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Peace and Reconciliation

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1 Peace and Reconciliation
ecological peace 10/04/2017 Peace and Reconciliation Righting ecological wrongs looking after shared spaces and places How do we reconcile with our environment? Jason John, Adelaide (ex-Brisbane) ( ) jason john

2 Peace and Reconciliation
ecological peace 10/04/2017 Peace and Reconciliation This is the “director's cut” with additional notes and slides I didn't have time for on the day, plus some references and hyperlinks Jason John, Adelaide (ex-Brisbane) ( jason john

3 Which will weave through this presentation
ecological peace 10/04/2017 science love/reverence Some of my tapestry Which will weave through this presentation permaculture jason john

4 ecological peace 10/04/2017 Humans gathering as part of life, not the centre of it, to worship the ancient God of this evolving Life. Ancient, personal but not human; as much male as female. The God who is beyond us, became one with us, and remains within and amongst us. A faith community to which all people of good will are welcome, whether they have four, two, or no legs. This is a worshipping community I convene. Thought from its members also weave into this presentation jason john

5 Human Peace & Reconciliation
H.I.M. Haile Selassie address to the United Nations Oct 6, 1963 (Peace in the African Context) Better known in the Jamaican/American context… Or the Irish/Catholic/Institutional context depending on your generation

6 is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned Everywhere is war
Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned Everywhere is war

7 Until the ignoble and unhappy regime which holds all of us through, child-abuse, yeah, child-abuse yeah, sub-human bondage has been toppled, utterly destroyed, everywhere is war.

8 Human Peace & Reconciliation
We kind of know what human peace looks like H.I.M. Haile Selassie (African Context) Bob Marley- War (Jamaican / American) Sinead O’Connor (Irish/Catholic/Institutional) What about for the rest of life? What is ecological reconciliation / peace / righting ecological wrongs? What do we have to wait until?

9 How would the Lorax write this song…
Until the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned Everywhere is “war…”

10 The philosophy… “Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.” Lynn White 1967 “… we are a spirit made in the image of God…of infinitely more value than the whole earth…” John Wesley 1800s ‘man [sic] is the only creature on earth that God wanted for its own sake’.” John Paul II, 1996

11 This philosophy survives because Christianity is still, practically, amongst most of us in the industrial west, tied to the small story of God and Earth, which is a synthesis of the two creation stories in Genesis I and II.

12 The small story Christian (Judeo/Islamic?) (western?)
ecological peace 10/04/2017 The small story Christian (Judeo/Islamic?) (western?) God created earth, the universe, plants and animals (five days), then God created humans to be special (in God’s image) and in charge (1 day), told them to look after the place, they didn’t, everything was wrecked, death and pain entered the world, things have been that way ever since and will be until God does something spectacular to fix it (opinions vary about how: either bringing everyone to Jerusalem to admit that Yahweh is God and making lions vegetarian; starting again with a completely new earth; or just destroying all matter and opting for an Earth free “spiritual” eternal future)*. See blue slides at the end of this where I tried to put these visions into the “Until” song PS- Most/all religions thought their small story was the big story. This is the Christian case study. (How) Does your faith story need to change? jason john

13 The small story Ecological history = human history
humans appeared days after Earth humans will be here until the end humans are the centre of the story of God and life Ecological peace = human peace, and requires humans to maintain it. Humans are central, superior.

14 The small story put in traditional Christian categories…
There was a time of ecological peace “Perfect” Garden of Eden- no pain death etc Humans were put in charge to maintain peace humans alone are the Image of God Dominion / servant-hood / stewardship Humans destroyed ecological peace Original Sin, Expulsion from the Garden humans -> pain, death etc (‘war’)

15 and all others inferior is finally and permanently
Until the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned Everywhere is “war…”

16 Discredited and Abandoned…
Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious… I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists Lynn White 1967 Discredit and abandon the SMALL story Especially the western Christian small story But not Christianity. There is a BIG Christian story cosmological and evolutionary. (PS Other spiritualities may need to face this too, being retold in the big story)

17 ecological peace 10/04/2017 The BIG story (in a really small space of time, omitting the God bits and any sense of poetry) The universe started, zillions of degrees. Energy becomes matter, stars birth all the elements in the universe, some congregate on a little planet near a little sun on the edge of the Milky Way, which is itself on the edge of the universe. (10 billion years) Bubble bubble, toil and trouble, chemicals start sticking together, and in the vents of underwater volcanoes they form big chains which eventually form RNA, which eventually forms little cells. Many start splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. They use the hydrogen as a food source, and oxygen bubbles off as a waste product. Oxygen levels build up and kills most of them- the first pollution crisis on Earth. Some manage to recycle (eating oxygen), and survive. Others eat these recyclers, but a few recyclers manage to hide inside their captors, and hey presto- we have the cells which will go on to be the ancestors of ever animal and plant on the planet. That’s because some of them start to hang out together, creating the first multi-cellular blobs (your great great great… uncle/aunt- there is no gender yet) jason john

18 ecological peace 10/04/2017 The BIG story (in a really small space of time, omitting the God bits and any sense of poetry) So we already have sex (of a kind) and death, but no pain yet. Once the multicellular organisms start to develop nerves and senses and eventually brains, pain comes along to warn them when they are in trouble. Then there is basically lots of sex and death and some pain, and the dna builds a whole host of bodies, or machines in which to find other bits of dna to reproduce with. Now about 6 times this process nearly comes to an end, as either enormous volcanoes erupt, or comets hit the earth, and so on. Up to 98% of life gets wiped out in the worst event, and of course we all know what happened to the dinosaurs (patent pending) 65 million years ago. And along with the nerves to protect the machines, come all kinds of feelings, and the machines start to have ideas of their own, and things like love and joy and jealousy and fear and happiness and humour and dark brooding enter the world, especially amongst the primates. (Well, it was really just one species of primate that gave them the name primates (the first, the most important)). The dna didn’t call them anything, and as for what other animals called them, well that’s hardly printable! jason john

19 ecological peace 10/04/2017 The BIG story (in a really small space of time, omitting the God bits and any sense of poetry) Anyway, they didn’t last long, and the dna continued on making machines, but as the sun got bigger and hotter, and there was less oxygen, the brainy machines got harder and harder to maintain, so the dna downsized, dumped the V12 mammals and V8 reptiles, and went back to little 4 cylinder insects, and eventually just to bacteria again (which had always been the most numerous machines on the planet, which most dna could afford, and the ones who actually did all the work running the place, with a bit of help from the plants). And then pft! The sun melted the earth and that was that. Fortunately, since there are more suns in the universe than there are grains of sand on every beach and desert on the now melted planet earth, life continued merrily along in other forms for a couple of trillion years. jason john

20 The BIG story PS- Other bigger versions of the big story:
ecological peace 10/04/2017 The BIG story PS- Other bigger versions of the big story: My thesis has a long version ( just of the science, then reflects on it theologically. I’m working on a kids and adults book which I can you drafts of. I’ve pasted the story from the adults draft in the speaker’s notes here (no piccies though) Michael Dowd & Connie Barlow will tell you about their version of The Great Story and its spiritual significance (, Born with a Bang / From Lava to Life / Morphing Mammals- 3 book series for kids by Jennifer Morgan, personifies the Universe, doesn’t mention God. The scientific stories of life (extract with out pictures from draft of Jason John’s book- contact for details) Two years ago I sat on a beach on Stradbroke Island wondering if there were as many stars in the universe as there were grains of sand on that beach. Just that one beach. Even that seemingly impossibly large number was orders of magnitude too little. There are ten times more stars in the observable universe than there are grains of sand on the entire Earth, including beaches and deserts- some 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (seventy sextillion) of them. It seems that life is likely to exist elsewhere in the universe, but we will never see any of it. Life in the rest of the universe may be three times older than life on Earth, and may continue for up to another hundred trillion years. Earth will be consumed by our Sun in just a few billion years time. Earth and all the life on it is a teeny tiny itty bit flash in the Creator’s pan. What if we switch our focus to Earth, and forget about all the other grains of sand? Life on Earth appeared almost four billion years ago (bya). Muscled invertebrates appear in the fossil record about 550 million years ago (mya). The first vertebrates did not leave the oceans until 320 mya, and mammals only became a significant force on the planet following the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 mya. The first hominids may have appeared about seven million years ago, and the first representatives of the genus Homo appeared perhaps 2.4 mya. A form of Homo sapiens (that’s us) appear in the fossil record about 400,000 years ago in Africa, Europe and Asia, and modern forms approximately 100,000 years ago. We modern humans coexisted with at least two other species of Homo: H. neanderthalensis and H. erectus, until at least 30,000 and 27,000 years ago respectively. In 2004 a species of pygmy human was discovered in Indonesia, and named H. floresiensis. It existed about 18,000 years ago, and is thought to have evolved from H. erectus. So 30-50,000 years ago there were four human species in existence: Homo sapiens, neanderthalensis, floresiensis and possibly erectus. The human tree is a bush. If we marked significant events on a ruler, and used 1cm to represent all of H. sapiens existence; the genus Homo would occupy about 18cm (the width of this page); hominid evolution 60cm; the “age of mammals” 650 cm, and the beginning of life on Earth would be plotted 385 metres away! It is sobering to realise that the entire history of Christianity would occupy just one twentieth of one millimetre (about a tenth of a full-stop on this page). Richard Dawkins attempts to convey the history of life on Earth as an arm span. If life begins at the left finger tip, then dinosaurs appear on the palm of the right hand, and go extinct at the last finger joint. Mammals then become the dominant terrestrial vertebrate, with the entire existence of Homo fitting in a nail clipping, and all recorded human history amounting to the dust of a single nail file stroke. Ernst Mayr represents the history of life as a calendar year, in which mammals arrive on December 12th, Hominids at 10am New Year’s Eve, and H. sapiens at 11:56:30. If you want to read a summary of many of the arguments about how evolution actually works, you will have to read the thesis. Here I will just mention that evolutionists seem to agree that individual life forms (lets say animals) are not the only thing upon which natural selection acts. Most notably, Dawkins and others argue that it is genes, rather than the animals they produce, which are the true units of selection. The idea that other sorts of things can be selected, like species, is not well accepted, except in the special case of small groups of very social animals (like us), where in the short term different ‘cultures’ give the group a greater chance of survival than other groups which do things differently. This was probably very important in our recent history during the ice ages, when many human groups perished. Although natural selection is seen by most to be the driving force of evolution, all agree that it is limited, or constrained at any one point in time. It cannot create perfectly adapted animals, but “chooses” from what it has to work with. It is not possible for natural selection to “choose” a feature for an animal now if it is disadvantageous, even though it would be handy in the future. That is, evolution has no overall direction. Natural selection cannot therefore be aimed at producing humans, or consciousness, or anything much at all. There are also chance events, like volcanic eruptions and comet strikes, which have had a massive impact upon life on Earth, which would undo many of natural selections plans, if it had any. The final point to make about the mechanisms of evolution is that evolution is not only driven by genetic mutation. Another major factor is the merging together of the genes of separate organisms into new creatures, a process called symbiogenesis (think symbiosis). For example, the mitochondria found in every one of our cells derive from a free living ancestor, which was swallowed, but for some reason not digested by a predator. Together, they went on to form the first eukaryotic cells from which all animals and complex plants derive. Humans have about a hundred genes which were originally bacterial, and about ten percent of our dry body weight is not actually “us”, but all the other little greeblies that live in and on us- some friendly, others not. If I could magically remove every cell from your body which came directly from your parent’s sperm and egg, about ten percent of you would be left- and collapse into a pile of billions of bacteria and viruses, and possibly dozens to millions of worms (ew!) Where does God fit into this process? The authors I looked at (mainly Stephen J Gould, Richard Dawkins, Lyn Margulis & Dorian Sagan, and Ernst Mayr) differed in their acceptance of the possibility of God’s existence. They all agreed (and this was their only point of unanimity) that there is no evidence of an external force guiding evolution in any direction. So God may be there, but God is not pushing life in any particular direction. I have no room for most of the highlights of the evolutionary story I explored in the thesis. However, I can’t help thinking that the protracted discussion about sex and sexuality in the churches would be greatly helped by an understanding of the evolutionary origins of both. Sex evolved, it is not a static, divine creation. It evolved as a survival strategy against pathogens, and it was a long road to human heterosexuality. The first sex was homosexual (same-sex), since gender itself only came along later. Since the arrival of gender (which, out of interest, operates the opposite in mammals to the way it does in birds, where males are ZZ and females ZY) just about every form of sex than can happen, has happened, and not just amongst non-humans. None of which tells us what our sexual ethic should be, but all of which undermines any attempt to build that ethic on a static view of the world in which God magically created heterosexuality for all creatures, and monogamous relationships for humans. The many forms of human marriage eventually arose, not because God created them or “gave” them to us, but in response to the need to grapple with the concept of property (unheard of for most of human history) and access to resources, especially land. So marriage is a strategy, not a divine command, yet as Christians we still need to work out how to live out this strategy in response to the Jesus’ commands to love God and our neighbour. This would make for a fruitful debate. There is much in recent primate studies to relieve us of the view that humans (especially males) are inherently violent. We can be especially glad for the discovery of the Bonobo, a close relative of the chimpanzee, but who lives in a different environment and so tends to use fun ways (like sex) to resolve disputes and keep the group together. As Frans de Waal, a primatologist, says, “Had bonobos been known earlier, reconstructions of human evolution might have emphasized sexual relations, equality between males and females, and the origin of the family, instead of war, hunting, tool technology, and other masculine fortes.” I should also mention in passing, since my wife and many of my friends gave birth while I was writing my thesis, that evolution completely destroys the ridiculous and vile suggestion that God made women suffer and even die in child birth because Eve ate some fruit. Squeezing a human head through a vagina is an often painful, sometimes deadly business, but not because God is a vindictive bastard who is indifferent to our pain. It is because we are smart, and bipedal. Indeed, to get the heads out at all human babies are born very premature compared to other primates. Human babies should stay in the womb about two years. They would then, like other primates, be able to walk and feed themselves at birth. They may even be able to assist in their own delivery, just like some monkey babies do. So we are not the way we are because we were designed that way, or as a punishment, but because of a whole lot of natural selection and other evolutionary stuff. And what is now isn’t what will be, since everything is evolving. So when Christians affirm that the world is good, we can’t just mean nice, or good for us. Except, of course, that we usually do. Most environmentalism, in and outside the church, assumes that the world is nice, and we should keep it that way. Evolution, however, reminds us that the world- at least the way in which life has developed- is decidedly amoral: neither good nor evil. It just is. If the world is amoral, are we? Do we only care for others because we need them in some way? Are our apparently loving and charitable actions merely self delusions, a thin mask disguising our selfish nature? If we decide that we really can do morally good things for good reasons, is this a victory over our selfish evolutionary instincts? Is Christian morality at war with our genes? Richard Dawkins seems to think so, but I think de Waal has a clearer picture, which is further rounded out by Mary Clark, once biologist and now conflict resolution trainer. She agrees with de Waal that humans are not inherently violent. Violence emerges when we fail to cope with extremely stressful situations, and our true basic drives are not met. These basic drives, when met, lead us to naturally “moral” actions. The first drive is for bondedness, or relationships. This begins at birth, with our absolute dependence on bondedness to our mother, then hopefully father, and then family and friends, for survival. In tension with this is our innate drive for autonomy. Autonomy is not isolation, but having our own identifiable place within the community, being able to contribute to the life of the community freely and creatively. To alleviate the conflicts between bonding to others and wanting our own identity amongst them, our expanding brain and developing language helped create increasingly complex meaning systems (culture). Clark thinks that the drive for bondedness and autonomy are shared by primates, whilst the desire for meaning appears to be a human phenomenon, though perhaps chimps have it a bit. Personally, I would expect the drive for bondedness to exist in any organism which relies on parental care, and the drive for autonomy to exist at the very least in social mammals. So it should include dogs, chickens, and even cats, despite what the Hallmark cards say about them. Perhaps dogs prioritise bondedness and cats autonomy. All of these drives, for most of human history, have been met in close contact with a small and fairly stable community of humans. They have also been met whilst being immersed in the rest of life, to the point where many suggest that we need this contact with complex life systems in order to maintain psychological health. This is the biophilia hypothesis, first proposed by Edward Wilson. Life as Other As humans, through even very basic technological creations, became more independent of, and less immersed in the rest of life, they started to represent God or the gods differently. Hunter gatherers tended to represent the gods or spirits as animals. As agriculture developed, and people had to endure, rather than migrate, during seasonal changes, the gods took on the form of human women. The roaming plains herders, took up the image of a male sky God, known through his thunder and lightning. Their image came to dominate the middle east and then the western world. What would it mean for Christianity if we accepted that our image of God has changed throughout human history? That the almost total reliance of Christians on male human images of God reflects the cultural conditions in which Judaism, and then Christianity arose? We can see some of the battle for dominance of male images of God in the biblical witnesses themselves- in Jeremiah and other prophets there is mention of the tendency for women, and some of their husbands, to prefer female gods. This tendency was, as we can read in the texts, labelled an abomination by those who ended up as leaders of the Israelite community after the Exile. Back to animals and our contact with them. I bet you don’t have much (unless this book gets a readership broader than I dare dream). Neither do I. You might have a pet. Churches seem to like pets and even have quaint blessing ceremonies every now and then, the best was held by the Vicar of Dibley. Paul Shepard confronts our comfy relationship with our nice little pets with the claim that they are no more than enslaved freaks. He sees the pet industry as the end of our respect for the Wild Other. We have turned wolves (which scared and hunted us) into that goggle eyed, foetus of a dog called a chiuwawa. Most of us who read this are no longer hunters but purchasers, taking home pre wrapped meat. We have no idea how to gather tubers, or when. It is always potato season in a supermarket. As we control and confine and domesticate the Wild Other, we do the same to ourselves and our spirituality, so Shepherd (get it?) says. And, though it has too many technical words for this book, I love this quote, “The substitution of a limited number of genetically deformed and phenotypically confusing species for the wild fauna may, through impaired perception, degrade the human capacity for self-knowledge. The loss of metaphorical distance between ourselves and wild animals and the incorporation of domestic animals as slaves in human society alter ourselves and our cosmos.” So, we need to remember, though our pets and supermarkets make us forget- life is Other. Life does not revolve around us. Animals are different. Of course, since this is theology after all, the opposite is also true. Life as One If you had sex with a chimpanzee, you would get in a lot of trouble. But the offspring would probably survive, even though it would be infertile. Kind of a horse + donkey-> mule thing. So we are very similar to chimps, though we have real differences (or else the offspring would be fertile). Everything is genetically related if you go back far enough. When we look a little closer to home, we see that several other species of Homo should probably just be called humans, something supported by the following artists’ constructions, assuming that they are anything like accurate, Figure 1. Artistic renditions of Homo ergaster, H. neanderthalensis and H. erectus (from Ian Tattersall, "Once We Were Not Alone," Scientific American 13, no. 2 (2003): pp ) Admittedly, Finn Lawson-John recently classified H. ergaster as monkeys. However, I consider his analysis dubious, since he also identified a photo of ageing male orang-utan as his grandfather, and his own artistic reconstructions of primates leave something to be desired. His marsupials are quite good, however, Perhaps when he grows out of pooing in a nappy and graduates from university I will listen more closely to him on this matter. Homo sapiens are not the only humans, we are very similar even to non human primates. There is a continuity even though there is an undeniable difference. Evolutionists are unanimous that there are real differences between the lone surviving human species and other animals, but it is a matter of degree, rather than a fundamental, unbridgeable gulf. Forms of intellect, morality, culture, self awareness are found in other species, and almost certainly existed in the now extinct Homo and Australopithecine lines. It is, indeed, quite handy for Catholics that the Australopithecines and erectus are extinct, as they would remind us much more forcefully than chimps do of our basic continuity with the rest of life.Figure 2. Photo of a river retouched by an anonymous artist, and further modified for print by myself. It is the best illustration of some of the major features of evolution mentioned in this thesis; some tributaries rejoin (following Margulis & Sagan); only a small fraction of life that has existed persists in the present (top of diagram); the termination of some tributaries is associated with rapid expansion in others, as in mass extinction events; microbial life (the centre stream) generates the tributaries, and remains a significant force throughout time. What happens if we keep pushing this basic connection? Is there really any such thing as a species in the first place? Human. Dog. Corn. Artificially constructed labels, or something “real?” Philosophers love to argue about this apparently. It’s clear that people do have a sense of species. But it is also clear that this depends on where the person lives, and what species are relevant. Many westerners hate “snakes” but people who rely on them to eat easily and naturally differentiate the non toxic, edible ones from the dangerous ones. So why do we make these distinctions? To survive! And this began long, long ago, in the brainless organisms who nevertheless could tell light from dark, and thus hide from predators. As brains got bigger, so did the lists of categories. This is the take home point: Categorisation is fundamental to the very survival of biological life. So the boundaries which we have drawn around humans, around other species, and even around bodies are more fuzzy and fluid than we imagine, even though they look solid to us. What if there was a Being able to watch the entire history of life on Earth, and whose survival did not depend on the ability to discriminate amongst species? They may see life very differently. How might such a non-biological Being, unlimited by our constraints, see life on Earth? As we explore this question, it will be helpful to create an image of life, however approximate, which brings together the insights from the science story sketched above. We can hold this in our mind as we do our theology. Part of the reason for the persistence of a Genesis inspired view of life is surely the wealth of beautiful images which support it. We need something equally beautiful with which to break it down. You will have to make do with my effort for now. One of the most common images used is that of the web of life, but it is inadequate for several reasons. Firstly, it is always far too simplistic. It is usually drawn with each species represented by a single circle, which interacts with other circles. In reality, every individual creature on Earth is linked directly to millions of others (Yes, millions. Remember how many organisms creep upon and within us every day). Then we need to remember the billions of billions of links representing the interactions of genes with each other, as our extended phenotypes (A term from Richard Dawkins) interact with those of other organisms. This if beyond imagining, and there it will have to remain as it will never be drawn, unless Peter Jackson gets interested and puts the Lord of the Rings team on it, with a similar budget! But even a complex enough web looks static. It has no sense of history. Even worse, they are created by something else- Spiders. Webs are a better image of the Genesis view of Earth, where life is created according to the deliberate designs of an external creator. Everything is static, frozen in time. Webs don’t evolve, or create themselves.You are standing in a vacuum. All is dark. Suddenly, on the horizon, you can see something. Something tumultuous, tumbling, flowing, pulsing, expanding and contracting. It is flowing straight towards you. A twisting, three dimensional stream, a network of trillions of channels, flowing through history towards you. It takes three billion years to reach you, yet it seems to happen in an instant. Sometimes it nearly dries out, then it bursts forth in new patterns. It starts as a rumbling at the horizon, rushing forwards until it is about to bowl you over, carving out millions of billions of trillions of channels as it comes. It hits you, flowing and tumbling all around you. Then it is past. Now you need to look over your shoulder. Watch as this incredible powerhouse races off into the distance. Not far behind you the links which represent H. sapiens either dry up, or split off in new directions. Soon the channels representing complex plants, mammals, birds, lizards, amphibians, dry up. But the raging torrent of insects and microbes continues on to the far horizon, sometimes full, sometimes nearly empty. Finally, the insects are gone. Eventually, as the sun envelops Earth the microbes are gone too. We have just seen the best snapshot of the whole of life I can imagine. We have seen something of the image of God. So we move on to an image more common in evolutionary science than ecology, the tree of life. Yet none of the versions I found were adequate. They all showed something well, but none showed everything. Given the enormity of what they are trying to convey this is hardly surprising. After much searching I began to think that a stream of life was a more promising image. A stream non-consciously carves out its own channels. Once these channels are formed, life forms which follow tend to flow thorough them, though they occasionally branch out in new directions. Despite devoting a book to the idea of evolution as a river, Dawkins does not attempt to produce an actual diagram to convey the concept, and I could not find any other attempt to do so. I began to see why after countless miserable failures of my own. In the end, it was an artist’s manipulation of a photo of a river which best seemed to capture the evolutionary story, though I had to modify it fairly heavily (figure 2). Now you need to switch your imaginations into overload, and combine the historical stream of life with the current “web” of interactions of living things. The stream, in other words, has a three dimensional structure- like a series of veins running through a transparent leg. We are nearly there. Finally, having grasped this image, we need to look over our shoulder. For the image is incomplete until we include the future of life on Earth. We need to focus on an aspect of the image which evolutionists often seem to underemphasise. As we shall see, it shakes the theological foundations. The mind numbingly amazing story of life on Earth is far from finished. Almost every tree of life we see in a science book subtly feeds our assumption that we are at the end point of evolution. In living memory not much seems to have changed, biologically. The consensus is, however, that Earth will exist for another seven billion years or so. We are only half way through. We need two calendar years for Mayr’s chart of life on Earth. We need two people with arms outstretched to convey Dawkins’ image, with humanity a fleck of dust between their fingertips. We need to redraw all of the evolutionary trees, but we do not know what the second half should look like! Will a nuclear war, or comet strike, wipe out all vertebrates? Perhaps the reptiles will get a chance to reclaim the world from their mammalian usurpers. Birds, whose brains are organised quite differently from ours, could evolve a very different, yet highly complex, level of intelligence. It may take decades, or millions of years for H. sapiens to cease to exist on Earth, but the biological record tells us that it is inevitable. Whatever mass extinction events may occur, scientists are now fairly confident that they can foretell Earth’s future, at least in broad brush strokes. If God is indeed guiding evolution, it is sobering to consider where it is being guided to. According to Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, we live at approximately the mid-point of life on Earth, as I said above. We also, however, live at the mid-point of animals (figure 3). Life will not continue to get more and more complex until the Sun finally consumes Earth. Consciousness and the ability to apprehend God only appears to be increasing because of where we live in history. Chardin and the many theologians who borrow his ideas about a divinely guided increase in global consciousness are simply wrong. In about 500 million years all of the complex plants we now know will be extinct, killed off by plummeting CO2 levels. Grasses, algae and mosses will remain. Animals may then rapidly perish, but it is probable that they will linger for another 100 to 200 million years. When I say animals, I do not mean humans, vertebrates, or indeed anything with much of a brain. In the minimal oxygen atmosphere, brains and nervous systems will be unsupportable, “…and the world will evolve into ever greater stupidity, with less complex sensory organs and behaviour.” Truly the meek will inherit the Earth. Figure 3. Figure from Ward & Brownlee, showing the short span of Earth history over which animals will exist in any significant numbers. Life will not go on gaining in complexity until the end of Earth, but will soon begin to become increasingly simplified, as oxygen hungry nervous systems become increasingly selected against. On the land, as global temperatures reach 50oC there will be wholesale extinctions of the insects- anything more complex will be long since dead. By 60oC only bacteria, algae and fungi will survive, and at 70oC bacteria will have the planet’s surface to themselves. Organisms in the ocean might survive a little longer than their terrestrial cousins, down in the cooler depths, but increasing global temperatures mean accelerated evaporation, and eventually Earth will be entirely without water, experiencing surface temperatures possibly as high as 1000oC. So, the flow of life to the present day is only half the story. We must add to it an equivalent length of flow, which will soon be reduced to a series of trickles, with the animal trickle just a bunch of rats, and eventually just bugs. Whether nuclear war speeds up the process or not, cockroaches will (temporarily) inherit Earth. Human beings will not be there at the End. All of which leads to my final attempt at the image of life which, as you may have guessed by now, is that picture you saw on the front cover. If you have been concentrating, and thinking about the implications of all of this for your faith in the man from Nazareth and his God, your minds should be near to blowing by now. Here is one final puff of air to ensure a resounding Pop! The image of life is probably, or at least possibly, not confined to Earth. It may extend back billions of years before the image emerged on Earth, and could continue for trillions of years after Earth is vaporised. So humans are a speck of the image of life on Earth, which is, I think, a mere speck of the image of life in the Universe. Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder… Christian theology claims that this pulsing flow of life is in some way a creation of God, who is a non biological person. God, then, sees life, and relates to life, free of the meaning system we have had to impose upon it to survive. Concepts like predator/prey, poison/tasty, enemy/mate are meaningless to God. If God is creator of life, then life should tell us something about God. The image of life presented here, and the sort of relationship it implies between God and creation, differs markedly from that presented in Genesis. I know- Duh! Since Christian theology has traditionally grounded itself in Genesis, we might expect to conclude quite different things about God and ourselves in light of the above story, and the image of life it leaves us. Again, Duh! So why do so few people try to come to some sort of conclusion? We will see that the scientific stories have an impact upon all three of the propositions in traditional anthropocentric theology. That is, the notion that humans alone are created in the image of God, charged with some form of dominion over the rest of life, and responsible for the fall of the whole of creation into something less than it was created to be. Surprisingly, to me at least, was that the science stories also called into question even the propositions of those with a more biocentric bent. I will now survey how theologians have responded to these challenges, before moving on to propose a biocentric framework which is, I believe, more viable in light of the information we have from the life sciences. jason john

21 ecological peace 10/04/2017 The BIG story PPS- A quick Christian poem version: Evolutionists Genesis 1. It’s been evolving since 2000, and continues to… Before the beginning there was God, God alone. And God said, "Let there be." And there was. A massive explosion, billions of billions of degrees centigrade. Energy screaming out in all directions, God's relationship to creation had begun. And God was there, for thousands, and millions, and billions of years as the energy became matter, and matter became dust, and the dust formed galaxies and quasars and solar systems, and our sun, and our earth. And God saw the universe, billions of billions of kilometres wide, full of 70 million, million, million stars, and God saw that it was Good. And God was there... as our planet cooled and brought forth life, and God's relationship with life began, and that relationship was good. And God was there... as life became cells- the first complex creatures in our part of the universe, and God saw that they were good. And God was there... as sexual reproduction emerged for the first time in our part of the universe, and God saw that sex was good. jason john

22 ecological peace 10/04/2017 The BIG story And God was there... as the vertebrates emerged: fish, amphibians, dinosaurs, tiny mammals, birds. Birth, sex, death. God was there for a billion years as organisms and species came and went and related to each other. Each species, each individual, each relationship adding to God’s richness of experience of life, giving God more to love, more to be God of. God watched the cycle of life, and saw that it was good. And God was there. As the mammals grew smarter, developing languages and tools and a sense of something beyond them- the first stirrings of a response to the Word of God. Some returned to the oceans and shed their hair and swapped legs and hands for fins. Some stayed on the coast, and shed their hair but kept their hands to hold tools, and their feet to walk. They stood up, they grew smarter. Perhaps too smart, perhaps not smart enough. And the Word of God amongst us hairless apes grew louder, and so did the opposition to it. So the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and was adored and loved and cherished, and despised and rejected and killed. And raised. And we humans have never been the same since. Jason John jason john

23 The BIG story: humans a tiny part
Humanity, even consciousness, is a tiny part of the Earth story

24 The BIG story: the rocky road
Long before humans, this world of ecological peace was rocked by mass extinctions

25 The BIG story Ecological history is not human history
Industrial history 4 cm Christian history cm Australian human history m H. sapiens story 80 m Homo story m Mammals’ story km (1/2 way to coast) Life story km (Coffs Harbour) Future Life story ? km (Melb/Adel) Most of the story of God and life on Earth has nothing to do with humans

26 The BIG story ecological peace (pre human)
10/04/2017 The BIG story ecological peace (pre human) Included death and whole species extinction Included pain, sickness etc Included predation (the deliberate killing of someone because they are “different”) Included rivalry (killing of those who are the “same”) Included unequal distribution of resources Included love, tenderness, sharing, compassion etc Pain, death, extinction, unequal resource sharing are GOOD if evolution is good (which it must be if our existence is good) jason john

27 The BIG story There was a time of ecological peace
10/04/2017 The BIG story There was a time of ecological peace included pain death and humans All of life maintains “peace”, especially bacteria all of life is the Image of God* all of life has dominion (esp bacteria) Some Humans destroyed ecological peace they lost inner peace, it can be nurtured All of life is the image of God: God is the God of LIFE, not humans Most of the story of God and life is not human God is not human, humans are not superior The point of the Universe is not us! We are a temporary part of the story of God and LIFE. jason john

28 the big story signifies reconciliation between
western Xns and Life There was a time of ecological peace included pain death and humans All of life maintains “peace”, especially bacteria all of life is the Image of God all of life has dominion (esp bacteria) Some Humans destroyed ecological peace they lost inner peace, it can be nurtured

29 Only after the philosophy which holds one species superior…
ecological peace 10/04/2017 Only after reconciliation Or for those who have always been “conciled” Only after the philosophy which holds one species superior… … is it safe to talk about “Looking after shared spaces.”* And even then, to be honest, I think its not the best language. jason john

30 Shared Spaces Global Footprint
Four planet earths for all humans to live like the “Average Australian” IF we leave no productive land for any other life forms. How much of the Earth should our species share? From our point of view (hard enough to work out) From God’s (perilous indeed)

31 Sharing: our “spiritual” benefit
Since LIFE is the image of God, The more we share our lives with LIFE, the more we share our lives with God If we relate only to our family pet and plastic wrapped meat, what becomes of our relationship with God? Christianity: Love God and love neighbour as self In the BIG picture, life is neighbour / relation / brother/sister To the extent that we love neighbour/country, we can love God “those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” To the extent that we know ourselves to be “conciled”/part of country, we can be reconciled/ part of God

32 Sharing: our “spiritual” benefit
Since LIFE is the image of God, reverence for life -> reverence for God To the extent that we see country/life, we can “see” God To the extent that we know ourselves to be “conciled”/part of country, we can be reconciled/ part of God

33 Sharing: our psychological benefit
ecological peace 10/04/2017 Sharing: our psychological benefit Meeting our inherent mammalian needs* Bondedness (love), autonomy, meaning For 99% of our evolution, met in: Small, stable, nomadic groups with few possessions, in intimate connection with the rest of LIFE (like it or not) Able/desiring only to meet needs not greeds (eg Australians for 50,000 odd years) We are not hopeless sinners, but human brains are at odds with Western industrial capitalistic environment. For more on this see *For more on this see jason john

34 Sharing: our “material” benefit
Small story ecological peace will come from human peace (when God brings about human peace through divine intervention) Big story Human (psychological) peace depends on ecological “peace” and reconciliation to our ecological family. So does human spirituality and ability to relate to God.

35 Sharing: God’s benefit
Why did God birth the universe? To have something to be God of To have something to love To be set free from an eternity of sameness To be changed through relationships (love) To have “rich experiences” / abundant life

36 God’s rich experiences…
"Whereas it is true to say that in God's primordial nature God creates the world, it is also true to say that in God's consequent nature the world creates God... Our immediate actions eventually perish but yet they live for evermore in the divine memory. This idea that our existence from moment to moment enriches the divine life. [This] is part of a stream of thought which stretches at least as far back as Plato and parts of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, through Schelling... Tillich and Whitehead… everything we do makes a difference to God. This is true of the lesser all creatures also. God will never be the same again because we have lived and because they also have lived” (This is process theology thru the Aussie - Charles Birch, Biology and the Riddle of Life, p. 136)

37 God stuff God’s experiences of Life:
Through life (seeing through the eyes of an eagle and the sonar of a bat) The death of the last bunyip mattered. Of life (experiencing an eagle in and of itself (also a tree, mountain etc) Everything, not just thoughtful things, matter In relationships The death of the last bunyip family mattered (This expands on Process Theology, see my thesis section 9.5, which you can find at

38 God stuff So “looking after” shared spaces might mean doing that which enriches God’s experience of life during our time here, and after we are gone Leaving an evolutionary legacy. Seeking abundant life for all Life, for us for the God of Life.

39 ecological peace 10/04/2017 Until… the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned. As reflected in: The number of Earth’s we need Our prayers, hymns and homilies Our dinner plate… jason john

40 ecological peace 10/04/2017 Until… with apologies to Selassie, Marley, O’Connor and you, the reader… until the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: We must do more- do more. until there are no longer some who claim the image of God as their distinction until regardless of our skin, we are all of significance and granted certain rights we want more That until there is reverence for all living beings and love is shown to all of every kind God wants more Until that day, the God of lasting peace, will suffer much, and question our morality. And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our sisters as factory food, for cosmetic torture, clear felled forests: subhuman bondage Have been replaced with custodianship, food will come through war, agricultural war. Dead reefs to the east Dead rivers to the west Drought up north Ozone layer down south. More. Stop wanting more. Until that change, the Australian continent will not know peace. Life will fight. Human extinction necessary. Life will win, for it is confident, in the victory. Of evolution. Of the big story, the God of all life, of country. jason john

41 ecological peace 10/04/2017 Or- the 48 second version In 2001, sleep deprived, I ad- libbed a video for a National UCA Assembly ‘vox pop’ I then spent a day making it pretty instead of writing my thesis. The video is at the text is on the next page My hope for the UC is that we will become a biocentric faith community. One which understands that the central story of the universe is between God and life, not God and Homo sapiens That we will come to see our place in the universe as being much smaller than we think it to be That we wont so much think like a mountain, as think like the God who was here before the mountains were even formed Who for billions of years had a relationship with life before we ever arrived That we will discard the theology that creates an intrinsic distinction between us and the other animals. And that with this more humble view of our place in this universe and in God’s heart, we will make room for the other creatures which we share this planet with, so that can all have the relationship with God which God desires jason john

42 ecological peace 10/04/2017 Or- the 48 second version My hope for the Uniting Church is that we will become a biocentric faith community. One which understands that the central story of the universe is between God and life, not God and Homo sapiens That we will come to see our place in the universe as being much smaller than we think it to be That we wont so much think like a mountain, as think like the God who was here before the mountains were even formed Who for billions of years had a relationship with life before we ever arrived That we will discard the theology that creates an intrinsic distinction between us and the other animals. And that with this more humble view of our place in this universe and in God’s heart, we will make room for the other creatures which we share this planet with, so that can all have the relationship with God which God desires My hope for the UC is that we will become a biocentric faith community. One which understands that the central story of the universe is between God and life, not God and Homo sapiens That we will come to see our place in the universe as being much smaller than we think it to be That we wont so much think like a mountain, as think like the God who was here before the mountains were even formed Who for billions of years had a relationship with life before we ever arrived That we will discard the theology that creates an intrinsic distinction between us and the other animals. And that with this more humble view of our place in this universe and in God’s heart, we will make room for the other creatures which we share this planet with, so that can all have the relationship with God which God desires jason john


44 Versions of ecological peace which reside in small versions of the Christian story, which I think have been discredited and need to be abandoned. (even though I resonate with the sentiment behind some of it)

45 SMALL STORY Ecological Peace
Isaiah 11 / Hebrew / common Christian Until the wolf stops eating lambs, And the lion becomes vegetarian And our babies are no longer bitten by snakes… Ecological Peace as an end to death etc. This situation never was and never will be.

46 SMALL STORY Ecological Peace
Paul (Romans 8) Until God’s current regime which holds all creation in decay and in the pangs of birth- tied up in bondage Is finally and permanently, ended, through our revelation and granted freedom. Everywhere is war. Ecological “war” is God’s will, to rescue humans. Yuk.

47 SMALL STORY Ecological Peace
Christian Apocalyptic Until Jesus comes back and kicks the arse of every evil dude in every nation There’s going to be wars Until the colour of the sky is red as God burns up the earth and starts a new one There’s going to be wars… Until judgment day, the dream of lasting peace shall remain but an illusion to be pursued, but never attained!

48 REALLY SPECULATIVE I’m not sure about including the following slides. It represents some first thoughts about how an understanding of custodianship might intersect with the ancient evolutionary story of Australia before humans Driven in part by my own critique of permaculture, of which I am fond. Can talk of “care for country” or “care for a garden” mask the fact that we are really, as all animals do, primarily manipulating it for ourselves? Some other species benefit as a result, whilst others perish. I DON’T THINK THIS IS A BAD THING IN ITSELF, but maybe it helps to know that that I what we are doing, as I allows us to be more self critical. Both “care of country” and permaculture are heaps better than the technological war on country which we see around us, but neither are self-disinterested. Anyway, the following slides are included as first thoughts which I didn’t have time for in the conference. I’d welcome any feedback or to know of anyone who is already further down the path on these thoughts than me.

49 ecological peace Where did ecological peace end in Australia?
10/04/2017 ecological peace Where did ecological peace end in Australia? “50,000” years ago? Some marsupials might say so, but others benefited. If peace includes extinction and changing environments Since with limited technology groups pay the price for their own ecological decisions, if any tribes/nations did wage ecological war then probably did not survive. Over 50,000 years, we ended up with those tribe/nations which learned ecological peace. It was certainly relatively peaceful compared to… 200ish years ago until now Technology means perpetrators are buffered from the consequences of their actions, humans who control big technologies can wage ecological war and still survive, at least for 200 years, as we have seen around the world. They did not all deliberately wage war, many thought they were doing a good thing. Some acted evilly, some ignorantly. The time of ignorance as an excuse is now (should be) long past us. Being in denial is not being ignorant. jason john

50 ecological peace 50,000ish-200ish years ago
10/04/2017 ecological peace 50,000ish-200ish years ago Included significant changes to the environment Fire The environmental impact of Aboriginal landscape burning is one of the most complex and contentious issues in Australian ecology* Dingoes All species modify their environment to suit themselves. Some other species benefit, others lose out. Eg roos, dingoes & eucalypts benefited Yet it does seem to be accepted that the arrival of humans and the introduction of dingoes and fire did impact on the indigenous fauna and flora. The introduction of two new predators can hardly have done otherwise. The extent of the impact is widely debated: How much of the spread o eucalypts was caused by human fires, how much by climate change? Ditto for the extinction of all the big animals. jason john

51 ecological peace now Permaculture The rhetoric:
10/04/2017 ecological peace now Permaculture The rhetoric: an attempt at sharing space, at fostering ecological peace Bringing food and shelter production “home” Minimising resource useage. “Harmonious” integration. Working with nature. But… It is still practised by a species manipulating the environment to suit itself. Some life forms benefit, others don’t. MANY MORE benefit than through industrial agriculture and factory farming, but food production is never value free or consequence free. See notes for my own confessions of a permaculturalist (From my thesis, various versions available from "Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order. Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms. The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.“ In the edible gardens I helped establish at the University of Queensland we used our knowledge of natural processes to gain a reasonable yield of food with minimal effort and zero use of poisons and artificial fertilizer. But to what extent did we actually cooperate with the organisms in the garden? To what extent did they cooperate with each other? It became clear to me that we were not simply cooperating with the system as a whole. We were cooperating with those parts of the system that would bring us benefit. We planted flowers to make the garden a good place for wasps to live, but only because they would prey on the caterpillars. We planted different species where they would grow best, but only to maximise the yields to us. In other words, the garden was a series of competitive systems in which some cooperative alliances persisted because of the mutual advantage they brought the cooperating parties over against the others. The conscious human participants were consciously selfish - seeking our own gain through the manipulation of other species. At times we did transcend this selfishness. I found earwigs devastating a bok-choi, and decided to leave them alone because I didn’t feel like killing them. We accepted a certain amount of loss of food. But this was only because we could afford to. Permaculture for relatively wealthy westerners like me is a hobby. There was more bok-choi, really cheap, at the supermarket. If I lived entirely off the garden, the earwigs would have perished. Or, perhaps I would have reminded myself that they are good predators of codling moth, and been willing to lose a bok-choi if it meant keeping the apples. But then it would have been my self centred action against the codling moth, not my benevolence, which spared the earwigs. Permaculture, then, is not really about cooperating with nature, it is about manipulating other organisms to maximise benefit to ourselves. It is about forming cooperative alliances against common threats to resources. It is about recognising that in modern agriculture humans foolishly take on the entire ecosystem and fail to see that the short term victories cannot last, as evidenced by increasing top soil loss, salinisation, river pollution, and reliance on poisons and petrochemicals. jason john

52 Looking after shared places
If it is to be our “place” we must fulfil our needs at the expense of some other life forms (as others do to us). To be in Country, to do permaculture, versus visiting a national park, is to use and be used. What is the need to be met? Food, shelter, love, meaningful activity. Perhaps we can meet needs “peacefully”, but not greeds? “Do for others as you would have them do for you”- other is not just neighbour, or enemy, but all life.

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