Light of Evolution
What lessons of the past can light our way to the future? How do we make sense of what is happening in the world today? What clues from the past offer solutions for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
For many of us, these questions seem unanswered or unanswerable. For others of us, we can begin to understand such questions with an understanding of where we came from.
Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.
~adapted from Theodosius Dobzhansky
Theodosius Dobzhansky was a leading geneticist at Rockefeller University and the University of California, Davis. This quotation paraphrases the title of an essay entitled Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution that Dobzhansky wrote for American Biology Teacher in 1973. The quote has become a mantra for biology teachers around the globe who teach their students that the disparate facts of biology make sense under the one umbrella of evolution.
Dobzhansky’s observation applies to more than just biology. It applies to physics, chemistry, history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, business, and even statecraft. Evolution shines a light on the origins of matter, chemicals, stars, life, and culture. In short, understanding evolution shines a light on everything. Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.
Sense in the Light of Evolution
So why did I just eat that whole bag of chips? Why does my appetite seem to control me instead of me controlling it? Because my ancestors ate when food was available. Furthermore, our ancestors craved salt, fat, and carbs because they were in limited supply. Thanks to these 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, salts, and oils, 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 and fewer carbs. 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 that may feel good but lead us astray.
Origin story as therapy.
In contrast, because evolution makes so much sense, this perspective offers feelings of integration, wholeness, and peace. This is origin story as therapy.
The purpose of the Epic of Evolution web site is to orient you to the universe in a way that makes you feel at home. The profound well being I experience is the reason I have created and continue to add to this web site.
Sadly, however, for many people, certain versions of the epic of evolution produce a sense of existential angst. This version focuses on “disintegration” entropy; “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 the Epic of Evolution.
At one level, evolution suggests that life is primarily a 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 the 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.
In the light of evolution, everything makes more sense.
After 40 years of studying the Epic of Evolution, I offer this hopeful view about evolution that is intended to help you learn about your past in ways that inspires you to flourish in the future. Enjoy!