Home | About | Upcoming | Archives | Other PITP Archives | PITP

  7:30 pm, Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Fairmont Social Lounge, St. John's College

Reinventing the Sacred: Breaking the Galilean Spell

Stuart Kauffman

University of Calgary

Since Galileo, Newton, and Laplace, Western science and civilization has been under the sway of a reductionist 'Galilean Spell', whereby everything in the universe is ultimately governed by natural law.

But the evolution of life is emergent and cannot be reduced to physics alone. Darwinian pre-adaptation is the evolutionary emergence of a novel function for an unused part of an organism. A classic case is the emergence of swim bladders from lungs in certain fish. However we cannot finitely prestate all the relevant selective environments that might call forth, by selection, the pre-adaptation with its novel function. If a natural law is a compact description of the regularities of a process, then Darwinian pre-adaptations are not sufficiently covered by natural law. The evolution of the biosphere and human culture are thus partially lawless and creative in unpredictable ways. We have, if we wish, the right to use the "God" word to stand for the natural creativity in the universe. This, I hope, is a 'reinvention of the sacred', that can be a shared spiritual space for all of us, amidst growing fundamentalisms. Lives, as well as the sacred, hang in the balance.

Find out more by visiting his website.

Additional resources for this talk: video.