Saturday, August 29, 2015

What Does It Mean To Be Human?



The Smithsonian is presenting a traveling exhibit in 19 libraries across the country, asking What Does It Mean to Be Human? Fortunately, one of them is located nearby, and a friend and I visited it this past week.
The primary subject of the exhibit is, of course, human evolution, and timelines illustrating skeletal changes, social gatherings, tool use, art, etc. are abundantly displayed.
But I was more interested in just how the scientists have arrived at today’s body of knowledge on the subject. And I was not disappointed; explanations were plentifully supplied. For example:

 Early African Homo erectus fossils (sometimes called Homo ergaster) are the oldest known early humans to have possessed modern human-like body proportions with relatively elongated legs and shorter arms compared to the size of the torso. These features are considered adaptations to a life lived on the ground, indicating the loss of earlier tree-climbing adaptations, with the ability to walk and possibly run long distances.

Similar explanations accompany each of the various categories comparing “modern” human characteristics to those of earlier primates.
Naturally this exhibit is prime fodder for the Bible-thumpers. Letters vilifying the “fiction” of Darwin and the atheism of science have appeared in the newspaper, and there is a web site proclaiming that the exhibit is a propaganda vehicle for atheism.
The following is a quote from The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. It concerns the tools available 2,000 years ago to the man attempting to make sense of the world around him:

He was compelled to fix time without a watch, to compare degrees of heat without a thermometer, to observe the heavens without a telescope and the weather without a barometer . . . Of all our mathematical, optical, and physical instruments he possessed only the rule and the compass, together with the most imperfect substitutes for some few others. Chemical analysis, correct measurement and weights, and a thorough application of mathematics to physics were unknown. The attractive force of matter; the law of gravitation; electrical phenomena; the conditions of chemical combination; pressure of air and its effects; the nature of light, heat, combustion; etc.-in short, all the facts on which the physical theories of modern science are based were wholly, or almost wholly, undiscovered. 

I realize why that man might attribute the buzzing activity around him to the activities of gods, but I have a hard time understanding why a man with today’s tools would do so. Couldn’t evolution be a part of God’s plan?
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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

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