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High Gravity= {Religion + Science} _________________________ Philip Clayton

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High Gravity= {Religion + Science} _________________________ Philip Clayton Claremont School of Theology September, 2013 Class 3. High Gravity= {Religion + Science} _________________________ Evolution and Creation. 1. Cosmogonies: The Drive toward a World- and Life-View.

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High Gravity=

{Religion + Science}


Philip Clayton

Claremont School of Theology

September, 2013

Class 3


High Gravity=

{Religion + Science}


Evolution and Creation




The Drive toward a World- and Life-View

Ta’aroa was the great supreme being, who existed alone in a little world, in a shell like an egg, revolving in dark empty space for ages. At length, he burst forth from confinement, and finding himself quite alone he conjured forth the famous God Tu, who became his companion and artisan in the great work of creation.…

After creation, peace and harmony everywhere existed for a long time. But at last, discontentment arose and there was war among the gods in their different regions, and among men, so Ta’aroa and Tu uttered curses to punish them.

-Tahitian Cosmogony

from Barbara Sproul, Primal Myths: Creating the World

The chief above made the earth. It was small at first, and he let it increase in size. He continued to enlarge it, and rolled it out until it was very large. Then he covered it with a white dust, which became soil. He made three worlds, one above another—the sky world, the earth we live on, and the underworld. All are connected by a pole or tree which passes through the middle of each. Then he created animals. At last he made a man, who, however, was also a wolf. From this man’s tail he made a woman.

-Salishan-Sahaptin, Primal Myths

The people of San Cristobal have Agunua, who made the sea and the land, caused storms, and created men and one woman. Agunua caused the rains to fall in order to quench his own thirst. He too had a brother companion to whom he gave a yam. He told his brother to plant it, and from this primeval yam grew all the banana and almond trees, coconuts, and other fruits. But one time the brother burnt up a mess of yams, thus causing some plants to be inedible forever.

-Melanesian Cosmogony (from Primal Myths)

After a while Nyambi (the high god) began to fear Kamonu. Then one day Kamonu forged a spear and killed a male antelope, and he went on killing. Nyambi grew very angry at this. “Man, you are acting badly,” he said to Kamonu. These are your brothers. Do not kill them....”.

-Bartose Cosmogony, from

Primal Myths: Creating the World



The Evolution of the Cosmos (in 17 minutes)


Emergence Defined, Part 1:

  • • The natural world is much more complex and more fascinating when seen through the lens of emergent complexity than it was before.
  • The discussion of naturalism and creation becomes rather more productive.
  • There are openings to complex religious responses to emergence…


* the things that evolve remain dependent on the physical particles and forces from which they emerge, and they are strongly influenced by their own unique evolutionary history; YET

* the organisms (and behaviors and ideas) that emerge are more than the earlier objects and forces out of which they evolved.


Relatively simple building blocks,

arranged according to relatively simple laws,

produce phenomena of great

(and often unpredictable) complexity.

john wheeler
John Wheeler

“When you put enough elementary units together, you get something that is more than the sum of these units.”

“A substance made of a great number of molecules, for instance, has properties such as pressure and temperature that no one molecule possesses. It may be a solid or a liquid or a gas, although no single molecule is solid or liquid or gas.”


Phase Transitions: Neon gas heated through a Tesla wire (above, left) and Liquid (above, right)

stuart kauffman
Stuart Kauffman

“Life — self-reproducing chemical systems capable of evolution — is an expected collective emergent property of critically complex, far-from-equilibrium chemical systems.”


“The problem of biological order involves the transition from the molecular activity to the supermolecular order of the cell.”

-- Ilya Prigogine

The complexity program aims to show that

“life, far from being outside the natural order, appears as the supreme expression of the self-organizing processes that occur” (Prigogine)


Studies of the origins of life describe the emergence of teleological systems, that is, goal-directed organisms.

  • This “whole-part emergence” can be studied as a natural phenomenon. It may not reduce to physics, yet it is a pattern that runs across the entire range of biological evolution and that we can study scientifically.













Rapid Fire: The different theories of evolution


Evolution vs.Creation?

  • An American battle … now global!
  • The task: to recognize the mistakes on both sides
  • The $64k question: What does it mean to say that God brings about the creative divine purposes through the agency of other creatures?


Theological Implications


What about the evolution of biology, culture, ethics, and mind?

  • Pannenberg: In contemporary science, “the universe appears as a process within which new forms of reality continually emerge” (456). This is the Christian doctrine of creatio continua.
  • The science picture: complexity-producing mechanisms run on other complexity-producing mechanisms.
  • God as the producer of novelty. The focus on “in the beginning” has skewed the prophetic witness.
  • Reappropriating the idea of progressive revelation.
  • Theologians need to stress the contingency of each organism and event: we are now this way, but the future will be different.
  • Whitehead and process thought…




Discussion and

Q & A