Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Loren Eiseley
“I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Isaac Newton.
Darwin discovered a “prettier shell” of an idea that rocked the world.
However, in a truly quintessential irony, he was a superbly gifted scientist without a clue as to where his gift originated. Being a “pure” scientist, the worlds of symbolism and imagery were probably unknown. He willingly conceded that spiritual matters were beyond his comprehension. The story of Adam and Eve must have been mythological, unbelievable or irrelevant. This is not a bad thing. We need left-brain dominant scientists. To some modern cultural anthropologists, however, the story has extremely real, if not metaphorical, importance. It quite possibly marks the time in human evolution when a man stood proudly upright, squared his shoulders and confronted his God with the question; “If I have free will, who has the overriding controlling power, me or you?”
This theme of controlling power permeates and holds the universe together. In the 1980’s, Carl Sagan’s, explanation for the first cell was that the incompatibility of oil-soluble and water soluble molecules “drove them together” to form the first lipoproteins necessary for the first cell membrane. This involved organizing thousands of molecules (some containing hundreds of atoms) w/o DNA or any other guide or template. There was no controlling force. Even more problematic, the lipids, proteins and carbohydrates, necessary for cell structure and function, are all organic which could not have existed before there were living prokaryotes. It is truly an example of the cart before the horse. Ironically, Wallace used the opposite reasoning when he pointed out that the human brain had tripled in size, in a very brief span, with no known controlling force.
We would not likely be having this discussion w/o “pure” scientists, however, many of them readily concede that there are “great oceans of truth” lying outside their realms of expertise that should be explored. One example can be found in a wonderful book titled, “The Tao of Pooh.” Benjamin Hoff writes, “Instinct is just another word for something that we don’t understand.” Or, how many dimensions of reality and variations of “The Dancing Frogs” are we ignorant of? In another irony, we are far more detached from the spirit world of our Native American brothers whom we still often refer to as “primitive.”They lived in balance with nature for over 10,000 years and fell victim to the law of “survival of the fittest.” However, we are approaching our 400th birthday, any bets that we will make it to 1000?
Pure scientists understandably can not assign the cause of any mysteries, marvels and wonders to a supreme being who can not be proven. They are, therefore, duty-bound to allow that there is no controlling force behind them. On the other hand, people who have had spirit awakenings can not support the idea that the miraculous nature of the universe, and life on Earth, are the result of a random, chaotic, soulless process.
Einstein regarded Galileo and Newton as two of the world’s greatest scientists. Both men were deeply spiritual and credited their discoveries to a supreme being. Loren Eiseley not only authored 11 books on anthropology, he received world-wide acclaim and was awarded over 30 distinctive honors. One of those honors was the Pierre Lecomte du Noüy
award which is granted to scholars who have described overlying principles that unify science and religion.
Secular humanists often ridicule believers and consider them as weak and in need of a “crutch.” I wonder, however who is weaker, someone who believes in a powerless “nothing” or someone with the courage to stand on a mountain top, raise his/her arms to the heavens and ask, “If I have free will, who has the overriding controlling power, me or you?”
Newton and Eiseley made their choice known; Darwin, not so much.
It’s a great day to be alive!