Essays

— The Book of —
Continuing Creation:
A Spiritual Path Based on Nature, Reason, and Science

Book Essays will be posted week-by-week, as they are written.  Each Essay stands alone, independent of the others; but you will want to read the INTRODUCTION and HOW TO READ THIS BOOK first (they are both very short), and then read the OVERVIEW.  The 27-page Overview presents all the major concepts in the Book of G>O>D>.   A list of all the eventual Essays appears in the right-hand column — titles of posted Essays are in bold; titles of Essays still being written are in not in bold.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF CONTINUING CREATION

This Overview of the Book of Continuing Creation, 27 pages long, captures most of the main ideas in this collection of Essays. It addresses the central role of Nature, processes of Complexity, Emergence, Evolution, Consciousness, Morality, Virtue, the Purpose of Life, Living a Fulfilled Life, Spirituality, Meditation, Problems in the Old Religions, God versus G>O>D>, the Big Bang, Mysteries in Science & in Mathematics, Overpopulation, Humanism, Process Theology, Love, Inspirational People from History, Postmodernism, Primal Spirituality, Suffering & Evil, Prayer, and Ceremonies & Symbols in the Practice of Continuing Creation.

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ANSWERING EVOLUTION’S CRITICS

This Essay answers common challenges posed by evolution’s opponents. These include: “The eagle’s eye is so complex, it must have been designed by a Creator.” “How can wondrous creatures come about by chance?” “There are too many gaps in the fossil record for evolution to be true.” “Why don’t we ever see evolution happen?” The fossil record does not reflect gradual change.” “The only evidence for evolution are long-dead fossils.” “If humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?” “Evolution can’t account for morality; morality was handed down by God.” “The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that evolution is impossible.”

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COMPLEXITY AND CONTINUING CREATION

Complex Systems are the full flowering of Continuing Creation here on Earth. Complex systems include crystalizing minerals, simmering water, tornadoes, a one-celled bacterium, bird flocks in flight, human bodies, the brain, bicycles with riders, money, governments, ecologies, religions, bodies of law, steel mills, computers, music, the Way of G>O>D> itself, and the entire universe it is creating. Why are Complex Systems vitally important to the Way of Continuing Creation?  Because they show how Continuing Creation itself takes place. Continuing Creation (which we also call The Way or Path of G>O>D>: The Growing> Organizing> Direction of the Cosmos) is itself a Complex System.  It both describes and is described by all the principles and processes we will talk about in this Essay. This Essay is where we peer into the mechanics of the one and only miracle of the universe, which is Continuing Creation of G>O>D>: The Growing> Organizing> Direction> of the Cosmos.  Understanding these natural processes dispels the need for us humans to weave fictional explanations involving magic and supernatural beings. We’ll start by describing a few examples of complex systems – a living thing (or things) called the slime mold, mineral crystal formation, simmering water, tornadoes, ant colonies, and free-market economies. For each one, we will mention a number of its important system properties and processes. Then we’ll talk more about why such systems are important for the Path of G>O>D>. We will go on to present additional examples of complex systems and discuss important general aspects of complexity in greater detail.

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CYBORGS, TRANSHUMANISM, and IMMORTALITY

This Essay will cover the ways is which the use of technology may change the minds and bodies of human beings over the next half-century. These technological avenues include better nutrition, treatment of disease, surgical repairs, artificial organs an …

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DEALING WITH DEATH ON THE PATH OF G>O>D>

Introduction Every religion and every spiritual path provides a way for followers to deal with death – the death of loved ones, and our own eventual deaths. While the Old Religions deal with Death by creating myths of heaven and reincarnation, the Spir …

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EVALUATING JESUS’ TEACHING

This Essay looks at the religion that Jesus taught while he was alive, as revealed by the Gospels and many decades of scholarship. (A later Essay looks at the supernatural religion that was created around Jesus after his death.) This present Essay answers questions including: How does Jesus’ teaching compare to the Spiritual Path of Continuing Creation? How many of the New Testament passages attributed to Jesus were actually his own words? Why did Jesus fail to teach Family Values? Should Followers of Jesus really give away all their possessions? Is it practical to Love our enemies? What did Jesus mean by “The Kingdom of God,” and how would it come about? Would people reach The Kingdom of God here on Earth, or only in Heaven after their deaths? What was Jesus’ greatest contribution to Western civilization? Did Jesus say he was the “Son of God, the Messiah, or The Son of Man,” and what do these three expressions each mean? Many Biblical scholars say that Jesus preached “Radical Social Leveling” and “Radical Sharing.” Are those also doctrines of Communism? How did Jesus regard and treat women? What did Jesus teach about the protecting Earth’s creatures and the environment?

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HOW TO READ THIS BOOK OF ESSAYS

This short one-page chapter provides tips on how to read Book of Continuing Creation. Chapters do not need to be read in order; each chapter can be read as an independent essay. Throughout the Book, the phrases, “Continuing Creation” and “G>O>D>: the Growing>Organizing>Direction of the Cosmos” are used interchangeably. We also briefly talk about updates, footnotes, and our dedication to freedom of religion.

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INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF CONTINUING CREATION

A short Introduction to the Book of Continuing Creation: The Growing>Organizing>Direction of the Cosmos.

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IS THIS BOOK FOR YOU?

Is the Book of Continuing Creation For You? If you can agree with at least 3 of the fifty very short statements in this Essay, then this Book is something you should read. Here are a few of those statements: 1. If you feel more spiritual when you look at a waterfall than when your Sunday preacher talks about “original sin”? 2. If you like to see a spiritual path that celebrates human creativity as much as it does human compassion? 3. If you agree that Jesus did NOT turn water into wine, but you agree that Thomas Edison DID invent the phonograph? 4. If you would you like to learn how a robust spiritual system can be based on Nature, Reason, and Science?

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LEADING A MORAL LIFE

This chapter lists the moral precepts of the Path of Continuing Creation. Since humanity’s traditional moral laws (such as “Do not murder another human being”) are hard-won products of our biological and social evolution, almost all of them are carried over to the Book of G>O>D>, with some adjustments. We also add a number of non-traditional moral precepts which are required for life in the Third Millennium. These include, “No one shall biologically father or mother more than two children;” “No one shall murder any creature, animal or plant, who is a member of a threatened or endangered species nor kill or harm any animal for food and clothing;” “Weave our lives into the Pattern of G>O>D>, and the Pattern of G>O>D> into tour lives;” and “Love and Care for our children.” Additional Chapters describe how to Lead a Virtuous Life, and How to Lead a Fulfilled and Happy life.

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LEADING A VIRTUOUS LIFE

This is an important Essay in the Book of Continuing Creation, because our Spiritual Path is action-oriented; and Virtue means pointing our actions along the same creative and constructive trajectory as taken by the Growing>Organizing>Direction itself. We present both our own List of Virtues, as well as a number of important historical Lists — Greek, Roman, Taoist, Christian, Buddhist, and Islamic. Remarkably, all the historical Lists are quite similar, proving that Virtue in Humans emerges naturally from our evolution as intelligent, social animals. Virtues are traits that enhance the process of cooperation. However, there are important cultural differences between the historical Lists. For example, Christian Virtues tend toward sharing and non-aggression, while Roman Virtues tend toward duty and assertiveness. Our own List of Virtues is well-suited to free and modern lives of creativity, learning, and constructive work. Our List also includes Virtues For the Environment.

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MATHEMATICS AND CONTINUING CREATION

Is mathematics the “language of God?” Or, as we will ask in this Book, “Is mathematics the language of G>O>D>?” We will discuss that at length, but one thing is certain:  knowing just a few things about mathematics can greatly augment our appreciation of G>O>D>: The Growing>Organizing>Direction of Continuing Creation. How does mathematics augment our appreciation of Continuing Creation? By showing us the logical steps that create the Patterns we describe in our sister-Essay, Patterns in Continuing Creation. Those logical steps are described in the language of mathematics.  Mathematics can also describe the processes by which forces move and assemble matter that we describe in our Essay, Physics and Continuing Creation.

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OVERPOPULATION THREATENS CONTINUING CREATION

This chapter lists the moral precepts of the Path of Continuing Creation. Since humanity’s traditional moral laws (such as “Do not murder another human being”) are hard-won products of our biological and social evolution, almost all of them are carried over to the Book of G>O>D>, with some adjustments. We also add a number of non-traditional moral precepts which are required for life in the Third Millennium. These include, “No one shall biologically father or mother more than two children;” “No one shall murder any creature, animal or plant, who is a member of a threatened or endangered species nor kill or harm any animal for food and clothing;” “Weave our lives into the Pattern of G>O>D>, and the Pattern of G>O>D> into tour lives;” and “Love and Care for our children.” Additional Chapters describe how to Lead a Virtuous Life, and How to Lead a Fulfilled and Happy life.

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PATTERNS OF INFORMATION — HOW G>O>D> WORKS

“If there is no difference, there is no information. If everything is black, “Black” has no meaning. In computer machine language there is no information until there is at least one “1” in a field of “0’s”. So differences create information. When the stars fuse hydrogen atoms into the 92 heavier elements (e.g., oxygen, carbon, and gold), tremendous amounts of new information are created, since all the elements are different from each other. Elements combine to make compounds, and compounds combine to make living things. At each step, differences and information are added, producing organization, pattern, and complexity. This Chapter goes on to discuss boundaries, frames-of-reference, self-similarity, quasi-crystals, Penrose Tiles, and the emergence of “Meaning.” Also — can information exist without perception? Can there be Creation without Destruction? Why is the idea of “Non-duality” a false path for Followers of G>O>D>?”

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SUFFERING AND EVIL – CAUSES & RESPONSES

The main question of this Chapter is, “How can God be completely good when suffering and evil exist in the world?” Humans do not suffer because Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Suffering results from natural disasters, and from the evolved violent competition between species and individual creatures. Germs assault Humans because the germs seek to eat and reproduce. Ants, chimpanzees, and Humans make war on members of their own species who live in other “tribes.” In addition to physical suffering, Humans also endure psychic suffering such as depression and anxiety, because our advanced minds are able to relive old experiences and foresee new ones. This Chapter looks at physical and mental strategies for combatting suffering. These include physically fixing the source of the suffering; and mentally moderating the experience of suffering in our minds. Evil occurs in Humans when they violate moral standards, usually with intent. Evil likely stems from survival and reproductive impulses that an offender’s mind has repeatedly twisted and magnified out of control. This Chapter also asks: Is death “suffering?” Is war evil? Is suicide evil? Does free will require existence of suffering and/or evil?

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WHY RADICAL SHARING & UNIVERSAL LOVE DON’T WORK

Jesus exhorts his followers to “Sell all your possessions and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), but this doctrine of “Radical Sharing” is highly impractical. If all the world’s wealth were evenly distributed among all the world’s people, everyone would poor. To further cultural and technological Creation, much Humanity’s wealth must be invested, and to be invested it must first must be concentrated. We all know that “it is better to teach people to fish than to give them all your fish.” Jesus exhorts everyone to “hate father and mother, wife and children (Luke 14:25-26 and 33), but our Human biological evolution rightly insists that we must love and provide for our families first and foremost. Without the anchor of families, all civilization is lost. And rather than share all wealth among all people, we must devote considerable resources to saving other species and their ecosystems, in order to preserve Humanity’s very existence on the Earth.

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  1. See: https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/02154-Medicare-Hospice-Benefits.PDF.
  2. Bruce W. Frier, "More is Worse: Some Observations on the Population of the Roman Empire,” in Walter Scheidel, Debating Roman Demography, 2001, Brill pp. 144-145.
  3. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN.
  4. Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt, pp. 1-2.
  5. “If Humans Were Built to Last,” Sci Am, 2003, updated from March 2001, by S. Jay Olshansky, Bruce A. Carnes and Robert N. Butler,
  6. G. Ermak, “Emerging Medical Technologies,” 2015, World Scientific, ISBN 978-981-4675-81-9. See also Eugene  H. Kaji, “Gene and Stem Cell Therapies, 02-07-2001, JAMA. 285 (5). doi:10.1001/jama.285.5.545. ISSN 0098-7484.
  7. “Gene Therapy Clinical Trials Worldwide Database,” The Journal of Gene Medicine, June 2016, Wiley.
  8. Javier Z. Arracina, “A Simple Guide to CRISPR, Vox, 6/23/2018. https://www.vox.com/2018/7/23/17594864/crispr-cas9-gene-editing.
  9. Aparna Vidyasagar, “What Is CRISPR,” LiveScience, 4/20/18, https://www.livescience.com/58790-crispr-explained.html.
  10. Paraphrased from Dr. Aparna Vidyasagar, “What Is CRISPR,” LiveScience, 4/20/18, https://www.livescience.com/58790-crispr-explained.html,
  11. Sally Lehrman, "No More Cloning Around," Scientific American, July, 2008. See also, K.H. Campbell; J. McWhir; W.A. Ritchie; I. Wilmut, "Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line, 1996, Nature. 380 (6569): pp 64–6.
  12. Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, 1974, Bantam Books, p. 114.
  13. Randall Hansen and Desmond King, "Eugenic Ideas, Political Interests and Policy Variance Immigration and Sterilization Policy in Britain and U.S.",1/1/2001, World Politics. 53 (2): 237–263. doi:10.1353/wp.2001.0003. JSTOR 25054146. See also, "Sterilization of Unfit Advocated – Feeble-minded Increasing at Disproportionate Rate in Canada – Case for Ungenics," The Montreal Gazette, 11/14/1933. Retrieved 10/19 2017 – via News.Google.com.
  14. Alex Reis, Breton Hornblower, Brett Robb, and George Tzertzinis, "CRISPR/Cas9 and Targeted Genome Editing: A New Era in Molecular Biology," 2014, NEB Expressions. New England Biolabs. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  15. R. Merkle, "The Technical Feasibility of Cryonics," Medical Hypotheses, 1992, Elsevier. 39 (1): pp. 6–16. See also B. Wowk, "The Future of Death,” Journal of Critical Care, 2014, Elsevier. 29 (6): pp. 1111–1113.
  16. Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth, The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt and Company, pp. 225-233..
  17. Nick Lane, (biochemist and Provost’s Venture Research Fellow at University College London), Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, 2009, W.W. Norton, pp. 267-274.
  18. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1989, Oxford University Press.
  19. Michael Shermer, Ibid., p. 225.
  20. Paraphrased from Nick Lane, Ibid., pp. 272-274
  21. Haider Javed Warraich, “What Our Cells Teach Us About a ‘Natural’ Death,” The Stone, 3/13/2017.
  22. Andrew Lewis, Baylor College of Medicine, https://www.researchgate.net/post/Are_all_cancers_truly_immortal.
  23. Carl Zimmer, “The ‘Zombie Gene’ That May Protect Elephants from Cancer,” New York Times, 8/18/2018.
  24. Joseph Carvalko, The Techno-human Shell-A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap, 2012, Sunbury Press. ISBN 978-1-62006-165-7.
  25. Nick Bostrom, "A History of Transhumanist Thought" (PDF). Journal of Evolution and Technology, 2005, Retrieved 2/21/2006. See also, Calvin Mercer and Tracy Trothen eds., Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement, 2015, Praeger See also, Joseph Carvalko, Ibid.
  26. Per wmbriggs.com/post 19677, quoting Yuval Harari.
  27. Annalee Newitz, "Can Futurism Escape the 1990s?" Retrieved 11/18/2008. https://io9.gizmodo.com/5067829/can-futurism-escape-the-1990s.
  28. Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-organization and Complexity, 1995, Oxford University Press, p.182.
  29. Paraphrased from Lewis Page, “Earth-like Planets Orbit Stars Within 30 Light-years,” posted to Space, 2-28-2012, www.space.com. See also the “List of Potentially Habitable Exoplanets,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_potentially_habitable_exoplanets 
  30. Coral Davenport, “Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040,” New York Times, 10/7/2018.
  31. Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity,1995, Oxford University Press, pp. 180-183.
  32. "the definition of death," Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  33. Leda Zimmerman, Leda (19 October 2010). "Must all Organisms Age and Die?," 10/19/2010, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering. Archived from the original on 11/1/2100.  Retrieved 2/9/2018.
  34. Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy--and Why They Matter, 2010, New World Library, ISBN 9781577313489. See also "The Depths of Animal Grief — NOVA Next | PBS". NOVA Next. 7/8/2015. Retrieved 8/4/2017.
  35. Elliot Hannon,“Vanishing Vultures a Grave Matter for India’s Parsis,” All Things Considered, 9/5/2012. https://www.npr.org/2012/09/05/160401322/vanishing-vultures-a-grave-matter-for-indias-parsis
  36. See “Burial and Cremation Laws in ______” (fill in name of a state), https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/burial-cremation-laws-oregon.html.
  37. Epicurus, as reported by Cicero, Marcus Tullius. "II.82". De finibus bonorum et malorum. ISBN 3-519-01219-7.  See also "Epicurus (c 341-270 BC)". British Humanist Association. https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/the-humanist-tradition/the-ancient-world/epicurus/.
  38. Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, 2012, Pantheon / Random House, pp. 248-273.
  39. Michael Shermer, The Believing Brain, 2011, St. Martin’s Griffin.
  40. Albert Einstein, obituary in New York Times, April 19, 1955.  See also Albert Einstein, The World As I See It, 2014, Snowball Publishing.
  41. Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, 2001, Basic Books (Perseus Group), p. 207.
  42. Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, 2001, Basic Books (Perseus Group), p. 227. See also Boyer’s book, Mexico’s Day of the Dead).
  43. Robert Garland, The Greek Way of Death, 1985, Second edition 2001, Cornell University Press, pgs. 1 and 12.
  44. Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, 2001, Basic Books (Perseus Group), p. 207.
  45. Chip Rowe, “Richard Dawkins: Interview (2012),” online at Scraps From the Left, Accessed 8/31/2018.  https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2018/01/02/richard-dawkins-playboy-interview-chip-rowe/.
  46. G. Steinsland & P. Meulengracht Sørensen, 1998, Människor och Makter i Vikingarnas Värld. ISBN 91-7324-591-7. Referenced in “Death in Norse Paganism,” Wikipedia, Accessed 8-31-2018.
  47. James A. Michener, Centennial, a novel, 1974, Penguin Random House.
  48. Michael Shermer,  Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt (Macmillan) p. 52.
  49. W. E. Bedore, ThD., “What Does the Old Testament Say about Hell and Why is it Mentioned? Quora, 2-14-17.
  50. The illustration of the "River of Blood (Phlegethon), in Hell:  Florentine, ca. 1390-1400. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, MS lat. 4776. Dante and Virgil observe the centaurs shooting the tyrants in Phlegethon. Charles S. Singleton (Inferno XII)
  51. “Pope Francis and Hell,” National Catholic Reporter, April 3, 2018.
  52. Reinhold Niebuhr, “The Serenity Prayer.” See Fred R. Shapiro, “Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer,” 4/28/2014, The Chronicle Review.
  53. Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt (Macmillan).
  54. Damien Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 2004. See also Huston Smith, The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, 1991, Harper Collins, p. 113.
  55. “Pure Land Buddhism,” Encyclopedia Britannica. www.britannica.com/topic/Pure-Land-Buddhism.
  56. Birmingham Museum of Art (2010). Birmingham Museum of Art: Guide to the Collection. London, UK: GILES. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5. Archived from the original on 2011-09-10. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  57. A. Sleutjes; A. Moreira-Almeida, B. Greyson, B (2014). "Almost 40 years investigating near-death experiences: an overview of mainstream scientific journals". J. Nerv. Ment., Dis. 202: pp.833–6. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000205. PMID 25357254.
  58. Olaf Blanke, The Neurology of Consciousness, 2009, Academic Publishers, London, pp. 303–324. ISBN 978-0-12-374168-4. See also Christopher C. French, "Near-death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors," 1/1/2005, Progress in Brain Research. 150: 351–367. doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(05)50025-6. PMID 16186035.
  59. Steven Laureys, Giulio Tononi, The Neurology of Consciousness: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropathology, 2009, Academic Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-12-374168-419. See also A. Vanhaudenhuyse, M. Thonnard, and S. Laureys, "Towards a Neuro-scientific Explanation of Near-death Experiences," in Jean-Louis Vincent, Yearbook of Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (PDF), 2009, Springer Berlin Heidelberg. ISBN 978-3-540-92276-6.
  60. Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth: the Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt, pp. 73-74.
  61. Beverly P. Stearns and S.C. Stearns, and Stephen C. Stearns, Watching, from the Edge of Extinction, Yale University Press, 2000, p. preface. ISBN 978-0-300-08469-6. See also Michael J. Novacek, "Prehistory's Brilliant Future," New York Times, 11/8/2104.
  62. “Microbes Eat Rocks and Leave Carbon Dioxide,” Science, 4/13/2018.
  63. Ari Shapiro interviewing Nora Besansky, “Mosquitoes: What Are The Good For,”? All Things Considered on NPR, 2-19-16.
  64. Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity,1995, Oxford University Press, p.181.
  65. Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt and Company, p. 70.
  66. Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt and Company, p. 70.
  67. , Hope Jahren, Lab Girl, Vintage Books, 2016, p. 166.
  68. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, 2011, Penguin Books.