Frame of Reference - Index

II Humans

Quintus Stele

Homo sapiens - Evolution

1) "There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." (Charles Darwin)

2) The cells of some bacteria and blue-green algae, procaryotes, lack a chromosome-bearing nucleus to transmit genetic messages during cell reproduction. All other organisms, from single-celled plants and animals to oak trees and man are made of cells having such a nucleus. Nucleus-bearing organisms are collectively known as eucaryotes. Thus, these primitive Bacteria and blue-green algae have less complex genetic systems and metabolic processes than other organisms. The earliest life was likely these simple structures and there is independent geological and biological evidence that this is the case. Both these life forms are found in sedimentary deposits (Fig Tree, in the Barberton Mountains of the Transvall Region of South Africa) as fossils dating 3.2 billion years old.

Certain bacteria thrive in hot, pressurized spring waters at temperatures above the boiling point. Blue-green algae do not survive above 75 degrees C. Certain bacteria and fungi can survive almost indefinitely at constant temperatures well below freezing in the presence of liquid water with high concentrations of internal salts that maintain liquid water at temperatures as low as -20 degrees C. Some bacteria and a few plants and animals have developed dormant stages in which their tough walls resist drying, so they can survive indefinitely without water. When water is again present, they quickly revive and renew their life processes.

Certain blue-green algae can tolerate strong ultraviolet radiation that would be lethal to other organisms. This would equip them to live at the earliest stages of Earth development before the atmosphere formed to protect more complex life forms. A primitive bacteria 250 million years old has been found in a salt formation, revived and continues to propagate.

3) We take for granted the sophisticated development that Man -- as part of and dependent on nature -- represents, but there are those special moments when we can appreciate our place in this great sequence of events.

"The Cat"

Where are you going?
You left cold
the place on my lap
where you sat.

(IJ - 1998)

4) "It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material." (James D. Watson and Francis Crick, 1953)

Watson was in his lab looking at his chemical models when he realized that "an adenine-thymine pair held by two hydrogen bonds was identical in shape to a quanine-cytosine pair." These pairs of bases serve as the components in the twisting configuration of DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid. This is the structure of the double helix that makes copies of itself; this is the stuff genes are made of; this is the stuff that makes self replicating life possible. When the double helix 'unzips' each half of the helix becomes a template that attracts the complementary bases and restores the pairing of the original conformation that is a carbon copy of the original strand. The secret of life (self replication) is involved in this feature of complementarity. (Is this where the incomprehensible fifth dimension connects to the other four?)

5) Every evolutionary process has three aspects - one conservation, another innovation and the third selectivity. There must be first a way of retaining older features that contribute to the survival of the entity. In biological evolution, conservation is accomplished by the stability of the DNA molecule which preserves inherited genetic information. (The human embryo grows gills like its fish ancestors, then converts these into lungs as the fetus' development continues.)

Innovation in biology is accomplished by mutation, the altering of the DNA molecule through internal errors of replication, which can be caused by outside influences such as radiation, toxic chemicals or cosmic rays. Other techniques are used in controlled breeding of new varieties of plants such as selfing (in-breeding) and hybridization both within species and across different species where the chromosomes are compatible. This cross-breeding also occurs in nature.

When there are millions and more varieties of each species competing in the same environment, there are likely to be a few that thrive based on their ability to regenerate better in certain conditions. Thus species growing in different locations subject to different climates propagate variations of shape and coloration in the same species. Mutations create variety and natural selection propagates the winners, and this is just one of several ways that nature can promulgate even entirely new species.

6) Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute, proved that the building blocks of RNA and DNA can assemble easily under conditions that duplicate the Hadean Aeon (3.5 billion years ago and more); and there are two different styles of construction, only one of which is found in living things.

David Dreamer of the University of California at Davis re-created day-night cycles on a glass microscope slide. Dreamer coats the glass slide with lipids, the fatty compounds that make up cell membranes. He adds solitary strands of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and under stress the lipids automatically form tiny globs and spheres, like single cells; the globs neatly enclose to protect the strands of DNA. The resulting combination is not alive but demonstrates that this step in the creation of life could have happened quite naturally and spontaneously in a tidal pool.

7) The Primeval Soup is conceptualized as the place for the beginnings of life, where chemical stringing together, or polymerization, occurs naturally under the influence of extremely harsh conditions (lightning, intense ultraviolet radiation, high concentrations of high pressure carbon dioxide, availability of ammonia, methane, free hydrogen, all dissolved in water). A vast number of combinations of these elements resulted until one or more stuck. Such a soup could have formed as a rock pool dried up. Small amounts could have attached to the surface of clay particles creating a stable chemical environment.

As the size of the biological polymers increased, their chemical reactions with smaller molecules became more complex in permutations that number into the millions of possibilities. At some point, more of the polymers were being built up than were being broken down. At this point when a population of giant polymers fed and grew on a diet of smaller molecules, life can be said to have begun. The life conceptualized here is more primitive than even the simplest living cells, but can be favorably compared to viruses, which are not much more than giant biological polymers. The fossil record does not show how the first living cells came to be formed, but these date to 3.5 billion years ago, and are composed of the most delicate simplicity.

8) Bacteria are abundant and widespread near the ocean surface, some are anaerobic (don't need free oxygen) and the assumption has always been that they feed on decaying organic matter. A recent discovery (Ed DeLong, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California) establishes that there is a class of these bacteria that can derive cellular energy from sunlight, like plants and algae. When different bacteria were subjected to cytoplasmic scrutiny it was determined by microbiologists that a gene responsible for the production of the pigment rhodopsin is present in some. This capability was previously unknown and explains in part the facility with which primitive organisms were able to adapt to primordial conditions. Sunlight striking a rhodopsin molecule changes its configuration, causing a proton to be pumped from the inside to the outside of the cell. When the proton flows back into the cell, it generates energy, like a tiny battery. Another team (led by Paul Falkowski of Rutgers University) has discovered that some bacteria living near the sea surface contain bacterial chlorophyll, similar to green plant pigment that converts light energy to biochemical energy. Both discoveries are forcing scientists to reevaluate their understanding of ocean ecology, the micro-biological food chain and how life on Earth might have developed billions of years ago.

9) Human blood contains a remarkable variety of cells, each precisely tailored to its own vital function. Erythrocytes--red blood cells--transport oxygen. Platelets are a natural clotting agent. White blood cells - lymphocytes, monocytes and neutrophils - form an immune system against disease.

Amazing as it may seem, all these cells develop from a kind of master cell, the hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell which reside primarily in the bone marrow. These stem cells are vulnerable to damage from chemotherapy, radiation or disease. Bone marrow transplants can add healthy stem cells which can in turn generate the needed ingredients to improve health. This revolution in medicine, notwithstanding the huge amount we already know, is just beginning as we enter the 21st century.

A Colorado family, with the aid of John Wagner, a leading blood transplant specialist from the University of Minnesota, have now taken advantage of stem cell technology. In the process of conceiving a second child, they selected a health pair of egg and sperm of their own making to mate, to produce a healthy child. This is not so revolutionary, we would all envy this choice. Their intention had an additional agenda--to extract a small amount of the excess blood from this new baby's umbilical cord, rich in healthy stem cells, and implant this into their first child, a young girl suffering from Fanconi anemia. This fatal disease usually claims its victims by the age of 7. Now Molly may have a chance at a reasonably normal life and live to have a very special relationship with her younger brother. (As the youngest child of nine siblings, I would gladly offer any one of them some blood or a kidney, etc., to bargain in exchange for the chance to be born. And I'm certainly glad my parents, for whatever reason, even chance, didn't stop at eight.)

10) "When the Lord God made the universe, there were no plants on the earth and no seeds had sprouted, because he had not sent any rain, and there was no one to cultivate the land; but water would come up from beneath the surface and water the ground.

"Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live.

"Then the Lord God planted a garden of Eden. . . Then the Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it. . . Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.' So he took some soil from the ground and formed all the animals and all the birds. Then he brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and that is how they all got their names. . .

"Then the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, he took out one of the man's ribs and closed up the flesh. He formed a woman out of the rib and brought her to him. Then the man said, 'At last, here is one of my own kind -- Bone taken from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. Woman is her name because she was taken out of man.'

"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one.

"The man and the woman were both naked, but they were not embarassed." (Good News Bible; Genesis 2: 4-24)

Certain details are left out of this story, which may explain why it is so inspiring for some. For the rest of us, it is just another version of the creation myth.

11) Oxygen is released primarily from water molecules indirectly by the life processes of green plants. During photosynthesis, plants use solar energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen: the hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide in a complex series of reactions forming carbohydrates, oxygen is released as a waste. Carbohydrates are a fundamental energy source to both plants and animals (herbivores). There was an apparent mystery in all this, until science developed and offered such a precise explanation. The laws of nature have become the substitute for the canons of religion as we gain freedom from the primitive nature of man and learn more about the origins of life.

There are far more species of plants and animals extinct than exist today. Many have given their lives to participate in creating the atmosphere to prepare, as it were, for the eventual arrival of man. That statement is the fallacy of solipsism (and arrogance) on a global scale. The burial of organic carbon (dying plants) not only removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere it produced excess of atmospheric oxygen, which could have been overdone and caused a global explosion. However, there is no evidence of this having happened by some intelligent intervention just so Man could evolve.

Thus, the slow accumulation of plant-produced organic materials in sedimentary rock has indirectly permitted free oxygen to accumulate in the atmosphere supporting the development of new animal species in tremendous variety on Earth, to consume the oxygen and maintain a balance. However, with just a little more oxygen, even 25% instead of 21%, the whole living world would burst spontaneously into flames. Earth's air holds just the optimum amount! Damn nice too!


On The Glory of Surface

The most basic instinct
of man is misunderstood.
What accounts for our actions?
The way we live our lives?
We think of the need for food
as a primitive instinct.
It's not hard to agree
since appetites command attention.
But forgotten among fight and flight
is one more basic concept.
The need for Surface is
basic and fundamental to survival.
Surface is the area we occupy
else suspended, we feel thrill or fear.
Being on flat Surface is solace.
Slopes, trees, water, heights engender misgivings.
Sleep is made easier when we
cuddle to a flat Surface.
This is not the same Surface
which takes form to make shelters.
Man's primitive cousins and cowboys
can live without shelters.
But even the most adventurous
reclines to Surface for rest.
Surface sustains life for humans
like water is the medium for fish.
Surface is not made into anything
because each new form is placed on Surface.
Surface is the resting place for
edifices of variety and complexity.
But this only proves the importance
of the Need-for-Surface as an instinct.
The misguided might confuse
Surface with architectural shape.
Even these souls walk on Surface
and praise the value of Terra Firma.
Behold the Great Plains vast Surface and
the cities which value Surface by the meter.
All inhabitants of both utilize equally
the accommodations of flat areas for life.
Our actions take Surface for granted.
When missing, we are compelled to seek it.
Go young child, roll on Surface.
Come youth and dance on Surface.
Marry on Surface as you would
celebrate a glorious bond of nature.
Be content in life when and if
you have Surface under you feet.
Each death returns to Surface
so we may each know joy in life. (IJ -December,1996)

13) Oxygen released by the first blue-green algae would have combined quickly with dissolved iron and other oxygen-deficient elements and compounds in water and not been released to the atmosphere. This accounts for unique banded iron formations of early Proterozoic time (in excess of 2.3 billion years ago). Eventually most of these elements were oxidized and free oxygen would then have begun to accumulate slowly in the oceans and would have bubbled to the surface to be released into the atmosphere.

The development of oxygen-dependent metazoan life late in Precambrian time (about 700 million years ago) may thus mark the time when the atmosphere and oceans first accumulated enough free oxygen to support many different oxygen dependent forms of life. The biosphere also produces many millions of tons a year of methane and nitrous oxide. These gases combine quickly with oxygen and keep its level from climbing too high. The next time you pass a dairy that doesn't smell so good, be thankful.



Have you ever considered the lowly ant?
As she scurries to and fro about her nest
Busily searching for, and gathering the scant
Hoard of food that alone insures her rest.
For in the sweet smells of summer time;
When abundance is free for her to store
No ant can survive in this northern clime
Who cannot sense the coming blizzards roar.
Here is the insects marvelous home,
A molded hill of bits of wood and sand
Gathered with infinite care from the surrounding loam
And heaped together by this industrious band
Of sightless creatures who, through the ages long ago
Have learned to live together in perfect harmony.
Each doing her best to help a friend or repel a foe
Without an overseer or wage or fee.
The laws of life that the ants have learned
The truths which they instinctively obey
The race of mankind have ever spurned.
Now we stand confronted by the day
When we must choose a way of life
That will insure the abundance of earth to all.
For if we are again involved in strife
Few will survive great Babylon's fall.
We must, in the dawn of the Atomic age
Purge from our midst the greed and hate;
The mad scramble for markets and the rage
That king profit decrees, for this will be the fate
Of those who flaunt the laws of God:
There mighty cities will be their tomb;
Their bones will bleach on the barren sod
As the earth purges their filth from out her womb. (Joseph Reed Jacob, circa 1949)

15) In September, 1977, Stanley Awramik, a bio-geologist from the University of California at Santa Barbara, discovered what are probably the oldest fossils yet. In Western Australia, near the "North Pole" so named because of its remoteness, in a hoary set of rocks called the Warrawoona Group, Awramik found micro-fossils in one of its older layers. The surrounding rocks are reliably dated at 3.5 billion years old which makes these fossils the oldest sign of life. (Unless they were somehow deposited later.)

The ancient cells were entombed quite suddenly. The fluid around them through some chemical process still poorly understood, literally turned to stone. Many cells were caught in the act of dividing in two. One can see preserved in stone a primordial cell contracting in the middle preparing to divide. This discovery would suggest the beginnings of life just 1 billion years after the formation of Earth. (Older than those referred to in verse 2)

16) Those who are spiritually healthy, yet become ascetics, will become morally ill.

- also - The Torah tells us to follow the path of moderation. . . not to dwell in the wilderness, nor in the mountains, nor to don hair garments, nor to afflict the body. (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Deut 3:1)

Life is not a waif, orphan or immigrant, but a true native of Earth. Life was born here almost as soon as Earth itself had settled into a semblance of calm. Primordial life and young Earth evolved side by side, and each changed the other. Very early, life molded the atmosphere of Earth by releasing Oxygen, as powerfully as the hands of a potter shape the clay on a wheel. Life made the air breathable (for some), the land livable and if we deny life, and turn our backs away from assuming our duty based on our peculiar talents, we turn away from the role on Earth appropriate to ourselves as members of our species.

17) Now oxygen -- though not many people realize it -- is not only explosive but is also a deadly poison. It is highly reactive and can burn living tissues almost as readily as it rusts iron. There was virtually no oxygen loose in Earth's early atmosphere. It was released by cyanobacteria beginning 2.6 billion years ago (or so). Excess oxygen would have destroyed amino acids and dismantled organic molecules as fast as they formed. Initially oxygen was absorbed by iron, to form ferric oxide and precipitated to the floor of the oceans. Banded iron formations supply North America with vast amounts of iron ore (used to make steel). This is indirect evidence that life and photosynthesis existed earlier than Awramik's cells at Warrawoona, 3.8 billion years ago.

Somewhere a few cynobacteria cells combined with enzymes (Amino acids string together to make proteins, including those called enzymes) that could seize the dangerous compounds formed by oxygen and organic molecules and turn these into benign compounds (something like fermentation and ensiling). (see verse 8 above) After 500 million years of oxygen pollution some cells went a step further and found a way to get energy from oxygen in the process known as respiration. These cells were literally playing with fire, but succeeded.

18) The human eye is one of many marvelous organs that have been inherited from the animal kingdom. The shameful thing is that we didn't get a better one. There are many animals that see far better than humans, so if there were an intelligent god determining the construction of man (see Argument by Design, Undecimus Stele: Atheism, verse 24) why didn't we get better eyes? (Knock on wood. . . Who's complaining?)

Of course man eventually, with his superior gift of invention, developed spectacles, the telescope and the microscope (and many gods) to make up for his 'God-given' inadequacies.

19) The Hubble telescope has been a marvelous instrument to advance our vision into heaven, but like the Tower of Babylon designed to put us closer to god, it hasn't put us closer to anything (to say the adverse, it has put us closer to nothing). ". . .This is just the beginning of what they are going to do." (Good New Bible, Genesis 11: 6)

In June 2001, the Hubble telescope was scheduled to receive a new camera 10 times more powerful than the original. In July of 2003, the Hubble telescope will receive up-dated electronics and a new spectrograph for analyzing chemical components with 10 to 15 times the sensitivity of the original. We can't expect to have eyes that could do all of this, but what about that eagle? Why couldn't we have had eyes at least that good?

20) Tools have been found in southern China that date back 803,000 years when Earth was populated by an early human know as Homo erectus. "Until now we believed such tool use in East Asia was no more than 500,000 years old," said Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution, "whereas, Africans were making sophisticated tools much earlier. Now we know that Homo erectus had common abilities and intelligence wherever they were, in Africa or Asia."

One tool discovered is an eight inch long, rock hand knife that shows flaking along the edges. (This is almost identical to a slightly shorter rock knife Susie Jacob found near our home at the edge of our pond. Both knives were clearly transported to their respective locations.)

In China there was a meteorite impact that burned surrounding forests and generated a molten rock shower that solidified into glassy objects called tektites. Argon isotope techniques dated the tektites found in the same geologic layer as the tools. In the case of the discovery in Oregon, there is no official dating but was probably manufactured and used less than 1,000 years ago. The immediate area was a harvest area for Camas Lily root (and is still a seasonal home for beaver) -- a large rock mortar (probably used for making a flour from dry Camas roots) was found nearby as well. One is forced to ask the question: "How much did we learn in 803,000 years?"



With what glory comes and goes the year!
The buds of spring, those beautiful harbingers
Of Sunny skies and cloudless times, enjoy
Life's newness, and earth's garniture spread out;
And when the silver habit of the clouds
Comes down upon the autumn sun, and with
A sober gladness the old year takes up
His bright inheritance of golden fruits,
A pomp and pageant fill the splendid scene.
There is a beautiful spirit breathing now
Its mellow richness on the clustered trees,
And, from a beaker full of richest dyes,
Pouring new glory on the autumn woods,
And dipping in warm light the pillared clouds.
Morn on the mountain, like a summer bird,
Lifts up her purple wing, and in the vales
The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf, and stirs up life
Within the solemn woods of ash deep-crimsoned,
And sliver beech, and maple yellow-leaved,
Where autumn, like a faint old man, sits down
By the wayside a-weary. Through the trees
The golden robin moves. The purple finch,
That on wild cherry and red cedar feeds,
A winter bird, comes with its plaintive whistle,
And pecks by the witch-hazel, whilst aloud,
From cottage roofs the warbling bluebird sings,
And merrily, with oft-repeated stroke,
Sounds from the threshing-floor the busy flail.
O what a glory doth this world put on
From him who, with a fervent heart, goes forth
Under the bright and glorious sky, and looks
On duties well performed, and days well spent!
For him the wind, ay, and the yellow leaves
Shall have a voice, and give him eloquent teachings;
He shall so hear the solemn hymn, that Death
Has lifted up for all, that he shall go
To his long resting-place without a tear. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1826; age, 19)

22) "When the customary time for the practice of meditation had passed, Govinda rose. It was now evening. It was time to perform the evening ablutions. He called Siddhartha by his name; he did not reply. Siddhartha sat absorbed, his eyes staring as if directed at a distant goal, the tip of his tongue showing a little between his teeth. He did not seem to be breathing. He sat thus, lost in meditation, thinking "Om, his soul as the arrow directed at Brahman..."

"...And Siddhartha said softly, as if speaking to himself: What is meditation? What is abandonment of the body? What is fasting? What is the holding of breath? It is a flight from the Self, it is a temporary escape from the torment of Self. It is a temporary palliative against the pain and folly of life. The driver of oxen makes this same flight, takes this temporary drug when he drinks a few bowls of rice wine or coconut milk in the inn. He then no longer feels his Self, no longer feels the pain of life; he then experiences temporary escape. Falling asleep over his bowl of rice wine, he finds what Siddhartha and Govinda find when they escape from their bodies by long exercises and dwell in the non-Self." (Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, 1957)

How much better is it to find the key to relaxation and pleasure by natural means, such as playing games with, and speaking softly and kindly to the ones you love?

23) "Suddenly I became aware that an adenine-thymine pair held together by two hydrogen bonds was identical in shape to a quanine-cytosine pair held together by at least two hydrogen bonds. All the hydrogen bonds seemed to form naturally; no fudging was required to make the two types of base pairs identical in shape. Quickly I called Jerry over to ask him whether this time he had any objection to my new base pairs. . . Chargaff's rules then suddely stood out as a consequence of a double-helical structure for DNA. Even more exciting, this type of double helix suggested a replication scheme much more satisfactory than my briefly considered like-with-like pairing. . . I felt slightly queasy when at lunch Francis singed into the Eagle to tell everyone within hearing distance that we had found the secret of life." (The Double Helix, James D. Watson, 1968) 50 years after this discovery, the entire field of biology has changed dramatically as was the predicted consequence.

24) "There have been other species of Homo who were not so smart, ancestors now extinct. Homo sapiens began to emerge a hundred thousand -- perhaps two or three hundred thousand -- years ago, depending on how one regards Neanderthal Man (approximately 75,000 years old). He was another Homo. Some think he was the same species as ourselves, others think he was an ancestor. There are a few who consider him a kind of cousin. That matter is unsettled because many of the best Neanderthal fossils were collected in Europe before anybody knew how to excavate sites properly or get good dates. Consequently, we do not have exact ages for most of the Neanderthal fossils in collections. . ."

"Neanderthal Man had ancestors, human ones. Before him in time was a less advanced type: Homo erectus. Put him on the subway and people would probably take a suspicious look at him. Before Homo erectus was a really primitive type, Homo habilis; put him on the subway and people would probably move to the other end of the car. Before Homo habilis the human line may run out entirely. The next stop in the past, back of Homo habilis, might be something like Lucy. . ."

"Lucy is approximately 3.5 million years old. She is the oldest, most complete, best-preserved skeleton of any erect walking human ancestor that has ever been found." (Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey, Lucy, 1981)

25) "For one thing is needful: that a human being attain his satisfaction with himself -- whether it be by this or by that poetry and art; only then is a human being at all tolerable to behold. Whoever is dissatisfied with himself is always ready to revenge himself therefor; we others will be his victims, if only by always having to stand his ugly sight. For the sight of the ugly makes men bad and gloomy." (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 290, 1882)

26) In the year 1984, there were 4.6 billion human beings on Earth -- one of us for each time our planet had gone around Sun. It is as hard to conceive such a number as it is to apprehend the great age of Earth. Ten thousand years ago there were only about 5 million people living.

In 1850, there were 1 billion people, in 1950 there were 2.5 billion. By 2020 there is expected to be at least 7.5 billion human beings alive on Earth. No other living thing, so far as we know, is aware of itself and questions its own existence. If Gaia is Earth come alive, we are Gaia come awake (since we are made of and by Earth).

27) What constitutes a species? Ernst Mayr stated: "a species is a group of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups." (Example: Horse and donkey have become reproductively isolated; their mating cannot produce fertile offspring.) "It took a long time for anthropologists to get it through their own skulls that populations are extremely variable. Therefore one has to have a big sample - men, women and children - before one can begin to recognize the features that are common to them all. . . also a sense of [their] variability. . . Peking Man made such an approach possible. . . All of them have been given the name Homo erectus (erect-walking man). . . would have been devastating at lacrosse or hockey, two of the most physical sports now played by medium-sized Men. . . escalation from erectus to sapiens is now believed to have taken place between four hundred thousand and one hundred thousand years ago."

"I think that one of the most difficult things for people to accept about the Java ape-man was how old he was. He was at least five hundred thousand years old. That makes him five times the age of the Neanderthals everyone was having such a hard time digesting. Now consider Lucy. She is six times as old. . . What filled that enormous gap? . . two or three kinds of Australopithecus. . . early hominids that were not Men."

"Paleo-anthropology is like a jigsaw puzzle, but without having all the pieces at once. There appears to be four groupings of ancestors to Man: Australopithecus gracile and robustus; Homo habilis at about 1.85 million years ago and Homo erectus beginning from about 1.1 million years ago." (Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey, Lucy, 1981)

28) Analysis of horse teeth from the Ukraine proves that riding horses began 6,000 years ago, much earlier than had been supposed. This innovation gradually made the world smaller to enhance trade and communication, made it possible for armies to move faster and farther and for young men to better woo their dear-hearts.

The epochal relation between horse and rider originated in a Copper Age society known as the Sredni Stog culture, which flourished in the Ukraine 6,000 years ago. Riding predates the wheel, making it the first significant innovation in human land transport. Like the Bison of North America, the horse was the primary, surviving large grazing animal of the steppes of eastern Europe.

Horse-drawn chariots reached the Middle East by 1,800 BC, some 2,000 years after riding began. The excitement of driving a well tuned machine has not deminished since that early day.

29) Since January 1983, a satellite has been circling Earth and scanning Universe. IRAS (Infrared Astronomy Satellite) owned by the USA, Great Britain and The Netherlands, monitors the infrared band -- the kind of energy emitted by cooler dust, smoke and rock, not stars. In the first phase of its work it examined 100 stars and found 20% of these to be surrounded by a disc of dark material (nebula). These stars have envelopes of whirling matter being warmed by their stars and this gives off infrared energy, as does Earth.

These "envelopes" must be similar to what our own solar system was like when it began to form, some 6 billion miles wide, and about 4.5 - 5 billion years ago. With 100 billion stars in Milky Way and 100 billion galaxies in the know Universe, what are the chances that life exists elsewhere? Almost certainty; but did Man evolve as on Earth? much less likely.

Hubble telescope has sent pictures and information about the Veil nebula. Comparing this new data to the photos taken in 1953, a new date for its demise and distance have been calculated: 1,500 light years away (compared to 2,500), and 5,000 years old (compared to 18,000 formerly). This was the end of a star, of course, (and maybe life there) and presages the destiny of our solar system in some 4 - 5 billion years. Now we know better how supernovas 'seed' interstellar space with elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen -- all essential chemicals for the development of life as we know it.

30) Can we live here for 4 billion+ years? Daniel Simberloff, an ecologist at Florida State University, estimates that sometime in the 21st century we will have so reduced the area of the tropical rain forests that we will lose 66% of their plant species and 69% of their bird species. "...the catastrophe we are facing is not the worst biological debacle since life began -- the late Permian extinction must be that -- but it certainly vies for second place." We may be on the verge (indeed, we've already begun to take part in one) of the greatest dying times in 245 million years, an event worse than the one that took the dinosaurs 65 million years ago but, this time, caused by terrestrial activity--human activity.

Since so much of the life in tropical forests is still unknown, untold genetic wealth can be destroyed forever in the clearing of a single farm. Tropical biologists feel it is like the legendary library of Alexander, Egypt. A million scrolls of papyrus, original manuscripts, the works of genius were lost when a mob burned it to the ground. The number of unknown tropical organisms -- 80% have not been seen by any professional student -- amounts to a staggering total of some 2.5 million species, about twice as many as all species that have been described -- alive and extinct -- during the last 245 million years. Wow!

31) Nuclear Winter is not a mere rhetorical argument against the proliferation of nuclear arms by super-powers. This is the cap-stone of man's inhumanity to man and threatens to undue the results of the entire process of evolution responsible for the development of Homo sapiens. In spite of the Soviet 'defeat' in the cold war, there are huge arsenals of nuclear weapons pointed at targets, stored in silos, and ready to be fired by many nations. It took from 1945 to 1983 to understand the consequences of a nuclear war, in addition to the trivial (by comparison) damage from the impact of the weapons and resulting radiation effects. The TTAPS report (named for the scientists - Turco, Toon, Pollack, Ackerman and Carl Sagan) was published and made public October 31, 1983, giving a vivid account of the consequences and absurdity of a nuclear war.

In 1971, Mariner 9 was witness to a massive dust storm across the planet Mars. The effects of this storm were measured by an infrared interferometric spectrometer and showed the dramatic cooling effect on the surface. This information was extended to Earth by computer simulations and, combined with other data, proved that a nuclear conflict would generate enough dust, smoke and chemical pollutants to create a Nuclear Winter around Earth. If it takes another 40 years to eliminate nuclear weapons, that will be an important stage in human development. It has been suggested that such dramatic climate change caused naturally by volcanoes is the cause of epidemics of plague. (see Vicesimus Tres Stele: Medicine, verse 23)

32) Dust entered the stratosphere during April 1815 when Mount Tambora, in the Indonesian archipelago, erupted. In New England, USA, the four seasons that followed have been remembered ever since as "the year without a summer."

The old Norse vision of the Twilight of the Gods gives a picture of this. The gods battle against Loki and the powers of evil, and both sides lose:

The sun will go black
Earth sink in the sea
heaven be stripped of its bright stars;
smoke rage and fire,
leaping the flame
lick heaven itself.
Then according to the Norse tale comes:
Fimbul Winter -
Heavy snows are driven and fall from the world's four corners;
the murder frost prevails.
The Sun is darkened at noon;
it sheds no gladness;
devouring tempests bellow and never end.
In vain do men await the coming of summer.
Thrice winter follows winter over a world which is
snow-smitten, frost-fettered, and chained in ice.
33) Consider that the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere are four systems that have a harmonious balance. "A complex system that can be seen as a single organism and that has the capacity to keep our planet a fit place for life. Earth is homeostatic, and must be capable of effective checks and balances. For example, Sun has not been a steady heat lamp. It probably settled down after its initial surge to one third as strong as it is today. Then it increased slowly to its present strength. Yet in all that time Earth has not overheated. Somehow it has remained at the optimum temperature for life. Too much has gone right for us, for too long, to call it luck. " (James Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, 1979)

The Greek poet Hesiod wrote:

Earth, the beautiful, rose up,
Broad-bosomed, she that is the steadfast base
Of all things. And fair Earth first bore
The starry Heaven, equal to herself,
To cover her on all sides and to be
A home forever to the blessed gods.
This is called the sin of anthropomorphism -- reading human emotions into rocks, streams, winds and trees and inventing man-like gods. Nature is not a planner. Nature is what happens -- ontological. It is Man (and natural catastrophes) that can change this.

34) What was the birthday of Homo sapiens? Our final development occurred between 130,000 and 10,000 years ago, depending on your definition. During that rather short period, during the last phase of the Ice Age, humans invented new tools, found the meaning of life in ritual and became artists. The great artistic achievements such as the "gallery of bison" at Altamira Cave, Spain, clearly distinguish between humans and Homo erectus, our most immediate predecessor. There are some 300 decorated Ice Age sites in Europe alone dating between 17,000 and 10,000 years old. Other cave art dates to 32,000 years ago in France's Chauvet Cave.

Between 28,000 and 24,000 years ago the Pavlov Hills, in what is now the Czech Republic, supported many seasonal, pre-historic camps. The earliest known ceramics and textiles date to this site. As Glaciers approached their maximum extent 20,000 years ago, the people of Dolni Vestonice (Czech) were forced to leave the area and left behind such momentos as clay figurines, unmistakably female.

Between 100,000 and 70,000 years ago people resembling humans developed sophisticated tools using bones at Blombos Cave, South Africa. They manufactured perfectly shaped spear points, unexcelled until 22,000 years ago in Europe.

The ancestors of the Aborigines of Australia probably arrived around 62,000 years ago from Indonesia aboard rafts. A huge mammal, the diprotodon, became extinct around 30,000 years ago along with a third of the Australia's other mammal species, possibly due to over-hunting.

35) One of the most remarkable fossil animals discovered in South America is Megatherium, a giant ground sloth. It stood six meters (19 ft) high, weighed more than an elephant, and was probably brought to extinction by man. It browsed off treetops of the rain forests, no doubt. The bones of this animal were observed by Darwin in the 1830s. Some postulate that this is related to the mythical 'Sasquach' of the Pacific Northwest.

36) "The Laetoli-Hadar [Africa] specimens represent a common ancestor [Australopithecus afarensis] to the later australopithecines and to Homo; the divergence between the latter two types probably began around three million [years ago]; and the africanus represents an intermediate stage on the way to robustus. We do not believe it was ancestral to humans."

"We do believe that the emergence of human beings began sometime after three million years ago. By two million it had been accomplished. By then creatures recognizable as Homo walked on earth [Homo habilis]. So did their cousins [Australopithecus robustus]. . . For about a million years they appear to have walked side by side. By one million there were no australopithecines left." Another extinct species.

How is it possible to explain the 'sudden' change from Homo habilis to erectus? Was this a quick evolution simultaneous with new developments in tools? Then why did the progress of man stagnate for about one million years before? Then about 200,000 years ago ". . .humanity took another spurt. . . out of it rose Homo sapiens. " (Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey, Lucy, 1981)

37) There is an on-going Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - SETI - a modest 84 foot radio telescope at Harvard University equipped with receivers and analyzers. Astronomers and physicists argue that extraterrestrial life is abundant, and the opponents argue that while life may exist, the odds of there being intelligence out there are so small that we are almost certainly alone in our galaxy, and perhaps in the entire observable Universe. Receipt of a signal would solve the riddle, while if we don't listen we shall have relinquished most hope of solving it. We don't understand the origins of human intelligence, the hypothesis that our brain was enlarged by evolution is inadequate to explain the details. This intelligence is a gift, ". . .we fail to understand not only how or why the gift was given us, but. . . why our brains equip us not only for domination of our planet but also for a comprehension of the atoms' stuttering and the galaxies' glide. Ignorant of our origins, we are orphans in our own world." (Timothy Ferris, The Whole Shebang, 1997) Is this intelligence a link to a fifth dimension?

38) We are so new at this whole language thing. ". . .extreme linguistic differentiation takes time. Spoken language is in a sense always changing, since each speaker of his tongue imprints on it his imperceptibly individual voice and accent and choice or rejection of particular words and usage, but the changing is as drops of water on the stone of fixed grammatical form. . . California's first people so far as is presently known were Indians, ancestors of today's Indians and in no significant way different from them. And they have been in California a long time. . . The Yana [north central] have probably been in northern California for three to four thousand years. . . as a minimum is a tentative, conservative figure arrived at, surprisingly, by way of a recently accepted branch of language study known as glottochronology. . . a study of the rate at which the meaning of words changes, and the inferences to be drawn from such changes. It began with analyses of old and documented languages such as Sanskrit, Anglo-Saxon, or Chinese, comparing the old language in each case with its living descendants, to find the rate of change from cognate to new terms of the same basic meaning. Rates of change studied thus far vary little one from another, and their average, used as the norm of change, is applied to comparisons of pairs of other related languages to find the time which has elapsed since their separation or first differentiation. A technique for learning the history of a language thus becomes a technique also for learning something of a people's political or cultural history." (Theodora Kroeber, Ishi in two Worlds, 1961)

39) Civilized man is often contemptuous of the primitives and their cruel puberty rites. The Luiseno bands of southern California practiced strenuous rites to introduce young men into adulthood. The initiates drank a drug derived from Jimsonweed to make them have visions. During several days of trials they were subjected to tests of endurance: they had to ". . .lie motionless while being bitten repeatedly by hordes of angry ants. [meditate on that!] As ordeal passed to new ordeal throughout the ceremony, the candidate received long lectures on proper conduct, on how to become a man of value, and on the religious practices of his band. . . Australian aborigines known as Aranda are also organized as patrilocal bands. . . puberty rites are much more elaborate, and they go on for weeks instead of only for days. The initiate. . . is circumcised, lacerated, and made to suffer terrible pain in many ways. . . known technically as subincision, is the final step in his becoming a man in the Aranda band. . . The most sensible explanation is. . . [these puberty rites] are mnemonic devices. . . an act is unforgettable, then whatever is associated with that act is unforgettable also. . . Associating information with trauma is an ancient technique in education." [Some people have to learn the hard way.] (Peter Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization, 1968) For those who think Adam being expelled from the Garden of Eden was harsh, let them try this on for size.

40) Clearly Man has developed as a social animal. "The phenomenon of the sealed-off community is a rare but recurrent one in human history. It may be said categorically that it is doomed because of the nature of man, which is social, intermingling, and generalized. A baby raised without hearing human speech or experiencing normal emotional expression and exchange would probably die early, and would in no case develop either speech or other distinctively human and cultural attributes, [intelligence] these being matters which are taught by example and transmitted through imitation and learning. Nor do adults thrive in solitude -- we are not hibernating or singly-living animals. And since we are as men the superficially variant members of a single species, an ingrown, inward-looking, and too-specialized community begins to lose health and adherents after a single generation, or goes to pieces through exacerbation of tempers and temperaments which impinge too nearly and too exclusively one upon another." (Theodora Kroeber, Ishi in Two Worlds, 1961) That brings back memories of my childhood when my sister and I used to argue.

41) In the 21st Century, The Theory of Evolution is still controversial. It is a progression of ideas originating with Jean Baptiste de Lamarck and Count Buffon, scientists of the Age of Enlightenment, and is still being perfected. Baron Cuvier was a naturalist that was influential on the young Charles Darwin as he began his famous voyage in HMS Beagle in 1831. Darwin made acute observations and backed these with a strong imagination and problem solving skill to reveal how creatures changed. Darwin was also influenced by Thomas Malthus, the economist, who described the struggle for existence when populations rise above their ability to produce (or find) food then decline by starvation, disease, crime and war as a consequence of over population (sound familiar?).

Darwin saw that this force of nature also explained (selection pressure) the changes in populations of such animals as finches on the Galapagos islands. As the original finches increased in numbers, there came a shortage of food, those birds with beaks best fitted for available and diverse food sources would predominate and thus pass on their specialized beaks. In time new populations of finches with specialized beaks would arise creating the diversity he observed. In 1857, Alfred Russel Wallace sent Darwin his essay On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species, this at last forced Darwin to publish his great work On the Origin of Species in 1859. The Law of Natural Selection is derived from these many efforts to put the puzzle of nature together in an intelligible way.

42) Is Man too complex and diverse to undergo selection pressure today? Or is our progress of a more spiritual nature? "A life which has no roots, which is lacking in depth of background is a superficial one. There are some who assume that when we see what is right we will do it. It is not so. Even when we know what is right it does not follow that we will choose and do right. We are overborne by powerful impulses and do wrong and betray the light in us. 'In our present state we are, according to Hindu doctrine, only partly human; the lower part of us is still animal; only the conquest of our lower instincts by love can slay the animal in us.' It is by a process of trial and error, self-search and austere discipline that the human being moves step by painful step along the road to fulfillment." (S. Radhakrishnan, Introduction to All Men Are Brothers, 1958)

43) "The bourgeoisie during its rule of scarce one hundred years [the industrial revolution] has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground -- what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour? (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848) Man is on the move, but are we headed in the right direction?

On to Sextus Stele