Modern humanity: an accident?
There are upwards of 6.9 billion human beings that inhabit planet Earth; 6.9 billion social and intellectual beings. Capable of complex emotional connection, rational inquiry and forward thinking, humanity has transcended from its cave dwelling hunter-gatherer origins. Nevertheless, has the development of the modern human being been a decisive evolution? A consideration of the human fossil and archaeological record leads to the conclusion that the evolution of the modern human was accidental.
The development and further advancement of the modern human begins with the notion of the “modern evolutionary theory.”
“Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species—perhaps a self-replicating molecule—that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection,” says Jerry A. Coyne, professor of Biology and author of “Why Evolution is True.”
Coupled with the information above the modern theory of evolution is broken down into six components: evolution, gradualism, speciation, common ancestry, natural selection, and nonselective mechanisms of evolutionary change. The argument for modern human evolution being accidental is found within a few of the six components.
Beginning with the simple notion of evolution itself, modern humanity was born from evolution. Evolution is an integral part of the development of a species. Evolution is found on a microscopic level, within a species DNA. Within the genetic code of an organism, the opportunity for advancement is born from a genetic shift. This shift is credited to a mutation in an organism’s genetic code. The accidental aspect of evolution comes in the form of this mutation.
Mutations are described by Coyne as “a small change in the DNA, usually changing only a single nucleotide base in the sequence of bases that forms an organism’s genetic code. Mutations often arise as errors during the copying of DNA molecules that accompanies cell division.”
Mutations are errors, and errors are accidental. In a perfect world, errors would not exist, and by the transitive property accidents, being errors made reluctantly, would not exists either. The beginning of the evolution of the human was born from a mutation, or an accident. Therefore, making the evolution of the modern human accidental.
Humanity’s critical mutation was bipedalism, or the ability to stand upright. The first bipedal hominid was Australopithecus afarensis, commonly known as “Lucy.” Lucy was discovered is four to three million years old. Bipedalism was a genetic shift, a mutation, and therefore an accident.
Bipedalism is also closely associated with increasing brain size. Over the course of four million years brain size grew from 375 cubic centimeters to a recent average of about 1350 cubic centimeters. Modern humanity’s current brain capacity can be credited to bipedalism, and correspondingly accidental.
Humanity looks to define itself through the recording and interpreting of the human experience, or the human journey. These definitions come in the form of art, literature, science, and religion. These definitions also constantly strive to make the unknown become known, naturally.
However, humanity views itself so highly and at times even considers its advancements as mimicking the power of God, or becoming God-like.
What if humanity’s current intellect was accidental? Then what would humanity believe art, literature, science, and religion stand for? What would they symbolize?
The idea that our cognitive capability was accidental is a frightening notion. It is also a controversial notion. What was all of Einstein’s discoveries in science for? Is the “Mona Lisa” still relevant? Does Mark Twain’s classic study of the human condition in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” lose its merit? Was the Messiah existence an accident? 12
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