So, let’s set the record straight: I’m not a scientist, a biologist, or an astrobiologist. I research my topic, I try to make it funny and interesting for you, dear reader, and that’s that. What that longwinded intro is trying to say is: don’t shoot the messenger; there are tons of theories regarding the origin of life on Earth and, specifically, the beginning of humanity, but I didn’t come up with any those theories nor base my PhD on them. I don’t even have PhD unless PhD stands for ‘Poor Humorist/Drinker’. But since you’re here, you might as well take a little literary journey with me into the origin of humans.
There’s a group of scientists that has found the exact amount of amino acids necessary to develop complex life in an extraterrestrial carrier. No, it’s not a shiny UFO or little green men but rather comets or meteors containing carbon and simple amino acids which might have seeded the first building blocks of life on Earth. This is actually a widely accepted theory in the scientific world, known also as panspermia or Exogenesis. In conjunction with the fact that we know that meteors and comets often strike planets in the solar system, it seems like a feasible theory. This theory has even boiled over into the realms of popular culture as seen in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus when the highly evolved extraterrestrial “Engineers” seed DNA onto Earth, thus creating man. I really hope we aren’t the failed experiment of some super intelligent hyper-evolved alien race. That would make a lot more people feel really inadequate.
Lighting and Volcanoes
From the formation of Earth until about 4.5 billion years ago, our cute little planet was constantly pummeled and bombarded with cosmic debris the size of Texas or a small European country, the big cosmic meanies! That event resulted in intense volcanic and tectonic activity, and also the oceans to evaporate. Although the Earth didn’t have rocks on it until about 3.8 billion years ago, when it did start forming a crust, volcanoes came with it. OK, try to stay with me here because we are at the peak of the scientific jargon rollercoaster and we are about to spiral down into science incomprehensibility.
Volcanoes are a**holes: they spew earth-scorching lava, and billow clouds of dark smoke and sulfurous gases. These clouds of smoke and gases then rise up into the atmosphere and become electrified pillows of toxic fumes and death (as seen in the image above), known as volcanic thunderstorms or by their much more Heavy Metal name: Dirty Thunderstorms (and I’m claiming that as my own band name, so don’t even think about it).
Well, in 1953, chemists Harold Urey and Stanley Miller conducted an experiment that exposed various gases to lightening-like electrical discharges, with little result. Three years later, however, the duo exposed hydrogen sulfide (the sulfurous gas volcanoes spew) to an electrical discharge and what they got were amino acids identical to the ones necessary to create life. They then looked at the results, said “Cool!” and put the vials with the amino acids in a cardboard box where they were forgotten for 50 years. Luckily, a student of theirs found their experiment and results and said, “Hey guys, check this out! Electricity and sulfurous gases from volcanoes can totally create life! My now dead mentor proved it with this dusty experiment I totally found!”
The Origin of Humans
OK, some might argue that the origin of humans and the origin of life aren’t the same, and I’ve got to give it to you. Humans aren’t simple single-celled amoebas (although I’ve met many with about the same I.Q.), they are a complex organism with high functioning intellect (again, there are exceptions to this rule. Just go outside for long enough). Scientists first speculated that humans are ancestors of the great ape, which makes sense to a certain extent. Great apes live in small communities similar to humans’ early societies, they use tools, and they have opposable thumbs.
The thing that still baffles scientists, though, is that most evolutionary chains are uninterrupted; our speculated chain on the other hand, with apes as our ancestors, is missing multiple links. That made scientists stroke their long white beards (don’t all scientists have long white beards?) and say, “I think we might be approaching this all wrong,” while scratching their heads under their top hats (scientists wear top hats, right? Maybe I’m thinking about chimney sweepers).
So, they went back to the dusty expanses of the Ethiopian desert, where they found a skeleton that changed everything they thought about our lineage. Then, a few years later, they found an older skeleton of an early primate that could be an ancestor. And so on and so forth. As it stands, scientists still haven’t found the proverbial missing link that connects us to primates, and every new fossil they find puts the fork where ape and hominid species diverge further, and further, back. We’ll just have to wait, I guess.
There is a school of science that postulates that religion tradition can actually corroborate science’s claim on the origin of humans. This group of scientists believes that God was a grand architect of sorts, setting up the natural world and then allowing evolution as described by biologists to take its course. The unfortunate reality of being a theistic evolutionist is that you basically p*ss everyone off, or at least the people that believe God created man independent of all other life forms, and the sane people that believe that humans evolved from another subspecies. These scientists sit in limbo in between the two arguments saying, “Why can’t we just all get along?” but nobody gets along with anybody. Just read the Bible for proof of that – the first part is like a History Channel documentary on how many ways people can kill each other.
Young Earth Creationism
I left the most amusing for last. These geniuses believe that the Earth is just 10,000 years old and that humans were created concurrently with every other life form on Earth and even the Earth itself was created at the same time – a cosmic *POOF* and everything appeared, if you will. Dinosaurs hung out with humans, humans hung out with mammoths, and mammoths where eaten by humans. Sounds pretty metal, actually… I don’t know why I used Metal twice in the same article, especially considering that I enjoy just a spot of languid elevator music, but in small digestible portions I’m very easily excitable.
What’s your perceptive on the origin of humans? Let me know in the comment section below.