As a sexagenarian any conversation that doesn’t include current health complaints is a blessing and worth my time. A rather bright friend and I were recently engaged in a theological discussion. Now don’t let that last phrase chase you away. In any case, he gently placed the proposition before me that there is no outside to the universe, no transcendence, no God, no supernatural beyond the natural. He has good reason for this stance.
And though I am a religious person, I have no difficulty with this proposition. I did however offer a counter-position in that, though there may be no outside to the universe, I fervently believe there is an inside; an interiority, a subjectivity, in ancient days known as anima mundi or the Soul of the World.
The intelligent design (ID) debate is typically posited within a framework of Creator outside the universe (Intelligent Design) or no Creator outside the universe (evolution). The reasoning for ID that I most often hear is that when we look around and see such an intricate and complex design then obviously, common sense moves us toward a Cosmic Designer. For evolutionary biologists, a Creator is not necessary for the universe to be here only natural selection.
The root assumption beneath both these positions however holds to a model of cosmos as so much “stuff,” living organisms without interiority and lifeless matter available to be molded as potter to clay and operating mechanically in the manner of Newton’s clockwork universe. Matter tends to be viewed as inert and/or stupid, entirely without meaning, soul, or interiority.
A slightly different, more organismic slant imagines cosmos as living being, found in ancient Neoplatonic thinking and in the modern Gaia hypothesis put forth by Lovelock and Margolis a few decades back. I suggest that for Buddhist, Taoist, various indigenous, ancient quarters and the edgiest perspectives in contemporary biology and physics, the issue of ID versus evolution is a non issue. These models imply no separation between Creator and Creation and that the universe is self-creating, self-organizing, self-sustaining, and self- transforming in continuous process.
The cosmos then is self-designed. We live in an intelligent universe. We are a particular expression of cosmic life. This is extremely hard for many people to wrap their heads around because we are culturally indoctrinated (both religiously and scientifically) to view the world as Other, a huge supply of resources and commodities for our use and stewardship without intrinsic life and value except as assigned by humanity. In the history of humanity, soul was withdrawn from everything except our species. We imagine humanity as the crown of creation rather than one species among many, interpenetrating and interdependent upon each other.
When the universe was de-animated in the Age of Enlightenment by the new Western worldview, we became increasingly separated from the natural world. Indeed, even estranged from ourselves, the medieval Great Chain of Being was fractured and modernity began.
The organismic model of the universe is entirely consistent with astrological thinking and I would encourage those seeking more information consider reading The Death of Nature by Carolyn Merchant, The Self-Organizing Universe by Erich Jantsch, The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry, Journey of the Universe by Swimme and Tucker, Where the Wasteland Ends by Roszak, The Archetypal Cosmos by LeGrice, and The Sacred Depths of Nature by Goodenough.
Wishing you curiosity.