The Enjoyable Lightness of Being

I never really knew how little I knew about evolution until I read Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True” and Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.”  These books, each with a unique voice and approach, should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves a skeptic, freethinker, agnostic, atheist … or even a believing supporter of science and truth.  With these two books in your repertoire, there is literally no argument that a creationist can make that cannot be summarily destroyed (assuming, of course, that you’re dealing with someone willing to listen to real evidence, which I know doesn’t describe most creationists).

More importantly, a careful reading of these books will drill, deep down into your bones, a profound aesthetic appreciation for the relative simplicity of the process that created the incredible diversity of life we know.  This feeling, this incredible sense of the connectedness of things, hit me in the most unexpected of places — a chapter in “The Greatest Show on Earth” detailing just how DNA and genes do their work on a chemical level.  The material is frankly tough reading, bordering on a bit dry (sorry, Prof. Dawkins!).  The translation of proteins, bonding sites catching certain molecules so that they connect with other molecules, etc. 

And then … WHAM! … comprehension.  

My mind flashed back to my high school chemistry class, talking about polar molecules and how they could only bond if aligned just so.  Which sent me racing to atoms, and their component parts — proton, electron, neutron.  Leaping further still, my brain connected to quantum physics, with its intricate dissection of the seemingly indivisible.  And then whoosh, I soared into the realm of cosmology, where all of those tiny particles combine to form innumerable stars, planets, galaxies, all spread over incomprehensible distances.  The whole of science suddenly cohered.  The search for truth, or at least bits of it, through all these disciplines, and their inextricable linkages.

Just … wow.

Our place in the universe, considered in light of all these connected ideas, shrinks to a nothingness.  And yet, our world, our perception, is huge.  Though nothing in the grand sweep of the Universe, we are privileged with a life, however brief, and the ability to perceive all this grandeur, all this mystery.

Yeah.  Wow.

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