Genetic Atheism


When I was young I was attracted to the Christian church, specifically the Presbyterian Church.  I sang
in the choir, taught Sunday school when I was older, and found a non-threatening adolescent social life
there.  When I went through catechism – the process of learning the beliefs of the church and then
agreeing to them, I had to admit to the pastor that while I was comfortable (at that time) with the
concept of god, I just couldn’t bring myself to honestly admit to believing in Jesus Christ; an individual
who lived, committed miracles, and was literally the son of god.  To my surprise he told me that such a
belief was not necessary to join the church!  So I joined.  During my adult life I have considered
myself an agnostic, but was never comfortable with the term.  It can mean one of two things.

1.  A person who holds that the ultimate cause of things is unknown and unknowable and that human
knowledge is limited to experience.

                                                                                     Or

2.   A person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge

Both of these definitions of a philosophy, or even of a religion seem to be a cop out.  They state what
you do not believe, but not what you do believe.  “Atheism” had always seemed too strong a statement
for me.  It is the doctrine or belief that there is no God. However, after studying genetics, with some
modifications I have come to this strong conclusion.

I call this philosophy “Genetic Atheism” – the belief that the ultimate cause of life can be explained
scientifically, specifically by using the sciences of physics, chemistry and genetics.  

I would like to distil and attempt to describe what I have learned and come to believe. In order to be
succinct, I will use absolute statements.

Events that took place before the origins of life are not included in this essay.  Genetic Atheism does
not account for events before life began.  Those events will have to remain in the realm of speculation
and physics, along with any definitions of concepts such as “time”.

Before life came about our planet was a steaming stew of chemicals; initially consisting of the simple
elements.  As the eons went by this stew, exposed to various extreme conditions, changed; the
elements occasionally combined and more complicated elements came into being. Some chemical
combinations, or structures, became more prevalent than others, and interacted with each other in
symbiotic ways.

The big breakthrough came when one or more combinations were able to self replicate.  These new
entities evolved from the mass of chemicals, and at one point took on the attributes we give to
organisms we define as living matter.  The essential development was the ability to replicate. This
process of replication and reproduction required utilizing resources – other chemicals; literally feeding
off them and absorbing them.

Life took off and has never looked back.  In the immensity of the primeval oceans living matter
experimented, occasionally mutated and changed – science calls progressive change evolution.  Some
chemical structures were more successful than others in that they replicated more rapidly and
dominated other chemicals that became the food chain.  First one type dominated, then another
evolved and came to dominate in its turn, until other and even more successful structures evolved.  
Many survived and branched off in different directions.  Evolutionary niches were created, some
became a dead end, and others kept evolving and creating even more successfully breeding structures.  

Some replicating chemical structures combined to create cells, a revolutionary way of organizing the
relatively primitive chemical structures in one symbiotic construction.  Cells became the basic
structural unit of all higher organisms.  Organisms joined together to form what we may call creatures,
ever larger forms and complicated forms of life.  As always, there was competition; some organisms
survived and flourished, others died off and became extinct.

The creatures reacted to their environment, and to each other.  These reactions in turn became more
complicated and sophisticated, to the point we may even describe their reaction to be “intelligent”.  
Intelligence was one of many attributes that helped some species succeed in multiplying more than
others.  Other attributes such as size, tenacity, strength, flexibility and durability were important, but
the attribute of intelligence came to be a dominating characteristic.

We humans are not necessarily at the “end” of the evolutionary ladder and may prove to be a failure in
the long term.  We have dominated for a very short time on the evolutionary scale and are far from
proving our success.  In fact many observations of the world we have come to dominate indicate that
our species will follow the many others to extinction.  Of course all species, indeed all life will
eventually come to an end.

It would be easy to branch off into what humans are doing to the environment, but that would be a
digression. I would rather end this description of how Genetic Atheism has brought us to where we
now find ourselves, and go on to how this philosophy explains and affects what we do with our lives.

Conclusions:

We are here as the current generation of one currently successful species “The now generation.”  
There is no reason, just a chemical fact.  Life has come about through experiments of different
chemical reactions, reactions that have proven successful at replication.  Various forms of life have
proven successful for different reasons, and all forms of life have become dependent on others for
their survival.  We are no exception and no different from other forms of life with the possible –
probable – exception that we seem to be cognizant of the world and other living organisms around us.

We are not here because we have been created by an all powerful entity we don’t really understand,
namely a god.

There is no reason for any individual to exist, just as there is no reason for any species to exist, indeed
there is no reason for life to exist.  Existence beyond that is beyond me.

As individuals we are simply bundles of chemicals that will exist for a finite amount of time.  When we
“die”, we will cease to exist as a cognizant entity or unit.  The elements that make up our physical
bodies will survive though, and they will go on interacting with other chemicals.

Our species has been successful due to habits that have evolved as the species has developed.  I must
emphasize that these habits are not rules for individuals.  They are habits that have evolved as the
species has evolved over time, behaviors that have enabled the species to endure.  There is no reason
for any individual to follow these patterns just as there is no reason for any individual to exist at all.

Sex. First and foremost; like all other forms of life, we must replicate successfully.  As with most
relatively complicated species we use sex to replicate. This enables us to us evolve with and adjust to
our environment.  Because sex is so vitally important to the success of our species, we have evolved a
desire, in fact an overpowering lust for sex.

Nurture. As intelligence is vital for our species success, and it takes time for an individual to be able to
learn to use its intelligence, we need to nurture our offspring.  Because this takes a relatively long
period of time it has a great effect on the way we live as individuals.  

Love.  Many species replicate spontaneously with no need for relations other than the immediate
sexual act.  Humans however, due to the need to nurture their offspring, have to develop a long term
relationship with their sexual partners.  This concept has proven successful with other species as well.  
There may not be as many offspring, but those that are created by the sexual act have a greater chance
of survival to the age when they in turn may replicate.  It always comes back to replication.  But who
are we, just genetic cybers? But we always cry when we lose a friend.

Age.  One can conclude once an individual successfully replicates by creating offspring that are
capable of themselves replicating, there is no reason to continue living.  At a simple level this is true.  
In some societies older individuals contribute to the survival of the younger individuals, both those
capable of replicating, and those that have yet to reach that stage, especially when helping to deal with
events that only take place after relatively long periods of time.  But it is inescapable that at some point
older individuals become a burden on the younger members of the species.  Should they go out by
themselves like elephants and just die?  In most societies the instinct to love seems to take
precedence.  Also there is a strong desire to exist in all individuals.   If we did not have this desire for
individual preservation, the species would die off; indeed it never would have been successful.  This
desire keeps our hearts beating, our lungs breathing.  

Of course there are many cases of individual suicide.  A question?

A final thought: Could life have evolved in a different way, on where there are no 'individuals', but one
eternal existence?

Definitions

Organism – A specific creature that has a finite existence and is capable of procreation.

Procreation – The act of reproduction, usually through sexual means in higher organisms.

(This is a work in progress—as are we all.  Any comments would be appreciated)

January, 2014
Marvin Scott
mtscott@ms3.com