Table of Contrasts Between Dead and Living Universe ParadigmsLink to File
A table showing a series of striking differences between a dead and a living universe perspective.
- Original Release Date (Year): 2014
- Used by people who call the work: Big History, New Cosmology
- Applies a deep time evolutionary perspective to: Agriculture, Art, Ecology/Sustainability, Education, Government, Law, Other (Consciousness aliveness meaning purpose sustainability), Religion/Spirituality, Social Justice
- Learning Stages: Adult Education, Higher Education, Lifelong
- Type: Document
- Keywords: dead universe, living universe, living systems paradigm
- Why I love this Resource: Very brief summary of contrasts between living and non-living universe
- Posted By: Duane Elgin
- Date Added: October 14, 2014
No. This is sheer mysticism. As such, it’s wishful thinking, but not very serious religion, and not science at all. Words like “living” and “dead” don’t deserve this treatment. They’re innocent things, both having their home in biology. To use “living” in a very broad metaphorical sense, as Duane does, makes it impossible to communicate using those words. As David Christian is clear, the universe is overwhelmingly, almost everywhere, dead. Even the possibilities of life don’t occur until quite a few other Goldilocks Conditions exist. Almost always, almost everywhere, the universe is neither “living” NOR “dead,” because biology doesn’t exist.… Read more »
Thanks for these comments, Davidson. Duane refers to much important information. Qualified and limited conclusions from available evidence regarding pre- or extra-biological evidence, and distinctions about different periods and phenomena, are important. The use of words like living and conscious for the universe before biology or outside of it go beyond what the evidence can reasonably support. Still, Duane and others are working productively to find ways to express what could become supportable conclusions about nature. This is a process for all of us.
SUMMARIZING THE SCIENCE OF A LIVING UNIVERSE (from Chapter 2, “The Living Universe” by Duane Elgin; Importantly, this summary does not include the extensive footnotes found in my book) It is important to recognize that, within the scientific community, there is no widely accepted definition of “life.” To illustrate the difficulty scientists are encountering, there is no clear demarcation between the living and non-living realms. There is considerable debate, for example, over whether a virus is “alive.” By itself a virus is a non-living entity but when it finds a suitable host—such as a human being— it can rapidly replicate… Read more »
Why do we care whether we label the Universe alive or dead or mechanical or whatever. At that level the discussion is one of definitions, lacking insight into what is really important. For me the subject is really how to express my awe, my gratitude, my profound sense of belonging within my new understanding of the beauty, complexity, and creativity of the Universe and especially Earth. The difficulty I think we all face is that all our special, meaningful words have been reserved for non-Universe entities. So, I believe, we call the Universe alive, and therefore challenge our normal use… Read more »
Lawrence: You raise a vitally important question: “Why do we care whether we label the Universe alive or dead. . . ?” Here are five reasons why I think it is important to honor the universe as a living system: 1. Transformed Identity: In the paradigm of scientific materialism, we are no more than bio-chemical beings—evolutionary accidents whose consciousness and aliveness are ultimately separate from the rest of the non-living and unconscious universe that surrounds us. In contrast, from a living systems perspective, we are both biological beings and cosmic participants in a vast field of life-energy. Our identity is… Read more »
Language represents, and evolves along with, one’s own understandings, perceptions, and story. Arguing over ‘living’ and ‘dead’, or pushing those terms too hard, can lead to dogma and resistance instead of respectful communication, acceptance and learning. What this raises for me is the question, “How can I reconcile my objective scientific-model paradigm/story with my deeply felt personal experience of interconnectedness/’life in everything’?”
Thanks for your comment Traci. What language would suggest to contrast between regarding the universe as a living system and a non-living system?
A new understanding of the universe seems to be emerging from the sciences: instead of regarding the universe as comprised mostly of dead matter and empty space, evidence increasingly suggests it is unique kind of living system. This is NOT to describe our universe as a “biological” system but rather to say that it is infused with consciousness and seems to have properties attributed to living systems. In turn, a living systems perspective transforms our sense of identity, purpose, meaning, and ethics. These are of immeasurable value as we seek to move through a time of profound planetary transition and… Read more »