Intelligent Design

intelligent-design-on-the-future-human-evolution-websiteWhat in the world happened to Intelligent Design?

Much to my chagrin, I revisit Intelligent Design years after the writing of my original article where I merely put forth the premise of ID.  That is, believers (some scientists along with the religious right) purport that the universe, and life itself, is too complex and specific to have happened purely by chance.  The ID theory proponents generally agree that fossil and other evolutionary evidence is genuine and point toward the progressive development of higher forms of life.  Where they diverge is that rather than believing random chance at the helm, ID theory proponents suggest, much like the Deist beliefs of the American founding fathers, that a creator put rules in place for the unfolding of life as well as the deployment of the laws of physics.

I will admit, I was rather pleased that a sort of compromise had been reached. Since we have yet to to come up with any plausible explanation of how the universe got here in the first place, ID sounded like it had as much credibility on that count as “quantum fluctuation”.  Where’d the quantum come from to fluctuate? Two theories in peaceful coexistence.

So silly me turned my attention to other things. Things one can actually do something about, like the FUTURE.

Long story short, I am making my rounds on the website, updating this, deleting that, adding new, etc. and I come across my old harbinger of peace, ID.  A few Google searches in and I start seeing things like conspiracies, court battles, law suits, and as much polarization and hostility as one ever saw in the original evolution vs. creation debate.

This evening I’ve spent as much time as I  am going to looking for a rational dialogue or even a forum for one. Theories abound.  I am having trouble seeing the harm in teaching ID as a theory. In fact, it might take some of the mysticism and superstitious hold some religions can exert on the unsuspecting (if you think I mean yours, I am sure you’re quite mistaken. Yours is completely different).

And before you think I’m picking exclusively on the dogmatists of the right handed variety, here ye, here ye, dogmatists of the highbrow sort who vehemently denounce even the slightest possibility of the “supernatural” which is merely a euphemism for the unexplained. Is it really necessary to be anti-religious?

For extremists everywhere a message for you In the words of Shakespeare:

Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much.

 

The Panspermia Theory

panspermia-and-the-future-of-human-evolution

Click for Larger Image

Panspermia, translated as “seeds everywhere,” is a theory that the seeds of life are spread throughout the universe in cosmic dust or perhaps in the tails of comets, and that life on Earth began when they managed to reach the surface of the planet. The theory has origins in the ideas of Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher, but in modern times was revived by Sir Fred Hoyle, the famous British astronomer.

There is some evidence to suggest that bacteria, the probable mechanism, or panspermia “seed” may be able to survive for very long periods of time even in deep space. Two Cal Poly scientists demonstrated back in 1995 that bacteria can survive without any metabolism for at least 25 million years, making bacteria most likely immortal. Past studies out of India, further attesting to the robustness of life, have found bacteria more than 40 km up in Earth’s atmosphere where it would be unlikely to have come from our lower atmosphere.  Additionally bacteria Streptococcus mitus which was inadvertently carried to the moon on the 1967 Surveyor 3 spacecraft, was easily revived after being taken back to earth three years later.

One characteristic of panspermia would be that life in the universe would have a very similar biochemistry. So the high-altitude bacteria might be expected, whether of earth or extra-terrestrial origin, to appear very similar to terrestrial forms. This is not a testable hypothesis until life on another planet can be examined.

A major obstacle to the credibility of Panspermia theory is the fact that bacteria may not survive the tremendous heat and forces of an earth impact.  No studies or evidence have been conducted or collected to confirm or deny this likelihood.

Regarding known extraterrestrial material, the  “ALH84001″ rock sample believed to have come from Mars, shows some indication that microbial life may have been present at some point in the past. This widely disputed instance is the only indication we have of extraterrestrial life.

Some have taken the theory as an answer to those arguing the improbability of life spontaneously occurring on earth, that it happened elsewhere and traveled through the cosmos.

One of the newer wrinkles in the theory, purported by pranspermia.org, is that of Cosmic Ancestry.

Hoyle (and cohort Wickramasinghe) after reawakening the idea of panspermia, later broadened it to include a new understanding of evolution. They theorized that life could not have made the leaps and bounds from a single cell to humans in a mere 4 billion years; rather, the code of evolution was carried along with the seeds of life and indeed must always be so. Much in the same way the big bang set the rules for physics, life establishes the rules for its unfolding.

Parallel to their theorizing, and In the early 1970s, another man, British chemist and inventor James Lovelock proposed the theory that life controls Earth’s environment to make it suitable for itself. The theory, Gaia, as seen from a Darwinian perspective, looks suspiciously teleological. Nevertheless, the publishers of panspermia.org are calling the combination of Gaia with Hoyle and Wickramasinghe’s “strong” theory of panspermia, Cosmic Ancestry.  They say that  that life can only descend from life as equally evolved as itself. It also suggests that life can only come from life, requiring a supernatural being.

Now there’s a interesting combination of science, philosophy, and religion.

The straight panspermia theory has been popular in science fiction. Invasion of the Bodysnatchers by Jack Finney has been made into a feature film three times. In The Day of the Triffids, the first person narrator, writing in historical mode, takes care to reject the theory of panspermia in favor of the conclusion that Soviet biotechnology created carnivorous plants. It’s not hard to see why when you examine the fact that while interplanetary, interstellar, and perhaps even intergalactic “contamination” of life may be possible, there’s a lot of baggage associated with that simple scenario. Not the least of which is aimed at those who would use it it in lieu of spontaneous life occurring on earth as an escape mechanism. Cosmic Ancestry notwithstanding, life has to have started somewhere.  Magic fairy dust hardly concludes that creationism vs. evolution debate.

 

Cretenists vs Evilutionists

“If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future”
~ Winston Churchill

Micro-Evolution vs. Macro-Evolution
And the Cretinism or Evilution Debate

No that’s no typo. Cretenists vs. Evilutionists is an amusing yet poignant headlining error turned into an industry by Talk Origins that accurately captures the polarized nature of the debate between these two entrenched camps.

We believe that in the interest of open dialog, free exchange, and tolerance, it is necessary to address a couple of basic concepts dealt with on the site. Namely, creationist vs. evolutionist ideals. Germane to this debate are the concepts of Micro vs. Macro Evolution.

Micro-evolution can be demonstrated in the Laboratory, such as the evolutionary changes in bacteria to resist antibiotics. Micro-evolution demonstrates the ability of organisms to adapt to their environment. Are we correct to extrapolate from micro to macro-evolution? In other words are there limits to how far an organism can change?

We must distinguish between micro-evolution (which is repeatable) and the macro-evolution process that has potentially only occurred once in the known universe (and may not be repeatable). We are dealing with history in the case of both macro-evolution and Creation, and each must explain the origin of the living cells and all subsequent species. While micro-evolution occurs relatively quickly and is observable, macro-evolution occurs over many millions of years, according to its proponents, and is not directly observable but must be inferred from the remaining evidence. Creation occurred in a much shorter time frame according to its proponents, but still must be inferred from the remaining evidence to be scientifically valid. Just as forensic science has to establish a firm link between the crime and the criminal, we should expect that our study of origins should be able to prove that macro-evolution and/or Creation is true. We cannot confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of a creator.

Conclusion

We can conclude therefore, that while micro evolution has been proven to exist, there is no way currently to prove either undirected Macro-Evolution or Creation. And here is the key point: We are not interested in doing so. We present educational material on both of these topics, but make no stand as a publication either way. Individually, our beliefs vary, as does nearly every one of our visitor’s beliefs. Our site exists to educate and research the possibilities for the future, which are arguably not tied to our past due to the imminent application of technologies that will create a living laboratory of human micro-evolution going forward. A living laboratory that may have far reaching and tremendous effects. So while we cannot say for certain that micro-evolution in the past developed through blind stages into macro-evolution and is therefore responsible for the origins of the human species, we can anticipate with some certainty that technological forces will soon have the ability to profoundly and positively impact us in the future.

Can Future Micro and/or Macro-Evolution Be Stopped? Should it?

Activists groups are continually trying to halt the progress of technology and its application in the human arena. This is arguably the worst of all possible actions society or factions thereof can take. Why? As stated elsewhere on this site, the net effect of restrictive legislation in one location (or even a broad coalition of countries) will only drive the scientists, medical professionals, wealthy financiers and others desiring to employ the technologies for personal betterment ‘underground’. In this probable scenario the technology will continue to be developed but as a result of the (ineffective) ban, it will only be made available to the very wealthy and privileged who will be essentially free from any societal oversight or legal safeguards.

In the scenario in which human enhancement technologies are banned in one or even a coalition of countries, the activists responsible for swinging public opinion toward this future may sleep better at night having served their short term consciences, but at the cost of creating an increasingly elitist minority further widening the gulf between the haves and have nots at the genetic level. Sadly for society, these activists will accelerate the very future they are trying to avoid.

The answer, in part, is the active education and participation of everyone in evaluating and applying the technologies toward the shaping of a deliberate, positive future for all. The question is not how do we stop technological progress (an impossibility), rather, how do we make its benefits equally and safely available to all.

 

Human Evolution & Origins

You may have seen the following sentiment on other pages of this “Evolution & Origins” section in addition to other places:

It does not matter whether you believe we descended from monkeys and share a common genetic heritage with the first living cell on the planet, or whether that we are a unique Being breathed into life by an almighty god, or even if you subscribe to the theory that the Anunnaki created the Sumerians by mixing their own DNA with that of the most advanced Hominid they could find 6,000 years ago, the open book of the future lies ahead for us to write with our deliberate and thoughtful actions:  The Future of Human Evolution is ours to determine.

Therefore this section attempts to cover the major explanations of existence, evolution being explored further as the leading scientific theory. It makes no attempt to make converts from one’s belief system into another. It is, and we hope you will agree, really interesting to explore these various ideas.

Inside Human Evolution & Origins

What is Evolution?

In our opening article to the section, we bring you a discussion of what evolution is and how evolution works so that you can understand the principles and mechanisms behind it so you can journey with us as we extrapolate these concepts, along with an estimation of mankind’s proclivities, to where the future of human evolution may be headed.

Meet Your 10 Closest Evolutionary Relatives

Human evolution timeline, illustrations, and a few brief facts of Homo sapiens’ nearest hominid relatives. The most enlightening fact is how very brief our reign on earth has been.

Cretenists vs Evilutionists

Understanding the role and concepts of Micro-Evolution and Macro-Evolution against the backdrop of the creationist controversy and in relation to the mission of the site might be of interest to some visitors.

The Panspermia Theory

This theory suggests life originated extraterrestrially and may travel from place to place on cosmic dust. Recent developments have seen a supernatural rider attached to central theme.

 

Intelligent Design

Where did all the moderates go? This once compromise theory between religious fundamentalists and extreme scientific atheism has taken some hits. Is it down and out?

Meet our Top 10 Closest Evolutionary Relatives

Timelines, Images, and Descriptions of Human Ancestry

Hopefully you’ve read our article on the Evolutionary Process.  Also by now you hopefully know we’re all about the Future of Human Evolution regardless of whether your particular belief system allows you to consider the science around our past and evolutionary history, or not.

In this abbreviated count-down article we’ll relay some of science’s best conclusions based on fossil records and in a few cases, some DNA to bolster the conclusions.  Our goal in this article is not to convince anyone of anything, rather lay it out there for your perusal and I dare say, enjoyment.

Sometime science is just plain fun!


10. Sahelanthropus tchadensis

The Human Evolution Time Line - Sahelanthropus tchadensis

Sahelanthropus tchadensis Lived About 7 million years ago in West-Central Africa

Sahelanthropus tchadensis

  • Lived: About 7 million to 6 million years ago in West-Central Africa
  • Male/Female sizes unknown

Not discovered until 2001, our earliest known human relative Sahelanthropus tchadensis, displayed both ape and human features. Only cranial fossils have been found so far in modern-day Chad. This species had small canine teeth and walked upright on two legs instead of four—two characteristics that separate us from apes and allow scientists to count them among our ancestors.

09. Ardipithecus ramidus

The Human Evolution Time Line - Ardipithecus ramidus

Ardipithecus ramidus Lived 4.4 million years ago in Eastern Africa - Average female 3-11 110 pounds

Ardipithecus ramidus

  • Lived 4.4 million years ago in Eastern Africa
  • Average male: size unknown
  • Average female: 3-11, 110 pounds

Was Ardipithecus ramidus really an eight-year-old modern boy? Scientists suspect this early human ancestor both ran around chasing animals (bipedal) and climbed trees. Ar. ramidus fossils show a divergent larger toe and a rigid foot—evidence of walking on two legs. But pelvis reconstructions suggest it had adaptations for both tree-climbing and bipedalism. Ar. ramidus had teeth suitable for a diet of plants, meat, and fruit but probably not sturdy enough to crack nuts.

08. Australopithecus afarensis

The Human Evolution Time Line - Australopithecus afarensis

Australopithecus afarensis - Lived Between 3.85 million and 2.95 million years ago in Eastern Africa

Australopithecus afarensis

  • Lived between 3.85 million and 2.95 million years ago in Eastern Africa
  • Average male: 4’11”, 92 pounds
  • Average female: 3’5”, 62 pounds

Lucy, the world-famous Australopithecus and her cohorts lived across East Africa for nearly 900,000 years—neary five times as long as modern humans have been on the planet. They walked on two legs, had flat noses, and prominent jaw bones. Similar to chimpanzees today, they had childhoods and adolescent periods that were brief compared with those of modern humans.

07. Australopithecus africanus

The Human Evolution Time Line - Australopithecus africanus

Australopithecus_africanus

Australopithecus africanus

  • Lived: Between 3.3 million and 2.1 million years ago in Southern Africa
  • Average male: 4’6”, 90 pounds
  • Average female: 3’9”, 66 pounds

Living amid numerous predators, Australopithecus africanus weren’t always at the top of the food chain, and they likely lived in groups for protection against predators. With a combination of human and ape features, they were anatomically similar to their cousins Au. afarensis. The first Au. africanus fossil to be discovered, in 1924, was known as the Taung child. Paleontologists have since realized that damage to the fossil’s skull indicates that the child was captured and eaten by a giant eagle. The fossil established that the earliest human ancestors lived in Africa.

06. Paranthropus boisei

The Human Evolution Time Line - Paranthropus boisei

Paranthropus boisei Lived Roughly 2.3 million to 1.2 million years ago in Eastern Africa

Paranthropus boisei

  • Lived Roughly 2.3 million to 1.2 million years ago in Eastern Africa
  • Average male: 4’6”, 108 pounds
  • Average female: 4’1”, 75 pounds

Paranthropus boisei are best known for their large cheek bones that housed powerful chewing muscles and big teeth. Fossils suggest they munched on both tough foods like nuts and roots and soft foods like fruit. They had the thickest tooth enamel of the early human ancestors.

05. Australopithecus sediba

 The Human Evolution Time Line - Australopithecus sediba

Australopithecus sediba

Australopithecus sediba

  • Lived: About 1.95 million and 1.78 million years ago in Southern Africa

Our most recently discovered relative is Australopithecus sediba. Its fossils have characteristics that start to resemble those of our Homo genus, as our ancestors inched further away from our ape cousins. Au. sediba likely walked in an increasingly human-like way and had facial features that more closely resembled you more than a chimpanzee, but they still had the small brains and long upper limbs found in our earlier tree-dwelling relatives.

04. Homo erectus

The Human Evolution Time Line - Homo erectus

Homo erectus

Homo erectus

  • Lived: 1.89 million to 143,000 years ago in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Africa; parts of East and West Asia; possibly Europe
  • Average male and female: 4’9” to 6’1”, 88-150 pounds

As possibly the longest-existing member of human family tree, Homo erectus lasted about nine times as long as modern humans have so far. Its fossils—spread out over at least two continents—are highly varied. Early fossils found in Africa show Homo erectus may be the first of our ancestors to have modern-day proportions: elongated legs and shorter arms relative by today’s standards to torso size. Thanks to better hip support that allowed them to walk long distances, they settled into new habitats spanning Africa and Asia. They made tools, including stone tools and those to butcher large animals, and cared for their old and weak members.

03. Homo heidelbergensis

The Human Evolution Time Line - Homo heidelbergensis

Homo heidelbergensis

Homo heidelbergensis

  • Lived: 700,000 to 200,000 years ago in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Africa; Europe
  • Average male: 5’9”, 136 pounds
  • Average female: 5’2”, 112 pounds

Homo heidelbergensis can boast of several firsts among human ancestors. They were the first to build simple shelters out of wood and rock and the first to regularly hunt large animals. They were among the first to inhabit cold European climates. The jury’s still out on other possible firsts, such as earliest control of fire and first use of wooden spears.

02. Homo neanderthalensis

The Human Evolution Time Line - Homo neanderthalensis

Homo neanderthalensis Lived About 200,000 to 28,000 years in Europe and Asia

Homo neanderthalensis

  • Lived: About 200,000 to 28,000 years in Europe and Asia
  • Average male: 5’5”, 143 pounds
  • Average female: 5’1”, 119 pounds

Our closest extinct relative, Neanderthals were possibly the first human ancestors to speak and bury their dead. They hunted large animals, ate plant foods, lived in shelters, wore clothing, and created symbolic or ornamental objects. Their broad bodies, short legs, and large noses, which could humidify and warm cold, dry air, allowed them to survive in cold climates. Some anthropologists have speculated that Neanderthals and modern humans likely got a little frisky with one another, but recent DNA test show no substantive proof of this.

01. Homo floresiensis

 The Human Evolution Time Line - Homo floresiensis

Homo floresiensis compared to modern human

Homo floresiensis compared to modern human

  • Lived: 95,000 to 17,000 years ago in Flores, Indonesia
  • Average male: unknown
  • Average female: 3’6”, 66 pounds

Homo floresiensis, appears to be the last of our hominin cousins to go extinct, even though they appeared after we Homo sapiens. Their fossils have been located on only a single Indonesian island indicating that in addition to their stature they may have shared a common pattern of genetic isolation as has the much more recent 2800 year old African Pigmy populous (the two are not genetically related any more than other Homo sapiens). They had large teeth, recessed chins, large feet relative to short legs, and brains roughly one-third the size of ours. Despite their small bodies and brains, they hunted and may have used fire. Their small stature likely helped them survive on an island with limited resources, and they may have been vulnerable to large predators such as Komodo dragons.

00. Homo sapiens

The Human Evolution Time Line - Homo sapiens

Homo sapiens female

Homo sapiens female

  • First appeared: About 200,000 years ago
  • Wide variety of heights, weights, and skin tones across the globe

Modern humans evolved in Africa during a period of climate change roughly 200,000 years ago and shared the planet with a few other human species. We bounced back from a period of near-extinction about 74,000 years ago—at our lowest point, our team amounted to about 10,000 reproducing adults—to introduce Earth to agriculture, animal domestication, neighboring planets, and a fascination with our extinct predecessors as well as the future of human evolution.


Here is a combined timeline so that you can see the relative lengths and positions of the various species across the 7 million year span.

Click for full-sized image.

Top 10 Evolutionary Human Ancestors Timeline by the Future Human Evolution Website

Top 10 Evolutionary Human Ancestors Timeline by the Future Human Evolution Website