Readings on Evolution

“Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.”  Teilhard de Chardin

“What is evolution if not creative adaptation and the progression of our own souls?”
Terry Tempest Williams

“To be human is to know what it feels like to be evolution happening.” Terrance Deacon

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us… There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Charles Darwin

It is a century now since Darwin gave us the first glimpse of the origin of species. We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that [people] are only fellow voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution. This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship with fellow creatures; a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise.
Aldo Leopold

We need merely understand that the evolutionary process is neither random nor determined but creative. It follows the general pattern of all creativity. While there is no way of fully understanding the origin moment of the universe we can appreciate the direction of evolution in its larger arc of development as moving from lesser to great complexity in structure and from lesser to greater modes of consciousness. We can also understand the governing principles of evolution in terms of its three movements toward differentiation, inner spontaneity, and comprehensive bonding.
Thomas Berry

How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.
Elizabeth Lesser

…the seeds of life that are in all of us want to expand outward. The shell around each seed that grows thick to protect it must crack if the seed is to sprout. What is known and familiar must fall away…when the shell gets too thick, if you listen really deeply in the silence, you will hear your soul keening. Sacred hungers keep pushing at our edges, wanting us to let go of the old ways we have kept ourselves secure so we can expand into blossoming the life-force of what we love.
Dawna Markova, I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

As Unitarian Universalists….we believe in evolution – not only evolution of life forms, but evolution of thought and evolution of moral and ethical understanding. So the truth that I embrace today may not be the truth I embrace tomorrow. Revelation is not static, but is ever unfolding. More and more will be revealed. Our part is simply to be open, and thirsty, thirsty for the truth that would be ours – but just for the time being. Such a stance keeps us humble – and awake.
Marilyn Sewell, UU minister & writer

Evolutionary Affirmations
1.  I am an interdependent cell within the body of Life. Everything I see, hear, and feel is part of me—part of my larger Self, my true Nature.

2.  I am the sum total of 14 billion years of unbroken evolutionary development now reflecting on its immense journey. I am graced by a growing awareness of the awesome implications of my larger sacred story.

3.  I am one with the living face of evolution. I participate in, and as, the ongoing emergence of the Universe and planet Earth. I do so with courage, compassion, gratitude, and care-full action.

4.  I feel a deep connection to the whole of reality. I know that my breathing, seeing, hearing, and feeling are acts of communion. My senses are portals to the holy.

5.  I am grateful for the prehuman components of my evolved mind—and for my physical, social, and interpretive instincts.

6.  I know that I may not live to see the Sun rise again. I cherish this eternal moment.

7.  I trust that whatever happens on the other side of death is just fine. I can find comfort in mythic night language without clinging to any particular belief about the afterlife.
Michael Dowd

We hear the term personal growth a lot.  I prefer the term personal evolution. The difference may be just semantics to some, but I see a distinction between growing and evolving.  I see personal growth as goal-oriented and effortful, whereas in my view personal evolution is allowing yourself to become the person that you truly are. Personal growth implies changing things about yourself, whereas personal evolution implies radically accepting who you are and allowing changes to occur naturally.
Chris Akins

A Solstice Blessing
Your breath began long ago before there were lungs and before there were trees, your breath began in the darkness of gases that hung a long long sky from your song.

Your bones are the bones of your ancestors and before them, calcium in the seas. Your bones have been shaped in the darkness of wombs and long before, in matter flung far from your fingertips.

Your blood began in the flow of seas, dark and rough.

Before your tears, there was rain. And before your blood, veins and springs and storms and the primordial deep. Way deeper than your pulse.

Your curiosity began as lightening across the sky, your very nerves and every thought, every signal, the descendants of explosions and cosmic firings.  Your insight and movement, ancient energies that acted long before your smiling.

You are the very stuff of stars. You are the dust left behind. You are a solar event. You are the keepers of time. Your sisters hold their place and shine the sky above you, and you no less, have such light inside you to offer the world.

Can you see that you are a child of the universe?

And that is why you know the earth is turning and dawn is coming. The darkness you have known, now and forever behind you, gives way to light,
as it always has.
Sheila Schuh, Unitarian

The seed that is to grow
must lose itself as seed;
And they that creep
may graduate through
chrysalis to wings.

Wilt thou then, O mortal,
cling to husks which
falsely seem to you
the self?
Wu Ming Fu, Twelfth Century

Tell me a creation story more magnificent than that of a living cell forged from the residue of exploded stars! Tell me a story of transformation more wondrous than that of a fish hauling out onto land and becoming amphibian, or a reptile taking to the air and becoming bird, or a mammal slipping back into the sea and becoming whale! Surely, this science-based culture, of all cultures, can find meaning and cause for celebration in its very own cosmic creation story.
Connie Barlow

The creation story unfurling within the scientific enterprise provides the fundamental context, the fundamental arena of meaning, for all the peoples of the Earth. For the first time in human history, we can agree on the basic story of the galaxies, the stars, the planets, minerals, life forms, and human cultures. This story does not diminish the spiritual traditions of the classical or tribal periods of human history. Rather, the story provides the proper setting for the teachings of all traditions, showing the true magnitude of their central truths.
Brian Swimme

“We are embedded in the great evolutionary story of planet Earth, the spare, elegant process of mutation and selection and bricolage. And this means that we are anything but alone.”  Ursula Goodenough

Longer Texts

In this article from UU World, Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow spread the good news of evolution to Unitarian Universalists.

What is it like teaching evolution in the heartland of creationism?  James Krupa shares his experiences in Defending Darwin, an essay from Orion Magazine.

This article from Aeon Magazine explores the evolutionary adaptations happening right now in back gardens everywhere.

Deepak Chopra reminds us that personal growth requires an attitude of evolution.

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