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Jennifer Morgan

Really interesting post, Rich, proposing a hermeneutic turn for Big History. It seems that there are some in Big History who would like to take that turn, but others who wouldn’t, and there may be good reasons on both sides.

Cosmic Evolution is a lineage started by natural scientists, while Big History was founded by historians, so the starting places are quite different. Big History starts with the human and moves backward and brings something quite new to the whole story of evolution. I’m not sure I would equate Big History, even now with its objective scientific orientation with Cosmic Evolution . . . there’s something substantially added by Big History to the depth of the human history inside of cosmic history.

The founders of Big History have viewed Big History as a social science, more than as a humanity. The goals, as laid out by Cynthia Brown, in a Big History newsletter reinforce the idea of Big History strives to create an objective scientifically-based narrative.

On the Deep Time Journey Network, we’re attempting to include all lineages focused on an evolving universe as the primary context, and to make distinctions between different lineages, while seeing all the lineages as part of a larger whole that is enriched by the different approaches.

While based on a science narrative, the universe story/new story/new cosmology/journey of the universe lineage is more oriented toward interpretation, or hermenuetics. Montessori Cosmic Education also includes quite a bit of interpretation, such as its focus on human meaning through the idea of cosmic task/gift. Inside Montessori Cosmic Education, our job is to evolve the universe . . . using education to increase consciousness and create a new world.

So . . . it would be interesting to see how many Big History people might share your view. My hunch is that there’s a strong leaning away from taking a hermeneutic turn. Cynthia Brown and other Big History people on this site may want to weigh in. And while I personally am very interested in interpretation, and have worked extensively with people focused on interpretation, I find that the place to do that is inside the other lineages. I also wholeheartedly see the value in having one lineage stick to telling the objective story because that story can serve as a concrete basis for other lineages to interpret. I’m wondering if you allow Big History to take a hermeneutic turn, would the clarity of Big History as it is now defined become too murky. I don’t know. I certainly understand your desire for interpretation, and your focus on the transformational value of Big History is crucial for understanding if/how students engage in Big History. I wonder if that means that Big History should redefine it’s parameters. Really good question. Thoughts from other people???