Spiral: a Metanexus form and metaphor for communication, process, and impact in the science and religion dialogue

Spiral: a Metanexus form and metaphor for communication, process, and impact in the science and religion dialogue

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What’s going on…?

In November, Metanexus released the first issue of our interim publication, Where’s My Spiral? It had been a while since you had received a Spiral (newsletter) and, while we were busy overhauling our website and our publications, we thought you would like to know why you hadn’t heard from us about the exciting changes you can anticipate from us in the months ahead. As we mentioned, this evolving publication will go through some progressive mutations. Thus, now that you know where your Spiral is, this new issue will attempt to tell you what this publication is—and what it is evolving to become.

What’s My Spiral strives to tell you about our larger goals and objectives, particularly in the context of how Metanexus communicates with you. But first, we’d like to answer the question: Why “spirals”? The spiral is perhaps one of the most ancient and generic religious symbols, appearing in cave paintings and rock carvings. The spiral is also representative of many scientific principles apparent in the natural world: the spiral-shaped shell of the chambered nautilus, the shimmering arms of a spiral galaxy. As such, the spiral is a symbol at the nexus of science and religion.

Merriam-Webster defines a spiral as “the path of a point in a plane moving around a central point while continuously receding from or approaching it.” Beyond the religious and natural significance of spirals is this meaning of turning inward and outward from a center. Metanexus’ mission, dedicated to the constructive engagement of religion and science, is carried out with a sort of spiraling progression, bringing our Metanexus family closer as we simultaneously move outward to expand our community with new voices and new ideas.

Finally, another definition of spiral is: “of or relating to the advancement to higher levels through a series of cyclical movements.” The choice of the spiral for Metanexus also signifies our aspiring to “higher levels” through the back-and-forth, “cyclical” movements of dialogue and intellectual endeavor. At its best, the engagement of science and religion is not a conflict but an opportunity for all to expand their horizons.

What’s My Spiral? also means telling you a bit about where Metanexus is and where we are heading. All the technological and programmatic changes, upgrades, and retooling that have been going on in the last two years at Metanexus have been geared toward a rethinking of Metanexus around how we can better acquaint our current and future audience with our offerings and mission. This includes a “blended media” approach to our website, projects, and publications. In the past, Metanexus has viewed our print and online publications as quite distinct and separate. Similar separations have existed between our online magazine and our website, between our institution and our global network, and between our many research programs. Moving forward, Metanexus plans to erase many of these lines, developing a more holistic and highly accessible, functional approach to offering new insights in science and religion to a broad audience eager for this engagement

Our first attempt at blended media took place when, in early January 2003, Metanexus launched the second major release of Metanexus.net. A major goal of this new site was to blur the lines between our online magazine and our institution. Rather than give the impression that Metanexus was first an institution and second a magazine, we wanted to blend the magazine into the organization, moving more toward a model where Metanexus can be understood as a web portal for science and religion content.

Our second major transformation is what you are reading right now. These new interim publications are part of our efforts to fully integrate our many initiatives. Most immediately, the older print Spiral newsletter with full text articles, a calendar of events, and updates on the Institute has evolved into an introductory broadsheet (this piece) that will provide summaries of articles, events, research programs, membership initiatives, and other announcements and offerings available online at www.metanexus.net. The Metanexus Digest will continue to offer monthly updates for “what’s new” in this online magazine, with special issues emailed to you during months the Spiral is sent out through the postal service. With each issue, more borders will be crossed as we blend the many offerings of Metanexus together, taking down out-dated walls that inhibit access to our many programs. [All new members will be added to all print and email lists. If you have not already subscribed to the online Digest, we invite you to join this new wave of information today by registering here.]


Getting the most out of Metanexus Resources—tips for searching the Digest and Metanexus Online

Another aspect of our new approach is familiarizing our members and readers with the many offerings and projects of Metanexus. The reasons people come to Metanexus vary greatly. While we are gratified to draw a large audience for such diverse reasons, it has come to our attention that those of differing interests are often unaware of our other offerings.

Many, for instance, come to Metanexus through our online magazine, an archive of over 9000 science and religion related essays, news articles, and book reviews. And, with over 200,000 monthly page views and 8000 subscribers to our monthly “Digest” HTML update, it is easy to see why. Metanexus.net has consistently ranked within the top five of Google searches on “religion and science,” and is frequently accessed in searches pertaining to such topics as evolution and intelligent design, ultimate reality, spiritual transformation, altruism, and other hot areas of discussion.

For those not as familiar with the online magazine portion of the website, however, finding much of this content may be challenging. While we work in the coming months to improve the design of the site for easier navigation and accessibility, here are some quick tips for more effectively navigating our website:

  • The Digest is our monthly HTML update to our online magazine. One of the best ways for browsing the articles, essays, and news from Metanexus Online is to look through past Digest editions. Found under the Metanexus Magazine section of the left-hand side navigation menu on every page of our site, the “Magazine” link can take you through each past edition. The newest edition is also linked there at the “The Digest” link and is available at www.metanexus.net/digest.
  • Science and Religion Topoi. Since the beginning, Metanexus has used a Latin and Greek classification system for the various areas it covers: Bios is the area that covers life, evolution, and other related inquires; Techne explores the meeting of technology and religion; Cogito handles religion and the neurosciences; etc. The most recent article in each topos can be found on the topoi section of the homepage. Past articles can be found in the “Discussion Topoi” drop-down menu in the Metanexus Magazine section of the navigation bar.
  • Articles and Reviews. When looking for particular authors, topics not covered by the Topoi links, or specific listings, the Articles and Reviews drop-down offers listings by author, topic, and book review.
  • Search. A search feature powered by Google can help you quickly find information on our site. The search feature is available at the very top of each webpage inside the Metanexus header, and is also available in the Articles and Reviews drop-down menu in the Metanexus Magazine section of the navigation bar.

In an attempt to help our audience explore the vast treasures on the Metanexus site, each “Spiral” issue will feature both new articles and essays and existing content from our archives. We want to offer new content to those familiar with our online archives, but we also want to highlight the excellent work that is, in significance and relevance, still very fresh. We invite your feedback to these changes as way to help us to improve the site.


Metanexus in Action

Metanexus is, of course, much more than an online magazine. Metanexus hosts a world-wide science and religion dialogue in the form of a massive global network of organizations at universities, colleges, parishes, and other institutions. This conversation is made possible by our Local Societies Initiative (LSI), a worldwide grant program to fund start-up costs for dialogue groups exploring the dynamic interface between religion and science. LSI has granted over 200 societies in over 35 countries on six continents, spanning a variety of scientific disciplines and religious traditions.

In this issue, Eric Weislogel, director of the LSI program, highlights the new Sophia Europa initiative. According to Weislogel, Sophia Europa “ represents the next level of development of the global LSI network. Leading educational institutions from across Europe will found local dialogue societies with the express purpose of pursuing a new, joint research project, addressing broad questions about the impact of the new technologies on culture, the structure of consciousness, and the very nature of science and spirit.”

Also in this issue, Andrew Rick-Miller , outreach coordinator for LSI, writes about how this past year’s natural disasters have impacted members of our global network. Rick-Miller writes: “ With the natural disasters of the past year–the tsunami in southeast Asia, the hurricanes and resulting floods on the Gulf Coast of the United States, and the earthquake in Pakistan—members of the Metanexus family experienced many stories of tragedy, survival, hope and faith.”

Some of our audience comes to Metanexus through our many research programs. Metanexus has facilitated programs at the nexus of science and religion that range from the theological implications inherent in the scientific quest to slow the process of aging, to the scientific workings and implications of transformative spiritual experiences. To discover some of Metanexus’ many research programs on your own, visit the website and look at the “Projects” section under the left-hand side navigation bar.

Metanexus has also held an annual conference since 2000, convening international participants and a large audience. Websites are available for conferences since 2002, where hundreds of papers given at our conferences can be found, as well as conference agendas, a list of speakers, and other information. Last year’s conference, “Science and Religion: Global Perspectives,” focused on trans-cultural and trans-disciplinary understandings. Speakers and participants hailed from five different continents and topics covered multiple religions, scientific disciplines, and various philosophical issues in the study of science and religion.

Our upcoming 2006 conference focuses on Continuity and Change and explores the interplay of these opposites in scientific discovery, religious thought and practice, technological advancement, environmental transformation, and globalized culture. The conference takes place June 3 – 7 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia . For more information on this year’s conference, visit the website at www.metanexus.net/conference2006 . For information on past conferences, visit: https://www.metanexus.net/institute/conferences.asp.

This creative tension between continuity and change is a propos to the evolution of our publications. This evolution, however, goes beyond The Spiral or The Digest to the core of our organization: Metanexus is mutating. The final answer to the question “What’s My Spiral?” is twofold: a forum where we inform our members and readers of the offerings, changes and plans of Metanexus, and a space where these offerings, changes and plans will emerge . Updates have and will continue to appear in our publications and on our website as we move toward a better Metanexus, spinning a “virtuous spiral,” as we like to say: moving you closer to us as you help Metanexus move outward to others.

As Metanexus will be growing and adapting right before your eyes, it will be doing so partially in response to your feedback. As we test and experiment in the coming months with new ideas and new formats, we will be combining our thinking with yours, through your responses to the surveys included in every issue. We value your opinion and interest, and hope you will help Metanexus evolve. You can access this month’s survey here.