Thursday, February 22, 2007

Natural Selection and Time

Natural Selection and Time

One of my goals for the summer 2002 was to explore the realm of two geological mysteries- Physical Time and Controversial Evolution, using Geopoetry. Currently, Stephen Gould (now deceased) has moved the debate into the realm of Taxonomy, while the physicists debate whether Time is a physical entity.

The first controversy was created when the famous “monkey trial” caused a standoff between the religious assertives and science, creating a polarization of attitudes. Just the word Evolution now strikes fear and loathing among the right wing. The word should be dropped from geological nomenclature about progression of life as seen in the fossil record, because of the emotional aura surrounding its usage. Gould would have us use the better term- Natural Selection- to get on a better footing. It seems that was what was used originally by Darwin. There have been some poor examples associated with evolution anyway- the most famous of which was the portrayal of the horse as a prime example of evolution, portrayed by Eohippus of the Eocene and its change through all of the Cenozoic to yield the current equus caballo (el horse). After holding this up as the best case for Evolution, it was found that the principal difference among the various fossils of equus was that of size (and man can create any size dog that a prospective purchaser desires, within a few generations of canines- so this is not the best that can be said about natural selection, which in this case is artificial selection). The most penetrating revelation that I have seen on TV is that for the AIDS virus treatment. A cocktail of chemicals has been used, first to kill most of the virus with an initial chemical. Then, when the survivors (who have been "naturally selected" by virtue of their better genes), which are now resistant to the first chemical, begin to proliferate, a second chemical is introduced which now defeats them- allowing a new batch of "naturally selected survivors" to gradually emerge. They overpower any others, and so on. This whole endeavor illustrates how fast Natural Selection operates, and it should not be dubbed Evolution. Evidently, organic life adjusts almost immediately (geologically speaking) to any change in the environment. If the environment changes in spurts, the fossils will show this feature (as in "meteoritic bombardments"). If the climate becomes colder slowly, as in the case of the Tierra del Fuego natives, the inhabitants can develop a natural anti-freeze- which allows them to live frugally in the frigid climate, using no clothes.

The second mystery is that of time. It seems that science has always given four terms as being the basis for Freshman Physics: m,l,t, and c- mass, length, time and electrical charge. All of these can be measured independently except time, and time always seemed obvious. After all, one can view a year by the sun, a month by the moon, and a second by the spacing of nuclear emissions or other things. But all of these are inferred by rates- the rate of the earth going around the sun, the moon going around the earth, or by radioactive decay. Time can not be directly measured, and now it is suspected of being relative anyway. A new idea has surfaced that perceives of action as being a series of frames in your mind- that is what you remember, if you have ever had an emotional trauma. That frame sticks with you until death (fortunately, I have no first hand experience with this). But this has an appeal to older scientists, and may be a useful way of looking at organic changes. Gould submitted that organic life had bursts of change, brought about by major changes in the environment surrounding the organism. Some hack observed that this was evolution by “jerks”, to which Gould promptly replied that the critic would evidently prefer Evolution by “creeps”.

Hence I submit my original fledgling, as an almost final version of Natural Selection through Time.


Throughout the realms of conjectured Time

There occurs a thought which will not rhyme-

That Beings made with clay-like slime

Don’t fit the current paradigm.

We hunt in vain to find our mate

Who's made from aluminum-silicate;

And not just that, we take the bait

That like the horse- we evol(ate).

The horse we found upon inspection

Not only increased its great erection;

But with its greater noise subjection

Became a cause-celebre correction.

There was no gradual evolution,

Rather increased air pollution-

Due to human elocution,

With greater Geological Dilution.

Now, feats of punctuated change

Descend upon us like the mange.

With radioactivity- Oh so strange-

The genes, like mind, may soon derange.

When we make a mass defection

Back to Natural Selection,

We will make a gross detection

Of ol’ Nature’s predilection.

Within a life-ly population

There is considerable variation;

Then environment's deviation

Brings a new consideration.

The species which can soon adapt

Will with similars soon be wrapped,

In a survival mode- all mapped

For future viewing (others trapped).

Behind this existence there's no plan-

But there is a mode for Man;

Hedge your strategy, if you can

With Statistics (Nothing ban!).

Give most weight to Nature's view-

That in man's traditional stew,

Arbitrary is not really New

(Just a way to fleece the few).

Watch Her actions of the day,

Which are subtle, but in play;

While in the fossil record lay

The successful ones (for Man's display).

Now we view the past through time,

From the rocks, and frames they mime;

How an instant- so sublime-

Is preserved for future rhyme.

Simple time is in Man's head-

Storing there the vital thread,

Bathed in prisms, Gold and Red,

That ne'er wash out till he is dead.

Only He can keep the frames

That will harbor crests and flames,

In our lives- the dreams, the aims-

While whispering in our ear the Fames

Which while soon forgotten stayed,

In our minds' eye forever played-

As Aces in existence staid-

Those Frames of Life which we have made.

Harold L. Overton