San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Are we on the right track?

Evolution, the Demiurge, the Life Force, Élan Vital – there are many names for it, the mysterious Thing whose main achievement to date has been to create several trillions of living organisms on Earth, including 7 billion currently living humans who are now outgrowing their habitat and preparing to spread into space. 

Jack O’Brien

Jack O’Brien

To fully appreciate the Thing, you must observe the creation of new life under the microscope, where cells continually divide and redivide for your edification. But in fact you don’t even need a microscope; sit in the park or go to a party and observe the couples getting together, or go to the movies or watch TV and learn what script writers believe will sell, or simply invite a member of the opposite gender up to see your etchings and try to concentrate on dialectical materialism.

OK, it’s all very impressive, but close inspection reveals a few problems still unresolved. For example, the Thing relies exclusively on organic chemistry, and in particular on the affinity of alanine for thymine, guanine for cytosine, etc., which by a series of almost unbelievably complex gymnastics contrive to manufacture protein, the building blocks of us, among others. But was this a wise choice? The process is easily upset by ionizing radiation, of which the cosmos has plenty, and the clever arrangements for repairing the damage are themselves equally at risk.

In consequence, we are all different from one another, when a silicon-based chemistry could have made us all identical, albeit somewhat brittle, and would in one stroke have avoided all the ills that afflict us, from arthritis to war. Then again, the invention of gender has been hailed as a masterstroke in the battle to eliminate lethal mutants. But in fixing physical gender at conception but allowing mental gender to be determined during gestation, the Thing denied most of us the satisfaction of total masculinity or femininity, with horrid consequences. And in the brain, the almost absurd degree of miniaturization required to avoid future increases in skull size until enlargement of the female pelvic girdle is accomplished, is adequate testimony to the hit-or-miss approach to coordinating change in disparate structures.

Or take the vaunted immune system, which in humans is so badly designed that in a long list of diseases we are eating ourselves up from the inside because the T cells and their helpers have not been sufficiently educated to distinguish friend from foe. I could go on for pages citing sloppy design, but the overall conclusion is obvious: the Thing is a creature of Chance. I am appalled that our future lies in the hands of a cosmic lunatic, and that not just our own world will become uninhabitable due to our bad behavior, which is more the result of thoughtless design than of deliberate perversion, but also all the other worlds we must eventually ruin before we are stopped. Wars and natural catastrophes have failed to control the Thing, so I look to a new Savior to come up with a solution.

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