Martin LeFevre: Evolution and Spirituality
Evolution and Spirituality
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A local Lutheran church, which is considered one of the more progressive faiths in this town and country, has an astounding declaration on its home page.
“We believe that Genesis chapters one and two are factual accounts of creation and we therefore reject the false teaching of evolution which has no scientific basis, but is simply another of Satan's schemes to lead people away from the truth.” (http://www.redeemerchico.org/)
Jesus help us. “The false teaching of evolution…is simply another of Satan’s schemes to lead people away from the truth?!” Why do people believe such rubbish, or for that matter in the literal truth of Genesis? What motivates such intractable ignorance?
It behooves thinking people to try to understand the distorted thinking of their declared enemies. First because this kind of stuff is dangerous in a supposedly advanced civilization; second because such beliefs have nothing to do with spiritual life and what Jesus taught.
Politically speaking, creationism can form the foundation of totalitarianism. It would have been stupid five years after Darwin wrote “On the Origin of Species,” but now it’s beyond the pale.
Only 4 in 10 Americans “believe in evolution.” Even the phrase “believe in evolution” shows the inanity of the debate in this country. It’s like asking, ‘do you believe in gravity?’ The right response is: What the hell does my belief have to do with it?
Placing the question of evolution in the context of belief skews the issue toward religion rather than science. Evolution is a scientific fact with religious implications, not a scientific belief with religious undertones.
Why does evolution represent such a threat to the belief system of so many Christians? Because they realize that if all life evolved through natural selection, there is no supernatural realm. And that means there is no God.
In the sense of a separate ‘Creator,’ they’re right. But believers prove the limitation of their beliefs, and of belief itself. Indeed, they make God into a paltry thing, a projection of their own prejudicial minds.
Evolution does not preclude the existence of God, just the existence of a separate ‘Creator.’ But it says nothing about cosmic intelligence. Of course, the very notion of cosmic intelligence rubs both Christians and most evolutionary biologists the wrong way.
For Christians, that’s because their God is a personal protector and Lord. Their hubris arises from false humility. Rather than simply acknowledge that God is an essence that the human mind cannot grasp, they cling to their small conceptions of God as if they were Truth itself.
For most scientists, still operating from Newtonian premises and a mechanistic view of the universe, the proposition that nature is infinitely creative, and that there is an immanent cosmic intelligence, also threatens them. After all, if creation is continuously unfolding, then science is an intrinsically limited enterprise, unable to ever have complete knowledge.
Knowledge however, by its very nature, is forever incomplete. Indeed, the very incompleteness of knowledge is a driving force in science. The universe is multi-dimensional, and nature will always surprise humankind, no matter how far science goes with observation, theory, discovery, and experiment.
There are also questions that simply aren’t in the purview of science. For example, where do the insights that form the foundation of science originate? Are they solely a function of content-consciousness in the human brain? If so, that would mean the brain is a freestanding organism, with no relationship to the rest of nature—clearly an absurd proposition (just as absurd as that of a separate ‘Creator’).
Going from the hubris of science to the hubris of religion, the second reason that evolution is considered “simply another of Satan’s schemes” by creationists is that it refutes the special creation of man. Without special creation, they think humans become just another animal, cutting the ground out from under our vaunted place on this planet.
Both domains have to undergo radical redefinitions of their meaning and place in human life.
Science has produced a much better material life for some while doing nothing to resolve the grotesque disparities in wealth between people and regions, not to mention the fragmentation of the earth and the erosion of the human spirit.
Organized religion, on the other hand, has increasingly aided and abetted economic, gender, and ethnic inequality and injustice, and done nothing to resolve the human crisis, reducing its relevance regarding the very questions it purports to pertain and benefit.
In actuality, there is no conflict between evolution and spirituality, anymore than there is between science and religion. Both the religious and scientific impulse have a crucial place in the whole of human life. Their domains overlap in the never-ending questioning that it is our highest calling and greatest privilege to pursue.
The mysteries of evolution, cosmic order, and the human brain are interwoven in a way that exceeds the capacity of irreligious religions and sanctified sciences to explain.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.