|By Lorna Derksen
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.
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.