Light of Evolution
“Why are there so many kinds of bugs?” “How do I makes sense of this overwhelmingly huge universe?” “What is my purpose?” “Why did I just eat that whole bag of chips?”
For many of us, these questions remain unanswered or unanswerable. For others of us, we can begin to understand such questions with an understanding of where we came from.
“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
This quotation was the title of an essay written by Theodosius Dobzhansky, a leading geneticist at Rockefeller University and the University of California, Davis. It was published in the American Biology Teacher in 1973. The goal of his essay was to convince readers that all the disparate facts of biology finally made sense under the umbrella of evolution.
Dobzhansky’s observation applies to more than just biology. It applies to the evolution of energy, matter, chemical and stars. It also applies to history, anthropology, culture, religion, business and to psychology.
“Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
So why did I just eat that whole bag of chips? Because my ancestors ate when food was available. Thanks to carb cravings, our ancestors survived to pass on their genes and we are alive to enjoy the chips (and to rue the extra weight.)
Evolutionary theory is powerful. In the light of evolution, so much that was once a mystery now makes sense. And because we better understand ourselves, we can learn ways to optimize our lives. For example, knowing that our ancestors craved carbs, we can refrain from beating ourselves up for low restraint and instead find ways to hack our biology. We might, for example, trick our bodies into feeling full by eating more fat. Everything makes sense in the light of evolution!
Without the deep time perspective of the Epic of Evolution, little makes sense. With the void of unknowing, some people feel uncertainty and feelings of anxiety. Others fill the void with stories lacking evidence.
In contrast, because evolution makes so much sense, this perspective offers feelings of integrated, wholeness and at peace. The profound well being I experience is the reason I have created and continue to add to this web site.
For many people, the popular story of biological evolution produces a sense of existential angst. This version of evolution focuses on “struggle for existence” and “nature red in tooth and claw” and “survival of the most selfish.” While there is truth in these tropes, they only offer a small part of the amazing story of evolution.
At one level, biological evolution suggests that life is about a selfish struggle for existence. Yet now, new findings in biological evolution and from the deep time perspectives offered in cosmology, psychology, and history, indicate a different story. We now know that evolution is also about survival of the most cooperative. Survival of this fittest also means survival of those that harmonize best with their environment.
A deep time perspective offers growing evidence that the universe, at least in our corner of the cosmos, is moving toward ever greater complexity, consciousness and cooperation.
It all makes sense!