The verb ‘to evolve’ is one of the most beautiful words in the English language. It means to develop, mature, move forward, grow, open out, unfold, unroll, expand, enlarge, extend. The word holds the connotation that this unfolding, this unfurling, will happen gradually with a pace of development which is slow and natural. As things evolve – whether it be a part of nature or our understanding of what it means to be human – the changes come gently and are usually accompanied with a sense of anticipation and gratitude. We see the new thing, or new thought, arriving and are ready to receive it with celebration at the coming of something that we have waited for and pre-empted. There are no shocks or traumatic shifts with an unfolding. The unfurling of a fern is a predictable and controlled growth experience like coming to know a great truth slowly; gradually over time.
So, the development of life on earth has experienced long periods of unfolding as species have evolved certain traits and the environment has either favoured these characteristics or rejected them. Size, color, function, intellect and many many other aspects of living creatures can be judged ‘good’ and carried on into the next timeframe or ‘unworthy’ and left behind. There have also been cataclysms (sudden events of an extreme nature) including ice-ages that have suddenly cut off whole branches of species like some kind of cosmic gardener let loose with large secateurs. Other species then take over the dominant narrative from the dormant nodes of earlier stories considered dead and buried. This has been the dance of evolution on the earth over millions and millions of years.
And here we are today. Humans are the dominant species on earth. Some think this happened by chance, others wish we were not quite so dominant, and still others consider it quite miraculous (aided by the intentional hand of the Divine).
Like Dr Brian Cox, I think it was in some mysterious way INEVITABLE.