Thursday, October 07, 2004

One of this morning's stories on NPR was about a tyrannosauroid ancestor of T. rex which had primitive protofeathers. They found actual fossilized protofeathers. What an amazing find!

When I hear stories like this, they remind me of why pursued a career in biological research. The complexities of living (and extinct) organisms are amazing. I'll start to think about evolution, and inevitably my mind will wander to creationism. Don't get me wrong, religion is very important, but I become sad and angry thinking about the school systems that want to teach only creationism and the schools that put disclaimers at the front of their biology books to "clarify" that evolution is only a theory and not fact. Creationism is such a simplification of our complex world. I admit, I'm not 100% sure if there is a God, but I'm pretty sure that if He* exists, He had a pretty awesome plan for things, starting with the Big Bang. When the bible was written, people had very limited knowledge of the natural world and no concept of science. I believe the bible was written in terms they could understand - a simplification.

I hate to hear creationists use the old "I didn't evolve from a monkey". No one said we did. What evolution suggests is that we evolved from a common ancestor. What is so implausable about that? All living things share roughly 99.something% of DNA. Who's to say the Creator didn't come up with a damn fine blueprint for life, that with tweaks, additions and deletions has evolved into the complex world we live in. And continues to evolve.

I've also heard the creationist belief as an excuse to dessimate natural areas and the animals that inhabit them. You know, the whole "dominion over the beasts" thing. I have to wonder if that's how God meant us to interpret it. Did He mean for us to pollute, kill, and destroy. Or did he mean for us to act as stewards, taking only what we needed while preserving the rest? Yes, in natural history, there have been waves of mass extinctions. Should we (humankind) be the force of another mass extinction? I truly hope not, although we seem to be racing along in that direction as we dig, drill, deforest, and develop.

Crazy T'ai Chi instructor (I blogged about him way back) loved to discuss how the endangered species act was a waste, that extinction is natural, blah blah blah. I never had the guts to stand up to him, but I always wondered why God would have made this amazing world if He just intended for us to pillage it. Perhaps all those "unnecessary" species that are going extinct actually benefit us - as things of beauty, sources of knowledge, sources of medicine...

*I use "He" as generic - I'm not convinced that God is a simple he or she. I view God as Mother-Father.

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