“Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

 

The Reverend Charles Kingsley
Rev. Charles Kingsley
(Wikimedia CC image)

 

An Israeli-American and an Orthodox Jew, Gerald L. Schroeder currently teaches at Jerusalem’s College of Jewish Studies.  He earned B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in nuclear physics and in earth and planetary sciences.

 

Here are a couple of passages from his book God According to God: A Scientist Discovers We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along (New York: HarperOne, 2009) that caught my attention:

 

With only a small Divine increase in the molecular skill of cell repair, no mutations would succeed.  There would be no malformed children and also perhaps no cancer.  Yet mutations, those that are not detrimental, are what allow different forms of life to develop.  They play a crucial role in forming the nuanced variety we observe within any community of living organisms.  Variety is more than merely the spice of life.  Variety within a species allows that species to adapt to changes in the environment, an aspect of life so essential for its robust and vigorous flow.  Mutations act as a two-edged sword.  (97)

 

From God’s vantage point, the act of creation, in Hebrew, ba’re’ah, entails a lessening of God’s manifest presence and control.  Creation according to the Bible is God’s spiritual contraction.  In Hebrew the term to describe this divine contraction is tzimtzum, which literally means “to contract” or “to withdraw,” in this case a partial withdrawal of God’s evident spiritual presence.  In essence, God hides God’s face.  What once might have been a simple unified whole becomes multifaceted, moving in a multitude of paths, not all of which are necessarily spiritually compatible.  Tzimtzum provides spiritual space for all aspects of existence as we know it.  (101)

 

For some reason, Dr. Schroeder’s comments make me think of the Victorian clergyman, historian, and novelist Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), a friend of Charles Darwin (who Darwin quoted, anonymously, in the second edition of On the Origin of Species), who didn’t see Darwin’s theory of evolution as an obstacle to religious faith but, rather, welcomed it as a demonstration that God didn’t make the world but did something much more wonderful: he made the world make itself.  (Kingsley very likely preferred Alfred Russel Wallace’s version of evolution, though, which explicitly allowed a fundamental role in aspects of evolution for the divine.)

 

***

 

Here are two articles on evolution about or by Latter-day Saints:

 

“Mormons need not shy away from evolution, says BYU biologist” (about Steven L. Peck)

 

“‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’: The uses and abuses of evolutionary biology in six works” (by Gregory L. Smith)

 

 

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