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Tag: evolution

July 14 2005

There are three pervading hypotheses about the emergence of modern humans. While I was reading the summaries of the three hypotheses, I began to I favor the so-called multiregional hypothesis, which states that our species evolved relatively simultaneously in several parts of the Old World. I understood the logic behind the “Eve” hypothesis, which supports the idea that our species evolved in Africa first, then moved to the rest of the world. And once I got to the multiregional article, the last of the three, I continued to believe in the hypothesis. The analogies they gave were quite descriptive, but I am not sure they were appropriate. I began to worry that I was being convinced by my own assumptions and the author’s writing rather than relying on the facts.

The logic of the multiregional hypothesis makes perfect sense to me, though I admit I am not a biologist. Many changes in species take place in tandem with other changes or events. The whole system of evolution is, in a way, self-correcting. If one species is changed, it can potentially change all of the species connected to it. It seems entirely possible to me that our ancestors could have merged genetically with one another, incorporating traces of other now-extinct species, and it seems possible to me that we could have developed as a single species in many places across the globe.

But that is where my support for the multiregional hypothesis falls apart. As is proposed in the so-called Eve hypothesis, our species started in a more condensed region in Africa and then disseminated from there. There is even mitochondrial evidence to support the Eve hypothesis, which has proven to be highly reliable. The multiregional hypothesis seems shaky to me to say that our species was spread out as far as southern Africa, northern Europe, and eastern Asia, and was still able to exchange genetic material freely enough to evolve as a single species.

Still, this does not entirely convince me that the “Eve” hypothesis is flawless. I know there is a direct lineage that could be traced from me all the way back to an accidentally-replicating protein a couple billion years ago. But just because the lineage theoretically could be traced, does not necessarily mean that it actually needs to be. I think the best we can do is estimate that lineage, which, I realize, is what the mitochondrial DNA theorists are trying to do. It just seems that our urge to narrow our lineage down to a single female, family, or community, attempts to explain something far too precisely considering how evolution operates.

I admit I am not a scientist, nor am I fully educated on the subject, but if I were to develop a hypothesis that fits my understandings of the issues, I would say that it is more of a fusion of the Eve and multiregional hypotheses. Species develop as a group, over a period of time. Individuals cannot be considered instigators or purveyors of a new species. Individuals do not evolve, as the Eve hypothesis seems to suggest. Species evolve. And species do not evolve all at once, as the multiregional hypothesis seems to suggest. Species evolve at different times and places. Random mutations occur that either support or hinder the individual and increase their likelihood of passing their genetic material to the next generation. It is an abstract process and it’s scope is outside our normal way of thinking.

List of Works Cited:
1. Haviland, William A. (2002). Cultural Anthropology (10th edition)
2. http://www.newarchaeology.com/articles/emergence.htm
3. http://www.geocities.com/palaeoanthropology/OutofAfrica.html
4. http://www.geocities.com/palaeoanthropology/Multiregional.html

July 12 2005

Evolution is a product of the scientific process. It is often touted by critics as being “only a theory.” The irony is that if they truly understood the word theory they would not be so quick to call it that. Our text describes the word as “an explanation of natural phenomena, supported by a reliable body of data (Haviland, 20).” In the case of evolutionary theory, the basic premises of science are used to explain the development of the diversity of life. It is flexible and changes based on the introduction of new facts. This self-correcting nature is a staple of all scientific theories.

Creationism is a product of the Judeo-Christian’s biblical explanation of the universe’s creation. From a creationist’s perspective, the Holy Bible is the ultimate source for the origin of the universe. Fundamentalists consider the Holy Bible to be the literal word of their creator. In doing so they admit that God created humans in just a few days, that there was once a Great Flood that covered the entire planet, and that Earth’s age is measured in thousands (not billions) of years. It can be argued that these are all theories, but they are more likely hypotheses.

Creationism is “a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis (Merriam-Webster).” Though I agree it can be argued that creationism fits many of the requirements to be called a theory, it is not a scientific one. Creationism already has a pre-defined idea of how the universe was formed, and its goal is to explain it in those terms. This is practically the opposite of science in that it assumes to know the answer and attempts prove that the answer is correct.

Take gravity, for example. Gravity is just a theory, but we can prove that it exists. Drop something. You have just conducted a crude scientific experiment that further proves gravity’s existence. Using science we humans were able to figure out how gravity behaves, even if we still do not fully understand why it behaves the way it does. Perhaps in the near future we will be able to explain the inner workings of gravity, probably something like “meta-gravity” laws. There might even be “meta-meta-gravity” laws that explain meta-gravity. In fact, it is entirely possible that it could be infinitely complex.

Even if this is the case, science can and will adapt to explain it. Science has no restrictions as far as that is concerned. When humans learned that all matter was made of smaller parts, science expanded its paradigm to include molecules. When we learned that molecules were made of even smaller parts, science expanded its paradigm to include the atoms. When we learned that atoms were made of even smaller parts, science expanded its paradigm to include neutrons, protons, and electrons. And when we learned that atomic particles were made of even smaller parts, science expanded its paradigm to include subatomic particles. Now we think there are even smaller things that appear to compose the very particles that make subatomic particles that make atomic particles that make atoms that make molecules that make the matter that makes up all of us. Science, unlike Creationism, is infinitely adaptable, by definition. The greatest challenge we face is making sure we apply it appropriately.

List of Works Cited:
Haviland, William A. (2002). Cultural Anthropology (10th edition)
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com)

November 11 2003

We may not have been the first species to invent language, but we have honed our own language to extend beyond grunts and yells. We started with sticks and clay then moved to scrolls, then to codices, then parchment and paper, then fixed-type, then type writers, then computers, and now the Internet. The tools of writing have shaped its history, and the web is the next step in that evolution. While electronic text may not be as long-lasting as stone tablets, its ease of duplication more than makes up for it. We are able to consume a lot of information, and there is a lot to be consumed, so those who present it must be aware of how it is organized.

Language is not an exclusively human invention, but from what we can tell, we have taken it to levels never seen on Earth. Our communication started with noises, which eventually became words. Then we started drawing pictures and assigning meaning to them, which is probably from where pictograms emerged. The Egyptians filled their pyramids with stories that speak to us from thousands of years in the past. Generations later, we began to understand the nature of words, sentences and grammar. Once we defined these devices, we were better able to understand and expand on them. It eventually became important for us to organize them in a way that was visually appealing, so titles and paragraph breaks became of great importance. Finally, we have invented computers and the Internet, which is taking text communication to places never before imagined.

The computer has its roots in all of humanity’s previous forms of textual communication. It is far superior in many aspects except, perhaps, one: permanence. Stone tablets that are thousands of years old can still be found, their words or symbols still legible. Drawings can be found everywhere the weather has not wiped it away. But, electricity is a constant in computer communication. The data may be stored on magnetic tapes, hard drives, or discs, but to view it requires a computer. The super-efficient duplication of information through computers (and the Internet), makes it possible to spread it quickly and easily, but unless a printed copy is made, a permanent copy of the text could hardly be considered tangible. This is probably why so many people are still not completely comfortable with purely electronic composing. We have all lost something to a power surge or other disruptive event. While it may be easier than ever to transfer and store information, it can hardly be said that a hard copy is not require or wanted.

Permanence aside, perhaps the most appealing aspect of current text technology is its dynamic nature. Visual organization has not always been a part of the writing process, but it certainly is now more than ever. Words and ideas are no longer the only issues one must consider when it comes to writing. Now we must be concerned with what we say, how we say it, and how it is presented. Ancient texts were written in a multitude of forms. But, none of them were written with black font on white background, on individual pages measuring eight inches by eleven, with one inch margins. They were composed with sticks on clay, or plant matter on plant leaves, or etchings in stone. But of all the articles I have ever read, regardless of when they were written, virtually all of them were in this modern format. These ancient texts are only available to us because someone transcribed to this format so they would be more readable to our 20th and 21st century minds.

In the past, the tools we used to compose usually determined what people wrote about. Unlike the efficient methods available through the computer, the older forms of writing employed a very deliberate process. Since these methods were so time-consuming, we have hardly any examples of trivial or inconsequential matters. Most people did not, for example, keep daily journals on clay tablets. As the technology increased, and we were able to make copies, duplication of important works suddenly became important. This is probably why the Christian Bible was the first mass-produced text. It was considered of enough importance that people wanted to reproduce it. These days, however, it is hard to really pin what is important enough to reproduce because we can do it so effortlessly.

As electronic text communication becomes more available, the flow of information will no doubt increase. With the advent of the Internet, the floodgates can be considered open. The words we think are important or relevant are increasingly being drowned out by the rest. The signal-to-noise ratio has increased, and will certainly continue to do so. Anyone who has searched for something on the Internet knows that every day it grows harder and harder to sift through all the “useless” data to find what it is you are looking for.

There is no doubt that the human species has been able to magnificent things with language and the printed word over the past few millennia. From primitive sounds to simple pictures, we added to our repertoire of communication forms. As our technology has increased, we have been able to communicate like never before. But, the technology and the language did not develop separately. They benefited reciprocally from one another, taking communication places our ancestors could never have dreamed, though I am sure they tried. Archaeologists can reveal to us what our ancestors left behind, but only because their medium has survived. Perhaps the ease of duplication in modern text will ensure its survival. Available to more people, the information will live on far beyond the physical aspects. But, it is unlikely that we will remember things that are hard to digest, so we must design our information to be memorable. The author and the web designer’s message will be lost in the sea of noise unless we focus the signal.

November 5 2002

Information is important to Life, and Earth is positively rippling with both.
Quasi-intelligent beings that never see the light of day live on inside us,
While mindless molecular machines copy our biological biography
With the guided precision of a skilled craftsman.

All living creatures store libraries of information in their genes,
But many beings are graced by the presence of a brain.
It slowly developed, layer upon layer,
modern primate upon
transitional mammal upon
ancient reptile upon
primordial stem.
In the shadowy, wrinkled valleys of the cerebral cortex,
An incredible bit of magic takes place,
When a collection of simple matter
Suddenly achieves consciousness.

This unsightly mass of soft gray tissue is the platform
From which all thinking creatures launch.
It is the facilitator of all we have created,
From spears to gods, from civilizations to rockets.

We may have been once been limited to sounds and words to relay our experiences,
But fortunately we have been given artists and authors to do that for us.
Of all the creations of humanity, writing is par excellence.
People from all over the world and throughout history reach out to us.
The voice of someone, perhaps long dead, speaks directly to us;
One of the greatest genuine magic tricks.

Our family, if we turn to the dusty, ancient pages of prehistory,
Began simply and humbly in the oceans of a cooling rock in some insignificant space.
Our self-replicating ancestors multiplied and diversified
Until there came a lucky group, eventually to become rat-like creatures who,
After avoiding the dinosaurs, ascended to the trees, and the primates were born.
Some of them grew tired of swinging in the forests, and climbed down again,
Freeing their hands, and expanding their minds.
With rapidly evolving abilities, they domesticated fire, and then each other.
Then they invented writing and other arts, war, and eventually medicine.
Our technology has given us the ability to write, sing, paint, kill and heal.

The Milky Way could be home to countless thinking beings,
I often wonder what it is they know, and what they can know.
In this vast, strange sea of cold, empty space, can their wisdom reach us?
Unfortunately, when we choose to venture spaceward,
Our arrival will be preceded by centuries of Earthling transmissions,
A few actively sent, but most passively broadcast by our media.
Fortunately, our messages will probably be indecipherable,
But, at the very least, they will recognize the signal as being of intelligent origin,
So we must continue to at least try, because it is the persistence of memory.

November 4 2002

Before the Sun rose and set in the sky of Earth,
A giant blue-green rock spun lazily around its star.
Then a being, mostly calling itself Man,
Gave names to these gods of the ground and sky.

Our solitary sun floats with its family of planets.
A grain of sand in a beach too massive to exist on Earth.
It may feel like the north and south poles are a world away,
But they are the same place on a cosmic scale.

At night, stars fill the skies with glittering glowing furnaces,
Patterns form and we are helpless to resist seeing pictures.
Our minds are encouraged by our nature to draw pictures
Of dogs and dippers, warriors and women.
We place what is important here on Earth up with the gods,
A reference point for cousin Rorschach, perhaps.
The thumbprint of our sky reveals our place in the Cosmos,
As it would if we visited a place completely alien to us.

Eons after our distant descendants have lived and died,
Our skies will appear wholly different from the one we know today.
The concreteness of the constellations is merely an illusion,
As our short life-spans makes it impossible to watch this movie.

Even at the speed of God, light still takes its time
Traversing distances that He understands better than We.
When these ancient rays make their final destination,
We see them as they were before history existed.

The fountain of youth can be found at high speeds,
When time slows, though you’d be too busy to notice.
A long journey like that would necessarily be one-way,
For those who are left behind will have aged and died before you return.

Cousin Albert would say, if he could, that is,
That there is nothing special about your perspective except you.
Viewing the universe depends on your observation,
But every place is as good as every other place.

Sometimes relativity is Greek to me, and sometimes it’s written in Grecian.
But it is a great fantasy, exploring worlds that never were.

November 2 2002

Ethereal lights in the sky, unexplainable phenomena,
And alleged astronauts older than any nation
Lead many to believe we’re inundated with uninvited guests.
Though I wish it were so, it probably just isn’t true.

It could be that we have not been discovered,
And our xenophobia causes us to see lights in the sky.
Besides, if a race of alien beings did arrive one night,
What could we do to stop them?

Our predisposition to fear the unknown is something that
We share with our Earthling cousins, as part of our biology.
Our fears are usually unfounded, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real,
And a universal experience for intelligent Earthlings.
Our guilty consciences project our own backwardness upon us
And we assume that different necessarily means threatening.

Cousins Kepler and Newton, among many others, revealed to us
Laws that make a criminal out of no one.

Virtually endless bands of light can be devoted to communication.
Light’s spectrum is wider than our eyes can detect,
Radio is just an abysmally deep red, too dark for our eyes.

If an alien society discovered part of the spectrum,
Could they not understand them all?
There could be at this moment, a creature very different from us,
Peering into their night sky, looking at a point of light we call the Sun.
Does it occur to them that there may be another living being?
For them, is it such ridiculous conjecture?

If we are to communicate with beings from around the Cosmos,
We must be sure to listen rather than speak.
They are probably more advanced than we,
Acquired much more knowledge and infinitely much more wisdom.

Several times, we have almost destroyed ourselves,
Who is to say that we have indefinitely escaped that fate?
If self-destruction is the galactic norm, we may have no one to talk to
Except for one another. And that is something we do poorly.

Is it a sad thing that we put money into something called a Destroyer,
When at the same time we fund things like the Voyager probes.
The fruits of a battleship are sour and poisonous
But the search for life in not unfounded.

October 29 2002

Hey Babe

I’ll read this note aloud to you now,
So you can laugh at me later.
It won’t take long, so don’t interrupt,
In fact, it’s halfway over.
Come cruise with me onboard the Eclipse,
And bake the bread of knowledge.
I learned today of the coelacanth,
Heresy, it seems, is taught in college.

October 8 2002

I imagine the Cosmos, infinite and remote.
I reflect on our sun, the perfect planetary host.
I consider our world, the pale blue home of the Earthlings,
I think of this forest, and of this path I tread.

Intentionally lost among Appalachian giants,
I wander a chaotic, forkful path.
Willfully losing myself in the grandeur,
I grow hyper-aware of these ancient plants.

Standing in the middle of an empty space,
I am surrounded by five spruce guardians, their branches interlinked.
I wonder what their purpose could be,
And hear the reply from my ancestor’s voices.

These trees provided the ancients with a place to perch
Tens–hundreds–thousands–of generations before me.
A place to develop their growing brains,
And to expand their busy minds.

Perhaps these trees were arranged this way,
A sign of the next step in the Ancient’s evolution.
Once they understood the Father of Light,
And the Seasons, they began to see the pattern.

A new ability was given to them, and therefore to us,
As the passing of the years no longer went unnoticed.
With the knowledge of Mother earths regularities,
They could plan a time for planting and harvest.

The source of the river is an incandescent ball.
Energy flows constantly, carefully harvested here by leaves.
Generations of creatures, divert the flow,
Creating living tributaries with every bite.

September 17 2002

To make it perfectly clear, this is an analogy, as I do not have enough evidence to prove otherwise.

We are born, and according to our DNA, in there is how we would respond to every question that could ever be asked or every event that could come before us. Whether or not it is the correct way to respond is irrelevant. Only know that these questions have already been “answered” for us, at least the first time.

But, as we go through life, we experience some of these events and we realize that our response (which was the natural one) is not a good one. Click! A few of the answers in our book change, and with it, how we will respond in the future.

Each one of these little “answers” is interconnected with all the others. Some are closer together, and therefore are more closely related. The closer they are in relation to one another, the more likely it is that any change in a neighbor “answer” will also change. Thus, our personality changes, bit by bit, as we experience events and related ones.

I guess you could say that the “answers” are just a metaphor for neurons in the brain. I know they are not that simple, but imagine neurons as a simple on/off (binary) switch. RandomNeuron#1554390593984 is set to “on” at birth. The organism experiences that instance and immediately (perhaps unconsciously) changes its mind, and RandomNeuron#1554390593984 is now set to “off.” Now, because it is connected to (possibly) thousands of other similar switches, some of them may switch to “off” as well, or may even invert polarity.

Okay, so what the hell am I talking about? Let’s super simplify this whole issue and say that your feelings on, say, abortion are “set” at birth to “yes.” In other words, your natural feelings towards abortion is that you have no problem with it. But, when you are 15, you see a video that shows a baby after abortion. Suddenly, a certain “switch” changes its polarity, and now you feel very differently towards the issue.

Now, simplifying it to this degree does a great disservice to the debates that really have no “yes” or “no” answer. In the current debate on abortion, for example, there are people who believe an entire spectrum of things. Some believe that it should be illegal, period. Others believe that it should be legal, period. Still others believe that it should be highly regulated, with only a specific kind of case where it should be allowed. And still others believe that it should be free to anyone, but not sponsored by tax money. Somewhere in that spectrum is where you stand, and your place is dependent on two things. 1. Your natural predisposition towards a certain response. 2. Your “updated” philosophy that has been altered by your experiences.

Some people go through great changes in their lives, and end up with quite a different set of “answers” than what they were born with. Others (consciously or unconsciously) maintain a similar association to their “preset” tendencies. So, why is this a problem?

It is important not to be confused by the use of terms like “developed” or “matured” in the following paragraphs. To many, to be labeled “immature” is a great annoyance, and that is hardly what I want anyone reading this to do. It is in reference only to my version of “biological maturity,” and in no way relates to which is “better.” That said, I believe that people of the first kind I mentioned, those that go through great biological maturity, simply change much of their “preset” answers while the second group, those that tend to maintain a similar stance, have a low level of biological maturity. Again, I must stress that this is not an argument about which is better or more beneficial. This is simply an objective discussion about the nature of personality.

So, we ask again, why is this a problem? The problem, I believe, occurs from the fact that, no matter what someone tries to tell you, you believe what you believe because it is the best answer you can come up with given your situation. People do not take opinions consciously knowing it is wrong, or else they would not have that opinion. Most of the time, unless our ego or something else gets in the way, when we realize that our opinion was wrong, we (at least) admit to ourselves that it was. If we do this unconsciously, sometimes this turns into denial.

August 16 2002

My girlfriend’s younger brother is doing homeschool this semester, and we just happened to stop by and see his textbooks. At first, I thought nothing of it, but then I actually read the thing. This book, supposedly a learning tool, does its best to defame science as a working tool to understanding our universe. I could go on and on about how science really is a great way to understand everything, but here is a whole book devoted to the opposite. What’s worse, it is FILLED with science, all of it very valid. The problem is how when they are referring to anything that might conflict with the Bible, they use words like “supposedly” and phrases like “it is said.”

Why do I care? Because this is a textbook…and Logan (my girlfriend’s brother) is suppose to learn from this thing. The first line in chapter 11 is “That God is the Creator of this world is an undeniable truth.” What good is a textbook that takes such a one-sided view?

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