Discussion Board

Topic: Darwin's Children

From: Brian Gregory
Location: Shreline, wa
Date: 01/29/2007

Just finished Darwin's Childern tonight, or this morning it's almost 1am. I loved it!

I have also read:
Blood Music
Darwin's Radio
and loved them all. Looking forward to reading more!

Re: Darwin's Children

From: Greg Bear
Date: 02/02/2007

Always good to hear, Brian! Thanks.

Re: Darwin's Children

From: woody search
Location: thomas university, thomasville, ga
Date: 02/05/2007

I finished this book some time ago and have had some of my evolution students read it as well. The question keeps on comming up "will there be another in the series?". I and my students hope so. Woody.

Re: Darwin's Children

From: Greg Bear
Date: 02/05/2007

Thanks, Woody! No way of knowing for now whether there will be a third in the series--or what form it will take. But the biology is getting richer and more interesting every day...

Re: Darwin's Children

From: James
Location: UK
Date: 02/07/2007

I have been reading Darwins Radio as part of my astrobiology studies, I thought it was grate and genuinely am looking forward to reading Darwins Children. I was just wondering what you think the most important message the book has to offer is?

Re: Darwin's Children

From: Greg Bear
Date: 02/07/2007

Keep an open mind about scientific discovery--and about what it means to be human. Think outside your class, your guild, your species! As much as possible, of course.

Re: Darwin's Children

From: Alan Mintaka
Location: NH, USA
Date: 06/09/2007

Hello Greg,
I've just finished Darwin's Children. I certainly can't contribute much to the conversation here when it comes to biology. I'm far out of my depth in that area. I did know that the role of viruses in evolution was being re-examined, but my thinking about genetics was mired in the DNA-RNA-Protein sequence mentioned here and elsewhere.

Fortunately I have a reactionary attitude towards parochial idiots. When I smell one, I automatically assume that there's a better smell somewhere else. I refer to this as an "unintentionally good upbringing".

In the Darwin's series I was convinced long before the Jackson character came along

First, though, some business:


(forum habit - sorry)

Anyway, I wanted to address the experiences that Kaye sometimes referred to as "epiphanies" - I guess for the same lack of words that many of us have in those circumstances. However, your descriptions of those experiences didn't lack words at all. In fact, those passages were the best I've read when it comes to attempts to convey meaning to the sensations.

I've been reading a lot of what a layman can access and understand about such things. They come in many flavors, as you know. Suffice it to say that even the Dalai Lama seems to fall short when he tries to tackle explanations of the arguable existence of the self, perceptions felt during meditation, and so on. Personally I have trouble with his use of metaphors and analogies; I can't map them to what he's trying to explain, maybe because he goes a little overboard in keeping the analogies simple.

I'm sure a lot of this has to do with translation. This is no doubt the problem with many of the other writings on this subject. For me to know what is going on there, I'd have to become an expert in the source languages. There's not much chance of that happening.

I've tried local special interest groups dealing with Buddhism, meditation, misc spiritual topics, etc. Those things seem to have become deluged with new age-pop jargon and nonsense that makes me shut down at the first sign of terms like "life energy". This is one area where I can freely admit to having a parochial attitude myself - and I like it.

All of this is why your portrayals of Kaye's experiences turned me right around. She used words like "epiphany" and "god" in the context of not knowing what else to think. This was precisely because there was nothing to think about. When she tried to look for things such as reasons, justifications, or punishment/reward, there was no response. Just depth. Just emotion. Just acceptance.

But not in those words. In your words.

I've spent a lot of time here talking about words that should and should not be used, and the ones I like and don't like. This is because I don't really have any way to express my reaction to how you wrote about Kaye's.

You made an important point. I didn't read that point though. I realized it while I was reading. For me those were not the same events. That's why I focused on it the way I did, and that's really all I can say about it directly.

See that? I had to clear out a lot of crap just to get to the point where I could tell you that I couldn't tell you.

That's the best I can do with that.

What came next was in your afterward. I don't know if it was in the printed version. I listened to the unabridged audiobook. Whatever: one of the sources you said provided some background for Kaye's (?) perceptions was "personal experience."

I have not had that personal experience. I got the point in a profound way, yes. But I have never experienced it. I don't know what it is. I don't know how.


The circumstances in Darwin's Children seemed frustratingly random to Kaye, right up until her last moments of physical consciousness. Previous to then she had been trying to force the events, and lamenting them when they did not occur. Obviously that approach did not work.

I assume that you have not had your last moments of physical consciousness yet. If so, then your "personal experience" means that's it's already happened to you and that you understand some important things about it. Not how or why, and certainly not "what". But you know it at least well enough to convincingly convey things about it.

I need this. I need this because of the things done in preparation for it. They include learning the art of quieting the mind. This is specifically what I cannot do and what I must do. I can't shut down. It's all chaotic garbage with no content worth thinking about. It's bad enough to cause real problems. Here I CAN speak with authority. Many, many internal and external remedies have been attempted. Here I am. Here is this message.

If the "experience" happens during or after I'm learning how to quiet things down, that would be fantastic. But whether or not it does, I'll at least be a little more at peace.

How did you come by this experience? Did you study, read, listen, practice things that helped? Did you learn to quiet your mind first? Or did it happen as it did with Kaye, unsolicited (apparently) regardless of your state of mind?

I would love to know these things!

Thanks for taking the time to endure this long message. Thanks for the Darwin series.

Alan Mintaka

Re: Darwin's Children

From: Greg Bear
Date: 06/12/2007

Thanks for writing, Alan! Your message is very moving. The experience we're talking about came to me out of the blue--lasted off and on for a month with some intensity, but not 24-hrs a day--and then tailed off. I've had a few brief, much less intense moments since--reminders, as it were. What I learned from these experiences is that they are difficult to induce--impossible for me to induce, though others claim they reach similar states through meditation. Calming the mind, even achieving some sort of samadhi, may or may not replicate what I experienced, since it seemed to point toward a personal connection with a supremely loving, approving, non-judgmental being. The being--to me--seemed in some deep sense masculine. The experiences did not reduce my long-term exposure to confusion and mental gyrations, but they do provide a baseline from which certain personal and philosophical questions are now resolved. I still haven't learned to completely quiet my mind at will--though I can do the early stage breathing exercises, mantra, and achieve some good effects. In a sense, enlightenment, relief, and isolation from the whirl of the off-center wheel of existence may not be what this type of epiphany is about--and there are many different types, no surprise, perhaps as many as there are experiencers! And it is no tragedy if one does not experience these states, because implicit in the message is that by doing so, one is not rendered "special," nor does one lack in any way by not being so involved. There are other messages, other means, other expressions. The only constant I know of in these experiences is the sense of love and acceptance--a far cry from the strident, rage-filled imprecations of political and commercial religions.

Another key point: the "personality" I encountered never acknowledged being a supreme being. Perhaps we are asking all the wrong questions! Above all, humility--the toughest directive of all.

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