Tuesday, October 29, 2019


I am an amateur Evolutionist. Not having cared about how this or that species came to be since I was a sophomore in high school, I have allowed my understanding of the current Theory of Evolution to grow old and dusty, and all sorts of layman's misperceptions and odd outlooks on things have crept in over the years, resulting in an odd hodgepodge of science, personal understanding and outright inanity. (Having read Darwin is of little help here; On the Origin of Species is quite dated at this point.) And, not being a scientist, I don't maintain any sort of rigor in my approach to such things - if it makes sense, I go with it, and let someone else sort it out for me later. And I am careful to make way when presented with evidence, one way or the other, and keep and open mind.

I am also an amateur Atheist. Being your average random American, I was raised Christian; Roman Catholic, to be precise. I was told that there is a God, and that he sent his only son down to Earth to die for our sins, and that there is a Devil, who makes people do bad things because he wants them to go to Hell; apparently, he gets off on torturing souls and God doesn't mind him having a hobby to keep him off the streets. Somewhere in there was always the faintly disturbing idea that Communion at Sunday mass was this magical form of cannibalism, with what you thought was red wine and cardboard-tasting wafers actually being the body and blood of Jesus. Anyway, I also quit caring about religion when I was in high-school; having come to the realization that my classmates weren't mean-spirited because "the Devil made them do it," but because they were simply bastards. There might be a God - there might not. I don't know, and frankly, I don't find the truth of it to important to my daily life. Being a bastard is being a bastard, come Heaven, Hell or basketball court; and therefore to be avoided.

But if there's one thing about a Roman Catholic education, it's that the church, having repented of hounding Galileo, doesn't bother to take issue with science, per se. Sure, they might not like this discovery, or that procedure, but they're cool with science overall. Father Phillip, my biology teacher, firmly believed in Evolution. He had a chart on his classroom door; at the top of the chart was God. Below that, were quarks. And it kept going until you arrived at mankind. For him, there was no conflict between Evolution and God. Sometimes, though, I'm convinced that he's in the minority.

Recently, I encountered an Evangelical critic of both evolution and atheism who offered me an "obvious reason" for "Darwin's lack of appeal," as he stated it. It's that, to their mind: "no one lives as if Darwinism is true." He went on to say, effectively, "If you really believe in evolution, you can do whatever you want to any living thing." The implicit sub-text here is clear: The only sources of an ethical/moral sense in humans are a divine power and/or a sincere belief in same. And that a belief in the Theory of Evolution directly precludes a belief in such a power, or even the acceptance of the possibility of its existence. Humans otherwise lack an intrinsic ability to internalize values and mores that are beneficial to anyone other than themselves as individuals, and possibly those they care about. Our conversation eventually reached this admonition: "Leave compassion and moral judgment only to those who believe human life is more than an accidental collection of amino acids." Explicit in this statement is that those who believe that humanity arose from the vastness of the Universe unbidden by the divine have no right to act in a manner that believers find compassionate or moral - they are commanded to abandon such behaviors. The critic denounces such actions by those who believe in Evolution as "irrational and contradictory," even though he still appears to appreciate the acts themselves. This is a common enough stance that I encounter it every two to three years in general conversation, and so it's unsurprising to hear it

For many Evangelicals, and those who hold similar beliefs, to be religious, and therefore, to be moral, good and/or just, is to subscribe to the idea that the Bible is a literal history of the events that it purports to chronicle. In the Christian Broadcasting Network's "Operation Supreme Court Freedom," one of the Prayer Points is to: "Pray that those who oppose biblical truth would retire from the Supreme Court and be replaced by those who honor God's law." It's pretty clear from this statement that as far as the CBN is concerned, you cannot honor God's law without accepting "biblical truth." And if you cannot honor God's law, you lose any claim to virtue.

The confluence of ideas that states that one must chose between God and Evolution, and that to chose Evolution is to reject the concepts of Good and Evil, is a faith-based one. As such, it can continue even in the face of a lack of proof. Which it does; its basis in reality is tenuous at best. While many people honestly believe that those who believe in Evolution leave themselves an "out" when it comes to ethics and morality, and may deliberately make such a choice precisely to obtain that "out," how many people can point, off the tops of their heads, to people who cite "survival of the fittest," "natural selection" or "evolutionary pressures" as a motive for the crimes they commit? Yes, there are a few high-profile mass murderers and hate-mongers, spouting corrupted Nietzsche as moral cover. But when was the last time you heard a mugger fall back on Darwin? Or a corporate executive, fresh off the "perp walk," quoting from On the Origin of Species for justification?

The religious left, even though they are, by all accounts, a clear majority of the Liberal movement, seems to sit and fret in silence. They are, evidently, hoping to avoid being thought of as "backwards religionists," unfit to wear the label of "rational human being." This should end. Anyone who can manage to hold in their heads the idea that humanity, could have evolved from less-advanced animals, and still manage to be ethical, caring, just and devout should feel free to speak up; long, loudly and often, and request their opponents prove them hostile to religion, to the divine, to kindness and/or to the well-being of their fellows. And the secular left errs when it attempts to demonstrate, however correctly, that the God-fearing are capable of the same hienous acts as those who acknowledge no divinities. More productive would be working to show that the Agnostic, Atheist and even the Anti-Theistic among them can be just as upstanding and forthright as the most pious clergyman. As the saying goes, "hope is not a strategy," and hoping that people will come around to the "right way" of looking at the world is a lost cause. If we accept the idea that hostility to Evolution is (at least in part) a reaction to the idea that Darwinism (directly or indirectly) equals Moral Anarchy, then everyone who understands that notion to be false would do well to marshal their evidence, stand up for the truth as they see it and place their opposition in the position of needing to discredit them.

I was taught that the process of Evolution was the hand of God shaping mankind; not out of clay, but from organic materials. And not in the first days of Creation, but billions of years after God sparked a tiny mote into the infinite vastness that stretches away from me in all directions, expanding ever farther with each passing moment. This was presented as a matter of faith. The hand of God faded with the final demise of my religious beliefs, but contrary to the charges of Evangelicals, a desire to keep others down didn't become Evolution's new bedfellow in its absence. When I donate money for disaster relief, or give twenty dollars to the single mother sitting by the expressway entrance, it's because I genuinely feel that what I'm doing is right, not because I'm insane, or taken leave of my senses. It is my job to demonstrate that, and when required defend it, and force others to prove me wrong, or to acknowledge the falseness of denying my ethics.

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