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November 25, 2014

Biological evolution tells the amazing story of how life on Earth has evolved from the first cells four billion years ago to the incredible diversity that includes you and me as specific examples of a human specie that developed only 200 million years ago. But the larger story is the continuous evolution of the universe over the past 13.7 billion years, in which biological evolution is only a part. The larger story is a relatively recent discovery gradually revealing itself over the past several hundred years as humans carefully observed and reasoned , and “connected the dots” to form our current understanding of Reality. It’s an amazing story indeed.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery has been that the universe is forever and everywhere changing. There is constant change and transformation within atoms, within our bodies, within the earth itself, within the stars and the galaxies. Until recently we talked about the “fixed stars.” We felt the solid earth beneath our feet and watched the sun and stars circle us once a day and wondered. Now we know that the earth is circling the sun, itself a star, and that stars are still being created within swirling galaxies which are themselves evolving within an expanding universe! The universe started evolving 13.7 billion years ago. Within minutes the first nuclei were forming. Within the first half million years, the first atoms of hydrogen, helium, and lithium were formng. Soon (a half billion years) the first massive stars began to emerge. And so on. Constant creation and transformations taking place, a process that is is still going on. Evolution is not something that just happened in the past. It’s happening right now.

Today on this planet Earth all life around us, including you and me, is at an evolved moment in time within the entire universe. That’s mind-boggling! That means that each one of us is a participant in this cosmic evolution. And with the evolution of our human self-consciousness and imagination, we of all species only recently have been able to look back, to comprehend, to picture much of that development. Although human beings are a tiny fraction of that universe, we are nevertheless an integral part of it, so one might say that as we look back in time, “we are the universe looking back upon itself.” [Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution]

This story of Cosmic Evolution is our current Creation Story. It has its parallels in the ancient Genesis creation stories as told in the words and concepts of three thousand years ago. We have filled in the ancient stories with new knowledge of recent years, but the underlying truths have not changed. The Adam and Eve story recognized that humans have capacity for evil within themselves, and explained it as humankind being created originally as perfect, but then choosing to be imperfect, thereby inheriting our capacity for evil. Now we know that through evolution we have inherited animal instincts for survival that still kick in whenever we are threatened. But our human brains have also evolved with advanced frontal lobes which can control those animal instincts . The frontal lobes are the primary source of our compassion, our sense of justice, of love. We are evolving to be more than animals. And although we are very early in our evolutionary time scale, there are already examples of humans who have lived more fully human lives, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela being recent public figures.

The universe around us is real, and we are a part of that reality. We are a living part of a grand and glorious story that has been unfolding for 13.8 billion years. Awesome!

[See also my earlier blog “Connections” as listed in the July 2012 Archive]

Loren Bullock
November 19. 2014

From → Evolution

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