William Grassie

Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities

20032004 Forum on Belief

William Grassie

Executive Director, Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science

Biocultural Evolution in the 21st Century: The Evolutionary Role of Religions

A leader in the interdisciplinary and international dialogue between science and religion, Grassie is at work on a book-length study of the evolutionary phase in which human cultural processes begin to dominate the biological development of the planet. Grassie will try to expound upon the Lamarkian model of cultural evolution with a view to understanding "the evolutionary role of religions" in what might be called our contemporary "neo-biological civilization."

Grassie will begin by investigating how anthros has begun to shape bios through the alteration of planetary bioregions and genetic engineering and how information and systems theories can provide a model to describe the dynamics of cultural evolution. Noting the ambivalent moral character of our contemporary civic, scientific, and ethical choices, Grassie will then explore the inability of our moral system to deal with cultural processes of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics. Finally, Grassie will contemplate the evolutionary role of religion, which has become a mode of cultural expression and replication in shaping the interaction between moral systems and systems of economics, technology, and evolution. On the collective strength of these considerations, Grassie will conclude by predicting an ascendancy and power of faith in the 21st century as a means of coping with moral and existential uncertainty about our futures.