The Big History Online Conference is August 1-6! by Starstuff, Contemplating

Did you know that there is a whole professional society dedicated to bringing the wonder of our Deep Time history to students and to the world?  There is!  Our Deep Time history is a central part of my Naturalistic Paganism.  Traveling to their biannual conferences is not something that everyone can usually do, but this year you can, because it’s online!

Our Story Based Brain

Nonprofits, Sit Around the Campfire and Share Stories - Communicate!

Because much of the evolution of our human brains happened when our Ancestors lived in small societies hunting and gathering in the wild, they didn’t have access to the types of information we have today.  What they did have, was personal anecdotes and stories.  Hearing that edible roots could be found in the riverbank after going over three hills to the North and then upstream for a half days walk, or that my niece says to avoid the area in the valley toward the direction of the setting Sun on warm afternoons due to venomous snakes gave vital information which kept our Ancestors alive and hence allowed us to be here today.

Our brains are literally built by evolution to learn through personal testimony, and hence, through stories.  This is why stories are so compelling, why so much of our entertainment is literally simply stories (think of movies especially, as well as most novels, many songs, podcasts, and so on).  This is why cultures and religions are based on their origin story (that’s a bunch of posts in and of itself!), and why  understanding our world today means understanding our story.

Big History

This is why it’s so hard to learn separate, compartmentalized, disconnected subjects.  But separate, disconnected subjects is exactly how we are taught in High School and college!  Not only that, the whole University is set up as separate, disconnected subjects!  What?  Why??  OK, a lot of that is simply due to the fact that in depth understanding requires a lot of detailed study, which requires a lot of specialization and hence separate, disconnected departments.  Some is simply turf claiming – a very human tendency.  Of course there are other factors too.

But regardless of why, people have realized that this wasn’t perfect, and that learning (and knowing!) is so much better when the subjects are interconnected, and that an overarching description gives this.  A story (especially one based on facts, evidence and reality) provides this overarching unification.  One of those who realized this was Dr. David Christian, who then started the Big History movement, which aims to help everyone’s learning by opening the door to see how it all fits into our actual history.

I’ve been an active member of the International Big History Association (IBHA) since near it’s founding, have attended all the conferences (and presented at many of them).  The 2020 conference was planned to be held in India, but delayed a year by the pandemic.  Then, the surge in covid in India in early 2021 again rendered the planned conference unsafe, so now it will be held virtually!  This may be your only chance to attend a Big History conference, depending on how (and where) future conferences are held, and of course your own personal situation.  One minor bump is that it’s still based in India this year, so the conference will be on Indian Time (very roughly switch AM to PM for Americans).  So I’m already starting to shift my sleep schedule to Indian Time, and have registered.

Here’s the link for the conference!


Starstuff, Contemplating by Jon Cleland Host

We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.

Jon Cleland Host

Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997.  He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature.  He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University.  Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see, and the blog at  Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality.  He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.

Heather is a parent and a scientist raising her four children to explore the world through scientific understanding and with spiritual appreciation of the Universe. She has a Master of Science degree in Physics from Michigan State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of the Arts degree in English Literature, also from the University of Michigan. She teaches physics as an adjunct instructor at Delta College, runs the Math Mania program at a local elementary school, has worked at Dow Corning as an engineer and at NASA as an intern, and she has led science outreach workshops for K-12 students through joint programs between NASA and the University of Michigan. She is a naturalistic non-theist, whose faith has been shaped by her childhood within the Episcopal Church, her adult membership in the Unitarian Universalist church, and through Buddhist meditation.  She has a passion for bringing science and spirituality to everyone in a fun way, both for her own family and for the wider community of the Earth.  She is a co-author with Jon Cleland-Host of Elemental Birthdays: How to Bring Science into Every Party.

See Starstuff, Contemplating posts.

See all of Dr. Jon Cleland Host’s posts.

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