The Discovery of Meaning
Copyright 2009, John Manimas Medeiros
I believe that Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, also known as the theory of evolution, is the intelligent design of Nature. The process of natural selection, where survival traits are perpetuated by the individuals of a species who survive long enough to reproduce and provide for the survival of offspring, is the design that is “intelligent.” This evolutionary design reflects the intelligence of Nature herself and does not require that a person exist before Nature exists to be the humanoid (anthropomorphic) creator of the universe. I have never heard of any version of intelligent design that makes more sense or that can compete with the strong logic and credibility of genetic evolution and the allele system that allows for gradual development of new traits and even allows for adjustments to temporary changes in the life-supporting environment.
I have been informed by my television that biologists studied peacocks in order to see if there was something to learn from the peacock mating dance. The male opens its tail feathers into the form of a large semi-circular fan, and the female observes the male strut before her. The peacock tail display is generally iridescent green, sometimes with tones of blue or silvery white, with dark blue “eyes” outlined in ovals of light blue, then reddish-brown, then a thinner outline of yellow. The biologists learned that the female was far more likely to choose a mate who had larger feathers and larger “eyes” on its tail. Naturally, one wonders if large decorative eyes on a peacock’s tail are some form of survival trait, and how the appearance of an individual’s feathers could improve the chances for survival. They studied the peacocks in greater detail and found that the males with larger feathers had fewer parasites. Parasites increase the chances of debilitation and disease, and therefore the males with fewer parasites are healthier and have a better chance of survival. The peacocks are exercising “intelligent” design in their mating dance. This is evolution in action, because there probably were peacocks who did not engage in any form of mating dance. They are extinct because they did not use a method for choosing healthy mates.
This kind of design is also visible in the mating “rituals” of mammal herbivores such as bison, cattle and elk. Their “rituals” are actually methods. They occur by design and they are “intelligent.” I recall learning about how male elk and female elk are mated when I was a young child watching a Walt Disney True Life Adventure. The elk bulls fought dangerous battles by ramming each other with their horns and fighting until one gave up. One of them could be killed or injured seriously enough to die later instead of recovering from the injuries. However, usually the fight ends with both winner and loser living on. I recall also that then and even now the essence of this mating process is viewed from the biased viewpoint of males with a warrior mentality. The interpretation that has been propagated for decades is that the males are fighting to “win” the right to have sexual access to the females. This is consistent with the disturbed human viewpoint that men fight wars in order to win sexual access to the other tribe’s women. This is not what is happening. It is the female elk, similar to the peacock world, who exercises the “intelligence” in the intelligent design. The females observe the bull elk fight, and they take notice of which one fights best. That one is selected by the females as the one to approach and whisper “I want to have your child.” This decision is really simple logic and basic to the survival of the elk. The females know that they need a male mate who is capable of aggression and skilled fighting so that they and their young vulnerable offspring can escape from predators. This is the intelligence in the design. There probably were once female elk who did not ponder whether one male was better than another. They are extinct. The elk that have survived and thrive today are the ones who are careful in their reproductive process. This kind of good example causes one to pause, and wonder, do we humans exercise intelligence when we mate?
Is human monogamy good for survival, or would humans have a better chance for survival if they mated with several individuals? If logic suggests that multiple mates would improve our chances for survival, that would mean that the human aptitude for adultery, promiscuity and multiple mates -- divorce and remarriage as serial polygamy -- are actually survival traits.
Students of history noticed that in the last decades of the Roman Empire many of the elite leaders appeared to suffer from some form of incompetence or mental illness. Their judgment was poor. They actually seemed to be limited intellectually. Further study showed that they were the children of wealthy Roman families who had indoor plumbing. In the Roman Empire, “plumbing” meant drinking water brought into the home through lead (plumbo) pipes. Therefore it was shown that many of the elite had been exposed to lead poisoning as children, and therefore had suffered brain damage. However, the class-oriented social structure still placed these learning-impaired individuals into positions of authority and power.
In 1962 naturalist Rachel Carson gained the respect and admiration of America by pointing out that many common birds were decreasing in numbers because DDT in the environment caused birds to lay eggs with fragile shells. The DDT was previously seen as a miracle chemical insecticide because it was used to stop the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as Yellow Fever and Malaria. Now it was discovered there was a downside, an “unintended consequence” that made DDT dangerous. This was followed by prescribing Thalidomide to pregnant women, who then gave birth to children with flippers in place of arms. This was followed by diethylstilbestrol estrogen, prescribed for pregnant women with morning sickness, which caused them to give birth to girls who got uterine cancer at age seventeen. Thalidomide and diethylstilbestrol are “hormone disruptors.” Later, biologists searching for carcinogens in the environment discovered that the American faith in chemistry to improve life had produced many more hormone disruptors. They were causing reduced survival rates for alligators and seabirds and possibly amphibians. PCBs or poly-chlorinated biphenyls were found in the fat of seals and polar bears, thousands of miles from the sites where PCBs were used to reduce flammability in electrical power transformers, another “unintended consequence.” The wonder fire resistant mineral asbestos was discovered to be a certain cause of lung cancer. Phosphorus in detergents and animal manures was discovered to kill fish and many smaller life forms in fresh water. Another “unintended consequence.” Later, and continuously, the American industrial machine advises people, with the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency, to use a herbicide around their homes to kill dandelions, even though dandelions are one of the most prolific disease-free and vitamin rich wild foods in North America. This human history in relation to chemistry raises an important question about meaning. The agricultural productivity of North America has been called the “American Agricultural Miracle.” But this miracle is based entirely on the use of hydrocarbon-fueled machines and toxic quantities of chemical fertilizers. Both of these find their way into the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico, which is seriously damaged and a large portion of the Gulf has been rendered sterile by the American Agricultural Disaster. In my search for meaning, these elements of human history have prompted me to ask: “Does the human species learn from experience?” It seems there are grounds to answer “No.” This is not good news, not for humans and not for the meaning of evolution. I was taught that humans survive because of human intelligence. We can control the environment with science and therefore we are supposedly destined to be in control and survive indefinitely. Except that we are killing life on Earth with our “science” and because our unintended consequences are growing faster than our intended consequences. If Earth life does collapse soon, in a series of concurrent epidemics of bacterial and viral infections, we can tell God we didn’t mean it. It just happened and we are not responsible. The problem is, of course, if we are not responsible, then we are not to be trusted, not trusted to take care of Earth and not to be trusted to take care of ourselves. This is a devastating outcome for human history. Fifty thousand years to discover that we are incompetent. Not only incompetent, but destructive. I can hear a biologist visiting from another galaxy delivering a lecture to students on a distant planet. This species, being stupid, died out. This is proof that intelligent design is crucial for the survival of any species, including a species that thinks it is intelligent. It is not enough to be technological. In order to survive a technological species actually has to know what it is doing, has to be able to achieve its legitimate purposes without causing any “unintended consequences.” These people on Earth, their most esteemed and highest paid scientists, were fools. In their final decades, there was an increase in homosexuality and cancers. They used atrazine to kill weeds in crop fields. The atrazine caused increased estrogen production in both males and females. The increased estrogen induced feminine traits in men, and cancers in women. These were “unintended consequences.” The extinction of the human species was ultimately an unintended consequence of the human form of “intelligence.” Write an essay about this, not more than ten pages. Your paper should address the issue of what trait would have caused the humans to avoid their suicidal generation of unintended consequences. When they were dying in agony, they cried out to their God, shouting obscenities and angrily asking why God was so cruel to them. You can address in your paper, if you wish, the role of human religion in their pattern of self-destruction.
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