Part 3: The golden thread
Evolution runs like a golden thread throughout the life sciences. It is the one fact that holds all of Biology together. As Theodosius Dobzhansky stated, nothing in Biology make sense except in the light of evolution. During my years at university, as I studied my way through Botany and Zoology, the concept of evolution became more common place in my work; not a lecture would go by without the word being mentioned at least once. It became a familiar topic, so much so that I lost my apprehension and fear towards it. I realised that it wasn't the big, ugly, faith-eating monster that I had thought it was. It was instead quite harmless, a normal scientific theory written in books, not unlike all other ideas and subjects written throughout history.
Although I spent much time hearing the word and the basic conclusions of Darwin’s theory, I never fully appreciated the subject until my third year. It was only then, while attending a Botany course specifically on evolution, that I finally realised how important evolutionary theory was to Biology.
But what was more important about that specific course was that the lecturer was a born again Christian. For me, this was incredible, and for the first time in my life I suddenly began considering the possibility that I could be a Christian, but at the same time believe in evolution. So as I studied through university, evolution slowly lost its teeth, and as a result became less of a threat. The Bible says that love drives out fear; but for me, understanding was the thing that freed me from the fear of evolution.
But although I knew what the theory involved, I never fully made a committed decision in accept of reject it. I let it hang on the fence, in a sort of mental limbo. At the time I was moving away from the life sciences (my interests were more directed towards Geography), and I was starting to become more concerned about my future - like getting a job, for example.
So I didn’t think much about evolution when I left university, but if I were forced to describe my beliefs, I think they were at the time roughly consistent with theistic evolution. I believed that there was a good case for the evolution of plants and animals, and that God was responsible for this. However, I was still reluctant to accept that human beings were part of the same process.
But three years later, in 2002, while working at my first job in Eastern Cape, my interest in evolution was reignited. At the time I was between projects, so I had plenty of free time to browse the internet at work. It was probably by chance that I came across the topic of evolution, and it sparked many years of reading and thinking. I finally came to the conclusion that evolution is an observable fact that we see in nature, and that Darwin’s theory of natural selection is the best theory that we have at this time to explain this observation. And I slowly realised that humans were not exempt from this process.
What finally convinced me? Read on . . .
Next post: Science = absolute truth?
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