Deep Time Journey Forum Where is the Big History story "from"?

This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Di Shearer Di Shearer 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #4788

    Hullo, all!


    I’m the guy who’s helping launch a network of schools that take Big History seriously. (We also take environmental education seriously. And cooking. And history. And math. And a whole lotta things! Check us out at


    I’ve posted here some questions about general curriculum choices we’re making, and now I have a very specific one: where should we say the Big History story “from”?


    Background: my friend Lee, director of The Island Academy of Hilton Head (Schools for Humans’ first affiliated school, off the coast of South Carolina) has been taking his kids (mixed-age, 1st-8th grade) through a bunch of cultural narratives about the beginning of the world. 


    They’ve put a dot on a map denoting where each story has come from. (Hesiod’s Theogony gets a dot at “Greece”, Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda gets a dot at “Iceland”…)


    His question to me is: where should we put a dot for the Big Bang story?


    I do have some thoughts on this, but I thought I’d ping you all for advice first!

    Profile photo of Duane Elgin
    Duane Elgin

    Hi Brandon–  


    In order to say where Big History is “from,” it is first important to say what Big History “is.” If it is about the story of a universe that is non-living at its foundations and without meaning, purpose, or consciousness, then I think it would be accurate to say it is “from” David Christian, Eric Chaisson, and others connected with the current dogma of the IBHA (International Big History Association). In contrast, if Big History is drawn from a living systems perspective with meaning, purpose, and consciousness as an integral aspect of the universe, then I think it would be accurate to say it is “from” the work of scholars such as Arnold Toynbee, Joseph Campbell, and Thomas Berry. I presented a paper on these two perspectives at the last meeting of the IBHA in 2014 titled, “Deep Big History: A Living Systems Paradigm.” Although I described the living systems perspective as a “provisional paradigm,” it has been rejected by IBHA and they refuse to publish any article in their newsletter with this perspective. Given this explicit censorship of a living systems perspective by IBHA, it will be very difficult to say with confidence where Big History is “from.” 


    Here is the URL for the essay on “Deep Big History”: 

    Profile photo of Di Shearer
    Di Shearer

    Thank you, Duan. I appreciated reading this post and your article. I have embraced Big History after immersion in DTJN but haven’t fully appreciated the two perspectives this post explicated. I’m not knowledgeable enough to contribute further but want you to know I’ve at least given thought to these things and have to say I agree with you perspective.

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