Nancy Ellen Abrams is a philosopher of science, lawyer, former lecturer at the University of California Santa Cruz, and author of A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet (Beacon Press, 2015). This book offers what may be the first coherent big picture that integrates science, spirituality, and politics for a flourishing scientific global civilization. It proposes a radical and fertile new way of thinking about God in light of undeniable and growing knowledge about the universe, the human brain, and the perilous state of our world. A God That Could Be Real won the 2015 USA Best Book Award in philosophy, and Abrams has begun giving workshops about how to bring this huge new perspective alive in everyday life.
She is also co-author, with renowned cosmologist Joel R. Primack, of two books that interpret the place of human beings in the new scientific picture of the universe: The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos (2006) and The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World (2011). This second one was based on the prestigious Terry Lectures at Yale University, which Abrams and Primack presented in 2009. They have together given over 100 talks about their work and won the Chopra Foundation's "Spirit of Rustum Roy Award" in 2012 for “contributions to consciousness and to creating a peaceful, just, sustainable, and healthy world.” At the University of California, Santa Cruz, she and Primack created and taught a course called "Cosmology and Culture," which won awards from both the Templeton Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Much of the controversy surrounding the books by Abrams and Primack arises from the question of whether the serious cutting-edge science they present -- which has been universally praised for its accuracy and clarity -- should be combined with interpretation of what these discoveries might mean to an emerging global culture, but Abrams argues that a change in cosmology has historically always led to a huge cultural shift, and if those who understand the new cosmology don’t explain this, those who don’t understand it are likely to misappropriate its power, and the enormous social benefits of learning to think cosmically may be lost.
As an attorney who has specialized in scientific controversies and consulted for several governments here and abroad, Abrams has worked in science policy for a trans-European environmental think tank in Rome, the Ford Foundation, and the former Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, where she invented Scientific Mediation. This is a method that lets government agencies or courts make the smartest decision possible in the face of underlying scientific uncertainty, and she has consulted on this for the Swedish government and several US states. Her more political writing has appeared in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Environment, California Lawyer, and Science and Global Security. She and Primack have also co-written articles that have appeared in Science, Astronomy Now, Philosophy in Science, Science & Spirit, Spirituality and Health, and Tikkun.
In many countries smart, dedicated people have already figured out effective things we could do today to drastically slow or even halt climate change, yet collectively we’re not doing them. Instead we’re barreling down traditional paths toward self-destruction. Why? Cynics answer that humanity is doomed because we evolved only to respond to short term problems; however, consciousness is not limited by evolutionary characteristics but by ignorance and political and social pressures. I propose that the reason follows from Einstein’s insight that no fundamental problem can ever be solved on the same level at which it arose. The new picture of the universe emerging from modern cosmology, which I will explain, presents an enormous opportunity to expand our consciousnesses to see Earth and its problems from a cosmic perspective and meet Einstein’s criterion for discovering fundamental solutions. Consciousness that is accurately cosmic in scale reveals what is truly at stake and what it means to be human at this pivotal moment in history.
A new picture of the universe based on dark matter and dark energy is now accepted by almost all astronomers worldwide, yet few people have thought through or even recognize the potential implications for our lives of expanding our consciousness to encompass this newly discovered reality. I will suggest three: it changes our understanding of what it means to be human, changes our approach to wealth inequality, and even changes the meaning of the concept of “God”.
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