Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D
Evolution biologist Elizabeth Sahtouris envisions a scenario in which science leads the way out of ecological crisis, uniting us into a flourishing global community.
The ancient Greek word for science was philosophy – philos sophias, lover of wisdom. This name was intended to set science on a course of searching for wisdom, for practical guidance in human affairs, through understanding the natural order of the cosmos to which we belong. It was exactly this search that drew me to study science and continues to motivate me, though it was a long time before I found other scientists who shared it, so many of them having accepted the belief that science should be neutral – free of values and social intent – or that its new technologies are all humanity needs to solve its problems and continue its ‘progress’.
I became an evolution biologist, a student of life with a very long-term perspective. Evolution fascinates me because it gives meaning to humanity in an awesomely grand context and offers guidance for our future. But my even broader lifelong passion as a scientist is to make sense of everything in my entire experience of self, world and cosmos. I yearn for a new and inclusive scientific model of reality that does not separate my experience of the physical world from my spiritual experience of life, my heart’s life story from that of my mind.
Ever working towards this new worldview, I seek out other scientists, philosophers, clergy and broad-minded people as friends and colleagues, continually seeking new insights and angles for a model of reality that can serve everyone, and that can be understood and loved by anyone in our whole global community – a truly meaningful story of reality that guides us to lead fulfilling lives, both individually and together in the context of our beautiful and sacred Earth.
Everything in our human experience takes place within our consciousness and is shared as social reality through stories. In our scientific story the Earth evolves as its creatures evolve, and as we humans evolve so do our endeavors, from governance to the arts, education to law, science to religion. Historically, every culture has had its religion, with a priesthood that explained reality in terms of their religious beliefs. In today’s dominant world culture, however, science explains reality in terms of scientists’ beliefs, and science is given the role and responsibility of a supreme priesthood above and beyond the myriad belief systems of the human race.
The difference between religious and scientific ‘realities’ lies in the difference between revelation and research. In any religion the story of reality – of ‘How and Why Things Are’ – comes through revelation to certain people who write or inspire texts and develop a following, carrying the story to succeeding generations of believers. In science, the story of ‘How and Why Things Are’ is arrived at by people trained to propose and test models of Nature that become scientific reality. The models (or theories) suggest questions to be answered by experimental tests, to see whether the model is valid, and to gain clues for revising it if it proves not to be.
Science is thus expected to change, while in practice that is not so easy. Religion is expected not to change, which in practice is not so easy either. Ultimately there is pressure on both to evolve as the Earth and its people evolve.
Resistance to change among scientists is deeply rooted in holding unquestioned but fundamental assumptions - in forgetting that these assumptions did not come by cosmic revelation, but that European men of science devised them. They were men enamoured of machinery, projecting their own engineering expertise onto God by calling Him ‘the Grand Engineer’, and thus seeing Nature as lifeless machinery. Later, when they decided they had no need of God and made science a completely secular venture, the concept of machinery without an inventor forced them to believe natural machinery could assemble itself by accident. Their fundamental assumptions, therefore, were belief in a mechanical universe, a great cosmic clockwork assembled from the bottom up by accidental collisions of particles into atoms, atoms into molecules, and so on, all the way up to galaxies, galactic clusters, and the whole universe itself. Just like manmade machinery rusts and disintegrates if left to its own devices, they ‘proved’ by the Law of Entropy that this lifeless, non-intelligent, unconscious mechanical universe was running down to its ultimate cold death of nothingness.
In the life sciences, evolution theory placed man squarely into the natural world, where the notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ had huge social implications. It justified our taking everything we could from Nature – now seen as a collection of our ‘natural resources’ – in an aggressive and competitive struggle to get what we can while we can in this meaningless, entropic universe. Thus children were chained to machines for the sake of profits, wars were fought over resources, the holocaust was designed to weed out the ‘unfit’ and the quarterly bottom line is our newest competitive tyranny, preventing corporate CEOs from being accountable to planet and people in their drive to maximise financial profit.
Nowhere is the wake-up call so dramatic as in the United States’ government, which reconsiders its constitution in light of the new scientific worldview. The President makes it clear that the US will do everything in its democratic power to be a model global family member, beginning with unilateral disarmament and the prompt conversion of all military bases to educational, health and conflict resolution centers.
More women are urged to run for political office in recognition of their perspective. At the forefront of domestic and foreign policy is the transition from fossil fuels to clean green energy, the rich countries helping the poor to ensure that it can be achieved everywhere. Armaments including nuclear weapons and all war materials are outlawed worldwide. The Earth Charter is ratified universally, ecocide becomes global law and full support is given to the World Court in The Hague.
Jubilation is instantaneous around the world. Big corporations trip over one another in their race to become more sustainable and more accountable to people and planet. Cooperative ventures among religions mushroom as never before. It is as though a hurricane has swept away an old world in deep trouble and freed the hearts and minds of people who eagerly embrace the new cosmic vision.
Is it possible? My faith in the conscious cosmos brings me a resounding and joyful ‘Yes!’ I believe we are all a continuum of conscious energy, rising like a keyboard from the slow waves of the physical into the highest frequency waves of spirit, so I shall continue to play my whole keyboard, with every blessed cell in my body, and with my whole heart and mind until it is so.
By Dr Elisabet Sahtouris
Dr Elisabet Sahtouris is an internationally known evolution biologist, futurist and author. She is currently a professor in residence at Chaminade University, Honolulu. She has been a UN consultant on indigenous peoples and has participated in dialogues with the Dalai. She is a member of the Evolutionary Leaders and a founding member of Rising Women, Rising World.
Dr Sahtouris has also appeared in numerous films including Occupy Love, I Am, FEMME, Love Thy Nature and Dalai Lama Awakening. Her books include EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution, A Walk Through Time: from Stardust to Us, Biology Revisioned (with Willis Harman) and her new eBook, Gaia’s Dance. www.sahtouris.com