What Evolution Means for Our Relationship with God
Research shows that your body is a telescope.
Posted Oct 11, 2019
In the morning, when I take a shower, I see my own hands. I see my own feet. I know I am me. I know that I am the same me that I was yesterday, more or less. My life has been a series of encounters with this self. Yet I know that I did not start with this me. My genetic endowment comes from my parents and their endowment came from their parents.
When I stare into the mirror, I stare into the past much like astronomers who gaze at distant stars. My body is a telescope peering into the history of life.
Each of us, by our very existence, tells a story about how we came to be. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, the universe stares back. And when we think, our thoughts do not come from someplace outside our bodies. They come from the mixture of our lives with the natural world's gift of a mind to experience it. Our thoughts are our thoughts, but they are also ancient thoughts, thoughts of bloodthirsty warriors, wise matriarchs, leaders, and innovators.
Our evolutionary past lives are more amazing than anything metaphysical we might imagine. Our biology is, in fact, a trail of bread crumbs that humans have followed very nearly to their source. And that source has never died. Why do we die? Perhaps mostly because we become confused enough to think we are less than everything.
Our lives carry an undeniable truth. Our very existence is a stamp of approval from the laws of nature. We obey the laws of physics and chemistry and biology. Our ancestors, back to whatever first scrap of RNA cobbled itself together on a young oxygen-starved earth, were triumphant. We triumphed by our wits, by stealth and cunning, by accidents, and by our wisdom and capacity for love and violence. We made something of ourselves not just in one lifetime, but over millions of lifetimes.
The vast diaspora of life on Earth all managed to solve life's hardest problems. And we are living evidence of this.
We humans will probably not be around forever. Humans like ourselves have only been around for 70,000 years or so. During that time the odds are that we knew of other species like ourselves, mated with Neanderthals, and helped our relatives to the door of extinction. But our brief 70,000 years pales in comparison to many of the species that existed before we did, who survived for much longer. Homo erectus is estimated to have been around for 2 million years. Many other species have been around for much longer.
It is too early to say what will become of us, but it is safe to say that we are temporary, as likely to change as we have already. If some higher deity made the earth for humans to rule over, she had a curious way of doing it, given the history of our ancestors.
The human exceptionalism of the majority of religious ideologies should leave you feeling empty. They are too riddled with the signatures and mistakes of human arrogance.
You are exceptional. But you are exceptional because you are part of something more encompassing than any single human has access to. Any religion that proclaims to deliver answers is small-minded in comparison to the vast horizons of experience that you encompass.
Our relationship with God (or Zen, or Jesus, or Allah, or the Cosmic Mother, or just whatever that feeling is when you read a good haiku) cannot be made more real by our commitment to tribalisms. In fact, it is just the opposite.