“The fish in me”: spiritual Darwinism

I have been going through Dawkins’ latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth. What I’ve found, and this is confirmed in my reading of the other Dawkins texts, is that there is a discernable and distinct sense in which a sense of wonder is found in the notion of Darwinian evolution. Consider the following:

i. Our genes and biological functions contain relics of our ancestors
ii. We posit a shared common ancestor between contemporamous living species, from sheep to bananas, we share genes and perhaps however distantly, perhaps an genetic ancestor.
iii. There are some species that existed alongside our ancestral species that are alive today.
iv. Common ancestors are theoretically posited to have intermediary ancestors, as evolution occurs by degrees. At the end of chapter 7; Dawkins adds a postscript that there was an intermediary fossil discovered that shows a connection between humans and apes, this discovery is as recent as May 2009.

There is something exciting about the pursuit of fossils; it is the discovery and exploration of our ancestors. By positing the common genetic ancestor, which is a thesis that is held to the jury of evidence to be justified (which it has, to some great degree of success).

The spirituality, if such a word has any meaning, has the following significance:

i. The incumbent species today are our genetic cousins; a certain moral significance can be made for this.
ii. Within this family metaphor, we find that there are aspects of our parent species that still remain in us, for better or worse
iii. With all the currently living species, and the previous ancestors before us, we are all related in some fundamental genetic sense. The unity of these organic beings makes a family structure in the Linnean taxonomy. In a crude sense, we are all part of some single genetic pool.

Many talk about the things that Darwinism’s implications reject; but there is a distinct spiritual option, a positive thesis  that can be made. It is quite an interesting one too, and highly counter-intuitive, and one which is decided not by theology, but empirical investigation.



One thought on ““The fish in me”: spiritual Darwinism

  1. Didn’t Unweaving the Rainbow cover this territory somewhat?

    I agree that it is possible to reach spiritual states through contemplation of evolutionary history, but baulk slightly at the suggestion that all work in this area is “empirical investigation”. Some of it is, certainly… but a lot of it is metaphysics, and as such, is functionally theology repackaged. 😉

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