Adult RE Workshop - Emergence, a Creative Universe, and You

Religious Exploration for Adults presents this since-session class and discussion with James Witker, adapted from a Freethinker Forum held by AAHS this past Spring…
EMERGENCE (Emergent Properties) is a cross-disciplinary idea in science, philosophy, and art dealing with complex systems arising from -- and having properties not merely defined by -- their simpler component parts. Some examples include snowflakes, fractals, galaxies, and life itself. 
Whether by blind chance, the whims of quantum spacetime, the Multiverse, or something more deeply mysterious about the nature of Reality, we live in a universe whose internal dynamics are geared toward the development of complex structures -- otherwise we wouldn’t be here at all! Mathematical Cosmologist Brian Swimme says: “This is the greatest discovery of the scientific enterprise: You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebushes, giraffes, and humans.” (https:// 
Emergence seems to be a synergy of the laws of the universe that allows for what systems biologist and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Stuart Kauffman calls “ceaseless and explosive creativity” under the right conditions. There is much that we don’t understand about it, and it is an exciting new frontier in science. Some would suggest that what we are coming to understand about emergent complexity defies the “reductionism” that has been a hallmark of scientific thought since Galileo and Newton.
And where might a concept of God fit in? For most of human history, people have seen a divine hand or some kind of animating intelligence behind the workings of our world and its creative properties. But the steady march of science has revealed a universe obedient to fixed natural laws and chaotically governed by chance. These days, most atheists will say that there is no reliable evidence for anything in or beyond the cosmos that can be called “God.” Meanwhile, newer movements in religion and spirituality, such as Pantheism, Panentheism and some Religious Naturalists, have sought to re-define God as something akin to nature itself, or the inherent creativity within it. 
oin us for an exploration of Emergence in a humanistic frame. We will try to understand this concept better, ask some questions to get at what is still mysterious, and grow our appreciation of nature’s awesome self-organizing dynamics.


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James Witker