Guns, Germs...and God

I just finished reading Jared Diamond's bestselling book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which postulates that geographic determinism shaped the events of human history more than anything else-- and convincingly so. Basically he asserts that the linearity of the Eurasian continental axis to ease exchange across climate and terrain, the presence of a more easily exploitable dietary 'package' (or available foods for cultivating and mammals for domesticating) in the Fertile Crescent to encourage agrarian pursuits, and thus the earlier exposure to a greater variety of communicable diseases lent to Europeans a head start- well before the rest of the world (excepting China, who outpaced us on every count, but failed to 'cash in' when they had their chance) would witness the consequences of Europeans taking the lead. The factors listed above, having been set in place before humans moved from hunter-gathering to a more sedentary lifestyle, Diamond claims were geographically determined, thereby negating claims of racial supremacy that have characterised so many world histories. [If you wish to know more about the little aside regarding China 'outpacing' us, read 1421 The Year China Discovered America and 1491 which expose the truths about the PreColumban era].

I've also been viewing recently the Life on Earth video series featuring the inimitable David Attenborough. Here the entire expanse of biological development on this planet is condensed into the time lapse of a proverbial year, with the events described in Diamond's book (everything since 18,000 BC) constituting the last few seconds before midnight of the last day of said year, as David so winningly phrases it. Once again, something other than God determined and shaped the course of events on this planet- something else determined how things came about- and in the Darwinian worldview presented by David, that something else was Evolution.

Contrast this with my prayer this Advent. God has made himself known to me in special, intimate, endearing ways this season, as he does every Advent. Salvation history as recorded in the Bible presents how God determined the course of human events- how the entire purpose of existence is the Revelation of God.

One such moment of Revelation came today in the Confessional. After reading Diamond's book I was feeling discouraged; how shall the Christian respond to such outrageous claims? God gave me the answer in the admonition of the priest: remember that you are not an accident of history! You are a person made in the image and likeness of God. The glory of God is the human person- the object of His merciful Love. My confessor shared these words of Venerable John Paul the Great echoed in the following quote.

Pope Benedict in his Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace quoted the following from his predecessor, who addressed the UN in 1995: "It is important for us to grasp what might be called the inner structure of this worldwide movement. It is precisely its global character which offers us its first and fundamental 'key' and confirms that there are indeed universal human rights, rooted in the nature of the person, rights which reflect the objective and inviolable demands of a universal moral law. These are not abstract points; rather, these rights tell us something important about the actual life of every individual and of every social group. They also remind us that we do not live in an irrational or meaningless world. On the contrary, there is a moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples. If we want a century of violent coercion to be succeeded by a century of persuasion, we must find a way to discuss the human future intelligibly. The universal moral law written on the human heart is precisely that kind of 'grammar' which is needed if the world is to engage this discussion of its future."

Pope Benedict carries this thought even further while exhorting Peace: "The transcendent 'grammar', that is to say the body of rules for individual action and the reciprocal relationships of persons in accordance with justice and solidarity, is inscribed on human consciences, in which the wise plan of God is reflected. As I recently had occasion to reaffirm: 'we believe that at the beginning of everything is the Eternal Word, Reason and not Unreason.' Peace is thus also a task demanding of everyone a personal response consistent with God's plan. The criterion inspiring this response can only be respect for the 'grammar' written on human hearts by the divine Creator."

In other words, what these scientists have chalked up as accidental is profoundly Providential. If indeed the Fertile Crescent was blessed with the right dietary 'package' that gave it the geographically determined advantage over other such epicenters, and if that package allowed people to settle down together and start communicating diseases sooner-- doesn't that sound like Divine Providence? When you consider why the people of the Fertile Crescent should be at an advantage, does any particular reason spring to mind? God revealed Himself to the nation of Israel at precisely the moment when such Revelation had a vehicle for global dispersal.

And so we come to the present day, milliseconds after the end of David's proverbial year to where the Vicar of Christ on Jan. 1, 2007 will address the globe with words of Peace. My confessor could not have known that I was feeling discouraged...But God knew! the Lord provides! I arrive at the words of my Holy Father and this proclamation of the Gospel: Peace reigns in the wise plan of God. Life is not randomly determined, but deliberately and willfully created. God wishes to reveal more and more Love to us than we dare to comprehend. Indeed it was Love that created us, Love that thrust all things into motion and being.

And that Love has been shown to us in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The eternally and transcendently Divine, sought by all those humans through prehistoric times to the present day, for whom packages were available on every continent, find in Jesus, the Omega Point (to borrow from Chardin), a palpably pumping Heart-- flesh and blood and pouring forth Divine Mercy-- "rays of incomprehensible Goodness"!

Let Love determine your life's course this most delightful, most joyful, most gladsome Sunday! Peace be with you~

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