I have a confession to make. I have not been particularly nice to people who don't believe in evolution. Not that I keep them in my basement and feed them what my dog doesn't finish. I'm just a very blunt person, and when someone tells me that they think the world is a rational place created willfully by an intelligent being with superpowers, I am compelled to laugh in their face. You know why? Because that is stupid. The world is a random, chaotic, ridiculous place. Thinking otherwise is a very worrisome neurological disorder known as being chronically wrong.
BCW is an epidemic in many religious communities, but is especially evident on the fringes.
However, I came to a revelation the other day. Not that I was wrong for being a jerk. I don't think I was. I have a right to be a jerk just as much as other people have a right to believe stupid things. It's the subtle balance that keeps the world revolving. Their faith in the divine or intent is countered by my rational intolerance of ignorance. But here's what surprised me, and why I decided I needed to write this. I realized, the entire time I was making fun of them.......... I was one of them.
Have you ever thought about evolution? I'm talking now to the people who do genuinely believe in it, like me. The smart ones. The people who realize the universe is a cosmic joke that could wipe us out at any instant and would never, ever notice. Evolution is weird. It's not something our feeble human minds were built to comprehend. It involves billions of inherently broken things accidentally happening and failing horribly, and then the stuff that didn't die reproduces and does it again. What? What?
So I stay up all night, thinking about this, and I can't wrap my head around it. Because it's not designed to. Kinda like trying to use a Phillips head screwdriver to fix kidney failure. We're not equipped with the right tools for the job. We can't imagine how the first creature developed external genitalia, or a balloon of acid inside them to dissolve nutrients, because it happened wrong millions of times before it happened right. That's ridiculous. I can believe we descend from apes. That's not the weird part. The weird bit is getting from single celled organism to apes. Accidentally.
Pick up a copy of the White Album at the beginning of life on this planet, could you?
This is where the apology comes in. I never really thought about it before. I did kinda assume that there was some intent, some force behind evolution. But there isn't. It's pure chance. Well, not chance, but every option was given a fair shake. And most of them failed horribly. In fact, nearly all of them did.
I'm not talking just about any individual mass extinction we know about, like the dinosaurs. Obviously, if you think about it, every living thing that ever lived (but isn't alive now) died. That's logical. But through the sheer efficacy of certain mutations, all life on earth as we know it was formed. Every single creature on this planet took millions of years to develop into what they are today, because our ancestors kept living long enough to bone each other. And billions more species are now completely extinct, because they died before they could screw.
We don't really think that the neanderthals are extinct like the dodo, we think that they became us. No. All the neanderthals died. Eventually, a few of them had kids that were more like humans. A few of them also had kids that were less like humans, and those kids were murdered by animals, disease, or the kids who were more like humans. Because they weren't good enough.
Cryptonomicon, a book by Neal Stephenson and one of my personal favorites, starts out with the best description of evolution ever, what will heretofore be referred to as the 'Stupendous Badass' theory. If you haven't read it, check it out, but the most important point is that considering every other creature on the planet died, anything left must be a truly stupendous badass. So everything currently alive on the planet are really just a collection of the most stupendous badasses. Life on earth is basically the Expendables.
That's right. We, collectively, as every species on this planet, kick this much ass.
So, I'm sorry. In order to truly believe in evolution, you have to be able to wrap your head around not only eons passing by to get us to this point, but you have to accept the wanton disregard for life that our planet has. That's a difficult realization. We are not the perfect children of some all-mighty being (or beings; polytheists aren't any less wrong). We're just a happy accident. And that is a horrible, depressing thought that seems to lead quite easily to cynicism.
But that is what we are. And we need to accept that the reason we should have high self esteem not despite this, but because of it. We survived. Our ancestors, and the planet, straight up murdered everyone else. We come from a long line of stupendous badasses. We weren't magically created for some divine reason. We were thrown into spiraling chaos of murder and death, and we made it out alive. So, one last time, I'm sorry for making fun of you. But you're still wrong.