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Our ancestor, found on Valla Beach

Our ancestor, found on Valla Beach

I believe that evolutionary theory (natural selection) makes most sense of the data we have. Natural selection is the keystone, that individuals are all different and that those who are stronger and adapted to the environment are more likely to reproduce and their genes continue. In 1858, Darwin and Wallace had proposed natural selection without having a clue about the mechanism, genetics was unknown.

More than half a billion years ago a single line of species separated from all other animals and scientists have believed this originated with sea sponges. New genome sequencing suggests that it was the comb jelly. Researchers from the University of Miami and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Maryland have created the first full genome sequence of a comb jelly and found it was related to all other animal species in the world. They suggest the creature may have been one of our first ancestors and comb jellies (unlike sponges) have a nervous system and muscles.

a comb jelly (ctenophore)
Our possible ancestor, comb jelly (ctenophore) on Letterbox Beach. You can just see the lines of small ‘paddles’ they use for propulsion.

There is no purpose, species evolve and most die, either they work out or fail. Of an estimated thirty billion species of plants and animals thought to have existed, roughly 30 million now exist. Evolution provides no explanation of why, but it means we don’t need to waste time praying to a God, but we do have to take responsibility for our own lives, those of others and for the whole planet. It also means that we are all connected, down to the comb jelly and much further.

We are all descended from a single ancestral form of life. The same processes and tools are busy at the cellular and molecular levels among all living organisms despite the apparent diversity. Bacteria, plants, fungi and animals share sequence similarities among metabolic pathways with RNA or protein molecules working the same functions in different organisms and the DNA genes that code for protein molecules. As Sidney Liebes writes, ‘Our bacterial ancestors eventually invent every metabolic lifestyle known today. They also invent a single ‘energy currency’ common to all life forms, called adenosine triphosphate or ATP.’ Hence we share 30% of our DNA with lettuce. We should take an interest in our relatives and appreciate their amazing diversity and beauty.

tide bringing in Grey Mangrove seed
Tide bringing in Grey Mangrove seed, Letterbox Beach, Valla
Grey Mangrove seed, Letterbox Beach, Valla
Grey Mangrove seed, Letterbox Beach, Valla. This seed has no chance of surviving here – fate is one word we have used.

A UK poll found that only a quarter believed Darwin’s theory of evolution was “definitely true”, another quarter thought it was “probably true”. The rest were either strongly denied the theory to be true or were confused about it. One in ten thought God created the world within the last 10,000 years. (‘Rescuing Darwin’ survey for 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of  the Species, 2009).

“Religious behaviour in bipedal apes occupies large quantities of time. It devours huge resources. A medieval cathedral consumed hundreds of man-centuries in its building. Sacred music and devotional paintings largely monopolised medieval and Renaissance talent. Thousands, perhaps millions, of people have died, often accepting torture first, for loyalty to one religion against a scarcely distinguishable alternative. Devout people have died for their gods, killed for them, fasted for them, endured whipping, undertaken a lifetime of celibacy, and sworn themselves to asocial silence for the sake of religion.” Richard Dawkins.

Letterbox Beach, Valla
Letterbox Beach, Valla.

We are destroying this planet and the life forms that co-evolved with us. At the rate we going many species will survive, but they will be insects and microbes (at the moment vital for healthy eco-processes to support primates), but the ones we relate to, the marvellous and the beautiful will be lost

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