On this day in 1951, while in the Army during the Korean War, the irony of Memorial Day hit me full force for the first time. There we were, honoring those who had died in previous wars, while at the same time killing more in another one. If anyone had told me that 60 years later we’d still be in the same old rut, I’d have thought he was nuts – surely by that time, humans, using their big brains, would have outgrown such primitive behavior. Yet here we are still engaging in the barbaric behavior of our ancient primate ancestors, made even worse by our more sophisticated technology.
Regrettably, that’s the way it is. At least, I’ve answered the “why” question, and more satisfactorily than with any theological explanation I had ever heard. In the latter third of that 60-year period, I began a long-deferred study of science. The lights came on and my view cleared up. What I saw was a universe formed through the principles of physics and continuing to function according to those principles. It is neither good nor evil, but completely indifferent to the life that inhabits it. What we see, among all life – ourselves included – is the way it is because given the conditions that prevail. It cannot be otherwise. The universe, in one form or another, always was and always will be. No evidence indicates the need for a creator. This view also neatly disposed of a question which has long plagued theologians: how to account for a world with all the misery of this one (of which a major reminder is Memorial Day) coming from an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God. Other than blaming the victim, they can’t answer the question satisfactorily. I have – at least to my own satisfaction and great relief. This view conforms to the principle of parsimony, accounting for the data with a minimum of baggage (another advantage: It eliminates the question of who or what created the Creator.)
What I’d like to see is for the rest of humanity to catch up so that we can all have a better chance of enjoying our lives. But from the history of the last 60 years, I’d say it’s going to be a long wait – many generations. No one alive today will be around to enjoy it; natural selection doesn’t work that fast.