In this week’s news, we hear of still more creationists who continue to insist that life has never evolved since the birth of the universe, despite the vast wealth of natural history which we have at our fingertips. Funny enough, it seems a common feature of the human condition that political ideology often retains a greater importance than open inquiry. Clearly, it is preferable for many to assume that they’re right, rather than actual correctness. Change is fearful.
Despite such assertions, as Mike Bergin stated,
We’re all, by the standard definition of the word, migrating, moving from place to place, hither and yon. Atoms migrate within molecules. Teeth migrate within mouths (though we’d rather they didn’t). But of most importance, particularly to those of us attuned to the rhythms of the natural world, are those glorious migrations of huge numbers of living creatures across the globe. And as impressive as marathon movements of humpback whales and European eels are, the migrations that really capture our collective attention are those of birds. We’re in the midst of an enormous one right now. Those of us north of the Equator are watching our boreal breeders withdraw to warmer climes while the bottom half of the world is just welcoming its austral avifauna.
Indeed, everything living on Earth is very dynamic in all four dimensions, time and space. Life is dynamic and changing within lifespans, and across generations, millennia, epochs, and eras. Living organisms constantly interact and shift in relation to one another, within and across ecosystems, biomes, climates, and continents. Even internally, our cells modulate their interactions constantly through our entire lives, working together, hoping to propagate themselves until one day they deteriorate and we die.
“The world moves and, deep inside, we long to move with it.”
Wait, that’s not completely right. The world moves, changes, and evolves, and we have no choice but to do so along with it, or be left obsolete, extinct. Yes, that’s better.
The rhythms of the natural world are also devoid of agency. Life is undirected, except for by itself. It, and we, are at the mercy of natural patterns. We try to keep up to the rhythms of other life, but are restrained and guided by our own rhythms, tendencies, and biases.
Free-will? Purposefulness? It depends upon how one defines those concepts. Suffice it to say, however, that only things that possess neural circuitry (or simulations thereof) exhibit agency, or the capacity to make decisions. But still many of us feel more comfortable to believe in agency that cannot be seen, sensed, known, limited, or bound by the rhythms that restrain the natural world. Our imaginations provide vivid and elaborate explanations of how such agency can exist unseen and explain our pattern-filled world.
And even our social enterprises, both imaginary and tangible, are constantly evolving. A hundred thousand years ago or so, a small group of our ancestors marched out of Africa. 13,000 or so years ago, some of us hiked our way into the Americas. We have explored the most remote parts of our world, and even traveled to the moon. Civilization, science, philosophy, and every social institution has developed in a cumulative pattern at the mercy of other factors.
Our world moves – and what a wonderful and endlessly fascinating world it is.