I am amazed by what evolutionary biology has achieved in recent years and the avenues of exploration and explanation it’s opened up. And yet… where does life as we experience it fit in?
Richard Dawkin’s vituperative response (Prospect, in 2012) to EO Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth made for stimulating reading – as far as I could understand it! The comments of Professor Georgy Koentges of Warwick University were helpful:
‘Like other scientists commenting on this “tit-for-tat” dispute between Wilson and Dawkins, Koentges also detects the old struggle between those who focus purely on the gene and those who see it as “an anthropological insult to our own feeling of self-belief”.’
This summed up neatly what I’ve been trying and failing to find the words for. Whatever evolutionary biology may demonstrate about the origins of life and the triumph of the selfish gene (whether at the level of individual selection, as Dawkins, or multi-level, as Wilson) it can’t explain or encompass that sense of self, or self-belief, or the breadth of human accomplishment, defying any easy genetic explanation (though they do try), and beyond that, any sense of the simple wonder of life.
The scientific and the spiritual are, for me, two separate dimensions – and yet seamless. And that is a source for joy and wonder in itself.