The Lemur and Natural Selection August 22, 2005 – Posted in: Aberrant Normalcy
I spent this past weekend at my parents house on Long Island because I had to go to a wedding. I knew my father had planted some vegetables and flowers, but I had no idea how large they had become. He had tomato plants six feet tall and cucumber stalks several feet taller than that. And one particular flowering tree, just a few feet taller than me last time I was home, now hangs twenty feet over the deck giving shade with its pink flowers. Dozens of other flowering, fruiting plants covered the deck and yard like a miniature botanical garden. My mother gave me a digital camera as a gift, but unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the blooming back yard. But all that life got me thinking about the recent “debate” about natural selection versus “intelligent design.” (Anyone who does any delving into the subject — and how can you avoid it these days? — will find that there really is no debate at all. Evolution is not a contested theory, though the ID folks like to make everyone think that it is.) And I started thinking about the term “Natural Selection,” and what that means. This morning I browsed over to Dictionary.com to get a definition of ‘select’. It says: “To take as a choice from among several; pick out.” So, I asked myself, who is doing the choosing, the picking? Nature? Doesn’t choice itself require some kind of living, conscious entity? I.e. when a radioactive particle suddenly decays we don’t say the particle “chooses” to decay, we say it randomly occurred. But when the wise homo sapien beats out his less adaptable neandertal, we say nature “selected” for larger forebrains. In other words, someone or something is doing the choosing (at least by our nomenclature). So what is this thing? A force? A consciousness? Remember, we don’t call it “natural coincidence” or “natural randomness.” We call it natural selection. Without delving too deep here into philisophical diatribe, I have a hard time seeing why the Intelligent Design folks and the Evolutionists can’t come to a mutually beneficient middle ground. The ID folks need to understand that the world wasn’t created 6000 years ago. (The abundance of heavy elements in the cosmos among other things is one of the clearest signs that the universe is much older. Duh!) And the evolutionists need to allow for the fact that the physical laws of the universe have “selected” for higher life forms, in other words, the properties of the natural world in an odd way guided humans to come into being, though not necessarily by direct course. (Yes, this is another version of the anthropological principle.) Plus, lemurs are cool.
Also over the weekend (you would think I didn’t leave the house) I read an interesting New York Times article called “The Breaking Point” about the estimated global peak of oil production before the slow decline. From the article, a Western diplomat explains the Saudi position on oil: “You want to have the price as high as possible without sending the consuming nations into a recession and at the same time not have the price so high that it encourages alternative technologies.” In other words, they purposely keep the gas prices expensive and at the same time prevent us from switching to cleaner, healthier, less global-warming inducing fuels. The article seemed to lament this forthcoming “peak” in oil production, after which supplies will not be able to meet rising demand and the world will slide into a recession. They stressed that we are not ready for this post-peak period because nations, especially the USA are so dependent on oil for so many things. In other words, the time to switch to alternative fuels is now, so when the oil supplies start to dwindle, the US can still be on top economically. Hey, I may criticize the government of my country, but I’m still a patriot and I want the US to succeed. If you are so inclined to help in this switch to cleaner, more efficient fuels, check out the Apollo Alliance. From their website: “The Apollo Alliance provides a message of optimism and hope, framed around rejuvenating our nationâ€™s economy by creating the next generation of American industrial jobs and treating clean energy as an economic and security mandate to rebuild America. America needs to hope again, to dream again, to think big, and to be called to the best of our potential by tapping the optimism and can-do spirit that is embedded in our nationâ€™s history. ”
Finally, I thought I’d end with a beautiful picture of lenticular clouds over Hawaii. Click on the image to see the full size photo: