Photo by Alex Gonzalez. Tucson, Arizona from Windy Ridge. No copyright infringement intended. Fair Use Doctrine Applicable
A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY BEGINS
Evolution is true and Christianity is not (along with all religions)
“I Don’t Want to Believe. I Want to Know.” ~ Carl Sagan
Another desert summer night was emerging below me. In the distance were the shimmering city lights of the Valley of the Sun, as far as the eye could see from my elevated dirt road at the foot of the McDowel mountains northeast of Phoenix. This was decades before the area became developed - about half-way between northern Scottsdale at the time and Fountain Hills. Nothing but clear skies of the desert, well before air pollution in the area became a problem. As a teenager, who in the coming months would be matriculating at the University of Arizona at age 17, I was developing some of those existential questions that many young people are bothered with. Where did we come from? What does it mean to be human? As we go about our lives are we not just like ants, I thought? Can there be any meaning and purpose to life? What is the basis for morality?
This desert location would provide a place I could at least begin to formulate the questions to ask. Questions that people had for thousands of years pondered also, people much more intelligent than I. No wonder for millennia people have gone to desert areas to formulate some of life’s most important questions. But where to find answers?
How does a high school senior begin to find answers to questions like these? My parents did not seem interested. There were no philosophy courses or philosophy teachers at my high school. I didn’t even know there was an academic discipline called philosophy that dealt with such questions. For reasons I still have no explanations for, I decided at that young age to dedicate my life to searching for truths and to be honest, no matter where it led and at whatever cost. Was that naive? Arrogant? Little did I know that there would indeed be some high costs that would touch me in substantial ways. I did not know at that time of Sagan’s writings but his quote captures what I was thinking during those years.
"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion,
however satisfying and reassuring."~ Carl Sagan
I did know a religion that claimed to have all those answers. I had not been exposed to Mormonism or Catholicism but the evangelical Protestants were very active in our area. At about this time I began dating a girl who attended a fundamentalist church and her father was on the road to ministry but instead diverted into elementary school teaching. So fate brought an opportunity to me at a time I was searching for important ultimate life answers, and I converted and eventually married into fundamentalist Christianity. This religion provided a loving social experience I had not enjoyed previously and combined it with intelligent and compassionate people who claimed to have the ultimate answers to life and history.
In high school I had found science and in particular biology very satisfying. In the coming years my university biology education would clash head-on like two male mountain goats during the mating season with my Christianity. To my complete surprise eventually most of those ultimate questions of life would not be answered by religion nor philosophy but instead by science and a better understanding of history. But much of that was decades and many life changes away.
Veritas Super Omnia
Theologians and philosophers had thousands of years to answer so many of life’s questions but had failed or proposed answers that were demonstrably wrong. Origins slowly became my focus. Decades later my first web site would be called Origine and my motto Veritas Super Omnia (Latin: Truth, Above All) would be prominently displayed. Science provided sound answers to where we came from, when, from what, and how. These informed the why and gave answers to meaning and purpose, even if most people did not like them. Much later I was to turn my attention to where Christian beliefs came from, how the Bible was written and the canon produced, and most importantly if its claims were true.
As I entered into older age I realized my intellectual journey, especially focusing on selective origins, had arrived at two basic truths: The Theory of Evolution - “Macroevolution”- was true and Christianity (and all religions) was not. From those two conclusions profound consequences followed. How can those two conclusions affect just about everything in our lives? This site is dedicated to those two assertions, the evidence for them, and important ramifications that follow.
I think I know what Sagan meant with that first quote about belief. The word believe can have several meanings. It can include to consider true, to hold an opinion such as suppose, or to have a firm conviction in regards especially to religious persuasion. Sagan was probably referring to the latter. We don’t believe the sun will arise in the east tomorrow. We don’t have faith it will. We don’t hope it will. We trust it will because we know from science why and how it appears to us in the east, what it is, how it formed and how old it is. And why it will continue to do so for every day for another 4.5 billion years. We don’t have faith that the airplane we will use tomorrow will fly; we trust it will because we know the engineers, FAA, and pilot training that has gone into the industry. It’s not perfect but we also know it’s one of the safer modes of transportation. It’s not about belief or faith; it’s trust built on evidence. I don’t want to just believe in evolution or creation; I want to know why one or the other is true. I don’t want to just believe in religion, I want to know if it’s true and how it originated. Is using faith to evaluate truth even a valid method? In many cultures this type of curiosity and drive can isolate us from others who just want or need to believe because religion plays such an important part in most societies. Those others often can include close family and friends.
This 10 minute video below looks at some studies that address why some people become atheists and some believers. It certainly aligns with much of my journey out of religion and why.
This is not a recounting of my journey out of religious belief and what I found in history and science to be true; that transit took decades of intellectual struggle and long lapses of deferred searching. Rather, this is what I found to be true in the end. Two crucial truths that have sweeping consequences for most areas of our lives and our societies.
"Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences."
~ Robert L. Stevenson