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CTDL 101: Evolutionary understanding…ish

Well, here we come to the crux of this series. In my previous entries I’ve discussed my history growing up in a very Christian culture with a young-earth view. Now it’s on to how those viewpoints changed in recent years. I’m not sure I can pinpoint what prompted my mind to change. Unsure of the prompt I can only talk to the process. Along the way I read Rob at Karmatics.com’s article on Evolution and the Wisdom of Crowds, then his follow-up articles on evolution. The one that really clicked the idea of evolutionary theory for me was his piece on “why are there still monkeys.” I then moved on to books on the philosophy of God, and the science of cosmology and evolution.

Image from Flickr by Kaptain Kobold

Two of the books that probably influenced this journey the most are Francis Collins’s book The Language of God and Bart D Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus. Collins gave me a better understanding of evolution, and a framework to accept that somebody can fully buy in to evolutionary theory and that there is a God up there somewhere and he may have some interest in humanity. Ehrman actually gave that understanding a better footing by illuminating the issues with taking the Bible as a “word for word” literal document that came from the mouth of God (not that I didn’t have issues with that to begin with). So at that point (and to some degree this point) I think the best description of my beliefs is that of a theistic evolutionist with a heavy dose of agnostic skepticism.


Image from Flickr by Traveling Pooh

I believe that the evolutionary theory is flawed in a way that’s somewhere between the flaw’s in Newtonian physics and Einstein’s General Relativity. That is to say that it does a fundamentally very good job of describing and predicting things as they actually occur in nature, but there may be some nuance information that hasn’t been filled in yet. That lack of the filling in information is hardly indicative of a large flaw that will overturn the entire concept. I’m not sure what I believe in regards to God, except that the standard Judeo-Christian view is probably pretty far removed from any reality there might be. I think there’s enough historical evidence that a Jesus existed, to what degree the new testament account meshes with what really happened I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to know. I think the basic tenants of “Love your neighbor” and “Love your enemy” are sound enough moral philosophy to fill up each life’s journey such that to worry about “accepting Jesus as your personal savior” and especially keeping any number of esoteric rules and regulations from this or that variant on religion are either ways of copping out of a better goal, or making ourselves feel more important than we actually are.

I believe science has a great deal to teach us, and that it shouldn’t be hobbled by a confusion of religion as science. But I also believe that the great philosophies of the world have something to teach us about how to live as well, and I don’t intend to throw the baby out with the bath water in my journey toward understanding. To that end I’ll still be seen attending the one church I’ve encountered where I felt even semi-comfortable, and sharing the company, if not the beliefs, with a group of people who, though flawed as we all are, try to live the “Love Your Neighbor” and “Love Your Enemy” as best they can.

I realize this information means very little to most of the few people who read this site, and that it won’t particularly please those that do know me on a personal basis, but it is what it is. My current point of view. I can understand both those that do and don’t “Beleive” in God or evolution, and don’t expect my views to reflect anybody else’s.

I’d like to end this series with some of my favorite writing around. Carl Sagan’s “Reflections on a Mote of Dust” from his book A Pale Blue Dot. He’s speaking of an image taken of earth by one of the Voyager spacecraft as it left our solar system.

We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

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