One possible way to unify a big-history narrative is to use the theme of growing complexity in the universe. Stuart Kauffman studies complexity and self-organization; in particular, he believes that self-organization might play an important role in evolution, along with natural selection. He has recently written a book, Reinventing the Sacred, about his approach to moving away from a purely reductionist science and toward a science infused with meaning and even a sense of the sacred (a totally naturalistic sense, not a belief in a supernatural being). Kauffman talks about the book in this interview with Salon and has written an essay for Edge.org that’s excerpted from the book.
In the Salon interview, Kauffman says that having a shared sense of the sacred in nature might give the emerging global culture something to converge on (to counteract what he describes as a natural retreat into fundamentalism on the part of some people). This reminded me a bit of what David Christian said about a big-history narrative serving as a secular creation story. However, while what Christian said really resonated for me, Kauffman takes the idea much further, into places I’m not entirely comfortable with. For one thing, Christian noted that he wanted to draw a line between religion and what he was talking about with regard to big history, whereas Kauffman seems to be blurring that sort of line. (And I really don’t know what to think about his idea, mentioned in passing in the Salon interview, that there might be some connection between quantum physics and consciousness.) Still, he makes some good points and some provocative points, and I think the book will definitely be worth reading. (Anyone already read it and have any comments on it?)