natural theology

This site is part of The natural religion project
dedicated to developing and promoting the art of peace.

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Volume 1: About

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The Problem

Our basic human problem is to learn how to live together peacefully and sustainably on Earth. This, it seems, requires that we share a common vision of what life on Earth is. At present this vision appears to be sadly lacking because we are still heavily dependent on ancient theological and religious ideas that were generated and propagated long before the scientific era that began in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Our evolutionary history explains how this situation arose. Evolution by natural selection is a result of the interaction between the infinite possibilities of life and the finite resources of the Earth. Possibilities are in effect information, and in our Universe, all information is represented physically. To become real, a possibility must acquire for itself sufficient physical resources to remember and execute the information processing needed to sustain its existence.

Although many species are quite limited in the environment in which they can live, our special abilities have enabled us to migrate to all but the most inhospitable parts of the planet. This resulted in the establishment of human communities completely isolated from one another for thousands of years. Human evolution - Wikipedia, Early human migrations - Wikipedia

Like all other species, our physical evolution is relatively slow, taking many generations to introduce a significant change. On the other hand, cultual evolution proceeds much more quickly. A modern person, finding themselves in the medieval world of a thousand years ago would find languages and customs very different from their modern equivalents. While our nature remains relatively stable, our nurture an its consequences are is changing rapidly. From a human point of view, our rate of change seems to be increasing all the time.

The invention of agriculture and the exploitation of fossil energy have fuelled an explosion in human population and human impact on the planet that was nowhere in sight for our African ancestors. These vast and obvious technological changes have been matched by equally great but less obvious changes in our understanding of ourselves and our world.

One consequence modern development is that cultures that were once completely isolated from one another are coming into contact. We are often confronted with views of the world completely different form our own which lead to friction and even war at the points of contact.

In many cases we are struggling to keep up with this rate of change, and many are suffering because the environment no longer supports them as it once did. This, we believe is a religious problem. It is religion that binds large numbers of unrelated individuals into a community. Our problem is to replace the contradictory elements of different religion with new ways to bond into a caring whole. It is painful, but necessary, to write off old ways. The pain becomes more bearable if it is clear that the new system will indeed be better.

Various evils have been named as the root of human suffering: the Fall, original sin, money, wealth, greed, corporate power, sex, overpopulation, materialism, individualism, ignorance, bloody mindedness, and so on. Let us lump them all under the heading 'system error'.

Error drives the search for knowledge. Although some may seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge, most of us are motivated to understand only when something is broken and needs fixing. It is disease that drives medical research and evil in general that leads us to spend time on theology and religion.

One cannot easily fix things without knowing how they work. A break in one tiny wire may stop a motor vehicle. For the average driver, such a defect is a mysterious and frustrating evil. An experienced mechanic, on the other hand, may ask a few questions about the manner of the vehicle's failure and from the answers pinpoint and fix the trouble.

The growth of science has given us a a comprehensive view of the world. This has led to the conquest of many evils and some ideas about how to deal with others. The problem is that, despite all our wonderful technology, troubles seem to be multiplying faster than we can fix them.

The human system needs to be renovated. There is a need to bring our religious understanding up to par with our scientific understanding. The first step, we believe, is a new look at theology. I propose that we attack the problem of violence with a global theology that comprehends the whole of the world and shows us where we all fit in.

I begin from Christianity because I was brought up a Christian. The Christian religion maintains that our fundamental problem was the Fall, an act of disobedience to God. We were saved from this problem by God sending his Son to Earth as a human sacrifice to appease himself. Here we propose a new route to salvation based not on a defective and fallen Universe, but on a divine Universe which is reliable and graceful enough to enable us to save ourselves if we can only learn how it works and how to act consistently with this knowledge. Fall of Man - Wikipedia

Evolution works by variation and selection. Variants that do not fit the environment are selected out, leaving those that do. In this way the evolution of individual species follows the changes in their environments. This process is identical to scientific method. Scientists, confronted with a body of data, try to imagine all possible explanations and, by checking them against the data, eliminate those which do not fit. Scientific method - Wikipedia

This site seeks to develop a scientific theology. In contrast to Christianity, we imagine a Universe that is divine and then, by checking it against experience, try to discover whether it is true or false. Given a certain amount of confidence in its truth, we can then use this scientific foundation to develop the religious technology needed to ensure peace on Earth.

(revised 7 August 2014)


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Further reading


Click on the "Amazon" link below each book entry to see details of a book (and possibly buy it!)

Axelrod, Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation, Basic Books 1985 'This book is a must-read not only for students (broadly defined) of the social sciences, but also for politicians and bureaucrats, especially those in charge of military and foreign affairs. Axelrod's book is a tour-de-force in multi-method approaches. Although the author is a trifle repetitive and occasionally laborious, I think the profound content of the book far outweighs the minor inadequacies of its form. At the risk of sounding like a logical positivist, I would venture to say that Axelrod's approach offers hope for a bottom-up construction of cooperation in an uncertain world without a central authority.' Reeshad Dalal 
West, Morris, Daughter of Silence, Readers Book Club 1961  
Early human migrations - Wikipedia, Early human migrations - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Early human migration began when the pre-modern Homo erectus first migrated out of Africa over the Levantine corridor and Horn of Africa to Eurasia about 1.8 million years ago. The expansion of H. erectus out of Africa was followed by that of H. antecessor into Europe around 800,000 years ago, followed by H. heidelbergensis around 600,000 years ago, who was the likely ancestor of both Modern Humans and Neanderthals.[1] The ancestors of the human species H. sapiens evolved into Modern Humans (i.e. our current day subspecies H. sapiens sapiens) around 200,000 years ago, in Africa.' back
European Space Agency, Planck Published Papers, 'The scientific findings of the mission are presented in a series of papers based on data from the first 15.5 months of Planck operations. These recent results are produced by the Planck Collaboration. The papers are available online, and links to each are provided below. If you use any of these results for presentations, please acknowledge the corresponding paper, ESA/Planck, and the Planck Collaboration. The Planck Legacy Archive (PLA) contains all public products originating from the Planck mission.' back
Fall of Man - Wikipedia, Fall of Man - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'In Christian doctrine, the fall of man, or simply the fall, was the transition of the first humans from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience to God. Though not named in the Bible, the concept for the Fall comes from Genesis chapter 3. Adam and Eve live at first with God in a paradise, but the serpent tempts them into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God forbade. After doing so they become ashamed of their nakedness and God consequently expelled them from paradise. Many Christian denominations believe that the fall corrupted the entire natural world, including human nature, causing people to be born into original sin, a state from which they cannot attain eternal life without the gracious intervention of God.' back
Human evolution - Wikipedia, Human evolution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Human evolution is the evolutionary process leading up to the appearance of modern humans. While it began with the last common ancestor of all life, the topic usually covers only the evolutionary history of primates, in particular the genus Homo, and the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of hominids (or "great apes"). The study of human evolution involves many scientific disciplines, including physical anthropology, primatology, archaeology,paleontology, ethology, linguistics, evolutionary psychology, embryology and genetics.' back
Ian Sample, Planck telescope maps light of the big bang scattered across the universe, 'The latest data suggests the universe is expanding at a slower rate than thought, making it roughly 80m years older at 13.82bn years. Scientists have made minor changes to the estimated makeup of the observable universe too, with normal matter now comprising slightly more, at 4.9%. There is a little more dark matter, at 26.8%, and less dark energy, at 68.3%. The results are described in 30 papers freely available online.' back
In Memoriam A.H.H. - Wikipedia, In Memoriam A.H.H. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833. Because it was written over a period of 17 years, its meditation on the search for hope after great loss touches upon many of the most important and deeply-felt concerns of Victorian society. It contains some of Tennyson's most accomplished lyrical work, and is an unusually sustained exercise in lyric verse. It is widely considered to be one of the great poems of the 19th century.' back
Scientific method - Wikipedia, Scientific method - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific method is: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." back
University of California Museum of Paleontology, Understanding Evolution, 'Biological evolution, simply put, is descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life.' back
William Blake, The Tyger Songs of Experience, back is maintained by The Theology Company Proprietary Limited ACN 097 887 075 ABN 74 097 887 075 Copyright 2000-2014 © Jeffrey Nicholls