The Necessity of Understanding Evolution

I was taught as a child that evolution was synonymous with atheism, the devil, and the spirit of Antichrist. I was also taught that the Bible is both unquestionable and literally true. Of course, the Bible implies that creation happened about six thousand years ago.

As I grew and learned, however, I realized several things that were not just important, but absolutely crucial to my growth and understanding as a spiritual person. I eventually had to cast aside my long-ingrained negative views about the idea of evolution in the face of the overwhelming evidence for it—and the impossibility of excluding it in a rational view of What’s Going On Here.

What, indeed is going on here? Why do we exist, and for what purpose? Where did we come from and where are we going? What are we supposed to be doing with our time here? The correct answer to these questions will elude us as long as we try to keep evolution out of the picture.

Why is evolution such an important part of the puzzle for people who seek to understand life, themselves, and the Divine?

There are two basic ways of looking at the universe, humanity, and history. These two perspectives are not compatible, and they produce opposing attitudes toward life. The first is the idea that the universe used to be perfect and has “fallen” to its current state. The second is the idea that the universe has developed from a less developed and aware state into its current, more complex and aware state.

Each viewpoint implies the projection into the future of whichever past trend is accepted. If the world has fallen, it continues to fall; if it is improving, it continues to improve.

The reality is that the universe is, and always has been, in a continual state of improvement that will apparently continue into the future. By “improvement,” I mean progress toward an apparent planned end state or goal. We stand today as the heirs of billions of years of change (evolution) that has produced our world, brains, technology, and spirituality out of the largely undifferentiated state of matter that apparently existed immediately after the Big Bang.

It is a mystery to me why people cling to older ideas of a recent creation and the “fall” of the universe (world) from perfection in the face of overwhelming—and demonstrable—evidence to the contrary. Is it really so difficult to accept, for instance, the idea that a Creator did indeed create the universe many billions of years ago and even now guides the development of that creation to ever-better states of being and increasing complexity?

That evolution happened, and continues to happen, is a fact, not a theory. (Natural selection is a theory about how it happens.) The point of contention among those who accept evolution as truth seems to be the mechanism behind it: the “how.” What makes evolution happen?

To postulate that a Creator or at least an intelligent, conscious force drives the course of evolution (and continually infuses the necessary creative energy into the process) is not in the realm of science. Nevertheless, something has to make things happen, whatever you wish to call it. My view is that acceptance or belief in a Divine intelligence behind evolution (and all of existence) is a healthy and rational perspective. This idea does not hinder or contradict either science or the evidence for evolution, and it allows people to retain their (perhaps natural and necessary) idea of a Creator who (or which) deserves acknowledgement or even reverence.

Creation and evolution don’t have to be mutually exclusive, in other words.

The world isn’t getting worse; it’s getting better, on the average, despite news reports that focus exclusively on negative or harmful events. Evolution is only the visible development of this wondrous and progressive change that the Creator has had in mind all along.

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