On Evolution and Religion

Many people wrongly envision evolution as a linear process, moving “forward” toward some perfect state. That’s not the scientific understanding, though. Evolution is simply about survival and procreationany species that is still producing offspring is successful from that standpoint. There isn’t a “best”, just different things that work.

Ideas and philosophies are much the same way. A habit or idea can be good or bad in different situations. If it proves useful in a situation, it survives, maybe gets passed on. If it’s not, it is pushed aside and forgotten. Ideas live on because they serve a purpose, whether we agree with them or not. Different parts of the world today require different survival skills, and which skills can change with climate, political upset, or other disaster. Ideas do not evolve in a linear way, always “getting better”. Old ideas have value, something to teach us, even when they are no longer the best ideas available to us. Personally, I like to believe that as we mature as a species and uncover more cosmic truth through scientific observation and testing, that we will be more open-minded and willing to allow ideas to exist and mingle in our various cultures.

I do not “believe in” science or ancient wisdom, in that I do not take them on faith; we must trust the process of trial-and-error and a communal sharing of results to determine what worksfor each of us and for all of us together. We hold on to ideas and habits until, for whatever reason, something else works better.

As Unitarian Universalists, our reliance on an open revelation does not mean that we are inherently better, wiser, or more intellectual than other traditions. It simply means that we embrace the ongoing evolution of ideas, which can backtrack at times to embrace an old source in a new way or move into new territory as fresh information is revealed. It demands we recognize that our old ideas can be flawed, but that the new ones are not guaranteed to be better. And so, we continue to test new ideas and methods continuously, if not as individuals, then as a community by supporting those who brave failure by exploring new ways. This is part of what strengthens a covenantal community and how  we embrace ongoing discovery about the universe and the place of humanity in it.

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