, college or university biology curricula. An overwhelming number of schools have either adopted an overt or tacit policy that bars the discussion of “Intelligent Design.”
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” – Albert Einstein
There are a growing number of practitioners of “scientism” who become exercised when their critics suggest that science may have some wrong conclusions. Paraphrasing Einstein’s logic, all scientists have been wrong on some issues or else they would have become a god.
Ptolemy, the Greek mathematician/astronomer, proposed a geocentric model for our solar system that lasted for 1400 years. Imagine that! For 1400 years, scientists and scholars walked around thinking that they knew the “truth” about the solar system. Ironically, history has repeated itself, as many scientists think that their thoughts are the center of the universe.
Lamarck was wrong about his theory of “use and disuse” and that acquired traits were passed on to offspring. Scientists of that time believed that mice mysteriously emerged from piles of rags and worms spontaneously grew in mud puddles.
Einstein was wrong about the “Steady State” theory and admitted that he falsified some data to favor his conclusions. Later, he sorrowfully acknowledged that it was the greatest mistake in his career.
In his autobiography, Charles Darwin admitted that his theory of evolution could not explain the origin of life or the evolution of humans. This confession is conveniently ignored by an overwhelming majority of high school and university biology teachers.
Carl Sagan’s description of how the first cells were formed (“COSMOS”) is pure fantasy, but is still being taught to millions of US students.
Nobel prize winner, Dr. Roger Sperry stated:
“One of the great unresolved paradoxes of science involves consciousness, free will and values, three long-standing thorns in the hide of science. Materialist science couldn’t cope with any of them, even in principle. It’s not just that they’re difficult. They’re in direct conflict with basic models. Science has had to renounce them—to deny their existence or to say that they are beyond the domain of science.”
In a recent debate on evolution, Richard Dawkins became one of Einstein’s fools as he tried to describe how evolution came from “NOTHING.” When the audience laughed, he looked puzzled and asked, “What’s so funny about that?” What he failed to grasp was that the people, who he regarded as intellectually inferior, used his own words to deduce that he was inferring that his brain must have evolved out of nothing. Little wonder they could not contain their laughter.
In his book, “The Great Design,” Stephen Hawking claims that the universe is so complex that it made itself out of “nothing,” which has rendered God obsolete. Either Hawking is wrong or the fundamental laws of physics (matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed) are wrong.
There is nothing wrong with making errors during scientific research. In fact, the entire process of the scientific method depends on testing hypotheses to see if they are flawed. However, science becomes dangerously flawed when a “scientist undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge [and] is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
There are many who think that Einstein’s contribution to society, as a humanitarian was more valuable than his work as a scientist. If this is so, then it is not surprising that his legendary last words were, “I still wonder how something could come from nothing?”.
Assuming that we don’t destroy ourselves first, what current scientific knowledge that we believe is factual, will people in 100 years laugh about?
Although I am not an authority on “Intelligent Design,” due to a very strange mystery over 40 years ago, along with some very curious high school students, we discovered the “ID” concept before it was named “Intelligent Design.” In a collective act of brilliance, the students questioned the efficacy of the traditional educational model of “massive memorization of minutiae” and subsequent mental regurgitation. Instead, they envisioned a high school advanced biology curriculum that featured creative, critical and investigative thinking.
They named the Class “Biodesign” and dedicated it to “the illimitable freedom of the human mind.” Of course, this included exploring the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. They discovered that he was a brilliantly creative biologist, however he was not a god and his theory had some major flaws.
After 40 years of exploring “biodesigns” I compiled some of the highlights in a book titled “Biodesign Out For a Walk.” Some readers have suggested that chapters 10 and 11 should be edited as a balanced curriculum addendum for high school biology classes. In the back of the book is a reference list of over 100 books that we used for guidance. Here are my top ten favorites.
1. “The Immense Journey,” by Loren Eiseley. This is one of the finest science books ever written. The book is about biology/anthropology/evolution; it is not a book about philosophy, religion or human spirituality, however all of those topics are understandably intertwined. Among the many awards Eiseley received was the Pierre Lecomte du Nouÿ award, presented to writers who described the overarching themes that unite science and religion.
2. “The Autobiography of Charles Darwin.” It is absolutely numbing that high school and university biology teachers almost universally ignore or obfuscate Darwin’s admission that he had no clue about human evolution.
3. “The Great Evolution Mystery” by Gordon Taylor. This is an excellent book and objectively approaches some remaining mysteries about evolution. He points out that Darwin’s Theory cannot explain “organs of extreme perfection”, like the human eye and brain.
4. “Alfred Russel Wallace; A rediscovered life.” Although this wasn’t published until after I retired, it is an excellent review of how Darwin and Wallace agreed and disagreed and corroborated many ideas that our students discovered. Wallace pointed out that Darwin had no explanation for the human “gifts” of musical, mathematical and artistic genius. They are not consistent with Mendel’s laws of genetics; therefore their origin remains a mystery.
5. “The Wilderness World of John Muir.” John Muir may be the greatest naturalist the world has known. This book was a huge part of the class, because many of the student revelations occurred in wilderness areas of Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Muir was the founder of the Sierra Club and regarded as “father” of the US National Parks Service. His life and work serve as a spiritual beacon for scores of millions of Nature enthusiasts. “From the dust of the earth, from the common elementary fund, the Creator has made Homo sapiens.” Does this involve “Intelligent Design”?
6. “Religions—Values and Peak Experiences“, by Abraham Maslow. Maslow, a noted psychologist, suggested that the study of human “spirituality” should be included in a “suitably enlarged” high school biology curriculum. He cited ways that, if done properly, the studies need not violate Constitutional laws separating Church and State.
7. “The Road Less traveled.” by Scott Peck. This book was on the NY Times best-seller’s list for over 10 years. Peck addressed the importance of balancing human physical, mental and spiritual components to achieve a harmonious life.
8. “Walden,” and “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” by Henry Thoreau. Many students observed (as Eiseley warned) that many evolutionary scientists have distorted scientific evidence in order to support their agnostic or atheistic beliefs. However, their greatest concern was with Thoreau’s cautionary reflection:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
They understood his warning that materialism, scientism and soulless pursuits were potential threats to their spiritual growth.
9. “The Soul of The World.” This little book is one of the most beautiful books in my library. It includes some of Eric Lawton’s amazing photographs of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Each photo is matched with some of the most profound poetry and wisdom as well as marvels and wonders of our planet.
10. “As a Man Thinketh.” by James Allen. James Allen’s philosophy became possible when liberal Protestantism discarded the stern dogma that man is sinful by nature. Instead it suggested the optimistic belief in man’s innate goodness and divine rationality. This reversal of doctrine, according to William James (the father of American Psychology) was the “greatest revolution of the 19th Century.” It was part of a move toward reconciliation between science and religion following Darwin’s publication of “The Origin of Species.” Darwin himself, hinted at the change in belief in “The Decent of Man” where he wrote: “the highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”
Although I have studied “Intelligent Designs” for over 40 years, I have more questions now than answers. This is not discouraging, however, because I am in the company of some of the great minds.
Meister Eckhart, 13th Century mystic, theologian, philosopher suggested: “The deepest secrets of life will not be discovered by science.”
Louis Thomas, author of, “Lives of a Cell,” suggested that a single cell is so complex that humans will not be able to fully comprehend or reproduce its functions.
Roger Sperry: Nobel Prize winner for pioneering “split-brain” brain research. He correctly pointed out that evolutionists have not explained the origin of human values, consciousness or free will. “Materialist science couldn’t cope with any of them, even in principle. It’s not just that they are difficult. They are in direct conflict with basis models. Science has had to renounce them—to deny their existence or say that they are beyond the domain of science.”
Albert Einstein wrote: “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of that or that element. I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” (Intelligent Design)?
Loren Eiseley concluded “The Immense Journey:” “I do not think, if someone finally twists the key successfully in the tiniest and most humble house of life, that many of these questions will be answered, or that the dark forces which create lights in the deep sea and the living batteries in tropical swamps, or the dreaded cycles of parasites, or the most noble workings of the human brain, will be much if at all revealed. Rather, I would say that if “dead” matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows, and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, ‘but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind.’”
Friday, 3-16 turned out to be a “red-letter-day.” Ex-student Jared Grummer was returning to Seattle from Argentina and wanted to share some of his adventures. He had just completed a 5-month field-study exploring the genomes of the lizards of Patagonia. This involves the last leg of his efforts to obtain a PhD degree in herpetology from the University of Washington.
The weather was supposed to be spring-like and so we decided to meet at Lake Hennessey, about 7 miles east of the town of St. Helena. The weatherman was correct and following nearly 20 inches of rainfall in March, the lake was filled to overflowing and life was emerging in great profusion. As we walked and talked along the lake, western fence lizards sunned themselves on every log and rock. Two garter snakes must have felt our footsteps and slithered off the road and into the grass. Majestic ospreys soared overhead waiting for the chance to grab a fish in their talons. An elegant Great Blue Heron glided downwind and gracefully landed at water’s edge with only one effortless wing-beat. Cormorants skimmed by with wingtips nearly touching the water.
We found a beautiful rustic redwood bench to share a picnic lunch and, of course, some stories about our mutual passion for biology. Although our conversation was rooted in biology, it often branched smoothly into matters of spirituality and metaphysics.
The lake is only about 2 miles long, but it is plenty long enough to see the curvature of the Earth. Jared had read about seeing this in BOFAW, however, he was a bit skeptical. Seeing is often a prerequisite to believing and he was delighted to see the subtle arc. This conjured up the mystery of gravity and we laughed to think of Mike Sparks (another ex-student) who currently walks around “upside down” in New Zealand. ;o) It is one of the greatest natural mysteries as to how gravity can be strong enough to hold our feet on the earth yet not so powerful as to crush us.
We enjoyed recalling Isaac Newton saying: “I have described how gravity behaves, not how it works or who made the stars and planets, each with its own gravitational field.”
The moon was high above us and I recalled learning that it had to be the perfect size and distance from both the Sun and Earth to allow life to occur. Any larger or closer and we might have ocean tides of 100 feet or more—smaller or more distant and tides would not exist, hastening global oceanic stagnation. The moon also plays a role in stabilizing the Earth’s axis, which is 23.5 degrees. If the Earth were not tilted there would be no seasons and equatorial temperatures would make life impossible. This would likely lead to major global warming, drastically increased winds, tornadoes and hurricanes. There was much to see and talk about, but I was totally unprepared to witness something I had only seen on film or video.
All of a sudden, two Western Grebes popped up on top of the water and without using their wings, did a perfectly synchronized “prenuptial line-dance.” Essentially, they danced together for about 20 feet before they plopped back into the water. We were both highly amused. This happened several times until something even greater happened. THREE grebes exploded up on the water and danced about 20 feet, but reversed 180 degrees and without sinking, danced back about 10 feet before plopping back into the water. This produced some intriguing questions. Even with his binoculars, the events were too quick and too far away for Jared to determine the sex of the dancers. Were there three males trying to impress a nearby female? Were there two males and one female or visa-versa? And most beguiling of all, assuming that the female had the privilege of selecting a mate, what was it about the “aquatic ballet” that gave her clues about the potential ability of her chosen mate to help her raise a brood of chicks?
Perhaps equally important, how is it possible that the grebes can do something on water that even the world’s greatest ballerinas could not dream of doing? And, perhaps, because this is the week before Easter, the grebes reminded me that one of the many miracles Jesus is credited with was walking on water.
Sadly, it occurred to me that we have become a nation of people who do not believe in, let alone celebrate miracles. After all, Jared and I were riding on a bench that has a rotational velocity of 600 mph. We are living on a planet that travels @ 67,000 mph around the sun and our Solar System is traveling @ 515,000 mph through the Milky Way Galaxy. And yet, there we were, being calmed, soothed and inspired by the magical tranquility of the water.
Christie and I have been out to Lake Hennessey probably over 100 times and we have never seen the “Dancing Grebes.” John Muir commented that Nature always provides us with more visions that we could ever expect and this was true Friday, 3-18-16. The Grebes Dance
Jared and I met at noon and I was shocked to see that the afternoon had flown and it was after 4:00 pm when we left the lake. It was a supreme honor to share the life of a very bright and curious ex-student and see that he is bound for horizons that I will never see.