My seven year old son recently asked me what it means that all known life forms share a common ancestor.
It occurred to me how fascinating this revelation is, especially for those who have not read up on biology. So I decided to blow his mind.
”You know how our family tree works? Well if you were to go back far enough, you would find we are related to just about everyone.”
”But if you kept following the tree back,, say about 200 million years, you would find that you are actually related to the dog!”
Science v Dogmatism
If you haven’t studied biology, this is a pretty unexpected claim. My son’s initial reaction to this was some serious skepticism. So I explained that the scientific evidence is overwhelming, but also emphasized that he is under no obligation to take my word for it.
Should he decide one day to take up biology and discover what it is about DNA and genetics that leads to this conclusion, he is welcome to make up his own mind. This is the beauty of science!
But this also brings up a point we should all heed: the core difference between science and dogmatism. If you’re putting up your hand and saying “ridiculous” at the first sign of anything you don’t agree with – you’re dogmatic. If you don’t understand but are willing to learn why people think the way they do, then you’re scientific.
Whether one is willing to accept an evolutionary process as a possible explanation for the existence of consciousness is typically a matter of ego. For some it’s difficult to even consider the possibility that we’re merely the lucky product of a complex process.
But dismissing this notion outright requires ignoring the findings of thousands upon thousands of biologists, anthropologists, genealogists, paleontologists, geologists, zoologists, botanists, embryologists, biochemists, and other fields of study that have compiled years of data that’s been studied, tested, and examined from all over the world and the scientific spectrum.
Yet consciousness is viewed as the final frontier of human essence, that which makes us special. Thus there is a dogmatic trend to refuse to understand the scientific understanding of evolution. This phenomena is not new. Consider the battle of mindsets that ensued when the idea of earth not being the center of the universe was put forth. What is most important to remember is that personal preference has never had a role in truth. Nature is unconcerned with the human ego.
Being Special for the Right Reasons
Perhaps it’s time to consider that humans are not special for all the dogmatic ideals – but for more extraordinary reasons. There is a view that doesn’t require pretending to know the truth or ignoring any evidence.
The fact is, we can ponder these questions, share our ideas, and reflect on our feelings about them in spite of the possibility that our entire existence may merely be the result of a complex yet natural genetic process.