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Listening to Future's Call header
   
By Lorna Derksen

Darwin's Children Book graphicIMAGINE THAT NATURE
has finally reacted to our environmental destruction and stress-filled world by producing a new and improved human. What would we do if a more evolved life form appeared on the scene? Would we recognize a ‘better’ human? Would we welcome the incomprehensible newness or seek to protect our race from the unknown?

This is the world in which Kaye Lang, a self-confessed insecure research scientist, wakes up as her personal world is collapsing. While her groundbreaking genetic research is winning worldwide acclaim, not only are police searching the sea for her suicidal husband, but the competition informs her that her husband has sold their biotech company out from under her. It’s clear that the soon-widowed Lang is a brilliant scientist, but her life aches for meaning and containment left cold by her intellectual pursuits. The beautiful thing about Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio and Darwin’s Children is that through engaging with the process of evolution Lang discovers meaning beyond her imagination.

Early in the Darwin’s Radio it is discovered that a genetic mutation is causing worldwide occurrences of miscarriages and subsequent second pregnancies. Lang, who is enlisted to study this genetic conundrum, soon finds herself at odds with the prevailing scientific view. It sees the mutations as accidental and dangerous – most of the children from the second pregnancies are initially stillborn, deformed or diseased, or the mothers become infected. Lang, on the other hand, wonders if the mutations are somehow purposeful. Motivated by the sense that she needs to take hold of her crumbling life, Lang takes a leap of faith, joins forces with other freethinkers, falls in love, and, in becoming pregnant, chooses to participate in the evolutionary experiment.

As Lang struggles to understand the scientific developments these “virus” children point toward, we see her developing as a social individual, becoming vulnerable in relationship and risking love. It is as if in being pulled into this crucial social question of evolving life, she is also being pulled into a vital personal question of what it means for her to be alive. When Lang chooses to become pregnant, both to understand the process more intimately but also as an expression of her hope in love and the emergence of new life, we may not be sure about her impulses, but we see commitment to trusting life as it is given.

"The beautiful thing about Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children is that through engaging with the process of evolution Lang discovers meaning beyond her imagination."Lang’s impulse to trust is substantiated when she is visited 13 years later by the “caller”, a presence that floods her with unconditional love and the sensation of oneness. Kaye’s first encounter with the caller happens on a night in the mountains. Embedded in the beauty of nature she hears the clarifying call and is met by something inexplicable but clearly intimate and creative.

Bear’s theistic implications are exciting but not the place where all science fiction writers would go. In his Hominid series, Robert Sawyer, an excellent Canadian sci-fi author, portrays the divine in one of two ways: as unnecessary in the scientifically advanced Neanderthal world, and as an unconsidered vestige of traditional Catholicism. Bear’s conception of God is stunning. Rather than being declared redundant by science or merely fitting into traditional stereotypes, the “caller” is mysterious: relational yet not definitive, present yet not autocratic, authoritative yet not controlling.

The caller speaks to all of our minds, and they all pray; to all of our minds, from the lowest to the highest, in nature, the caller assures us that there is more, and that is all the caller can do. It is important that each mind be created with absolute freedom of will. That freedom is precious; it enriches and quickens that which the caller loves.

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