Wisdom is the main thing.
Therefore get wisdom;
And in all thy getting, get understanding.
In the previous post, I offered to the fundamentalist that perhaps God left all these tantalizing clues about evolution, simply because it provides fascination, and engages us in the puzzles around us. Which brings up, I suspect, an obligation for the fundamentalist.
I try to solve these puzzles, to connect the dots, partly because I find them fun. It seems to me that the deeply religious, those who seek to worship God in everything they do, are compelled to look at creation to seek divine guidance. Just as the blind boy Mohammed feverishly searched in nature for messages from God, so should all the faithful. Once we recognize the patterns and puzzles all around us, if we believe that God created them, then I can’t see how the passionately religious can do anything but devote as much energy in studying the open Bible of life, and she does in studying the written Bible of old. Hence the opening quote from Proverbs.
Beyond that, if you prefer to bury your head in a book, even a Holy Book, and then miss the sacred that surrounds you, how is that not something approaching sin? I will argue below that it is precisely sin.
The patterns biologists study are not only interesting, they are also useful. I propose that these patterns, suggested by the evolutionary tree, add utility. The schema of the evolutionary tree does not have to be historically ‘true,’ but it is definitely conceptually ‘true’, it is useful for categorizing and understanding the essential patterns that surround us. If you are a creationist, you can think of it as a divine file tickler, a structure that helps to categorize and understand the world around us.
In that understanding, we derive other benefits. For instance, much of what we understand about how our nerves work comes from research on squid. It turns out that in order to forcefully expel water and jet through the oceans, the squid has a single giant nerve large enough to be examined, and tested, without a microscope. That’s not small (pun intended). And so research on the giant squid nerve axon forms the basis for treating almost all nervous diseases, and medicine is holy; God himself is the Divine Healer.
So even thought in the schema of life squid are more similar to clams than humans, their nerves nevertheless operate on the same basic principles as ours. As we get closer to humanity in the schema, to mammals, and finally monkeys and apes, the structural and physiological patterns also get closer, so that we can use those animals to first test drugs and therapies, reducing the risks to human beings in later human trials. Again, it’s useful. It is unimportant if the evolutionary schema is ‘true,’ it helps us understand life.
And to understand ourselves. Which allows us to improve ourselves.
That’s what I have been working toward on these first few posts. We are going to talk about human behavior, which is a product of both human learning and human genetics. For our discussions here, and for what I want people to consider, it does not matter if humanity is millions of years old, or only a few thousand. In either scenario we have clearly changed, enough that through small evolution humanity has produced the Mongolian, the pygmy, the Swede, and the Inuit. If our bodies were that heavily changed by small evolution, then it is reasonable that our behaviors, and our culture, were too.
So while understanding the patterns between humans and other animals is medically therapeutic, I am interesting in logical therapeutics. I am interested in how we think, and why we think in the ways that we do. For instance, every animal is driven by hunger, fear, and reproduction. So is every human; if, in the Garden of Eden we were purer beings, the last few thousand years stripped much of that purity away. If we we evolved over millions of years, it seems the purity was never there.
Either way, in the developed world we no longer have to worry so much about hunger and the rest, but we still go at each other in the same way that other animals do.
Which brings me to the main point in this post. We can see, all over the world, that we struggle to win and defeat others, and to do so we often pursue murder, domination, exploitation, which in turn create much human suffering. The animal drivers that push us in those directions include anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
I did not pick those seven randomly; Christians should recognize them as the seven works of the Devil. But we don’t need to invoke religion to agree to the evil in them; in the Western philosophical tradition, those seven are equally considered intolerable animal passions, and the moral atheist will agree that they lead to unethical behavior.
We are caught between the animals and the angels, between the visceral and the moral. Regardless of our origins, the animal comes from genetics, and evolution, and so it is critical to understand our biological drivers in order to defeat them. If we want to decrease human suffering, and/or if we want to get to heaven, we have to understand and overcome our animal passions, passions that are influenced by evolution, even if only small evolution.
In the rancor between fundamentalists and Darwinists, both groups miss this essential common ground, the area where we might agree. No, where we absolutely must agree, if we are to build a better world.
And the great, depressing irony is that both fundamentalists and Darwinists miss that essential common ground…
…precisely because of anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
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Next in the series: Teach Creationism or Darwinism?
Picture: The 7 deadly sins courtesy of ThePrintsCollector.com :