Does Evolution Select Against The Soul?
My thoughts, inspired by that interview, kept coming back to the notion that what defines us uniquely from other animals is compassion. I should also add a connection to a recent book on exactly this subject – The Prehistory of Compassion by Dr Penny Spikins.
I’m not sure I agree completely with this notion, but I might… I just wonder a bit.
Let’s talk about the Neanderthal. Archeological records suggest these creatures were religious (shamanic capes found as part of grave at Hortis site), that they were artistic (creating musical instruments), and that they showed compassion (remains discovered indicating an infirm tribe member was cared for throughout his life).
I think I’d consider all these to be human characteristics – religion, art, and compassion – and they were all three part of the life and culture of a folk that we don’t consider to be “human” like we are. There are some, in fact, who believe that compassion may have been more deeply engrained in Neanderthal culture than it is in ours, and that compassion may have made Neanderthal vulnerable.
Don’t get me wrong – I really want to believe that compassion is a uniquely human characteristic. I really want to believe that compassion is something that ties us to G-d, and that it is compassion that strikes the chords of harmony between the spirit of G-d and the soul of man.
But I’m not there yet. I see behavior in many animals that looks a lot like compassion to me. I’ve seen mother deer or elk in clear pain over the loss of their fawn. You read stories of Chimps who carry their dead baby’s corpse for days in what appears to be mourning.
It’s not that I question compassion as “holy” – I absolutely believe it is. Just as I believe a capacity for art and religion are “holy”. I’m just less and less convinced as time goes along that “holiness” is something that we have any sort of exclusive right to claim.
If you read my blogs and rants much at all, you know how much I dislike the human tendency to claim one particular perspective on G-d and “righteousness” as the one and only way that G-d chooses to be part of our life. This tendency has caused more destruction in the history of mankind than anything else in my opinion.
Why would I expect that G-d would look for some special relationship with one and only one species of mankind throughout the history of the world? Why would She choose only this most recent period in the history of our earth to establish that relationship? In fact, why would He have chosen only the creatures of this earth in the vast universe to establish a relationship with?
As I look at the limited evidence, I think I’m prone to accept that compassion is, indeed, one of the components that creates and strengthens a soul in relationship with G-d. Moreover, I’m prone to wonder if we’ve not evolved further and further away from compassion as just such a strong component in our life.
Are we evolving away from relationship with G-d?
When I look around me, I see a great nation that was established to “…form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare…” Yet, the only piece of that beautiful preamble to our constitution that we seem to pay attention to these days is the “provide for the common defense” section. Even in the past 200 years or so, we seem to have lost our focus on issues of Justice, Tranquillity, Union, and Welfare. In fact, the word “welfare” has become a nasty word in our political lexicon today.
We established a nation on lofty principles, clearly driven by some sort of spiritual purpose. Yet, all of the spiritually motivated components of our reason for establishing a nation have become dirty words, and all we care about today is defending ourselves from the hordes of “others” who we think want to come and carry us away.
This is our history as a human race throughout recorded history (which admittedly isn’t very long). We’ve continually moved back and forth between the selfish drive to eliminate others and the threat from others, and some sort of internal call of compassion. The further we go, the more it seems that natural selection is selecting against G-d, and selecting for human selfishness.
The last 200 years within our nation is a microcosm of that selection process – a very frightening one.
Somehow or another, evolution selected against the Neanderthal. Our ability to conquer and defend increased as a result of that selection.
What happened to our ability to maintain closeness with G-d?
What’s happening to our soul?