Epic of evolution

narrative that blends religious and scientific views of cosmic, biological and sociocultural evolution in a mythological manner

In social, cultural and religious studies in the United States, the "epic of evolution" is a narrative that blends religious and scientific views of cosmic, biological and sociocultural evolution in a mythological manner.

Mythic narrative of the unfolding of the process of creation


  • "Epic of evolution" is a term that, within the past three years, has become the theme and title of a number of gatherings. It seems to have been first used by Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson in 1978.* "The evolutionary epic," Wilson wrote in his book On Human Nature, "is probably the best myth we will ever have." Myth as falsehood was not the usage intended by Wilson in this statement. Rather, myth as a grand narrative that provides a people with a placement in time—a meaningful placement that celebrates extraordinary moments of a shared heritage. The epic of evolution is science translated into meaningful story.
    • Connie Barlow, "The Epic of Evolution: Religious and cultural interpretations of modern scientific cosmology", Science & Spirit Magazine, February 1998.[1] (Note: Wilson was not the first to use it but his usage due to his Pulitzer fame, did prompt its usage as the morphed phrase epic of evolution.The first reference to the term is found in Chambers's Encyclopedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, 1892 , ("In Goethe’s epic of evolution") page 481)
  • A single tale of such holy and mysterious content as to capture the soul – scientific in its data, mythic in its form.
    • Jane Blewer - National Catholic Reporter, Feb 5,1993
  • a shared sacred story that honors both objective truth and subjective meaning: For the first time in human history we have a creation story that not only addresses life’s biggest questions—Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here? How are we to live?—but helps us answer those questions in ways that are both religiously inspiring and scientifically accurate. No longer are subjective meaning and objective truth isolated from one another in separate domains. Both are conveyed through the same story.
    • Michael Dowd, Reasons Why Nothing Matters More Than What We Think About Evolution [2]
  • How can the epic of evolution be told in a multitude of personally and collectively meaningful (mythic) ways, so that it inspires billions of human beings with different worldviews to really want, and then successfully manifest, this vision?
    • Michael Dowd - The Vision Project [3]
  • "epic of evolution" as the sacred unfolding of creation....
    • Sarah McFarland Taylor - Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology, Harvard University Press, 2007, page 266, ISBN 0674024400
  • I shall argue in the pages ahead that Darwin has gifted us with an account of life whose depth, beauty and pathos-when seem in the contest of the larger cosmic Epic of Evolution — exposes us afresh to the raw reality of the sacred and to a resoundingly meaningful universe … theologically interpreted, therefore, the Epic of Evolution is the story of the world's struggle – not always successful or linearly progressive — towards an expansive freedom in the pressure of self-giving grace … We can root our moral life in the cosmic Epic of Evolution in a manner that goes much deeper than that suggested by sociobiologists
    • John F. Haught, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, Westview Press, 2008, page 2, ISBN 0813343704
  • One can only speak of creation as a process because of the evidence of what often is called the 'epic of evolution': the whole sequence, as unveiled by a gamut of the sciences, from the origins of the universe to the 'hot big bang' to the arrival of homo sapiens on planet earth
  • The Epic of Evolution is our warp, destined to endure, commanding our universal gratitude and reverence and commitment... The Epic of Evolution is such a story, beautifully suited to anchor our search for planetary consensus, telling us of our nature, our place, our context. Moreover, responses to this story—what we are calling religious naturalism —can yield deep and abiding spiritual experiences. And then, after that, we need other stories as well, human-centered stories, a mythos that embodies our ideals and our passions.
    • Ursula Goodenough,The Sacred Depths of Nature, Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0195136292
  • The Epic of Evolution is the 14 billion year narrative of cosmic, planetary, life, and cultural evolution—told in sacred ways. Not only does it bridge mainstream science and a diversity of religious traditions; if skillfully told, it makes the science story memorable and deeply meaningful, while enriching one's religious faith or secular outlook.
    • "The Epic of Evolution" in the 2004 Taylor's Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature
  • The true evolutionary epic, retold as poetry, is as intrinsically ennobling as any religious epic.
    • Edward O. Wilson [4]
  • The theologian could rewrite the Epic of Evolution by expanding on the story told by the scientist. The theologian could declare that this evolutionary story has had a plot all along. When God created the world in the beginning, according to this option, God placed a potential into creation which now through evolution is becoming actualized.
    • Eugenie Carol Scott Evolution Vs. Creationism: An Introduction, University of California Press, 2005, page 235
  • This epic of evolution covers far more than the story of the evolution of biological life. It is the evolving tale of the creativity, complexity and emergence of new and novel phenomena that comprises all that is today
    • Epic of Evolution Information [5]
  • We can root our morality in the epic of evolution in a manner that goes much deeper than that suggested by sociobiologists
    • John F. Haught, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution

Published by Westview Press, 2008, page 141, ISBN 0813343704

  • When the responses elicited by the Epic of Evolution are gathered together several religious principles emerge that I can believe, serve as a framework for a global Ethos
  • The epic of evolution is an attempt at natural history, to be sure – telling the story of the universe, zooming from a macro-story to the micro-story of planet Earth and the human species
    • Philip Hefner - The Evolutionary Epic – Zygon, vol.44 #1, March 2009, page 3
  • The epic of evolution not only unifies the natural and social sciences; it bridges science and religion, fact and value, and it smoothly blends the scientifically objective with the culturally relative. The epic also addresses humanity’s most pressing questions. If as a species we are to understand and solve our common problems, if we are to guide our story’s unfolding, we need to understand, in the deep and human way that only story can convey, both our evolutionary past and our future options. We need the epic.
    • Russell Merle Genet - "The Epic of Evolution: A Course Developmental Project", Zygon, vol.33, #4, December 1998
  • In constructing what we are calling the epic of evolution we are thus taking up religious issues of the most fundamental sort, issues ultimately quite baffling and obscure and shrouded in mystery.
    • Gordon D. Kaufman - "The Epic of Evolution as a Framework for Human Orientation in Life", Zygon, vol. 32 #2, June 1997
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