Monday, August 2, 2010

The Beauty of Evolution

“The story evolutionary science can tell is grander and more sweeping than any just-so narrative concocted by the pretenders of intelligent design. Evolution tells us that we have a history on this planet, a history we share with every living organism. Our ancestors survived the great extinctions that nearly stuffed out life on planet Earth. They found a body plan that could produce limbs adapted for walking, running, climbing, swimming, and even flying. These adaptations explain why even today the genes that produce our forelimbs are the same ones that control the development of fins. They explain why the same DNA sequences that tell human cells to become photoreceptors will produce eyes in a fly, and why the same proteins that control cell division in yeasts will work in humans. We not only know where we came from, but increasingly we know how we got here, too.” -Kenneth R. Miller, emphasis added.

Dr. Miller, perhaps, captures the beauty of evolution like no other and there are many inspirational paragraphs in his book Only a Theory but this one seemed to leap out at me for whatever reason. I feel a special kinship with fellow animals present and extinct that shared this planet at one time or another. It's truly amazing that the meteorite explosion most likely responsible for the destruction of the dinosaurs didn't kill all the smaller mammals that inhabited the earth at the time. They rose in prominence and became powerful testaments of the beauty of evolution on land and in sea. There is little doubt that the species of this planet would be different today from what we see if we played the story over. But as Dr. Miller suggests, there is little doubt that a species would eventually emerge that could ponder its own existence and place in this vast universe. It's truly a blessing that also infuses a great deal of responsibility. We have a larger capacity to invent than do other species, but we also have the intellect to destroy through inventions such as nuclear bombs. Scientists can assess the consequences of our current actions on mother earth and we have the responsibility to protect her for our own sake and the sake of other species around us. Most species only survive for a period of several million years before new ones emerge. In fact, 99% of all the species to ever exist are now extinct.

Homo sapiens are a privileged few who can make our time on this rock a beneficial one to ourselves and the other animals we share it with. We are most fortunate to have made it this far and our ancestors all had to be "winners" in this game of life, so that we might have the "luck" of experiencing it for ourselves. This is really an amazing feat to ponder and evolution has never looked so beautiful to me. Our relationship with other animals is written in our DNA and in the many similarities that we share. Intelligent Design (ID) attempts to strip us of this interrelatedness and common history. I hope that science and objectivity will reign supreme in the end while ID, which seeks to redefine science, is thrown into the waste bin.

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