Thanks to my current belief in science I have a firm conviction of the beauty of the world and of the oneness of much of life. I did not arrive at this view quickly, however. It came about as the result of a slow progress of thinking on my part and also the result of one particular experience with nature. This experience with nature and the natural world has come to define how I relate to it and also to define how I think of myself as a person in the world.
Thanks to my current belief in science I have a firm conviction of the beauty of the world and of the oneness of much of life. I did not arrive at this view quickly, however. It came about as the result of a slow progress of thinking on my part and also the result of one particular experience, where some key moments of myself and my past thinking came together at one moment of realisation. This essay will tell how this happened.
I consider myself to be an open minded and careful person who is interested in people’s opinions and different beliefs about the world that they live in. A major part of this is shown in the way that I have lived through various changes in my own beliefs and have seen my own intellectual development pass through several changes and stages in which big changes in my belief structure have happened. I often feel as if I can remember these moments extremely vividly and that I can date my own life and progress according to them. This essay will discuss one of those moments when I can to be convinced of the truth of the theory of evolution and its importance for a holistic and healthy understanding of the world and of my place within it.
As a child I was a keen Christian and I loved the fact that I could feel close to God and, importantly, that I felt as if I could see God in nature around me whenever I stepped out of my door. However, I now realise that I had a somewhat uncritical attitude towards nature and religion.
When I was sixteen, my older brother was reading a lot of the British scientist Richard Dawkins and would often tell me about him. I liked some of it and found it interesting, but was put off at first by the violence of his atheism and his obvious contempt for a religion that was important in my life at the time. While I agreed with the sentiment, I did not feel as if he really understood why religion was important, nor about the care and nuance that many people felt in their faith. However, I began to be convinced by some of the science of evolution. The facts seemed indisputable for me. Still, a big part of what I found in my religion was a sense that things had a purpose and that it was possible to think about all things as being connected and together in God. At the time this was a comforting thought for me, and I did not feel that it necessarily had to be completely ‘true’ for it to be important and to be a helpful and good thing for people to think. Most of all I valued the fact that it could give me a sense of oneness and purpose that other ways of thinking couldn’t. I worried that if I completely let go of my faith then I would never again feel close to God or to nature and that I would lose this important aspect of my life.
This changed one day when I went swimming in a lake nearby where my family was on vacation. I remember the day exactly, it was a hot day even by summer standards and I remember being extremely surprised when I found that the lake was pretty much empty and I felt as if I had almost the whole place to myself. At the time I knew that there were quite a few fish in there, although I didn’t really think about it and, to be honest, it didn’t bother me. I arrived at about 11:00 am, and changed into my swimming gear on the lake shore. I went into the water and swam out without really thinking about it.
It took me about fifteen minutes to get out to the middle, where I turned onto my back and started to look up at the sun. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and all above me was bright blue, shaded slightly by tops of trees which reached out over the water. As I lay there I once again started thinking about evolution and then I thought about my religion and everything that it gave me. The sun was beating down and I floated happily for what must have been at least ten minutes without doing anything.
Suddenly I felt something cold and wet against my skin. If I hadn’t have been in the water than I would have jumped into it out of sheer shock. I quickly righted myself and looked around. I swam back to shore as fast as I could. I wasn’t scared of anything in particular, but I knew just wanted to back on dry land where I could at least see what was around me. As I swam back my mind was blown by the visceral realisation that beneath the water was most likely teeming with life, some of which had existed for billions of years. I thought about evolution and I thought about the scientific evidence that humans themselves had, if one goes far back enough, come from tiny cells and plant life, much of which was still living in the water around me. This thought excited and thrilled me. When I got back onto the shore I just sat there, with my keens up, feeling the sun dry and excitedly watching for any life in the water. I knew that down beneath the surface things were going about their business.
At this moment I thought about history and evolution again, and that all of nature is one, whether from a religious or scientific point of view. I would argue that this is by the most important experience that I have ever had of the natural world and of my own place in it. It is an experience I still carry with me. Although I have now largely lost my direct faith in God, I am still able to see and oneness and a wholeness in the natural world around me. I believe strongly that this capacity came into being on that day and in that particular experience with nature in the lake on vacation.