God vs Darwin
Judeo Christian philosophy espouses the idea of an omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing) being who created the world in seven days. This supreme being goes by many names: “The Lord of Hosts”, “The Almighty Father”, “Jehovah”, “Adonai”, or simply, “God”. According to Christianity HE or SHE is immune to the passage of time, knows each and every one of us by name, knows the number of hairs on each of our heads, watches each of us carefully throughout life, and responds to our individual prayers. Further, the glory of God can supposedly be felt through the awe inspiring depth and diversity of the organic and inorganic world. God himself/herself is said to permeate the wonder that is the plant and animal kingdom, the most dazzling gems we’ve discovered, and even the stupendous vastness of the outer reaches of our universe. In some circles, God is also assumed responsible for the direct creation of the crown jewel of our planet… the very first human beings. This notion of a divine spirit being directly responsible for the creation of human beings has remained a timeless source of conflict between the schools of christianity and the natural sciences.
Many conflicting beliefs exist between christianity which is grounded in the faith of the supernatural and science which is based on cold hard empirical proof. One such conflicting belief that continues to fascinate is the idea of our origin. Where did we come from? Did God really fashion Adam from dirt and then proceed to steal a rib from him while he slept to make Eve? How can that be true when the evidence supporting the evolution of species was so completely and meticulously propounded by that sickly english kid from Shrewsbury named Charles Darwin (1809-1882). This conflict of ideas stirs up intense passion from the pure scientists and the purely religious. The christians and spiritual leaders scream blasphemy, while scientists scornfully retort: “show me some effing proof of this supreme being and then maybe I’ll take you seriously”. So on and on the argument rages… the religious think the scientists soulless and the scientists think the religious are deluded fanatics who have fallen out of all touch with reality. The following question needles at me when I hear these verbal conflicts: is the idea of a divine all powerful creator completely irreconcilable with the idea of the evolution of species?
According to Charles, we human beings came to our current form through a slow evolutionary process which occurred over many millennia. This evolutionary process occurred and continues to occur in line with one general law that governs the advancement of all living beings. “Go forth, multiply, vary, and adapt… let the strongest of you live and let the weakest die.” If you can detach your emotions for a bit, you will see that there is a grain of truth in this general law. Let us think about it for a second. It is widely acknowledged that the modern human race began on the plains of the African savannah. Our ancestors were weak dark skinned and sickly creatures who had little to no defense against the large cats or countless other predators that sought to kill and eat them. In spite of these seemingly insurmountable odds our ancestors transformed themselves into the undisputed kings of the African savannah in a few million years (remarkably short on the timescale of evolution) by using the unrivaled plasticity of the human brain to adapt to circumstances and build tools/weapons. The few who were unwilling or unable to adapt for whatever reason, simply died off. After conquering the African savannah, our insatiable curiosity compelled some of us to wander off to Eurasia. There we faced another challenge… our dark skin. In Eurasia our ancestors suddenly experienced winter and the associated lack of sunlight which led to a prodigious drop in their Vitamin D levels. To make matters worse, dark skinned folks have a harder time producing vitamin D because of the high amounts of melanin contained in dark colored skin. This evolutionary pressure favored the lighter skinned people in Eurasia as the melanin levels in their skin were low enough to not significantly interfere with the synthesis of Vitamin D. Slowly, our darker skinned ancestors who made the trip to Eurasia died off leaving only their lighter skinned counterparts. This is another example of evolutionary pressure ruthlessly killing off those of us that fail to adapt to circumstances. All this sounds painfully harsh and brutal but trust me when I say that after 10+ years as a student of science, I now understand that science doesn’t care about my feelings or yours… it is based on truth and a heavy dose of cold detached reason.
Contrary to the cold logic of science, most religions are grounded in strongly held beliefs and faith. There is no hard proof that the earth was created in seven days, or that God exists, or that the first human was directly created by God, or that the first dude created was named Adam, or that the first human being created was a dude for that matter. In spite of this abject lack of scientific proof to back up religious beliefs, there are approximately 2.2 billion Christians on this earth. In addition we have a ton of Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist brothers and sisters amongst many other religious types on our planet today. The fact that so many of us believe in some sort of religion indicates that there is something hardwired within us that needs that belief in order to ascribe meaning to our existence. Why though, do so many of us turn to the supernatural for a belief system rather than believing in truth and beauty which are actually tangible and just as timeless? I personally think it is because the existence of a supreme being is a fundamental truth whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
The only thing that survives the revolutions of time is the truth. My Volkswagen GTI will eventually stop working. I’ll eventually wear out the fretboard on my fender stratocaster. You and I will eventually die off. Great civilizations will rise and fall, entire languages will be forgotten, and erroneous scientific theories will be overthrown by new discoveries. If truth is the only thing that survives, then why is this idea of the supreme being still around after thousands of years… especially since it is absent any real tangible proof? The scientist in me wants to rap myself across the knuckles for allowing my brain to think this way, but does this mean that the existence of God is the truth? For now, we have to assume that it is because the supreme being has remained in human consciousness for eons and no one can actually disprove his existence. I must say that the guy (God) has some meteoric rockstar status. I mean none of us would show up to a Jimi Hendrix concert because we all know he is dead. However, a ton of us show up to church every Sunday to hang out with a God who has never once made a physical appearance.
Since there is a pretty good chance that both the theory of evolution and the existence of God are fundamental truths, there must be a common thread uniting both ideas. That is the only way any of this makes sense. I for one don’t necessarily think the existence of a supreme being and the theory of evolution are mutually exclusive. It is possible for both ideas to harmoniously co-exist in my opinion. If we are to believe that God is truly as supreme as the ancient texts and teachings tell us, then he must surely have an infinitely broader and deeper feel for all aspects of knowledge and the very essence of life than we do. Our relatively weak human intellect struggles to fathom the workings of such a supreme spirit which is why we have spent ages learning from and copying the designs that sprung from this supreme mind. Almost all of our inventions to date are elaborate imitations of objects or concepts observed in nature in one form or the other. Ever notice how an airplane shares an uncanny resemblance with a bird? Or how a submarine resembles a whale? Or how robotic arms look like human arms? Or how plumbing systems mimic the circulatory system in your body? Or how the Audi R8 V10 seems to take design cues from a sting ray? Nature is the ultimate inspiration for all sorts of engineering… it is the ultra efficient reality from which almost all knowledge of our world springs.
Since the supreme spirit and creator of our reality seems to adhere to the most efficient way to do things, it stands to reason that he applied the same design ethos to the creation and perpetuation of our species. We as humans have learned to automate things because it makes our lives easier and more efficient. Airplanes have autopilots, most modern cars have cruise control, and some homes have autonomous vacuum cleaners and laundry machines. As usual, all our perceived brilliance is merely an elaborate mimicry of the elegance of nature because God was the first automator. Think about it… he effectively automated the perpetuation of our species by making sex so pleasurable and by designating the process of pregnancy to the subconscious mind. Our women don’t have to actively will themselves to get pregnant… sexual intercourse at the right time automatically takes care of that. Thinking deeply in this same way, one can see that the theory of evolution doesn’t preclude the existence of an Almighty God. Quite to the contrary, it points to the existence of a supreme being who has mastered time and the very essence of life so completely that he could see the end from the beginning and concluded that the most efficient way to bring humans into being was through a series of evolutionary tests that would force us to develop from our single celled origins into the supreme opportunists we have become today. Our ultra optimized opportunism has made us eminently capable of adapting to a ridiculously wide array of circumstances, allowing us to collectively assume the mantle of undisputed king of the organic world in spite of our physical limitations. Now isn’t that infinitely more efficient, thoughtful, insightful, and thorough than busting out a chisel and hammer every time you want to create a human being?
I guess God vs Darwin ends in a truce… for now anyway.
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
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