According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Remembering Who We Are & the Spirituality of Surfing

This next is a little off beat - some personal, some not - but let's go with it...

In Jay McDaniel's accompanying article below what I like is how he weaves large large words and ideas like Process Theology, Panentheism, Creational Expression, Creaturely Freedom, and Spirituality into an integrated whole when selecting as his subject matter the recreational sport of surfing with its deep passion held by many having the blessed acumen of balance required to enjoy wind and waves.

Though I never had an opportunity to learn this sport a very distant relative of mine had, so much so that he has held the world championship record for surfing for many years. Who? You might have guessed it... its easy enough... Kelly Slater. Neither he nor I know one another yet we're from the same family tree out of Rhode Island through our common relative, yet another famous personality in his day, known as the Father of the American Industrial Revolution, the American Factory system, and of the American Sunday Schools. This same had established the Black River Valley textile industry throughout the New England Colonies which served the clothing needs of colonialists and an early nation growing up.

His name? Samuel Slater of Pawtuchett, Rhode Island, whose early textile factories spawned complex manufacturing machinery to meet the burgeoning needs of a populace fortunate enough to have one pair of clothes to their name. If you had a fire in your house the first thing you grabbed was your clothes. They were that rare or hard to come by. When we visited Pawtuchett several years back we drove through block after block of heavy textile factories - think Ford Motor but on a massive Textile scale and you get the idea. And when finally finding the Slater Mills, discovered the US National Parks Monuments had an immense museum, guided facilities, tours, movies, and public discussions ongoing through the year. Amazing. Who knew?

Image result for Workers at a mule spinner making thread hd
President Andrew Jackson: “I understand you taught us how to spin, so as to rival Great Britain in her manufactures; you set all these thousands of spindles at work, which I have been delighted in viewing, and which have made so many happy, by a lucrative employment.”
Samuel Slater: “Yes Sir. I suppose that I gave out the psalm and they have been singing to the tune ever since.”
- George S. White, Memoir of Samuel Slater
Anyway, Kelly and I are from this side of the family, come from England, whose descendants had migrated as white refugees seeking opportunity in a land promising freedom and hope. Not unlike the millions of worldwide refugees (61 million at present) dissettled from home and family looking for a homeland to live in, raise families, and grow businesses.

At present, we are witnessing America's deep difficulty with its previously rich heritage of having been the Land of the Free but is now in the process of relearning how to become the Land of the Free as opposing forces to human dignity and creational being lurk in the shadows disrupting and destroying those same passionate fires borne within the souls and breasts of those early colonialists seeking justice while fleeing the inhumanity of religious fanaticists across the face of England and Europe. Which sounds much like today's current events, which, I'm sad to say, proves the age-old adage true, that history ever seems to repeat itself.

R.E. Slater
July 1, 2018
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"



    


* * * * * * * * * *



​Surfing and Panentheism

​a short reflection for my son, Matthew McDaniel, a surfer

by Jay McDaniel

Pan-en-theism means everything is part of God even though God is more than everything added together. 

​Developed by process theologians in the 20th century, but with precedents in many world religions, it is the view that the whole universe is unfolding within the mind and heart of a single life -- God -- in much the way that a living embryo develops within a womb. God is a womb-like Consciousness in whose life the universe unfolds, and the oceans and waves on our small planet, along with us, are among the cells in whose Life all things unfold. 

This does not mean that everything that happens on our planet or anywhere else is God's will. The hills and rivers, the trees and stars, the oceans and the surfer -- all have their integrity and independence; all have power of their own which cannot be overridden by the divine life. God is all-loving, but not all-powerful; just as a Mother in whose womb an embryo unfolds may well be deeply loving, but not all powerful. Many tragedies occur that even God cannot prevent. They affect God even as they affect the world. God, too, can suffer. Still, just as a mother has a will, a desire, that her embryo enjoy safety and happiness, so it is with the Life in whom the universe unfolds. God is Love. God's aim is that we love our neighbors and the whole of life as we love ourselves.

Spirituality is the act of connecting with this Love. The word "spirituality" means many things, but most deeply it means becoming fully alive in whatever ways are possible, relative to the circumstances at hand, in a loving way, and in consonance with the Life in whose mind the universe unfolds. There are many moods the spiritual alphabet. Indeed, so we learn from the work of Mary Ann and Frederic Brussat in Spirituality and Practice, there is one and sometimes two for every letter: attention, being present, creativity, connectedness, courage, devotion, enthusiasm, faith, forgiveness, gratitude, hospitality, imagination, justice, listening, meaning, nurturing, openness, peace, play, questing, reverence, silence, transformation, unity, vision, wonder, X (the mystery of life), yearning, and zest for life. 

The practice of surfing can open a person to many of these moods. It may be part of a new religion, as Bron Taylor suggests, and it may also find its home in a more traditional religion such as Christianity, as the video "Spiritual Surfing" makes clear, as narrated by an Episcopal priest. Surfing is a trans-religious practice that can be enfolded into many different religions and also practiced by people who are "spiritually interested but not religiously affiliated." It is a form of meditation and faith. It is faith that waves will come, even in tough times, filled with fresh possibilities for life and love, no matter what the circumstances. And it is faith that we can respond to these waves creatively, with skill and effort and a little balance., to help build a world that is good for all, as best we can.

- Jay McDaniel







Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Problem of Being



Introduction

The challenge of reading the bible obliquely, or without context, is oftentimes confusing with contemporary data we know which may conflict with this kind of reading. It is a problem of hermeneutics (or, biblical interpretation) when our reading relies on traditional religious views and understanding of the bible to the exclusion of contemporary data sets we now know and continue to accrue.

As example, the Genesis story of creation becomes very different when applying an evolutionary approach coupled with historical anthropology, modern archeological knowledge, and comparative literary redaction to its pages. When doing so the question which then arises is how do I read the bible without relativising its teachings to my particular line of thinking? Or, how might I take what I believe and allow those beliefs to adapt to the challenges of contemporary studies when applying those same studies to the biblical text?

One approach is to carefully rethink how this new information might then relate to God's plan of salvation and our participation in it. Though the bible's narratival stories may provide inspiration we do not need to lose such stories when dismissing the ancient's description of their world as they then knew, understood it, and tried to explain it. Rather, we might take the substance or framework of their expression and reapply it with the same vigor for the worldly era we live in today with all the challenges that that may bring to us when we do so. For instance, the problem of the refugee and foreigner in the bible is every bit as relevant today as it was then. Our challenge is to act in a way worthy of God's love as opposed to the world's way of dismissing community/corporate/national responsibility for a problem we have no sympathy towards based upon public policies, laws, and attitudes. When differing from these societal mores we find ourselves in conflict with friends, family and  public opinion not unlike God's prophets of old when proclaiming God's Word against the indifferences and disobedience they saw occurring in real time within their own societies.

Consequently, when updating older theologies with newer content we might attempt to make a more correct application of God's Word to contemporary society by delineating not only the positive take-aways from God's mercy and love, but also the corrective behaviors to the negative actions we must desist from reproducing by redirecting ourselves towards more humane attitudes and activity. Further, some of the biblical ideas/ideals/beliefs we once held about biblical expectations might improve  our sense of being in the world while others may need to be let go as they do not add to the Spirit of God's love and grace. This is the whole concept behind re-analyzing biblical studies anyway... to act in corrollation with the Spirit of God rather than upon our own religious folklores and belief sets held in error with the Word of God.

In The Problem of Being I attempt to provide an example of how our reading of the bible might be challenged when updated with newer information within a constructive understanding of redemption. It is but a beginning point, not an ending point, as the problem of hermeneutical description and application will always require a more sophisticated approach than what we normally give to it. But then again, like any philosophical approach to older life-belief systems, we might gain immeasurably from a differing approach which might be wider than our own rather than thinking we won't be blessed if attempting another (supposedly unbiblical) approach. As baseline to biblical interpretation I might suggest the overall theme of God's Love, Grace, and Mercy as helpful guides. Or another, expressed in popular parlance, WWJD, "What would Jesus do?" On the reverse side, when these guiding principles are negated by contrary theologies, dogmas, or teaching then I would submit those resultant doctrines, theologies, religious expressions, and beliefs need to be challenged and dismissed. Peace.

R.E. Slater
June 24, 2018

* * * * * * * * * *


The Challenge of Reading the Bible in a Contemporary Setting

The evolution of the biologic species and habitat of Homo sapiens challenges the biblical story of Genesis depicting the ancient mindset of early human development. In every way the earth's records support the former discovery so that as a follower of Jesus one must determine how to read the Genesis story in light of this discovery. It challenges not only the process of creation - whether immediate or mediated by creational conditions - but also the doctrine of original sin as to what it is, what it means, and why the Christian gospel centers it within the biblical record so deeply. Given the plethora of evolutionary studies on group sociology and personal psychology of human beings however sin's origins we see the effects of "sin" everywhere about.

Too, the story of an original couple makes for a great narrative but the reality it seems to be speaking to in the ancient mind is that we have estranged ourselves from one another and from our Creator God. However that estrangement came to be it does seem to be a very ancient estrangement. The bible declares the causing factor to be disobedience - but perhaps from an evolutionary frame it may refer to the continuing trait/instinct/habit/behavior modes/etc of not listening to the God of Love who seeks redemption and healing in all things human and creational. So here again we see another age-old dilemma the bible speaks to time-and-again in its own way through the experiences of more ancient socieites driven by their own insights and longings.


Then there is the mythical figure of Satan in the mythical Garden of Eden who is blamed for all things going bad. Again, in the modern mindset this may be a metaphor for choosing not to love regardless of its evolutionary origins. Which also brings us to the idea of "free will" likewise described in the pages of Genesis by the actions of its literary figures. And yet, this struggle of will is not limited to humans alone but to those things or beings we describe as angelic or divine each striving with the other in a complex of swirling interactions and relational results. Some of which bring nurture, nourishment and well-being while other interactions deflect all that is good in life by robbing others of these precious states of being. By bringing not "heaven" but "hell" to an earth torn by our humanness when we seek our own will and purposes and not that of the other.


As such, though an evolutionary approach to the bible seems to present a great difficulty to its reading, it might also suggest that there are other ways of reading the biblical script without throwing the bible and its stories "under the bus" as we say. That in someway, with the right perspective, we might be able to gain from the ancients some wisdom to the age old problems of who we are, if there is a God, and if so, where is He/She/It, and why is this world we live in the way it is? All basic questions asked of humanity through its ages again and again and again within the dystopia of its civilizations morphing with other civilizations in heightened cycles of enlightenment and destruction.


For some, oppression, injustice, human cruelty, civil war, or revolution becomes the lynchpin to asking these questions. For others, simple comparative reading between literary-philosophic-scientific compositions does the same from the times of the ancient Greeks to modern man. But however we live this life we must live it as showing light and love to one another rather than the sin and evil which lives alongside us moving us to do otherwise. It is the most ancient of struggles and the one we think of as being the closest to the divine-human struggle to abide within as we, in our own gardens, either bring blessings or great harm to others. It is as much a moral imperative as it is a spiritual dilemma and one, should we be able to answer its challenges, might find the kind of salvation promised to us in the bible through God Himself who offered Himself up through Jesus as both example and expiation for our burden of sin that salvation from evil might be found and lived within the power of His Spirit. For alone we are unable, but with God, by God, of God, and through God we might.

R.E. Slater
June 23, 2018


REFERENCES


Genesis 1

The Creation

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was [a]formless and void, and darkness was over the [b]surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was [c]moving over the [d]surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

6 Then God said, “Let there be [e]an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the [f]expanse, and separated the waters which were below the [g]expanse from the waters which were above the [h]expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the [i]expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout [j]vegetation, [k]plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after [l]their kind [m]with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth [n]vegetation, [o]plants yielding seed after [p]their kind, and trees bearing fruit [q]with seed in them, after [r]their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be [s]lights in the [t]expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for [u]lights in the [v]expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.16 God made the two [w]great lights, the greater [x]light [y]to govern the day, and the lesser [z]light [aa]to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the [ab]expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and [ac]to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters [ad]teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth [ae]in the open [af]expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after [ag]their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after [ah]their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after [ai]their kind, and the cattle after [aj]their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [ak]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [al]sky and over every living thing that [am]moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the [an]surface of all the earth, and every tree [ao]which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the [ap]sky and to every thing that [aq]moves on the earth [ar]which has life, I have givenevery green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.


Wikipedia - Homo sapiens

Homo sapiens is the systematic name used in taxonomy (also known as binomial nomenclature) for the only extant human species. The name is Latin for "wise man" and was introduced in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (who is himself also the type specimen).
Extinct species of the genus Homo include Homo erectus, extant during roughly 1.8 to 0.1 million years ago, and a number of other species (by some authors considered subspecies of either H. sapiens or H. erectus). H. sapiens idaltu (2003) is a proposed extinct subspecies of H. sapiens.
The age of speciation of H. sapiens out of ancestral H. erectus (or an intermediate species such as Homo heidelbergensis) is estimated to have taken place at roughly 300,000 years ago. Sustained archaic admixture is known to have taken place both in Africa and (following the recent Out-Of-Africa expansion) in Eurasia, between about 100,000 to 30,000 years ago.
In certain contexts, the term anatomically modern humans[2] (AMH) is used to distinguish H. sapiens as having an anatomy consistent with the range of phenotypesseen in contemporary humans from varieties of extinct archaic humans. This is useful especially for times and regions where anatomically modern and archaic humans co-existed, e.g. in Paleolithic Europe.


Wikipedia - Being
[Excerpt] Being in continental philosophy and existentialism
Some philosophers deny that the concept of "being" has any meaning at all, since we only define an object's existence by its relation to other objects, and actions it undertakes. The term "I am" has no meaning by itself; it must have an action or relation appended to it. This in turn has led to the thought that "being" and nothingness are closely related, developed in existential philosophy.
Existentialist philosophers such as Sartre, as well as continental philosophers such as Hegel and Heidegger have also written extensively on the concept of being. Hegel distinguishes between the being of objects (being in itself) and the being of people (Geist). Hegel, however, did not think there was much hope for delineating a "meaning" of being, because being stripped of all predicates is simply nothing.
Heidegger, in his quest to re-pose the original pre-Socratic question of Being, wondered at how to meaningfully ask the question of the meaning of being, since it is both the greatest, as it includes everything that is, and the least, since no particular thing can be said of it. He distinguishes between different modes of beings: a privative mode is present-at-hand, whereas beings in a fuller sense are described as ready-to-hand. The one who asks the question of Being is described as Da-sein ("there/here-being") or being-in-the-world. Sartre, popularly understood as misreading Heidegger (an understanding supported by Heidegger's essay "Letter on Humanism" which responds to Sartre's famous address, "Existentialism is a Humanism"), employs modes of being in an attempt to ground his concept of freedom ontologically by distinguishing between being-in-itself and being-for-itself.
Being is also understood as one's "state of being," and hence its common meaning is in the context of human (personal) experience, with aspects that involve expressions and manifestations coming from an innate "being", or personal character. Heidegger coined the term "dasein" for this property of being in his influential work Being and Time ("this entity which each of us is himself…we shall denote by the term 'dasein.'"[1]), in which he argued that being or dasein links one's sense of one's body to one's perception of world. Heidegger, amongst others, referred to an innate language as the foundation of being, which gives signal to all aspects of being.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ten Reasons The Original Sin Doctrine is Damaging for Children

Why rewrite the story of salvation? Here are 10 good reasons to rethink one's approach. Can you think of one or two good ways to tell the gospel? Well, if you can't think of any, might I suggest starting with...

God's deep love and how this Love means and frames everything around us in our daily experience? 

Or, perhaps, the sublime story of Jesus - who He was, how He spoke of His father, or why His ministry differed so deeply from the High Pharisees of the Jewish faith.

In essence, there's a lot of ways to talk of God and salvation and its importance to humanity and why it's so important that the church display this Grace-filled God by love, sacrifice, service, and ministration both in word and by deed.

It is the entire foundation and basis of the gospel of God to humanity.

R.E. Slater
June 21, 2018


Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez on Unsplash

Ten Reasons The Original Sin Doctrine
is Damaging for Children

by Cindy Brandt
June 15, 2018

I’ve talked about sin before, how the way we spoke of it in the evangelicalism of my youth was far too limited to address our human condition. Then I talked about itagain, confessing how it threw me into a state of spiritual anxiety and trapped me in false guilt.

And now I want to talk about the Original Sin in the context of parenting, namely, how it is extremely damaging for children. To recap, for those who are blessed to not have grown up with the concept, Original Sin is the theological doctrine that we are born with a sinful nature. Somehow, when Adam and Eve bit the forbidden fruit in the Garden, their act of rebellion transferred to all their descendants. Theirs was the Original Sin, and because of them, we all are spiritually wired to sin. The good news about all of this bad news, is of course, that by believing in Jesus we are cleansed from our dirtiness and also empowered to live free from sin. That is the Christian gospel in a nutshell.

If this sounds benign to you, it’s because it has become so widely and popularly accepted that it is normalized. But this is NOT normal, and in fact, is detrimental to children. Here are ten reasons why:

1. Separation from God. The Original Sin states that we are separated from God because of it. Danielle Shroyer says in the Original Blessing, that Original Sin “frames the gospel as a story of separation.” Children have a fundamental need to be loved and to belong. To set them up in a separation story is to unnecessarily sever a beautiful bond between them and God.

2. Self-fulfilling prophecy. If a child is told they are inclined to sin, it sets them up for failure. And when they do make poor choices, it’s self-defeating because well, they know they were born to be that person.

3. Disingenuous to a child’s experience. Kids do sometimes misbehave, but they are also inclined to love lavishly. Original Sin doesn’t make room for those expressions of love and kindness—what’s a kid to understand why they feel compassion for others if they are told they have the Original Sin?

4. Discourages intuition. If what’s inside is bad, then a child is told not to trust their own intuition. This sets them up for all kinds of abuse because they are told to ignore warning signals, the intuitive sense that something feels wrong.

5. Disempowering. There is zero intrinsic motivation in the doctrine of Original Sin—every effort to do good has to come from Jesus or other religious/parental authority because the child is told what comes from their own motivation is always evil.

6. Disregards normal development. A toddler who tests boundaries is doing what’s healthy for them as they differentiate their own boundaries and way of being in the world. Original Sin relegates behaviors that are developmentally normal as proof that children are rebellious instead of exploring children’s psychology and healthy development.

7. Gets them off the hook. Each time a child makes a poor choice, it is an opportunity to learn and do better. Original Sin gets them off the hook, because if they sin they know it’s their inevitable nature and asking for forgiveness wipes their slate clean. No real work is done to become a better version of themselves.

8. Fixed Mindset. Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the insight of Fixed vs. Growth Mindset. Twenty years of research shows that the way you believe about yourself, whether that your character traits are fixed or has potential for growth, determines the person you become. Original Sin is the ultimate fixed mindset, because you’re told a sin nature is the hand you’re dealt. Any attempts to be a better person only makes you feel like a fraud or futile attempts to prove yourself worthy.

9. Antagonistic relationship to God. Original Sin states that you are an enemy of God from the get-go. Sure, reconciliation is possible through Jesus, but a baby is born waging war against God. This doesn’t set the child up for a healthy relationship with God.

10. Cheapens salvation. If we reduce the good news of the gospel to acquittal from the Original Sin, then we are withholding a far more beautiful gospel to our children—one that affirms a God who unconditionally loves them from day one, is present with them through all their joys and pain, offering steady, unflinching hope in their grittiest days. That gospel does not need the Original Sin, and neither do our children.

*This post is inspired by Danielle Shroyer’s book, The Original Blessing: Putting Sin in its Rightful Place, find a thorough treatment of this subject in her rich and accessible book and say goodbye to the Original Sin forever, for your sake and for the kids.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Amazon link
Paperback: 217 pages
Publisher: Fortress Press (November 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1451496761
ISBN-13: 978-1451496765
Of the world's three major religions, only Christianity holds to a doctrine of original sin. Ideas are powerful, and they shape who we are and who we become. The fact that many Christians believe there is something in human nature that is, and will always be, contrary to God, is not just a problem but a tragedy. So why do the doctrine's assumptions of human nature so infiltrate our pulpits, sermons, and theological bookshelves? How is it so misconstrued in times of grief, pastoral care, and personal shame? How did we fall so far from God's original blessing in the garden to this pervasive belief in humanity's innate inability to do good? In this book, Danielle Shroyer takes readers through an overview of the historical development of the doctrine, pointing out important missteps and overcalculations, and providing alternative ways to approach often-used Scriptures. Throughout, she brings the primary claims of original sin to their untenable (and unbiblical) conclusions. In Original Blessing, she shows not only how we got this doctrine wrong, but how we can put sin back in its rightful place: in a broader context of redemption and the blessing of humanity's creation in the image of God.


Views of Annihilation



If I haven't already, I would like to make plain my view of annihilation that I've spoken to many times earlier in past articles so that we understand one another more clearly....

My view of annihilation does not have God actively destroying those souls rejecting Him but by experiencing their own choices of refusing God's redeeming spirit with the results that this refusal (or rejection of divine grace) brings with it its consequences upon body, soul, and relationships both human and divine (the "4 separations of death", if you will). It is not God actively condemning a graceless soul but the sad condition of a soul rejecting God's grace and thereby living out the consequences of a truly Godless, Spiritless world. In effect, it could be described as "hell" itself with the exception that this is not a place but a spiritual condition or soul-state being experienced to its last effects of purposelessness, meaninglessness, and more probably the torment that hatefulness brings. 

Nor is God's call to come, find grace, peace and salvation, ever withdrawn from any lost soul whether living or dead. Whether in hell, in purgatory, or in this active state of annihilation. Throughout the entirety of life (though I think especially in this life) God still calls out to the graceless soul to come, be healed, and find peace. At the last, when finally refusing and rejecting God's call it can then be no longer heard as this poor soul is finally liberated from its sinful conflicts into a final estate of nothingness effectively becoming a lost soul experiencing its own final death. How sad.

As such, I choose "Relentless Love" in the above photo illustration preferring to think of God as always loving rather than actively condemning humanity to the fires of perdition or to the eternal voids of nothingness. I would call this view then "Annihilation with a corrected view of God's role in the matter." I'm sure somebody will come up with a clever name for this but in the meantime my friend Thomas Jay Oord wishes to emphasize the nature of God at all times as being loving, and showing love in every way that He can because He is love.

The Puritan view of God came from a time of strict religiosity thinking this mindset was holy and favored by God. But by these beliefs and their resultant actions Protestants and Catholics across Europe brought cruelty, oppression, and death upon one another, and to the public at large. It showed a bankrupt Christian faith more cruel in its vindications for its faith than worthy of the the Spirit of God Himself.

However, unlike the Puritan view, our Creator Father God is not only holy, but propelled by love, is love, and at all times loves. To ask the question of whether God is more holy than loving, or more loving than holy, is foolish. He is both - but it is God's love which provides the atmosphere for His holiness and not the other way around. Why? Because when we think of God as being more holy than loving than we act towards one another in unloving, unjust ways. Jesus, as the Son of God - as the very God Himself - showed to us that love precedes all else. Without love we are nothing and can be nothing and will act as nothings. With love we can change the world into His image, defeat sin and horror, and instill in others a hope that this sin-marred creation is meant for more than what we see it to be in our present state of conflict, temptation, or rapacious unholy, unloving behaviors.

Thus the importance of teaching that God is not only good at all times but that He is loving at all times. That God supremely loves and it is His love which propels all His actions towards healing the human condition become sin bound, judgmental, hateful, and merciless. It is God who promises healing in His wings. Who brings comfort to the oppressed. Who stands up for the widow, the orphan, the unwanted, the alien and foreigner. It is He who grants favor to those attempting to love by reaching out to their neighbor and doing the right thing. The Bible describes God's love as right and just and undefiled. As such, we can do no less, and by His grace must always do more as humanly possible.

R.E. Slater
June 22, 2018

Malachi 4 (KJV)
The Great Day of the Lord

1 - For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 - But to you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 - And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, said the LORD of hosts.

4 - Remember you the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

5 - Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 - And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How to Read the Bible After Applying Earth's Evolutionary Record



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magura_Cave#/media/File:Magura_-_drawings.jpg

Something Weird Happened to Men 7,000 Years Ago,
And We Finally Know Why

by R.E. Slater
June 6, 2018

First of all, let me state that the research into humanity's evolutionary heritage has nothing to do with the biblical narrative of the Adam and Eve legend who may be considered as simple metaphors for the mitochondrial Eve in the evolutionary geologic/anthropologic schema of records going back 150,000 years ago when the entire homo sapien line was reduced to around 15,000 remaining members of it's evolving species. Whether due to disease, or in-fighting with our distant cousins the Neanderthals, or simply climate change, many factors had reduced this species to a remaining virulent number culling all other homo sapien differences out of the currently extant species. However, any numbers lower than this population group cannot reproduce the genetic diversity we find today's in our homo sapien populations. Hence, one man and one woman would be in evolutionary terms impossible.

For this reason there cannot be "only one man and one woman" as originating producers of the homo sapien species as is stated in the Bible. In terms of evolution, this story is not genetically viable for what is verified by today's DNA studies. However the biblical legend as understood by ancient Hebraic tribes still has viability on a spiritual plane. As example, there is a God who created mankind (by the process we now understand as evolution); that the species has a soul/spirit which is nurtured in the Spirit of God; that living in harmony with His creative design is most opportune but when not, falls out of harmony with God's design; that all individuals, families, clans, tribes, kingdoms, nations, and government have a higher responsibility towards one another to love, show mercy, and be at all times just in our dealings with one another. Regardless of the legend, these spiritual truths are plainly evident through the story of Adam and Eve and supportable through the biblical narratives we read of.

But here, in this genetic data report below, is revealed the strange reduction of the more recent homo sapien gene pools due (again, in a sense) to patrilinial fighting and killing among competing clans some 8,000 to 12,000 years ago. These actions would have therefore occurred during the time of the last great ice age when survival was at a premium. As such, mankind's history is not only that of evolutionary survival through the eons but, from more recent anthropologic records, portrays patrilinial clans killing one another repeatedly throughout its biologic evolution up to today's present age of modernity. Which is also shown to be true within civilization's historical records through the centuries as kingdoms and people clashed with one another leading to the extermination of competing tribes, kingdoms, or nations, throughout history's bloody pages.

Looking into the future, it seems rather doubtful mankind can be anything other than what it is (or has become), and yet, humanity must change it's behaviors lest we no longer survive ourselves as a species. I find this logic therefore compelling when the biblical records insist that we learn how to work/live with one another rather than to compete against one another regardless of religion, politics, race, color, gender, etc. The divine emphasis is always towards the richness and fullness which life may bring - rather than its many evils when divine commission and salvific sacrifice is willfully ignored to our demise.

Where does Jesus come into all this? His divine example is that of redemptive deliverance from ourselves by His grace, power, and mercy. This also examples His Father-God as the God of all grace and salvation. But when we entertain warlike images of God insisting on our right to kill each other based upon religious or political dogma than I submit this God has become a graven god made in our own image and not His own true self-reflection. Which corrupted image is also included in the biblical authors' portrayal of God in Scripture as man-like with our many foibles, temptations, and evils (or as their teachings have thus become interpreted by many Christian groups of God's personage over the centuries). God is pronouncedly viewed as a God of Death rather than as a God of Life. Thus, when Jesus speaks to the Jewish teaching of divine judgment He deliberately uses Hebraic analogies, legends, and concepts of God against them to explain by word and by deed that the Living God is a Servant God who ever comes to heal and redeem mankind from its sin and evil.

In the last, this is the power of the Cross - should it be submitted to, learned and obeyed. Which thus parallels the ancient legendary records of Genesis stating humanity's most fundamental disposition is at all times to willfully go another way than the ways in which their Creator intends. When disobeying God's commandment to love one another we next will find self-fulfilling prophecies of oppression and death leading, as presupposed by many, to a final death propelling human extinction into a great end-time battle. Which most certainly may come true as civilization's historical records evidence repeatedly throughout its storied existence. Sadly, on the upside, even as we exterminate ourselves Earth many finally be delivered from our rapacious grasp of its bounty and beauty in final deliverance from our unrelenting hands of death. Hands that could just as easily be used to sow newness of life within its spheres. Hence, the promise of recreation is always present within us even as the certainty of death we might deliver to any and all realms we wish to possess. I find then this conclusion to be in sympathy with the best of the biblical records as taught by storied example through the eons. - res

References

https://www.sciencealert.com/neolithic-y-chromosome-bottlen…

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrilineality?wprov=sfla1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_sapiens


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Something Weird Happened to Men 7,000 Years Ago,
And We Finally Know Why

The women, on the other hand, were fine....

Michelle Starr
May 31, 2018

Around 7,000 years ago - all the way back in the Neolithic - something really peculiar happened to human genetic diversity. Over the next 2,000 years, and seen across Africa, Europe and Asia, the genetic diversity of the Y chromosome collapsed, becoming as though there was only one man for every 17 women.

Now, through computer modelling, researchers believe they have found the cause of this mysterious phenomenon: fighting between patrilineal clans.

Drops in genetic diversity among humans are not unheard of, inferred based on genetic patterns in modern humans. But these usually affect entire populations, probably as the result of a disaster or other event that shrinks the population and therefore the gene pool.

But the Neolithic Y-chromosome bottleneck, as it is known, has been something of a puzzle since its discovery in 2015. This is because it was only observed on the genes on the Y chromosome that get passed down from father to son - which means it only affected men.

This points to a social, rather than an environmental, cause, and given the social restructures between 12,000 and 8,000 years ago as humans shifted to more agrarian cultures with patrilineal structures, this may have had something to do with it.

In fact, a drop in genetic diversity doesn't mean that there was necessarily a drop in population. The number of men could very well have stayed the same, while the pool of men who produced offspring declined.

This was one of the scenarios proposed by the scientists who penned the 2015 paper.

"Instead of 'survival of the fittest' in a biological sense, the accumulation of wealth and power may have increased the reproductive success of a limited number of 'socially fit' males and their sons," computational biologist Melissa Wilson Sayresof Arizona State University explained at the time.

Tian Chen Zeng, a sociologist at Stanford, has now built on this hypothesis. He and colleagues point out that, within a clan, women could have married into new clans, while men stayed with their own clans their entire lives. This would mean that, within the clan, Y chromosome variation is limited.

However, it doesn't explain why there was so little variation between different clans. However, if skirmishes wiped out entire clans, that could have wiped out many male lineages - diminishing Y chromosome variance.

Computer modelling have verified the plausibility of this scenario. Simulations showed that wars between patrilineal clans, where women moved around but men stayed in their own clans, had a drastic effect on Y chromosome diversity over time.

It also showed that a social structure that allowed both men and women to move between clans would not have this effect on Y chromosome diversity, even if there was conflict between them.

This means that warring patrilineal clans are the most likely explanation, the researchers said.

"Our proposal is supported by findings in archaeogenetics and anthropological theory," the researchers wrote in their paper.

"First, our proposal involves an episode in human prehistory when patrilineal descent groups were the socially salient and major unit of intergroup competition, bracketed on either side by periods when this was not the case."

This hypothesis is also supported by a finding in the European DNA samples - shallow coalescence of the Y chromosome, a feature that indicates high levels of relatedness between males.

"Groups of males in European post-Neolithic agropastoralist cultures appear to descend patrilineally from a comparatively smaller number of progenitors when compared to hunter gatherers, and this pattern is especially pronounced among pastoralists," they explained.

"Our hypothesis would predict that post Neolithic societies, despite their larger population size, have difficulty retaining ancestral diversity of Y-chromosomes due to mechanisms that accelerate their genetic drift, which is certainly in accord with the data."

Interestingly, there were variations in the intensity of the bottleneck. It is less pronounced in East and Southeast Asian populations than in European, West or South Asian populations. This could be because pastoral cultures were much more important in the latter regions.

The team are excited to apply their methodology, which combines sociology, biology and mathematics, to other cultures, to observe how kinship links and genetic variation between cultural groups correlates with political history.

"An investigation into the patterns of uniparental variation among, for example, the Betsileo highlanders of Madagascar, who may have undergone an entry and an exit from the 'bottleneck period' very recently, could reveal phenomena relevant to such history," the researchers wrote.

"Cultural changes in political and social organisation - phenomena that are unique to human beings - may extend their reach into patterns of genetic variation in ways yet to be discovered."

The team's research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Sovereignty of God Displayed in Evolution's Entropic Value


Picturing the Ancient Devonian Age of the Earth

While visiting the northwest coast of Lake Michigan above the city of Petoskey I saw some petoskey stones lying on a shelf and made a guess as to their history. When later checking I found I wasn't far off from a very important period of the ancient earth. That these fossilized coral pieces were part of an ancient sea bed formed between 358 to 415 million years ago known as the Devonian period. If you've ever wondered where plants and marine life was birthed this was the era spanning 60 million years way, way, way before the dinosaur era.

Geography of the Continents during the Devonian Geologic Age

Moreover, thinking about terrestrial biologic life I remember reading an article not too long ago about how the process of evolution can be described in terms of energy gain or loss. That is, "the first significant adaptive radiation of life on dry land occurred during the Devonian [period]," according to the Wikipedia article I had turned to next. But what does this mean?

The Devonian period spawned Sea & Terrestrial Life

As you may, or may not, know all of life is a response to energy's entropic value of emitting heat until a symmetry of balance can be found (that is, a state of equilibrium). The second law of thermodynamics says that everything moves in such a way as to always balance itself back to its initial energy state with no loss and no gain. In other words, for every dissipative event there is an equally reconstituting event.

For example, if a star explodes than it's emitted energy is recovered in it's hot gases. Similarly, evolution follows this same equation. If the surface of the earth heats up than the grasses on the surface of the earth are a response to cooling it off by absorbing that energy and redistributing it in a process of photosynthesis and cellular product.

Travellers of Faith walking in Light

As such, everything revolves around radiated heat, light, and energy. Thought in these terms, the equation of evolution balances off (or dissipates) the collective build up of heat in the earth. Thus, the ever evolving complex of evolutionary eras ceding energy back and forth with itself via entropic events. It is how earth became earth by moving from a chaotic, violent planet to its many strange forms of life throughout the eons. But when you add it all up the initial energy it started with (in a closed system) always equals the energy remaining. Of course our solar system lives in an open system but I think you get the point that there are energy tradeoffs within a large scale system and between other large scale systems.

So when is the last time somebody described evolution in terms of its entropic values? Or its meaning relative to the indigenous life we observe here on planet Earth? And, if you believe in a sovereign God, than what an amazingly complex God we have who designed such a system as this to reflect His creative power, wisdom, and glory! Like gravity, small and inconsequential in its affects upon other objects when measured against other mightier forces of nature such as the weak or strong nuclear forces or the electromagnetic force (see here for further reading) yet, when viewed as a large scale gravitational force it is the mightiest of all in sheer strength and distances encompassed! So, I think is God's sovereign power, which operates weakly amongst His free-willed or indeterminative/chaotic creation but bursts forth in grandeur across the full scales of time and matter as all things are knit together back to Himself and His redemptive purposes.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
April 28, 2018

"Create in me a new heart, O Lord, a new vision of Thyself and the World"

Reference Material



Wikipedia - Second Law of Thermodynamics2nd Law of Thermodynamics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics


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Jeremy England, a 31-year-old physicist at MIT, thinks he has found
the underlying physics driving the origin and evolution of life.

A New Physics Theory of Life
https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-thermodynamics-theory-of-the-origin-of-life-20140122/

An MIT physicist has proposed the provocative idea that life exists because the
law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire lifelike physical properties.

by Katherine Taylor for Quanta Magazine
January 22, 2014

Why does life exist?

Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

Cells from the moss Plagiomnium affine with visible chloroplasts,
organelles that conduct photosynthesis by capturing sunlight.
Kristian Peters

“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which provides a powerful description of life at the level of genes and populations. “I am certainly not saying that Darwinian ideas are wrong,” he explained. “On the contrary, I am just saying that from the perspective of the physics, you might call Darwinian evolution a special case of a more general phenomenon.”

His idea, detailed in a recent paper and further elaborated in a talk he is delivering at universities around the world, has sparked controversy among his colleagues, who see it as either tenuous or a potential breakthrough, or both.

England has taken “a very brave and very important step,” said Alexander Grosberg, a professor of physics at New York University who has followed England’s work since its early stages. The “big hope” is that he has identified the underlying physical principle driving the origin and evolution of life, Grosberg said.

“Jeremy is just about the brightest young scientist I ever came across,” said Attila Szabo, a biophysicist in the Laboratory of Chemical Physics at the National Institutes of Health who corresponded with England about his theory after meeting him at a conference. “I was struck by the originality of the ideas.”

Others, such as Eugene Shakhnovich, a professor of chemistry, chemical biology and biophysics at Harvard University, are not convinced. “Jeremy’s ideas are interesting and potentially promising, but at this point are extremely speculative, especially as applied to life phenomena,” Shakhnovich said.

England’s theoretical results are generally considered valid. It is his interpretation — that his formula represents the driving force behind a class of phenomena in nature that includes life — that remains unproven. But already, there are ideas about how to test that interpretation in the lab.

“He’s trying something radically different,” said Mara Prentiss, a professor of physics at Harvard who is contemplating such an experiment after learning about England’s work. “As an organizing lens, I think he has a fabulous idea. Right or wrong, it’s going to be very much worth the investigation.”

A computer simulation by Jeremy England and colleagues shows
a system of particles confined inside a viscous fluid in which the turquoise
particles are driven by an oscillating force. Over time (from top to bottom),
the force triggers the formation of more bonds among the particles.

Courtesy of Jeremy England 

At the heart of England’s idea is the second law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of increasing entropy or the “arrow of time.” Hot things cool down, gas diffuses through air, eggs scramble but never spontaneously unscramble; in short, energy tends to disperse or spread out as time progresses. Entropy is a measure of this tendency, quantifying how dispersed the energy is among the particles in a system, and how diffuse those particles are throughout space. It increases as a simple matter of probability: There are more ways for energy to be spread out than for it to be concentrated. Thus, as particles in a system move around and interact, they will, through sheer chance, tend to adopt configurations in which the energy is spread out. Eventually, the system arrives at a state of maximum entropy called “thermodynamic equilibrium,” in which energy is uniformly distributed. A cup of coffee and the room it sits in become the same temperature, for example. As long as the cup and the room are left alone, this process is irreversible. The coffee never spontaneously heats up again because the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against so much of the room’s energy randomly concentrating in its atoms.

Although entropy must increase over time in an isolated or “closed” system, an “open” system can keep its entropy low — that is, divide energy unevenly among its atoms — by greatly increasing the entropy of its surroundings. In his influential 1944 monograph “What Is Life?” the eminent quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger argued that this is what living things must do. A plant, for example, absorbs extremely energetic sunlight, uses it to build sugars, and ejects infrared light, a much less concentrated form of energy. The overall entropy of the universe increases during photosynthesis as the sunlight dissipates, even as the plant prevents itself from decaying by maintaining an orderly internal structure.

Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, but until recently, physicists were unable to use thermodynamics to explain why it should arise in the first place. In Schrödinger’s day, they could solve the equations of thermodynamics only for closed systems in equilibrium. In the 1960s, the Belgian physicist Ilya Prigogine made progress on predicting the behavior of open systems weakly driven by external energy sources (for which he won the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry). But the behavior of systems that are far from equilibrium, which are connected to the outside environment and strongly driven by external sources of energy, could not be predicted.

This situation changed in the late 1990s, due primarily to the work of Chris Jarzynski, now at the University of Maryland, and Gavin Crooks, now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Jarzynski and Crooks showed that the entropy produced by a thermodynamic process, such as the cooling of a cup of coffee, corresponds to a simple ratio: the probability that the atoms will undergo that process divided by their probability of undergoing the reverse process (that is, spontaneously interacting in such a way that the coffee warms up). As entropy production increases, so does this ratio: A system’s behavior becomes more and more “irreversible.” The simple yet rigorous formula could in principle be applied to any thermodynamic process, no matter how fast or far from equilibrium. “Our understanding of far-from-equilibrium statistical mechanics greatly improved,” Grosberg said. England, who is trained in both biochemistry and physics, started his own lab at MIT two years ago and decided to apply the new knowledge of statistical physics to biology.


David Kaplan explains how the law of increasing entropy could drive
random bits of matter into the stable, orderly structures of life.

Filming by Tom Hurwitz and Richard Fleming. Editing and motion
graphics by Tom McNamara. Music by Podington Bear. 

Using Jarzynski and Crooks’ formulation, he derived a generalization of the second law of thermodynamics that holds for systems of particles with certain characteristics: The systems are strongly driven by an external energy source such as an electromagnetic wave, and they can dump heat into a surrounding bath. This class of systems includes all living things. England then determined how such systems tend to evolve over time as they increase their irreversibility. “We can show very simply from the formula that the more likely evolutionary outcomes are going to be the ones that absorbed and dissipated more energy from the environment’s external drives on the way to getting there,” he said. The finding makes intuitive sense: Particles tend to dissipate more energy when they resonate with a driving force, or move in the direction it is pushing them, and they are more likely to move in that direction than any other at any given moment.

“This means clumps of atoms surrounded by a bath at some temperature, like the atmosphere or the ocean, should tend over time to arrange themselves to resonate better and better with the sources of mechanical, electromagnetic or chemical work in their environments,” England explained.

Self-Replicating Sphere Clusters: According to new research at Harvard,
coating the surfaces of microspheres can cause them to spontaneously
assemble into a chosen structure, such as a polytetrahedron (red), which
then triggers nearby spheres into forming an identical structure.

Courtesy of Michael Brenner/Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

Self-replication (or reproduction, in biological terms), the process that drives the evolution of life on Earth, is one such mechanism by which a system might dissipate an increasing amount of energy over time. As England put it, “A great way of dissipating more is to make more copies of yourself.” In a September paperin the Journal of Chemical Physics, he reported the theoretical minimum amount of dissipation that can occur during the self-replication of RNA molecules and bacterial cells, and showed that it is very close to the actual amounts these systems dissipate when replicating. He also showed that RNA, the nucleic acid that many scientists believe served as the precursor to DNA-based life, is a particularly cheap building material. Once RNA arose, he argues, its “Darwinian takeover” was perhaps not surprising.

The chemistry of the primordial soup, random mutations, geography, catastrophic events and countless other factors have contributed to the fine details of Earth’s diverse flora and fauna. But according to England’s theory, the underlying principle driving the whole process is dissipation-driven adaptation of matter.

This principle would apply to inanimate matter as well. “It is very tempting to speculate about what phenomena in nature we can now fit under this big tent of dissipation-driven adaptive organization,” England said. “Many examples could just be right under our nose, but because we haven’t been looking for them we haven’t noticed them.”

Scientists have already observed self-replication in nonliving systems. According to new research led by Philip Marcus of the University of California, Berkeley, and reported in Physical Review Letters in August, vortices in turbulent fluids spontaneously replicate themselves by drawing energy from shear in the surrounding fluid. And in a paper appearing online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Michael Brenner, a professor of applied mathematics and physics at Harvard, and his collaborators present theoretical models and simulations of microstructures that self-replicate. These clusters of specially coated microspheres dissipate energy by roping nearby spheres into forming identical clusters. “This connects very much to what Jeremy is saying,” Brenner said.

Besides self-replication, greater structural organization is another means by which strongly driven systems ramp up their ability to dissipate energy. A plant, for example, is much better at capturing and routing solar energy through itself than an unstructured heap of carbon atoms. Thus, England argues that under certain conditions, matter will spontaneously self-organize. This tendency could account for the internal order of living things and of many inanimate structures as well. “Snowflakes, sand dunes and turbulent vortices all have in common that they are strikingly patterned structures that emerge in many-particle systems driven by some dissipative process,” he said. Condensation, wind and viscous drag are the relevant processes in these particular cases.

“He is making me think that the distinction between living and nonliving matter is not sharp,” said Carl Franck, a biological physicist at Cornell University, in an email. “I’m particularly impressed by this notion when one considers systems as small as chemical circuits involving a few biomolecules.”

If a new theory is correct, the same physics it identifies as responsible
for the origin of living things could explain the formation of many
other patterned structures in nature. Snowflakes, sand dunes and
self-replicating vortices in the protoplanetary disk may all be
examples of dissipation-driven adaptation. | Wilson Bentley

England’s bold idea will likely face close scrutiny in the coming years. He is currently running computer simulations to test his theory that systems of particles adapt their structures to become better at dissipating energy. The next step will be to run experiments on living systems.

Prentiss, who runs an experimental biophysics lab at Harvard, says England’s theory could be tested by comparing cells with different mutations and looking for a correlation between the amount of energy the cells dissipate and their replication rates. “One has to be careful because any mutation might do many things,” she said. “But if one kept doing many of these experiments on different systems and if [dissipation and replication success] are indeed correlated, that would suggest this is the correct organizing principle.”

Brenner said he hopes to connect England’s theory to his own microsphere constructions and determine whether the theory correctly predicts which self-replication and self-assembly processes can occur — “a fundamental question in science,” he said.

Having an overarching principle of life and evolution would give researchers a broader perspective on the emergence of structure and function in living things, many of the researchers said. “Natural selection doesn’t explain certain characteristics,” said Ard Louis, a biophysicist at Oxford University, in an email. These characteristics include a heritable change to gene expression called methylation, increases in complexity in the absence of natural selection, and certain molecular changes Louis has recently studied.

If England’s approach stands up to more testing, it could further liberate biologists from seeking a Darwinian explanation for every adaptation and allow them to think more generally in terms of dissipation-driven organization. They might find, for example, that “the reason that an organism shows characteristic X rather than Y may not be because X is more fit than Y, but because physical constraints make it easier for X to evolve than for Y to evolve,” Louis said.

“People often get stuck in thinking about individual problems,” Prentiss said. Whether or not England’s ideas turn out to be exactly right, she said, “thinking more broadly is where many scientific breakthroughs are made.”

**Emily Singer contributed reporting. This article was reprinted on ScientificAmerican.com and BusinessInsider.com.

**Correction: This article was revised on January 22, 2014, to reflect that Ilya Prigogine won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, not physics.