Welcome Back Kowalski, Part III
Neutron: Well so far we have a pretty decent exhange going with one of Redstate’s longer-serving members, so let’s continue to press the conversation, because we really have to go back to the Tea Party Movement, Barack Obama, and homosexuals. Maybe we can rope the Catholic Church into this discussion if we keep pressing forward, but everyone has reasons to doubt that. Mr. Kowalski, you were raised a Roman Catholic, weren’t you?
Kowalski: Yes and my father insisted that both his sons be raised Roman Catholics and I was baptised and took Communion at a wonderful church in New Jersey, but I was lapsed for a long time thereafter. I think a lot of people probably are, and I don’t feel great about that at this point. I didn’t visit the church and I wasn’t a donator or an active participant, and for a long time I described myself and believed myself to be an atheist, my worldview was inexorably scientific. My father didn’t force my decisions in any way, and although he gave me the opportunity to appreciate the Church as a child, as I grew older he didn’t try to insist on my continued attendance and in fact, if he had wanted to he couldn’t have succeeded, and probably would have caused me to be more averse to the whole idea of attending.
Later on in life, of course, I realized that even though the Catholic Church has many flaws they’re still coming to grips with I can’t abandon them either, and more importantly I still have a strong and growing relationship with Christ and with God. As I’ve approached the middle aged years of my life, especially I’ve realized how limited human beings and their individual and collective powers of discernment are, and how truly awful it would be even if we could all answer the questions we have. It is really humility that impels me to believe that there is a God, and that took a long time to comprehend, but my version of God probably does not comport with the Scripture because I cannot reliably recite it. I don’t know whether that makes sense, but on one level it’s simple: Everything I’ve found in human decision and human articfice and human nature has been so limited that I do hope and pray that there is something larger and more circumspect than what we possess. We do nothing but travel from one set of mistakes to a new set of “better” mistakes, it seems to me. I pray that God will forgive us those trespasses.
In the meantime, until I have the chance to meet God, the Ten Commandments are a good place to start, not just in terms of morals but also in literature, and reading them and the Bible are a good idea. So few people do read the Bible today, many of them have it somewhere in their homes but lots of them have never cracked it. I’ve been a big fan of the Book of Job in the last year, and I believe it. I’m very concerned that people in this country who most know are moral and believing people are so heavily sanctioned by modern society, but on the other hand I understand why: modernity teaches people that all of those belief systems are archaic and illegitmate. Unfortunately they are what civilization is really based on, and displacing them is by no means certain to usher in a new era of tolerance and mutual appreciation. I think people who believe in “social evolution” are a little misguided: they happened to have lived in a nice place for a long time. In fact there is a very strong case to be made that the more modern the world becomes, the less tolerant it is, the more glib and narrow minded it becomes, and the more unashamed people are to violate the rules that make their own lives livable. I don’t know whether technology has helped us much, except in terms of productivity. We are certainly a lot more impatient and bellicose. And the music is crappier.
Human beings haven’t changed that much in 2000 years, and it seems equally possible to me that God allowed us to be made exactly to prove that point. We’ll find out. Surely there are going to be awful situations beyond anything we can imagine in the next 10,000 years that happen to millions of innocent people, I think it’s a fantasy to imagine otherwise. Life is going to continue to be tough. There will be lots of beautiful and memorable moments, but it’s going to continue to be tough.
Neutron: So do you believe in Creation or Evolution?
Kowalski: It’s always seemed to me that Evolution had a better chance of being correct even if most of it was wrong at any given time. By that I mean that it’s the best alternative guess we have, actually a large collection of educated guesses that change whenever we discover a significant new piece of evidence. It’s far from perfect, but on the other hand we shouldn’t throw away the careful scholarship of the past 100 years, let’s not be stupid. Intrinsically I don’t have any trouble accepting the idea that human beings are related to and evolved from monkeys, and that in broad terms all of the Kingdoms and Phyla and Classes and Order and Families and Genus and Species on the Earth are variously interrelated, as far as it goes. We’re all interrelated but we’re each very different. Selection pressures force us to be different, not the same, otherwise we’d be a big blob of grey ooze, and it would be an ugly blob. To me, the amazing thing is that we have such a diversity of individuals, so many different creatures, and ones that appear completely unpredictably from time to time. In a sense I believe that Nature creates new individuals all the time and some of them survive to start completely new branches of the tree.
I don’t see why God couldn’t have wanted it that way.
[More to come in this series of interviews.]