When we trace the ancestry of man, found from the earliest cells on Earth (4,000 million years ago) to the present day, the story inevitably unfolds, as if evolution were working to produce a specific end product that is better than what went before. For too many people, humankind is seen as the end point of evolution. A superior creature compared with all the other products of evolution. But evolution has not finished, and there is no way that we represent its end point, nor are we superior by any biological or evolutionary standard to other species, just different. Intelligence is a very significant, interesting, and important difference certainly. But it seems quite possible that intelligence may directly contribute to the end of the human race through warfare, after a very short time span on Earth. If that happens then far from representing the, or even, a pinnacle of evolution, we will have represented a blind alley, less successful at preserving and replicating genes than the Dinosaurs, the Trilobites of the Cambrian or the Procrustes, which have survived as ‘types’ from the PreCambrian to the present day. Professor John Gribben Dr of Astrophysics.
The message of evolution is that we are not unique. We are animals, members of the same lineage as the wood louse and the shrew. We are social animals, and as such our purpose is not merely to reproduce. Yet our racial pride or patriotism, and our social striving may be, no more or less commendable, than the tribal loyalty of Baboons. Our uniqueness lies in our brain, tongues, and hands, that have allowed us to accumulate knowledge, decrease ignorance, building on the experience of previous generations in a way no other species can. It is consciousness of the past and anticipation of the future, derived from this knowledge, which gives us control over the Beasts of the Field. And, if we are alone in the universe, we are alone in a sense that we are our own masters, and have no one to blame but ourselves for if the future is anywhere, it is in our heads. Colin Patterson. BSc. PhD. of The Natural History Museum, London, and New York. Lecturer at Harvard University.
It is important to stress that of all the ideas concerning the origins of life are speculative. (See BBC www. Pages / Nature has good information about our current knowledge up to 2005. This piece compiled before www. I still find relevant today.)
We do not know whether the first replicating molecules had arrived ready made in meteorites or started up in the shallow seas of the young Earth. What matters though, is that, modern science is not at all embarrassed by the existence of life, but can explain in a general way how life began, whatever that happened to be. We now have a very clear idea of how life evolved from the single celled organisms of over 3,000 million years ago, to the present day plants and animals. And, this does include human animals, with billions of cells co-operating to produce one organism, endowed with a perception of the surrounding world and the ability to ask the question, "Where do we come from"?
All this results from the natural process of selection; some replicators are more efficient at reproducing than others and some survive better than others do. Over 4,000 million years Natural Selection has led to many species of multi-cellular organisms, including humans, but old biological systems are not replaced where they continue to reproduce effectively in their own ecological niches, and we still find single celled organisms descended almost unchanged from the first Colonists of the Earth over 3,000 million years ago.
This illustrates the fact that nothing wants to evolve, and that the basic life process is replication as accurately as possible. Changes only happen as a result of copying mistakes and a very few are beneficial. Very occasionally, however, an imperfect copy turns out to be better at the job of converting food into replicas of itself than the original, and such rare mutations not only survive, but spread through the specific environment. Over many millions of years, the accumulation of rare beneficial copying errors, gave rise to species as diverse as a mouse and a mushroom. But, this has happened willy-nilly and organisms that have remained unchanged for thousands of millions of years could, from one point of view, be regarded as more successful than the collection of bizarre mistakes that has produced you and me. Professor John Gribben.
See, Professor Richard Dawkins FRS books for popular reading and the most famous one ‘The Selfish Gene’. Or, so very easily put by Dawkins, "That evolution is the theory of natural selection (survival of the fittest – survivors reproduce), and random mutation (odd one, or two, over great, unimaginable lengths of time".
"Chance alone, is at the source of every innovation of all creation, in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free, but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution. This central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or conceivable hypothesis. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one compatible, with observed and tested fact. And, nothing warrants the supposition (or the hope) that conceptions about this should, or ever could be revised." ‘Chance and Necessity’ by Jaques Monod. The Winner of the Nobel Prize. Elucidating the Replication Mechanism of Genetic Material.
The eminent historian, Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas) writes in his ‘History of the World’. "This book is a study of history. There is one desirable corrective to any undue parochiality however, about the development of our own species. There are two million species living on Earth. But, these two million species represent far less than one per cent of the species that have ever lived, the rest being now extinct. Though man is now in control of the Earth, his era of dominance is measured in terms of thousands of years, in comparison with the millions during which the Dinosaur held sway. Though this book lays emphasis on the part played by men in history, the reader should not forget that one of the most beautiful of creatures, with an exquisitely made apparatus for feeding off human blood is the most dangerous of all the 3,000 types of mosquito the Aedes Aegypti. The future could belong to it".