Darwin, Christianity & Education
And How The Meek Inherit The Globe
Here we are debating about certain widely prevalent notions concerning the incompatibilities amongst older religious concepts of creation and universe with those of some of the established scientific paradigms. It is not a thesis, but to a large extent a speculative digression through some arguably plausible compatibilities amongst them all. Darwinism, as it spread out in 19th Century, was grossly misunderstood or reinterpreted within folds of new ideologies, concurrent to the needs of the epoch, but in no way doing justice to the great insights of one of the greatest observers of mother Nature.
My basic tenet here is that mother Nature has consistently reinforced empathy and not callousness. This is one of the basic claims of most religions and arguably one of the reasons for their survival and successful dissemination. And as far as human beings are concerned, we know from history and can see it at present, that ideologies can override the bare material facts of the survival of the individual, family, group, class, nation, race and language and all other bonds associated with DNA or Durkheim's social-solidarity and even financial considerations? And sometimes, we don't mind, if the one who carries on our agenda, belongs to same genetic pool, we will prefer the person, over our kith and kin and no doubt enhance his/her survival capabilities. And some times, we get even fed up with our brood and brethren!
The prevalent widely-accepted radical disparity between Religion and Science, between Christianity and Darwinism, is in my opinion to a great extent man-made. There is no evidence in nature, to make them appear as completely incompatible and to force us to say, either this or that. No evidence to make us believe, that they are potentially mutually exclusive.
- God made human beings from clay?
May mean from terrestrial matter (no matter where the organic compounds originally came from). In causal thinking, it has been widely claimed to be an intrinsic property of matter. A fact of creation. The animistic so-called pre-logical thinkers before Thales and Socrates, did not distinguish between Creation, Nature, God, gods and spirits. Before Plato, humans had no really clear concept of a State, or social organizations as independent systematic entity
- Being driven out of the paradise?
May allude to the evolution of the awareness of the self, and the subsequent realization of being no more embedded in nature (alienation).
- Original sin?
May refer to the emergence of the ego, and its ability to manipulate the outside and even the inside world for the satisfaction of personal whims, dissociated from the overall wishes and fitness of the organism as whole or as part of an ecosystem or to the fact of standing or acting in contradiction to the internalized social norms (Freud's superego, perceived as Jaynes bicameral voices of spirits, gods or God in archaic societies) or those explicitly imposed from persons one is dependent upon (Parents, Ancestors, tribal Authorities, Village Elderly).
- And the sense of shame?
Probably to be associated with seeing ones own self as an object (i.e., awareness of the self).
This is speculative but nevertheless plausible.
In last Century many especially the Nazi confused survival of the fittest with the survival of the powerful (the concept of powerful being subjective and relative) and even attempted a eugenic breeding of big tall fair bodies, a superior race and foolishly strived toward a homogenous monoculture of humans with dangerously less phenotypic variations!
Darwin's theory however stresses the advantages of phenotypic variations in populations. It says fittest not strongest (whatever that may mean) and lets Mother Nature decide what fittest is, not Homo sapiens.
It is not our immune system, our fitness nor our science or technology that has saved us from a potentially great catastrophe this century, which may have wrought a great damage to our species but mother Nature or just plain luck.1 Nature did not give the Ebola virus the capability to survive outside its host. The virus is so quick and deadly, that it would blow away populations before a scientist could get it into a lab! There is some indication that the destruction of habitats may force many deadly parasitic organisms to adapt themselves to different hosts (and since Homo sapiens is the most ubiquitous, the danger should be evident). Aids may have also spread due similar reasons. If nature hath decreed it otherwise, probably we would not be reading this stuff.
The workings of Mother Nature and certain concepts in religions may not be as incompatible as certain vulgar Darwinists and Materialist think they are and are trying to make others believe. It is obvious that nature paid infant care, not infanticide. Now obviously it was not because our great grand mothers were social. They certainly killed their infants in times of danger or stress. But mothers who felt an empathy for the infant, willingly took upon themselves the tough job of rearing it, even in adverse situations. Nature reinforced empathy not callousness!
The early-born helpless unprotected human infant did somehow inherit the earth, although incapable of keeping itself even warm, as it had no body hair and is at first fully in need of support. It is now more than ever, a completely helpless being.
I am not claiming to know if a particular religious concept is true or not, I am merely saying that the discrepancy between Darwinism and Religion is not as radical as stated by many bright enlightened schools of thought. And wandering why a true Christian or an enlightened Seeker should turn defensive, when he/she is confronted with the facts of evolution? It is generally a question of perspective. If we agree to the view, based on scientific evidence (see Gazzaniga in the foregoing discussion); that our interpretive hemisphere has the potential capability to come up with creative made-up verbal explanations _ without any direct reference to reality, for phenomena, where direct knowledge is missing2, we are inevitably lead to the conclusion, like Julius Jaynes that this ability was a prerequisite for religious (divine revelations, involving angels, divinities and God) and artistic creations _ especially poetry and epic (moments of insight, involving visits from the Muses). Even some scientific problems, like Kekulés dream3 may be revealed.
Nevertheless these creations of the mind, especially the religious revelations must at the same time, in order to gain social acceptance have some real basis in the universe, certainly then, when such creations, explaining the cosmos and man's place in it, have more than a few adherents.
Alone presenting the psycho-neurological explanation as the basis of religion won't do, it needs a sociological perspective too.
Why is that a great Poets work has been felt by peoples as sublime, whereas those of others as pathological meanderings? It may probably be to the former being more congenial to certain a-priori existing reference frame-work, which the Saussurean Structuralists and Levi Strauss have in the last decades partly laid bare, but which unfortunately boils down reductively to plain algebra at times, and again leads us back to Plato! Why is that some religions have convinced many and others only a minority, although having emerged almost parallel (like Buddhism and Jainism)? Certainly because the ideas of these individuals or the creations of some lonely cerebral-hemisphere must resonate through populations. There is a radical difference between the personal meanderings of the mind and the foundation of religions. The Prophets, who resonate through Societies play a different tune, use chords that evoke something more fundamental than psycho-pathologies of an individual. This was evident to Max Weber, to Thomas Carlyle, as the latter wrote about Prophet Mohammed, with an praiseworthy eyes of a less prejudiced soul.
On the other hand, completely mad interpretations of reality, universe and of creation are generally considered in post-Freudian age, as psychopathologic or as individual neurosis. In some societies, they may even be handled with reverence, including the modern ones, if sublimated in socially acceptable manner but they have no disciples, who spread their message, although they may have some fans and even marketing-agents in modern times, who make a profit out of their freakiness. But they do not induce social transformations or structural changes in society. They are generally less significant, at best may create Sects and cults and at worst people, groups or tribes running amok.
Modern interpretive ideas ranging from Archetypes of Jung to structural anthropology and linguistic, which attempt to explain this phenomenon, all boil down to some a-priori mental or universal constants which is after all only Plato in new clothing. It is not surprising therefore that Minkowski's mathematical working over of the Special Relativity and his lecture in September 1908 at Goettingen, brought Einstein into the limelight and paradoxically in the public domain and revolutionized the thinking of even non-mathematicians, on concepts of space, time and reality. Although many did not understand mathematics. It needed the reinforcement from a mathematician of the caliber of Minkowski, who could easily convince his audience and more important because mathematics is the cornerstone of Physics, and has always stood on the pedestal that Plato made for it and a frame of reference that can awe a simple mortal and convince even the most skeptical at times. And religion like mathematics too is an idea of the mind. Like mathematics, it probably has also its universal constants. There is till now no empirical proof of any divine existence appearing on earth, but divine revelations may have a socio-psycho-neurological basis, rooted in our evolution as well as in the a priori constants of the universe 4. Of course the appearance of the Muses on my site is no less true, because it can not be proved empirically, but more about that at the proper place.
There is moreover the evidence of the weaker5 agricultural societies gradually encroaching upon the habitats of the hunter-gather societies and even upon those of generally war-waging well-organized daring pastoralists. The success of the Bantu in spreading almost throughout the continent of Africa is due to their agricultural know-how. The Massai, one of the few remaining successful pastoralists are today living, amongst others with the Gikuyu and have to adapt themselves to the ways of the modern states and societies.
From infant to the agriculturalists, there is no indication that it has been the survival of the fittest or strong (in a normative way) but more of the weak (nevertheless the fittest!). Using Darwin to justify hegemonic claims, of a cooperation, a country or a race or radically opposing religious doctrines of the true Christianity (which like the English teachers humanism, I wrote about in the last chapter, is unfortunately very different from the politics of the Church and its rather discredited history) or for that matter discrediting Buddhism as non-Darwinist, unscientific and biased is according to my views, a perverting of the theory of evolution.
The fact is that Nature can be unpredictable, will always remain so (we may imagine ourselves controlling the world, but we can't imagine controlling ourselves, there will always be someone who may want to disrupt the status quo not for evolutionary advantage, but for its own sake (eh, those platonic ideas! Eh those structures! God and Satan! Rationality and the irrational! Yin & yang! Male & Female! Electron & Proton! Positive and Negative Charges!). Imagine the fate of modern science, if we did not have linguistic tools and terminologies or concepts for such dualities? May be we are always projecting back into nature not only our experience but also a priori categories of thought, without which it would be not be comprehensible. And understanding is after all also based on some reference to a specific program! Plato and Kant did not consider such a program as divine but certainly a priori. No doubt Mathematics seems to give us so far the closest enlightened backdoor entrance to the phenomena of creation, but it maybe due to the limitations of our knowledge and instruments at present that we have discovered only a part of the basic forms of energy. We therefore tend to explain all through them. Energy may have more subtle forms, than merely those we know at present.
For me one of the most contradictions in religion and evolution lies in the factor time. Obviously evolution has proceeded with trial and error, and it took millions years of labor to produce our species. If God created us, there would obviously be no need for this trial and error approach to creation. And as the reptiles ruled for eons this planet, did their god appear the same? However this would not necessarily exclude the possibility of platonic ideas of God or harmony or whatever existing in universe, independent of our own insignificant evolution. We are after all ants on a small ship in this huge universe. The more we know about our universe the more insignificant we appear. And there may be many other universes. It is plausible to think that Jesus referring to Father was referring to such a principle in cosmos, as real or unreal as Mathematics. Later literate and intellectual Christians referred to the God and divine Logos, and generated rather complicated theological discourses and eschatology well beyond the grasp of the fishermen and the downtrodden, with whom Jesus apparently gladly spent his time! He was a social worker, as the clergy later were the bureaucrats. And today a red-cross volunteer or a dedicated social worker may be following the same innately human impulses. And greatest lesson of Christ, if followed rigorously would probably make the over satiated Metropolitans, run away from the leather couches of their doctors and with a blow shatter their neurosis, as soon as they discover love for others, this life and all that it has to offer, beautiful flowers and animals and landscapes, instead of trying to seek sublime meanings in the recesses of their isolated minds and its subtly manipulated normative ethic, which the Zeitgeist imposes. Love may be an eternal paradigm, and probably dissociated from evolutionary advantage. Its fruits may not be borne in the other world, in genetic pool or the selfish-ego only _ but in Here and Now!
The person may be happier with life! And as such least inclined to convince others or to establish a school of thought! Happy with just being
- 1 It is once again luck, sixth sense (sic!) or Mother Nature, which restrained the Superpowers (USA & USSR) from cutting each others throats (and from blowing away some parts of our planet, shared also by faithful dogs, cute cats and dancing dolphins to Buddha's seventh nirvana) as once there issued a false alarm of nuclear attack at the command centers.
- 2 It is a noteworthy to realize that Leon Festinger came to his idea of cognitive Dissonance (1957), because he believed on the reluctance of the mind to hold opposing views at the same time. Here too it seems there is an interpretive aspect of mind (explaining away) being brought into play.
- 3 The French mathematician Poincare and the German chemist Kekulé owed important scientific discoveries (as they themselves admit) to sudden pictorial revelations from the unconscious (Carl Jung: Man and His symbols ). An interesting book by Arthur Koestler deals with the phenomena of the Act of Creation. It has however not received the kind of reception that it deserves, probably because Koestler had many things on his mind and was later more known for his intense involvement with parapsychology and because of his literary fame, that rested more on his work in fiction and other books.
- 4 Haeckels analogy of our embryo _ repeating our evolution may also apply to structural transformations, that occur during the genesis of our brain, there maybe even a correlation between neurological structural transformations and consolidation of memory, which means we may really have archetypical ideas. In later stages of our growth, they may be however accessible only through indirect means or not accessible at all or accessible only to dedicated minds. Probably quantum mechanics, nano-technology and electro-magnetic manipulations of the brain may offer us an opportunity to access these mental realms from outside, but like Heisenberg's electron, it may turn out to be a chimera, you will be revealed that only what you are creating!
- 5 As far as immune system and bodily robustness is concerned, due to a comparatively less pronounced natural elimination of the weaker individuals in these societies, though probably possessing more phenotypic variations than people with other forms of subsistence economies