This I Believe

George - Louisville, Colorado
Entered on August 8, 2007

I believe in evolution. But I didn’t really know all that entailed until a few years ago when I discovered evolutionary psychology. For me it was like someone turned on the lights. It was fascinating… and disillusioning.

Of course I understood the concept that evolution shaped our bodies. It’s the familiar sequence of a knuckle dragging ape straightening into a man in a suit. But evolutionary force has shaped more than our bodies. It has shaped human nature itself. The simple idea that most every aspect of our nature can be understood in terms of its usefulness to the survival of our tribal ancestors ….that simple idea changed my experience of life.

Our interest in status, sex and power, the differences in the psychology of men and women, our ability to love, nurture and share while we also deceive, murder and destroy, and even our tendency to deceive ourselves, all are explained through logical processes of natural selection.

But what changed me the most was the very issue that makes evolution so threatening to so many. As I began to see how well these ideas explain human behavior, and my own experience, my spiritual path hit the wall.

That path had already undergone many course corrections as my beliefs change with new information and understanding. But as my beliefs become more rational, they have unfortunately become less spiritual, and I miss the magic and comfort of the spiritual perspective. And it occurs to me, holding these beliefs while other people hold more comfortable, magical beliefs, puts me at a disadvantage emotionally.

And so as I write this, I’ve just had the kind of realization that comes with evolutionary thinking. I’ve discovered in myself what could be a survival advantage of belief in god or a spiritual world. Belief helps us cope with life… and death. Belief helps us cope with a brain that understands too much and yet not enough. Could it be that an inclination to believe in god, or something bigger than ourselves, has been built into human nature by evolution because believers have a survival advantage? So evolution creates belief and many believers feel their belief is threatened by evolution. How ironic would that be!

I am the direct descendent of an unbroken line of millions of generations of creatures since the beginning of life. And these survivors have passed to me their collective survival instincts through their genes. I feel part of a larger world when I think in those terms, the beneficiary of countless success stories through eons of survival.

The truth is, I’d rather believe in a spiritual reality, but I have to believe what I think is true, and for now science gives me deeper understanding than spirituality. I had hoped the spiritual and scientific would merge and I will continue to explore those possibilities. But in the mean time, I can find enough inspiration in the truly awesome, wonderful and rational world of science and nature.