Nancy Abrams needed a higher power. As one of the premiere science writers of our time, she found both the Iron Age gods of the Abrahamic faiths and the pseudo-scientific mysticisms of New Age gurus wanting. So she turned to what she knew best:science. What she found is set forth in her important, cogent, and challenging new book, A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet.
This is not another book about the clash of science and religion. As far as Abrams is concerned, that war has been won, and religion lost. Nor is this a book of triumphalist atheism or scientism; Abrams subscribes to neither of those ideologies. Rather, this is a rigorously scientific and deeply spiritual investigation into the nature of nature in general and human nature in particular. It’s an investigation that reveals to her—and through her to us—the God she sought.
The key to her discovery is the phenomenon of “emergence”: the natural process of evolutionary mutation whereby something new, greater, and larger emerges from something older, lesser, and smaller that in and of itself gave no hint of the something new to which it gave birth.
For example, a billion and a half years ago, simple microorganisms unintentionally joined together to create systems complex enough to birth eukaryotic cells, the kind of cells necessary for human existence. There was nothing intrinsic to these microorganisms that made eukaryotic cells necessary, nor was their rising complexity predestined. Rather it was billions of years of random interaction that created a level of complexity among and between these microorganisms great enough to cause the mutation we call eukaryotic cells.
Over the next billion years these eukaryotic cells came together until they too reached a level of complexity from which something new could emerge, in this case life forms with distinct organs. Over the following millennia, systems of greater and greater complexity emerged, eventually giving rise to human beings with the capacity to make meaning, fashion purpose, imagine goals, and create gods.
The rest of this article is only available to subscribers and NSP members -- subscribe or join now to read the rest!