My World View – Happy Hominidae

It kind of sounds like a holiday or celebration, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not.

I was thinking that perhaps it’s time for me to write about my world view. There are so many ‘famous’ atheists out there who profess a world view that is secularist, humanist etc. and go on to tell us why all atheists should be like them or think like them. I disagree. I am me. I speak for no other and no other atheist speaks for me.

So I will start then to speak for me with a few entries about what I understand to be true about the world and universe. Who knows how many posts it will take. I guess we’ll find out. To go with the happy title, lets start with biology.

There is a post at StartledDisbelief.com where the author writes:

It’s frustrating when creationists claim that humans came from monkeys, or that evolution tells us that we are monkeys. Humans are not monkeys (they’re in a separate infraorder or parvorder, depending on which monkeys you’re talking about).

But I hear skeptics who aren’t quite as careful as they should be roundly declare that humans are not apes, when, in point of fact, we are. Here’s roughly where humans fall:

Order:Primates, which contains Prosimians (lemurs, etc.) and Simians (monkeys and apes).
Infraorder:Simiiformes (simians), which contains Platyrrhini (New World monkeys) and Catarrhini (Old World monkeys and apes).
Parvorder:Catarrhini, which contains Cercopithecoidea (Old World monkeys) and Hominoidea (apes).
Superfamily:Hominoidea (apes), which contains Hylobatidae (gibbons) and Hominidae (great apes).
Family:Hominidae (great apes), which contains Pongo (orangutans), Gorilla (gorillas), Pan (chimpanzees), and Homo (humans).
Genus:Homo (humans). That’s us!

I don’t think I could have said it as well. I am an ape. A clever one, but I am an ape. The processes of evolution have brought my species to where we are today… but we are still apes. I’m okay with that. Really, I am. It explains a lot of things to me. When I was a young inquisitive child I once wondered if the number five was somehow magical. I see my cat has basically 5 fingers on its feet as does my dog and many other animals. Just like me. We have four limbs, bilateral symmetry (didn’t know to call it that then), same basic facial structures and senses. But each of us had 5 protrusions from our torsos like starfish etc. This number 5 must somehow be magic.

I gave up on that thought of magic but never forgot the similarities. Later I was taught I am a mammal and some passable understanding of what that means. Not until much later did I really understand that I am an ape. Not just any ape… a member of the most successful and adaptable ape ever. One of the ape family that went to the moon and back. I’m somehow a very special ape, not your ordinary ‘stare through the glass at the zoo’ kind of ape. Later I learned about biology and evolution. Neither topic held much interest for me in school as I was still wanting to believe like my parents, unwilling to believe that they would lie to me, no matter how well intentioned.

I was fully adult and had served my time in the military before I began to understand exactly how wonderful it is to know that I AM AN APE! Judging by my successes thus far in life, a very special ape. Sure, not the most special ape, but a pretty damned clever ape just the same. It took me a long time to justify that enlightening fact with my understanding of the rest of the world. Being an ape, I’ve got a natural inquisitive nature. I used it to find out why other people thought I was an ape to see what proof they had. What would make them think that? As it turns out, there is a lot of evidence for evolution, an overwhelming amount of it.

Damn! My parents and church HAD lied to me. That took me years to justify or rationalize. So here I am, an ape. I know why I am, much of how and why I don’t look like or act like other apes like we see at the zoo. I understand much of biology and genetics, or enough to understand how the number 5 is not really a magic number. In fact now, I know there is no magic, but something much more wonderful – evolutionary biology. I had to start learning chemistry to understand some of that biology stuff. It’s a lot of hard work when you are learning on your own.

For some 30 years I had no real clue that I was not alone in how I thought. Then the Internet happened.  Now I could explore much more, much faster than ever before. I am a human ape and I know how to explain why that is true and why it is wonderful. For millions of years life struggled on this planet, fearful of death, not knowing how the universe works. Here I sit doing what would only be explained as magic 2000 years ago telling people that I do not know that I am happy to be an ape. I realize that I live in an important point of human history and in some way I play a part in it. This one happy ape is helping to make history that cannot be unwritten, that will push my species into a future that is both unsure and immeasurably exciting and inspiring. My cousins have walked on the moon, ripped open the atom, mapped the universe, cured diseases and many, many more wondrous things that would have been only described as magic 2000 years ago.

There is nothing in this universe that can take that away from me. Nothing. I am proud to be an ape, happy to be alive, and filled with incomprehensible awe of both what we know and what we know that we don’t know.

I hope that you too share this awe of life, of the very happy accident that we are here in this moment, that we can sniff a flower and not only swan in the scent but know almost everything about each and every cell in that flower…. and it does not diminish the wonder of the scent, the event, or the memory of that experience. I’m everything that every one of my predecessors was and so much more. I proudly stand on the backs and shoulders of giants and gardeners alike, and from here I can look out on to the world and see galaxies and stars that are so far away that their light would never have been detected without the use of tools that my cousins have created.  No monarch in history has been as fortunate as I… as you.

But then, I’m just an ape on a pale blue dot…. what do I know.

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  1. Excellent overview of an individual’s (mental) evolution! Thanks for sharing!

    • Well, it was not the whole thing, just enough to give background on the topic. There will be more.
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. The awe of nature is so important. I’d be interested to read more posts in this vein. I love your tagline, “How one atheist sees life.” Creationists try to generalise the views of individual atheists to the whole “movement.” I always think, “No no, there’s no wider meaning, no ‘movement’, no tenets of faith.” Just a bunch of people trying to make their own sense of the universe, sometimes together, sometimes not.

    • I don’t think I’m done writing yet, and I expect there will be more. I couldn’t agree more with your view of what atheism is.
      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Excellent metaphor here.I enjoyed the reading.But of course im a Creationist so i found this funny to say the least

  4. Glad you enjoyed it. I’m planning a few more ‘my world view’ posts. You might also enjoy them. I appreciate the comment and kudos for the word play 🙂 I enjoy word play too.

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