The Power of Life – and Why Screwing With It Will Destroy Us.

***Author’s note: Life has had one incredibly fascinating ride as it’s developed on Earth. I’m talking about something that truly defies the odds. Not only in the fact that it has sprung into being, but the fact that conditions could arise that would allow Life to exist in the first place. And this is going to get all ‘science-y’ and a bit romantic-y and if you don’t like it, then you can just git out!***

Life is a Miracle of Unimaginable Proportions. And I know that the term ‘Miracle’ pisses off Atheists and other God-haters who like to envision themselves as the only justified replacement to fill His/Her Seemingly Empty Throne. And that’s fine. God doesn’t believe in Atheists…..’ ability to use critical thinking skills or ability to gather all the facts to support their positions. So the non-belief in the other party is reciprocated. And that’s fine. And it’s fine that it’s fine.

The difference between Atheists and myself, I mean, besides the fact that I’m only mildly arrogant, is that I paid attention in Physics Class. And Geology Class. And Statistics Class. And Human Anthropology Class. And Biology Class. And… you get the point. I’ve got lots of Class. Once you start paying attention to the numbers, the sequence of events and the sheer scale of achievement that Life has managed to attain in its ~3 billion years of existence, it starts to shatter human comprehension.  For those who aspire to wealth, it’d be like seeing the entire world’s collection of gold, precious metals and gems. All in one place. I’m talking about the single most vulgar display of wealth that the World has ever seen. It’s unbelievably jaw-dropping, once you look at it. But enough foreplay, let’s get to The Discussion.

As I mentioned in the piece on Genesis, the Universe came into existence with The Big Bang. Physics has no clue why or how this infinitesimal point was capable of having infinite temperature and infinite density, it just did. Then this point exploded. Why? Nobody knows. It just ‘had to happen’ and suddenly the Universe spawned itself, like a Phoenix rising from its own ashes (one theory suggests that the Big Bang was a result of one multidimensional fabric finally touching an adjacent one due to the pull of gravity between the two which only occurred as the previous Universe was in its death throes). Now, in the piece on Genesis, the Conservation of the Baryon number being violated was mentioned. To go a little more into detail on the subject, in Physics, each fundamental particle has it’s evil identical twin. The electron has the anti-electron, the proton: the anti-proton, the neutron: the anti-neutron. Combine one ‘normal matter’ particle with its mustachioed and bearded evil anti-matter twin and BOOM! Pure energy is released in the form of a photon and the particles annihilate each other. Which is understandable. If I ever meet my immortal evil twin who’s been trying to give me a good reputation all this time, I’m pretty sure I’d willingly destroy myself to end that jerk’s life too.

In Physics, if you start off with matter and its evil twin antimatter, you could force them together to generate pure energy. With that in mind, you’d expect that all that pure energy that existed prior to the Big Bang would have given rise to equal quantities of matter and antimatter in this Universe. And this is why the Violation of the Baryon number is so peculiar. Because astronomers can’t find this balance exhibited in our Universe. They find that the Universe is predominantly populated by ‘normal’ matter and it’s mustachioed evil twin is not as abundant. (Their ‘colleagues’, the Astrologers agree, the Sign of the Bear is in ascendancy and some crap, so we’re going to have 14 weeks of football. But that’s not relevant to the discussion.)

Now, for astronomers, astrophysicists, and cosmologists, this signals that the Universe is a bit…..odd. Which is awesome. I like it when the Universe doesn’t act according to mathematical perfection because then I can get my silent digs at mathematicians who say, ‘the universe can always be broken down to an equation’.

But the oddness doesn’t stop there.

Our solar system is unique. No, not just because I’m here, that’s an added bonus. What makes us unique is our lonely, solitary Sun. Most solar systems in the observable universe have 2 or 3 stars, called binary or trinary star systems. (That’s a lot of skin cancer waiting to happen.) Many star systems either have many Stars, a very powerful and/or very large Star(s) at their heart (I’m talking White Dwarfs, Blue Dwarfs, Red Giants, Blue Giants, White Giants) or some combination of the above. Our solar system only has a relatively gentle midget Sun (a Yellow Dwarf). Most powerful Suns will burn out in a short time: living hard, dying hard and dying young. Probably from some stunt that comes after the fateful words, ‘hey, dude, check this out!’ Our Sun is slow but steady. It’s a prudent investor who buys the family sedan instead of that Lamborghini that others will dream about…. and salivate over and… promptly wreck into the closest telephone pole.

What this means, is that our solar system was given a special opportunity. Binary and Trinary systems have too much energy present to allow for Life to occur. Solar radiation levels are too high or the high gravity and tidal forces in these star systems are too much to allow planets to remain stable for very long and orbits are no longer circular. They’re more likely to become ellipses where the surface temperatures of planets at perihelion (their closest point relative to their sun(s)) are high enough to melt rock (Crank that A/C up!), something that Life doesn’t typically enjoy or the matter that makes up those planets is sucked into the stars through gravity.

High energy stars tend to go Super- or Hypernova at the end of their life cycle (which is just as awesome as it sounds). Receiving a point-blank thermonuclear explosion that vaporizes your entire planet tends to put a damper on the possibility of meeting that ‘special someone’ to continue your species. Even Red Giants can swell and engulf their inner planets at the end of their life cycle. ‘Might as well be walking on the Sun’ becomes less of a Smashmouth lyric at that point and more of an immediate tangible problem. Our sun has had none of those problems….yet.

Then, you get the Age factor. Cosmology tells us that new star systems are the ‘New Kids on the Block’. Flashy moves, ridiculous hair styles, poor taste in music, you know what I’m talking about. These systems don’t have a lot of the heavier earth elements because these elements only form in the bellies of stars that are undergoing thermonuclear fusion. Means that Lead, Nickel, Iron, all the elements necessary for building Rocky planets, like Earth, aren’t available. Everyone’s rocking that Hydrogen and Helium new-age crap. It’s only after these stars have gone Nova or Supernova that these elements are dispersed into the Ether and are available to be used for planet building in 2nd generation star systems.

This is the longhand method of stating that our solar system only came to be AFTER the death of a previous star that seeded our pocket of space with enough material to allow Rocky planets to form and a single, mild-mannered Star to awaken. And within this solar system, there was one planet that was just far enough away to drink in the Sun’s rays without remaining a perpetual molten inferno, yet just close enough to not become an icy, desolate wasteland. And this planet happened to accrete enough unique metals, compounds, and gases that it could develop a planetary core that maintained a molten state, allowing this planet to develop a strong enough magnetic field to block or deflect the majority of harmful solar radiation for the past ~4 billion years, allowing an atmosphere to form and Life to thrive beneath it. Mars couldn’t make that happen. It’s mass just wasn’t great enough. Too scrawny. Hit the gym, weakling.

This is where we get to the most fascinating aspect of this whole concept of Life. The actual play. All of the previous information was simply appreciating the work of the scenery and production teams. Now we’re getting to the writers, director and actors in this Shakespearean drama.

Somehow, some way, Life began. Scientists postulate a number of scenarios where the building blocks of Life came together, the proteins and amino acids that make up dNA and rNA, in such a fashion as to sustain itself. The most famous (or infamous, depending on your view) interpretation is that amino acids and proteins ‘spontaneously occurred naturally and all it took was a freak act that forced them into the necessary alignment to generate Life’. That, given enough time, this was ‘bound’ to occur.

This is horses#it, naturally, because the people pushing this narrative don’t like to think about what kind of functionality these proteins and amino acids had to account for in order to end up forming Life that could immediately upon its spontaneous creation: convert matter into biochemical energy, void its own waste (so as to not poison itself), regulate cellular fluid pressure so it doesn’t tear itself apart or collapse in upon itself, reproduce and allow for a method to mutate and evolve without becoming a cancerous, malignant cell that kills itself and, yet, still be resilient enough to handle an environment that was likely present during the most Hellish aspect of Earth’s existence. Geologists don’t ascribe the term ‘Hadean’ to one of the earliest times on Earth when widespread volcanic activity was prominent and extraterrestrial impacts were a frequent occurrence out of sheer whim. And ALL of these processes (and many more) had to spontaneously be generated by some ‘random’ event that organized these proteins and amino acids into the correct order to make this happen. The sheer improbability of the creation/birth of Life in this situation and to have been randomly assembled in such a fashion as to survive in this world, reproduce, and thrive in, basically, Hell is staggering. It’s a Miracle within the realm of Miracles.

Now, food in this world is relatively sparse. This isn’t some thriving Metropolis where you have a Mickey D’s on practically every corner. These single-celled organisms had to find some way to power themselves. Since the early Earth atmosphere was hellish in nature: Sulfurous compounds, Methane, and Carbon Dioxide dominated, they made lemonade out of lemons. They utilized anaerobic methods of energy conversion. ‘No oxygen around? Fine! We don’t need no stinkin’ oxygen.’ You can find these forms of anaerobic life around volcanic vents today, so we know they’re out there. But this doesn’t answer the question, ‘How did our planet get Oxygen if these creatures neither needed it, nor created it?’

Great question. Enter Cyanobacteria, the Savior of our World. Now, despite all its bacterial relatives, Cyanobacteria harbored hate in its heart and had an axe to grind. Cyanobacteria was always picked last in bacterial kickball, constantly getting stuffed in its locker by all its cool jock bacterial classmates, and beaten up at recess on a daily basis. So it decided to do something particularly nasty. It decided to not convert the sulfurous compounds, heat, methane and carbon dioxide into biochemical energy. It decided to take sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to make a brand new type of Go-Go juice and started generating Free Oxygen as a by-product.

Anaerobic bacteria come in 3 forms, those who can use Free Oxygen when it’s available, those who don’t use it but can tolerate it, and those who will die when they come into contact with it. As Cyanobacteria grew, it started putting out a lot of Free Oxygen. And since the early Anaerobic bacteria had never known what Free Oxygen was and couldn’t defend itself against Oxygen’s presence, Cyanobacteria was successful in wiping them out, causing the first Mass Extinction. Then, Cyanobacteria was free to start pumping Free Oxygen into the Earth’s environment. Now, think about that for a second. If Cyanobacteria hadn’t decided (or randomly evolved) to start metabolizing Carbon Dioxide and using light to start photosynthesis, unlike the majority of its relatives, Life As We Know It would never have existed. Which is stupefying. For some life-form to completely switch methods of acquiring energy for itself is quite a feat. That’d be like your car feeding on gasoline one day and then feeding on children the next. I mean it’s horrifying, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also fascinating at the same time. The Wheels on the Bus go round and round because Johnny wasn’t fast enough to escape!

Then, it’s theorized that cells that were not initially capable of being predatory, relying solely on converting chemical energy, started feeding and hunting others. Some theories suggest that these carnivorous single celled organisms started engulfing and began to either pirate the dNA of the other single-celled organisms that they had consumed or developed symbiotic relationships with them. Now what the hell is with that? What kind of snap evolution had to take place that these brainless single-celled organisms were capable of assessing whether their dNA would be better suited by combining with a biologically ‘inferior’ cell? This has gone from strange to downright insane. Yet, through this all, the processes of these cells were taking place while the Earth was being bombarded from outer space by comets and meteorites, the Earth itself was vomiting out molten rivers of rock and through this Hellscape, Life began to grow more complex.

And somewhere in this process, single cells started banding together to address communal needs whereby some cells started to specialize and take care of certain cellular functions and this is how the first multicellular organism got it’s big break.

Wait….what? Nature likes simplicity. The simplest form of Life is generally the most successful. Less overhead costs, don’t have to deal with investors, you have fewer things that can break or fail that you rely on, you know the whole deal. Why on Earth would these unthinking, unfeeling, random groupings of single celled organisms decide to coexist, coordinate and specialize? That defies all logic! Yet somehow, this was suddenly ‘a thing’.

The most simple cellular reproduction method is asexual reproduction. The cell duplicates itself and doesn’t have to worry about calling its partner or dealing with pillow talk afterwards. Yet, despite this, cellular reproduction suddenly….altered. Previously asexually reproducing cells said, “Hey, I’d really like to exchange some dNA with some other cells next time. This whole role-playing and bondage is really hard to work out if you’re the only participant.” (Because that’s clearly what single celled organisms said back then.) And so, sexual reproduction became ‘a thing’. Asexual reproduction didn’t go extinct or fail completely, we just had a new opportunity to ‘play with other organisms’ that didn’t involve devouring and entering into symbiotic relationships with them.

So now you’ve got Life cavorting with itself in some wild biological orgy and no contraceptives are available (Damn you, Conservatives! It’s my cellular wall and nucleus and I should be free to exchange dNA with whomever I want without having to worry about offspring!) and Life starts Going Bananas. As mentioned before (and if I haven’t, I’m doing so now), Evolutionists like to claim that Evolution takes a long time for changes to occur within a species. That as time progresses, the attributes of two evolutionary ancestors start to diverge further and further until you start getting to Species level, then Genus level, then Subfamily, Family, Order, Class, Phylum, Kingdom and Domain level differences.

For instance, they say that Cows and Marijuana have a common ancestor way back in time. It’s just that their Great-to-the-Umpteenth-degree grandfathers decided to go a different direction in keeping the Family Business alive. (And now, one is consumed by Hippies and the other is consumed by Heroic non-Hippies.) But here is where it gets weird….er.

Most people are aware of the six (in the U.S.) or 5 (in Non-U.S. countries) Kingdoms of Life: Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaeabacteria and Bacteria (Archaeabacteria and Bacteria are combined into ‘Monera’ for the non-U.S. countries). These classifications of Life are based on the methods by which these forms of Life consume energy, what kind of body plans they have and how complex they are, relative to one another. This is a horrible oversimplification of what really goes on in Taxonomy, but I don’t care. Life doesn’t like organization and rules. As proof of this, The Fossil Record tossed Taxonomy and Paleontology a curve ball that buckled knees and emptied bladders by introducing the Ediacaran Fossil Assemblage. Taxonomy and evolutionists go catatonic with this collection of Ancient Life. And here’s why.

The Ediacaran (635-541 million years ago, +/- 23 minutes) is a period of geologic time that occurred immediately before the Cambrian (which started about 541 million years ago, +/- 17 days), which was thought to be when Life first exploded across the world and macro-organisms (organisms large enough to see) really took off. Except…. The Ediacaran did it first, apparently. Within Evolutionary theory, one has to have lots of time to develop macro-organisms and to develop functional and structural diversity. The Ediacaran says, ‘meh, not so much’.

You have a ‘genus’ known as Charnia, that was found in the Ediacaran that is similar to fronds (leafy vegetation-like ferns) that are found in deep waters….that are way too deep to support photosynthesis. Okay, that’s strange.

You’ve got the genus Dickinsonia, which paleontologists have no idea what it was or how it lived. They know that these things grew to as much as a meter (~a yard) long. Can’t tell if it’s a fungus, an animal, or what the hell it is.

Then there’s Ediacaria itself. We know that it’s either a jellyfish-like creature or a microbial mat. That really narrows it down, Mr. Paleontologist, thanks.

A significant portion of the life that existed during this time is so alien to what we have now, that Paleontologists and Taxonomists are baffled. ‘Plants’ that grew in places where today’s plants can’t grow because light can’t penetrate to those depths? An meter long animal-like fungi? A jellyfish microbial mat? WTF!

And Life apparently isn’t done with defying odds. Recently, a cache of macro-fossils have been uncovered that are nearly 2 Billion years old.  And nobody has a f&cking clue how this managed to occur. Macro-organisms at this time? What is going on here?

Now, mass extinctions removed some of these early lifeforms from the equation by the time the Cambrian started. Some survived. But Life was knocked back down to simple microbial mats, algae and bacteria for a while and multicellular life started to return in the few million years prior to the Cambrian. Then came the Cambrian explosion and Life was Let Off The Chain.

Pannotia, a global Supercontinent, was breaking up early in the Cambrian allowing new ecological niches to be filled and Life really started hitting the ‘Roids.

What? I didn’t mention Supercontinents? That’s right! See, throughout geological time, the continents have been breaking up with each other. And getting back together. And breaking up again. Like the worst soap opera of all time, this has been going on for Billions of years. And yet, Life has no direct impact on it. It either lives or dies based on these massive forces.

The sheer power that is displayed in these breakups and getting back togethers is colossal. How much force do you think it’d take to split a Continent in half? Now what about splitting a Supercontinent in half? How much energy to split a Supercontinent into quarters? What about getting them back together again? The Himalayan mountain range is a direct result of the Indian protocontinent trying to force itself on the Eurasian continent and, this time, I really think that Eurasia will just give in and they’ll end up together for a while. But keep an eye on North America, it’s making eyes at Eastern Asia too. And I don’t mean in terms of trade agreements or economics. I’m talking about some hot continental-plate-on-continental-plate action. ‘I want to dive into your subduction zone and suture our plates together, baby.’ The next 200 million years is looking to get steamy. (Because volcanic arcs form, allowing volcanic gases and lava to be released. Duh. Don’t make this a sexual situation, perverts. I’m not looking to get my rocks off here. Geologists: Earth Porn addicts.)

Geologists believe that there have been ~7 major Supercontinents throughout geological time. And each time they come together and each time they fall apart, Life has managed to survive. Life has survived 5 Major Mass Extinctions and many more minor level extinction events, as well. But, to keep this discussion short, we’ll stick with just the Big Ones.

You’ve got the Ordovician-Silurian extinction (which happened about 447-443 million years ago (m.y.a.), according to geologists) which led to the death of 60-70% of all species on the planet. This was potentially caused by the movement of a continent into the south polar region and repeated pulses of glaciations and glacial meltings (known as interglacials, we’re in one now).

You’ve got the late Devonian mass extinction event (375-360 m.y.a.) which seemingly impacted mostly marine life, killing 70% of global species. This was likely triggered by a catastrophic drop in deep water oxygen levels (something that’s occurring now).

Then you’ve got my personal favorite, the Permian-Triassic mass extinction (~252 m.y.a.), which was the most devastating. 96% of marine species….Gone. 70% of terrestrial vertebrate…..Gone. And a mass extinction of insects unlike any other event in history? Excellent. Some of those bugs were colossal. A bug with a 22 inch wingspan? A flying insect the size of a small hawk? No, thanks! In all, 90-96% of all the species that existed during this time were Gone at its End. The Earth became an empty, lonely place, much like a politician’s mind or soul. But, like Rocky, Life didn’t stay knocked down. Even when the supremacy of mammal-like reptiles was ended by the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, only to be replaced with those wankers, the archosaurs, Life got back up…

To get knocked back down by the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event (~201.3 m.y.a.) where 70-75% of all global species were extinguished, most likely caused by massive volcanic eruptions associated with the beginning of the splitting apart of Pangaea. I know breakups are bad, but why are the ones around us the ones who are hurt the most by them?

(Maybe all relationships are like little supercontinents in people’s hearts? We come together and violently break apart, letting the black basalt known as miscommunication, anger, and hatred, drive us further and further apart…

Or maybe, I’m just full of s#it.)

Then you’ve got everyone else who loves bugs and isn’t me’s favorite mass extinction: the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (66 m.y.a.), or, what I call, ‘Dead Dinosaur Time’. This one was likely caused by the asteroid impact down at Chicxulub on the Yucatan peninsula (and potentially many more asteroid impacts around the same time) and the Deccan Traps flood basalt eruptions. One starts it, the other mops up. The Batman and Robin of Mass Extinction events, as it were. In this one, about 75% of species went extinct and avian dinosaurs (a.k.a. birds) and mammals took The Throne. And out of this mess, came this bipedal creature that would come to ‘evolve’ hipster beards, persistent sneers, self-righteous egotism, and horrible math skills to deny the sheer improbability of it all.

At this point, I’m going to try to put all of this in perspective, and, I hope you understand that everything I’ve discussed to this point is one of the grossest simplifications available of 14 Billion years of existence. I haven’t even gotten into the many fluctuations of Global Geochemistry, the huge variances in the Atmospheric Composition, the possible theories on the formation of the Moon (talk about World-Altering Cataclysms…maybe…jury’s still out), the changes in morphology and body plans of Lifeforms throughout Time, the potential mechanisms that gave birth to things like sight, hearing or any of the other senses, the mystery by which our Sun started Thermonuclear fusion in the first place, or any of the Millions of other obstacles that Life has managed to work around to get to this point. But I’m lazy, I think the point’s been made, and I don’t want to strain people’s attention span. Soooo…. The Quick and Dirty:

Humans exist because dinosaurs were extinguished by a comet strike/massive volcanic eruption 1-2 combo, which allowed mammalian creatures (whose ancestors were most likely dinosaurs, like my father was before me) to take over. Whose ancestors only came to be because their ancestors, the archosaurs, were extinguished before them. Who only gained ascendancy because mammal-like reptiles were extinguished before them. Who only gained the land because their ancestors developed lungs and escaped the confines of the ocean to which their ancestors were bound and they only existed because at some point, their ancestors chose to hunt other creatures instead of making biochemical energy using light like their ancestors, who, in turn, chose to use photosynthesis instead of using chemical energy and heat to provide themselves with energy like their ancestors. And somewhere in there, all this Life managed to diversify because reproduction, that initially started as asexual in nature, decided to add sexual reproduction to its repertoire.

And through all this time, Millions of species have died off. Millions of species have failed. Trillions upon trillions of lives who battled against the elements and each other were extinguished as the conditions of the world changed, sometimes, irrevocably. Nature has said, ‘so long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, good night’ to these creatures. As far as Nature and Life is concerned, it’s like they never existed. Nothing remains of them but their fossilized remains. How screwed up is that?!?

Continents have been built up and torn apart, Oceans have grown and been swallowed by Land. Land has been raised up and swallowed by the Seas. Asteroids have pummeled the surface of the Earth, turning it into molten glass. Comets crushed the surface of this planet to provide water to allow Life to form. Our atmosphere only exists because of a microscopic bacteria that chose to take a different path and create Oxygen, despite the proven success of the method employed by its predecessors and those around it. Even Evolution, with its reliance on random sexual reproduction and genetic mutation to generate change across time, all of these ‘random occurrences’, against all the odds on a planet that, again, happened to have the right ingredients, location and circumstances to house Life next to a star that, itself, happens to be unique as far as stars go, in a Universe that ‘somehow’ came into existence via a method that seemingly violates the Laws of Physics, all these situations came together to create and sustain Life for ~3 Billion years so Humanity could look at it with disinterest and say, “Meh, this was all bound to happen sooner or later. But now that WE have arrived, let’s go ahead and fix up this dump. We can do better.”

This is arrogance at its most breathtakingly stupid. Or stupidity at its most breathtakingly arrogant. (I haven’t decided which fits best.) This is spitting in the face of Creation. Yet we, as a species, can’t help but think that we should have the power to circumvent the processes that gave rise to us because they aren’t ‘convenient’ or ‘profitable’ or ‘appealing to our emotional states’. Because all these ‘random occurrences’ don’t directly worship our existence. So instead of realizing we have been given the chance to prove that Life, that Nature, that the Universe, that maybe even a God (yes, Atheists, I have blasphemed against your religious beliefs in there Not being a God, excommunicate me from your Church so I can’t go to Not-Heaven when I die….?), made a wise choice by giving us Life on this planet, we turn our nose up at it all and foolishly believe that we deserve it and it will never be taken away. We have handicapped ourselves and removed any chance for our species to become better, to become stronger and to survive what Nature may dish out next.

And this is just another reason why Humanity is doomed.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I will soon be making the transition to a video format to rehash some of my previous posts and to introduce new topics/offshoots that are directly tied to Reason sometime in the not-so-distant future. Seems that the only people who actually end up perusing people’s blogs are those who can read and happen to be nerds. Since I’ve acquired a sponsor that would like these discussions to expand to a broader audience with a much shorter attention span, there may be growing pains. Whatever.

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