by Stephen McAndrew
The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is – marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. – Joseph Conrad, Author’s Note to The Shadow Land (1)
I recently attended an earth day celebration with one of my children. The kids sang a couple of songs celebrating the earth and proclaiming the virtues of tree planting and not littering. Of course, these are positive things to tell our children to clean up after themselves and to recycle where possible. But earth day, or international mother earth day as the international version is called, is not just about cleaning up litter or recycling – it’s much more than that.
The traditional Christian view that the earth and all that exists is the result of divine creation has been rejected as unscientific – fine to teach at home but not suitable for the classroom. However, the idea of celebrating mother earth is also unscientific when viewed through the paradigm of evolutionary theory.
The dominant scientific theory regarding the origin of the earth presents the world gradually through the process of evolution. Leaving aside any argument regarding the truth or falsity of evolutionary theory, is an evolved earth a sensible thing to celebrate? Earth day as a secular celebration is celebrating an earth that we find today as the result of evolution.
Evolution we are told occurred because of a unique set of circumstances that resulted in the world we live in today. If anything was the slightest bit different as evolution worked its way along, life as we know it would not exist. (2) So it isn’t as if mother earth somehow set out to make us what we are. So what are we celebrating on earth day – random chance that somehow worked out in our favor. That is a scientific and rational basis for a truly secular celebration of nature. But that doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. In fact the opposite is true. If you truly embrace the idea that life itself is the result of a series of random events the rational person won’t see much purpose. You can’t sing too many happy songs about that.
The Bible states that the wonders of nature point to God. (3) Evolutionary theory contends to have demystified nature and exposed divine creation as a myth. However, we are still spellbound by nature…
Atheists state that there is no need to appeal to the divine or the supernatural to experience awe and wonder. Instead they argue that nature itself is a wonder. See the quote at the beginning of this piece by Conrad that Christopher Hitchens quotes in his book God Is Not Great. But doesn’t this beg the question?
When surrounded by the wonders of nature do you think that it’s really amazing that everything here happened by chance? Or do you have an inkling that this couldn’t have just come about by pulling the lever on some cosmic slot machine…
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Songs of a Semi-Free Man: Earth Day