Godtalk: Evolution's ultimate wisdom











Nature is evolutionary, and in that we can see a wisdom which clearly shows intelligence, intent, spirit, and design. And perhaps nowhere is this more evident than how in the process of evolution we see nature becoming ever more unified, complex, and conscious.

How God’s intelligence and intent are reflected in that however, is not always evident because nature can be brutal. In order to survive, many elements in nature have to eat some other parts of nature. Only the fittest survive.

A certain intelligence is evident in this, but where is the compassion? Did a compassionate God really design this? The intelligence in nature’s strategy of the survival of the fittest is clear. Each species, unless unnaturally interfered with from the outside, is forever producing healthier, more robust, more adaptable members. Such, it seems, is nature’s wisdom and design – up to a point.

Some scientists such as Teilhard de Chardin SJ suggest that physical evolution has reached its apex, its highest degree of unity, complexity and conscious-ness, in the central nervous system and brain of the human person and that evolution has now taken a leap, just as it did when consciousness leapt out of raw biology and as it did when self- consciousness leapt out of simple consciousness.

So that now, evolution is no longer about gaining further physical strength and adaptability. Rather evolution is now concerned with the social and the spiritual, that is, with social and spiritual strength.

And in a Christian understanding of things, this means that evolution is now about human beings using their self-consciousness to turn back and help nature to protect and nurture its weaker beings. Evolution now is no longer about having the strong grow stronger, but about having the weak, that part of nature that nature herself has been unable to nurture, grow strong.

What is nature’s interest in the weak? Why shouldn’t nature be happy to have the weak weeded out? Does God have an interest in the weak that nature does not?

No, nature too is interested in the survival of the weak and is depending on the help of human beings to bring this about. Nature is interested in the survival of the weak because vulnerability and weakness bring something to nature that is absent when it’s only concerned with the survival of the fittest and with producing ever-stronger, more robust, and more adaptable species and individuals.

What the weak add to nature are character and compassion, the central elements needed to bring about unity, complexity, and consciousness at the social and spiritual level.

When creating human beings, God gave us the responsibility of ‘dominion’, of ruling over nature. That mandate gives no permission to use nature in any way we like. The mandate is rather that of ‘watching over’, of tending the garden, of being wise stewards, of helping nature do things that, in its unconscious state, it cannot do, namely, protect and nurture the weak.

The second-century theologian, Irenaeus, famously said, ‘The glory of God is the human being fully alive!’ In the spirit of liberation theology, Gutierrez recast that dictum to say, ‘The glory of God is the poor person fully alive!’ And that too is the ultimate glory of nature.

Peter Knott SJ