(Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inherit_the_Wind_(1960_film)
I recently enjoyed watching “Inherit The Wind” – a movie based on a real-life case in 1925, in which two great lawyers argue the case for and against Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes who was arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in violation of state law. Although I had seen this movie a long time ago, this viewing coincided with a blog by my daughter that I had just finished reading; an article that in part referenced “our normal sensation of self.” Her references to material written by British philosopher Alan Watts , and by Donald D. Hoffman, a U.S. professor of cognitive science in this article so intrigued me that I had to search out their publications and read what they had written; especially since I have struggled with thoughts about my identity of self, and the origin of man, since I became old enough to reason!
At some point, early in my life, I realized that “I” was not able to believe the way the creation of man was explained in the King James Version of the bible (Genesis 1 King James Version (KJV):
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
or similarly, in the New American Standard Bible (NASB), Genesis 2:
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living [f]being.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [o]suitable for him. . .”
” but for [r]Adam there was not found a helper [s]suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God [t]fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
[u]She shall be called [v]Woman,
Because [w]she was taken out of [x]Man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
However, I also understood that men and women had to come from somewhere and, while I knew where I came from – in the sense that my father impregnated my mother and that I came forth from her womb – I could not understand where the 1st man (and the 1st woman) came from. I knew without question that “I” alone could not go out into the forest and create a man or woman, so there had to be another solution or possibility.
A firm determination to solve the question “where did the first man come from” eventually led me to Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” that had been published on November 24, 1859.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection
- More individuals are produced each generation that can survive.
- Phenotypic variation exists among individuals and the variation is heritable.
- Those individuals with heritable traits better suited to the environment will survive.
- When reproductive isolation occurs new species will form.
These are the basic tenets of evolution by natural selection as defined by Darwin. The following is a quote from Darwin.
“Variation is a feature of natural populations and every population produces more progeny than its environment can manage. The consequences of this overproduction is that those individuals with the best genetic fitness for the environment will produce offspring that can more successfully compete in that environment. Thus the subsequent generation will have a higher representation of these offspring and the population will have evolved.”
(Copyright © 1997. Phillip McClean)
While Darwin’s theory made more sense to me than “God” making a man in his own image (who really knows what God might (might have) look(ed) like?), or forming him out of dust then ripping a rib out of his body to make him a woman (a helper), I found it extremely difficult to believe that the first man evolved from an ape (or a whale) no matter how long it took – and then, if I chose to believe Darwin’s theory I would still want to know where the first ape (or whale) came from!
* * * * *
“I” spent the earliest years of my life living in a small farming and fishing village near Ocean City, New Jersey. After I was born my mother and father moved into my maternal grandfather’s house. My biological father ran away from our home when I was three years old. My mother left not long after that, allegedly to earn money to help provide for our families needs, leaving it up to my grandmother and grandfather to raise me. Although very intelligent my grandfather – the son of an Italian immigrant – had a very limited education and did not talk a lot (ironically, “grand pop” showed no interest in church even though he was an expert carpenter). My grandmother, the well-educated daughter of a family of English origin was a sickly woman who often experienced long, debilitating, bouts of Asthma. Although she attended the local Asbury Methodist Church when she was able to do so, she often remained bed-ridden for days at a time. Consequently, three of my grandfather’s 4 sisters (all chubby, jovial, Italian ladies) that lived around the family farm would stop by to check on “grand mom” and me, and make sure that we had enough to eat when my grandfather was at work or away from home. These lovely ladies did more to clothe, feed, and nurture me than anyone else during the first 9-1/2 years of my life. Throughout these years, my grandmother made sure that I attended the church regularly, dressing me in a horribly “itchy” heavy woolen suit on cold winter days. Her brother was the lay minister of the Asbury Methodist Church – as well as the church chauffer – and I would have to stand outside, next to the mailbox, on those cold mornings waiting for “Uncle Archie” to pick me up and drive me to Sunday School. I don’t think I thought much about church or religion during this time in my life, other than how much I disliked that damned itchy suit.
The Dreaded Wool Suit
On a cold winter December morning in 1946, not long after Christmas, my grandmother suffered a fatal asthma attack and passed away. One of my great aunts found a letter that had been sent to me from my mother. “Mom” was apparently living in Miami with a sailor that she had met in Atlantic City while she was working away from home. It took about four months for my mother to make the arrangements, but my mother finally sent the money needed by my grandfather to purchase a ticket on a train that would carry me to Miami (evidence indicates that she also took this time to get married to the sailor). The “family” purchased some new clothes for me, packed my belongings, and drove me to the train station in Atlantic City where I was met by a lady from the Traveler’s Aid Society who helped me to board the train to Philadelphia.
Twenty-five hours later, after having changed trains in “Philly” where I boarded the Orange Blossom Special, I arrived in Miami. As another Traveler’s Aid lady escorted me off the train and down the platform toward the train station I spotted my mother. Although I had not seen her for many years, I recognized her immediately – and the man who accompanied her. He was the sailor she had introduced me to at a dinner party one night in Atlantic City a few years earlier on one of the rare occasions when she was in town. That night the sailor teased me; I cried, and my mother nudged me under the table in an effort to encourage me to be quiet!
For the next six years I lived with my mother and stepfather in Miami. Although it would take me sometime to figure this out, he proved to be a racist, often drunk, gun-toting member of the KKK. He hated negroes (he called them “niggers”), Catholics, Jews (although my paternal father married a Christian, he came from an Orthodox Jewish family), Muslims, Yankees, and me! After witnessing a few of his drunken outbursts I began to suffer asthma attacks (almost certainly psychosomatic), and I was eventually allowed to visit my grandfather and great aunts in New Jersey during school summer breaks.
When my stepfather was arrested by the FBI in Miami in 1953 for having aided the Ku Klux Klan in the blowing up of a black housing project in Liberty City (he allegedly furnished the dynamite – believed to have been stolen from his employers) my mother called it quits and we moved back to New Jersey where she obtained a divorce.(she had previously divorced my paternal father when I was seven years old).
Once again, “I” was able to resume a fairly normal life; living on a small farm, fishing and hunting with my grandfather, surrounded by loving and caring great aunts, playing in the woods, riding a school bus to school, and – once again, attending the Asbury Methodist Church, where I eventually became a member of the Asbury Methodist Youth Fellowship. (I eventually withdrew from the Asbury Methodist Church Youth Fellowship organization due to discoveries of obvious selfish self-interest, hypocrisy, and infidelity among some of the churches parishioners).
* * * * *
“I” tell you all of these things, not to gain sympathy from you – nor to bore you with long, detailed stories of my early life, but simply to impress upon you my reasons for questioning my confusion about religion and the origin of man.
Now, over sixty years later, I’m still searching for answers. Several years ago, I decided that I was a “Deist,” and still may be:
” *Deism is the recognition of a universal creative force greater than that demonstrated by mankind, supported by personal observation of laws and designs in nature and the universe, perpetuated and validated by the innate ability of human reason coupled with the rejection of claims made by individuals and organized religions of having received special divine revelation.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism)
Photo taken from: http://slideplayer.com/slide/3838887/
However, I have just been introduced to the works of British philosopher Alan Watts, and I strongly believe what he has written in his book, “The Book on The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are,” (published in 1969):
“Naturally, it isn’t the mere fact of being named that brings about the hoax of being a “real person”; it is all that goes with it. The child is tricked into the ego-feeling by the attitudes, words, and actions of the society which surrounds him—his parents, relatives, teachers, and, above all, his similarly hoodwinked peers. Other people teach us who we are. Their attitudes to us are the mirror in which we learn to see ourselves, but the mirror is distorted. We are, perhaps, rather dimly aware of the immense power of our social enviromnent. We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society. We copy emotional reactions from our parents, learning from them that excrement is supposed to have a disgusting smell and that vomiting is supposed to be an unpleasant sensation. The dread of death is also learned from their anxieties about sickness and from their attitudes to funerals and corpses. Our social environment has this power just because we do not exist apart from a society. Society is our extended mind and body.” (Quoted from “The Book,” Chapter III)
“To many people it was therefore an immense relief when Western thinkers began to question this image and to assert that the hypothesis of God was of no help in describing or predicting the course of nature. If everything, they said, was the creation and the operation of God, the statement had no more logic than “Everything is up.” But, as, so often happens, when one tyrant is dethroned, a worse takes his place. The Crackpot Myth was retained without the Potter. The world was still understood as an artifact, but on the model of an automatic machine. The laws of nature were still there, but no lawmaker. According to the deists, the Lord had made this machine and set it going, but then went to sleep or off on a vacation. But according to the atheists, naturalists, and agnostics, the world was fully automatic. It had constructed itself, though not on purpose. The stuff of matter was supposed to consist of atoms like minute billiard balls, so small as to permit no further division or analysis. Allow these atoms to wiggle around in various permutations and combinations for an indefinitely long time, and at some time in virtually infinite time they will fall into the arrangement that we now have as the world. The old story of the monkeys and typewriters.
In this fully Automatic Model of the universe shape and stuff survived as energy and matter. Human beings, mind and body included, were parts of the system, and thus they were possessed of intelligence and feeling as a consequence of the same interminable gyrations of atoms. But the trouble about the monkeys with typewriters is that when at last they get around to typing the Encyclopaedia Britannica, they may at any moment relapse into gibberish. Therefore, if human beings want to maintain their fluky status and order, they must work with full fury to defeat the merely random processes of nature. It is most strongly emphasized in this myth that matter is brute and energy blind, that all nature outside human, and some animal, skins is a profoundly stupid and insensitive mechanism. Those who continued to believe in Someone-Up-There-Who-Cares were ridiculed as woolly-minded wishful thinkers, poor weaklings unable to face man’s grim predicament in a heartless universe where survival is the sole privilege of the tough guys. If the all-too-intelligent God was disconcerting, relief in getting rid of him was short-lived. He was replaced by the Cosmic Idiot, and people began to feel more estranged from the universe than ever. This situation merely reinforced the illusion of the loneliness and separateness of the ego (now a “mental mechanism”) and people calling themselves naturalists began the biggest war on nature ever waged.” (also quoted from Chapter III of Watts “Book”)
Needless to say, I am certainly not going to copy all 118 pages of “The Book” here, but I honestly believe it should be ready by everyone who questions the origin of life!
* * * * *
During my search for the origin of “I” I have read additional views on the creation of man from the Islamic View of Creation, from Universal Unitarianism, and from the Agnostic atheists, and most recently, from The World’s Newest Religion – No Religion.
One of the most appreciated and surprising works that I have discovered is from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s “What does it mean to be a human!” “A Primer on Science, Religion, Evolution and Creationism” is a brilliant publication that includes a lengthy discussion on creation by Intelligent Design (ID).
While I once believed that ID was the most logical explanation of the creation of man, I think “I” will stick with Deism for the time being!
*See this list of deists, Many of whom where amazing individuals; people like Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, and even Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci . . .https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deists”