titles-in-evolutionary-biology-L-5dgnEbFrom an early age, I wondered about where I came from. Perhaps it is why fairy tales failed to trigger my imagination, for I took such things literally and soon discovered that they didn’t live up to logical expectations.

Take Santa Claus. I loved Christmas more than any holiday as a child, and of course I believed in Santa as all young children do who are raised in the Christmas culture. I was not plagued by older siblings who told me it was phooey, or well-meaning adults who “slipped” and brought that belief to a screeching halt.

No, I figured it out all alone, one pre-Christmas night as I lay in bed, trying to will Christmas morning a more hurried arrival. Ignore all that problem of reindeer and flying, and just how much any sleigh could carry, the time just made no sense. Even with a full 24-hours across the globe, Santa would have to travel faster than fast to visit all us boys and girls. I started with just my own “neighborhood” of about one square mile. Why it would take at least an hour, but even it only took 15 minutes to visit a few hundred homes, why there was the city, and then the state, and then all the states, and then ALL of Canada, and then Europe, and even those awful Ruskies had children, and that was a BIG country too.

Well, that is one story, but eventually that grew to all the other questions that needed answering about how the earth came to be, and how the moon came to be, and how humans came to be. I systematically investigated all these things from childhood to adulthood, getting more and more sophisticated answers surely. I became a student of sorts of astronomy and later cosmology, and paleontology. I read books about these subjects for fun, marveling at great mysteries.

I became of course no authority, and understood only up to a point, for sooner or later much of this turns into mathematical equations far beyond my learning. But I got the scientific answers for the most part. As I matured, and developed some sense of a spiritual life, God entered the equation as well, and over the years I discerned that these are really two questions. One demands reproducible proof; the another a philosophical elegance of argument.

Of course the argument rages on, with fundamentalists entering where they do not belong, and atheists peppering them with irrefutable logic at most turns. Both are wrong, because as I said, one does not really relate to the other except when one (the fundamentalists) demands that the Bible be used as a scientific text, and the other (the atheist) insists that all believers are fundamentalists.

Science, in the area of cosmology does posit that there may be unknowables, forever unknowable. Brain scientists question the ability of the brain to know itself in all it’s complexity. There may be limits therefore to human knowledge. If there are, then God has the place of “unmoved mover” as Aristotle suggested.

Fundamentalists fundamentally don’t understand or don’t choose to understand things like the 2nd law of thermodynamics for instance. Sooner or later, in an attempt to sound scientific, a fundamentalist while draw herself up and point out that Darwin’s evolutionary theory violates it. Now, if pressed, she would not have a clue as to why, but she read it somewhere in one of her “how to stump your evolutionary friends” and prove Darwin wrong. Of course it does not, because entropy only works in closed systems. The earth is not a closed system because it is being bombarded continuously with solar radiation (energy).

This is only their second best argument, for their first is always, “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” Well, my fine airhead, it’s because we didn’t evolve from monkeys, and nobody ever said we did, except another uninformed fundamentalist. First, we are related to apes, not monkeys (and there is a rather big difference), and second we are not evolved from them, but actually share way way back, a common ancestor. We both branched off in different directions (picture the fork in the road), one leading to life in the savannah and mountains, another covering the earth and developing bigger and more complex brains.

Why do I rehash all this?

Why because there has been a significant breakthrough as of late. And it’s worth your time to learn about it. The results are far from in, and it may not prove to be what the author thinks it may be. But it has the scientific world of evolutionary biology and probably physics as well in a tizzy as other research facilities begin the wonderful process of devising experiments to test out the new hypothesis.

As people like myself, and hopefully you as well know, evolutionary theory does not purport to explain “how life began” a common mis-argument of the fundamentalist sort. Such a thing is called abiogenesis. Evolutionary theory has to do with how species change over time due to natural selection. However, a rather smart guy has offered an explanation of “how life began” in a sense, and it involves that 2nd law we talked about earlier.

He posits, by way of mathematical equations, that replication of cells may be a response to infusions of energy (the sun) into the primordial soup. In other words, life arises as a methodological answer  to the desire to “even” out or reduce the heat of the energy. Because the 2nd law suggests that energy dissipates across the spectrum of the system seeking equanimity, replication of cells actually fosters that law England claims.

If this is true, then it is the underlying foundation of Darwin’s theory, and of course it means that life is what is to be expected in the universe, and not at all a rarity.

Of course, not everyone agrees that Jeremy England is right.

That is what science is all about. There is and will be, as I said, plenty of testing and experimentation to determine whether his hypothesis is correct. But it’s exciting news to anyone who, like I, is always wondering and asking “how and why”.

*Do read the article. It’s not that long.