I love the days when all I do is sit in front of my apparatus while growing thin films–the extra time affords me the opportunity to catch up on my reading. This week I found myself re-reading “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan. I think I was halfway through this book sometime or the other.
In Chapter II, entitled “One voice in the cosmic fugue,” Carl Sagan described the events from the Big Bang which gave birth to the universe as we know now, then to the possible events which sparked the existence of the first living things on earth, the Cambrian explosion which led to the eventual proliferation of life on this planet. “Evolution is a fact, not just a theory,” he wrote.
I encountered the theory of evolution way back in high school, in our Biology class. I remember asking my Daddy one day about his thoughts on evolution, and of course I got the usual discourse on why no other theory is acceptable other than the creationist view propagated by the Bible. I think it was from him that I got this book which discusses the major flaws in the theory of evolution, and why the creationist view IS the true interpretation of how life on earth began. I cannot remember all the details in that book (I can’t even remember the title), but there are a few salient points that I do remember–among these is the odd animal which exists until now: the platypus. What’s an egg-laying mammal which still retains some reptile attributes doing here on Earth? And who has ever found the remains of the missing link, anyway?
Sagan, however, does bring up some challenging questions as well. If there was a great “Designer,” so to speak, then why are thousands of flora and fauna extinct? If the grand design was carried out such that each creature was “created” at the start, it seems like a big waste because natural selection is an irrefutable fact of nature. Everything follows a simple law: survival of the fittest. It seems like a very inefficient way of doing things, so to speak.
Still, it bothers me to think that the whole of mankind “evolved” out of accidental mutations along the way. In the creationist viewpoint, each creature was created special–and it sure does make me feel better to think that my whole existence was planned. Religion tells me that I have a purpose for being; science tells me that I was just a statistical probability.
Sagan asked questions an intellectual being like him is expected to ask. Questions that he probably didn’t get the answers to within his lifetime (he died in 1996). Questions that we will be asking for the next hundred of generations, and probably questions that will never be answered. We are indeed like butterflies that flutter for a day and think that it is an eternity.