My wife and I were discussing the interesting facts of evolution the other day, and she brought up an interesting question: Dinosaurs were on the planet a lot longer than humans…why did they not evolve into intelligent creatures on the level of humans?
Dinosaurs and their cousins were on the planet for nearly 200 million years! Humans have been here only about 150 thousand years…and look what we’ve created! Civilizations, art, architecture, spacecraft. With over 1,000 TIMES the number of years available to them, why did they remain “animalistic” up until the time they died off?
Oh sure, we know that some were somewhat intelligent, as depicted in Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”. But no more than at best what some birds, dolphin, dogs, and chimps are capable of.
The religious person would say because…er, a really religious person wouldn’t even acknowledge the existance of dinosaurs I guess, or the evidence of human evolution, or perhaps even the historic record placing humans (even AS humans) beyond 6,000 years ago. OK, but the moderately religious person would say because God made it that way.
For the moment, I don’t like that answer. But we’ll return to it.
There were dinos that had opposeable thumbs. Some had significant brain sizes. Some had complex resonating chambers capable of a wide range of sound that even without vocal cords could have rivaled humans with sound making ability. So, was it dumb chance that dinosaurs didn’t evolve further?
Perhaps. Why not? The chances of life developing in the universe in the first place is almost too small to calculate. So small, that despite the number of other planets in the universe, there IS a chance, numerically speaking and nothing to do with religion, that Earth is the only one with life. So evolutionarily, despite the time and numbers, random chance may have very easily fell in such a way as to have the proto-human branch of the simian family to have that extra spark that allowed us to go beyond just the ability to use fashioned tools (as many other primates can) into what would become viable intelligence.
I can go with that.
But what if we were engineered by God? No, I’m not saying it happened the way Creationists describe. That’s silly fantastic mythology with absolutely no basis in fact.
No, I’m saying what if God didn’t just create a ball of matter and explode it into existance 14 billion years ago (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Universe,) but did it with a design in mind.
Oooohh…I’m treading upon the realm of Intelligent Design here. Scary.
Actually, it IS scary!
But no, I don’t subscribe to ID as believed by the ID proponents. Despite appearance, with some exceptions, ID is basically Creation stripped of overt religious references as a means of trying to insinuate it into public education. At least, any theory of ID that involves Irreducible Complexity. THAT piece of pseudoscience is full of more holes than cheese. Every example IC proponents have put out there have been easily explained away, and every “logical” arguement they have can be refuted. I don’t want to go into it here, but the main arguement is that there are X number of biological enities that are so complex there’s no way they could have evolved, and so like a mousetrap, any removal of a part means the whole fails–ergo, it had to have been created. Of course this COMPLETELY ignores the fact that any organ or cell type or biological process does not have to have started out with whatever purpose they have now, and any number of organs and cells and processes that helped the enitity in question to come to be could have devolved away or evolved itself into another purpose. Like scaffolding.
Where was I…oh yeah! So, what if evolution happened the way 99% of legitimate scientists know it to have happened…but God set the process in motion those 14 billion years ago with the intent of having humans evolve as we have.
Assuming the existance of God, why not? Would not the creator of supernovae and black holes be patient enough to wait 14 billion years for a result? He’s timeless, no? Is he not powerful enough that he can’t create a universe that works upon his designed plan for 14 billion years? Would God not be capable of that, if he’s omnipotent?
I think so.
Reason and skepticism does not rule any of this out. In fact, Steven Hawkings and Carl Sagan have both said that all the scientific discoveries past and future have not nor could not disprove the existance of God. The nature of God, being outide the system known as the universe, makes it impossible to predict whether science is capable of proving or disproving God…which is why GOOD scince doesn’t even try. Carl Sagan did not believe in God as a creature, but has said it’s not impossible for that to be the case. And again I say, why not?
There is only one thing that prevents faithful people from being able to accept the idea that God created the universe and set in motion processes labeled as Darwinian evolution. And that’s a book written between 4,000 BC and 400 AD by a very small group of people that didn’t even exist prior to about 6,000 years ago. This book which has as wonderfully accurate science as two conflicting creation stories that resemble creation stories from Greek and Babylonian and Sumarian and hundreds of other mythologies involving a diety creating the universe in ways completely divergant from what science has proven, humanity beginning with a single fully developed man and woman and their children who must have had incesteral relations, giants intermingling with humans, and a boat that is about 1 billionth of the size that would be needed to hold a VIABLE number of every animal that would then be capable of repopulating the Earth, etc etc. This dang book that is responsible for so much hate and misunderstanding and ignorance and wars and arrogance.
This one book is the sole reason so much of humanity is incapable, (no, UNWILLING) to think outside the book and consider the reality of evolution and geology and biology and cosmology and the not unreasonable idea that God created it all billions of years ago with a Bang. Because religion uses inductive reasoning, which takes a conclusion (what’s written in this book) and tried to find and conform and twist “evidence” to make it fit the conclusion you want. Ignores conflicting proof and evidence or challenges it tooth and nail no matter how valid it is and unreasonable the defended “evidence” is. Meanwhile, science and reason tries to find answers by observing all the evidence and defines what conclusions they lead to.
Can science be wrong? Oh holly hanna absolutely! Often. But that’s the nature of science…to constantly find those errors, test them, throw them out and find better conclusions based on new evidence and test result. And just because one component of a scientific theory is wrong does not make the whole of it wrong! Let me put it this way: The King James Bible mistranslated a lot of the Bible as written in Hebrew and Greek. But how would the religious person view the KJV altogether, as completely wrong? Why are there SO MANY English translations of the Bible? Shouldn’t ONE be “right”? The fact that NIV or NKJ or NRSV all have differences from each other, does that make any of them “wrong”?
(In my opinion they’re ALL wrong and so is the original, but I’m trying to make a point here.)
You know what? It was discovered some time ago that the bones of “Lucy” were not what scientists thought they were, perhaps misclassified for years. But that does not make the whole of evolution wrong nor the countless billions of fossils and strata layer and biologic fragments and genetic material and everything else that proves evolution. It means some errors were rooted out, more tests were made, more analysis done, theories changed to fit the evidence, and we’re one smaller step to better understanding.
This is noteable: Every error in biology and anthroplogy and cosmology and palentology, every error that has been discovered and fallacy of evidence both intentional and accidental, they were rooted out and discovered and exposed and brought to light by who? Not by clergymen or church leaders or theologeans…but by scientists! There is no cabal of scientists seeking to deceive and misinform. The role of scientists is to find the truth about the natural world, and that means scrutinizing and questioning themselves and their peers. Every theory and evidence and supposition gets scrutinized by other scientists and tested and analyzed and thrown out if it doesn’t work or stand up to the scrutiny.
Which is why Creationists and ID defenders feel like there’s a war going on. Because scientists do to them whenever they present their “theories” that scientists do to themselves and their peers: Scrutinize and test and analyze, and throw out what doesn’t stand up to the testing. And since Creation and ID does not stand up to reason and evidence and testing, science throws it out.
What was the point of all this?
I have no clue.
Oh yeah. God instigated evolution and the development of humans as something special from all the other animals now and past.
Not too long ago I blogged my thoughts about God’s purpose for designing the universe in such a way as to allow us to evolve: Evolution May Create God?
I’m still contemplating the idea that we humans are just a small, inconsequential step toward some greater plan to develop an even greater being. Perhaps God himself. Perhaps this is the way God exists: evolves after perhaps hundreds of billions of years into being made from and of the universe itself and capable of creating a universes and then creates a universe out of his own being (being the universe) and sets it off as the Big Bang with the plan that he will be re-evolved from it.