Friday, 5 December 2014

Human evolution - fast or slow or both? (updated 20 December 2014)

One of the tenets of neo-Darwinism is that Homo sapiens evolved gradually from higher primates over millions of years.

Palaeoanthropologists and archaelogists build up elaborate models of various species that, from fossils, look close in bone structure to modern humans and also associate these with various artifices (tools, primitive musical instruments, jewellery etc.), cave art, burial customs and evidence of hunting or gathering habits. (When you compare paleontology and paleo-anthropology with physics you realize just how inexact are these fields.)

I am not a professional scholar but my understanding is that the standard model of evolution has Homo sapiens emerging up  to around 1 million years ago.  Yet I feel there must be something wrong here. If people like us were thinking, acting, innovating and philosophizing that long why have we not already gone to other worlds long ago, or explored the limits of the universe or unlocked a wealth of secrets of the natural world? Why did it take so long to develop language, abstract thought, science and mathematics and to invent technology in a whole different ball park from that of any other species?

The earliest signs of civilised societies appear to date back to only around 10,000 BC, if not in Mesopotamia (approximately today's Iraq, in the area of the Tigris- Euphrates river system) then somewhere in that region  (possibly Iran).  Since then we have developed at a huge rate. What were our ancestors doing for the hundreds of millenia  prior to that? Even 100,000 years is a long time in human history – 10 times as long as from the first real evidence of civilisation until today. Were we just clubbing each other, sitting round camp fires cooking meat and telling each other stories for a million years and then suddenly there was a quantum jump into a totally new mode of existing and evolving?

Nobody, to my knowledge, has explained how new species appear. All we know is that phenomenonally complex, integrated, sophisticated, intelligent, purposeful processes occur at the DNA level and somehow this is connected with speciation and interaction with the environment.  We also know, from the fossil record, that new species  appear suddenly, not gradually, and that these, while sharing certain traits, are  different in architecture and functional organization from any preceding species. We are very different even from the other primates (elaborate tool making, art, language, symbolism, abstract thought, irony, humour, mathematics, literature, quantum mechanics, cosmology, biology, geology, non-survival directed curiosity, constant innovation, town and city planning, space travel, aviation, internet, iPhones, radio, TV, YouTube, nuclear energy etc. etc. plus worship of our Creator, free will, concern for the well being of other people, of other creatures and of the whole planet).

 So from where I stand it looks as though Homo sapiens sapiens (the second sapiens has now has to be added, presumably to distinguish it the species what had previously been classified as a truly human ancestor) modern upright smooth-skinned man with a voice, self-consciousness, conscience, abstract thought and tool-making manipulative hands, rather than ape man, emerged suddenly probably not more than fifty thousand years ago.  So the move from 


was not a gradual advance but a discontinuous one. There was a quantum jump when modern man appeared in the last 50,000 years.  Agriculture and civilization rose rapidly from what seems to have been continual pervasive tribal and family violence, replacing it with a way of life that was  less uncertain and frightening because order was maintained by brutal laws. Then in the first century AD the power of spiritual peace began to bring about a better world wherever Christ was not rejected: punishment became less harsh, society became more fair and rulers less violent. Around 1600 knowledge and technology in Christendom grew exponentially. The 20th century showed what happens where Christ is deliberately rejected (e.g. Maoism, Marxism and Nazism enacted a degree of violence and inhumanity not seen since pre-Christian paganism. The 21st century could be about to make the same mistake as Christ is made politically incorrect in western nations and brutally attacked in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan.)

 Could evolution be analogous to technological evolution? Yes, there is natural selection but the system which is being selected by the environment, has to be viable for testing by the environment, a functioning organism. Just as a new iPad has to be a viable functioning piece of technology before it is launched into the competitive environment. Moreover, the biosphere itself has to be in symbiosis with each new species. Like a new invention, a new species (immeasurably more advanced in structure, materials and function than any man-made system; this applies even to the first living bacterium) requires  creativity, intelligence and will power from some entity somehow somewhere. 

Of course, you could take the irrational way out and put it all down to chance, the old standby which explains everything and nothing and has zero predictive power or practical application.


author 2077 Knights of Peace