Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Origin of Species

Ever since I can remember,
people I have known of varying religious persuasions often times dismiss evolution in a number of different ways. The most popular ways are: "its just flawed science", "God planted those bones there to test our faith" and even "the devil is trying to trick us." These people often feel like evolution and religion are incompatible and, in my view, blind themselves to a deeper understanding of scientific advancement and even their own faith.

        Is science flawed? In some ways, probably. Scientific knowledge and theories often change as new information is discovered. A few of examples: 
CNN recently published a story that should change anyone's view of the Milky Way galaxy and even our universe. Tens of billions of planets are estimated to exist just in our Milky Way Galaxy that are similar in composition, size, and within habitable zones from the stars they orbit. The fact is that science changes as more information is gathered and processed and techniques for studying phenomena advance.

Does this mean that Science is wrong about the age of the planet and/or universe? Probably not in the way some might think however, that keeps changing as well.

So, how does someone of faith reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable? (creationists believe the earth is ~6000 years old, and was created in 144 earth-hours). In my opinion, the answer lies in translation of "day". Considering there are a wide variety of contextual definitions for day in english, imagine what the definition differences were during the ancient days of Greek, Latin, or Hebrew languages. Considering that most teaching was done through parables, It doesn't stand to reason that the creation story is so literal.

Which brings us to Evolution. 
Juan Enriquez has given a number of compelling speeches at TED regarding his theory of Homo Evolutus. If you look at any number of timelines for human evolution, you will see that there was a number of overlapping species of human that overlapped with others during any period of time. The older species went extinct while the evolved ones continued to live and move on up the evolutionary chain to what we are today. The Creation Story depicts man and woman springing up spontaneously at the command of a all powerful God. If you think of what it would be like for a single species to give birth gradually to an entirely new species, it would be pretty sudden. Whatever the process by which Adam and Eve were created, if it was spontaneous and literal as the Creation Story depicts, what use would the other species have been to this planet? There is an interesting article about the effects of prehistoric man on their surrounding environment. They directly affected the wildlife populations and vegetation in areas that humans moved into. Some species of large animals even went completely extinct when humans moved in. Those years of human activity had a profound effect on the world we live in today. In short, they were essential in forming the world as we know it. In my view, anyone, of faith or otherwise, should have a profound respect for the millions of inhabitants and however much time they had on the earth to shape it into what we have now. And if you believe in a higher power or all-loving/knowing God then that should have an even greater impact on your perception of that God. Hardly a "trial of faith" or "demonic trickery" I would say.

Where are we headed? 
Those who are in the Juan Enriquez camp, which I am, would probably say "over there!" while flapping their arms in the direction of Homo Evolutus. Others of faith may dismiss that as nothing more than a pipe-dream, or even heresy, that we are the crowning creation of this planet. I honestly don't know the answer but it leaves a compelling open question. Are we headed to something greater here as a species?