Why I Love the Theory of Evolution

If I exposed my ignorance the last time I discussed evolution, I am sure to do no better with this post. Since writing (not very well) about why I hate evolution, I’ve thought a lot about the reasons why I love evolution. I hope to adequately articulate one reason here.

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day? Some may see this as a coincidence, but I happen to think it no coincidence (after all, you know how I feel about chance). Abraham Lincoln was the president of the nation who would become one of the most influential nations in the world; Lincoln was instrumental in seeing that our influence did not include the advocacy of slavery. The implications of Lincoln’s presidency were not fully realized before his death (are they yet?), but surely had we had no Lincoln, our influence as a country may have been a force for evil when it came to treating people with equal love and respect.

Darwin, though not a politician, has had no less influence than Lincoln. But his influence wasn’t necessarily in the realm of humanity. Instead, his primary influence was in the world of the botanists and biologists. He popularized the idea that the world adapts: animals adapt to their particular location and their particular location adapts to the animals. He popularized the idea that the natural world is full of complex relationships between plants, animals, and even people that depend upon one another for survival.

One simplified (and by no means perfect) example of this is the relationship between bees and the plants and flowers they pollinate. According to my knowledge of the theory of evolution, as bees evolved, flowers and plants evolved along side them in a co-evolutionary process that necessitated the survival of one species to sustain the survival of the other. In other words, flowers needed bees to reproduce while bees needed flowers to eat and to make honey. These kinds of relationships exist everywhere in nature and reveal the deep connection that exists between all species on the earth.

What I love about the theory of evolution is its potential to teach us about these relationships. If we are open to listening, we can learn how fragile these relationships can be. We can also learn that threatening these relationships threatens the livelihood of all of creation. For example, as the honey bee population continues to decline, people are beginning to worry about the crops that provide the more interesting dishes to our diet. Without the honey bees, not only do fruits and flowers begin a slow demise, but so do our taste buds.

In other words, if we listen carefully to the lessons of evolution, we will learn that we as humans are intimately connected to the natural world around us and that to abuse our stewardship of the earth is not only irresponsible, but it can have grave repercussions for our livelihood. That’s what I love about evolution.

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7 Responses

  1. Thank you, Joe, for breaking our run of 8 consecutive political posts!

  2. “In other words, if we listen carefully to the lessons of evolution, we will learn that we as humans are intimately connected to the natural world around us and that to abuse our stewardship of the earth is not only irresponsible, but it can have grave repercussions for our livelihood. That’s what I love about evolution.”

    That’s a great statement, Joe!

  3. Joe, great post! You’ve warmed my heart and made my day. Evolution is so important to understanding the natural world. And it never, ever, ever, when seen properly is a threat to faith. Well done.

  4. Joe, the only thing I would add to your post is how our appreciation of the intricate relationships that exist deepens when we choose to recognize the Lord’s hand in them.

    There was a period in the middle ages when many Christians talked about nature as a kind of revelation of God’s nature and intentions for men (like scripture).

    Later (in humanist movements) new perspectives of the relationship between God and nature arose. Belief in a God who created the world with special purposes and meaningful order (rather than a merely volunteerist, distant God) diminished. As creation was somewhat severed from creator, Western civ. isolated human action and morality from relationships with the natural world more. We stopped appreciating the complexities and relationships in nature in our faith and started explaining them through our own reason, and using them to advance individual potential.

    I would say for the large part, people are still struggling to approach connections between creation and a creator’s intentions for us and our relationships. But Latter-day Saints, who believe in additional revealed scripture about creation, the Lord’s purposes for our relationships with the earth, and the spiritual qualities of living beings have a unique perspective to share.

  5. Candice,

    I might have mentioned something like what you talk about, but not in this post – that’s actually one of the things I hate about evolution: that it “explains the complexities and relationships in nature through reason.” In other words, it’s a a-theist, or at best agnostic, way of looking at the world. Frankly, when I look at the world, I tend to see God everywhere, especially in the complex relationships between man and creation.

    But I can be pragmatic too, and to be quite honest, I like the fact that we have a story we can tell in the public schools that, though it takes God out of nature, it still leaves us with a responsibility towards it.

  6. After taking a good look at nature you truly do realize how connected we all are.

  7. […] do not claim these accounts are literal, but literary). But for those Latter-day Saints who love evolution, I am asking if our creation narratives ought to be, or even can be, used in support of creation […]

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