ON DARWIN’S 200TH ANNIVERSARY...?
DARWIN’S ECLIPSING OF THE MYTHICAL NARRATIVE:
How Life Started On Earth!
"The veracity that in all things does exist,/
That is to be found in the seen and the unseen."
The fury generated at the wake of Darwin’s postulates, was due mainly and fundamentally to its potential, and real, posited threat to the mythological understanding of the world. The uncovering of the accounts about how life had started on this planet, for what they were pure cock and bull yarns, which have been spun through the ages as: life, on earth, had begun at a whim by a superior power, in one shot. Though the enigma has finally begun to unravel, the conundrum of chicken-egg type, which one came first - which had represented a challenge to human imagination- still persists as far as the human species is concerned: How could, and what are the chances that, such an intricate and complex being like humans have come from pure alimentary particles at the wake of stormy and still unknown beginnings, by pure chance? Opportunity had created the myth! Fantasy and wishful-thinking, that’s, imagination had filled what the factual tract could not provide, for most of the recorded history. What the mind couldn’t ascertain, was left to the unfettered imagination. Nothing escaped this visualization. History itself was a mistress to the imaginative, the idyllic and the epic. Natural history, until Darwin’s advent had no more than a slight variation to its denouement. Since then, a different plot, so to speak, to redress and set it , instead of upside down on its head, to its rightful position, on its feet! From now on any narrative has to sift through its material, fables and stories, to separate the grain from the chaff, the fact from the fiction. The whole old load of folkloric fancies’ run amok, has to give way to a new cast of storytellers, reciters of a new breed armed with new tools, those of science, and provided with enough resources, to craft the new stories
The frenzied panic, from some quarters, thus has some real concerns to contend with if they’re planning to stick around and play some role albeit in different garb. Since the threat to the old narratives -and its cabal of narrators- this time around, came not from power hungry contenders, but rather from a new sort of phalanx, seating on a throne claiming the ultimate credibility; the throne of science and its tools. The new breed of operators was not only determined to change the way to go about understanding of the world, but also to contest its traditional truths -to wipe them out, to extirpate them from the roots, once and for all: the mythical narratives that were spun around the origins of life and its whereabouts and stood for millennia as a barrier against any other contending narrative.
Darwin was not alone, but rather a culmination of efforts leading back through the centuries to many other giants in the various fields of human endeavor. For instance, Ibn Khaldun had called for the same ‘paradigm shift’ in history’s writing -when he inveighed against the commingling of fact and fiction in its narratives, back then when most of the world was still slumbering- though without much heeding to his call, especially among his tribes. These two thinkers just to mention a few, centuries apart, each, in his own way, had attempted to steer humanity away from the illusive and on towards the graspable and factual. This has been lamented since it may seem to increase the chasm between the heart and the mind and thus splitting the factual and the imaginative apart, instituting a realm of cold facts, a world without the passionate imagination, in the writing of its story. The fact of the matter however, the purpose of senses-bound understanding of the world was never to put an end to all speculative endeavors but rather to clip a bit its wings and to tame some of its fancies. For, there’ll always be room for the intuitive and its derivatives: instincts and gut feelings, hunches, and the throbbing of the heart; for life is larger and richer to miss the contributions of the imaginative. Trimming some of the excessive and extreme narratives in order to align them with reason will not reduce the world’s objective reality to pure flat calculation. For, a world’ story cannot yet do without imagination, and indeed will be a poor one. Though the human enterprise is in need of some tangibles to guide its uncharted course, cannot do without the sparks of fancy that would ignite the sparks of creativity. If for nothing else, to face the rough and stormy waters ahead, humanity, without availing itself with better charts, still needs a Christopher Columbus or a Magellan to go where no one went before.
One trait characterizes the human story so far: Every new beginning brings with it some controversy. Some people, by their constitution, are afraid of innovation, adventure, and the new in general. Others fell victims to their own superstitions. Among social institutions, Religion, as an organized effort, is, par excellence, the die-hard conservative institution. It’s always seen itself as the custodian of moral values and the inciter to its ethical conduct of life. In other words, it’‘s the anchor to society’s ship, its beacon, and the preserver to the continuity of its experience.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution’ success has inflamed the God-Nature controversy, both in the Western World and elsewhere. The guardians of organized Religions felt the floor was slipping from under their feet. The narrative which beheld the foundations of their edifice is being challenged. The sources of much of the ranting and wrangling resided, not only in the way Holy Texts were read and interpreted but also by the ingrained old habits die hard. Since, what gave power and endurance to the stories of Scriptures was not only their imaginative outreach but also the open-ended idioms and locutions of their texts. Their semantics is as rich, as wide, and as malleable as the power which had purportedly dictated or inspired them was imaginative. Accordingly these writings could be tweaked and stretched to fill any gap or to answer any question. The approach satiated some thirst and was a dorky- dory for a long time. It started showing some signs of weakness when it suppressed any opponent to its dictates. Its cracks just got wider under the stress of new questions raised by science, and to which, the Texts’ guardians and interpreters gave the same hackneyed answers, based on some literalist understanding of their contents. For, to this group(s), only God gave Himself the prerogative of: Be and It Is! Darwin’s had no business going where no one else dared to go before. His egg must be destroyed before it hatches, if humanity doesn’t want more chicks to wreck havoc with its sacred institutions, both the premises and their foundations. The Texts and their historical practices are in danger of losing their grips on holding tight to the narratives of how the world came to be and how life was started in it.
Both narratives, of the Bible and Qur’an, of how life’s beginning on earth, were rooted in the mythical story. The Bible’ story of Creation, in Genesis, tells of how God had created the universe in Six Days and then took the seventh, the Sabbath, to rest. The Qur’an’s redacted this version of the same story keeping its main premises, but bowdlerizing some of its details to a minimum. Both Texts contain some irreconcilable differences with modern sciences’ versions of the same events: How life had begun on earth?