14 August 2007

To Thine Own Self be Treed

Having erred in one or more pages of my driver's logbook, I was waiting to take a "log class"; a one-on-one session to correct my errant ways. The waiting was more painful than the session. There wasn't a sense of anticipation or angst, so much as the sheer length of the wait. Making matters worse was the book that I had chosen to pass this time with.

Richard Dawkin's "The Blind Watchmaker" is a book about Darwin's theory of Natural Selection that I had been looking forward to reading. That estimation seems to have been erroneous. Perhaps I am giving short shrift to a book which has fine points that I was not seeing. My wait hardly put me in a patient or receptive mood such as might allow a fair evaluation. However, after reading a third of the book I gave up. Dawkins spent most of it patiently explaining (with several examples) that Natural Selection brings about changes in a species over a very long period of time through the cumulative accumulation of genetic variations in surviving members of the species and their descendents. Some genetic variations are lost to a species if all members of the species carrying that variation die or fail to breed. Thus the variations peculiar to the surviving members of the species will be present in all or most future generations of that species, unless one or more of those variations is superceded, reversed, or lost due to future variation. To wit: Natural Selection. It has been described as a lottery where only the winning numbers are showing (living members of the species).

A fellow truck driver struck up a conversation about my reading and asked where I stand on evolution. Where I stand? Probably over there by the Pepsi machine. I didn't know there would be a test, much less that I had to have a position on evolution complete with annotated justification for same. I tried to begin by telling this nice fellow that I could not accept Genesis as dogmatic. That it was too cluttered with what may be a borrowed mythology on the one hand and an extensive listing of the lineage of its principal characters that smacks of an oral history.

I did not get very far in my attempt. He began an awkward evangelistic dialogue. Well, thats too kind, it was more in the line of a solliloquy. He talked about agonizing over his belief. That he had read a book or five about it. [Note to self: how do you research faith?] That he had gone from believing in his head to beleiving in his heart (a process going from acknowlegement to enlightenment, I imagine). He spoke of the truth lying somewhere between fate and freewill, and other things. He did not cover any topics that were new to me.

In general I agreed or acknowledged most of what he said. I even assisted him by summarizing or reinforcing his points with evidence that he had not brought to bear. Then something extroardinary happened. I had begun to indicate to him that my experiences do indicate the existence of a Supreme Being, whom I am not so arrogant as to ascribe to Him a particular name or religion. I was contrasting this with Genesis' insistence that man is the image of God. He was trying to counter this idea by explaining that God was a Trinity (I'm still wondering why that is a rebuttal), when he summed up by saying that some scripture was intended as allegory [not his words].

"So, I shouldn't interpret it literally?" I asked. He said that was about right.

I guess I missed a nuace of his argument, because I thought that was the point I tried to make at the outset. Perhaps I need to work on my debating skills.