Tucker on ‘Our Place in the Universe’

BY ELLA KIRBY

St. Norbert College began its second half of the 2014-2015 Killeen Chair Lecture Series on the theme of “Science and Religion: Rejecting a False Dichotomy” by hosting Mary Evelyn Tucker, a senior research scholar from Yale University, on Feb. 11-12.

The first event took place on Wednesday, Feb. 11. It was the screening of the film “Journey to the Universe” starring Brian Thomas Swimme as he explores the wonders of our world.

On Thursday, Feb.12, Tucker accompanied the film with her talk, “Living Within the Universe Story,” and delved further into the importance of the universe. Both events took place in Fort Howard Theater and were open to both St. Norbert students and the public, and the discussion received a large turnout.

Professor Tucker posed the great philosophical questions of “Where do we come from? Why are we here? And what is our role in this very large process?”

Widespread environmental destruction is caused by a number of issues. “We know that the obstacles to the flourishing of life, of its ecosystems and to sustainable development are considerable,” stated Tucker.

We are now living in an “anthropocene” state, which means “the age of the human,” according to Tucker. In many ways, our infrastructure, agriculture and societal needs conflict and overwhelm many of the ecosystems we share home with on this planet.

“The future of evolution, which species are going to live and the flourishing of each water system are pretty much in our hands,” stated Tucker.

In order to make the best out of this change, we as humans need to expand our values and how we perceive the world. We have had the pleasure of watching evolution progress and how we intertwine into this process.

“Our growing knowledge of evolution continues to give us a sense of the whole.” said Tucker.

Humans, in comparison to the world, are young. While the earth’s age is currently standing at 4.54 billion years, Homo sapiens date back to only 200,000 years ago. This helps put into context the sheer vastness of our universe and how new we are within it.

The first photograph of the earth was taken in 1966, and the population of the world was able to gaze at the planet from space in its entirety for the first time ever. With this photo came a newfound sense of belonging and was a crucial moment in the history of the human race. Our freedom is not that of the individual but the freedom of the collective and our responsibility towards the earth and our biosphere.

“Life now has to include not just human life, but the life of all the earth,” stated Tucker.

In this modern era, we are transitioning from taking away and moving towards giving something back to the earth, a re-birth of the natural civilization. This change is viewed through the thousands of world organizations whose goals are to recreate the sustainability that was lost or is being threatened. They range from local, national, international and biosphere.

There are times in which one needs to take a step back to view the larger picture. We are now in an environmental crisis. Although we are some of the last beings to come into form within the universe, we are preventing the futures of others.

“If we are so radically affecting the story but extinguishing other life forms and destroying our own nests, what does this imply about our ethical sensibilities or sense of the sacred?” asked Tucker. “We are the universe, reflecting on itself.”

To learn how to better take care of our universe, we need the understanding that comes from science. At the same time, we also need to reflect on this universe story, which is something that religion can help us with.

Professor Tucker ended her lecture by stating “This story is giving us a sense of our common evolutionary heritage, and the challenge is how humans can become a naturally enhancing presence for the earth community.”

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