meanings evolve

Our text touches many bases of proposed meaning, especially in the Existentialist and Romantic camps. But it really drops the ball in not mentioning evolution as a source of meaning.  So let’s begin to fix that:

That was serious, but maybe still too silly for everybody’s taste. Here’s an approach to the same kind of feeling about the immensity of cosmic/biological evolution that’s completely different in tone:

Loyal Rue concisely weaves  Everybody’s Story as a grand epic we’re privileged to participate in. Dan Dennett nominates Darwin’s natural selection idea as The Best. Both are good, and persuasive. Richard Dawkins literally shares with us the deepest gratitude for getting to exist at all.

But nobody ever explained evolution as a powerful, “spiritual” candidate for one of the large meanings of life better than  the late Carl Sagan. His deathbed nonconversion was poignant, his Cosmos conclusion eloquent and soaring, his Pale Blue Dot one of the most moving expressions of the improbable human journey  ever . As he says, we have walked far from the east African plains, and from Darwin‘s tangled bank. “There is a grandeur in this view of life… endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

And the beauty of pluralizing the meanings of life is that you don’t have to choose between science and God if you don’t want to. There is such a thing as a Theistic Evolutionist. Many will find that an oxymoronic or flabby conflation, but there’s nothing in the logic of our ultimate cosmic ignorance to rule out an Intelligent Designer.

Occam had a razor that might seek that paring– “Don’t multiply entities beyond necessity” etc.– but that’s achickenrazor separate argument. Simplicity appeals to the logician and to some metaphysicians, and the evolutionary hypothesis really is breathtakingly simple too.

But what it’s spawned is an increasingly complex and layered universe. Simplicity may not ultimately reside in the stars.

To be clear: the preponderance of the scientific evidence for evolution is overwhelming. You can’t really choose God in place of science, but there may still be room for peaceful co-existence.

Just don’t try to make the earth out to be only a few thousand years old, that’s nonsense. The cosmic calendar is much, much larger. On its scale, roughly a billion years a month, we’re just a few seconds old.   Happy Birthday!

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