What is a Human?

DaVinci atomatronic model graphic

Emergence from the knowledge abyss

What is man?

“is probably the most profound question that can be asked by any human. It has always been central to any system of philosophy or of theology. We know that it has been asked by the most learned humans 2000 years ago, and it is just possible that it was being asked by the most brilliant australopithecines 2 million years ago. The point I want to make now is that all attempts to answer that question before 1859 are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely.” —Simpson 1966, p. 472

Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit Earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: “Have they discovered evolution yet?” Living organisms had existed on Earth, without ever knowing why, for more than three billion years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin. To be fair, others had inklings of the truth, but it was Darwin who first put together a coherent and tenable account of why we exist.”—Dawkins 1976, p. 1

Identifying ultimate causes, however, is important, because certain proximate explanations may be incompatible with certain ultimate explanations. This is because certain ultimate explanations specify the existence of certain types of proximate mechanisms. For example, the ultimate explanation that the human eye evolved by natural selection because it increased our ancestors’ ability to detect light requires the existence of proximate light-detection mechanisms in the eye.”

“No aspect of life can be completely understood until both its proximate and its ultimate causation are fully known. To understand how ultimate causes can be known, one must understand how natural selection leads to adaptations” | RANDY THORNHILL and CRAIG T. PALMER |

Orthodox-Apocalypse-FrescoAll arguments to the contrary are opinions of the individual unsupported and unsubstantiated except by ancient oral traditions, eventually written down, but not by those within the story itself. Traditions, stories, beliefs, superstitions, are all normal human reactions to a world of random chaos and events beyond our level of comprehension. It’s just more comforting and easier to assign unexplainable moments, catastrophe, cruelties, to some deity.

Over the centuries of written tradition, we find explanations that are outside of the authors abilities or comprehension to be associated with a deity. Monarchs and despots have used deities to give gravitas or approval to their actions, no matter how self-serving or egregious.

Natural Selection and Adaptations

“Adaptations are phenotypic features (morphological structures, physiological mechanisms, and behaviors) that are present in individual organisms because they were favored by natural selection in the past. Darwin sought to explain the existence of adaptation in terms of evolution by selection. Initially, he observed the action of selection on living things in nature—a fact of natural history that is inescapable in view of the high rates of reproduction and mortality in all organisms. Later, he realized just how creative selection could be when extended over the long history of life on Earth. This retrospection is evident in the following eloquent passage from On the Origin of Species:”

“Natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working…. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the long lapse of ages.” (Ridley 1987, p. 87)

“The biologist George Williams, in his 1966 book Adaptation and Natural Selection, clarified what Darwin meant when he wrote of natural selection’s rejecting all that was “bad” and preserving all that was “good.”- First, Williams noted, these words were not used in a moral sense; they referred only to the effects of traits on an individual’s ability to survive and reproduce. That is, “good” traits are those that promote an individual’s reproductive interests.”

Remember that Christmas, although heartwarming and comforting to some, is just another one of those long traditions carried forward to our children.

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The question is this: Is man an ape or an angel?  I, my lords, am on the side of the angels.
| Benjamin Disraeli |

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