Thursday, March 24, 2016
Saturday, March 19, 2016
Life from its origins is hardwired for the emergenceof some kind of reflective consciousness.
That is a quotation lifted from an article in Christian Century Headed Toward Christ: The Grand Narrative of Evolution. In the article, Ian Curran reviews a new book by Simon Conway Morris, The Runes of Evolution. Curran relates that
Evolution, to be sure, proceeds by fits and starts. Species arise and then disappear, and the history of life on earth is marked by far more failures than successes. Species can be destroyed by predators, disease, climate change, or, as in the case of the dinosaurs, a wandering comet. But despite the elements of chance and contingency in evolution, Conway Morris perceives an intelligent, law-like process at work, a deep structure unfolding in the emergence of living beings who eventually come to apprehend the very mathematical forms which made possible their evolution. The dawn of self-awareness in the universe, manifest in human intellectual reflection, moral action, and spiritual experience, is a promise woven into the fabric of life from the beginning.
I am satisfied that this is true. Conway Morris worked on the Burgess Shale with Stephen Jay Gould. Gould was convinced that evolution was random. There is no direction to evolution and that humans and the development of consciousness an accident. Morris believes differently from this. As do I, now.
For many years, the trial and error approach of evolution depressed me and produced skepticism that meaning could be found in it. Of course, being from a very conservative religious background, I had been taught that if evolution is true, we are an accident. No different from an animal. It is one reason many, no doubt, hang on to their anti-Darwinism. They and I, for a while, thought that if evolution is true, then there can be no meaning to the universe. Now I'm happy to learn this need not be the case. Books by Morris, John Haught, and others are teaching me a more optimistic view of evolution.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Thought I'd grab something to read in bed last night before dropping off. At random picked from long ago The Great Code: The Bible and Literature by Northrup Frye. To my surprise it turns out I'd signed it exactly twenty years ago to the day. In the introduction I came across this pithy quotation:
Man lives, not directly or nakedly in nature like the animals, but within a mythological universe, a body of assumptions and beliefs developed from his existential concerns.
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