Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On Evolution and G-d

I grew up in a (somewhat) conservative religious household with a scientist father and an opinionated engineer brother who was both extremely intelligent and (at the time) a fan of Christian talk radio.  I grew up watching people like Ken Ham tell me that evolution was a ridiculous idea, and that it was created by people with a secret agenda to manipulate people into atheism by trying to disprove G-d.   People in my social circle believed that there is a secret conspiracy among scientist to mislead the masses and disprove G-d using evolution.  My scientist father held a more moderate stance, disagreeing with evolution on scientific terms.

Honestly, there was no reason for me to believe in evolution.  I was taught that the evidence which supported evolution wasn't good.   This was supported by the fact that the only people that I knew who believed in evolution where not knowledgeable enough to address any of the concerns or critiques of the idea that I had been taught by my dad.  When "authorities" on the subject tried to teach me, they would use heuristic models such as the famous peppered moth experiment, or Darwin's finches.  They would try to trick me with examples such as representing horse evolution as orthogenic (proceeding in a linear fashion) when the reality is that horse evolution proceeds in an anagenic pattern (branching) and the horse fossils that they would put in sequence were actually on different branches of the phylogenetic tree.

These well intentioned misrepresentations of evolution only confirmed my doubts.  I would have continued in this fashion had I not began to study anthropology, where I was first exposed to legitimate evidence for evolution.  As I studied human evolution, I began to understand the principles, forces, and theories that described how evolution could and could not work.  By treating evolution as simple universal laws, which make the mechanisms of natural selection unavoidable, I began to see the truth in these arguments.

The arguments were not what I thought they were, and many of the critiques that I had did not really apply.  thought time I will reveal these critiques, and address them, but first I want to learn what you think are the conflicts between evolution and Christianity.  Please comment and tell me what you believe are the central inconsistencies or conflicts between evolution and religion.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stages of Life

!!! Disclaimer:  This post is long and personal, so if you are a reader with a short attention span, you should consider reading a different post !!!

Humans share a lot in common with insects.  We survive and thrive in a myriad of locations, using a myriad of different adaptations.  We are capable of incredible cooperation.  And we go through distinct life stages.  

It is this latter similarity that I would like to expand upon.  Insects, such as butterflies, moths, and bees, are known for the metamorphoses that they undergo.  In the case of bees, they undergo many unique life stages, transitioning from helpless larva whose only job is to grow, into nurse bees or "helpers at the nest", into door guards, and eventually into foragers.  When bees undergo these transitions, they experience morphological and hormonal changes that completely alter their behavior, with each stage clearly differentiated from the last.  
For humans, the transitions are not so neat and clean.  Biologically we experience infancy, childhood, adolescence, adult hood, and post-reproductive adulthood, but socially many of these stages overlap.  As we move from stage to stage throughout our lives, we undergo partial metamorphoses.  In some ways we are children, in other ways adults.  Our physical development, patterns of behavior, and hormonal profiles change in ways that are neither uniform, nor universal.  In this way, humans resemble evolving creatures more than metamorphosing insects.  Rather than broad and clear suites of changes, we undergo subtle alterations, acting bit by bit to adapt us to the needs of our physical and social environment.

I have been undergoing a lot of these metamorphoses, and I would like for my blog to do the same.  I would like to share a few of these with you.

In 2010 I started a photography company and began to work in a restaurant.  I lived a self-centered life, focused on maximizing personal memories and experiences.  My relationship with G-d suffered, just as it did during my brief relationship with "Jungle Jenny"

In 2011, I was involved in a serious long term relationship with a godly woman.  I asked her to marry me, and she said yes.  The experience of being engaged really taught me a lot about myself, but one of the key lessons that I learned is that I was not ready to be married.  I had not yet learned to humble myself and be totally giving as Christ is for us.  I was, and still am, a fallen and selfish being, unprepared to truly put others first.  As my engagement dissolved, my relationship with G-d took another turn for the worst.  I was, and still am, wounded.  

Later in 2011, I began studying anthropology in preparation for admission to a graduate program.  I had an excellent mentor and began to study human adaptation from an evolutionary perspective.  

In 2012, I was admitted to a graduate program with an excellent reputation for research in human evolution. I am now studying human hunter gatherers, as a way of enhancing our understanding of human evolution.  My relationship with G-d has begun to mend, and I hope that through time, the wounds that I have endured will not be like a wounded tree trunk, which admits insects and kills the tree, but rather like a pruned bush, which allows for new and more abundant growth.  The return to my blog is one of the ways in which I hope to promote this new growth.

While I will continue to relate interesting stories from the field (I never intend to stop having adventure), I would like to transition this blog into a forum for exploring spiritual and religious questions and discussing the intersections of evolution, religion, and morality.