Human Origins – Is Science Right?

One of the most popular kinds of website these days are those providing genealogy records. They help people searching for their ancestral roots. We are uncertain about who we are. We seek identity. Where do we come from? What are our human origins?

Religious view of human origins

Up to about two centuries ago, the religious view prevailed in Western culture. Then, people assumed they were created in the image of God with an immortal soul. They were conscious of their designated place, in the grand scheme of things, as somewhere between the angels and the animals. In short, this Christian worldview gave life its meaning, a sense of our human origins and an outlook people could try to live by.

However, nowadays, in our secular times, we have lost awareness of transcendence and the sense of the sacred. A few people even think humans descend from aliens who visited earth. But even if true this wouldn’t explain how aliens came into existence.

Most people give the scientific way of knowing pride of place. Consequently, the question, ‘Who made us, God or evolution?’ is firmly answered in favour of the latter. In Darwin’s theory there is no room for divine guidance or design.

“We are the only people who think themselves risen from savages; everyone else believes they descended from gods.” (Marshall Sahlins)

The Christian fundamentalists who argue for creationism do religion no favours. They have a literal understanding of the biblical account of the 7 days of creation. So they see this as factual history. (An alternative view they don’t like is that the book of Genesis is a myth conveying a useful psycho-spiritual message relevant to personal growth.) Consequently, the ‘creationists’ make bogus scientific claims. Not surprisingly, these are easily derided by anyone with any sense. As a result, it has become next to impossible for the idea of design within our human origins to gain any kind of fair hearing.

Evolution and our human origins

It seems today that Darwinian evolution is the only possible explanation of life’s start and development. However, Huston Smith in his book ‘Beyond the Post-Modern Mind‘ presents the case for further consideration of a concept of ‘great origins’.

Fossils found in the Earth’s crust show that there have been changes in the constitution of plants and animals, and with the help of radioactive and potassium-argon dating, these have been placed in historical sequence.

Moreover, higher, more complex forms of life (such as human beings) appeared later than simpler ones. All species of life on earth can be traced back through their pedigrees to the simplest forms in which life initially appeared.

Darwin proposed how all this happened saying it did so through natural selection of those fittest to survive working on chance mutations. Darwinism is popular in science because natural selection is purely mechanical and the mutations on which it works do so solely by accident. In other words, biology views the origin and development of human life as an automatic process with no room for divine providence.

Perhaps this is not surprising as all branches of science avoid any account of natural phenomena as having any design. This is because there can be no scientific instruments to observe purpose and meaning. What might be intended is beyond the ability of science to judge empirically.

Criticism of Darwinian evolution

We need to ask questions about any fossil evidence for incremental change.

Geology… does not reveal… finely graded organic change and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against (my) theory.” (Charles Darwin)

Also, there is the question about a lack of fossil evidence for intermediate forms between species.

“Evolution requires intermediate forms between species, and palaeontology does not provide them.” (David Kitts professor of geology University of Oklahoma)

A third concern is to do with non-functionality of changes that only later result in useful new body parts. How can natural selection account for the emergence of complex organs? Ones that are made of many parts that only when they work together after thousands of generations have any use for survival? In the short term what good is half a jaw or half a wing? The module of the brain that governs linguistic ability has no counterpart among non-humans. It’ has appeared in human beings suddenly in its present form.

Huston Smith points out that Darwin’s theory of evolution is rather weak but looks strong because there are no other contenders for understanding our origins.

Non-naturalistic views of human origins

I would suggest that if science has a restricted kind of knowing, then perhaps we need to re-look at other ideas for finding a sense of who we are and where we come from. The trouble with a naturalistic outlook is that it assumes that nothing that lacks any material component can possibly exist.

This way of thinking stops one from considering all sorts of less tangible phenomena – those that involve subjectivity and cannot be seen with any kind of precision, prediction or control. To illustrate, at times we can gain intuitive insight, notice fortunate coincidences, and remember dreams. In addition, we can be surprised by wonder and awe at the life force within nature. We can be willing to surrender ourselves to life’s growth and healing power.

Subjective truth may not prove anything, but it can offer reasons for what to believe. Beliefs about who we are and where we come from. And as such it can guide our decisions and conduct.

Spiritual awareness and our human origins

I would say perceiving in non-naturalistic ways is a sort of spiritual awareness. According to 18th century Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, the spiritual inflows into the natural. The divine is spiritual, and it endeavours to flow into and enliven the natural. The divine energy is one of love wishing to share its life in human action.

Swedenborg thought that those learned people who study natural sciences are more likely to deny any divine reality due to their focus instead on natural forces. In addition he thought that for the rest of us any negative frame of mind is associated with a materialistic and self-orientated attitude. This he wrote opposes deeper understanding.

“The force or endeavour within the action or movement is, it is plain, something spiritual within something natural; for thought and will are spiritual activities, whereas action and movement are natural ones.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)

A Career In Biotech And Life Science Offers Numerous Opportunities To Indian Students

Biotechnology tops the list of preferred science courses for many students in India, thanks to the lucrative career scope it offers. For those who have had biology as part of their intermediate curriculum, they stand a better chance of pursuing a career in this field.

What is included in the course?

To pursue post graduation in the field of biotechnology a student must hold a graduation degree in a relevant field from a recognized Indian University. The accepted degrees include BDS, B. Pharma, Clinical Microbiology, Microbiology, Bioinformatics, B. Tech in Biotechnology, or a B. Sc. in Biology. A number of institutes offer undergraduate and post graduate courses in biotechnology. These courses run for two years and are divided into four semesters.

A biotechnology course is typically a combination of biology and technology, and the main subjects covered in the curriculum are Bioinformatics, Molecular Biophysics, Immunology, Genetic Engineering, Microbiology, Genetics, Metabolism, and Biostatics, among a host of others. The course also includes relevant laboratory programs.

Opportunities in the Private Sector

Graduates in biotechnology are eligible to apply for jobs in a number of pharmaceutical companies such as Hindustan Antibiotics, Cipla, Hindustan Lever, or Dabur. They are offered roles of production-in-charge, quality control officer, or marketing manager. There are other companies also, not necessarily related to the pharmaceutical business, where these graduates can look for job openings. Godrej has a biotechnology division that can offer suitable openings.

Opportunities in the Government Sector

Though there are openings in the Government Sector for biotechnology graduates, a post-graduation would suit them better and leave them with a stronger chance of finding a suitable job. Several of the Government Research Institutes have openings in the field of Research – National Institute of Oceanography, National Brain Research Centre, and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology are just some of the top names. Clearing the UGC organized NET exam would give them even better opportunities. NET life science coaching in Chandigarh can help them reach their goal in life.

Various Government Institutes such as the National Institute of Technology in Calicut recruits candidates for the post of lecturer. In order to qualify, you should either have a post-graduation degree or possess an excellent background of Molecular Biology and Genetics. The JAM exam conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology will help you gain admission into a reputed institute for completing your post-graduation, preparations for which you can take at IIT JAM biotech coaching in Chandigarh.

A number of exams are conducted by UGC for recruitment of candidates into a number of government posts. SSC Exams, Combined Defense Services exams, and Civil Services exams such as IPS, IFS, and IAS are other options. You can train for these alongside your NET preparations at a CSIR UGC Life Science coaching in Chandigarh.

Though the remunerations at the early stage of your career will be low, you can witness increments in your earnings if you make the right career choices. Biotechnology is a highly promising field at present and offers long term job opportunities if you are a dedicated candidate.

Finding The Science In The Film Finding Nemo

One of the most beautifully animated films in cinematic history, Finding Nemo won over crowds and critics alike. With its heart-warming tale, detailed underwater scenery and cast of endlessly entertaining characters, this film has a special place in households around the world. But have you ever thought about bringing it into the science classroom?

Finding movies to show in a science class can be challenging; often you can only rely on short snippets from films, or on television programs like “Bill Nye the Science Guy” or “MythBusters”. Whether you’re looking for a multi-period lesson or for a reward movie to celebrate, Finding Nemo can fit the bill. It can be used to jump-start the natural interest that children have in ocean life, coral reefs, and marine biology.

This movie is one of the most curriculum-flexible films you can use. Screen it before, during or after a unit on marine biology. Show it during environmental science to discuss habitats and human impact. Finding Nemo is great for students of all ages, from age 8 to 18.

Older students who have finished a unit on marine life or have just studied the phenomenon of symbiosis, can take notes during (or after) the film on the types of marine life and scientific concepts seen in the film. There are dozens of types of marine life and biological concepts shown in the film, including: algae, anemone, atoll, camouflage, barrier reef, budding, calcium carbonate, clownfish, colony, commensal relationship, coral bleaching, crepuscular, diurnal, East Australian Current, equator, eyespots, food chain, fringing reef, habitat, lagoon, limestone, Loggerhead sea turtles, nocturnal, Pacific blue tang phytoplankton, polyps, predator, prey, reef, scavenger, sperm, symbiosis, symbiotic relationship, zooplankton, and zooxanthellae.

Have students compare and contrast the physical appearance of the creatures in the film and their real-life counterparts. How accurate were the animators? Students can also write a fun essay comparing and contrasting a coral reef to a city. Both have systems for power sources, waste management, housing, construction, health, and even advertising!

And then there is the analogy of a coral reef to a city. Who are the protectors? Who are the garbage men? Who builds? Who destroys?

Discussion questions can include:

– Give a description of three symbiotic relationships between animals on a coral reef.What does it mean when an animal is at the top of its food chain?

– When are predators more active? At dusk, at midday, in the night or in the morning? Why is this? “Diurnal” “Octurnal” What’s the difference?

– How could Nemo have avoided all problems that he caused himself and his father? Hint: it’s about obeying your parents?

– Name the largest non-human animal made structure in the world?

Welcoming Finding Nemo into your classroom can turn a routine marine biology lesson into an engrossing, and fun, experience for students of any age!