Metanexus is an organization that was invented and developed by a professor named William Grassie. https://www.metanexus.net opens with a splendid video about our planet. It is a wonderful introduction to the huge shift in our thinking, triggered by the incredible and stunning ideas that our technology is making accessible to us.

I became aware of Grassie when Academia.edu sent me his 2100 paper called “Politics by Other Means: Science and Religion in the 21st Century.” You can read about him directly on his website: https://www.grassie.net. I see that he has read some of my blog on Medium.com but not the posts in the same field as his, which I have been working for a decade.

In these essays Grassie is responding to the previous two decades of thought produced when we could no longer sustain the old Christian notions of a three-layer world (heaven, earth, hell) or the notion that there was a Guy in the Sky who was controlling everything. His paper is actually only about the two decades just previous because the new research is coming in faster than anyone can keep up. We’re in 2021 now. Below I’m adding notes triggered by reading this paper I have. I’ve ordered one of his books.

The inevitable social roiling that accompanies such a sea change in the world’s thinking — some terrified by the loss of old systems, some too eager to leap ahead and make assumptions, and the bulk simply hanging on — means there is important reassurance necessary to keep a bit of order. Many institutions have claimed authority because of historical connection with the old theory of the world. We used to do things because “God said so.” Now what is the justification of Queen Elizabeth II or even the United States of America? Only recently we’ve been rocked by the industrial revolution. Then came our trip into outer space and other planets. Today we can hardly bear our awareness of climate change and what it could to us.

Grassie doesn’t address quantum mechanics, which is the possibly the most scary system yet, since it reduces everything to gluons and muons hardly perceptible and operating in an entirely different set of rules that justify inscrutable and impossible ideas. Not many people try to grasp it — some give it up, crying “It’s all Zen!” It almost replaces the idea of the supernatural, since it underlies our reality and yet challenges it.

REMARKS ON READING WILLIAM GRASSIE

1. I’m not an academic: because “academies” are institutions and I cannot survive in institutions — even civil service. This is just me, but it makes my hackles rise when I hear “in God we trust”.

2. Academies are sorted into departments that perpetuate previous divisions and allow specialization to justify artificial splits like emotion versus rationality.

3. A major division that I resist is that between religion and science. They are simply artifacts of the earliest academic divisions among religion, science and law. Law is derived from the first two and its morality is the status quo.

4. If one claims that religion is only about humans, it is restrictively anthropocentric. Religion that doesn’t address existence and the interrelationships of all its variations is not adequate. I resist Metanexus on these grounds. I prefer the progressive emergence of humans that remains connected to all its previous incarnations (evolution) and before that to the geology of the planet and especially seas and the atmosphere itself.

5. The principles of emergent and self-generating creation are what are underneath evolution. These are mathematical scientific concepts that extend through evolution. They are hardly known by many, but for example the use of algorithms in computer programs has meant that they have begun interacting and “writing” their own algorithms to the point where some find they are too complex to understand or control.

6. The problem of these discussions is how to keep writing in domestic and familiar unintimidating terms while capturing the overwhelming grandeur of thought pushed to the edge of intelligibility.

7. The contra-theists: Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, are now old-fashioned. They are not A-theists because they are still fighting in the same old categories.

8. Ecosystems are a concept entirely ignored here. Phenomenology is not here either — in fact, biology is neglected and the assumption that humans are the center of importance still persists. Embodiment theory and the recovery of emotion have been ignored.

9. The principle of shaping according to the conditions of survival are surely the method of evolution. The “elegance” of a presumed design is produced by the failure/disappearance of everything that didn’t fit. BUT there are always random new mutations that might allow a better fit or that might be merely ornamental. AND the larger ecosystem may also be surviving or disappearing because of much larger factors like climate change or the salinization of the ocean.

10. This means that creatures that respond to ecosystems must change as well, or disappear. Even mountains wear down. These shifts may result in what is called “punctuated evolution” because it seems abrupt, but when dealing with millions of years, thousands of years of change may seem abrupt.

11. Commonly, small mutations accumulate until their interaction in the DNA may cause a leap to a new ability or conformation. Likewise, the dropping of a gene interaction may free an obstacle to a new environment or function.

12. Cultural events are an ecosystem that interacts even with DNA like the epigenome that forms around the original DNA as in periods of famine. Some cultural “memes” are intense enough to support murder of disliked plants, animals and people.

13. The essay refers to “the universe” but we know there are infinite universes in the cosmos.

14. The microbes, the fish, the reptiles, the mammals, still abide within us along with the Neandertals. This has consequences.

There will be more remarks to add to this list. One of the most important consequences of this kind of work is a transformation of what a human being is and how to figure out how to “operate” humans properly. On the one hand, we are improved mammals with that pre-optic frontal cortex adding amazing awareness that is nevertheless structured by mammalian fight, flight, freeze, fawn survival imperatives that are unconscious and uncontrollable.

On the other hand, we are so complex and so connected to all of existence that we are instruments in what is best likened to music, a great symphony. It never ends — it only transforms.

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.