Monday, May 4, 2009

Naturalists and Religion

Naturalists are interested in the natural sciences and all that they tell us about our Universe. We understand that humans, like all life forms, are the current products of an evolutionary sequence that began with the Big Bang and continues today. Governed by natural selection, species evolve, interact with other life forms and, eventually, become extinct. Equipped with intelligence, manual dexterity and articulate speech, we exert more control than other species but, in the end, are subject to the same natural processes. It is the quest to discover the diversity of life, and to understand the interdependence of its varied forms, that most intrigues a naturalist.

Unlike religious philosophies, the naturalist view is that man is just another species in the web of life. Our physical and mental traits have evolved from other species and, if we don't destroy the planet first, we will evolve into "higher"forms. Naturalists reject the notion that we are the "chosen species" and that all other life is (or was) a prelude to our creation. We claim no special relationship with God (or gods) and refuse to allow mysticism to impair our search for truth.

Religions offer a simplified view of the Universe and, throughout human history, have attempted to derail scientific progress when it contradicts their dogma. In this respect, they are not merely a benign source of hope and comfort. While naturalists are interested in the human traits that led to (and sustain) religious philosophies, we abhor their impact on the welfare of this planet; hopefully, we will soon evolve beyond their influence.