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James Brody September 30th, 2010 01:59 PM

Y B Chimp?
Yesterday (September 29th) Rush Limbaugh argued, correctly, that evolution and intelligent design – like religions, seers, and chiropractors – suffer from a lack of predictive power.

And all have limited ability to account for their past: Chimps don’t have much accumulation of facts and stories, humans cannot past the Big Bang which drops a so far impenetrable curtain on our origins. And Eden appeared from nothing by means of a voice and a pointing finger.

It can also be argued that 14 billion years have extended our sense of "now" a little bit into the past and even less into the future.

Rush concluded that chimps got screwed by evolution: They could have had hot water, air conditioning, and Paris Hilton.

I have to disagree with him about the arrogant joy of being human.

J.B.S. Haldane concluded that the fossil piles of horns, huge teeth, and armor are testimony to things that worked in a particular environment and that became impossible costs when environments changed. Fangs and horns fell to viruses, volcanoes, meteors, floods, drought, and atmospheric change. And Rome may have fallen to vandals but she probably first fell to lead in water pipes, make-up, and pottery. And we owe some recognition to Rome’s competing religions, confused Caesars, and a Praetorian Guard that, as if it were the first labor union, had to be bought.

T Rex stalked and bellowed for two million years ( but still lay down, curled up, and died by its nest of eggs. The folks who made the same axe heads for two million years were probably infected by the intention to please gods rather than any useful outcomes from those tools.

Bottom line: we are smart but not that incredibly smart. And we may not be the first species to kill itself with excesses that eventually became liabilities. After all, ants and roaches may be here long after we are.

It is also possible that some kid in his room even now manufactures our replacement.

Conceive of predator drones and other robot weapons intended to kill impulsive, nasty humans. Conceive also that we establish routines for self-maintenance and experimentation in those robots. Humans next expire on overdoses of Viagra, Hydrolyze, and STDs. Or it may be that our peculiar vulnerability to an EMP attack could leave our towns and toys relatively intact, a puzzle to whatever curious minds come along later.
Outcome – a planet waiting for visitors, inhabited by roaches and robots but with no evolutionary connection between them…

Haldane, J.B.S. (1932/1990) The Causes of Evolution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press.

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