Archive for evolution

Early Challengers to Creation Myths

Posted in Atheist, belief, humanity, life, nature, random, religion, science, thoughts with tags , , , , on March 8, 2010 by chouck017894

During the early 1800s the long-held notions of humankind being a special creation began to be seriously questioned by the general public.  Openly questioned were such things as why there were so many different species of plants and animals, how had they originated, and why would God indulge in such extravagant diversity?   The public interest was as though such questions had never occurred to anyone before.  The theory of evolution was alien to the public, and the priestly explanation was that nature was an orderly and elegantly harmonious system that functioned under divine law.  Even naturalists of the time explained that all species were purposefully adapted to the places for which God had destined them—a weak variation of God’s ambassadors who had always claimed that everything was due to divine intervention.  But they neglected to explain why, if a species was “perfectly adapted,” had God found it necessary at times to intervene and cancel some species.

One of the great landmarks in mankind’s exploration of the living world was the discovery that all things—plant or animal—were composed of cells.  In 1838 Mathias Jacob Schleiden, a German botanist, described how all plants were composed of cells.  At nearly the same time a German anatomist, Theodor Schwann, found that cells were the basis of all animal tissue.  The truth of cell composition being the basis for all life was set firmly into place in 1864 by the French scientist Louis Pasteur.  His experiments demonstrated conclusively that every cell—even the smallest bacteria—is the product of other cells.  The secret of life was shown to be the creative power that is held in the infinitely tiny, self-replicating, self-sustaining biochemical energy of the cell. 

While scientists were discovering the cell to be the basic unit of all life, it was a naturalist who advanced the theoretical conclusion that the cell was the origin of all life as well.  That was Charles Robert Darwin who advanced the theory of evolution by natural selection in his book The Origin of Species in 1859.  Needless to say, there was much uproar, especially among the devout, for the theory was an apparent contradiction of the supernatural explanation offered in holy scripture.

The Aristotelian concept that nothing ever really changes was embedded so deeply in man’s taught religious view of life that the evolution theory was deemed blasphemous.  Nonetheless, such men as biologist\scholar Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) and German scientist Ernest Haechel (1834-1919) were strong champions of organic evolution.  Biblical creationists found themselves disorganized and numbed into near silence as men such as these contributed their theories to textbooks which would inspire and instruct new scientists who would throw open the doors to remarkable discoveries in the twentieth century.

In the 1900s  new discoveries in astronomy stimulated people’s rethinking about the evolution of life.  The atmosphere of the planets Saturn and Jupiter, it was discovered, had no oxygen, but was composed of methane and ammonia.  This got astronomers, naturalists, philosophers and others to wondering if Earth had once been similar to those planets before the advent of life.

In the 1920s two independent researchers published papers on how organic compounds could have arisen out of such conditions.  One was a Russian biochemist, A. I. Oparin, and the other was J. B. S. Haldane, a British biologist.  Both had reached the same conclusion independently that organic compounds could have been created by vast amounts of energy generated by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation upon such an atmosphere. They pointed out that another active principle in activating life would have been the tremendous electrical storms that repeatedly charged the atmosphere over millions of years and the compound would become charged with self-replicating properties.  The supernatural explanations so long offered by religious myths began to crumble under provable demonstrations of cause and effect.

And yet even in the closing days of the twentieth century so rich in technological wonders the stubbornly “faithful” remained convinced that it was all due to Intelligent Design and some being saying “Let there be….”

Time-Warps, Planets & Creationism

Posted in Astronomy, Atheist, Bible, history, humanity, logic, prehistory, religion, science with tags , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2009 by chouck017894

Creationists, using priest-written texts of “revealed” knowledge, choose to think that creation began only a few thousand years ago.  However, under that format they are hard-pressed to explain how so many remarkable advancements of man could have been crammed into such a meager time slot.  In the Mesopotamian region in the time frame of the Creationists’ “beginning,” for example, the human species was startlingly advanced.  Somehow in in this period of time the newly created humans were already building cities with multistoried buildings, complex street systems, market places, schools, banking systems, and a sophisticated judicial system! They were also making use of weights and measures, dabbled in international commerce, made use of ships that sailed to and from wharves in well-tended harbors, and who used wheeled chariots as a common means of transport.  This is the land mentioned as the “land of Shin’ar” in biblical stories.  Of course a concept of evolution is out of the question for them: God would neither want nor need to labor over refining any basic idea of something.  Instead, everything is believed to have been installed as perfect from the start.  That way he would never again have to be bothered with it all.  On the other hand, if change seemed desirable to him, he could always clean it up using a flash flood technique.

By Creationist’s calculation the creation of the universe and its supposed central focus, Earth, is vaguely placed as somewhere around 4500 BCE at most.  The funny thing is that their calculation could have a modicum of merit.  Their calculations are based on the Hebrew version of creation drawn from other cultures’ myths, and that version became the condensed and simplified account that opens the book of Genesis in the Pentateuch.  Events on Earth were chaotic back in that general period of mythmaking, with many great cities and civilizations rising and falling as the nomadic Hebrew tribes sought a land of refuge.  Even the heavens seemed to be in turmoil.  This may account why the first year of the Jewish calendar is placed in the year 3760 BCE—around the late Neolithic period in the Canaan region (4500 BCE)—when some measure of stability was taken up by the Hebrews in some methodical manner.  By this period farming collectives were being established across the Middle and Near East, with an intermingling of “racial” types becoming acceptable.  Nomadic herders who  followed their livestock found that cultivating crops allowed them to settle in one region. 

For a little over two thousand years between c. 3600 to c. 1500 BCE there was a puzzling flurry of megalithbuilding that extended in a wide arc around the coasts of Europe.  If creation occurred only a couple thousand years before that, this is amazing creative ability for the creature man.  It is estimated that over 50,000 such megaliths were built, the most famous among them is known to us as Stonehenge (then in its first stage).  Only something urgent would have inspired such wide-scale constructions that ranged from Malta, Spain and Portugal to Sweden and the Shetland Islands, etc.  And that urgency had to do with a frightening disorder in the observable heavens.  From Egypt to the Indus Valley, from China to South and Central America, detailed layouts and monumental labor went into the careful construction of structures dedicated to the study of the heaven’s movements.  Placid skies do not motivate such commitment.

Then, generations later, c. 3114 BCE, the Mayans tell of the beginning of a new cycle of time which is precisely dated as having begun in a long darkness that occurred on 4 Ahau 8 Cumku, which corresponds to the 13th of August 3114 BCE.  And on the opposite side of the planet the earliest so-called “omen tablets” written on Sumerian/Babylonian tablets also date from this eventful date.

For some reason the celestial body we know as the planet Venus gained a major holy role throughout many widely distant cultures in this time.  Oddly, today’s religions, sciences and even historians avoid investigation of how our disturbed planetary neighbors may have contributed to mankind’s place in the scheme of things.

See related posting, 2012 Doomsday, March 13, 2009.

Our Legal Environment

Posted in Atheist, culture, history, life, politics, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2009 by chouck017894

Rules of the game: That is what cultures and societies establish and speak of as “laws,” and which, ideally, institute a framework of conduct that presumably serves to protect the majority.  But when a minority faction becomes the majority that occupies the seats of law policy for the nation, the likelihood of impartial interpretation of law becomes dubious.

As noted in the earlier posting, Democracy Under Siege (June 20), perfidious factions (extreme religious right) have for years sought to chip away at the safeguards that were established in the United States Constitution in a disloyal attempt to jam their religious interpretations into government rule.  If a wall is not maintained between church and state the result is theocratic bedlam, and gross orgies of persecution and harassment are enthroned as divine justice.  The clerical rule of Iran through the last few decades is a good example of such a divinely brutal system.

The United States skated close to the edge of disaster through eight years under a president that thought he had been divinely chosen to direct policy and the course of action that the nation should follow.  But his appointment had not been by majority choice of the people as it should have been, but by a Supreme Court that was heavily indebted to a Republican power base which had stacked the court with five doctrinally “conservative” Catholic “justices” out of nine seats.

When that court-elected president neared the end of his detrimental term in office, the US Supreme Court under Chief Juistice John G. Roberts, a doctrinally conservative Roman Catholic, openly indicated that the court was s willing to render wide-ranging decisions that would reverse time-honored trends in jurisprudence.  Those desiring a theocratic takeover of the nation were ecstatic at the decisions of the court that limited citizens’ rights to challenge government support for religion!  Anti-evolution propaganda thus gained muscle to combat well-proven evidence of evolution and inject into schools the biblical myth of creation as “scientific creationism.”  The Supreme Court also chose to ignore medical  evidence as a consideration in some abortion cases thus imposing  theocratic limits upon rules that had been established in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade.   And true to doctrinally conservative interpretation of law, the court increased pressure on scientists and educators to alter or even suppress scientitic research and findings that conflicted with the schema of the religious right.  Religious theory was/is being wedged into government policy.

With the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court the nation is now confronted with having still another Roman Catholic added to the Supreme Court, making the religious beliefs of SIX out of nine justices a drastic imbalance in the court’s point of view.  Having a Latina woman on the court is, in itself, a wonderful declaration of democratic principles.  Unfortunately, we should be excused for wondering can such an ideologically imbalanced Supreme  Court remember that narrow dogma is NOT the mark of wise democratic justice?