Very little is really known about the origins of man because – as is the case with so many branches of science – new discoveries are constantly displacing old theories. Mankind is still largely viewed in Darwinian terms, except by those who subscribe to the beliefs of Christianity and the explanation of creation offered in the Book of Genesis. This biblical account at least grants us the dignity of a soul and a loving creator – or at least, a creator who cared enough to bother to give us life. But many people have grown dissatisfied with both of these stories about mankind’s origins, feeling that they do our race a disservice. Of course, there are also those that believe that Earth may have been “seeded” via another planetary body or even aliens. This concept of panspermia may seem outlandish but then, so is the fact that life seemingly “appeared” on Earth a few billion years ago. There’s no real evidence to support this theory but then, it’s not entirely beyond the realm of possibility either.
For as long as we’ve been self-aware and able to reflect upon our own existence, we’ve created myths and theories to account for how we got here. More often than not, when we ask, “Where did we come from, and why are we here?” what we’re really wondering is, “Of what inherent value – if any – is my life?”
If the answer you cling to is that your life is the random result of accidental chemical reactions followed by a survival of the fittest evolutionary process, then your ideas about the value of human life are bound to be pessimistic. The prevailing scientific view holds no room for any sacred purpose behind our existence. If, on the other hand, you believe that you’re the creation of a jealous God who later decided that He liked one group of people best and would help them to smite all others, then your view of humanity may not be any more uplifting. Both ideas have created a lot of unrest and general unhappiness in our world, because if we think that our own human nature is either a happy accident or a sinful creation, then how highly will we regard the lives of others?
Few of us escape the social conditioning – the indoctrination – that offers us two fundamental definitions of our nature and the nature of the universe. We can accept that we were created by sheer chance, and that millions of years of unfeeling, tooth-and-claw natural selection resulted in the formation of our consciousness, our very capacity to think and feel. Or, we can accept that we were created with divine intention, but with inherently sinful natures; and we’re surrounded by a tainted world that keeps tempting us to fall farther away from grace. Neither philosophy encourages us to view the life of self and other as sacred. Creationism or Darwinism: How about doing away with both?
It would be beneficial for us to either create new stories that honor the nobility and mystery of the human spirit or else admit that we just don’t know anything for certain about our origins. Our children, naturally inquisitive and creative as they are, can speculate for themselves and perhaps come up with more life-affirming explanations than the ones currently being offered to them. At least this way we’d be preserving some of the mystery and wonder of life for them.