The International Writers Magazine: The Big Debate

Barrie Singleton on evolution

o you believe in the Big Bang which is supposed to have started the Universe? It won't be in favour too long; nothing ever is. But perhaps I can persuade you to believe just while I get started?

There was neither time nor space. Then, out of nowhere, out of nothing, came all the something we have now. It came in an instant. It started as energy which transformed into matter and anti-matter; mutually incompatible. By some quirk there was more matter than anti matter so some matter was still left after the slaughter (in the form of hydrogen and helium) and this went through a long process of evolution. It first fuelled stars which made all the other elements. Then, after the stars had exploded, at the end of their life, blowing an entire periodic table to the Four Corners of space-time, some of the debris formed into planets.
If a planet with a suitable mix of elements found itself bathed in conducive radiation from the right kind of sun, throw in a thunder storm and: hey presto LIFE.

Let’s be clear about life. Anything living steals from its surroundings to maintain its own existence and strives to make more of its own kind regardless of any consequences. Look around you. See what I mean?
The bottom end of the scale of life is very basic. It doesn’t KNOW it’s alive. It gets no buzz out of messing up the function of some higher form by invasion and multiplication; not like a mediaeval army. However and perhaps more in keeping with armies it does change its tactics when it gets a bashing by adversity. This is called evolution. It is also called survival of the fittest but fittest is not the same as best.

Consider the plight of the last two men left on the planet trapped in a concrete bunker beside which stands a beautiful, healthy woman panting to do some repopulating. One of our incarcerants is a strapping athlete cum chess champion, linguist (little help now I fancy) and member of Mensa while the other is a wimpy nerd with a BO quotient greater than his IQ. The latter is just over five-foot tall with a thirty-inch chest and no bum. The only way out of the bunker (damaged in the war) is a long narrow gap between two slabs of concrete of great thickness. . .

It will take the planet a long time to get over that bit of survival of the fittest and when the race so engendered does finally ask the question: "Why are we all so nerdy and wimpy?" who will come forth with the answer? Bugs Bunny never explains WHY he turned the wrong way at Albuquerque, perhaps it was hard earth or rock the other way, but turn he did, and the rest is history - or evolution. Bugs is not the only evidence we have for this effect. The fossil record of the earth is littered with evidence of total extinctions of ENTIRE species which were, at the time of catastrophe, fully adapted to their environment and doing very nicely. You are just as likely to be wiped out by being in the wrong place at the wrong time as by not being really up to the job.

So, Earth, being an unexceptional product of the above processes (for there are unimaginable billions of planets with life in the universe) reached the point where down in the primeval slime something stirred. With the passage of aeons, this proto-life was beset by heat, cold, impact, flood, drought, radiation etc. On the occasions that a small remnant survived it was "adapt or die" and if adaptation amounted to a "wrong" turn: So what? You were alive weren’t you? And here we are. Oversize head, tendency to back trouble, hernia, and fallen arches, too many teeth for our jaw, 98% of us brain damaged and a many of us very unlovely. But let’s go back a bit. Ignoring genetic engineering by aliens, we can assume that mankind, with all his quirks and foibles is a product of evolution on this planet from early mammal forms via ape-like creatures to Homo Sapiens.

Modern man is inherently unstable (trust me, I am one) and whilst, in aeronautics, it has been found advantageous to design an unstable plane which only a gung-ho computer can fly, I am doubtful that instability is to be prized in man’s makeup. There again, it has been said that genius is close to madness and this would seem to counter the point were it not for the fact that genius always seems to lead further away from stability and towards a mad world in which these geniuses presumably feel happy and at home. Mark my words; the non-stick frying pan will, one day, be co-opted as a terrifying weapon of war.
© 2006 Barrie Singleton May 12 2006
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