Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Talus Slope
by Joseph Green

Who Benefits From War?
by Hayden Trenholm

Those Magnificent Stars
by Clare L. Deming

A Soldier Undreams
by Bret Carter

Eating Disorder
by Len Dawson

My Shaigetz
by Marcy Arlin

Two Timing
by Rik Hunik

To Dance With the Girls of Ios-5
by Ted Blasche


Psychology and Science Fiction
by Ann Gimpel, Ph.D.

Get Up and Go Somewhen
by J. Richard Jacobs

In Time For Evolution
by Eric M. Jones




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



In Time for Evolution

By Eric M. Jones

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT about evolution. It is about why evolution is so hard for people to believe. Human beings have almost no ability to understand the passage of long periods of time. Having some sort of clock inside the brain gives a creature no advantage.

Contemporary analogies of evolutionary or geological time-spans usually rely on a calendar mixed up with a clock. Carl Sagan wrote in The Dragons of Eden (1977): “... men and women originate at 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. All of recorded history occupies the last ten seconds of December 31st; and the time from the waning of the Middle Ages to the present occupies little more than one second ...”

Say wha’? Maybe it’s just me ... but I don’t think this makes anything easier to comprehend. In fact, it adds a couple layers of bewilderment. Human beings just don’t have any built-in clock. When you grow up, you furnish the space inside your head and time does not pass inside your brain. Does it make any sense to try to imagine how long it has been since last year, and somehow map that vague notion onto a time span with which you have no experience at all? It never worked for me.

What works for me (and I hope works for you) is to use a measured-length-equals-time analogy, that is:

1. A micron is a year.
2. A millimeter is a millennium.
3. A meter is a million years.
4. A kilometer is a billion years.

Here’s why you should believe in evolution:

Get down on your knees and measure out one mm. This represents a thousand years. Human civilization started about one-trillion seconds ago (About 32,000 years). It’s easy to see this as 32 mm. You can map all of human civilization on rulerone little finger. Now measure out one meter; this represents a million years. Slowly measure out those 65 meters, watching those millennia fly by. When you get there, that will be 65 million years ago when a really big space rock presumably ended the age of dinosaurs ... 65,000 millennia ago.

But the age of dinosaurs started 230 million years ago. So crawl 165 meters more on your knees to the 230 meter mark while imagining the changes that nature could slowly make, millennia by millennia.

If you were to stand on the Grand Canyon’s rim, you would find no fossils of land-based creatures below you, because at that level of strata they had not yet appeared. (And you wouldn’t see any above you because they were in rock strata that all eroded away ...)

But we’re looking over the rim of the Grand Canyon. So in the period 230 million years ago (230 meters) to 1.2 billion years ago (1.2 kilometers on our scale) there are layer upon layer of fossils of various species of sea creatures. At the bottom there is only the schist and granite made from the metamorphosed mix of limestone from the simplest creatures, sand and other rocks.

There was life on earth before this time, but only very simple creatures, and even earlier, only single cell creatures beginning at 4 billion years ago (4 kilometers). Crawl that on your knees and understand how very long ago it took anything we might call life to develop.

But the point is that the time span of life on Earth exceeds the comprehension of the human brain. This Meter-equals-a-Million-Years method is a good way to see where we are and where we came from.

You notice I haven’t mentioned monkeys, God, or Gods?

Evolution? There was plenty of time. No matter how fabulous some might think the claims of evolutionists are, there was plenty of time to do it, just by random DNA changes, selection and survival of the fittest in a changing environment.

There was time to independently evolve five or six unique and non-related
ways of developing horns. (From bone—both living and dead—from hair, from
chitin, from teeth, from cartilage, from exoskeletons, etc.) Many
independent means of light sensing developed, from chomophores to the
cephalopod eye—perhaps more advanced than a human eye because it sees
better in dim light and completely lacks a fovea (central blind spot).

There are a dozen different methods of flying and soaring in air, and even more of swimming. Birds apparently evolved to spread their DNA across the planet by air. Flying or swimming is a very efficient way to travel.

But my goal is not to convince anyone regarding the phylogenetic systematics of how life evolved, rather to show that there was plenty of time to do it. Plenty of time to carve out the vast, beautiful and complex variety of life we see around us—and the 99 percent that went extinct long before humans came along.

Humans, of course, are on the verge of controlling their own evolution, both in a purely biological sense, clones and manipulated DNA forms, and as human-dinosaursmachine hybrids (lens implants, artificial hair, tooth implants, pacemakers, titanium joints, cochlear implants, joint replacements, artificial parts are only the beginning). Human-biological hybrids (using artificial and harvested organs) and then human-android combinations.

So as a final ... really final ... look at the evolution of humanity— Imagine a day billions of years from now when the red giant Sun engulfs Earth, on that final day to evaporate all life, and all of everything. What will become of humanity then?

Well, what might seem to be humanity’s biggest challenge is actually not a problem at all. Several billion years ago “humanity”—or whatever it came from— might have existed as some sort of slime mold or single cell precursor. Billions of years from now, there is no reason to imagine that “humanity”—or what it will have become—would be even as closely related to humans as that slime-mold mindless precursor is to us now.

Besides, says Physicist Michio Kaku, “In five to 50 million years humans will have colonized the entire Milky Way Galaxy, even if we never achieve faster-than-light interstellar travel.”

So we won’t be here when it ends and we probably won’t even remember there was an Earth—or that we came from it—when it happens. infinity

Eric M. Jones is the Contributing Editor of “Perihelion.” He is an engineer, designer, consultant, and entrepreneur, currently working in his Internet business PerihelionDesign, designing, building and selling unique products, parts and materials for people in the home-built experimental aircraft community.