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Rebirth of the SacredScience, Religion, and the New Environmental Ethos$
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Robert Nadeau

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199942367

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199942367.001.0001

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The New Story in Biology: Parts and Wholes in the Web of Life

The New Story in Biology: Parts and Wholes in the Web of Life

(p.62) Chapter 4 The New Story in Biology: Parts and Wholes in the Web of Life
Rebirth of the Sacred

Robert L. Nadeau

Oxford University Press

In July of 1969 the Apollo 11 spacecraft emerged from the dark side of the moon and the on-board camera panned through the vast emptiness of outer space. Against the backdrop of interstellar night hung the great ball of earth, with the intense blue of its oceans and the delicate ochres of its landmasses shimmering beneath the vibrant and translucent layer of its atmosphere. In the shock of this visual moment, distances between us contracted; boundaries and borders ceased to exist. But the impression that sent the adrenaline flowing through my veins was that the teeming billions of organisms writhing about under the protective layer of the atmosphere were not separate—they were interdependent, fluid, and interactive aspects of the one organic dance of the planet’s life. The preceding paragraph, an entry form my diary written a few days after images of the whole earth first appeared on television, cannot be classed as scientific analysis. But it is entirely consistent with what the new story of science has revealed about the relationship between human and environmental systems in biological reality. The large problem here is that the political and economic narratives that now serve as the basis for coordinating global human activities are premised on scientifically outmoded assumptions about this relationship in the old story of classical physics. And this problem is further complicated by the fact that the view of this relationship that is still widely viewed as scientific in Darwin’s theory of evolution is also premised on these scientifically outmoded assumptions. Darwin went public with his theory for the first time in a paper presented to the Linnean Society in 1848. This paper begins with the following sentence: “All nature is at war, one organism with another, or with external nature.” In The Origins of Species , Darwin is more specific about the character of this war: “There must be in every case a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life.”

Keywords:   DNA, life, Linnean Society, carnivores, competition, competition for resources, African Savanna, computer systems, climate models, fossil record, energy of sun, genetic inheritance, Mendel, geopolitical reality, modern synthesis, biology, sovereign nation-states, spontaneous self-organization, sun, energy, symbiotic alliances, organisms

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