Thursday, 8 June 2017

I Want To Tell You A Story!

How did almost nothing end up making you?

Don't tell the creationists and spoil their delusion but we've pretty much worked it out. It's not what they were hoping for!

From Chapter 10 of my latest book, "What Makes You So Special?":

From that small, unremarkable member of the Cambrian biota; those stiff little chordates that swam around amongst the trilobites and fearsome Anomalocaris with its huge, jaw–like appendages that were once thought to be a different species in their own right, big things were coming; in fact the biggest things to ever live – the blue whale. From that unpromising beginning were to evolve the fasted running animal, the fasted flying animal, birds that can soar on the wind and sing symphonies, two forms of powered flight, echolocation at least twice, a brain capable of doing calculus without realising it, and an ape that can go to the moon.

But first, it had to learn to walk on land and breathe air.

From Chapter 13:

So we enter the final chapter of your long journey through space and time. A history that has seen you go from as near to nothing as it can possibly be to energy in the form of gravity, electromagnetic radiation and weak and strong nuclear forces, to atoms of light and heavier elements. We have traced your history in suns and supernovae and accretion discs and planets and we have seen how natural forces conspired in the right conditions to create self–replicating molecules and eventually, given enough time to free–living, self–replicating entropy management machines we call life with the first genes that are still found in your cells.

We have seen how your ancestors learned to make sugar from sunlight and to split water to create oxygen, not because it was planned but because it worked and because the billion to one chances come up regularly given a large population and lots of time. Then we saw how your ancestors evolved under nothing more than the selection pressure of their environments to make multicellular organisms, animals with backbones, and fish with lobed fins that could use them for walking. We have seen how your ancestors learned to gulp air to get the oxygen out of it and how this made them able to leave the water to catch the first land animals.

We have followed your ancestors through the steaming Carboniferous and saw how they survived the Carboniferous Forest Collapse to inherit the land as reptiles and the beginnings of mammals. We have seen how the dinosaurs made the night time your ancestors’ preferred time and how this helped them survive the K–T extinction and years of permanent winter. Then we saw how your ancestors learned to retain their eggs and maybe with the help of an ancient endogenous retrovirus, to become placental mammals, nourishing their young inside their mothers’ bodies and feeding them on breast milk.

We have followed your ancestors into the trees and back down again into the savannahs of East and South Africa. We have seen them learn to walk upright, grow a big brain and learn to learn and develop cultures and ethics and cooperative social groups. We have seen them diverge and spread and interbreed and populate the world.

And we have seen your ancestors win the evolutionary struggle with other humans and inherit the earth.

Yours is a magical story without magic; it's a story as old as time. It's a story any parent would be proud to tell their children because it's the best of all stories - it's a true one! How can you deprive them of that pleasure?


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