Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


As I promised a few days back, my own contribution to the celebration of Darwin's birthday will consist of some reflections on how the world we have discovered with our senses and our reason is meaningful for us, and hospitable to our happiness. People who reject science in the name of religion say that Darwin's world has no moral foundation and leaves us stranded without purpose. That is simply a failure of understanding and imagination.

In fact, the universe I know, as an atheist and a humanist, is far more grand and wondrous than the cramped, impoverished world of creationists. Best of all, it opens up far more vast vistas of meaning, and infinitely greater prospects of purpose. Creationists find meaning only in a ghost, an invisible, incomprehensible entity that exists outside of the world. For me, meaning is right here, inside me and all my friends and all the world's people. What could possibly be more exciting and rewarding than to be like Copernicus and Newton and Darwin, and discover the universe for ourselves? How wondrous we find ourselves, to know that we arose from the workings of physics and chemistry and probability, acting over billions of years, and here we are with the astonishing capacity to understand, to experience, to choose.

Morality does not come from God, after all. It is part of our nature. It arose because we succeeded in the world as social animals, so our mutual regard and love are part of how we work, part of what evolution made us.

So here we are. We got here by chance, we won the lottery. Hooray! We can look around, discover where we are, become whatever we can accomplish. We are not limited by what has been given to us, we are not beholden to any creator, we are not commanded by any law but our own. How joyous that should make us! We are free.

In coming days, I will say more about how I believe we should use our freedom.

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