The three articles in this issue have appeared in publications devoted to speculative philosophy; "In-Genius" in New York and "Reality and Meaning" in Toronto.


NOTES ABOUT EVOLUTION

By William Markiewicz

My friend read in In-Genius (Issue 67) that I am not totally satisfied with the theory of evolution and asked me if I have other alternatives (I don't). I feel that the theory of evolution at its present stage puts us in a limbo in which we miss not only the link but also the point. We feel comfortable within the theory and, like creationists, we stop thinking. Here is a list of questions to stimulate our investigative spirit. As long as they remain unanswered they are challenging the theory of evolution.

1) In nature I know only one perfect illustration of the process of evolution: fetal development. The human fetus, in nine months, passes through all the stages of evolution -- fish, amphibian, reptile -- before reaching mammal and human stage. But this, paradoxically, denies rather than confirms the theory of evolution. Fetal development happens in a protected environment, the womb of the mother, and is a demonstration of what cannot happen in the competitive exterior environment. Competition doesn't tolerate intermediate stages.

2) Nature shows us the stability rather than the plasticity of the species. The dinosaurs existed for millions of years without any noticeable alterations. All we know in nature are the final irreversible stages. The everchanging growing stem of the 'tree of life' is a hypothesis. There are "primitive" and "developed" species. There is an unbelievable mixture of primitive and developed characteristics within the same species, but the process leading from one to another remains a mystery.

3) Mollusks are the most primitive among multicellulars, more primitive than, for instance, the earthworm. Still, their existence is a true challenge to the theory of evolution. They are the only invertebrates that compete successfully with the vertebrates. Octopus, squid, are huge, powerful, fast swimming hunters. The more developed arthropods and insects were unable to reach this stage. Apparently the octopus can be tamed. Its eye is a marvel of evolution. It's beyond understanding that such a complex tool can exist in such a primitive species. Logically it doesn't belong there. But -- what does nature care about our logic? This bizarre mixture of evolved and primitive characteristics exists among many species and the theory of evolution could never explain it.

4) We define evolution by two criteria: economy in morphology (two eyes, two ears, two kidneys, four limbs...) and by the capacity of ensuring survival. Still, the primitive evergreen conifers resist the harsh north winters better than the more evolved leafy trees. Trees, which are bicotyledon, live years longer than the more evolved monocotyledon plants. Gingko, the most primitive among trees, resists climatic conditions and pollution better than more evolved ones. There is an individual vigour factor in nature which seems to defy the necessity of evolution. The most primitive creatures, like microbes and viruses, can be the most valuable allies or the most deadly enemies for the more evolved species.

5) A word about mutation: both evolution and mutation deal with the potential for change. Never in history have we been so exposed to all kinds of radiation as we are now. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl, haven't produced any notable collective or even individual changes up to now. I have seen laboratory workers who didn't take the most elementary precautions when dealing with radioactive material. Who knows, maybe they caught cancer, but not mutations. Countless computer workers, word processors, etc., are exposed daily to radiation, not to mention people glued to the TV screen. Summer after summer I've seen insects attracted to lit up TV screens. It bothered neither the viewers nor the insects -- and still no mutations. Living matter must be pretty resistant to keep its integrity against possible mutation and -- why not -- evolution.

6) Let's talk about evolution in behaviour; a primitive family like termites and the more evolved ants have practically the same behaviour. The scorpion, more primitive than the fly, presents much more complex behaviour. The roach, an evolutionary cousin of termites, doesn't possess any social structure at all. In the human family's behaviours, we have primitive and evolved characteristics coexisting, with no explanation offered up to now. The most primitive tribes like the Papous possess a very sophisticated mythology -- and the boomerang. Some South East Asian islanders show ingenious architectural and agricultural structures, while the rest of their culture belongs to the stone age. And no evolution in sight; practically everywhere in the world, from the most primitive tribes to the most sophisticated civilizations like the Chinese or Hindu, we encounter the immutable eternal present (if left to themselves, of course.) Practically none of them, from the primitive to the sophisticated ones, remember the beginning of their respective civilizations; for them it has been like this forever and they all have only one creationistic explanation: gifts from gods.

Strangely enough, the universe offers only two samples of evolution: fetal development and -- Western civilization. The West can trace its development in clearly defined stages practically from prehistory. It seems that Darwin, a Westerner, grafted the history of his own continent onto his theory. Question "en passant": Why is evolution limited only to Western civilization? It is not a matter of abilities, as we see that other populations have adopted Western ways and compete successfully with Westerners. One more enigma with no answer in the near future. I think that we shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to find answers when we haven't yet finished gathering all the questions. 


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