Connecting Castileblanco with the Cosmos
In August, artist and filmmaker Imogene Drummond had a solo show in Castilblanco, Spain, entitled “Connecting Castilblanco with the Cosmos.” It featured an interactive video installation in which people moved through the exhibit space and saw imagery of their local landscape mixed with the cosmos projected onto themselves.”
Yvonne Fritz originally studied civil engineering with a focus on traffic, water, environment. Later she turned her love for the English language into studying translation and became a state certified translator which enabled her also to teach English at her local folk high school in Meiningen, Germany. For that she acquired an adult education qualification. She has just started to introduce Big History there through an English course. Prospectively, she would like to teach Big History in German.
The political upheaval in East-Germany in 1989/90 was a major impact on her life. Being 17 at that time, she quickly had to learn how to manage life in a completely different kind of society without having role-models because her parents’ generation was going through the same experience at the same time.
Read about her responses to the 2018 IBHA conference.
The Emergent Universe Oratorio Soars
Read Steven Gorosh’ review of highlight of the performance of the “Emergent Universe Oratorio” on at the 2018 IBHA conference. Composer Sam Guarnaccia’s innovative and inspiring composition, ably performed by the Main Line Symphony Orchestra and Choir conducted by Don Liuzzi, and delivered in the beautiful St. Thomas of Villanova Church, combined to provide a memorable evening. Recordings of the concert are here.
Read why Bill Gates says that he has “long been a fan of David Christian. In Origin Story, he elegantly weaves evidence and insights from many scientific and historical disciplines into a single, accessible historical narrative.”
Applied Big History
Who should read William Grassie’s new book? Pretty much everybody. Big History is our common story—an origins story that transcends ethnic, political, religious, and linguistics differences. It provides a framework for understanding, debating, and solving the great challenges of our time. It provides an ennobling perspective on our lives, generating wonder, awe, amazement, and gratitude. The applied part of Big History impacts how we conceive every career and industry, every academic discipline and vocation, every problem and opportunity. Grassie’s book is unique in the field for exploring Big History as to its relevance to decision-making in business and finance.
2020 IBHA Conference
The 2020 IBHA conference in Pune, Maharastra, India at Symbiosis International University is our first conference in Asia. Please start making your plans to be with us at this exciting event!
Big History Meets the Montessori Method, by Lucy Laffitte
The North American Montessori Teachers Association hosted a conference in Cleveland, Ohio called “Montessori History: Searching for Evolutionary Scientific Truth.” Midway through the conference was a presentation called Big History. It proved to be a fruitful event as much post-presentation interaction between audience and presenter ensued. Here, then, is a distillation of what was presented: What is it; who is involved; where is it taught; how to get involved; and what Dr. Laffitte’s college students think about it.
Do Humans Have a Purpose on Earth? by James Tierney
A decade ago James Tierney would have said no to the question of a purpose for humanity. During the last decade, however, numerous scholars have observed that human culture drives a process through which our species is emerging as well as the habitat wherein we reside. He has been rethinking his answer.
Donna Tew | Office Coordinator
International Big History Association
c/o Lowell Gustafson
Villanova University University
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085 USA
The Emergent Universe Oratorio Composed by Sam Guarnaccia and performed by the Main Line Symphony Orchestra at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the campus of Villanova University as part of the 2018 International Big History Association Conference. (Higher quality Vimeo recordings are here.)
Issues of the Journal of Big History are available here.
God in Cosmic History: Where Science & History Meet Religion
by Ted Peters
Anselm Academic, Winona, Minnesota, 2017
New Cosmic Story: Inside Our Awakening Universe
by John F. Haught
Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 2017
Reviewed by Lowell Gustafson
Way back in 2010, I got to go to a seminar given by Walter Álvarez in Coldigioco, Italy. In 1981, Walter had discovered evidence that led to an explanation for the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs 65 million years ago. He found in the mountains just outside of Gubbio Italy a thin line of iridium, which is common in asteroids but uncommon on earth. As it turned out, a huge crater just off the coast of the Yucatan was later discovered. The Chicxulub Crater showed that an asteroid about 6 miles wide had hit the earth, causing first a firestorm – and also sending lots of debris up into the atmosphere, which caused a prolonged winter. This one / two punch did the dinosaurs in – not all a bad thing, since it gave mammals a chance to flourish and evolve into us. Below that line of iridium, the layer of rock shows lots of evidence of life forms. Just above it, it was mostly mud. It wasn’t just the dinosaurs that died off from the global disaster.
Anyway, after we went to the site outside of Gubbio, we had a few hours to walk around the town. I was completely taken by the architecture – and especially all the neat doors. It’s not original – I’m sure you’ve seen lots of other such collages, but ever since, I wanted to put together a poster with pictures from Gubbio. So here is my effort. It’s a big file, so it may take a while to download. Gubbio is worth the wait; my poster may or may not be.
|Big History seeks to understand the integrated history of the Cosmos, Earth, Life, and Humanity, using the best available empirical evidence and scholarly methods.
Beginning about 13.8 billion years ago, the story of the past is a coherent record that includes a series of great thresholds. Beginning with the Big Bang, Big History is an evidence-based account of emergent complexity, with simpler components combining into new units with new properties and greater energy flows.
In the first moments after the Big Bang, the universe is thought to have been so hot and dense that matter could only exist in the form of a soup of quarks and gluons. As the universe expanded and cooled, matter could take on new forms, including the first protons and neutrons, followed much later by neutral atoms. Though the early universe was almost perfectly uniform, slight non-uniformities existed from the beginning, and over cosmic time gravity has enhanced those non-uniformities, pulling matter from less dense regions into more dense regions. This has produced the large-scale structure of the universe that we see today, including galaxies, galaxy clusters, and superclusters.
Within galaxies, gravity causes the collapse of gas clouds to form stars, which combine atomic nuclei to produce heavier elements through nuclear fusion. Before the first stars formed, the universe contained only hydrogen, helium, and small amounts of lithium (created in the first minutes after the Big Bang, when the universe as a whole was still hot enough to sustain fusion). But massive stars create carbon, oxygen, and all manner of heavier elements through fusion all the way up to iron. When these stars run out of fuel and explode as supernovae, the huge amounts of energy released often allow for the formation of even heavier elements like gold, uranium, and others. The heavy-element-enriched gas propelled outward by a supernova mixes with pre-existing gas and dust clouds, which may then collapse under gravity’s influence to form second-generation stars. Because first-generation stars had created heavy elements, these were available for gravity to form rocky or terrestrial planets.
The formation of our own Sun and Earth took place about 4.6 billion years ago. The Solar System is located in one of the Milky Way’s outer spiral arms, known as the Orion Arm or Local Spur. We are between 25,000 and 28,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way galaxy, which consists of a few hundred billion stars. We are traveling around that center at a rate of about 220 kilometers per second, completing one revolution every 225- 250 million years. Over the past 4.6 billion years, the Earth has seen many chapters in its own history, with changes in atmosphere, the appearance and continual reformation of land masses through plate tectonics, and many other transformations.
Elements and molecules on the Earth formed various combinations in a process of chemical evolution. About 4 billion years ago, some of them formed membranes, gained access to additional chemicals and energy that became metabolism, and became able to reproduce with variation. What is called life then began its own highly uneven process of evolution, sometimes becoming more complex and diversified. Major transitions led to such features as cell nucleii, photosynthesis, intentional motion, multicellular specialization and cooperation, heads, backbones, four limbs, and many other features.
The rise of mammals following the extinction of dinosaurs some 65 million years ago led to the emergence of hominids. Eventually Homo sapiens emerged 200,000 years ago. Bipedal, largely hairless, large- brained, and with opposable thumbs, humans developed symbolic and imaginative language, inherited a social nature, and made ethics explicit.
Through our culture, humans shaped some of the natural forces from which we emerged. We added hunting to scavenging and gathering. Beginning about 70,000 years ago, we left our African home and migrated throughout the globe, crossing Beringia into the Americas some 20,000 years ago (though the precise date is still heavily debated). We formed bands, kinship groups, villages, chiefdoms, cities, nations, and empires. Our species crossed other major thresholds with the emergence of agricultural states, the burning of fossil fuels, and the recent entrance into an information-rich, digital era.
We have fought many wars among ourselves and brought about environmental degradation and resource depletion. These and other problems threaten the quality and even survival of our species. We face a current crisis and a possible loss of complexity. Over 99% of the species that have ever existed are now extinct. No complex species is likely to survive intact for more than a few million years; we will be lucky if we survive that long.
Does Big History provide a narrative that can help nurture the development of the empathy and cooperation that are part of our social nature? Can humans form a more perfect human community as we continue to create a more complex society than has existed before? Or will our current levels of social complexity face inexorable demise?
Whatever the answers to these questions, any species still surviving on Earth a few billion years from now would be well-advised to hop a spaceship to another solar system. Those still on Earth will face a much hotter sun. About 5 billion years from now, the Sun will run out of hydrogen fuel in its core and will grow into a red giant, evaporating the oceans and possibly engulfing the Earth. The Sun will eventually eject its outer layers, leaving behind its core, a white dwarf that will cool and fade over trillions of years. Meanwhile, other galaxies may keep racing away from our own Local Group of galaxies, perhaps leaving us with a sky devoid of the images of distant galaxies that have contributed so much to our understanding of the universe and the cosmic context of the Earth.