22 May 2011

Evolution From Space

I'm finally in possession of a copy of a book I've only heard about and read second-hand reports of until now. It is EVOLUTION FROM SPACE by Fred Hoyle and N.C. Wickramasinghe, published in 1981.

The late Fred Hoyle was of course a very prominent astronomer and astrophysicist, once the leading proponent of the steady-state theory of the cosmos, and renowned for his work on the evolution of stars.

Wickramasinghe is professor of applied mathematics and astronomy at Cardiff University.

Today, they spin out their theory of panspermia. It is a theory not only of the origins of life on earth, but in their hands (as the book's title implies) a theory of how life has developed since. For the arrival of new genetic material from the stars was not, for them, as it was for other advocates of panspermia, a one time event.

Let's take fairly recent history -- in terms of geological or biological time. Let us consider especially the span of time between the emergence of the first hominids and our own selves. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe quote a Japanese biologist, Susumu Ohno, thus:

"Did the genome of our cave-dwelling predecessor contain a set or sets of genes which enable modern man to compose music of infinite complexity and write novels with profound meaning? One is compelled to give an affirmative answer....It looks as though the early Homo was already provided with the intellectual potential which was in great excess of what was needed to cope with the environment of his time."

This seems to Hoyle et ux to mean that Ohno has given up on Darwinism. If the cave dwellers already had the capacity to compose like Bach, without an environment that would get them any natural advantage out of composing like Bach, or having that capacity, then ... something other than natural selection was clearly at work.

If new genetic material repeatedly rains down on the earth from space, and if it must be absorbed somehow, then it is easier (these authors think) to see how human develpment could get ahead of the environment to this degree.

At least ... I think that is what they are saying. I have only just dipped into the book.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.