Straight Jacket: Origins

English: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) in his lat...

English: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) in his later years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“When you see for yourself what is true-and that’s really the only way that you can genuinely know anything-then embrace it. Until then, just suspend judgement and criticism.” ― Steve Hagen, Buddhism Plain and Simple

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” ― George Orwell, 1984

As I mentioned in Reading Evolution, I have come to embrace Darwinian evolution by natural selection as the way life is altered on this planet. This is a particularly controversial decision in my social sphere, particularly because most of the people I interact with are Christians who embrace doctrines of creation incompatible with Darwinism. This is the same kind of community I was raised in, a group of devoutly religious people who, when faced with a conundrum of authority, will tend towards a literal interpretation of scripture over the critical offerings of any field. I came to the realization that this steadfast preference for biblicism was a virtue in my community, and so the straight-jacket tightened. I could either accept the poetic origins lore of Genesis 1, or I could believe in evolution and divorce myself from the Bible, and (a few suggested) from theism, and even god himself.

Like most straight jackets, the restraints around origins were not entirely inflicted by my environment. It was a combination of biblicist reinforcement, the observation that none of the adults I respected embraced evolution as a legitimate theory, ignorance of the theory, and my own fears of being different that created the straight jacket. But these restrains didn’t keep me from being convinced of evolutionary theory; instead they contributed to my feelings of isolation from my community and from god once I was. Over the last few months I’ve felt as though my acceptance of evolution necessitated a complete disavowal of theism for the sake of philosophical consistency.

After all, how can a kind, loving, involved divine figure be reconciled with the process of natural selection–a brutal, heartless, and morally arbitrary process that that requires, above all, death?

But here’s the kicker: I didn’t even try.

Perhaps it is arrogant to believe that I could succeed where a century and a half of apologetics have failed, but the struggles and conclusions of others do not absolve me of the responsibility to pursue my own. Whether I eventually come to believe evolution and theism irreconcilable is not important. Examining the issues surrounding my worldview–the intensely personal lens through which I participate in the world–is never a waste of time if I come to a better understanding of myself in the process.

I am releasing myself from the straight-jacket of the origins dichotomy to struggle, to search, to examine for myself, to hold in tension ideas I hold to be equally true, despite their apparent inconsistency.

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One thought on “Straight Jacket: Origins

  1. This dichotomy between evolution and belief in a deity is a false one, I think. As Plantinga (in Where the Conflict Really Lies) argues, it is naturalism, not evolution, that is the enemy to belief.

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