Evolution is one of those topics some people don’t like to discuss, since they feel it somehow contradicts what they believe. My own take on it is a little different than theirs, although it is by no means unique. Even a version of the Bible approved by King James doesn’t make much mention of God as some old dude in the sky; when it does, it’s clearly metaphorical. When the writings place the emphasis on the ‘omnipotent’ and ‘omnipresent’ God that is usually referred to, you lose the personification aspect of it; and that opens up a whole new way of seeing it.
Did I just call God ‘it’?
Yeah, I think I did.
God can be seen as something as simple as life wanting to live. Actually, I think this view is kind of vital to any explanation of how we got here. Science can offer up endless hows, but addressing any question of why is beyond its domain. I think the two have to be asked together, just like science and spirituality must exist in complimentary rather than contradictory states. Denying one or the other means turning your back on a whole world of knowledge and experience, and I prefer to blend the two in a way that makes sense to me.
Like mutations. It always bothered me in school, hearing science teachers say that mutations are random or that the vast majority of them serve no purpose whatsoever. That’s using a ‘how’ answer to respond to a ‘why’ question, and even then it doesn’t make sense. If one out of a hundred mutations end up being beneficial to a species adapting to its environment, that’s statistically far from random. I mean, what are the odds that life is going to accidentally change to make life better for generations to come?
Also, where do these mutations come from? Taking apart the structure of nature is one thing, but figuring out where all those ideas originate is quite another. Science tells us life began as a mutation, that it evolved through a series of mutations, and that a single-celled organism somehow was the first step on a path that led to you and me. Spirituality tells us something is planning all this, orchestrating it both to succeed and not to fail, and passively acting in a way that guides evolution from an individual level to a universal one.
If science exists alone, we are living in circumstances so statistically improbable that it would take just the kind of universal mind we’re talking about to get a good grasp of it. Of course, the universe is supposedly infinite…so, infinite possibilities mean we show up at some point. If you really believe that a hundred monkeys given a hundred years would eventually type the works of Shakespeare.
Now, that’s a special kind of faith.
With random mutations being the basis of evolution, we really should have way more X-Men walking around today. We may have murdered or eaten all the weaker versions of us, but there really isn’t a giant variance between humans when you think about it. If all these mutations really are guided by nothing but randomness, I have to say randomness has a hell of an eye for beauty and quality and consistency.
Both science and religion have their dark sides, but in neither instance should we throw out the baby with the bath water. Nor should we presume there isn’t room in the tub for both, if I can stretch the analogy a tad bit further. Life is way cooler when it can have meaning and make sense, rather than one or the other. It takes different parts of ourselves to explore the two, but the tools to do so exist just the same.
You may say I’m not really talking about mutations much here, but I have to assert that I truly am. Even when I was a twelve year old atheist, learning about evolution in school, it seemed highly unlikely to me that things would have gotten to this point without some overarching plan. The mind with the plan may not be a mind at all, but it’s hard not to think of it as one when you consider that we’re all supposedly mutants or that the periodic table is a map of creation.
If you want to look at this another way, we can go back a couple posts to when we considered the fact that we’re running out of places to live. We talked about how nuclear radiation is less than a hundred years old, but is expected to stick around tens of thousands of years. In an environment where we all kind of share one big ocean and one giant atmosphere, it isn’t really stretching things to say we have all been radiated to some degree. We have no way of knowing how human genetics will be affected by continuously increasing global radiation levels, but we do know we have no way of stopping it from happening.
Even in the perfect ‘Marvelesque’ scenario, the variations of mutations that might come as a result of accelerated evolution would be alarming in both scope and grotesqueness. For every Wolverine or Cyclops you would have over ninety-nine shivering masses of flesh unable to function in the most basic manner, according to science. As much as I might like to heal instantly and be virtually immortal, I don’t much care for those odds. Let’s keep the mutations incremental, and properly guided by whatever it is that got us all here in the first place.
And maybe let’s lay off splitting the atom, until we figure out an effective way to clean up all those messes we made by doing it so many times before.
We can say plenty of awful things about how people have used spirituality or religion to commit heinous acts, but we have to admit in the next breath that science has not exactly behaved in a saintly manner either. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of medicine, where profits mean more to most of the people involved than actually helping people. I had opportunity to call a doctor out on this once, and he did nothing more than shrug his shoulders and say that’s just the way things are. I really thought I had him when I threw out my next comment, and I was a little shocked at his reply.
“Aren’t you bound by the Hippocratic Oath?” I said, all indignant.
He laughed, like I was a little kid asking how Santa was going to come down the chimney if we started a fire.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he told me, still laughing. “Doctors stopped taking the Hippocratic Oath a long time ago.”
I didn’t know what was so funny, back then. I thought the oath was a moral agreement, where doctors basically swore to do no harm to patients. It turns out it is actually much more than that, and we all might do well to be grateful doctors don’t take this oath anymore. Although it would be cool to update it, very few of us would agree that the original text should be adhered to in the modern world.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll talk about this next week, in a post called…
‘Modern doctors don’t take the Hippocratic Oath!’
I hope you come back for it!
Thanks for reading!
All the best,