Saturday, April 24, 2010

the driving force II



Video - Excerpt from Chronos.

Acceleration of change sweeps us away. One week recently, I passed a yellowed, run-down, student-infested house on the main street of town while bicycling to the campus as usual. A week afterward the view past the house across to the neighboring schoolyard was splendid. For the first time in living memory, it was unobstructed.

Mountains framed the distant backdrop. The house was gone. No sign that any house hade ever been there remained, except newly raked soil in the footprint of a simple ground plan. Such dramtic changes in our immediate surroundings are commonplace. Burger King, Toys "R" Us, Wendys, McDonalds, and bank branches sprout in our cities and towns. Mom-andpop shops, wheat fields, and old oaks disappear like coins dropped into the sand. Native Americans thrive if they form gambling liasons, graduate students receive stipends when they change from studying the habits of beavers inside their lodges to the search for genes in the human genome.
  1. Why do the forces of change always seem to prevail over the quiet and uneventful habits of the past?
  2. Why does the evolution of life seem to accelerate as we move into the present and out toward the future?
  3. Is evolution just random change?
  4. Does the evolutionary process itself, the origin and diversification of life from common ancestors, seem to be directed?
When we ask evolutionary biologists and other scientists if the evolution of life is going in some direction, they adamantly deny it. But our everyday experience suggests that our social environment grows more complex. Our natural green and watery environment seems to shrink to be locally augmented with metallic solids. Neon lights, traffic signals, and other aspects of urbanization replace woodlands and open streams at an ever-increasing rate of change. People crowd out foxes and antelope, pigeons and sparrows replace orioles and woodpeckers. Digital tools supplant simple mechanical devices at alarming speeds. Evolution of life does seem to have a direction. Life's peculiarities and human technologies do seem to expand at an accelerating rate of change as we come from the past toward the present. Darwin's Dilemma Acquiring Genomes Lynn Margulis.

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