I don’t believe in the supernatural or true miracles, of course, but there are a few things that move me deeply and produce great wonderment when I ponder them:
- Our brains that evolved solely to enable small bands of social primates to make their living on the savannah have nevertheless helped us unravel the deepest secrets of the universe, from the existence of subatomic particles, to black holes, to the Big Bang, to the compositions of atoms, molecules, and our own hereditary material. They’ve even led us to things like quantum mechanics—things so bizarre that they violate every notion we have about how the world should behave.
- That everything on Earth, including all the devices we use—computers, cellphones, toasters, cars, beer, pacemakers, backpacks, paperclips,and the like—are made solely of substances that have been wrested from the crust of the Earth and transformed by our hands and brains. So too from the Earth come the bodies of every creature who ever lived. And all of it originated from the hydrogen and helium of ancient stars.
- That all of those species in all of their wondrous complexity—a complexity even more amazing on the cellular and subcellular level—have arisen through the simple evolutionary process of one type of replicator outcompeting another. And it involved, again, only those molecules present in the Earth’s crust and atmosphere.
This last wonder, of course, is not mine alone. In our era Richard Dawkins expressed it most eloquently, but it all began with Darwin:
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.
It’s only when you stop and think about the path from stardust to evolution that you realizing how stupendous it all is. That’s not proof of God of course, because we understand that whole process as a purely materialistic one produced by the laws of physics. But it’s fantastic nonetheless.