Does Evolution Demonstrate Purpose in Nature?
by Bob Johnson
The great thinker and writer Henry Thoreau once wrote,
"The cricket, the gurgling stream, the rushing wind amid the trees, all
speak to me soberly yet encouragingly of the steady onward progress of
the universe." Is Thoreau right in writing that the universe, or nature,
is making "steady onward progress"? I'm forming the idea that it does
make progress and that evolution is proof of that progress of nature.
It's hard for people to see the big picture in most situations. For example, when I was a child I had asthma. My parents took me to the doctor on a regular basis for shots to help me overcome the asthma. I remember one time getting in the far corner in the back seat of our car trying to avoid my father who was trying to get a hold of me to bring me in for my shot. I couldn't understand why my parents would be so mean to me as to allow a stranger to stick me with a sharp needle. I couldn't see the big picture.
Not long ago I was watching the . They showed a baby sea turtle trying to make its way to the ocean but a crab got a hold of it and killed it and ate it. I was wondering why God would design the universe to have such suffering. Thinking about it, it dawned on me that I'm not seeing the big picture. My extremely limited view of the Creation is similar to my view of my parents when I was four or five years old being taken to the doctor for the dreaded shot. Nobody could have convinced me at that place and time that my parents were actually helping me. Of course, when I got older I understood. Maybe that's how it will be with us understanding why there is so much suffering built into nature. As we grow and learn we will see more of the big picture and then understand the purpose more. I think evolution can explain a lot of this question.
Organisms and their species evolve to make them better at survival. Based on nature, it appears more concern is placed on the progress of the species than on that of the individual. The baby sea turtle did not survive, but eventually through evolution the species of sea turtles will probably develop a better way of making it to the ocean, perhaps better camouflage or increased speed and/or awareness. If this happens, as it has been happening from the beginning of life, that will be progress for sea turtles, but not for crabs. They in turn will have to develop through evolution better ways of catching their dinner, the sea turtle. Which again will lead to yet more progress on the part of the sea turtles if they are to survive. It seems that nature is involved with never ending progress!
(For a translation of this article in Haitian Creole please click here.)
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Click here to read the actual survey. (It's in PDF)
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