No First Rabbit

In his book, The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins makes a beautiful argument, actually several beautiful arguments, as to why there never was a first rabbit, never was a first crocodile, never a first dragonfly, never a first any one of us. Adam and Eve may have existed, but they like us were born of two parents, closely resembling them. For, as Dawkins says, every creature ever born belongs to the same species as, looks like, its parents.

We need only to look carefully at other creatures, all other creatures to see that this is true, that the creature being born will in time if not immediately closely resemble its parents. Yet we want to believe, as is evidenced by our creation stories or myths, that there was a first, a beginning to everything alive. A first rabbit if you will. For we don’t believe, nor does Dawkins, that rabbits were forever. They aren’t.

So how do we solve our dilemma of there having to be a first when we know there is no first anything? Dawkin’s method is ask us to imagine some 185 million generations of our own ancestors as 185 million pictures of these ancestors, piled one on top of the other.

pics(Dave McKean, from The Miracle of Reality)

Then going back some 100,000 years, or 5000 generations, we turn up pictures one after another resembling pretty much ourselves. But going back 1,000,000 or more years we begin to see what we’ve learned to call “ape men,” but still men although not completely resembling ourselves.

But at 100,000,000 million years we turn over something not at all resembling ourselves, a creature having the size and look of a rabbit or tree shrew. And at 500,000,000 years (or Dawkin’s 185 million generations, with an average generation time of less than 3 years) we turn up a fish.

ifish(Dave McKean, from The Magic of Reality)

The conclusion, given enough time, is that one of our ancestors is a fish. How can this be given as we’ve said that every creature is born of a creature of its own kind? The answer is that the changes, including  the long succession of species changes, take place over hundreds of thousands, over millions of years and cannot be seen by those participating in the changes. That is, us.

It’s clearly all too gradual. And the term for it is evolution meaning change resulting from mutations and selective, usually environmental, pressures taking place over not just millions but billions of years.

Still many refuse to accept this gradual change over eons that science has well shown and well documented. And just today, unbelievable for me, we read the results of a Pew Survey, on Public Views on Human Evolution:


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