God Illusion and Darwin Delusion

An 1869 portrait of Charles Darwin, the British naturalist whose theory of natural selection fundamentally altered the world’s opinions about the evolution of living things.

I remember a long time ago, while playing one-to-one basketball with a priest, I asked him, how can a catholic scientist like me, choose between evolution and creationism. To which he answered saying, even for evolution to happen, there should be some minimal level of life available on earth, and that was god’s doing – the basis for natural selection (and evolution) to grow into this tree of life carried forth on Gaia’s shoulders.

Of course, for me, there is a fragile place where I belong in the creationism against evolution argument. I believe both ends of the story, I’m truly a Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde in terms of being a creationist in church and a Darwin at university and that goes for my hybrid nature of wanting to have both faith and empiricism in my life. I want to belong in both places, on the pews of a church and on classrooms of my university.

Still there are many models to life. Creationism, which is knows as theistic evolution, believes in one supreme god, who made life possible by the intelligent molding of apically-working models capable of self-sufficiency and even flourishing in pursuits of intelligence, love and self-actualization. That supreme species we know very well as the humans, who, although, having a rather similar DNA imprint compared to other primates, has evolved higher order function, civilization, eudemonic pursuits, intelligence, cooperative evolution, social behavior as well cultivating the arts and sciences (which are rather absent in other great apes, lesser apes and old world and new world monkeys). Creationism is synonymous with an intelligent creator, who just like a watchmaker, made a beautiful time-vessel, to enrich and diversify further, and to become more and more complex, as individuals as well as cooperative pursuits such as technology, even our quests of an idyllic shrine called love. Importantly, a watch or mother earth, will keep on ticking, unless the man who wears or lives on it, decides that Armageddon is in his plausible distance. Still the foundation of mother earth and its complexity, in its entirety, was made by an almighty god.

On the other hand, deistic evolution, is more like what the priest told me, a non-interfering god, who made a simple life form, on which Darwinian evolution built a super mass of miniature life forms living on top of Gaia. The invention of complexity and diversity in this case was done by the undying opus of time, with many minor players such as abiotic interferences, geographic isolation, niche demands, sporadic changes and the timelessness of irradiance, all took their toll in this edition of evolution. Evolution after all, just like God, was intelligent, but slow, after all God was a simple potter, who used morsels of divine clay to sculpt bacterial Adam and Eve and the petri-dish of Eden, where-as evolution was a dragged out process tinkering DNA for nature-selected accidental survivors.

Then of course there is the view of Intelligent Design, when mother earth is a smorgasbord of some complex dishes intelligently cooked and some other dishes that have been carelessly dished up by the cooking-hand, AKA evolution. This is the merger of evolution and creationism, where God is called intelligent, due to his magical wand and evolution is called a moron due to its lesser level of complexity and for being like a snail in her implementation. After all evolution, did not happen in a week, unlike the beautiful event of creation, when the first couple was only put in the kiln on the seventh day. Still, evolution may be accidental and may be dependent on substitutions which are rather ‘natural’ in their changing patterns at the molecular level, yet, the capacity of that molecular event to resonate to the functional level, and make that species, one for survival, is truly an ingenious event of biology. So in my opinion, God or Evolution have Einsteinian IQs, it’s just that one is a bit slow in her worth ethic, while the pinnacle of perfection (god) as kindly put forward by St Thomas Aquinas, in his five proofs of god, is simply near perfect in work ethic too.

Then to the most accepted of them all ‘Evolution’, the Darwinian type, which is based on a species adaption to a niche environment and their selection by nature. This is any science student’s mantra for the beautifully landscaped and species-rich world we live in. Of course there will always be the battle of theologians who believe in the creationist model with the many Darwin K9s who will always growl at the crucifixes nailed on human minds.

What I wish to draw here though is not the argument of evolution against creationism but how the first life form came about, irrespective of whether you are a believer of deistic evolution or abiogenesis. Abiogenesis, says that, simple inorganic and organic molecules (gases or dissolved gases), in a primordial soup or due to abiotic stresses, came up with the primary genetic molecules – RNA – which due to their unstable nature, became DNA with time. DNA became the architect of evolution by her susceptibility and willingness to change according to the times. I believe once again that abiogenesis can divide the theologians and the scientists, for the two factions will, just like the creationism versus evolution argument, throw spit and knives, at the dilemma of a simpleton god who made a simple life form (deistic evolution) or abiogenesis, when inanimate molecules evolved by simple collision into building blocks of life. The real argument rests here and not on the complexity of humans and their only origins. History conveniently omits the importance of the first event of life, repeatedly molesting Darwin’s theories and highlighting theologians who speak on natural theology and the wondrous God, who sculpted life from his own bare hands.

I’m an RNA biologist and that is what my qualifications say. So how can I oppose abiogenesis which constructed the first RNA molecule, the prelude to all life forms. I’m also a lifelong catholic, who believes to a certain degree on creationism – after all, the complexities of the human heart and mind and the diversities of life, essentially makes me a slave of god. Still I have Spartacus’s blood boiling inside of me thanks to 5 years in grad school and 4 years studying for a basic degree. I will always be a student of science, now and forever, who will try to break free of chains holding me to the church.

Still, whenever I find myself basking in freedom, I always have that sense of being lost, after all, although I maybe, in education, a Darwin’s terrier, I will always be the church’s Doberman. I’m not a bisexual, but I guess there is something beautiful in bisexuality – when you want to make love from both sides, to God’s ingenuity and evolution’s industriousness, the light in front and the dark matter behind. Sometimes, it is not about taking sides, it is only about being in the middle and not making sense, after all life, is simply too heavy for the human temple. No human mind is Atlas, just Achilles, with the knotty story of how life originated, piercing the muscles on his Talus bone. We are not perfect scientists or flawless theologians, we are only men colossally limited by intelligence, searching in the dark for a firefly, to understand the blinding sun.



Author: meandererworld (Dilantha Gunawardana)

Dr Dilantha Gunawardana is a molecular biologist who graduated from the University of Melbourne. He moonlights as a poet. His poems have been accepted/published in Forage, American Journal of Poetry, Kitaab, Eastlit and Ravens Perch. He mixes science with poetry for a living, when what matters is the expression of both DNA and words into something serendipitous. Although an Australian citizen, Dilantha is domiciled in Sri Lanka, his country of birth.

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