Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness. ---Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Evolutionary, my dear Watson!

Most people think "evolution" means the same thing as "progress.  It is even defined that way in the thesarurus - listed with other synonyms like "growth" and "advancement". 
However, evolution is NOT a process where species improve themselves.

Evolution is simply an indication that something has changed.

Something somewhere went terribly wrong!

With a world as diverse as ours, it would be odd if change didn't occur. In fact, change is inevitable! Nothing stays the same. When something new evolves, it is always built out of old parts. Nature recycles. However, when we change the old forms just a little bit, they may suddenly develop into something entirely unexpected.

" Change is at the very core of evolution and without it,
all creatures would look alike and behave in the same way."  Martin Dansky
In medieval times the nobility had large hunting reserves set aside for them. No one else could use the land or build on it.  This policy had the unexpected benefit of preserving these green spaces throughout England and Europe for us today. This is good.

However, an unexpected drawback happened when rabbits were first brought to Australia and New Zealand for food. The rabbit population grew so large that it became a major uncontrollable pest.

"Species evolve exactly as if they were adapting as best they could to a changing world,
and not at all as if they were moving toward a set goal."  George Gaylord Simpson

We are all bound to each other in a million ways. The food we eat is really just Earth, Water and Sun mixed for us by the plants that grow here.  Think about that!  Everything that lives on this planet - animal or plant - is related. We are all siblings descended from that first dividing cell. Therefore, what happens in one place, will have consequences in another.  
Change in one thing leads to change in another.
In science, this is called the Chaos Theory.  It says that when a butterfly moves its wings somewhere in the world, it can cause a tornado in another part of the world!  Or more simply put, that it is the seemingly insignificant moments that alter history and shape the future. And, we aren't always able to predict what will happen!
A road less traveled?

Flash flooding and seasonal droughts are an unintended consequence of people draining or filling in wetlands to plant crops. Wetlands are needed for water purification, flood control, and shoreline stability. Wetlands are a home for a wide range of plant and animal life. We need to protect them. People didn't always understand the importance of swamps and believed that filling them in made "unproductive land" usable.
Even when we are actively trying to do something good, there may be unintended consequences. Such as, when the French government offered money for ghost nets (nets that have been left or lost by fishermen) in order to help save wildlife, the result was people began to vandalize the nets to collect the reward - creating a problem where none had existed before.
"Today, the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority,
whose objections are based not on reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles." James Watson

Humans are always looking for just such "Cause and Effect" type of answers to solve their problems. But, sometimes the problems are just too complex - and no matter what we do or don't do, we can't seem to win!

This is known as a "Revelance Paradox".  It happens whenever we gather information in order to make a good decision, but our choice fails because we also excluded other crucial facts that we thought were irrelevant or unnecessary at the time.


In other words, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

 To help us figure out what to do, I've listed some "Laws" below as a guide:
Murphy’s Law Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment.

Hanlon's Razor - Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hofstadter's Law - It always takes longer than you expect. (Even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account.)

Hindsight Bias - The inclination to see events that have already occurred as being more predictable than they were before they took place. (I KNEW that was going to happen!)
Parkinson's Law - Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. (Subcontractors know this one.)

Segal's Law - A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
(It refers to the potential pitfalls of having too much conflicting information when making a decision.)

Sod’s Law - Bad fortune will be tailored to the individual. (Example: Ludwig van Beethoven's loss of hearing)

Sod's Other Law - The degree of failure is in direct proportion to the effort expended and to the need for success. (Ain't this the truth?)

Cope’s Rule – Population lineages tend to increase in body size over evolutionary time. (WHY I'M FAT EXPLAINED?)

Dollo's Law – An organism is unable to return, even partially, to a previous stage already realized in the ranks of its ancestors." (Evolution is not reversible.)

Herblock's Law – If it's good, they'll stop making it. (Twinkies!)

Humphrey's Law – Conscious attention to a task normally performed automatically can impair its performance. (Driving the speed limit when a Police car is directly behind you.)

Kranzberg's First Law of Technology – Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral. (Okay, I give up - what the hell is it?)

Muphry's Law – If you write anything criticizing, editing or proofreading another, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written. (Hence the "mispelling" of Murphy's Law)

Shirky Principle – Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

All of this leads us to the most profound law of all:  Sturgeon's Law –which states that 
" Ninety percent of everything is crud."

Amazed by and unable to explain both the universality of the genetic code, and the narrow window of time between the date the Earth cooled enough to be inhabited and life first appeared, Dr. Crick proposed his theory of "Directed Panspermia" - the idea that Earth may have been seeded with life by a rocketship from another planet.

Life is full of surprises. We must expect the unexpected.
Francis Crick
However we got here, this we know for certain: We eat from the Earth, we drink water from its rain, and we breathe in its air. We need to take care of Earth. All Earth things live in us and we live in all things on Earth. You can't get more connected than that.

 "The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood,
the carbon in our apple pies, were all made in the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.”   Carl Sagan




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