Saturday 03 Dec 2016

A Third View of Evolution
Sjef Frenken

Dear reader, you've probably figured out by now that my accounts of my lunches with Jack are not complete. Indeed, there's quite a bit of editing involved. Surely you don't want to hear the pedestrian question-and-answer dialogues or comments about the health and well-being of our respective wives, ex-wives, children, grandchildren, mutual friends, the rising cost of living, the overall state of the world, and so on, that serve as the usual introduction to our lunches.

I mean, are you really interested in knowing that yesterday's lunch started out with an in-depth discussion of whether the plural of "flatfoot" (as in policeman) is "flatfeet" or "flatfoots"? Especially as we didn't arrive at an agreement. You get my drift.

Eventually we wound up discussing Darwin's Theory of Evolution, although I don't quite know how we wandered onto that topic. Jack brought up some interesting points. He mentioned that he'd recently visited the newly renovated Museum of Nature. He was particularly struck by a model of an archaeopterix, considered the ancestor of birds.

"I haven't read Darwin's 'Origin of the Species'," said Jack, "but I don't see how some animal can just develop feathers.And if it did, they would only be small ones that would not have been enough for it to fly. So what would have been the advantage that would lead to the survival of that particular species?"

I said I didn't know.

Jack continued: "I thought at first that maybe it was an intermediate form between the pterodactyl and true birds, but scientists say that's not true. Besides, the pterodactyl didn't really fly; it was a glider. It didn't have anything like feathers, just a leather-like skin, like a bat, between its arms and legs. Actually, I have a problem with the pterodactyl too. It seems they only launched themselves from cliffs, and depended on up-drafts to get back to where they dived of from. So how did the little chick pterodactyls learn how to glide? It's not as if they were birds, who try out their wings in the nest till they can practically fly. Most of the baby pterodactyls must have dropped like a stone and crashed on the rocks below before they could figure it out. No wonder they're extinct!"

I said "it's a good thing they're no longer around, dinosaurs I mean. It would be like living in one of those 1950's Japanese horror movies. Think of what even one brontosaurus could do to your average suburb!"

Jack was not to be sidetracked. "And another thing. Evolutionists explain the long neck of a giraffe on the fact that with all the competition for leaves on trees, only the ones with a longer neck would survive, and that ultimately we arrive at the current long-necked animal. But the funny thing is that in the areas where the giraffes live, there are also small herbivores. How do you explain that?"

I said I hadn't studied evolution to any extent, although if Darwin's theory was good enough for the Pope, it was good enough for me.

"That's an important point -- it's only a theory," said Jack.

I said, "Jack, while it's called a theory, the evidence on the whole is overwhelmingly on Darwin's side. It's not provable in the traditional scientific sense, in that it should be repeatable under laboratory conditions, but it certainly qualifies under Occam's Razor: it is the most simple and likely model to account for the paleontological and other scientific evidence. Any other theory demand extraordinary intervention."

Jack said "You mean God creating the earth a few thousand years ago and planting the dinosaur bones to fool us? Why would He do that?"

I said "I don't know.

Jack said "He could, I guess. After all, it's His creation. And He does have a sense of humour -- think of sex."

Time to head Jack away from his favourite topic. I said "Anyhow that's one alternative theory; some kind of interference by aliens."

It didn't take long for Jack to see the opportunities presented by this line of inquiry.

"Maybe Dinosaurs were put here by aliens, the Earth serving as a kind of zoo. No wonder we can't find intermediate forms of dinosaurs between one kind and another, supposedly later, more evolved kind. Or maybe Earth was a laboratory to study these huge animals. Hell, maybe it still is a laboratory, and we are the specimens. That'd be something. That would explain all those UFOs: they're checking up on us from time to time. Or maybe Earth is a concentration camp for beings that can't figure out how to get along with themselves, let alone beings from other planets. Or maybe it's a prison."

Jack paused, to give his inner vision more scope for discovery.

"Wow!" was all he managed.

Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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