Pondering the Continuum

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Pondering the Continuum

Just a rambling I decided to commit to writting. Then I thought I'd post it here to get any feedback (bracing for impact)...


I've been fascinated with evolution for decades! Since the first time I saw that familiar chart of ape to man in a National Geographic at the age of 10. You know the one, a picture of what looks like a chimp at one end and a guy in a buisness suit at the other, with all the "transitional forms" in between. Each one with it's own genus and species specific names prominantly displayed. The whole thing had me riveted, I clamoured for every drop of information I could find on the evolution of man, dinosaurs, sharks, and any other animal that captured my imagination, if even for a short time.

In the past 10 years or so, my interest in this subject waned a little. I kept a casual eye out for anything pertaining to it that I might run across in my daily life, but there was no active search, to speak of, for new information . In the past few months though, (since the inception of this newsletter) I've found myself once again ravenously searching the internet for ANYTHING that concerns evolutionary biology, or astronomy (another of my past consumptions). I hadn't put much analytical thought into the subject in years, so I was almost seeing it for the first time again.

It seems there have been many advances in the feild since I last cared enough to delve, so my hunger has been well sated. In the last month or so, a question has been occupying a good part of my thoughts when this subject sprints thorough my ever increasingly scattered brain. Well, not really a question, I guess, more of a meditation, if I can use that word here on an atheist website, lol. A pondering of the way in which "species" are confined to be labeled.

This train(wreck) of thought was sparked by the ramblings of Kirk Cameron, no less, in the RRS Nightline debate. The bold display he made of the "Crokoduck", along with the other falsifications and the brandishing of his overwhelming ignorance of Darwinian evolution were the catalysts. The thought occured to me that the name scientists give to a species, extinct or otherwise, amounts to placing a pin in long rope and tagging only the millimeter that the pin occupies with a name. All other millimeters on that rope get their own names. The only reason we tagged that point was because we found it, the invisible bits could have been found first, but they weren't.

The more fossils are found, the more this becomes obvious. We pin a name to the skeletons, and fragments thereof, that we FIND, but they are merely a single frame in the movie of evolution. Every "species" is a transitional form leading to whatever comes next. The fossil record, for many various reasons, is actually very sparce. The conditions that must be present for an organism to be fossilized are fairly precise, and the fossils we do find are the proverbial needle in a hay stack. The fact that we have found so many does not disprove this. Think of the populations of animals that have existed on this planet within a single species alone. Some species we only know through a handfull of preserved specimens. The fact remains that there are most certainly millions, or more likely, billions of species of animals that existed on this planet that we have not, and may never, find a fossil record for.

Evolution is a continuum. A long lineage that started billions of years ago, and it is still in progress. The rope has not yet come to it's end. Like the color spectrum, every organism bleeds over into the next, the properties of the first being displayed in all that follows, on a genetic level if not an imediately observable one. We share DNA with fish, not nearly as much as with chimps, but enough to show that we ALL have a common ancestor.

So the next time you see a headline that reads, "New fossilized species discovered!", realize that the animal, or plant in question is a strand in the rope, a single frame of film in the long movie that is evolution. The continuum keeps going, and every species is a transitional form. Wether or not we will be here to see when the rope ceases to be weaved is another matter, on another topic, for another train(wreck) of thought.



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