Over the past few years I endeavored to document my evolutionary journey from faith to skepticism. It was a humbling experience to ultimately resolve that this universe was not made for me and that it is completely indifferent to my suffering or wellbeing. All that truly matters is my conscious experience, as well as the conscious experience of every other sentient being that shares the resources that we collectively consume.
"Truth" took on a completely different meaning altogether. Many teachers from my youth professed to be peddlers of the "Truth", but few of them would accept empirical truth even when it stared them right in the face.
The harrowing, but engrossing HBO series, "Chernobyl", closes with the following illuminating words,
"To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. The truth doesn't care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl."
Charles Darwin is another human being who sought the truth at all cost. He was often condemned as the man who "killed" God, but according to his biographer, James Moore, "[Darwin] did not argue against God but against a simple understanding of the world." According to Moore, Darwin said he deserved to be called an agnostic, but made the point that, “When I wrote The Origin of Species, my faith in God was as strong as that of a bishop.”
What set Darwin, as a man of faith, apart from the religious leaders of his time, (and of today) is the fact that he was willing to test his beliefs against reality and make adjustments if necessary. At the beginning of his book, "The Origin of Species" he quoted the philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon to give credence to this perspective,
“Let no man think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word [the Bible] or in the book of God’s works [nature], but rather let man endeavor an endless progress or proficience in both.”
Ultimately, his theory of natural selection would forever knock humans off the proverbial, biological perch, albeit only for those who would accept the massing evidence.
In 1836, on the last leg of his epic voyage upon the HMS Beagle, Darwin set foot on the shores of the place I now call home, Cape Town. Here, on the protruding rocks of the Atlantic Seaboard, he made an important discovery about the geology of the earth and called this site, the Green-Point Contact.
In my native language, Afrikaans, "Kontak".
Every morning as I cycle to my office and observe the protruding granite in contact with the metamorphosed siltstone, I am reminded of the 13.7 billion year miracle that I am, that we are, and how brief my conscious life is in comparison to Darwin's rocks.
In 1859, in the Origin of Species, he wrote about his geological “Kontak” discovery and said,
"A man must for years examine for himself great piles of superimposed strata and watch the sea at work grinding down old rocks and making fresh sediment, before he can hope to comprehend anything about the lapse of time, the monuments of which we see around us."