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EVOLUTION SAMUEL STEARNS, M.D.* Evolving man moves faster, but error brings disaster. Each species meets its cul-de-sac; life moves one way, no turning back. We hope for orthogenesis, but fossils teach us as it is. Herr Spengler saw Man's history as cyclical and set, while Toynbee thought that war would end the brainiest species yet. Ecologists warn of human fate when all has been consumed; if Engels and Karl Marx were right, our society is doomed. But measuring by 5000 years implies myopia; * 1 1 1 Perkins Street, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts 02130. 58 Samuel Steams ¦ Evolution Nature's riches spill sans end from her cornucopia. I hope that de Chardin saw well the vector of creation; though I dispute his Omega point, I like his ideation. Our parts achieve a special goal because of their anlagen; how each grows different from the whole leaves open manyfragen. I hope the universe contains a similar ontogeny: that interstellar space retains a purposeful phylogeny. Should macrocosm be the less than microcosmic being? Myfrage rests, I must confess, on belief without the seeing. IV Meiosis is a pretty way (mutation is another) to alter one man's DNA from that within his brother. Genetic codes are at the root of making men and women, moron, dolt and crazy coot and those with more acumen. Diversity is Nature's aim, selection is her meth—od; if everybody were the same, would not be birth and death odd? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine ¦ Autumn 1977 59 On the Discovery of an Ancient Hominid, or Alas, Poor Yorick! The carbon dating of hisjaw suggests that he is very old, old enough to rouse our awe to think he roamed and ran the veldt so many years ago. Of course, he died quite young, stalked, felled and chewed by hungry carnivores. When Homo sapiens is found, charred by a nuclear bomb and blast, beneath a crumbling rock or mound, his jaw will also show the past and what he was—by a bridge, perhaps an inlay—and a fatal count of fusion-fashioned isotopes; and H. superior may muse, on pondering the fossil's age of 70, what lame excuse he gave himself for the feral rage that made him and his knowledge more deadly than any predator, more vicious than a carnivore. VI Why My Crystal Ball Is Cloudy To what unfathomable future end did stars condense from empty space and simple molecules arise, somehow to make the life which we now grace? It would be simple, if we only knew the purpose of it all, could see ahead, understand why hemoglobins all make different cells just blue or red. 60 Samuel Stearns · Evolution A seer could use a crystal ball, and a famous Greek geometer once said two points would lead unerringly beyond, so past and present point ahead. Perhaps, this way, the Roman augur feigned prophéties from the entrails of a fowl, the oracle from fumes of pot or such, the Chinese ditto, tea-leafed bowl. Alas! the past is full of points—which one? The present is a presbyopic blur: my crystal ball shows many lines, and I, confused, at prophecy demur. VII Selection, Not Election It's not the nice things only: rut, strut, song or color, blush of wattles, or a musky piss against a tree, but fiercer traits which win death battles for a turf, a mate and nature's dot. Aggression is a force of nature, too, like rain, snow, tide, heat and cold. Selection is impartial: to be true it can be neither good nor bad, but bold and pitiless to chose the fittest few. Some philosophers protest, demur: "Man's an angel, not a scowling ape!" They cannot let the truer thought occur: their fondest wish is just a sour grape, and their ideal must to the real defer. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine ¦ Autumn 1977 | 61 Vili On Dropping Out of the University-for Growing Peas in the Back Yard Father Mendel failed at school and turned to raising common peas, some dark, some white, some short, some tall— a hobby for his simple ease. Who really knows why he chose this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 58-69
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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