I was born into a very conservative religious family. One of my earliest memories is a comment by my father that it was impossible for life to have started from a bubble of ooze. Back then I had no idea that this comment touched on one of the most controversial, and long lasting, issues that our society has ever tried to resolve. It was not until I arrived at a Christian liberal arts college that the issue became very personal.
As a Biology student dissecting vertebrates in comparative anatomy, I was fascinated by the progressive relationships among the various specimens. Without any prompting from the Professor, I began to see for myself the wonder of evolution. Of course this revelation caused a huge crack in my world view and precipitated a confrontation with what I had been taught to believe.
Over the years, my attempts to reconcile my faith with what I have discovered about the world have gone through their own version of evolution. Beginning with a kind of intelligent design approach, which was a big step forward since I was taught to believe that the earth was no older than 6,000 years, I have finally arrived at a belief that I think makes sense – at least to me.
The constant struggle between orthodox religious folks and scientists over what should be taught in the public schools about evolution, desperately needs to be resolved. Scientists are correct to point out that the organizing principle of, not just Biology, but all of science is evolution. But faithful believers are right to insist that there is a moral imperative in the universe that gives meaning and purpose to all of our lives.
Scientists have recently found proof that the universe began about 14 billion years ago. It has been shown that about 4 billion years ago a star used up its hydrogen and in its death throes, fused the lighter elements into all the elements that make up ordinary matter. Almost instantaneously, the star exploded and spread those elements into space where they gathered around a younger and newer star and formed planets. One of which is ours.
After our planet cooled, carbon organized with oxygen, hydrogen and other elements and began to self-replicate. Over the next few billion years, self-replication, variation and environment resulted in organisms of greater and greater complexity. Then, about 200,000 years ago, an even more extrordinary process began. Somehow, in someway, carbon learned to speak.
I believe consciousness, as manifested in language, is the answer to the mystery and gives extended meaning to the Gospel of John’s opening declaration, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” I believe there is a consciousness in the universe that manifests itself in humankind and implies a deeper meaning to our existence. After all, an existence as improbable as our own suggests that the conciousness extended to us is not temporal but eternal.
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