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Humility – A Response to Brian

03 July 2013, 08:57

My most recent article, Humility – You, Too, May Benefit From a Dose had the zombie brigade in a froth with their auto-mated thumbs-down clicker app…

Indeed, I proudly set a new record – on a rather courteous response to John Wankmore (near the tail end of the piece in which he tried to dig at me – a whopping 267 thumbs downs in a single hour and zero thumbs ups.

Now… girls… for your credibility; when you want to skew data to cheer your old chum, god, up… try to do it in a believable way.  But feel assured; you left me so… so crestfallen J

But – on to slightly more mature matters.

My article called for a little real humility in the face of experts who really know their stuff / not ‘me’ and not ‘us’ here… I was clear that we are not experts, we are mere messengers.  Those who stepped forth to validate the need for such an article did so with the predictable howling empty vitriol of the cornered ignoramus. Sigh.  God must be so proud to have them in his corner.

But one honest broker stood out, and it made the article worthwhile; though I fear that by naming him, I will forever make him a pariah in the creationist camp, Brian Peter Coetzee.  No doubt, in the crazed mind of the standard News24 zombie, your and my name will forevermore be said in one mouthful; as is my great honour to be morphed with Merry Martin – another fine bucker of trend that seems to be sliding the last religious dogmatists into madness.  We may finally be a trinity.

But I digress.


You, Brian, asked pointed questions, and I wanted to honour them by responding in full – as they are no doubt on many lips:

I’ll adopt a dash – and “quotation marks” to designate your questions, and use a bullet > to denote my answer on the next page:

> Before I start, you will appreciate that the bible to which you ascribe, is laughably thin on details – the first page contains all manner of “let there be” utterances that stunningly sum up 99% of the universes’ and life’s actual 13,87-billion years of rather more detailed formation.

As one tiny example: You will appreciate that a happy-clappy, “Let there be light”, is a lot simpler and easier to grasp (though idiotic) for firstly children and then laypeople, than the actual equation that describes the seemingly simple feat.  And, of course, the education needed to understand that equation within that context precludes most people.  Unfortunately my keyboard does not have the necessary format, so please click here to see what I mean:

I bring this up simply because it illustrates why you may ask a ‘simple’ one line question, but it would take me a lot of time and effort to explain the answer in full to you; something none of us have patience for. Your likely response will be to stomp off convinced that I and others don’t know the answer or are trying to confound you.  Be that as it may – reality is complex and people are generally lazy.

If you’re truly motivated to learn – you might ask: What is life – and I have already addressed that:


- “Mememan and here I thought not one single missing link has been found

> Fair question Brian: Thing is, "Missing link" is a very outdated non-scientific term, but yet a concept that grips the layman’s imagination.  It suggests a ‘step’ where there is only a slope.  As such, it is a meaningless term and really paints those who talk about it as entirely unread on evolution; which is fine – that ‘s why you're asking.

In my article,; I address “The Fallacy of the Missing Link”

I take it a little further here:

 - “you are saying there are masses of fossil evidence. where can a person find the fossil or remain of the ape-man”

> Try a museum – There are great books on the topic - research good books – try this:

Also – “ape man” is a redundancy of words – humans are, taxonomically – apes:

- “it must have been so exciting for the scientist extracting the DNA from these ape-Man's bones confirming there DNA was evolving into homo sapiens.”

> That’s not how DNA evidence is necessarily done. I covered that in my article:

You will be intrigued to learn why all other apes have 24 chromosomes, humans have 23 – and why that ‘missing’ chromosome nails down our common ancestry.  Also – look up Endogenous RetroViruses…

Quick layman’s summary: ERVs are viruses that insert into the host’s DNA so that their offspring in that linage forever more have that marker.  You will appreciate that the billions of positions a ERV of a particular type may insert means that when the same ERV is found on precisely the same marker, the chances of it having occurred by coincidence it billions to one.  Now… there is a perfect match between not just one or two or dozens… but thousands of the precise same ERVs in Humans and Chimps on precisely the same position in DNA.  And then there are less of those identical ERVs on Chimps, Humans and Gorillas – that is an uncanny echo of the fossil evidence and distance apart already estimated from bones.  And then Orangutans have even less… because they are yet more distant – and the correlation and match to the fossil evidence is perfect.

I trust that you can at least see it’s more complex and certain than you might have imagined.  God would have to have a tremendous sense of humour to have arranged it (and so much else) thus, just to mislead us.

- “I was under the impression that homo sapiens suddenly appeared in the fossil record”

> You can call 6-million years “suddenly” if you like (that’s the distance back to our common ancestor with Chimps) – I’d call it a rather smooth development… it’s at least 300,000 generations… there are only 100 generations between you and Christ – so you can make a judgment call on that if you like.

Please read: The Ancestor’s Tale

“The massive fossil record contains all creatures evolving right?”

> Massive is a relative term – considering that less than 1% of all the species that have existed, are now extinct; and yet there are an awful lot of species still living; you ask a lot if you want “all”.

On average, only 1 bone in 300-million will fossilize.  Consider an archaeologist millions of years into the future trying to find the one single remaining fossil that represents every living American alive today.  It is somewhere on the (present) American continent in 3 dimensions… but it may be buried under a mountain or under a lake, or under an ocean.  The task is monumental. To have found what we have found is astonishing – yet we have a vast store.  You can scream and howl that’s not true, but if you can be honest for a moment and go to a museum… you will see it – and god won’t smite you.

Ok I would like to learn more and perhaps you can help me so let me layout my questions numerically.

- “1. Where are the fossils of the ape-man on display?”

 > Museums – your school seems to have failed you in not taking you for at least one outing

- “2. How many different species are on record with fossils showing their evolution?”

> I’m sure  you can do your own search? Avoid biblical sites… it’s a bit like asking Hugh Hefner if the sale of nudity should be legal or not.

Start here: - I hinted that 99% of all species are extinct. Take it from there.

- “3. Has DNA been extracted from the skeletal remains of the ape-man?

> Humans are apes – so… yes.  But I get your question and don’t mean to be facetious: It is possible, that particular question is not my specialty; I don’t know – this may help:

But… it is not important – I have already hinted for you ERVs and 23 vs 24 chromosomes.

- “4. The family tree of the DNA coding does that mean that chimps will one day evolve into a slightly different type of human species?”

> Why would they? What ‘ambition’ do you presume the genes of a chimp would have being human?

I beg you to actually understand what evolution by natural selection means  – it is not linear and we are not ‘top of the pile’. We have just fallen into a niche that has given us an increasing advantage. Our future is dubious.

Please read: Climbing Mount Improbable or River out of Eden or Greatest Show on Earth

“5. Are only apes capable of evolving into higher intelligence?”

> No. Dolphins are intelligent, Whales are intelligent, Dogs are intelligent; none of them are puny and need clothes, guns, computers and wheels – please don’t make me explain this link – it should be obvious.

Our evolution was spurred by a single mutation in a single individual 6-million years ago – the identified mutation was a jaw muscle that was only 20% or 1/5th of it’s normal strength… the mutation got passed on – we have it; it’s a long story, a well understood one… I may do an article on it.  Summary – it made our linage puny, it made it require guile, it allowed thinning and enlargement of the skull; memory and space for memory within skull drove brain size, etc.

- “6. What happened to all the sub species?”

> Your ancestors, half (male) Coetzees are likely from Europe… (the other half are female whose names are discarded according to culture – but their traceability through mitochondrial DNA is far more certain than male  linnage)…

Your kids, parents back to great grandparents are known… a few uncles and cousins too…  But what became of all the Coetzees you hail from? From, say… the 1600’s or earlier? Did they die out?

Some of the lines would have dead ended – some might be in the US or elsewhere.

Think of humans as your Coetzee family.  Try:

- “7. Does evolution work in fits and starts i.e. leaps or is ir gradual.”

> It depends on many factors… more/less cosmic activity means more (or less) mutation, changing environments and climates will select and push populations in different directions. It’s a complex answer but well understood.

- “8. Are apes still evolving?”

Yes we are; all apes including humans (all living things) constantly evolve – some quick some slow… depends on environment.  With genetic manipulation we’ll become the first species to drive our own evolution.  Space will cause those who leave our planet to evolve in ways we cannot imagine.

Every child has 100 to 200 mutations that differ it from its parent’s genes. Most are benign, some are deadly or unpleasant, very few are advantageous.  Most environments will limit the negative and promote the individuals with advantages. Humans are interfering by ‘cheating’ evolution of this. It’s an interesting time to be alive to watch.

- “9. When and why did a self replicating life form evolve into male female life forms.”

> I’m not an encyclopedia – it clearly happened – my hazarded guess… 700-million or so years ago… I may be way out – check it out. Start here:

Why is it important?  Humans are about to move the goalposts… UK about to legalize 3-parent children – taking out damaged DNA from parents and splicing in healthy ones.

- “10. How did the first living cell come into being, how did it start?”

> Ditto for 9 – Probably not a cell -

Amino acids are common in the cosmos; energy from sun, wind, tides, tectonics lent impetus to the formation of proteins. My eyes are now sore – so please look up for yourself.  From memory – first replicators for proto-life – about 3,8-billion years ago…. May be out by 10%.

The answers are out there. I don’t have them all – I can merely point you to some and motivate you to look for others.

Be honest and put in a little effort too.


You also asked/stated:

The church and religion is proud to say that they stand on 'faith' and 'belief' - both are emotions; emotions are a dubious way to plan a life, community or policy that governs either.

Science is directly opposite - it only operates on verifiable proof… and proof is required before the label of 'hypothesis' is affixed to an explanation of how something works… proof must accompany a hypothesis…. As the hypothesis is tested and tested, and doesn't fail to return results when compared to all other related branches of science, it moves toward becoming a "Scientific Theory"… Please read:

I wrote on this: - the third in a 3 part series – all link backward from there.

Unless you get past understanding that definition, you have no way of getting past your religious prejudice of science.

You correctly say: "Church history has lied and mislead the masses for financial gain and power" and ask a potent question…"What makes scientists different!" … I very much hope it is an actual and not a rhetorical question.

The short answer is "public"

> That links back to my 3 part series. Sorry but I’m not going to type more on it.

- “What hope is their for mankind?”

> Whatever we make of it – I expressed an opinion here:

- “What joy does science provide for mankind?”

> It’s not very joyful when you die of infections or cancer, the solution for which evolutionary biology delivers in the form of anti-biotics and Chemo; turn your back on evolutionary undertanding and those two branches collapse.

But, beyond that: Simplistically? The computer you’re typing on, electricity, transport, communications, health… yes…. Health.  If  you’ve never seen The Life of Brian – please do… it’s precisely the question that was asked: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”…. “Err… education, roads, wine… peace…”  It’s very funny.

It’s a really absurd question when you think about it.

- “What about love?”

> What about love?  I have no doubt that great scientists do their discoveries (that deliver joy as above) and then go home to a family full of love, good sex, good food, good music.  What’s your point?

- “Does not the selfish gene theory nullify love?”

> It does if you just read the title – if you read the book though you won’t ask that question. Read the book – it’s freely available.  It is about a lot more than what you clearly think. Be brave. Be honest. Read.

- “Perhaps evolution does frighten me, because man has proved incapable of ruling over man and through his greed and love of money the powerful have enslaved mankind.”

> Sir… No! Let me emphasize that more….  SIR…!!! I salute you.  You are a man – to admit fear in the face of an unknown of such apparent power; you are a gentleman and a brave one.

Evolution is a branch of science, and science is just a model and tool to reveal the mechanisms of the universe and life in it.

Government and power are inevitable, and they are not “science” – and they are not “religion” – though they may us either as their mechanism… I am infinitely more frightened of religious power than secular power – I aspire toward Scandinavian and Western European secular governments – led as they are by the branches of science – from economics to energy, etc.  I am terrified of religious governments – the Middle East and Dark Ages being prime examples of Islam and Christianity in full cry.

- “Without God there is no hope and mankind is destined to destruction. To continue....”

> It’s sad you’d think that… it’s sad you’ve been trained to think that.  The cells in my body have survived nearly 4,000,000,000 years to be in me. They have faced daunting challenges; and yet, here I sit, typing… they made it to me – and to you!

Only the smallest fraction of that 4-bn year span has had gods… So we’ve done fine without them in our imagination.

Have a little faith in humanity.

When you understand all the things that have been hinted at here – you are no longer so gloomy about our future; you become buoyant and overjoyed to have the privelege to live this life, to act your part on its stage, and watch it hopefully heading into a better tomorrow.

Put fear aside – it is so corrosive.  Keep asking questions; but, more importantly, actually listen to the answers when they come.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to intelligent questions. Please teach your fellows this unique trick of yours.

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