Sunday, June 19, 2011

Evolution and Self Worth

I don't understand the problems that people have with evolution and its supposed destruction of self worth. As though finding out that our distant ancestors looked like monkeys is counter to our grand sense of self.

I find this absurd. It's as though I believe myself to be scum after finding out that my great-great-grandfather was a serial killer. It has NO effect on me. It does not change me. I am still the "me" that is defined by my actions and words. My past does not define me in the slightest.

This sort of personal or moral essentialism drives me up a wall. People who identify as Irish, or black are insane. You are not Irish. You are you. You are whatever you decide of yourself. To subscribe to some socio-historical narrative and then define yourself as that is barking mad!

It forces you to accept that the behaviors of your ancestors are somehow the right behaviors. That you have a responsibility to continue some tradition, regardless of how stupid that tradition may be.

History is an illusion. All that exists is the present. We are defined by our present and our memories, and at any moment we can choose to change. The fact that my Great5000 Grandmother was chimp-like (remember, she wasn't a chimp. Chimps didn't exist yet.) means nothing to me.

If anything, it forces me to marvel at the mechanisms in nature that are able to produce me --a GPS-using, latte-making, music-listening, blog-writing marvel-- from the bug-chewing, lice-infested, poop-throwing raw materials of that long-dead ancestor. That's fucking amazing!

I feel downright special knowing that I am the intellectual zenith of evolution on this planet. I am not separate from it. I sprang from it. If you want a spiritual sense of one-ness with the universe, there it is! I am not somehow fundamentally separate. I have no transcendent soul. I am not special in comparison to other animals because some nebulously defined creator made me.

I am a gear in an astounding machine. I am made from the same stuff as my dog or my girlfriend. They and I are one. And just as I can choose to change, my body, and the genetics that comprise me are continuing to change over vast time scales. That doesn't diminish me. My Great5000 Grandmother was a chimp-like thing, but I am not. And that's all that matters.

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