The pinnacle of creation…

There’s a fine episode of the Homebrewed Christianity podcast with Bethany Soulereder out recently. I like the idea, from her book, of a “choose your own” approach to theodicy.

What got me thinking, however, was a section starting at around the 53 minute mark (yes, it’s a fairly long episode) on the climate crisis (and ecological crisis). My mind went back to an idea which has been lurking in the back of my brain for years.

What if the Creationists, Intelligent Designers, believers in a purpose (telos, final cause) for the universe, believers in the necessity of progress (rather than just change) are right? What if the whole of creation/evolution is aimed at one species?

And that species isn’t humanity.

One might argue, for instance, that the pinnacle of evolution is something like the cockroach, and that everything else just serves to provide a better environment for cockroaches to survive (and cockroaches are a very hardy species, and will almost certaintly survive anything which the impending ecological crisis might throw at them). Let’s face it, from an evolutionary point of view, cockroaches are brilliant. They haven’t had to evolve much further for a vast amount of time, and probably won’t have to do so even if our global warming manages to get to 4 or 5 degrees. Indeed, one could think that their main predator is humanity, and a massive reduction in the numbers of humans around and of their techological level would be great news for cockroaches. I’ve seen estimates that the biomass of cockroaches is far greater than that of humanity (certainly the biomass of insects generally is much higher), so just weight for weight, they do much better than humanity does.

Of course, that would argue that self-consciousness and things deriving from it are mere spandrels in the evolutionary process. Evolutionary theory doesn’t seem to have much to say about that, but if we were to go to the favorite scripture of Creationists and ID proponents, Genesis 1-3, on many readings of those verses one could easily argue that self-consciousness was actually a bad thing – certainly the bulk of Christian theology has drawn from that the concept of original sin, and even my own take on that argues that self-centredness is effectively a kind of  “original sin” (though an essential by-product of having self-consciousness at all). Indeed, one could argue that humanity is a kind of “Friday night job”, something made without due care and attention because the maker is going to go home for the weekend shortly. It’s very dubious that cockroaches have anything which could be called “self-consciousness”, so they might be regarded as in their original “state of grace” in that respect, so morally superior to humanity.

Then again, maybe they do have some rudimentary self-consciousness, and are therefore not entirely blameless. In that event, and in the light of the current pandemic, I could consider the claim of viruses. They pretty certainly aren’t self-conscious. True, they are parasitic – they can’t exist without other living organisms. But then, neither can humanity – we need something to eat, after all, and can’t process inanimate matter. Granted, they aren’t in a form which has been unchanged for millions of years, but perhaps the flexibility of being able to mutate multiple times a year is actually their strength – rather than, as in the case of the cockroach, looking at a very stable form, their sheer versatility is a pinnacle of evolutionary success.

Of course, I don’t personally believe in a specific creation, in any form of intelligent design, in the universe having any purpose or in progress being inevitable, but, having grown up with the Bible, there’s always going to be a bit of my consciousness which can run these as an hypothesis. Just for fun…