This is the first of several questions LionKimbro will be uploading, that he has, and gnaws on, about Evolutionary Spirituality.

  • How do we explain the importance of language to skeptical atheists?

I was talking about Evolutionary Spirituality on a mailing list, and the greatest opposition by far came from (what I will call) classical atheists.

So, how do we explain what this means, to people who are deeply skeptical and cautious? I've tried explaining, about how the subjective world influences the outer world, and how the choice of symbols actually has tangible results, and so on, but there's something wrong with how I'm explaining it. They just aren't seeing it. So how do you explain this concept and get it across?

One response, going meta: How incredibly cool, that evolution has resulted in even the illusion (if it is) that there is such a thing as meaning? Another avenue to pursue - share (or ask them) what happens when someone says, "I love you." ?
An alternate question (to how to explain yourself) would be - how do we listen to the skepticism? E.g. "Ah, so you want to be sure we're not fooling ourselves?" The more general inquiry i'm pointing at here is what is the evolutionary response to their skepticism? My hope in that direction lies in connecting with the beautiful subjective humanity of their response, followed by the most vulnerable. --John Abbe
  • How do we understand the specialness of all individuals, in the Evolutionary Spirituality context?

Scientific / atheistic language tends to consider individuals as something like sociological number, or as a helpless bit of flesh, meandering from organization to organization, or as a case study, or any other of a number of unflattering things.

Religion, on the other hand, says that the individual is akin to an Angel, or a Son of God, an immortal Soul, and so on.

How can Evolutionary Spirituality, then, answer the question: "What makes each individual special?" ...recognizing that implicit in the statement is the question is a constructive statement: "Individuals are special." ("Constructive statement:" If individuals are not special, we will endeavor to MAKE them so, or help them to be so, if that is what they would like to be, whatever special may mean.)

I've been casting around for answers to this question for a while now. The most obvious answer is: "Well, you are the universe incarnate." This rides on top of appreciation for the universe itself. This answer works "okay" or "so-so," but then I find myself back in sociological numbers, and then a sort of negative scientism-feeling conception of the human being.

I have recently had an epiphany though: Look to the natural magic of the human potential movement. The human potential movement has a long history of naturalistic language and scientific engagement (if pseudo-scientific at times) that was put to hard use to communicate specialness, possibility, and capability within the human.

So it seems to me that we should look to the human potential movement, as a genre and a class of thought, to find our seed ideas that are able to answer the question, "What makes each individual special?"

Evolutionary Spirituality would then be a movement of aspiration, interest, love, knowledge, and motion, rather than a wishing / waiting for doomsday or death.

  • What is significance?

...and what is significant? Both questions, on a personal & cosmic scale. How do we understand our personal significance within the evolutionary story? Both to ourselves, to the universe, and to our society?

  • When we're hit down, what can keep us up?
  • What is an awe-inspiring picture of the Universe we live in?

And is there a plan, a future, a heaven worth striving for on Earth? (and beyond?)

  • What life affirming models exist, and what conventional models exist, of the interplay between the real and the ideal?

Ideal as achievable goal, ideal as motivator, ideal as tease, ideal as foundation, ideal as madness, ideal as fountain of existence.

Riffing on this and language, utopia means literally "no place" so if you want to talk about achievable visions you might try topia.
More usefully, something i came to a long time ago is that i want to accept everything, just as it is (aka, being with reality), and want to make things better (having some ideal or at least seeing some possibility and working to make it real). Breathing is a metaphor for this - in breath is active, some effort to nudge things in some direction. Out breath is relaxing, accepting whatever results from the action, if anything. A slightly more complex model that includes this and more is Angeles Arrien's four-fold way [1], drawn from anthropological study of many cultures.

Thanks, John. :) What do you think of the Evolutionary Spirituality program, as a whole? What do you think will come out of it? LionKimbro

I believe it can and perhaps will reach easily to a large network people and will then slow way down (many of the ideas, and both of those words "evolution" and "spirituality" are major turn-offs for many people). The challenge then will be to keep it open to allying with others' work in the same direction even if their framing is different, and not have it turn into a new us/them. --John Abbe
  • What maps can we construct of the historical roots of Evolutionary Spirituality?
    • What are the kinds of roots to Evolutionary Spirituality?

I'm immediately thinking of Osamu Tezuka, the Russian Cosmists, Teilhard de Chardin, ...

An example of a "kind:" Language that venerates the natural world.

  • How can scientists communicate their understandings in a way that makes sense to people? If it's not the job of scientists to do so, who's job is it?

See also: Washington Post: Thanks for the Facts. Now sell them.

Scientists have traditionally communicated with the rest of us by inundating the public with facts; but data dumps often don't work. People generally make up their minds by studying more subtle, less rational factors. In 2000 Americans didn't pore over explanations of President Bush's policies; they asked whether he was the kind of guy they wanted to have a beer with.
  • What are the key questions to get conventional scientists or atheists asking, that will help them to understand the nature of Evolutionary Spirituality, it's need, and how science is failing people?
  • What are the key questions to get religious people thinking about Evolutionary Spirituality?