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September 27, 2012

Paleomagnetic Shifts, Science, and Politics

The concept that Earth’s polarity periodically undergoes a major shift, although not completely understood, has now been developed to a degree that allows scientists to use it as one of several tools available for dating events that took place long before human observers even existed.

Indeed, without an understanding of “deep time” as postulated by early geologists, the young Charles Darwin couldn't have arrived at the first tentative explanations of phenomena he witnessed while on a three week stopover in the Galapagos during what eventually become a monumental five-year voyage.

It would require the work of thousands of others over nearly 150 years to refine the tentative conclusions he presented in the Origin of Species into a Theory of Evolution that wasn't fully vindicated until well after his death by publication of the the molecular structure of DNA in 1953.

Even so, there are still people who hate Darwin, simply because the evolutionary theory he's identified with is powerful circumstantial evidence against traditional concepts of an omnipotent deity. Darwin himself was very aware of those implications from both his own doubts and those expressed by his remarkably supportive wife, Emma. Still later, he would be forcefully reminded of them when the spectacular suicide of Fitzroy, his Captain, eerily repeated the history of both the Beagle's original captain and Fitzroy's own family.

Indeed, the sequence of improbable events that had to take place before Darwin's work could be brought to the attention of those able to complete it raises a compelling question: what if he hadn't survived to publish either Survival of the Fittest or the Voyage of the Beagle?

The same provocative question could be asked about another unique person, one born a continent away, but improbably, on the same day. Tragically, Lincoln would not survive to complete his life work as Darwin had. Instead, he would be murdered by an an assassin typical of the hate-ridden young nation he'd saved from self-destruction during his incredible first term as its 16th President.

Whether Darwin of Lincoln was more important to world history is, of course, speculative. However, the species Darwin helped explain scientifically and the nation Lincoln preserved may both be headed for self-destruction for the same biological reason: an evolutionary flaw that has preserved the connections between our emotional and rational centers, an explanation of human behavior first proposed by neurologist Paul MacLean.

We are the only mammals who commit murder and suicide for emotional reasons. Oh, yes; the Paleomagnetic shift in the title has been imitated by the "Party of Lincoln," which is now dominated by hatred and in control of most of the state houses in former Confederate states.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at September 27, 2012 07:55 PM