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Dang It, Darwin

Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands and came home with an original thought: animals, including man, change over time.  It was a good thought which he provided much evidence to support in his 1859 publication, On the Origin of Species.

Today, scientists believe that modern man began as Pliopithecus,
an ancient animal similar to gibbons, and went through various stages of evolution including Homo Erectus, Homo Sapiens, Neanderthal Man, Cro-Magnon Man, and we eventually got around to sipping tea from a porcelain cup.  Simply put, our ancestors were monkeys.

Immediately upon the publication of Darwin’s thesis, there was an outcry of rage from the Christian community, “God created man, not evolution.”  Even as a young fellow, I didn’t see a conflict between evolution and Christianity.  Perhaps God took a little longer than day six to create man.  I’ve always considered much of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, to be metaphorical writing; after all, the scribes weren’t present at the opening chapters of the world.

I had certainly known about evolution long before the 1960 film Inherit the Wind.  I was in my first year of college at the time I saw it.  
The movie was about the Scopes trial which occurred in a Tennessee town in 1925 where a teacher, Scopes, was brought to trial for teaching Darwinism which was against Tennessee law.  I remember feeling a little sorry for the William Jennings Bryan character played by Frederic Marsh as he attempted to prosecute the case against Scopes.  Heck, it seemed that he had little chance against Clarence Darrow portrayed by Spencer Tracy, but the reality is that Bryan did win the case against Scopes; after all, he had violated Tennessee law which prohibited the teaching of Darwinism in public schools.

That case, of course, didn’t settle the dispute.  Even today it is not agreed upon: in 1987, the Supreme Court rejected a case which called for equal
time to be given to the Christian version of the origin of man.  In recent years, Creationists, who propose that the world is only a few thousand years old, that the basic structures, including man, of the universe were created during the first week after the beginning.  Wow, three or four thousand years old?  Heck, I have socks older than that.

As I said, early on in my stroll through life, I accepted Darwinism as valid.  I wasn’t bothered by the fact that my family tree included monkeys; in fact, I would gladly have traded some of my relatives for a decent monkey. It made sense to me, and I’ve always liked things which make sense.

In the progression from Pliopithecus to Modern Man there was a Missing Link.  I assumed that by now,  anthropologists would have discovered this fellow, this final verification of Darwin’s theory.  Lord knows they’ve dug up enough dirt. 

Time’s up.  I’ve been forced to rethink the whole darn thing.

Going back to my high school days, I’ve always been bothered by the fact that we seemed to go from Neanderthals to Plato pretty darned abruptly.  One day we seemed to be primarily occupied by turning large, hairy beasts into food, and the next day we’re building pyramids.  How the heck did that happen?

In more recent years, an irritant has been disturbing my sleep: if man is solely the product of evolution and we’re all descended from a common ancestor, why is man so different from other animals.  Not a little different: a lot different.  It would seem to me that man should not be the only one who creates art, has the power of speech, and are aware of their own mortality.  It seems to me that there should be a chicken somewhere  capable of doing basic math or singing operas or happily scratching Rembrants in the dirt.

At the heart of Darwin’s theory is survival of the fittest or natural selection.  The idea is that as animals mutate, the ones with winning characteristics  have greater opportunities to mate and pass their geneaology on.  I once commented to a friend that there didn’t seem to be very many Pinkertons.  His response was, “Natural selection.”  That would explain a lot.  Just as man has genetically engineered wolves to become poodles, the wisdom of which escapes me, nature provides the ingredients for the same process.

Therefore, consequently, thus, hence, ergo, I’ve reached the following conclusions about Darwin’s theory: it’s accurate that man and other living beasts have changed over time to reach their present state; it’s accurate that man and other beasts continue to change---I watch them become more stupid each day; in other words, it was true from the beginning of time and continues to be true today, and we probably did begin as monkeys.

However, withal, anyhow, be that as it may, per contra, there is something Darwin missed…bless his heart.  Darwinism doesn’t explain the rapid transition from grunts to opera, from no art to the family Wyeth, from walking around oblivious to our inevitable demise to a thorough understanding that our time on earth is finite.

Darwinism also doesn’t explain why man, although we share 95% of chimpanzees DNA, is so different from them.

And most importantly, the missing link is still missing.

My head hurts from thinking so deeply; I think I’ll lie down and rest for a while while you ponder the questions I’ve posed and, perhaps, you’ll find your own answers.