For thousands of years, perhaps tens of thousands, humans have been aware of their mortality and have obsessed with and have passed down the most serious narratives about the origins and purposes of life. Anthropologists and sociologist, having studied many tribes and civilizations, in all Continents, report descriptions of deities and supernatural forces explaining life’s origins and giving guidance and judgment for individual and group behavior and growth.
The various accommodations to life’s mysteries appear to be characterized by (a) certainty and (b) small tolerance for doubt. My assessment of the religions which I have reviewed, is that they believe in purpose, direction, and growth. Even those which object to the word “evolution”, hold that there is, or should be, a desirable behavior that would grow individuals and the group towards a better life or being. There seems to be a universality of each generation striving for some intangible goal for their progeny. Evil is defined as failure or impairment of this growth.
I have often characterized this as a relay race in which each generation passes the baton (or torch) to the next generation as each moves closer to improvement or the goal.
In 1952, my freshman year in college, I was 750 miles from the site of my adolescence, where no one knew how awkward I had been or of the many faux pas I had committed in high school. I loved it, finally sprung from the constraints of living with my parents and living without curfews or punching out and in. My primary interest, in a way, biological, was not classroom biology. Being a small liberal arts college, the freshman year was mostly filled with the satisfaction of certain courses required for graduation. To satisfy a required science credit, I found myself, inadvertently, in Biology 101, taught by Bonnie Brown. (This college required attendance with severe penalties for those who cut class). Mrs Brown started class, day one, on time, with all the subtlety of a Marine Drill Sargent and dispelled us of any illusions about what was going to happen, six hours a week for two full semesters. Students in this class did not just float through here to check off credit requirements. She had lab assistants, but that, unlike some professors, she did not sit in her office while assistants muddled through practice teaching. Mrs Brown had a calling, and it was to fill us with appreciation and nothing less than LOVE of the magnificently beautiful intricacies of all things from unicellular organisms through to human beings!
For the next year, Bonnie Brown conducted biology class with the enthusiasm and commitment as much as Leonard Bernstein teaching at Tanglewood. In this analogy, I would have been like the third chair oboe or maybe, triangle, to start. Mrs. Brown had my undivided attention, a full sixty-minute-hour, six hours a week for an academic year. There were no holds barred here. No fig leaves obscuring all of the facts and realities of sexual reproduction were allowed to inhibit science education. Furthermore, in spite of legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolution, Mendelian genetics and Darwinian “descent with modification”, it all was thoroughly spelled out as the reality that it is. As Neil deGrasse Tyson says: “Even if you don’t believe Science, it’s still true!”.(1)
I wrote a post earlier about Bonnie Brown(2). In addition to a lot of factual knowledge of biology, Mrs Brown’s love of life, in every form, caught my imagination, in spite of other interest, and kindled in me a never-ending wonder of the manifestations of life. Mrs Brown made us excited to watch the reproduction of bread mold and fruit flies to say nothing of human reproduction.
Because of Mrs. Brown, I majored in Biology. I then went on to medical school. I went on to be an obstetrician a few years later and through a thousand births, at all hours of the night, I never, ever stopped being amazed at the formation and the beginning of new human life. It’s freaking amazing! And it happens even to people who aren’t even trying or have any idea of what they are doing. Even they can be the portal for these precious little perfect humans! I believe in a force driving life!
I have put in my academic time in studies at universities here and in London. I have a working knowledge of molecular biology, DNA,(3) and the relative genomes (4) of humans and other species. It was also necessary for me to learn the biological responses to ionizing radiation in a broad spectrum of qualities and quantities. Most molecular biologist, having seen life in its fundamental chemistry feel the need to state that they have “seen” that is a peculiar happenstance of the sequelae of the Big-Bang where a bunch of highly active chemicals have bound to one another, due to their physical properties. Also because of it inherit characteristics, it begin reproducing itself and has continued relentlessly for three billion years. It has continued without interruption all of this time. In addition to this, because of mistakes in DNA replication, there were many genetic changes in the subsequent generations. Those errors that did not optimize survival caused the termination of the line. Containing those mistakes. The “errors” which enhanced survival, produced individuals that lived to reproduce the next generation, etc., for a countless generation, each shedding the not-so-strong individuals. I buy into this mechanism but not every last conclusion of this explanation.
Now according to the most modern scientific interpretation, “evolution” does not imply direction or improvement; just change with enhanced survival. This line of thought means your puppy is not a higher order of life than a rat, just a different life form. And your child is not a higher form than any other primate, just a parallel surviving product from random errors and changes.
Highly respected scientists are convinced of this.(5) The logic works.
However, our daughter just conducted the wedding ceremony for our new daughter to our son, while his brother read the consecration to the marriage. There was a little objective about this! Don’t tell me or Bonnie Brown how this is the product of random genetic mistakes. Bonnie Brown and I don’t believe it.
Charles Clanton Rogers June 22, 2015
(1) Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History
(2) Charles Rogers, http://therogerspost.com/2015/01/14/miracles/
(3) Andrew Berry and James Watson, DNA, Knopt, NY NY, 2003
(4) Mark Ridley, Genome, , HarperCollins, NY NY, 1999
(5) Richard Dawson, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, 1976