The Institute for Theological Partnerships of the University of Winchester University in association with GreenSpirit presents:
The Universe Story: Understanding and Experiencing the Unfolding Story
A Conference at the University of Winchester
Friday 29th June – Sunday, 1st July 2018
Professor Jonathan Halliwell – Imperial College London
The Universe Story as a Modern Myth: A Physicist’s Perspective
Science, and physics in particular, has developed an extraordinarily elaborate and detailed picture of cosmology, from the big bang 14 billion years ago to the present day. We know very much about every stage of the universe, from its infancy, to the formation of galaxies, stars and planets, and through our knowledge of geology and biology we know a lot about the appearance of life and ultimately, of human beings. Science provides the very long sequence of logical connections which string together the events into what we call the history of the universe. But science has become so good at this that it has vastly outstripped our ability to truly grasp what all this means in human terms.
As a traditionally-trained scientist with an interest in personal development and a leaning towards the spiritual, I was particularly excited to discover a few years ago that many people from a number of different backgrounds are finding ways to rework the story of the universe into a potent mythological tale for our times, the Universe Story, thereby filling an important gap where conventional science alone remains silent. In this talk I will describe my experiences, from both a scientific and personal perspective, of exploring this fascinating area. I will cover some of the background science in simple terms, emphasizing the realms in which some modern scientific theories indicate the existence of realities very distant from ordinary human experience. I will also offer some general personal reflections on various aspects of Universe Story work, for example, why it supports our human need to feel more integrated into the cosmos, and how this sort of work fits into older philosophical and spiritual traditions.
About Jonathan Halliwell
Jonathan Halliwell is currently a Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London. A former PhD student of Stephen Hawking, one of his main research interests is quantum cosmology, which is the application of quantum theory, the theory of the very small, to the very early universe before the big bang, which gives a physical picture of how the universe actually started.
A few years ago, through interactions with Brian Swimme, one of the writers of the movie Journey of the Universe, and Jane Riddiford and colleagues at Global Generation, he became very interested in the Universe Story as a mythological framework which could provide a sense of place, purpose and inspiration in the education of young people. He has taken part in the creation and presentation of a number of educational events for young people, for example, The Universe Story: Our Story, a one day event at St James primary school, Kensington, in which children were invited to express their own relationship to the universe through writing, music, art and dance.
His thoughts on the role of story in science are described in an interview with Amnon Buchbinder, in the online documentary, Biology of Story.
His scientific webpage may be found at: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/j.halliwell
Biology of Story Website – Jonathan Halliwell