Life...everything it is and everything it does...is governed by a loose, but inescapable force. It always has and always will. This force exists whether or not the life forms that are its creations have become conscious of it. Life...everything it is and everything it does...is governed by the force of evolution.
Evolution only became aware of itself nearly 150 years ago when it’s most perceptive and sensitive creation, the human being, became advanced enough to sense what was there all along. And even today, relatively few are sensitive to it. It seems to me that scientists, with their overly specialized and fractionalized focuses, have done nearly as much to confuse our thinking on evolution as the simple-minded preachers have. But to understand evolution is to understand life and the meaning of life. With a conceptual understanding of evolution, no made-up belief system is needed to live a full and rich life. And it isn't that complicated.
The biosphere is a finite space upon which the conditions for life exist. Life must confront the existence of both constant change and unavoidable scarcity. When life forms are unable to adapt to change, they do not survive. When life forms are no longer able to compete effectively to get what they need for survival, they no longer exist.
Every life form wants to thrive so that it has the best possible chance at survival. Life forms thrive when their characteristics enable them to meet their needs in a particular landscape (landscapes are microcosms within the biosphere). The characteristics of some organisms are more specialized (a mushroom which grows on dead wood in a damp forest), and some are more diversified (birds, which can move from place to place and consume a variety of food).
Viewing nature as a whole, all appears to fit so nicely. Nature appears to operate as though it were created by some master planner. But, of course, what we observe is nothing more than billions of years of trial and error. A walk through a forest gives us a snapshot of what has resulted from a history of life's beautiful successes and devastating failures. Constant flux comes from changing conditions in the biosphere (temperature fluctuations, water table changes, etc.) and mutations (new traits and new ideas which life introduces into the biosphere). When the right mutations are suitable for the right conditions, they are carried forward. When mutations do not help a life form thrive, they are discarded along with that life form.
Humans are no exception. We, too, depend upon the conditions of the biosphere and the life forms within that biosphere for survival. Of all the known life forms which have existed, we have taken the art of "thrival" to new levels. We dominate life on earth because our characteristics, our skills and abilities, have taken us far beyond simple survival.
Many humans incorrectly see themselves as abstracted from nature. Yet everything we do is still part of evolution itself. Our man-made creations (governments, businesses, institutions, even cultures) are all microcosms of evolution. They are sort of virtual "landscapes" in which we compete for scarce resources. Businesses are organisms within the landscape of the market. Think about the software industry, or the music industry. You can see evolution unfolding on a daily basis. New songs are new mutations. Product features are mutations. Ideas on weblogs are also mutations. Some of those ideas are adopted by an audience, some aren’t. Some of those ideas help that audience thrive, some don't. To provide a thorough set of examples would be to describe everything that life is and life does. I’ve provided these examples to demonstrate that a correct view of evolution is the lens through which reality makes sense. How beautiful it is when reality makes sense.
Now let's look at morality. Morality ought to be a consideration of consequences. Morality devoid of the consideration of consequences is, more likely, manipulation. So let's look at consequences. That which undermines our thrival over the long term is wrong. Driving an SUV is wrong because it pollutes the air and destroys the conditions in which life thrives. Dumping toxic waste into our water supply is also wrong because it destroys life. Anything that destroys life today or threatens life tomorrow is wrong. Why? When we tamper too much with the conditions that support life, we actually undermine our own chances for long-term survival. We need life to survive. We need the conditions which support life to survive. Aggressive war is also wrong. That's because, when we start a war, we are more likely to be attacked and killed in return. Violence is wrong because it kills life. Killing always undermines our own survival, and for that reason (if for no other) it is wrong.
When one believes he is abstracted from nature, he searches in vain for meaning. But when we become sensitive to evolution...when we become reverent toward life...then we can live in grace and beauty. Only then can we live wisely and in harmony with the biosphere.