Evillution, Intelligent Design, The Science of it All

Human Origins-Evillution or nothing

If you want a good laugh, then reading the books put out by the evolutionary biologists is an absolute hoot. What they have concocted to try to prove their point of views will make you fall out of your chair and laugh.

There are other, more inclusive, ideas around about what makes us human. Not long ago, most people (in the west) were happy with the account found in the Bible: we are made in the image of God – end of argument. However, the theory of evolution tells a different story, one in which humans slowly emerged as a twig on the tree of life. The problem with this explanation is that it is much more difficult to say exactly what makes us so different from all the other twigs.

tree-of-life

That is what it means when we say that Darwinian evolution is an overarching explanation: It can explain everything and anything — and in the end nothing — and still be the accepted and defended explanation. To doubt is to invite intellectual rejection.

Some scientists have concluded that there simply is no profound difference between us and other species. This is the stance taken in new books by Henry Gee, paleontology editor of the leading scientific journal Nature, and by animal behavior expert Marc Bekoff.

accidental species

There are no obvious physical features to explain our successes over other animals in the kingdom according to these authors. Such useful below-the-neck traits as bipedalism and opposable thumbs are too widespread. Moreover, just pointing to our large brains will not work: they might be three times the size of the brains of chimpanzees but elephants’ brains are three times bigger again. Of course, elephants have bigger bodies too, leading some to think that we might have the highest ratio of brain size to body size. Not quite, that honor actually belongs to shrews and ants.

mybrainsize

From the evillutionists point of view, with enough tweaking, a scale can be developed according to which humans we want to come out as the brainiest. However, the real lesson we might draw from this is how desperate humans are to demonstrate that they are special, and how hard this is to do with any exactness.

For Gee, this would appear to show that our obsession with our uniqueness is a folly. “There is nothing special about being human, any more than there is anything special about being a guinea pig or a geranium,” he writes in his book The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution. We only believe we are so exceptional, he argues, because we believe that we are the pinnacle of evolution. However, this is our misunderstanding: we are just one twig on the tree of life, and we could have easily been snapped off at any time.

Gee is good at explaining how fossil evidence has been (mis)interpreted to fit that famous picture of man rising from the ape, growing taller and wiser with each step before culminating in us. The reality, he points out, is very different: until recently (no later than 50,000 years ago) there were many species of humans across the world. Homo sapiens would have appeared much less exceptional, and our close connection to other species more obvious. Some of these other humans disappeared through natural disasters whereas others might have been driven to extinction by us. Therefore, if our twig stands out, it might be only because we have ruthlessly pruned the rest of the branch.

why_dos_hump

This would fit with the biologist Marc Bekoff’s view of modern humans. What sets us apart, he argues, is that “we’re the only animals who cook food, and no other species is as destructive of its own and other species”. His latest work Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship and Conservation is a collection of his blog posts and essays.

Bekoff’s starting position is what he calls the principle of evolutionary continuity. He writes, we claimed to be the only species with reason, emotion, consciousness or morality. However, according to his beliefs, we share a long evolutionary history and basic biology with other animals, particularly other mammals. We should therefore expect that “if some mammals experience something, most or all mammals probably do, too.” It would be simply unscientific to expect one twig on the tree of life to be radically different from those on the branches around it.

Bekoff’s central claim – that we are far from standing out as the only complex thinking creatures on earth – is now much less controversial than it was just a few decades ago.

Carrying that thinking to its logical extreme, then the 11,500-year-old religious complex Gobekli Tepe[1], described by one source as like “a 747 built in the basement with an X-Acto knife,” must be a subset or outgrowth of the activities of primates like chimpanzees and bonobos.” Barbara J. King explains at NPR that human religiosity: “was primed by the meaning-making, imagination, empathy and rule-following of other primates (primates with whom we shared a common ancestor in the past or those common ancestors themselves).”[2] The immense complex, which predates Stonehenge by about seven thousand years, has cast doubt on the conventional view that agriculture produced cities, suggesting instead that religion did. Other primates never built such a thing, or built anything but housing such as underground tunnels, nests, beaver dams, etc. However, it must somehow be accounted for because of our kinship with them.

gobekli-tepe

The fact that such claims explain nothing about the world around us and fly in the face of evidence and common sense is not treated as a serious objection. That is what it means when I have said in the past, that Darwinian evolution is an unsubstantiated explanation: It can explain everything and anything — and in the end nothing — and still be the accepted and defended explanation. To doubt is to invite intellectual rejection.

One result is that numerous trivial and often contradictory accounts of our existence are the only ones on offer: Human evolution, we are told, began in a genetic coding error (a doubling error[3]) half a billion years ago.

amphioxus

An amphioxus, which is a very distant cousin to humans and other vertebrates. It is the creature most similar to the original spineless organism that existed before a major genomic event occurred.

Or maybe, human specific regulation of neuronal genes.[4].

lauging_monkey

On the other hand, how about just plain novel genes are what set us apart[5].

chimps looking at each other

Some think that, humans evolved to “outrun the fastest animals on earth[6].” Or parasites made us what we are[7]. One group of “specialists” informs us that men evolved sturdier features due to fighting over women[8].

cavemen_fighting

We had to learn to walk upright to be able to hit each other since we apparently had gotten beyond biting each other[9]. Walking upright, formally called bipedalism. There is a “uniquely human[10]” way of walking upright and there is no shortage of possible reasons why: carrying infants.

Scarce resources?

chimps_walking_upright

Saving evergy?[11]

shuffling

Or let us get into the 21st century- maybe it is due to climate change.[12]

walking_climate_change

Or maybe it was due to rough terrain?[13]

neanderthal

The human hand is simply a byproduct of changes to the shape of our feet[14].

foot and hand

Did stone tools really change human hands? Darwin speculated on this, which makes the idea sacred today.[15]

tool_use

While many claim that apes use and shape tools[16] like humans, few speculate why doing so had no such dramatic effect on their hands.

termite_mound_Chimp

Chimpanzees’ improved skills throwing excrement[17] are also said to provide hints about human brain development.

cartoon_mnkey_throwing_poop

Collective intelligence[18] (“ideas having sex”), whatever that means, has been really important to human evolution as well.

monkey_sex

Consciousness is a state of matter, like gases[19].

galaxy_mind

 

The problems with all of these disunited and discordant theses can be summed up for convenience as: 1) If some aspect of chimpanzee behavior explains something that happened to us, why didn’t it produce the same result in chimpanzees? 2) If mere advantage (which every primate seeks) explains a development like the human mind, why did only humans experience it?


 

[1] Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text/1

[2] But religiosity is found in every human culture and biologists, anthropologists, and psychologists keenly debate how it arose. Just like language, technology and bipedalism, religion too evolved over time.

http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2014/04/18/304156771/how-do-we-explain-the-evolution-of-religion

[3] Over 500 million years ago a spineless creature on the ocean floor experienced two successive doublings in the amount of its DNA, a “mistake” that eventually triggered the evolution of humans and many other animals, says a new study.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/48310479/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.Vfhx3H2DuSq

[4] A new study has identified hundreds of small regions of the genome that appear to be uniquely regulated in human neurons. These regulatory differences distinguish us from other primates, including monkeys and apes, and as neurons are at the core of our unique cognitive abilities, these features may ultimately hold the key to our intellectual prowess (and also to our potential vulnerability to a wide range of ‘human-specific’ diseases from autism to Alzheimer’s) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120194926.htm

[5] On the plains of New Mexico, a band of elite marathoners tests a controversial theory of evolution: that humans can outrun the fastest animals on earth.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090901172832.htm

[6] On the plains of New Mexico, a band of elite marathoners tests a controversial theory of evolution: that humans can outrun the fastest animals on earth.

http://www.outsideonline.com/1915656/fair-chase

[7] The degree to which natural selection is primarily driven by adaptation to local environments, and the role of pathogens or other ecological factors as selective agents, is still under debate http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1002355

[8] Men evolved manly jawlines and thick brows because they used to fight for women in the past, claim anthropologists

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/7725655/Men-developed-thicker-foreheads-and-jaws-due-to-fighting-over-women.html

[9] A new study shows that men hit harder when they stand on two legs than when they are on all fours, and when hitting downward rather than upward, giving tall, upright males a fighting advantage. This may help explain why our ape-like human ancestors began walking upright and why women tend to prefer tall men. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518171343.htm

[10] A new study has found that a 9- to 7-million-year-old ape from Italy did not, in fact, walk habitually on two legs. The findings refute a long body of evidence, suggesting that Oreopithecus had the capabilities for bipedal (moving on two legs) walking http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130725125447.htm

[11] A pair of researchers have developed a model that suggests shuffling emerged millions of years ago as a precursor to walking on two feet as a way of saving metabolic energy by a common ancestor of today’s primates. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080529140042.htm

[12] http://www.science20.com/news_articles/ascent_man_why_did_our_early_ancestors_walk_upright-113043

[13] Hominins, our early forebears, would have been attracted to the terrain of rocky outcrops and gorges because it offered shelter and opportunities to trap prey. But it also required more upright scrambling and climbing gaits, prompting the emergence of bipedalism http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130524104041.htm

[14] The journal Evolution reports that changes in our hands and fingers were a side-effect of changes in the shape of our feet. This, they say, shows that the capacity to stand and walk on two feet is intrinsically linked to the emergence of stone tool technology. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8459572.stm

[15] New research from anthropologists at the University of Kent has confirmed Charles Darwin’s speculation that the evolution of unique features in the human hand was influenced by increased tool use in our ancestors. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110307101504.htm

[16] In 1960, at Gombe National Park, Jane observed two chimps pick up small twigs, strip off the leaves, and use them as tools to fish for termites in the ground, which they then swept into their mouths as a snack. http://www.janegoodall.ca/about-chimp-behaviour-tool-use.php

[17]Hopkins and colleagues tracked several years’ worth of throwing behaviors in captive chimpanzees. (“If I was going to get s**t thrown at me, I was going to get something out of it,” said Hopkins.) Chimps are the closest living relative to humans, and the only species aside from ourselves in which throwing is regularly seen. http://www.wired.com/2011/11/chimp-throwing/

[18] The Darwinian process by which creatures change depends crucially on sexual reproduction, which brings together mutations from different lineages. Without sex, the best mutations defeat the second best, which then get lost to posterity. http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703691804575254533386933138?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052748703691804575254533386933138.html

[19] Tegmark’s approach is to think of consciousness as a state of matter, like a solid, a liquid or a gas. “I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness,” he says. He goes on to show how the particular properties of consciousness might arise from the physical laws that govern our universe. https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/why-physicists-are-saying-consciousness-is-a-state-of-matter-like-a-solid-a-liquid-or-a-gas-5e7ed624986d

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3 thoughts on “Human Origins-Evillution or nothing

  1. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you ought to write more about this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but usually people do not talk about these topics. To the next! Cheers!!

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