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Out of Control

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 see evolution."

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.