Weekly Reflection, October 13, 2016

Every now and then a copy of Scientific American appears in our house.

I really enjoy reading it; the writing does (for the most part) explain discoveries, experiments, theories, hypotheses and more, in terms even I can begin to understand.

The cover of the Autumn special collector’s issue caught my eye. It shows a close-up photo of a human skull and ‘The Story of Us: It’s stranger than anyone thought’. (Perhaps the editors thought a skull and the word ‘strange’ would be seasonal for an issue released Halloween month.)

The articles, divided into sections ‘Where we came from,’ ‘What makes us special,’ and ‘Where we are going’ contain, well, eons of material (lots of science in the first two sections, some speculation and, well, scary speculation in the third: “social media is making us less social.”).

One aspect of many that interest me is when and how our branch of hominoids came to be known as homo sapiens, ‘wise human.’ One article revisits the controversies around two theories about our evolutionary arc: one that suggests tool-making, the other that social groupings, contributed to our evolutionary ‘triumph’ (the article concludes that it was both).

The story of us. We are so indebted to the scientific community and enterprise for this vast, ever-expanding knowledge. DNA analysis, brain scans, computer imaging, all are speeding up the pace of discovery. Who knows what will be next.
In it all, through it all, I still wonder – why are we called ‘wise humans’? Are we really created ‘a little lower than the angels’? If so, what does that mean? If we are, it is quite possible that our sapiens comes not only from the evolved ability to make tools or even to make friends, but from something that is beyond the realm of scientific investigation. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Job, Proverbs, Psalms) might put it best. All current evidence to the contrary, maybe one day we will evolve into something closer to the angels – ‘homo humilis’ – humbly knowing our rightful, miraculous, place in the Story of God.

Sarah Motley