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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 03, 2009

Life, Rare and Fragile

By Mark Sisson
184 Comments

A young planet sits in wobbly orbit, still a bit amorphous and unsure of its final shape. A gurgling, bubbling primordial soup simmers on the surface, stewing and brewing for millions upon millions of years as massive temperature fluctuations, atmospheric pressure shifts, and extended bouts of thunderous lightning mar the landscape. Radiation is a constant, steady force. Deep within the soup, a spark! The beginnings of life, the organic, single-celled compounds that will grow and reproduce and mutate into a hundred million fantastical forms, emerge. All the while, similar – yet totally different – conditions are occurring on other planets concurrently, but no spark is seemingly produced. Why is that?

Consider, for a moment, the plight of the modern feedlot cow, a species that evolution has “constructed” to subsist most effectively on open grassland with plenty of access to sun and the freedom to roam. Instead, we stuff it full of corn, jam it into a filthy muddy pen, and pump it full of medication. Is it any wonder corn-fed cows sicken and produce substandard meat as a rule?

Sometimes called the Hawaiian squirrel, the mongoose has overrun most of Hawaii’s islands and disrupted the wildlife. Originally a transplant meant to combat the hordes of rats decimating the cane fields in the 1880s, the Hawaiian mongoose has decimated the wild bird population by targeting its eggs and nests. A seemingly innocuous, rather small species of mammal was essentially enough to damage an entire ecological niche beyond repair. It being island-based made things even worse, because the native inhabitants lived in a totally insular world. The longer you go without outside influence, the bigger an impact any outside influence will have.

Or what of the young boy who captures a handful of fiddler crabs at the beach and decided he’ll keep them as pets? Is table salt added to sand and water a suitable environment? Or is every single mineral present in seawater also crucial for the fiddler crab’s survival? Calcium, magnesium, potassium, chlorine, and sulfate are all present in seawater, along with sodium, to form the crab’s natural habitat. Tap water with salt added doesn’t work; I know because I was once that young boy.

The sad, slow decline of the giant panda can also be attributed to a series of unfortunate environmental shifts. The first shift was whatever made pandas switch from an omnivorous, diverse diet to a bamboo-based one, with the most plausible theory being that they did it to avoid competition with other, more capable omnivores. Rather than die out (like many species might have), they simply moved onto the low hanging fruit – the endless, untouched forests of bamboo. Of course, this move set a course toward an evolutionary dead end, but that happens from time to time. They came to rely on a totally unnatural food source: bamboo. These are animals with the digestive system of a carnivore attempting to thrive on a diet of low-nutritive, starchy cellulose and plant matter. To get sufficient nutrients, pandas had to consume over fifty pounds of bamboo each day. They survived, but only barely. Females were fertile for a few days a year at the most, male sex organs were sometimes too small to get the job done, and the infants they sometimes produced were completely helpless for too long. And when man began leveling bamboo forests to make way for development, the panda’s already tenuous dominion over its ecological niche was shattered. Conservation efforts haven’t helped much, either. Even with all the bamboo they can eat made available, male pandas in captivity often have no idea how to mate with a female, and panda numbers only manage to stay consistent (or rise somewhat). They’re still in cages, or behind bars betting gawked at by zoo goers. All in all, the panda made a tragic turn somewhere along the road. What began as a momentary adaptation to a change in environment (the introduction of a rival, perhaps) has ultimately forced the panda into an unsustainable, unnatural lifestyle punctuated by even more damaging, man-made environmental pressures.

Both individual species and life itself requires a specific set of environmental parameters to be satisfied.

Life, scientists conclusively agree and these examples show, is exceedingly rare and fragile in all its forms. An impossibly complex sequence of specific, precise machinations and circumstances were necessary for life as we know it to come into existence – so complex, in fact, that we’re still figuring out exactly how it all went down. We do know that life (on Earth) is a system of proteins and nucleic acids forming structures that reproduce and evince genetic variability with each successive generation (evolution). We suspect that before life, there were pre-biotic chemicals intermingling in what Darwin called a “warm little pond” of primordial ooze, and that these chemicals reacted with each other and certain environmental pressures (radiation, heat, moisture) to produce something approximating a living organism. In 1953, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey sought to reproduce primeval conditions by subjecting water, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen (atmosphere) to electric currents (lightning); amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, were formed. And just recently, researchers created RNA, which counts as its descendant DNA, by mixing an assortment of phosphates, sugar, and nucleotides in water and heating, evaporating, and irradiating it. But researchers had been trying for decades to create RNA, and it’s only recently that they actually succeeded.

How many times has nature “tried” to do the same thing and failed miserably? Among all the billions upon billions of planets in the universe, how often have the perfect conditions arisen to allow the creation of life – let alone its affluence? There’s no way to know (yet), of course, but I’d imagine that since the sky isn’t lit up with a steady stream of interstellar traffic, intelligent life on the level and complexity of Earth’s isn’t very common. We had committed, brilliant minds whose sole fixation was to produce a key precursor to organic life working around the clock, and they still barely managed to do it.

The basic building blocks of life aren’t unique to Earth, either, so other planets have had their chance. Meteorites and comets are known to house amino acids, nucleotides, and other prebiotic materials and many scientists posit a hail of prebiotic-bearing meteorites actually sparked life on Earth. Those same prebiotics undoubtedly slammed into every other planet, too, but whether any were able to make use of them remains to be seen. As far as we can tell from observing those planetary bodies within range of our instruments and assuming similar contact with prebiotic-bearing interstellar bodies, life had its chance to arise but did not (or if it did, it was brief and generally unsuccessful).

So, why us? Are we special?

We’re not exactly special; we aren’t anointed, chosen beings. We’re just lucky. And that’s even more beautiful, in my opinion. Just think. Life almost didn’t make it! If one little variable’s off – maybe, I dunno, the seas were twice as salty – life doesn’t form. How crazy is that?

On the global scale, life on Earth could not, and would not, survive, prosper, or even have come into existence without things the way they were and are. All those chemicals, elements, swirling gases, molten lava, boiling seas, lightning strikes, and shifting tectonic plates made life possible. Without each and every environmental variable in place, those phosphates and nucleotides might never have produced anything but inert brown goo. And without water, and an oxygen-rich atmosphere, life wouldn’t have flourished. Life, then, is completely reliant on a very specific environment.

The same holds true for individual species, which arise because of extremely specific environmental pressures and often come to thrive only when continually subjected to those same pressures. If the environment in which a species evolved changes or is eradicated, the species’ fitness suffers. Sometimes that species adapts successfully, while others like the panda attempt to adapt but may ultimately fail. Either way, it changes the species forever. Individual species, then, thrive in the environment in which they were conceived and to which they are adapted.

For some reason, people forget that humans are beholden to the very same rules as every other life form. We forget that we remain animals, that we are the only remaining hominids heading a long line of bipedal, big-brained, meat-eating tool users. As such, we are even more susceptible to environmental pressures that conflict with our natural tendencies because we largely discredit evolution and ignore its implications for our lives.

Ignore evolution at your peril. Ignore the undeniable fact that the human animal (like any other) arose under certain environmental pressures, pressures that persisted for most of our formative years. Even more important than what our ancestral environments looked like is what they did not look like. They were not grocery stores with tons of refined carbohydrates and cereal grains lining the aisles. They were not sitting in traffic for an hour each way. They were not gallons of vegetable oils. They were not legions of obese diabetics.

And I’ll be the first to admit that we’re highly adaptable. We are, thanks to our massive meat-fueled brains. But though we can adapt to an alien lifestyle and survive, bear children, and lead seemingly normal lives, it isn’t ideal. It’s like the cow chowing down on soy and corn; he’s just eating what he’s given. It seems sufficiently food-like for his purposes, just as a breakfast of white toast, margarine, and jam seems like food to most people. That’s just skating by, though. That’s just surviving. Do we really want to be like the panda and subsist on nutritionally-bereft food just cause it’s there?

No!

We are animals, and we are subject to evolutionary pressures. We came of age in a time without processed foods, sedentarism, and chronic stress. That is the environment for which we are adapted, and it is the environment towards which we should strive – if we’re interested in optimum health, happiness, and longevity, that is.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment board. Thanks for reading!

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184 Comments on "Life, Rare and Fragile"

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Matt
Matt
6 years 10 months ago

Very interesting about the pandas…so how do we convince the conservationists at the National Zoo to let them eat something more biologically appropriate? According to wikipedia they won’t reject the meat if offered it. Certainly wouldn’t hurt the struggles they have with mating.

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 10 months ago
Nice post. I often get strange looks for telling people that I don’t consider grains, beans, potatoes or sugars to be proper food for humans (or cows). Just because you can eat it does not mean that you should. Dogs and cats can live on the bizarre mixes of rice and chicken meal passed off as food for them, but they do best on a carnivorous diet. Humans evolved as hunters, gatherers, and fishers, and even lived well on a nomadic, Masaii-style pattern of feeding before anyone started eating rice and wheat and corn all day long. Some humans still… Read more »
Susan
Susan
6 years 10 months ago

…or perhaps it is because evolution is jsut a theory and we actually have a young earth that was created by our lord Jesus Christ…. just saying…

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 10 months ago

Kind of like how gravity is “jsut (sic) a theory”, and instead of being moved by the sun, the moon, and the other planets in our solar system, the earth is REALLY held on the back of a giant invisible turtle “swimming” through space and time.

Geoff
Geoff
6 years 10 months ago

Watch it there – gravity’s merely an explanation of observed phenomena. An invisible force acting on objects at a distance in ways physicists don’t completely understand. A force that we can experience only through it’s effects, not directly. Of course gravity’s a BETTER explanation than the competing explanations for those phenomena, but it’s still just an idea….just saying….

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

And “It’s turtles all the way down.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down

Michael
Michael
6 years 10 months ago

The belief in God isn’t even good enough to be considered a theory…just saying.

FlyNavyWife
6 years 10 months ago

Right. “Faith” isn’t really part of the realm of science.

fbw
fbw
6 years 10 months ago

faith is completely part of the realm of science. it was in a very functional sense faith that led to low-fat, high-carb diets being promoted as ‘healthy’ and saturated fat being promoted as ‘artery-clogging’.

the evidence wasn’t there, despite dogged pursuit of it. but yet we all received and heard the faith-based information about diet and nutrition.

faith is part of all human thought processes. as humans, our inputs are quite limited, and we rely on faith to get anything done, including form hypotheses and theories.

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago
TaydaTot
TaydaTot
6 years 10 months ago

Sorry, I’m cracking. Too much dissonance – I’m inciting Poe’s Law here: Were you being factious?

TaydaTot
TaydaTot
6 years 10 months ago

Just to clarify, this is in regards to Susan’s statement.

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

Fantastic. I hadn’t heard of that one.

http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Poe's_Law

“Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.”

Nelter
Nelter
6 years 10 months ago

And dinosaur bones were planted in the ground to test our faith!

Al
Al
6 years 10 months ago

Please keep these views to yourself as they are unsubstantiated and damaging to others.

Wyatt
Wyatt
6 years 10 months ago

Susan,

Thanks for the theory.

turling
turling
6 years 10 months ago

I’m surprised it took to the third post before the religion came in.

Jeremy
6 years 10 months ago

Great post! It is unfortunate that many people are missing the complex beauty of life and its origins by hoping that humans are something other than they really are. Progress will always be limited if people only consider the human body a vessel containing their special soul waiting to be evacuated to another realm.

Scott J
Scott J
6 years 10 months ago

Linking how humans “get by” on refined carbs and processed junk to how CAFO herds are forced to eat grains was excellent.

Great piece of writing.

dave, RN
dave, RN
6 years 10 months ago

I’m with Susan. And creation is still consistent with a paleo diet. I’m pretty sure there were no bakeries in Eden. And with all that other food so abundantly available, why bother with all the work that wheat growing and baking bread entailed? All the pain of growing and harvesting didn’t come until after the fall, which tells me that it’s just another one of those things that’s less than perfect.

Ridgeback Runner
Ridgeback Runner
6 years 10 months ago

Is it primal to eat a talking snake?

Jeremy
Jeremy
6 years 10 months ago

if jesus served however many people with fish and bread and bread came after the fall would that make jesus a sinner? just sayin…

Alex
Alex
6 years 10 months ago

I’m surprised that anyone is talking about religion on this site at all. I thought it was a site for people who are smart enough to question conventional wisdom, and what is religion but conventional wisdom?

Lute Nikoley
Lute Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

So what are you saying? Is MDA only good enough for unbelieving atheists? Why all the mysteries about how things came together? The answer is, there is a God.

James
James
6 years 10 months ago

It is ridiculous that debates like who’s right or who’s wrong spring up because someone wanted to express their views. Then it comes to a matter of questioning another’s intelligence about being “smart enough” to even be on this site. As far as the beauty of life and its origins..I guess coming from a primordial soup is just that, beautiful. The article is about food, and how to BETTER our and each others lives…criticizing or insulting is doing just the opposite.

Lovestoclimb
6 years 10 months ago

Awesome piece Mark!

*biting my tongue and trying to not reply to the religion post* I’d hate to sully such a great piece of writing.

Chris
Chris
6 years 10 months ago

Alex,

You’re 100% right. It’s funny people question their dietary habits, but religion is untouchable territory. Once you tell them their religion might not be accurate, they dismiss it as garbage. They refuse to question it, but not anything else.

Rachel
Rachel
6 years 10 months ago

Religion is not supposed to be “accurate” religion is about having “faith” in something you can’t see or quantify. That’s the point. You should be ashamed of yourself for ridiculing someone for believing in something. I used to love this site…but the self-righteousness of the people posting here make me sick…and I’m not even religious.

Terry
Terry
6 years 10 months ago

I agree, Rachel.

A lot of hard-headed, agnostic, self-righteous windbags chiming in here.

Thought this site was more open-minded than that . . .

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

Some of us simply aren’t open minded enough to allow our brains to fall out.

Nelter
Nelter
6 years 10 months ago

Faith is like trying to breathe life into a lie by masking reality with the beauty of wishes.

Jordan
Jordan
6 years 10 months ago

I’ve only recently integrated religion with my life, having previously preferred to treat all matters through science. But I strongly believe that the strength of religious ideas, just like scientific ones, comes *from* constantly questioning. Ideas that withstand scrutiny are those that have the fitness to continue to evolve (in evolutionary-speak).

Lute Nikoley
Lute Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

But how is that possible, according to “the open minded” and our brains lying on the floor we all must be too stupid to understand the science involved. Albert Einstein said that science without religion is as bad as religion without science.

Luke
Luke
6 years 3 months ago

Actually he didn’t say that… the religion of the world like to misquote him… Also when Einstein refers to God, he does not refer to the Judeo-Christian god… he is referring to “laws of the universe”… I reckon Einstein would have believed in “The Force” if he was around when Star Wars was released.

Jimmy
Jimmy
6 years 10 months ago
Did you steal some of this from somewhere? The opening in particular sounds a lot like Carl Sagan or something. The old American dream is something like this “Oh man I’m stressed out because I slept too long with my low blood sugar and now I have to eat my jelly donut breakfast and get my big fat ass into my big fat car so I can get to my stressful job so I can keep making money to afford my jelly donuts, and my big fat car because I’m too fat to do anything else.” The new American dream… Read more »
Haha
Haha
6 years 10 months ago

The New American Dream. That’s pretty much my idea of perfection.

Another great post, Mark. These last two have had more of a relaxed tone, and are, in my opinion, somewhat reminiscent of poetry at times.

Michael
Michael
6 years 10 months ago

Fortunately individual beliefs have little influence in constructing an idea as big as the American Dream because frankly, both of your scenarios sound terrible to me.

Biscuit
Biscuit
6 years 10 months ago

Hear, Hear!

Given the two, I’d take the doughnut. “I really like my job because I don’t expect much from it…” GAH!

Fortunately, those aren’t the only two alternatives, in spite of what the masses think.

lbd
lbd
6 years 10 months ago

Very nice, Mark! Could I have permission to copy and give this to my biology students when we cover evolution?

By the way, if someone says “just a theory” then they do not know the meaning of the word as used in science. A theory in science is developed when every bit of evidence and all the facts we have point to the theory as the explanation for those facts and evidence. A theory is an explanation. And Mark’s explanation of the theory of evolution was beautiful.

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 10 months ago

Right. Theory in its colloquial usage (i.e. just a theory) corresponds more to the scientific term hypothesis.

And evolution is definitely not “just a hypothesis.”

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago
Very true. “Theory of relativity.” And it will always be a theory no matter how many thousands of times it has stood up to efforts to falsify it. Ah, falsification, the absolute requirement for _any_ proposition to be a scientific one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability And here’s a great example from Carl Sagan in ” The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In the Dark” — The Dragon in My Garage — “A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage” Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to… Read more »
Dee
Dee
6 years 10 months ago

Jimmy, I’m familiar with Sagan’s writings, and I see no evidence of plagiarism. Are you claiming this piece was lifted wholesale from another article? That’s a pretty bold accusation. You could have just mentioned that it was a bit reminiscent of Sagan but you didn’t have to suggest it was stolen.

baz
baz
6 years 10 months ago

Oh dear, religious speak really should be banned on this forum…just saying.

gcb
gcb
6 years 10 months ago

‘Religion is the most important decision you will never make.’

And that’s all I’m going to say on that. 🙂

Great post, Mark. If I were to add anything to that, it would probably be a quote from the old Babylon Five TV series, about how the atoms inside us were forged in the stars, and we are the universe, trying to figure itself out. But then it would probably be TOO deep and philosophical.

Marshall
Marshall
6 years 10 months ago

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/

How we became human.

brad
brad
6 years 10 months ago

To those critics of the religious Groks.
I thought this was a site dedicated to open minds.

I’m always amazed at how supportive, and encouraging everyone one this site is. If you go through the forums you would have a tough time finding someone being rude or arrogant, but the second religion pops up there it is.

I’m not religious myself but certainly dont look down upon anyone who is.

Ridgeback Runner
Ridgeback Runner
6 years 10 months ago

Great post, beautifully written! And love to all the Giant Pandas out there.

As CW poisons our bodies, religion poisons our minds. I cannot take anyone serious who blindly follows CW or baby jesus.

fbw
fbw
6 years 10 months ago

i cannot take seriously anyone who believes that it’s only Christians who ‘blindly’ follow religion.

Craig
Craig
6 years 10 months ago
This very complexity that you write about, the extreme fine tuning (obht molecularly and in the cosmos) that had to be required for intelligent life to have evolved are precisely a couple of the big reasons why I for one believe that we are not just “lucky” or “accidents” that appeared on the scene purely by random chance over geologic time. Remember, scientists in Darwin’s day considered the cell a blob of protoplasm. They had no idea that a single cell is infinitely more complex than anything mankind has ever dreamed of! If they had, they may have rethought things.… Read more »
pieter d
pieter d
6 years 10 months ago

Evolution by natural selection is not a random ‘accident’, it is exactly the opposite. This really is important to understanding evolution…

cheers,

Craig
Craig
6 years 10 months ago

Mark, precisely. We must be respectful. It is hard to avoid the discussion going that direction when suppositions about the very origins of life are made. I mean really, how do we know where the elements that comprised the Big Bang came from? They certainly didn’t create themselves? I could also argue that an infinite universe (temporally) is illogical, so it’s fun to think about what caused all of this, right? I like how you describe how vanishly unlikely it is that it even happened in the first place.

D
D
6 years 10 months ago
Someone needs to play the role of Thomas Aquinas here. Religion and science can live together. You can scrutinize the beliefs you have, religious or otherwise, without condemning others to hell. Mark presents a compelling article that makes us think about where we stand in the “universal” scheme of things. He seems to submit that humans have the choice to believe (and eat) what we want, right? We may make choices to our benefit and to our peril. Anyhow, I said all that to help provide a non-biased (although I favor religion) view between evolutionary eating habits and religion. Hopefully… Read more »
Michael
Michael
6 years 10 months ago

Right on. Like my biology professor says, “If science and religion where in conflict, I wouldn’t be sitting in a pew ever Sunday morning.”

I view them as different disciples. To use a sheepishly simple analogy – you don’t use math to appreciate literature in English class. And vice-versa.

But does conflict occur when religion and science take on the same task? That is they function as as explanatory mechanisms?

Jordan
Jordan
6 years 10 months ago

Interesting article, but it’s a bit preachy and negative-oriented. Most of the other stuff on this site are directed towards positive changes. It would be nice to have a warning up top that this piece is more op-ed than educational.

Michelle
Michelle
6 years 10 months ago

Here’s something… wonder is not religious. Wonder is as paleo as it gets. Wonder is as necessary to our well-being as good food and moving our bodies. Whether it’s directed toward a God-figure or the amazing chance of evolution, it’s still a primal urging to acknowledge the Big-ness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1EOnVSSJYs&feature=related

e
e
6 years 10 months ago
Well written. It’s interesting the conflicts between definitions of biomechanical optimization from an evolutionary perspective and a cultural norm. It’s funny how people regard prehistoric societies as unhealthy based on their diets and cultural norms (as a result, look at their small bone structures and short lifespans), but don’t consider how their own cultural norms create who they are physically in the same fashion. We “know” so much more now, but still have our own biases, including that optimization = the best life. I respect the ideas you stand for and am wrestling with my own vegetarianism. You’ve really opened… Read more »
Icarus
Icarus
6 years 10 months ago

Maybe I’m reading what you are saying wrong, but prehistoric people did not have small bone structures – their skeletal health was quite robust, in fact, much more so than that of any agricultural society.

Lifespan of paleolithic folk is a whole ‘nother can of worms, but it’s safe to say that infant mortality and accidents would have dragged that number down quite a bit more than they do in the modern day, when nearly everyone everywhere has access to a hospital in times of emergency.

e
e
6 years 10 months ago

I should have clarified. I had ancestral Puebloans in mind (Chaco Canyon culture), but I see now that was not specific enough. So, after development agriculture/domestication of animals but before writing systems.

james
james
6 years 10 months ago
I am not religious and do not fully trust Darwinian Evolution as it relates to the fossil record, rapid gene expression, and common sense. My doubts arose 20 years ago studying Biology under one the nations most ardent advocates of evolution. I was a strong proponent of Evolution until I began to test the various tenants of Darwinism objectively. Contrary to popular belief, you are NOT an uneducated idiot to question the current state of Darwinian Evolution. There are many in the scientific community (both religious and non-religious) who are looking at alternative theories. There are also many who outright… Read more »
wd
wd
6 years 10 months ago

Someone’s been reading some Sagan! lolz… good post.

Kristin J
Kristin J
6 years 10 months ago

I’d just like to point out that some form of belief system is believed to have existed for nearly every human culture, as far back as we can tell. Religion may actually be…primal. A good read on the subject is Matthew Alper’s “The God Part of the Brain”.

I would like to point out that I grew up religious but became agnostic during high school. The matter of religion has always intrigued me, but I do agree that it is beyond the scope of this website. But once you open a can of worms…

Great post Mark! It’s sparked some good dialogue.

nblezy
nblezy
6 years 10 months ago

Well played sir.

Mike Stone
Mike Stone
6 years 10 months ago

Great post Mark!

RE: Religion…

I bet Grok carved little good-luck totems, said some kind of “prayer” while watching the sun set each night, and “prayed” for blessings of good fortune in the hunt, good health for his family, for the dearly departed, etc…

Perhaps there is something primal in all of us about needing a spiritual element in our lives?

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

There should be no doubt about that.

The question is, do you take it literally or use it as inspirational?

That’s really y only beef with religion. I enjoy the family traditions, Xmas, etc., as much as anyone. I just don’t take any of it literally.

Incidentally, you’ll find that theme very common in Eastern thinking.

Craig
Craig
6 years 10 months ago

Agreed, I believe that we humans do indeed have a spiritual nature. And why is that?

Michael
Michael
6 years 10 months ago

spirituality may serve as an explanatory mechanism?

Aaron Blaisdell
6 years 10 months ago
Yup, Michael. You hit on one likely possibility. Humans view the world causally (and I’ve even found evidence that rats do too, to an extent). Most causes, however, are hidden. To discover those causes one has to be able to manipulate them (termed an intervention). Spirituality may stem in part from entertaining and modeling hidden causes that are out of our reach, so to speak. That is, that we cannot intervene on. Science uses our predilection to learn through intervention (i.e., experimentation), while scientific theory and technology combine to continue to extend our reach. Thus, science continues to advance into… Read more »
Johnie Doe
Johnie Doe
6 years 10 months ago

Hi Guys,

I would just like to say that the religious issue in here stemmed not from comments criticising people for being religious but for stating incorrect ideas/facts…

This all stemmed from Susans comment “…or perhaps it is because evolution is jsut a theory and we actually have a young earth…”

This above statement is flat out incorrect/impossible and yet is put forward like it is a plausible alternative idea.

fbw
fbw
6 years 10 months ago
no, actually there is some evidence for a younger earth than billions of years. is it uncontestable? of course not. what there is not is evidence of a scientifically conclusive sort that the earth is a few thousand years old max. geologists actually discuss the implications of discontinuities among themselves and do in fact recalculate areas to be younger when it appears more likely. based on, er, primal data from local people where i live (PacNW), there is compelling data that some of the geological phenomenon in the area occurred merely thousands or tens of thousands of years ago rather… Read more »
Madhu
Madhu
6 years 10 months ago
Just watched Surrogates yesterday and i am reading this post makes me wonder how far we would go to rely on machines and robots to do anything without giving ourselves time to evolve to such sedentary lifestyle.And such a lifestyle would defeat the purpose of our existence. Life as we know it itself is far too sedentary. If everything(or atleast only laborious and dagerous stuff) was automated, every human being would be at a desk job except may be ppl in sports and fitness. How can we avoid technology and how should we not avoid technology to be more sustainable… Read more »
Peter
Peter
6 years 10 months ago

^ I agree

Being in agreeance with the entire primal lifestyle and philosophy means by default you must accept the earth is ~4.6 billion years old and that all life on earth is the product of evolution by natural selection churning away for over the last 3 billion years!

Personal opinions on religion and religious beliefs don’t need to enter this debate! Whether god created the universe or possibly gave that initial spark to life or doesn’t exist at all don’t inform the discussion regarding this article of Mark’s on life and evolution and its natural environments and optimal living

Gary-A
Gary-A
6 years 10 months ago

That piece about the panda blew my mind.

THAT is going to be my new argument in defense of Grok from now on.

Going to watch myself some Cosmos while we’re talking about it 😛

alex
alex
6 years 10 months ago
Mark, you stated that this post wasn’t religious. Below is a definition that might interest you. re?li?gion??[ri-lij-uhn] –noun 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. Now according to this definition the THEORY of evolution in my opinion is religious. I enjoyed your video called big fat lies. I did find it odd however that you were quick to point out how Ancel Keys pushed his obvious agenda by extrapalating the data that fit with his theory and purposefully excluded the data that flew in the face of his theory. I regret to inform… Read more »
Shine
6 years 10 months ago

Alex, the definition of religion is based upon belief. A belief is an assertion based upon faith rather than evidence. The theory of evolution is supported by evidence, not faith. This is why a discussion of evolution is not a religious discussion.

This piece is one of the best posts I have seen on this blog.

FlyNavyWife
6 years 10 months ago

“There is plenty of good science that supports creation and doesn’t defy the first and second law of thermodynamics. Don’t worry I won’t bore your readers with all of them.”

I’m quite sure Mark’s readers would love to see some of this good science. Do you have links? Or names of books?

We love science around here and there are plenty of us who read research in our spare time.

Marnee
Marnee
6 years 10 months ago
Umm Evolutution is the theory that describes how life on earth changes over time. It postulates NOTHING about the origins of said life let alone the cause, nature, and purpose of the Universe. The origin of life falls under the category of abiogenesis for which there are a variety of non-mystical hypotheses that do not violate any physical laws. The cause, nature, and purpose of the Universe falls under the philosophical category of metaphysics. Describing the natural laws falls under physics. The failure of the fat hypothesis has no bearing on the validity of the premises of Evolution let alone… Read more »
Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

Ah, Hannes Alfven and Eric Learner (“The Big Bang Never Happened,” 1991).

Thanks for reminding me. ‘Twas a very interesting read.

Biscuit
Biscuit
6 years 10 months ago

Hi, Marnee!

Fancy meeting you here! 😀

“Evolution is the theory that describes how life on earth changes over time. It postulates NOTHING about the origins of said life let alone the cause, nature, and purpose of the Universe” PRECISELY!

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

Wow. It’s far worse than I even imagined.

‘Evolution is religion and creationism is science.’

Goes right along with atheism as religion, war as peace, and all other violations of the Law of Identity.

Astounding.

Jamie
Jamie
6 years 10 months ago

Anyone interested in the “THEORY” of evolution should read Richard Dawkins’ new book! 😀

pieter d
pieter d
6 years 10 months ago

I don’t agree! They should not read his new book, they should read ALL of his books. And the one from Steve Gould, and Dennett, and …

Eyeshield9
Eyeshield9
6 years 10 months ago

About religion being primal, true, however I’d also like to point out that in that case, it was formed during a time when perhaps our ancestors’ brains were simpler…

lbd
lbd
6 years 10 months ago
I would urge anyone who is still bringing up the faults in carbon-dating and the old textbook evidence for evolution to look at probably the best website on evolution: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/ This site has much more modern evidence for evolution. Proof of evolution has come a long way since many of us had it in high school and learned about vestigial and homologous structures. DNA evidence is pretty compelling and makes it hard to deny our ancestral relatives in all forms of life. I have yet to understand why people think that evolution somehow impacts religion. One is belief, one is… Read more »
Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago
Good point. Also, NOVA has a great new EVOLUTION site to go along with the 3-part series that began yesterday. I grew up in fundamentalist Christianity, graduated from a one-room Baptist church HS and went on to Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, TN to study the bible. DIdn’t take long as an adult now thinking for myself to drift away. I switched to a real University (Oregon State) and went on to undertake serious studies in philosophy after graduation, on my own. I’ve been an atheist for 20 years, now. All that to say that I recall all the silliness… Read more »
BlazeKING
BlazeKING
6 years 10 months ago

Wow I have a lot more respect and admiration for Mark after this post. AWESOME! Thanks for blowing away the “other” branch of Conventional Wisdom. Seriously I think I’ll believe what countless hours of research has proven and documented, and not some jibberish wrote by drug tripping homo sapiens thousands of years ago when they crucified people and thought the Earth was flat and the center of the Universe.

BlazeKING
BlazeKING
6 years 10 months ago

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs” – Carl Sagan

If you haven’t seen the Cosmos series check it out.

Peter
Peter
6 years 10 months ago

Wow Alex, what a complete fail!

You must harbour the ultimate in cognitive dissonance holding your creationist beliefs whilst at the same time parting in a discussion on an EVOLUTIONARY science approach to health and fitness website! Haha it reminds me of a story I was told by a guy knew a Texas oil man who was a strong creationist! Yet in his daily work he had to deal with technical jargon regarding underground oil deposits being referred to as 50 million years old, etc as an indication of how deep, or how old the oil is, … Hilarious!

Ed
Ed
6 years 10 months ago

I think that some here are confusing creationism, which is a religious belief, with intelligent design, which is an alternative hypothesis to parts of Darwinian theory. I haven’t fully explored these areas yet, but Darwinism is CW and should not be accepted uncritically. For those interested in reading further about intelligent design, I would recommend the Discovery Institute’s website. Warning: they are not impartial and objective; they are advocates for a variety of libertarian and conservative issues.

Marnee
Marnee
6 years 10 months ago

Intelligent design is built on the exact same premise as creationism, whose speculations are untestable and therefore have no part in Evolution let alone science. Whether that creator/manipulator was God or Aliens or some other mystical postulate, the premise is UNTESTABLE. This is not science; it is metaphysics and religion dressed up to look like science.

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

You go.

If it’s not falsifiable, it ain’t science. This is absolute. Creationism or ID have never once brought a scientific hypothesis. Not a single time, ever.

Anyone who claims or thinks otherwise simply doesn’t grasp what science is.

alex
alex
6 years 10 months ago
Shine, I agree that religion is based upon belief. You believe that 20 billion years ago everything came from nothing even though we have never witnessed anything like it since, and this premise defies the first and second law of thermodynamics. There are also many questions that evolution can’t answer. Like where did the space for the universe come from? Where did matter come from? Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia, etc.)? How did matter get so perfectly organized? Because evolutionists can’t answer these questions they have to take on faith or as you said… Read more »
erik.cisler
erik.cisler
6 years 10 months ago

This is a really incredible lecture by Lawrence Krauss that answers some of your questions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

“A Universe From Nothing”

Shine
6 years 10 months ago
“There are also many questions that evolution can’t answer. Like where did the space for the universe come from? Where did matter come from? Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia, etc.)? How did matter get so perfectly organized?” Alex, these are questions of cosmology and physics. The theory of evolution does not address cosmogenesis nor abiogenesis; it postulates a process through which speciation occurs. “Because evolutionists can’t answer these questions they have to take on faith or as you said “believe”. They are making an assertion that evolution is still true.” This represents a fundamental… Read more »
Ridgeback Runner
Ridgeback Runner
6 years 10 months ago
“You believe that 20 billion years ago everything came from nothing even though we have never witnessed anything like it since, and this premise defies the first and second law of thermodynamics.” Alex, I am going to tackle just this part of your blatherings. Bear with me. “..came from nothing…”? Who said that? The first life, initially as a single cell I presume, was created from various chemicals available in the universe. The fact no one said this totally debases your whole argument. No laws were broken. Regarding the first law of thermodynamics, again no one said life came out… Read more »
Nelter
Nelter
6 years 10 months ago

By the beard of Zeus!

Ridgeback Runner
Ridgeback Runner
6 years 10 months ago

Now that is blasphemy!

Nelter
Nelter
6 years 10 months ago

By Odin’s good eye!

TaydaTot
TaydaTot
6 years 10 months ago
alex: “I think it odd that “primitive” or a less evolved form of man had a great way of eating and after all of the leaps and bounds we have made in technology through the years, obesity, at least in this country is at an all time high. Now if we have evolved so far from the primitive man, why are most of us having to rediscover how the old “unintelligent primitive man” used to eat?” You are totally conflating separate concepts. Biological evolution is separate from technological, and socio-cultural “evolution”. This conflation is one of the main reasons “conventioanl… Read more »
Mikeythehealthycaveman
6 years 10 months ago

Alex, you’re on a long strange trip. Hope you don’t go to far down that wormhole…

Ben
Ben
6 years 10 months ago

What are we talking about again?
I’m hungry. I’m going to eat some eggs.

Rachel Allen
6 years 10 months ago

So three priests walk into a bar and……

Richard Nikoley
6 years 10 months ago

…the bartender says: “What’s this, some kind of joke?”

Eegah
Eegah
6 years 10 months ago
How fragile is life? Look at the famous ‘Pale Blue Dot’ photograph and consider Carl Sagan’s thoughts: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher… Read more »
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