Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Aha! Moment

Recently, I read a nytimes article about the modern-day struggles and strategies for teaching basic biology in high school and it got me thinking about my early education. I realized there was one piece of evidence that started me on evolution and common descent, one example that made the diversity and similarity of all life make so much sense that I was inspired to explore the theory further.

Whales. Prior to any understanding of the theory of evolution, whales made no sense to me whatsoever. Why would there be a creature of the sea that needed to breathe air to live? Why would such an animal exist while plenty of other sea creatures managed to "breathe" the water just fine? And why did whales flex their tail fins vertically rather than horizontally like fish?

Finally, in late elementary school, the answer was revealed. Whales evolved from air-breathing land animals, separate from the older phylogeny of fish, and their blow-holes and vertical tail flex are remnants of that more recent ancestry.

"AHA! So simple and elegant! It all makes sense!" I thought. And from there, my interest in biology bloomed, and I applied the theory to other examples, and I had new and ever more exciting "aha!" moments, and I'm happy to say that journey of discovery continues to this day.

So, did any of my readers have a similar "aha!" moment? Is there a particular example or set of evidences that sparked an interest in biology and personally sealed the deal in regards to the explanatory power of the theory of evolution?


SuiginChou said...

I think I divide the aha moments into two camps,
1. why Creationism was clearly wrong and
2. why Evolution was very, very likely right

#1 occurred who knows when. I was probably 4 or 5 or 6 years old when I had this book on dinosaurs that introduced me to the scientific fact that the Flintstones were wrong and that dinosaurs and cavemen had not coexisted -- not even by a close margin, but by a disgusting gap of tens of millions of years. As the saying goes, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." Once the dinosaurs flew in the face of Genesis, it was all downhill from there for the Bible. As a child, I rejected the notion that T-Rex and velociraptors would have amicably coexisted with Adam and Eve; that they would have been ferocious but Adam would have outsmarted them with his wily ways; or that God would have made them on Day 5 or 6 only to break them less than 24 hours later before creating Man.

I vaguely remember reading a Bible for children with pictures and much abridged content and basically only being Genesis and Exodus and the gospels of John, Luke, Matthew, and Peter. I was reading it in the hospital either while my grandma had her 3rd heart surgery or while my dad his 1st hernia operation. Can't remember that much. But I remember reading it and feeling it was goofy. And then feeling like those were bad thoughts. 'Cause I believed in the good Christian God, of course, and questioned my safety and eternal happiness if I criticized the Bible.

As for why Evolution was right, I don't remember any specific "aha" moment. I never questioned it, though, just like with the dinosaurs' deflation of the Bible. Evolution was eloquent and made perfect sense. Like Occam's razor, "the simplest solution" was found in Evolution, not in any other scientific theory or theologic claim. Evolution made zero excuses, zero bullshit, and offered plenty of answers. Most impressive of all, the theory which had made perfect sense in 1850 with zero knowledge of genetics, DNA, etc. etc. withstood many tests -- both literally those experiments performed between 1850 and 2000 and the metaphorical test of time. Christianity, like a drunk blind man running into glass doors and trees, continues to pick itself up from the ground, dust off its trousers, modify its claims, and move on with the "we're the gospel truth!" dogma. Evolutionary science? It's been right since Day fucking 1 and has yet to hit a brick wall -- despite the many bricks thrown at its head by Creationists worldwide.

SuiginChou said...

Peter, lol. I meant to write Mark. No idea why I wrote Peter. Hahahaha.