Something to ponder.

For those who fear that acknowledging the historical fact of evolution dooms one to a life of bleak insignificance, consider the following.

You are the product of an absolutely unbroken chain of successful ancestors stretching back nearly 4 billion years. In all that time, over billions of generations, not one member of your lineage ever failed to leave viable offspring who, in their turn, left yet more successful descendants. Not a single earthquake, volcanic eruption, meteorite impact, or glacier ever prevented one of your ancestors from contributing to the subsequent generation. Every one of your forebears prevailed in the face of predators, famines, parasites, diseases, and ill fortune. Whether in competition or cooperation, your antecedents triumphed. An untold number of beings have lived and died on this planet, but never — not a single time — did your line falter.

In this, you are not alone. The same is true of every living being on Earth, to whom you are connected directly through converging lines of common ancestry that date back to the very dawn of life. The world did not know you were coming and the machinations of nature did not have you in mind as an endproduct, yet here you are. As an individual, you and each of your brethren, cousins, and more distant evolutionary relatives represent an exceedingly, remarkably, staggeringly improbable occurrence — and are all the more wonderful for it.

1 comment to Something to ponder.

  • Chris Harrison

    It is pretty fascinating to ponder how every one of your ancestors managed to prevail, all the way back to the first replicating entity.

    I don’t however, think this will comfort many people, or make the ToE any more palatable.

    One could easily point out that the addition of all these unlikely events makes the theory appear to hinge on an overwhelming number of incalculably small odds. “What are the odds that x turned into y over 100 million years?”

    This is in fact, one of the many talking points used by creationists(“goo to you”).

    Of course, such “what are the odds?” questions assume that this, what we see in 2007, is the only way it could have turned out. Realizing that this is not how it had to happen is, for some people, a difficult conceptual hurdle to leap.

    Not too long ago, I had a discussion with someone who was incredulous of evolution, because he thought that the evolution of whales from artiodactyls was “too improbable” since every specific mutation that resulted in a Blue whale would have to turn up at “just the right time” in a long string of mutations.

    I tried to point out that, yes, the specific likelihood of a blue whale evolving from some artiodactyl is very small, but this falsely assumes that evolution has a destination.

    I even showed him Babinski’s page on whale evolution ( ), but he was absolute in his “too improbable” stance.


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