Thursday, March 24, 2011
Now, the really cool thing about Science is twofold. First it observes, records, anyalyzes and theorizes. Yep. That's for starters. THEN it Repeats that Process!
Again. And Again. And Again. It never stops repeating that first multi-stage step, so that one day, let's say 3,000 years ago in the time of Pharaoh, Odysseus and Nebuchadnezzar, we had scientists who were assiduously gathering data on the natural world, including their fellow homo sapiens, in order explain why their Political structures were the result of the Will of the Gods. Assuredly these personages existed for the most part in the incarnations of priests but having evolved from earlier priests and shaman of even less abundance of knowledge than these contemporaries of our Monotheistic religious foundations of the modern West.
Again and again this process has repeated itself. Through the wonders of the Roman engineering feats to the gathering of the barbarians of the northern forests into the hellish agglomeration of nations which became known as European, knowledge has been sought and tested and held up as The Truth throughout the long millenia of human neuropsychological evolution. Men have burned to the delight of hundreds, even thousands, merely for relating their findings and interpretations of natural facts which had previously been held as belonging to the realm of Heaven.
Darwin brought many houses down within the Western world's domains simply by pointing out the obvious, that species evolve from other species, yet still do vast numbers of homo sapiens cling to the beliefs of the wanderers of the deserts and sorcerers of the temples of ages past and fallen to dust and archaeological history.
Men (in conjunction with women, let us please not forget) have sailed beyond the Heaven of our past and floated above the world, even going so far as to walk upon the ancient nemesis of the Sun god. Luna. The mense maker. The mind bender and puller of the tides. A ball of rock oh so identical in many of its elements to our very Mother Earth. People have gathered knowledge and analyzed it so extremely well and successfully in order for these accomplished might come to be.
Returning to the science of our horribly demonized friend, Mr Darwin, I find it interesting how viciously so many anthropologists still debate our theories of human origins. As soon as one body of incontrovertible research is published the camps reallign and are formed anew to claim The Last Word on the location of some Garden of Eden. "Of course modern humans had to have interbred with Neandertals!" "Of course there is no way modern humans and Neanderthals could ever have interbred! The DNA samples prove it!" "Of course modern humans originated in one small corner of Africa! The DNA samples prove it!" All the while new evidence comes in yearly to suggest that ALL of these things are true. Just to varying extents which correlate unerringly dependent upon which part of the world from which they come.
It must have been sometime around the 1970s, though perhaps much earlier, that it became unacceptable to suggest that the various races of homo sapiens sapiens around the world might have evolved separately. The Biblical, then mitochondrial, Eve was surely the mother of us all! To some this will always be an absolute. As with everything, including as we've recently discovered the speed of light, there are no absolutes. Everything is relatively absolute to one extent or another. Or, if you prefer, absolutely relative. A relatively absolute fact which sends so many of even the most rational of scientists and religious devotees into despair of any hope of ever finding the "Truth".
The differences between Religion and Science are many. The similarities even greater. I've personally chosen to follow science because, as I hope I've made clear, Religion will certainly change over the decades as does Science, but the latter, despite being practiced by the same species of highly intellectually evolved ape as is the former, has within it the Requirement to, however grudgingly adhered to, examine Everything. Update and re-analyze even the most thoroughly well understood facts of its theories in order to Always advance towards a more complete understanding of Reality.
Not just accept what our remote ancestors did so rightly based upon their data sets come to believe about the origins of our world and ourselves.
What prompted this little rant? :) Just this little blog post by paleoanthropologist John Hawks. As soon as I read the title I knew I was going to love the post. Population structure within Africa: has "modern human origins" become a non sequitur?
As much as is saying humanity's roots go back a mere 6 million years, I suppose it just may be. Eggs always come first. But something had to lay them...