What we normally define as history doesn’t interest me. It’s a constraint.
You go to the cosmologists and ask how they tell the history of the universe; you go to the geologists, how do they tell the story of the earth, and the biologists, and then you string them together. And it turns out that when you string them together, if you do it carefully, there’s a story that is coherent, engaging, fantastically interesting.
Learning to domesticate the horse was a sort of energy revolution.
Our goal is to see Big History become a normal part of high school curricula. I’d love to see it being taught in lots of languages. A global course.
Every kid goes to school full of questions about meaning. You know, ‘What’s my place in the universe? What does it mean to be a human being? What are human beings?’ Existing courses cannot help you answer those questions. They can’t even help you ask them.
In literature classes, you don’t learn about genes; in physics classes you don’t learn about human evolution. So you get a fragmented view of the world. That makes it hard to find meaning in education.
When very large stars die, they create temperatures so high that protons begin to fuse in all sorts of exotic combinations, to form all the elements of the periodic table. If, like me, you’re wearing a gold ring, it was forged in a supernova explosion.
All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are.
Big History studies the history of everything, offering a way of making sense of our world and our role within it.
I had this feeling that, somehow, we ought to be teaching not just the history of particular nations or particular regions, but the history of humanity.
Unfortunately, historians have become so absorbed in detailed research that they have tended to neglect the job of building larger-scale maps of the past.
I think what I was after was a unifying story that could bring everything together, that could give me a sense of the whole of history.
If historians don’t tell stories at the scales of creation myths, someone else will.
Humans are remarkable: the first species in almost four billion years of life on earth that dominates the biosphere. This gives us the power, in principle, to build societies in which everyone flourishes. But it also creates great dangers because it is not clear that we really understand how to use our potentially devastating powers.
Modern scientific knowledge appeared piecemeal. Historians wrote about human history; physicists tackled the material world; and biologists studied the world of living organisms. But there were few links between these disciplines, as researchers focused on getting the details right.