A Purpose For Everything

by L. Charles Birch

Charles Birch is a biologist specializing in genetics, and resides in Australia. He is joint winner of the 1990 International Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.. His teaching career includes Oxford, Columbia and the Universities of Chicago and Minnesota, as well as visiting professor of genetics at the University of California at Berkeley and professor of biology at the University of Sydney. Professor Birch has blazed new paths into the relationships between science and faith.

Published by Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Connecticut, 1990. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) Birch holds that post-modern scientific materialism is insufficient to explain the world. He proposes an ecological model in which all entities, from protons to humans, are ultimately related. Only this, he says, can deal adequately with the post modern world.


  • Introduction

    The reformation of modernism into postmodernism involves a radical transformation of science, religion and culture that constitutes a revolution even greater than the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.

  • Chapter 1: Purpose in Human Life

    Future possibilities are real causes in our lives. If, as a society, we are to make a creative response to the overwhelming challenges of war, injustice and environmental destruction of our time, there need be agreement about purposes that are stronger than the differences that divide us.

  • Chapter 2: Purpose in Nature

    The profound question evolution raises is why did atoms evolve to cells and to plants and to animals? Materialism (which itself is a metaphysic) provides no real answer to this question. The ecological model opens up a way to understanding this in terms of lure and response. In the ecological model we recognize in all entities some measure of responsiveness and freedom which we share.

  • Chapter 3: Purpose in the Universe

    Materialism or mechanism does not explain the world. Rather, individual entities from protons to people are influenced, not only by their external relations, but are influenced, even constituted, by their internal relations with their environment. Internal relations have nothing to do with the laws of mechanics. The laws of mechanics have only to do with external relations. The ecological model of nature is a credible alternative to materialism and mechanism.

  • Chapter 4: A Cosmic Purpose

    A faith in a cosmic purpose that is credible in an age of science and that could lead to harmony between human beings and between them and the rest of nature is the challenge. Another way of putting it is to ask — is there divine love at the heart of the universe?

  • Chapter 5: Purpose and Progress

    How can a postmodern worldview illumine the momentous problems of our time: peace, justice and ecological sustainability? There is more to enlightenment than the knowledge that science, technology, economics and politics bring. This the Enlightenment failed to recognize.

  • Chapter 6: Dismantling the Tower of Babel

    Religion in the postmodern world will become relevant only insofar as it can once again find dialogue with all the disciplines and help to transform their divided house into some sort of whole.

  • Chapter 7: New Wine in New Bottles

    Divided disciplines must be brought together again. An affirmation of the presence of the future life is essential. Human life feeds on purpose, on the richness of life, upon the purposes we freely choose.