Here’s what reality seems to be.
We live on a planet that is spinning as it orbits around the sun that is the center of our particular solar system. All living things on Earth appear to have begun their life on earth. Life is made up of the elements that were manufactured by the formation of the universe and the deaths of stars , and those elements eventually found their way to a young, coalescing earth. Once on earth, minerals were formed from these elements and liquid water, and here life began, fueled by the energy that blasts out from the ongoing nuclear furnace that is our sun.
Once life took hold, it rapidly diversified through a process we describe as evolution through the process of natural selection, where the ever-changing challenges to survival favored the continuation of one species over another (as well as heritable traits within species), and geographic isolation (combined with random genetic coding errors) led to ever more varieties of living things, each suited to it’s own environment, each occupying a certain niche in nature. This process has continued to this very moment, and will continue as long as the Earth remains a habitable planet.
Humans are a product of this process. We are a species of animal that is related to every other living thing on this planet. We are classified as mammals, and as primates. Our closest living relatives are the Chimpanzees and Bonobos, with whom we share 99% of our DNA. (We also “share” almost as much DNA with mice and about 40% with lettuce).
We humans are clever toolmakers who have developed both verbal and written language, which has allowed us to operate in a conceptual as well as an animal world. Our brains have allowed us to develop technology that has dramatically altered any landscape that we have occupied. We have, in a remarkably short time, grown from a collection of tribes of hunter-gatherers into huge, complex societies and nations.
A most notable feat of human intelligence has been the creation of the scientific method, which has, over the last few hundred years, allowed us to come to a fairly deep understanding of the reality of our biology, our world, and the universe we float in. It is through the investigations of science that we know most of what I have just cataloged.
And yet humans also believe in the existence of God. We have built entire civilizations and cultural institutions around our belief in gods that both created us and who control our fate. Our first explanations of reality were mythological in nature. (Before science gave us a means of testing propositions, one person’s guess was as good as another’s). It would seem fair to say, at this point, that all of the early religious claims about nature and physical reality have been proven false by subsequent scientific discovery. Yet religion and religious belief persists.
And though science has not (and can not) ever disprove the existence of God, science has shown us that there is nothing about our existence on Earth that necessitates the intervention, direction or supervision of any sort of divine agent, supreme deity, or intelligent god. And yet the natural state of a human being appears to include a belief in such a being or force, along with a feeling that all of creation is somehow here for (primarily) our benefit.
But not all humans believe in God.
Perhaps tellingly, it is among scientists that we find the highest percentage of humans who do not believe in god(s) or magic. Which means it is those who know the most about reality that believe the least in what we might call the “unreal”. Yet the number of such unbelievers (including non-believing non-scientists as well) still represents a minority among the human population. This hints at the proposition that magical belief flourishes best in ignorance. But, since belief is coming to be understood as a sort of “default” setting of the human brain, ignorance of reality cannot be seen as the only factor in the continuation of belief in magical things.
Over these last years, I have explored this continuing reality of the believing human in an age of science. Using my own experience as a means of both discovery and explanation, I’ve experienced a rather intensive period of learning and thinking that I have then turned into my weekly “sermons”. And I find myself, now, in the rather interesting position of having “answered” the most basic questions we humans seem to have about life: Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? And though I could probably go on writing a new “sermon” every week for the rest of my life (because there is always going to be a new scientific discovery, or a new popular science book, or a new personal experience to write about), I’ve realized that it’s time to re-direct the energy I’ve been putting in to this blog into other projects. Because understanding that I am here as the result of natural processes more begs than answers the question of how best to live the life I have (though it does, I think, offer some helpful clues).
I am primarily an artist and performer. I can now see “the not so reverend bob” as one of my creations — a champion for humane reason and science. But playing the extroverted evangelist for evolution has been a bit of a strain on this natural introvert (a bit like a submarine doing battle on the surface). And I think the answer to how to live my life (in this next stage of that life) comes in the form of a recognition that this artist is most effective operating below the surface (like the submarine). And, for now, trite as it may sound, I want more love and less argument in my life. And holding the view I do — that we only have this one life to live — I have only so much time to write my next musical or paint my next painting. (And, besides: it’s not as if anyone’s chances at eternal life will be jeopardized by me not reaching them with the “gospel” of the church of bob)!
So let this be my final sermon on the boblog of the not-so-reverend bob. I’ll keep the site up for those who might want to read one of my 166 sermons (167 counting this one. Yikes!). And I’ll always be ready, like a Minuteman with his musket hanging over the cabin door, to answer the call when needed. But for the foreseeable future I’ll be directing my energies elsewhere. I have other lost creative sheep, as it were, to gather up while the sun still shines.
I want to thank each of you that has visited this blog, and especially my “faithful” readers. I hope that I have given you something worthwhile.
the “retiring” not so reverend Bob Diven