Michael Armstrong, Thunderbolts Project:
Kudos to Forrest for creating and posting this interesting and arresting “Story”. He is my kind of guy in that he looks for and sees the big picture. I find the piece to be quite valuable, even though I could/would argue with many salient aspects, but not here and not now.
What I have done is gone through the article and pulled out the statements that represent about 30 absolute unexplained “miracles” that are the backbone of the narrative. These are primarily concerned with MAJOR botanical and biological developments. yet not even on the lower level of features such as development of feathers and flight, eyes and vision, ears and hearing, etc. Here is the list of miracles:
1. Sometime after that life came in to being in the water, somehow. We do not know how or why this happened, nor have we been able to reproduce it in the lab
2. Some of them became able to use the power of the Sun for their energy and got their carbon from carbon dioxide dissolved in the water. This was the first invention of photosynthesis, though it did not involve oxygen in any way
3. Three more complicated forms of life were invented along the way. One was the cell with a nucleus, which serves as an inner motte to keep and protect the DNA from invaders
4. Another was the rise of the multiple-cell form, a story easy enough to tell by imagining a division of a cell into two, which then stayed with each other, as embryonic cells do
5. The third kind is recognized as a type of invasion. One kind of cell entered into another of a different kind, whether by invitation or not, there to take up residence in a symbiotic relationship. The photosynthetic chloroplast and the animal mitochondria share this story, as the invaders that settled in
6. Sometime after the invention of anaerobic photosynthesis a new kind of photosynthesis appeared, again we know not how
7. After a pre-Cambrian prelude, all kinds of new animals came into being to spread over the floor of the shallow sea, growing out of it, crawling across it, and burrowing into the sediment. Most of these models were entirely new- new body plans, new features like eyes and legs, new arrangements of parts
8. Then, after a long delay, more new kinds of life were invented that could float and swim, ascending into the waters above like the second stage of a rocket.
9. Since his [Darwin's] time all sorts of other exotic Cambrian critters, some with fundamental design ideas, have been discovered: none of them have known ancestors either
10. This second process is recognized in many ways in addition to sexual reproduction-hybridization, horizontal gene transfer, symbiosis, metamorphosis, mitochondria, and so on. Genetic engineering is an artificial form of the second kind
11. In one story, an algae teamed up with a fungus, got up out of the water and called itself lichen, a land plant
12. Then new kinds of plants rose above the old ones as little stems
13. The stems didn’t have much area to gather sunlight and CO2, so a leaf came along
14. There were new kinds of animals that could eat these new kinds of plants.
15. Later on many fossils became large enough to see, then large enough to require trucks to haul their bones to the museum.
16. In a lighter gravity, giant dinosaurs arrived and giant dinosaurs departed.
17. Flowers were invented towards the end of the dinosaur’s reign
18. then grass, that uncanny flowering plant
19. followed by the Azolla Event perhaps 50 million years ago. In that event, a floating super-plant either covered the beaches around the Arctic Ocean, or even covered the entire ocean itself, for thousands of years
20. Sometime in this period, after the dinosaurs but before the Ice Ages, two new kinds of green photosynthesis came around somehow
21. Two new types are introduced in the ’Autumn of Life’, called "CAM"
22. and "C4" photosynthesis.
23. C4 photosynthesis did not arise in a single common ancestor and radiate out in a "Tree of Life", Darwinian fashion anymore than chloroplasts, mitochondria, eyes, or legs did. Instead, it appeared independently and nearly simultaneously in a wide variety of plants, as if the idea were plucked from the air.
24. along with the new grasslands came the animals that like to eat the grass
25. and the animals that like to eat the animals that like to eat the grass.
26. Our ancient parents were as bands of Hobbits surrounded by armies of giant Orcs numbering in the hundreds of millions between their different kinds
27. As CO2 levels fell, C4 plants became more prevalent. This was when the ruminant grazing animals, such as cattle, were invented, animals with multiple-chamber stomachs and specialized, symbiotic bacteria that can ferment and digest the less-nutritious C4 plants.
28. With the older C3 process, both CO2 and O2 molecules are presented to the metabolic engines, which only need the CO2. The O2 then has to be sorted out and turned away after it has already gummed up the works, a sloppy process. The great advance of C4 was to solve this problem with the addition of a kind of airlock, a parlour if you will, where the CO2 is first introduced and the O2 is turned away at the door
29. Before the last Ice Age began, a new kind of creature, the one we call Man, came into the world somehow.
30. In order to continue to exist and to prosper, life on Earth needs one more trick, the one thing that not one of the marvelous inventions of all the eons past had ever been able to accomplish. There has to be some way, somehow, to wrench the locked carbon up out of the earth, to throw it back into the air. We are that way.
You will probably need to review the article and locate these statements to see that these represent miraculous leaps in the development of life and its extinctions in the story.
In further consideration, I feel that I drew short of affirming you enough for your article, which was stellar in its construction and impact.
Again, I salute you for your intellectual exploration in trying to understand the big picture.
"...your Ice Age murder mystery article... I thoroughly enjoyed. You have an easy writing style, which made the story fun to read... I have continued to enjoy your creativity and the different perspective you bring to the world around us... your arguments are always finely constructed and well presented" - Jim
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