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July 20, 2008

The Unification of Science (Personal)

Current evolutionary theory holds that Homo sapiens sapiens (modern humans) are descendants of Great Apes (Hominidae), now often referred to popularly, if less precisely, as hominids. The theory also holds that thanks to the enhanced cognitive abilities conferred on them by their more rapidly evolving brains, our now-extinct hominid ancestors ultimately gave rise to our own species roughly one hundred thousand years ago.

Since then, although the human genome has not changed perceptibly, the surviving descendants of separate groups of humans migrating at intervals from Africa would eventually be found on all continents except Antarctica, as well as most of the planet’s large islands, having completed all those migrations sometime after the last of several Ice Ages ended about eleven thousand years ago.

That remarkable survival required that humans learn how to fashion tools and weapons, control fire, out-compete larger and stronger predators, and survive otherwise lethal cold by producing clothing and shelters adequate for whatever conditions developed in their new environments. It follows logically that all those developments must have taken place during a relatively brief, but critical interval in the recent geologic past.

Supporting evidence for the foregoing narrative is still fragmentary, which is understandable because systematic studies of Geology only began about the time of the US Revolution just over two centuries ago, specifics are still being gathered from widely scattered places around the globe, and the theory is often bitterly contested by scholars, usually non-scientists, with ethnic and/or religious commitments that make them hostile to the basic concepts of Evolution.

Most recently, in concert with the unprecedented population expansion and increased prosperity that followed World War Two, there has been a proliferation of scientific disciplines tending toward a "unification" of Science, as heralded by Wilson a decade ago. As it generates an increasingly coherent history of our planet, at least for those able to accept the reality of empirical science, the concept will, predictably, be hard to resist, but acceptance by enough humans to make a difference certainly won't happen overnight and may not even occur quickly enough to avert the worst of the climate change now underway.

With respect to the always contentious issue of human evolution, it must also be remembered that it's now just under one hundred and fifty years since its intellectual foundations were described, almost jointly, by Darwin and Wallace.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 20, 2008 09:06 PM