Thursday, February 10, 2011

Disputing Darwin

By Alan Caruba

Abraham Lincoln was born on the same day, February 12, as Charles Darwin in 1809. The place was Shrewsbury, England and he was the fifth child and second son of Robert Waring Darwin and Susanna Wedgwood. He would bequeath the family name to science as Darwinism or Darwinian.

He wrote “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859), generally referred to as “The Origin of Species” for short. From Darwin we have the common phrase “the survival of the fittest” and, of course, “the theory of evolution.”

When I sold my home, one of the biggest problems I had was what to do with all the books my parents had filled it with over the years. They seemingly read everything and built shelves for all them. I did bring a few of the older, leather-bound books with me and one was the “Descent of Man” by Darwin.

When I cracked it open, its yellowing pages, each with two columns of text in small print, struck me immediately as intensely researched, filled with the kind of minutia that only someone with a scientific turn of mind could gather and write. It is no dazzling page-turner, but in his time, before radio or television, reading was the way people entertained and educated themselves.

Darwin’s books ran counter to many religious beliefs of his time or even ours. Even today some preachers take exception to the notion we are descended from monkeys. We’re not, but we do share a lot of DNA with chimps and gorillas. Suffice to say, Darwin stirred considerable debate in England. His theories of evolution were quite revolutionary in his time. And since!

Just ask Robert W. Felix, the author of “Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps: The True Origin of Species.” I am biased because I was among a select few to read the manuscript before publication.

What Felix had learned from his research for a previous book, “Not By Fire, But by Ice” he extended in his book about magnetic reversals. It is fairly dazzling science. Even Darwin, had he ever known about magnetic reversals would have had to revise his theories

“I learned, “wrote Felix, “that many geomagnetic reversals—far more than could be dismissed as mere coincidence—had occurred in sync with mass extinctions. And many of those magnetic reversals had occurred in sync with our plant’s descent into catastrophic glaciation”; in other words, ice ages.

And here’s where it gets downright astonishing. Many “entirely new kinds of plants and animals appeared in the geologic record almost immediately after extinctions—time after time after time. The new plants and animals had arrived as if from nowhere, with no known ancestors, with no intermediate life forms to explain their sudden presence.”

So, while Darwin theorized that animals mutated over millions of years, adapting to their environments, growing longer beaks to suck nectar from plants, developing larger hearts and lungs to run or swim faster, acquiring the ability to fly instead of just gliding, coming up with all sorts of ways to avoid becoming prey, Felix says it likely happened in the flash of a galactic minute.

It’s useful, too, to understand what newcomers we humans are. “Did you know,” asks Felix, “that we (anatomically modern humans) are blindingly new?—that we’ve existed for only 200,000 years or so.”

As for what we call “civilization”, that’s only at best 5,000 years in which humans developed agriculture and technologies such as metallurgy. If the ancient texts are a guide, we spent much of our time making war on one another. In just the last century, we perfected instruments of war to a point where we swiftly slaughtered millions. Humans, though highly social, are surely one of the most dangerous species on Earth.

“Mass extinctions,” writes Felix, “have been the rule, rather than the exception, for the 3.5 billion years that life has existed on this planet. Almost identical, each extinction was abrupt, each was extensive, and each was caused by some temporary, unexplainable event.”

It turns out that magnetic reversals are likely those events. “During a geo-magnetic reversal, cosmic radiation would bombard our planet, leading to mutation or death. New kinds of animals appear in the geologic record ‘virtually simultaneously’ with magnetic reversals…”

All of which suggests that, while millions around the globe have been hoodwinked by the global warming charlatans, the real challenge to the human race and all other species is a colossal cosmic event beyond our imagination or control.

And while Darwin got us thinking about evolution, in his time of study and writing, 1836 to 1859, indeed right up to his death in 1882, there was much that limited the scientists of his day and influenced the interpretation of their discoveries.

It is likely that Darwin’s theory is fundamentally wrong.

If Robert W. Felix is right—and I think he is—the planet is at the end of a typical 11,500 interglacial cycle between ice ages and will tip into one any day now. When a magnetic reversal occurs, we humans shall be like the dinosaurs or saber tooth tigers, a thing of the past.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


Ronbo said...

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

--Robert Frost

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful and very fortunate Interglacial period mankind has enjoyed over the past 11,500 years. A magnificent, stupendous rise to power and control of his domain especially amid the numerous warming periods of that time of creativity.
What a tragic loss it would be should such a catastrophic event occur that would wipe-out mankind and all his achievments after such a short existance of 200,000 years. It would surely be a species' shortest lived span of almost any species.
Interesting to ponder if the likes of us would ever re-appear on this world.
It's taken some 3.5 billion years for us to appear in our present form and level of civilization and achievements - all down to our physical shape and brain size.
As our sun is set to go supernova in another 4.5 billion years time the question of our re-birth begs the question of whether or not there is enough time for a creature of our intellect and purpose to develop - in whatever format.
That circumstance notwithstanding,how facinating to think that if magnetic reversals are so dynamic in the changes they produce, and that on average there are 750,000years between reversals,then millions of reversals are possible with all the new life that that implies.
Phew! There is hope for us yet.
In the meantime, History Channel's 'Life Without People' is not kind to what we leave behind.

Clive from the Philippines.

Alan Caruba said...

@Clive: Man is so horrified by the fact that we die like other creatures, we have invented Heaven and an afterlife to console us.

We have invented many other things as well and overall mankind is quite extraordinary.

We are, however, very tribal, very violent, despite our ability to do great things with literature, music, science, etc.

It is a paradox.

Ronbo said...


The game of human life ain't over until it's over: Mankind may become yet become gods.

Maybe Nietzsche was right after all - that Man will become Superman, although not by evolution, but by His own Will and Intelligence, "Triumph of the Will to become Immortal."


If this advance in science happens while I'm alive, I opt to be Apollo (grin)...

Ronbo said...


Yes, man is a paradox.

Americans in particular.

We have achieved more than any other civilization in the history of the planet, but at the cost of over 300 years of slavery, genocide of the American Indian and terrible wars using every deadly weapon possible, to include the nuclear one, in order to produce the most death and destruction.

As the late great Orson Wells said,

"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

-Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man

retch said...

Just want to say that Darwin may have, and has been, wrong at times (who isn't?), but his theory is what biology is all about these days. He didn't even know about Mendel, hadn't an inkling of DNA/RNA—which gave him all sorts of trouble. But as Alan says, "meticulously researched".
Coming to the point, it's hard to see how radiation or cosmic rays or whatever would or could have resulted, all of a sudden, in color-sensitive night-vision 3D eyes, or in wings for bats.
My feeling is, Richard Dawkins explains this very elegantly indeed, in the name of Darwin who didn't know better. Would have been a veritable AHA! experience for old Charles.

Anonymous said...

A fair number of species have been around for a lot longer than any interglacial period. I was just now reading about the surmise that grasses are at least 24 million years old, based on dentition of horse teeth fossils of that age. Horses? Horses?

And sharks and crocagators and suchlike have been around a while.

Given homo sap's far-superior adaptability, I imagine a goodly number will survive. Rural and primitive folks have better odds, of course.

Some changes are quick, some are slow--but change is the only constant.