Judson here writes the same basic idea that Dawkins tries to in the (rather tedious, belabored) Unweaving the Rainbow: science offers a more beautiful and fulfilling way of approaching the mysteries of the world than religion, whose basic message is “we [should] give up.” It also sort of makes me happy to study human social phenomena – few truly believe that elections and policies are decided by a deity. (Even W. knows this; if he didn’t, he would have traded Karl for the chatechism.) She also belies her britishness pretty heavily (“Fieldwork … can also be jolly boring”).

Studying evolution has changed the way I look at nature. For knowing that all of us — oak trees and venus fly traps, starlings and brush turkeys, humans and sea urchins, not to mention bacteria harvesting light from the glowing vents at the bottom of the sea — are the products of the same ancient forces is something that brings me enormous pleasure, awe and a sense of peace. As I have learned more about other organisms, I have come to regard them (and us!) with increasing amazement and delight.

Most of all, though, I find the study of evolution to be a profoundly optimistic way of looking at the world — for the message is: despite the apparent complexity, we can understand. It’s a view of life that unshackles the mind. When we come to a difficult problem — something, say, that appears so complicated it is hard to imagine the steps through which it could have evolved — the solution isn’t to throw up one’s hands and invoke deus ex machina. It’s to imagine, to dream, to wonder: how? And then, to start to work it out.

No comments: