The bald concept of evolution is so powerful and universal that at
times it seems to touch everything. The mystical archeologist Teilhard
de Chardin wrote:
Is evolution a theory, a system, or a hypothesis? It is much more -- it is
a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems
must henceforth bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable
and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory
which all lines of thought must follow -- this is what evolution is.
Evolution's role to explain everything, however, stains it with a tinge
of religiosity. As Bob Crosby of the Washington Evolutionary Systems
Society unabashedly says, "Where other people see the hand of God, we
Much can be said of viewing evolution as a religion. Evolution theory's
framework is encompassing, rich, almost self-evident, inarguable, and it
has now spawned local home fellowships that meet monthly, as Crosby's
large group does. Author Mary Midgley begins her slim and wonderful
monograph Evolution as a Religion, with these four sentences: "The
theory of evolution is not just an inert piece of theoretical science.
It is, and cannot help being, also a powerful folk-tale about human
origins. Any narrative must have symbolic force. We are probably the
first culture not to make that its main function."
Her arguments are not against the veracity of evolutionary theory in the
least, but rather against the idea that we can divorce the logical
aspects of evolution from all the other things this powerful notion does
to us as humans.
It is the unexamined consequences of evolution -- however it comes about,
and wherever it is headed -- that I believe will shape our future in the
long term. I don't doubt that our discoveries about the hidden nature of
deep evolution will also touch our souls.