I have always been an evolutionist. Why I never believed in Creationism, in spite of having been reared by religiously orthodox parents and grandparents, I do not know. Even though I sat and listened as a child to hours of hard-shell Baptist preachers describe the Creation and rave on about a fearsome and jealous God and the horrors of hell, I have been a skeptic from the beginning. So it was refreshing and reassuring when I took biology in college to discover that there were learned men who considered Genesis’ Creation mostly myth. And then I read Darwin’s The Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man and from that time on I have never faltered in my belief in evolution even in the face of an overwhelming difference of opinion among most of my acquaintances and the public in general.

To support my environmental and deistic views, I have often gone to Darwin to quote the following: “Nevertheless, the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, &c., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient; or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals”

Now, the evidence is in and it is indisputable that man evolved from a source common to all of life. I have been waiting and expecting a news report like the following for a long time. It has arrived just a few days before my 80th birthday and I rejoice that I have lived to read it: “ The genome reveals indisputably and beyond any serious doubt, that Darwin was right — mankind evolved over a long period of time from primitive animal ancestors. The core recipe of humanity carries clumps of genes that show we are descended from bacteria. There is no other way to explain the jerry-rigged nature of the genes that control key aspects of our development….Our genetic instructions have been slowly assembled from the genetic instructions that made jellyfish, dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and our primate ancestors. There is, as the scientists who cracked the genome all agreed, no other possible explanation.” So opined Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of U. of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics.

“So what?” one might ask. Well, I can answer what it means to me. First, it means beyond doubt that all life had a common origin and thus man is not only related to all mankind but he is related to all life. He is not something that God made specially and then made everything else for the benefit of him. And man is not a species that is different in kind from all other animals but he is different only in degree. Thus, he is not something special but just one of countless species. Of course, he is special to himself and such anthropocentrism is the cause of many of his problems and sorrows.

Further, since all life is related and dependent on all other life, then nature’s commandment, if not the commandment of the God of Genesis, is that he who exploits other species with prodigality to his profit is in the process of endangering himself and his own species and making a mockery of his gift of reason.

In other words, the mandate of such a truth is that man should understand that his welfare is dependent upon the welfare of all other life. That is, he cannot exploit other life for his benefit to the extent that he threatens the existence of other species with impunity, since all life is dependent upon the life of all other species. If, for instance, he were to eradicate earthworms by the use of a herbicide in an attempt to save himself from the labor of weeding his garden, he might discover that in an attempt to save himself from pulling weeds, he has killed the life that is indispensable to the fertility of his soil.

Second, logically one can conclude that there was an original spark that jump-started life, that is, a first cause that produced an effect that produced a cause, ad infinitum, which causes and effects and their successors still determine all inorganic and organic phenomena and all acts and events of everything. And from such a premise one can, as did Spinoza, the great Jewish philosopher, conclude that there is no free will, just the illusion of it.

If there is even the slightest evidence that man cannot will in a vacuum, that he cannot will without every event, every influence, every infinitesimal cause and effect in all of history, determining to some extent his antisocial act, if not determining absolutely his act , then whatever penalty he must suffer for his aberration should be mitigated to the extent that the causes and effects for which he is not responsible caused the crime. And conversely, no man can claim his victories and his successes to be the result of his own efforts and his efforts alone.

A corollary is that since will is apparently not totally free and that to a very large extent will is determined by forces beyond a man’s control, including but not limited to, all the acts, attitudes, commissions and omissions of all others, then no one is innocent of the crimes of any other person; and in punishing the criminal, the crimes of society in general should be weighed and the criminal’s punishment reduced accordingly.

Every act of every one, either good or bad or indifferent, is like a pebble tossed into a lake: The ripples from it extend to the farthermost shores and influence every drop of water within the pond. Or life is as the wake of a ship: One passes through the world leaving a wake and that wake can be predominantly good or bad and its influence is thus inevitably and inexorably either good or bad. Every society has the criminals it deserves and also it has the saints it deserves.

Darwin has subverted dogmatism; and he has put on the defensive those who believe that finding truth is just a matter of reading one book and citing therefrom as the word of God every verse therein that supports their prejudices and predispositions. But until now the fundamentalists have had room to rebut Darwin’s theory and they have done so with the energy of a cornered animal. But the controversy is over and there is no doubt left but that Darwin was right. Of course, the debate will go on; for the Creationists have too much at stake in the way of dogmatic pride, comforting certainty, and simplistic premises to capitulate even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s