In the weeks since my apostasy more than a few believers have asked me something along these lines: “How can you give up the beautiful Christian vision of humanity’s divine purpose and exchange it for the grim world of Darwinian selection where the strong survive and the weak die? It seems so empty.”
Well first of all, natural selection describes the world we actually find ourselves in. Living according to reality seems like a better course to take than basing one’ s life on unfounded metaphysical claims and wishful thinking.
Secondly, natural selection is not simply “survival of the fittest.” There’s much more to the story of life on our planet than “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson put it. These types of reactions suggest that Darwinian thought is still widely misunderstood. Yes, the brutal elements of life are the result of the struggle for survival. But religion doesn’t have any more palatable answers for the violence in nature. Who’s God rooting for anyway? The lion or the zebra? He “made” both the predator and the prey.
But if life comes with a lot of ugliness, it also comes with much beauty. Our sense of aesthetics, too, is the result of natural selection. Altruism, love, courage, devotion to friends and family, creativity–all of these attributes evolved in our ancestral past long before religion ever came on the scene, and they can be amply explained without recourse to myth.
Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that learning to look at the world through Darwinian lenses has brought me more feelings of transcendence in recent months than traditional religion ever did. Evolution teaches us to appreciate our proper role in the world, as a unique but fragile species that really has not been around all that long. Genesis teaches us that humanity has “dominion” over the earth. Evolution teaches us that we are related to all life forms on the planet.