Have you ever thought about how amazing evolution is?
I’m studying for two tests–one about the environment and humanity and one about human health–and, let me tell you, evolution has done a spectacular job of making this world of ours.
Stop and think of what this world can do, of what a human body can do, and of how well it’s done.
I know that people get colds and headaches and pain, and have organs that fail and diseases that are unspeakably hard to live through. I know that we can be slow to learn new skills, that we sometimes have memory spans that can rival those of goldfish. But the incredible thing is that, for most people, most of the time, most of their body works–and works in the most complex of ways.
When I drive a car, I’m scanning the road ahead for things I don’t want to hit (hint: pedestrians fall into this category). My eyes and brain work together in a way I know little about, but that SJ could no doubt wax lyrical in explaining. My feet press the pedals; my hands are busy with the steering wheel, gears, and indicators. I’m turning at junctions, adjusting my speed, and reading signs. At the same time (believe it or not) I can be listening to music and even thinking about something else entirely–not about obstacles or direction or even about the music but perhaps about what I’ll be doing at my destination or my plans for later in the week.
I haven’t even listed everything.
And that’s before I get into what my body does when I drive that I’m not even in control of. The thud-thud of my heart never stops. My white cells could be playing search and destroy with oodles of pathogens in the space of a single car journey. Neurotransmitters fire in my brain, nerve endings and muscles do their jobs, and, basically, everything works. And guess what? It happens all the time.
I know that floods destroy and fires consume and tornadoes tear and throw and some people are convinced that the global climate is changing. But such things make the headlines because they’re not what normally happens. Normally, water dances through an incredible cycle from ground to sky to ground again, and in most places falls in enough quantities to sustain life and not enough to kill it. The sun is placed just where it should be. It doesn’t fluctuate so greatly in its temperature that people are scorched one day and frozen the next (and I’m using those verbs quite literally). The world itself just hangs in nothingness, and never seems to feel the need to take an excursion outside of the Milky Way. There are atoms and molecules and fungi and phytoplankton and a host of tiny things that all do their jobs, often without our seeing them, without our help and without our say-so. It just happens–and happens in such a way that, broadly speaking, this world is a habitable and even a hospitable place.
And it all just appeared from nowhere, got this way without any help, and it carries on all by itself too.
Why don’t more things go wrong? Does nitrogen never get tired of doing the rounds on the nitrogen cycle? Objects of falling down rather than up? The moon of hanging? Molecules of coming together and joining apart exactly when they should?
Why do I mostly feel well? Why can I normally work and learn and remember and multitask? What keeps almost every cell inside me working almost all the time? How did cells like that ever decide to start working together in human bodies anyway and what makes them keep it up?
I don’t know the half of what goes on inside me, let alone what goes on in this planet.
The fact that all we see–and we ourselves–just appeared, that everything got to be the way it is without any help whatsoever, and that every process from the rhythmic regularity of the tides to my trusty cardiovascular system can maintain itself in a generally regular and predictable way, is, well, incredible.
O Evolution, you’re so incredible that, quite frankly, I find I don’t have enough faith to believe in you at all.