Evolution

And God said, “let there be light and there was light.” That was on the first day of Creation. Strangely what we know now to be the source of light, stars and our own sun, the closest star to us, did not come into being until the fourth day. How light and darkness became separated that first day remains a mystery. Although the “Big Bang” could explain light’s presence before the stars existed.  After all it was just a big explosion that must have been pretty bright. Then the crown of Creation, homo sapiens made out of mud, were created the sixth day. That is what creationism teaches us and is believed by 60% of the US population, while 90% of scientists don’t believe in creationism but consider the belief in evolution to be a litmus test for scientific literacy. Europeans must therefore be more scientifically literate than we are as 85% of them believe in evolution, and only 15% are creationists.
Archbishop James Ussher, Primate of Ireland (no pun intended), precisely calculated the date of creation to be October 23, 4004 BC from the Holy Scriptures. I was not here 6000 years ago as none of you were. No eye witnesses can guarantee us what happened then but I have a very strong suspicion that the Creator missed the week of Creation and in fact did not create us or anything else on that fateful day of October 23rd precisely 6019 years ago. We evolved. And it was more like a process that took 4 million years to unfold. Why do I believe this blasphemy that would have put me on a stake and burned me to a crisp just 500 years ago as they did to Bruno Giordano and almost did to his successor at the University of Padua, Galileo Galilei?

evils of fat


The likeness to our ancestors and relatives is just too much to be coincidental. But there are other reasons. The fossil evidence is so strong. Every change happened in order. The evidence is overwhelming, not one fossil is out of place. Every change happened in response to some new environmental factor. Darwin detailed all this in probably the greatest scientific book ever written- On the Origin of Species. The Creationists tell us the devil put all that pseudo-evidence there to fool us. If the devil made all this up, he certainly did a good job of faking forensic evidence and organizing it with not one bone out of place. Fossils are just petrified bones which incidentally are the rare end product of a skeleton. Much luck and appropriate conditions need to exist for a bone to turn into a fossil. Provided the bones are not ingested by some hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex, the bones must survive in a very precise kind of environment. The soil has to be just right in temperature, pH, and contain the right kinds of minerals in the precisely correct concentration with the right level of hydration; then all this must stew for a very long time for a bone to turn to stone. Most bones never made it, but it is amazing how many did. And still we have a very convincing progression of one species to the next from gazelles, bears, tigers, and yes humans.
But bones are just the icing on the cake. More convincing are the recent advances in mapping the human genome which has pointed out some amazing connections. Not only do we share 98% of genes with the Chimpanzee, our closest relative, but we share genetic material with all living things, even amoebas and apples. I seriously doubt the devil was so erudite in genetics as to dabble with the evidence and to trick us into accepting evolution.  Besides it seems the effort to create all that phony evidence would take as much effort as it took God to do the whole creation in the first place.

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Some of our genes were given to us by related species with whom we cross bred. These hominids including the Neanderthals are now extinct. We either killed them off or we absorbed them or we just won the battle of the survival of the fittest. Their bones were first found in the Neander-valley in Germany. Many of us have as much as 4% of their genes within us. If you look carefully when you are in a large crowd you might see some of their descendants whose forefathers were a little more amorous with the Neanderthal ladies and consequently got more than their 4% share. It could have been that the good Octoberfest beer contributed something to the ambiance that helped enhance the romance. Interestingly those genes are only in the European genome but not in the Asian genome. That may explains why Asians do better on the SAT’s.

neanderthal woman


Neanderthal woman
Put some lipstick on her and fix her hair, get her to smile, maybe some breast implants and she might just get a part in the next Hollywood blockbuster

Of the nine or ten hominids that competed for survival only Homo sapiens (Wise Man … or maybe not) made it. All the others simply disappeared. Neanderthal hominid was physically stronger than we were and could withstand the cold weather better than we could during the last Ice Age from 110,000 to 12,000 years ago. The last of the Neanderthal species was seen in the fossil record 30,000 years ago. Were Sapiens the better hunters and the better tailors in sewing animal skins together in order to protect us from the bitter cold? There is evidence that Neanderthal man never learned to hunt larger animals and Sapiens had domesticated dogs that helped in hunting the larger animals such as deer. So when rabbits ran out the Neanderthal species just starved. Or were we just smarter?
As it stands now we are the dominant animal of this planet. We continue to dominate in all sectors of competition with the other animals on earth. They are all subservient to us. And we treat them as property, and use them as beasts of burden or food even though many of them clearly have social and emotional needs, more than we care to admit. The treatment of these living, breathing animals, that are all related to us in some fashion is based on their economic worth to us. The ethical treatment is only considered if there is any money value attached to such treatment. For example, chickens were housed in pens where they had no room to even extend their wings, stand up or peck for their entire life time just so they laid eggs. As it turns out if they are allowed to peck around and flap their wings they lay more and better quality of eggs. Free range chicken eggs also sell better. We have changed the biomass on earth to predominantly represent domesticated animals. According to Yuvall Noah Harari, in his recent book –Sapiens- If you weigh all of the current human population of 7 billion of us it would come to 300 million tons. If you did that with all of the domestic animals, cows, sheep, pigs etc. it would come to 700 million tons. Now weigh only the wild animals left, giraffes, tigers, hippopotami etc , a meager 100 million tons. Australia was uninhabited by humans for millions of years. There were numerous large animals that thrived there through all kinds of weather patterns, ice age, arid desert conditions, and lush forests but hominids managed to decimate all of the megafauna in just 2,000 years after they got there, not one of those species is left. It is established without much doubt that humans caused the extinction of dozens of species. And we continue to do it. We killed off the last Dodo bird in Mauritius just 300 years ago. We almost succeeded in wiping out the California Condor. In fact it was declared extinct in 1987. Then a few do-gooder Condor huggers captured the 22 remaining birds and revived the species with an in-captivity breeding program and as of 2014 there are now 425 Condors living in the wild.
Life is nevertheless very resilient. It will survive no matter what. Life can and does exist in boiling volcanic cauldrons, in near freezing conditions, in arid deserts. Those are the extremophiles. The potential extinction of life on earth has been greatly exaggerated. You can’t stop life even by wiping out most of it with major disasters like the Chicxolub asteroid that killed all dinosaur life 65 million years ago. Evolution works its magic regardless of the environment. That is what it is all about – who can adapt to the new circumstances quicker. The death of the then dominant Dinosaur species left a large void in the ecosystem, and mammals got a leg up and eventually became us. So even if we manage to screw it up by blowing ourselves to smithereens with a few kiloton hydrogen bombs, or fill the atmosphere with a variety of poisons, life will continue. It likely will not be Sapiens that will dominate. There have been at least five major mass extinctions on earth. The last one, the Ordovician-Silurian event, caused the extinction of 70% of all species. It wasn’t by any means the largest, that was the Permian extinction that did in 96% of all species then in existence. The Dinosaur extinction barely made it into the top five extinctions. Who will survive? Surely Cockroaches will. Their fossils were present 350 million years ago. They survived other extinctions. Evolutionarily they are certainly more successful than the dinosaur. They survived that asteroid without a scratch. Despite our invention of Raid and our 4 million years of existence is meager evidence of our supremacy. Who knows in 65 million years some evolved intelligent super Cockroach will write an essay, such as this one, pointing out how their kind would never have gotten the chance to reach the level of intelligence without the death of the then dominant species –Homo Sapiens.

Gosta Iwasiuk is the author of three books – Tales of a Country Surgeon (memoir), The Jesus Gene (commentary on genetics and religion) and Vladimir’s Visions (a coffee table book featuring the artwork of Vladimir Iwasiuk).