February 22, 2007

The Mother of Us All

Recently, we passed an important holiday without much fanfare.
February 12th was Darwin's birthday. The persecuted author of "Origin of Species" has brought us so much entertainment over the years and given so much to the mass media industry that failure to even recognize his contributions is, if you will pardon the expression, a sin.
Back in the years B-911, in the year 2000, a team of international geneticists traced mitochondrial DNA through several populations and "determined" that our most recent common ancestor was a woman who lived in Africa some 143,000 years ago, the so-called Eve.
Of course, that is just a PR designation. And since she was probably "human", she herself had ancestors, if Chuck D was correct. Her many-times-great granny would have been an Australopithecus afarensis (such as the lass above). And HER name (if she had one) was probably the plains ape equivalent of "hot hips", since she survived to reproduce at least a few some offspring.
As to tracing the genes of humanity back to these "common ancestors," of course that is just a statistical game, and probably irrelevant.
We all had two parents. Well, maybe not ALL of us, but for the sake of argument and statistics, let's say "all." So, we all can claim four grandparents, eight great-grands, and so forth. By the time you go back 30 generations (about 600 years, give or take), you've got over a million antecedents. A bit further (though not much), and the number of your ancestors outnumbers the total population of humanity. That's total population. All of humanity on the planet.
So we're all related? Achmed the Mad Bomber is my cousin? I should have gotten an invite to Dubya's nuptials? Not really.
Some of us are related along multiple lines. All of us may be related distantly along a line or two. Follow it back far enough, and if Darwin was correct, and if the subsequent "Out of Africa" theory is true, there HAD to be a first human-like female on the Dark Continent whose genes came forward.
Interesting concept.
But by that same logic, we are "related" to chipmunks, being all "mammals" who must have had a common ancestor. And, certes, we could trace our ancestry back to those first lungfish that crawled out of the crowded cretaceous seas. Head back another few hundred million years and we are all the descendants of a puddle of goo, since we all came from the same primordial chemical soup in the oceans of pre-life Earth. Reductio ad absurdum, let's trace it a bit further back, say a billion or so years, and we are all related to the Sun, since the same cosmic dust that coalesced into Old Sol also made up Earth and the comets and other planets in orbit around him.
As Karl Sagan used to say (bless is soul), "We are all star stuff."
Yeah, we probably are all related to Eve the Monkeygirl from the plains of Afrique, thanks to Charles Darwin for pointing it out (blush). But to the same degree, we are related to the rocks and soil beneath our feet, and/or (if you are so inclined), the stars in the heavens, as well.


muninn said...

I already posted a picture of Homo Pelosius Moonbatius. I dont really see a need for another, but it does prove that evolution can work both ways. Man may be more succesful as a herd animal than a hunter-gatherer. We seem poised to test that assumption soon. Kudos to Mr.Darwin for attempting to apply science to the origin of species, and a hearty "Billions and billions" to the late great Dr.Sagan (of Nuclear Winter fame). I always believed that the Mitochondrial detective story going back to "Eve" was just a sop to the feminist/Racist/Equality movement more than actual scientific fact.Speaking of which, dont mean to nitpick but the Cretacious was the last of the three Mesozoic periods(preceded by the Jurassic and Triassic)which culminated in the mass extinction of 65 million years ago. The slimy lungfish were several hundred million years before that, but lets let bygone eras be bygone shall we? If you would like an engaging read from the creationist point of view, I would recommend Ann Coulter's "Godless" She is nearly always amusing("Invade their countries, Kill their leaders, and convert them to christianity")but the last third of "Godless" is dedicated to a deconstruction of Darwinism that is so devestating as to be almost believable.She fails to offer any other explanation for the proliferation of species however, so I will stick to the time honored tradition that the world was created when Odin, Villi, and Ve first carved up the Frost-Giant Ymir and breathed life into stick and mud people to make us humans. I still cant figure out where the giant cow came from though. Theology gives me a headache.See you at the Ragnarok.

Aethelred said...

Did you just call Nancy Peliosi a Homo?
She'll be so pleased.
Yeah, I know that "Cretacious was the last of the Mesozoic (middle old times). I just liked the alliteration "crawled crowded cretaceous" and figured that a geologic era or five was no biggie between friends when one was searching for an amusing bon mot.
Does this mean I am becoming decadent?