This has been posted here and there, and I thought I'd share it at IPS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson's answer to the question "what is the most astounding fact?"

Awe, wonder, and the yearning for connection expressed from a scientific perspective, with beautiful images and music --

Hmm. embedding might not be working. Here's the link: The Most Astounding Fact.

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Beautiful, Mary.  Thank you.  I'd seen this circulating on FB but hadn't clicked it yet.  The music at the end really nicely rounds this out in a warm, expansive feeling of wonder and gratitude.

Here's something I posted recently on a Christian forum, where the typical "The Bible is true!"/"No, science is true; the Bible is a myth!" debate is going on.


As David Loy says, the world is made of stories.  And, the world is not made of stories.  And, that is a story.


I also like Michael Dowd's distinction between day language and night language (though I would suggest the line isn't as hard and fast between the two as some would like).   But both are valid modes of discourse, each with its own strengths and limitations.  In relation to this, he likes to (probably deliberately provocatively) argue to mainstream and fundamentalist churches that science is a mode of revelation -- a mode of revelation of the creative unfolding of the cosmos that can be languaged in day or night modes.


On the one hand, the world (in day language) may not have been designed with you and I specifically in mind; it may not have been "designed" at all (there may not be a top-down ordering).  And yet it emerged in its present form through knife-edge fissures in improbability: if it had expanded one trillionth of a trillionth of a percent slower or faster, it would not have been capable of developing stars; in fact, it either would have collapsed back in on itself or kept on expanding with nothing more interesting forming than a few atoms.  If the strong or weak nuclear forces had varied in their strengths by just a tiny fraction, stars would not have burned for long, and no complex elements would have been forged or scattered like seeds into the cosmos.  So, as Swimme likes to say, your sitting here, a dolphin's leaping in the sea, a red monkey perched in a tree, are amazingly "of a piece" with the  initial conditions, an inseparable whole in a blooming that gathers clouds of hydrogen over vast stretches of time and produces rubies, flowers, and swift river salmon.  As Sagan, Swimme, or de Grasse Tyson say, you and I are what stars look like when they evolve.  Your body is the child of a Red Giant.  And this is where day language begins to bleed into night.

I'm down with all that, really. I think though, as we're seeing time and again, where postmetaphysicality comes in is to not destroy spirituality but to de/reconstruct it.* This process of de-essentializing** it leads to  democratic social progress through equal opportunity, etc. Granted, the rational atheists might throw out the baby with the bathwater but even the likes of Harris see the necessary value of of spiritual experience, sans the essentialist talk. Hence his vigilent, and appropos, critique of traditional religion and spirituality.

* I think the diminutive for this should be de/re instead of pomo; it has a better ring.

** Which is of course a main feature of the Buddhist tradition. Never mind that it too has fallen away from this in many ways and needs some de/re. Harris has something to say about this too.

PS: In a strange phonetic association de/re reminded me of the milk commercials where da-iry is worshiped as a religion. This too can happen when we re/deify de/re, something Derrida was most careful not to do. Are you ready for some re/de? (Sung to this tune.)

Yes, I agree, of course: if postmetaphysicality's aim, as I understood it, was simply the destruction of religion or spirituality, there would be no purpose for this forum.


Concerning de-essentialization, I think Varela's (enactive) science comes a bit closer to this than Sam's; there's a bit of "essentializing" that I pick up on in his materialist orientation.  But his recognition of the value of spiritual/contemplative practice is refreshing to me -- and, I expect, probably a bit disconcerting to some of his fellow "horsemen."

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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