THANK GOD FOR EVOLUTION *
For as long as human beings have used words to communicate and think, we have been telling stories to answer the fundamental questions of existence:
Who are we?
The question of identity
Where did we come from?
The question of origin
Where are we going?
The question of destiny
Why are we here?
The question of purpose
What ultimately matters?
The question of meaning
How are we to live?
The question of morality/right action
What happens when we die?
The question of finality and continuity
In our western world the answers to these questions were embedded in our cosmology, our creation story. The cosmology of the Bible has had a great effect on the thinking and institutions of the West, and on our understanding of our relationship to the rest of nature. Our law, medicine, religion, politics, economics and education have been shaped extensively by biblical cosmology. For centuries we imagined God as a Supreme Landlord, who resided off the planet, separate from and superior to nature. We thought of ourselves as separate from and superior to nature also because we were created in the image of God. Nature in our view was corrupt, due to the “fall” of Adam and Eve.
Thus “progress” became equal with exercising increasing control over nature for the benefit of humans. Until recently these beliefs were taken for granted and rarely discussed. They were inherited and unconscious assumptions and beliefs about reality.
Although such beliefs may be directly or indirectly responsible for much of the ecological devastation taking place on the planet today, they have also made possible enormous scientific and technological breakthroughs. Ironically, some of the scientific break-throughs are now the foundation of an ecospiritual awakening that may usher us into the only viable future for humanity and the rest of the community of life on this earth.
Recent discoveries in biology, geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy indicate that the Universe is nothing at all like the Great Machine mechanistic science assumed it was for the past three-hundred years. A growing number of scientists now suggest that the Universe is more like an evolving, maturing, organism – a living system – which has been developing for 15 billion years. It has become increasingly complex and diversified, beginning with hydrogen, then forming galaxies, stars and planets, and evolving more complex life forms over time. The Universe, in us, can now consciously reflect on itself, its meaning, what it is, and how it developed. “The human person is the sum total of 15 billion years of unbroken evolution now thinking about itself.” Teilhard de Chardin noted half a century ago.
When we look through a telescope it is literally the Universe look-ing at itself. We humans are a means by which the Universe can perceive its beauty and feel its depths with conscious awareness. We are not separate beings in the Universe; we are an expression of the Universe. We did not come into this world; we grew out of it, in the same way that an apple grows out from an apple tree.
This vision of evolution, this new version of “In the beginning” encourages us to take on the possibility – the realistic possibility – that evolution is happening right now through us. Now we know that everything we are has emerged through billions of years of evolution and that no species can live in isolation from others, then we will finally grasp that the future of our species depends upon the future of this planet. This is one of the great lessons of the evolutionary worldview.
* Title of the book “Thank God for Evolution” by Michael Dowd, publish-ed by Plume.