Program Note: Live anywhere near Whittier, CA? I’ll be speaking there tonight and I’d love to see you in person. This will be the beginning of the second leg of my Million Miles Tour. I’ll be speaking for about an hour, then doing a question and answer. I did this in sixty-five cities during the fall and had a great time. I’m really looking forward to being back on the road. Learn more about the Whittier date here, or whether or not I’m coming to your town here.
I had some friends over to the house not long ago who had mixed opinions about faith. I’m not exactly sure what they believe, honestly, but because of a short conversation we’d had about God, I was under the impression they weren’t die-hard believers. So later we happened to be watching the new Discovery Channel series called Life, narrated by Oprah Winfrey, when Oprah said something along the lines of “Mother Nature has done such and such.” To be honest, I’m not exactly sure she said Mother Nature. She may have said something like “Evolution has done such and such.”
I hit pause on the remote and asked my friends if it bothered them that people who don’t believe in God use Mother Nature and Evolution as a crutch. I think my friends were confused. But what I meant was Mother Nature doesn’t exist, at least not that we can prove. And while evolution may have taken place, at least on a micro level, it’s not like evolution has a brain and a calculator and a pencil and is planning anything. Evolution isn’t a force with human characteristics. And all that is fine, but in the narration of so much evolutionary thinking, the accidental force we use to explain our existence is often personalized. What I wondered, with my friends, was whether or not it bugged them so much scientific talk is emotionally dishonest.
It seems to me the narration, softly spoken over desert rodents performing a mating ritual, should sound more like this:
“The striped sand hamster uses it’s accidentally evolved bright spotted winged hands to perform a mime communication that accidentally attracts the female sand hamster and prompts her to turn her hind end toward the male, where an accidental male organ has grown because the male sand hamster needed it to mount on an accidental female organ through which an accidental evolutionary process of fertilization accidentally fertilizes accidental eggs which grow in an accidental pouch and are nourished, through the accidental evolution of biochemical responses to desert cactus plants that through accidental evolutionarily developed nurturing responses creating small accidental fetuses that are accidentally born into a sand tunnel the sand hamster learned to dig in order to survive…”
My point is, I think the terms Mother Nature and the personification of evolution has been used as a crutch. I think, in being honest, we need to state these ideas the way we actually claim they happened, largely by accident.
That said, I took a class from a conservative old-testament scholar several years ago in which he explained why the literary method used to write Genesis one and two allowed us to interpret the text in such a way we could reconcile evolutionary theories to the text. I didn’t ask any questions of him, because I honestly didn’t care (my faith doesn’t depend on the literal interpretation of scripture, and I’ve never even asked the question whether or not the text was to be interpreted literally or not. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve just never asked the question. I only say this to say I have NOTHING more to add to that topic in the subsequent comments).
Nevertheless, can we just stop the whole Mother Nature business? The one idea we can all agree on is Mother Nature doesn’t exist. And neither does a personified evolutionary process. It’s either God or an accident, right? Or maybe it’s Uncle Earth. Uncle Earth, I like that.
“Uncle Earth, drunk one night, made the elephant trunk look like a large male organ and laughed until he blacked out, after which he woke and it was too late to change it back to a regular, human-looking nose.”
Now that would explain things.