Sunday, July 08, 2007

Evolution - yesterday, today and tomorrow...

Sometime back I saw a program in the history channel about evolution of life. It was really fascinating. It is as though nature is playing a game - something similar to playing with the Lego building blocks. The natural elements are the building blocks in this case. Before starting with the creation of life, the stage needed to be set. From what man has postulated so far, this started with the big bang. Then it took billions of years to get the stage ready. Looking at the sequence of events, it looks like nature is gradually building things by trial and error.

  1. About 5 billion years ago, the sun is formed and remaining debris are allowed to coalesce into planets, moons and asteroids.
  2. All the planets cool down, settle into their relative orbits and start rotating around the sun, paving way to season and weather patterns.
  3. Here each planet seem to have a different characteristic - probably samples of different conditions. Mercury - small and hot; Venus - has excessive carbon-di-oxide and atmospheric pressure; earth - has liquid water and oxygen, Mars - has thin methane based atmosphere and violent storms, Jupiter - a gas giant with lot of hydrogen and so on.
  4. Then the organic elements in earth are fused together to create the first single cell organism.
  5. At this time, the continents look very different. There is just a single giant continent. It is like how we keep changing our designs while building something. The continents continuously keep drifting about forming different land masses.
  6. The single celled organism slowly evolves into complex life forms. The majority of life forms are concentrated in the oceans. Then slowly life spreads over land.
  7. Life multiplies in the oceans and the continents. but what about the skies? They are devoid of life? Then nature creates birds to fill the skies.
  8. The land is quite swampy and the plant life looks very different. The world is ruled by reptiles. Huge dinosaurs roam the planet. The scene must be as chaotic as it was depicted in the Jurassic park movies. It was an age where physical size dominated mental capabilities.
  9. Then suddenly it looks like nature didn't like the path that evolution is taking. Just huge reptiles roaming about and killing each other. Nature has already tried different forms of reptiles, birds and fishes. So how to reverse this evolutionary path? The answer is a meteorite. A huge meteorite strikes the earth and wipes out a major chunk of life on earth. It just happens so quickly in geological terms. The huge dinosaurs are wiped and the slate has been wiped clean. But Nature is careful not to obliterate life totally. It is like pressing ctrl +z just the required number of times.
  10. Now the land form changes. The swamps start drying out and out came mammals. this time nature is careful not to bring about such huge monstrous creatures like the dinosaurs.
  11. But this time nature decides to go one step further. A thinking mammal evolves - man.
  12. Now man starts doing some of Nature's work. He changes the character of dogs, cows, pigs etc by domesticating them. He alters landscapes to suit his needs.
From that point onwards, man has come a long way in his work. He is trying to alter nature at will. The entire evolutionary process has changed because of this. Plants and animals that would have thrived under the absolute rule of nature are now dying out due to man's interference. Similarly life forms that might have been eliminated by nature's plans are being preserved by man's conservation efforts.

In the past, forests grew and disappeared, species developed and became extinct on their own. no one tried to stop either of these. But now man is interfering with every single activity. He is not allowing other life forms to flourish and develop nor is he allowing other life forms to die out on their own.

After man arrived on the scene, how has evolution progressed? I'm not sure. Physically man has changed in appearance from apes and gorillas. And he started looking different in different parts of the world. But now with increased movement of humans across the globe, he has started interbreeding. So probably 1000 years down the lane, all these differences between humans might disappear. And what about other life forms? Many will die out and new ones will be born - but rather than being a direct work of nature, this time it might be due to man's work in genetic modification and such work. Probably nature is driving man through his intellect to further the evolutionary process.

But as with the dinosaurs, will nature again try to change its plans? Will it again try to erase the slate clean and start over? I personally believe it will. If so, how will it happen? Will it be through man? He is already standing ready to wipe the slate clean - nuclear weapons, biological weapons, pollution climate change and what not? But how many times is nature prepared to press ctrl+z? Probably nature will attempt a complete shift+delete and use this experience in a different game - establish a better system of life in some other planet / galaxy?


BadhriNath said...

couldnt earth been created after taking experience from other trials ? :D

May be may not be. Lets have experience here.

Rainbow said...

Hmm...I sort of wanted to question the way badrinath seems to have done. What if this is say the 10 create and destroy version of earth (sounds familiar?) or what if there are other worlds than this one and the primordial spark that led to chemicals in the primevial seas to become a living organism came from elswhere (meteors, hand of 'God')?

This topic, despite all the facts you give, still has so many fundamental gaps that seals the fate of any conversation about it to always end up becoming a debate and in the end an argument over who's assumptions on what happened is more valid. :)

BTW I wrote quite a lot of blogs and you better visit and your ultra-busy lifestyle better not be an excuse.