”“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” ~ Carl Sagan
Theology and the New Age are fascinating subjects. But what about science? If you begin to explore any aesthetic, physical, or metaphysical practice, you might begin to notice that at the upper end of human understanding, these subjects merge.
Maths can be creative. Physics can be immeasurable and appear random, despite the laws it so rigidly adheres to. Every time we reach a glass ceiling in our realm of understanding, it eventually gets smashed.
Spectacularly, explosively, even violently, the ceiling always gives way to the next level of understanding for us as a species. So what are some examples of this human exigency to go meta? Evolution has to be one of my favorites.
It was merely two hundred years ago that we began evolving in our ability to receive more scientific information, an act which overturned traditional Theology and left it to harden like a historical artifact. But will religion ever become completely buried?
Is it where our imaginative and cognitive states meet, in a mish-mash of perceptive faculty? Or is the divine, as we see in Physics, maths, and aesthetics, actually not separate from the theories which hold our societies and cultures together?
Has it ever been?
You read into the theories of Evolution and decide.
‘It’s just one of millions and millions of pathways’ ~ Anna Claybourne
From Single-celled life forms, or Prokaryotes, to us, is a formula which is surely divine. How did we evolve from single-cells to sea sponges, to Cnidarians with eyes and more movement, to jawless fish, to Tetrapods with four limbs, to Synapsids who lived on land and laid eggs, to mammals, to primates, to Australopithecus, to Homo Sapiens?
Do you see a path of God anywhere on this timeline? Is it cyclical, or linear, or are we merely scratching the surface of the evolutionary history of our planet?
Norwegian photographer, Kjell Bloch Sandved and his photographic project on the alphabet found on the wings of twenty-six species of butterflies may give us an insight into the unknown pathways of evolution.
There’s just so much we cannot comprehend, although evolutionary theories CAN account for why creatures are camouflaged, or have certain features. But new species are being discovered all the time, with features which are inexplicable, guiding us to transcend our linear view of evolution, and become better acquainted with the unknown.
Natural Selection, a theory coined by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace in the early 1800s, could be divine. The idea that creatures not only have genetic differences but these codes which determine the features and survival tactics an animal has are also influenced by its environment.
Take a species of gecko. The Gecko has evolved to have a range of skin colors and textures, yet, over time the paler geckos are more frequently eaten, whereas the darker ones survive long enough to mate and reproduce. Because the gecko lives on a forest floor where leaves turn black as they mold, the darker ones turn out to be better camouflaged.
Because the darker ones live long enough to reproduce, their genes are passed on to the next generation of geckos, and so, increasingly, the geckos have darker skin until most of them are the same color. This could also apply to their texture, and how it helps ensure a confusing exit when escaping predators.
Divine, or pure common sense? Perhaps a bit of both. Or is it harsh? Is the divine harsh, as well as loving, and how does Natural Selection relate to, or prove the existence of divinity, if at all…? Is nature the same as a god, or is there something more out there, is it separate?
Within a species, there are ‘natural’ varieties, called subspecies. Some scientists say there is one species of giraffe, with nine subspecies. Some say there are six subspecies, some four. Is the moral of the tale it is foolish to categorize?!
But Taxonomy’s been around since Aristotle’s time I hear you say! And probably longer… The point is, we don’t know. Science, to a degree, is speculation, but it could be a way to explain the Divine. In the highest folds of meditation, this understanding of the interconnected integrity of everything is certainly god-like.
Another example of subspecies is Darwin’s finches. In Darwin’s finches, he found examples of speciation, which is a process where a few members of a species begin to develop a little differently from the rest. This is achieved through changes in their environment, and it need only take a few hundred feet to create those changes. This might happen with a squirrel for example, in The Grand Canyon.
One day, a couple of them decide to scurry over to the other side of the canyon. As the canyon gets deeper – through erosion of the rock over time thanks to the Colorado River, the two (of the same) species are no longer able to mate. As each evolves to adapt to their slightly different environments (think less wind versus windy, sunnier versus shadow, more predators versus less leading to speedier squirrels), and so two different species evolve.
In the breath of a moment, change came for the squirrels. What made them want to go over to the other side I wonder. A scrap of food? The sight of another animal? Pure curiosity or the electrical impulse of a synapse in the squirrel’s brain? On what chance did just that one, or two squirrels go and investigate? And on that chance – or divine moment, you decide – a whole new species evolved. Wow.
And as for the finches, Darwin counted ten finches based on differences in the bird’s beak’s, and he believed, because of natural selection and changes in diet depending on where the birds lived on the Galapagos islands, they had evolved from one species.
Darwin was not the poster-boy for the survival of the fittest many remember him as, but a pioneer, a translator of the natural, divine world. And Darwin’s theories are still being built on today. With his help we can see the exponential growth of existence over time, is truly divine.
Are we on one big network of neural pathways? Are homo sapiens one neuron on the map of living organisms? Doesn’t that put things into perspective, just how fragile and childlike we might be? It’s certainly humbling to some. But are you convinced yet?
When you consider that about 50% of our DNA matches that of a cabbage plant, it’s not too far a stretch. 75% is shared with that of a mouse, 18% with yeast.
Yeast! We are closer to the natural world than we realize, and the theory that we all evolved from a single cell persists. The fact is, that MOST of life on this planet IS single-celled.
Mapping out living organisms like a tree – or a fractal – shows how insignificant more complex organisms like us are.
‘We are cells in the body of God’, Dolores Cannon once wrote.
If Natural Selection is responsible for the evolution of a species, what about Genetic Mutation? Environmental factors influence the evolution of a species, and the natural selection of the traits which provide that species an advantage, but so does mutation.
Mutations are supposedly nature’s mistakes. The moment our DNA makes a faulty copy in the nucleus of one of our cells, the code is not copied accurately, and a mutation occurs in the human genome. Amino Acids are put together wrong, and our Proteins are built ‘flawed’. The result? Our offspring are born with noticeable differences.
Genetic mutation is usually linked to deficiency and disease, but it could play a huge role in Natural Selection, as these mutations can sometimes create massive advantages for a species.
Advantages might include immunity to certain diseases or, the obvious; diversity. But, looking beyond the science, what do genetic disorders really mean for a species? Is this our way of evolving? Or is it some terrible mistake? Although… I thought there were no mistakes, right…? Where are we heading in our evolution, and are increases in autoimmune disease for example, a part of that? Where’s the divine in deficiency?
The jury’s out: We’re carbon life-forms. We are dependent on Natural Selection, and the mutations of our genetics. But what does that have to do with god?
Do you think evolution theory and theology are separate beasts, or are they all points on a map of spiraling fractals? And do we stare in fear – or wonder – at the intricate and possibly divine web of cell division, protein-building, and history-making of our species?
Evolution by Dulke
For Further Reading, check out:
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
More about the photographer Kjell Sandved
General Updates on Evolution from The New Scientist
And for children Amazing Evolution