At the same time, I was fascinated by what I understood as "mythology": stories of ancient Greek gods, the Ramayana, and my trusty illustrated children's bible. I loved these stories and absorbed parts of the morality within them, but I never took these stories to be literally true (I wasn't capable of it, because of all the logical holes).
At 11 years old, I was quite shocked to learn that there were still people around who understood religious stories as more than mythology. I first encountered American creationism on a weekend morning in Southern California. I was walking along a path with a friend, and noticed a curious-looking plant close to his apartment. I turned to him non-challantly and said, "I wonder how that evolved?" He turned back to me with bewilderment, even fear, in his eyes and accused, "You believe in evolution?!" To which, I replied, equally bewildered and fearful, "You don't?!"
We both ran back to our homes and never spoke of it again, but the moment stayed with me as I tried to come to terms with its implications. How many of these people were there? Did they believe in gravity, in the roundness of the earth, in its revolution around the sun? How could they survive in a world fueled (literally) by science? Later, in College, I wondered how people could make it through school without dropping their anti-scientific beliefs. I began to realize that it was possible to have a full K-12 and College education without ever taking a biology class that included evolution. Versed in Genesis but not The Origin of Species, creationists in the 21st century continued to make arguments that Darwin himself had defeated in the 19th.
In order to bring evolution back into the public sphere, I had to compete not just with education or the media but with religion itself. Only by creating a new vision of creation can we ever hope to defeat the root cause of Creation-ism. The fact is, evolution simply doesn't seem as compelling as Genesis at first glance. It seems meaningless, empty, caused by random chance alone. That is, until one looks deeper.
Every leaf in the forest, every fish in the sea, every bone in your body has a story to tell.
It is a story of struggle, of terrible tragedies and explosive successes. The two often seem to come hand in hand. There have been several mass extinctions on this planet, and after each of them has come a huge radiation in the diversity of life. Without the extinction of the dinosaurs, the radiation of mammals and birds we see today would never have happened.
From the way some orchids and their pollinators have co-evolved to the extreme, to the way Lichens can survive on the highest mountain peaks, evolution teaches us that there is almost nothing life cannot do. Each year we find ever more surprising creatures that survive, even thrive, in what we consider to be extreme conditions. We've found a fungus growing inside the Chernobyl reactor, eating radiation the way plants eat light. Water bears have been exposed to the vacuum of space and lived to tell the tale. It is even possible that life originated in one such extreme environment: the Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents (or "Wet Fire").
The very appearance of every living thing around us has been sculpted by billions of years of trial and error. In nature, form is function. The two are nearly inseparable. Not only that, but the biological chiseling continues to this day. The most compelling part of evolution as our origin story is that it is ongoing. Although some creatures seem perfectly adapted to their environment, the truth is that they are most definitely not perfect, though they get a little closer with every generation.
The story continues with every rising sun.