Finding a Mate for Evolution
It has been an exciting five days. Metanexus, CTNS, and the AAAS have made a large tent Chattauqua meeting here at Haverford, where theologians, philosophers, and scientists could meet, exchange ideas, and have time to speak personally with representatives from differing groups. We have been able to put faces to the articles and books that we’ve been reading, and we each will be returning home with new reading lists and probably many new ideas. Many many thanks to Billy, Jim, Carol, Julia, and all the others who made this possible.
I wish to use four metaphors to reflect on this meeting. Five, five metaphors, if you include the word “reflection.”
First, embryology concerns interactions. The sperm and the egg are two cells on the verge of death. Yet, through their interactions, they form a living body that survives decades. The ureter bud and the nephrogenic mesoderm are two tissues that also will die in the body unless they meet. When they meet, they interact to form the dozen cell types of the kidney. Not only do they survive, but they form something much greater than either could alone. So science and religion. I think that not only does each of these two regions of knowledge need each other, but the world needs their interactions. Basically, I agree with Alfred North Whitehead, when he wrote in Science and the Modern World,” When we consider what religion is for mankind and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends upon the decision of this generation of the relations between them.” I think it speaks directly to us today.
Second metaphor: Getting information from the Metanexus is like getting a drink from a fire hose.
Third metaphor: What to do with this information. I tell my students that when they attend meetings they should emulate the noble cow. The cow eats hurriedly in the pasture, but she then retires to the shade of a tree and brings the food back up for proper digestion. This process is called “rumination”. I do not know whether the digestive process of the cow or the human act of pondering is the metaphor for the other.
Fourth metaphor: I couldn’t help but see the Metanexus–imagine Billy here–as a marriage broker, a matchmaker. I could see the matchmaker going to the house of Evolution and saying:
Moreover, Ev, you didn’t win any points by turning down Young Earth. Young Earth is gorgeous, she has many friends, and plenty of money. You could have produced such beautiful natural theologies. We had high hopes there.
Evo:Yeah, but Young Earth is dumb. We’d have nothing to say to each other. Besides, she didn’t love me. She just wanted to change me. She liked me for my prestige and authority, but she didn’t really like who I was. I could not have lived with myself if I married Young Earth.
METANEXUS: Fine, I agree 100%. You were right to turn down Young Earth. It might have been the best thing in the world, for now you can look at these other wonderful candidates for your wife. For instance, take a look at Intelligent Design. She is more than simply cute. She is elegant. She is mathematical. She is smart. You want smart, you get smart. Smart and elegant. The two of you will have great discussions all your lives. Moreover, she will be a support to you and make you even stronger. Her presence will make you a better member of the community and a stronger one at the same time. You will be the power couple of academia. It will be just like old times, only better.
Evo: I admit she’s smart. Perhaps too smart. She thinks she knows everything. And this isn’t seemly in someone so young. Moreover, she’s fickle. She says one thing one day, and then seems to say a different thing the next. I guess one of the big things, though, is that I don’t think she respects me. She says she wants to support me and help me, but I still feel that underneath, she’s just like Young Earth and really wants to change me. I mean, she is always criticizing me. She says I’m just too complex for me to know by myself. I think I’ve done quite a good job at knowing who I am. Yet, she claims I couldn’t get to be who I am by my own power. She claims I have friends in high places who have been looking out for my interests without my knowing it. Well, she hasn’t shown them to me, and I think I arrived here on my own merit, thank you.
METANEXUS: O.K., maybe she needs some growing up. But what about Divine Information? She’s has reached maturity and comes from a great family of providential relationships. Divine Information will enlighten and guide your path. She will provide you direction and will give you the appropriate genes whenever you need them. Moreover, she can give you altruism. Do you think you really can evolve that on your own? Moreover, Divine Information gives humans a mission and a universal one at that. Or what about her sister, Evolutionary Love? Now, EL can give you a Love Supreme. Moreover, you get a trinity of helpmates, since EL provides you with perception, resistance, and comprehension. What more can a guy like you want? You get real love, Agapisticism. Now, that is lawful Agape in most states of the union. You’ll merge a law of love with a love of law.
Evo: I can see having fun with them. But take a look at me. We’re talking evolution. We’re talking thousands of deaths for each one who survives. We are talking mass extinctions of perfectly good organisms through no fault of their own. We’re not talking about a Deus ex machina paving the way for humanity. If so, it’s been at the expense of some wonderful critters. I made and destroyed lots of dinosaurs and trilobites, and perhaps the world’s a poorer place without them. But there’s a lot of contingency here. Do you think the world was made safe for mammals the same way Canaan was made safe for the Hebrews? And, Evolutionary Love: It’s Lamarckian, I mean, it’s so 1890s.
And talking of Lamarckian, what’s this about returning to Teilhard? His evolution was a linear axis leading only to us cerebro-manuals and their neural technologies: “unification, technification, and rationalization of the human earth.” All the other animals and plants were nothing to Teilhard. All earth was to become human and that cosmic human reborn as Christ. There’s no ecological consciousness there, no real evolution; only the progress of the central nervous system.
METANEXUS: You know, evolution, it’s amazing that anybody wants to marry you! They must see something in you.
Evo: You know, that’s just it. They all see me in need of reform, in need of some helpmate. I know I have a bad rep, and maybe its because some of my supposed friends, like Dawkins, emphasize my power and independence. And also maybe it’s because some of those religions want me to be an enemy that needs to be reformed. Maybe I should work on cultivating my warm side. As evolution, I make biodiversity. The beauties of the earth are made through evolution. Should I be ashamed of that? Darwin noted that out of all that competition and death comes integrated harmony and order. I’m quite proud of that. Religions talk about the “brotherhood of man.” Some even talk about all the living beings on earth being the creations of the same God. Well, I can show you not only the brotherhood of man, but the siblinghood of all species. We have all arisen from the same stock. Human differences are insignificant compared to human similarities. And it is written. Not in some book, but in our genes. Moreover, the blood relations–or sap relations–of all living beings are written in our genes. Evolution points out the individuality of every being, and at the same time reminds us of the intimate relationships–both molecular and ecological–uniting all beings.
METANEXUS: Uh, oh. You’re getting into one of your religion-without-revelation modes again. You know too well that people are not going to buy that. I’ll tell you what, you cultivate your sense of wonder, and I’ll tell these wonderful candidates what you said. Maybe they’ll change in a way that you’ll appreciate them more. Life’s a dialogue, right! Of course, right. I’ll be back.
And indeed, I’m sure we will. Thank you.