05/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lessons from Darwin - We're Still Evolving

The Galapagos Islands sit 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Graciela Cevullos Montalvo has made her living as a naturalist guide on those islands for 20 years. Becoming a naturalist guide in an area where Charles Darwin figured out the process of evolution is no minor accomplishment. There are many applications for guide positions, but a relative small number of guides make the cut.

Graciela has developed strong opinions about the successes and failures of our modern culture based on what she has observed on this archipelago for two decades. Bring up the topic of why Darwin's theory of evolution frightens some people, and she in a wise philosophical way will tell you that some religious leaders have so little faith in the power of God that they fail to understand how faith and science can co-exist. When I explained to Graciela that there are places in America where there is still resistance to teaching Darwinian evolution in schools, her rolling eyes and frown told me all I needed to know about her opinion on that issue. She explained that fearful skeptics visit these islands every day and some leave still unwilling to acknowledge what their eyes and good sense should be telling them about the truth of evolution.

Graciela tells me that what she sees taking place on these islands strengthens her faith in God. She doesn't understand why skeptics have such fear. Graciela's wisdom showed up in most of her strong opinions. She didn't need to dissect the concepts found in Darwin's Origin of Species to figure out what mankind can learn from the Finches and Frigate birds that are constantly adapting to survive on these harsh islands. Almost every day, Graciela is navigating her athletic frame across rugged rock and shoreline explaining the lessons of the Galapagos. One of the constant themes is that even the most partially evolved animal species she encounters daily are successful is sustaining life primarily by furthering the well-being of their entire community. She goes through a litany of examples where birds, sea lions, and iguanas take from their surroundings only what they need to live. In a kind way, she points out how dramatically different they are from the more evolved human that could best be described as locus-like in the way they interact in their community. She wonders why we seem to be blind to the fact that our survival requires us to leave something for generations to follow. She doesn't appear to be optimistic about the possibilities of humans finding a greater sense of community that will lead us to end our consumption of natural resources that are as basic as drinkable water, breathable air, and sustainable food supplies.

In the course of several discussions with Graciela, one powerful opinion in particular surfaced. It's worth mentioning. She believes that the arrogance that is so prevalent in our modern culture may prevent us from benefiting from the lessons of the Galapagos. Graciela seems to believe that even penguins have a better chance for sustained survival than humans. But still, Graciela leaves me hoping that just like all the wonderful creatures on these islands, humans too are still evolving.