Tuesday, May 20, 2014

evolutionary hope?

If history proceeds unguided by the blind forces of time, matter and chance, and if future life will be shaped by evolutionary dynamics, then there cannot be an ultimate hope or purpose to history. One scenario of such a future is described by the Time Traveler in the latter chapters of H. G. Wells' The Time Machine...  
'I cannot convey the sense of abominable desolation that hung over the world. The red eastern sky, the northward blackness, the salt Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul, slow-stirring monsters, the uniform poisonous-looking green of the lichenous plants, the thin air that hurts one's lungs: all contributed to an appalling effect...
'So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth's fate, watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away. At last, more than thirty million years hence, the huge red-hot dome of the sun had come to obscure nearly a tenth part of the darkling heavens. Then I stopped once more, for the crawling multitude of crabs had disappeared, and the red beach, save for its livid green liverworts and lichens, seemed lifeless...
'A horror of this great darkness came on me. The cold, that smote to my marrow, and the pain I felt in breathing, overcame me. I shivered, and a deadly nausea seized me. Then like a red-hot bow in the sky appeared the edge of the sun. I got off the machine to recover myself. I felt giddy and incapable of facing the return journey. As I stood sick and confused I saw again the moving thing upon the shoal—there was no mistake now that it was a moving thing—against the red water of the sea. It was a round thing, the size of a football perhaps, or, it may be, bigger, and tentacles trailed down from it; it seemed black against the weltering blood-red water, and it was hopping fitfully about. Then I felt I was fainting. But a terrible dread of lying helpless in that remote and awful twilight sustained me while I clambered upon the saddle.
In the Epilogue, this is written of the Traveler...
He, I know—for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made—thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so...
The narrator, however, finds some hope in the two flowers given to the Traveler by Weena (from the past, or rather, the past future...). Perhaps the author is also suggesting, by his overall plot, that socialism may hold some hope for the human race.  But Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck succinctly addresses the notion of hope in the theory of evolution... 
"In the theory of evolution there is nowhere a resting point, nowhere an end or a purpose; the blessedness which according to the expectation of many it is going to bring, is always in process of changing.  No such thing is possible, then, as an eternal, blessed life.
"Hence it is that some, convinced of the impossibility of a resting place, have again called in the ancient, pagan doctrine of the eternal return of all things, and now present this notion as the solution to the world problem.
"If the now existing world has reached the apex of its development, it must again collapse and begin everything anew.  After the flood of the tide comes the ebb, and the ebb will again cause a flood; after the development comes the retrogression, which newly brings about a development.  And so on endlessly.  There is only such a thing as time; there is no eternity. There is only movement; there is no rest. There is only a becoming; there is no being. There is only the creature; there is no creator who is and who was and who shall be.
"All this confirms the word of Scripture that those who are without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, have no hope and are without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). They can guess, it is true, and wish, and indeed they never cease doing so; but they have no solid basis for their hopes.  They lack the certainty of the Christian hope."
(Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 547)
Classics Illustrated photo above courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

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