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Evolution at election time

Americans today head to the polls to choose between Barack Obama and John McCain, and my own country also gears up for an election on Saturday (the dynamics of our MMP system make this more complex than a two-horse race – but either Helen Clark or John Key will end up being Prime Minister). Many see the world on the threshold of events possibly worse than worldwide economic downturn at the Great Depression.

New Zealand Listener Economy columnist Brian Easton wrote:

For the past half century, the most raucous ideology has been that the pivate pursuit of greed is socially beneficial. Its advocates seem so shocked by what is happening (of fearful of losing their fortunes), they are just as keen to use governments to protect their interests as are the ordinary people they used to abuse. The succeeding ideology may be a modified form of social capitalism.

Two decades ago the fall of communism was greeted with an almost audible international “we told you so”. Now, however, as the Easton quote makes clear, the current mega-crisis shows that not only is there intrinsic instability in communism, but there is a similar uncertainty in relying on unfettered capitalism.

Whilst it is possible and appropriate to reconcile the theory of evolution with a Christian understanding of creation, I regularly query the translation of “survival of the fittest” into our ethical and economic spheres. The evolutionary evidence need not point solely to “survival of the fittest”, and can be read as “survival of those who cooperate” – living together in harmony within the same context. In any case, if life is a taking up and transforming of matter, and humanity a taking up and transforming of life, then the Christ challenge can be seen as bringing love, justice, and compassion taking up and transforming our human life – individually and together.

This middle way that the Easton quote is advocating, and the fall of communism followed by the fall of capitalism appears to be demanding, is not merely a “compromise for the sake of peace, but a comprehension for the sake of truth“. Even five centuries prior to Christ, Siddhattha Gotama had realised “if you make the string too tight it will break. If you make the string too loose it will not play.” Pope Benedict XVI challenged both capitalism and comunism a year and a half ago in his book Jesus of Nazareth. Now the markets are reinforcing this insight.

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