“Everything You Need To Know Is Contained In a Flower.” Buddha
Excerpt: “The Immense Journey” [How Flowers Changed The World] by Loren Eiseley.
“A little while ago—about one hundred million years, as the geologist estimates time in the history of our four-billion-year-old planet—flowers were not to be found anywhere on the five continents. Wherever one might have looked, from the poles to the equator, one would have only seen only the cold dark monotonous green of a world whose plant life possessed no other color.
Somewhere, just a short time before the close of the Age of Reptiles, there occurred a soundless, violent explosion. It lasted millions of years, but it was an explosion nevertheless. It marked the emergence of the angiosperms—the flowering plants. Even the great evolutionist, Charles Darwin, called them “an abominable mystery,” because they appeared so suddenly and spread so fast… The weight of a petal has changed the face of the world and made it ours.”
Living 600 years before Christ, Buddha lacked modern geological and botanical knowledge. However, his wisdom about flowers rings just as true today as when he proposed it.
In, The Great Evolution Mystery, Gordon Taylor explains why Darwin’s Theory of evolution does not account for “organs of extreme perfection.” This includes the human eye. Human eyes contain over 100 million cells that all must function in perfect synchrony in order for people to see properly. Although ophthalmologists know much about eyes, it remains a total mystery as to how the light image, focused on the retina, can be converted into biochemical data and transmitted via optic nerves to the brain. How the brain decodes the data and displays it as a visual image is yet another mystery.
Anthropologist Loren Eiseley agrees, however, he expanded the mystery to include the origin of life, which he pointed out Darwin also failed to explain. Eiseley contended that it doesn’t matter what we call the mystery, only that we are aware that it exists. Furthermore, he opined that those who fail to acknowledge “The Mystery” are in danger of ceasing to be fully human.
Albert Einstein agreed, but expressed a more forceful position: “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
Contemplating frog eyes, and lacking a time or place for the origin of life on Earth, Eiseley alluded to the possibility that life may have come from somewhere across the “pond of space.”
“Yet whenever I see a frog’s eye low in the water warily ogling the shoreward landscape, I always think inconsequentially of those twiddling mechanical eyes that mankind manipulates nightly from a thousand observatories. Someday, with a telescopic lens an acre in extent, we are going to see something not to our liking, some looming shape outside there across the great pond of space. Whenever I catch a frog’s eye I am aware of this, but I do not find it depressing. I stand quite still and try hard not to move or lift a hand since it would only frighten him. And standing thus it finally comes to me that this is the most enormous extension of vision of which life is capable: the projection of itself into other lives. This is the lonely, magnificent power of humanity. It is far more than any spatial adventure, the supreme epitome of reaching out.”
The fossil record of frogs indicates that they began to evolve from fish about 400 million years ago. However, “modern” frogs emerged about 200 million years ago. Ergo: The eye you are looking at has undergone 0ver 400 million years of evolutionary change.
With a mystery like that, is it not a fool’s errand to bicker over Creation or Evolution?
Like the classic concept of “yin-yang,” both words may reflect a cybernetic mutualism in which one word cannot exist without the other.
This is precisely what Eiseley was suggesting in his classic book, “The Immense Journey.”
If you are feeling a little spiritually deflated, enlarge the frog image and concentrate on it for one full minute and see if you can connect with 400 million years of time and change.
Perhaps it will encourage you to Celebrate the Mystery!
Tom Stienstra is one of my favorite outdoor journalists. He writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle covering a wide range of outdoor topics including hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, kayaking, canoeing and wilderness adventures. He is a talented writer with a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of the aforementioned subjects. Although he rarely cites John Muir, his personal encounters in, and descriptions of nature put him in the same pantheon of nature lovers as Muir, Eiseley, Thoreau, Agassiz, Humboldt, Audubon and others.Loren Eiseley claimed that all adventures into the wilderness create images and impressions that are always interesting to share and discuss. Tom’s column typically rises to a high level of naturalist writing.
His recent article on the beauties and potential perils of experiencing lightning storms is an excellent sample of his knowledge and skilful writing (Enjoy nature’s light show in a safe, reasoned manner – SFGate). He did not invoke Muir, “Let us make haste to join the storm and see what treasures Nature has in store for us,” but he did a good job of describing the dreadful/exhilarating feeling of being close to a lightning strike. Muir further described a deep love of nature in all of us and suggested that love is energized by all of the various kinds of storms. Although communicating the mysteries and wonders of Nature (spirituality) may be as difficult as capturing lightning in a bottle, those descriptions become the Holy Grail of Nature writers.
When Tom reminded me that lightning bolts typically exceed 50,000 degrees, it reminded me of the masses (and madness) of high school (and university) biology teachers who routinely describe the origin of life as being caused by a lightning bolt. I doubt that there is a scientist on the planet who would foolishly suggest that life is possible on the sun’s surface (10,000 F), however, an overwhelming number of them glibly suggest that life was started by a lightning bolt.
Carl Sagan wrote, “There are more atoms in a DNA molecule than in a typical galaxy.” Hmmm. Is it really possible to conceive that a bolt of lightning could spontaneously organize billions of atoms into the first DNA molecule on the planet? Of course, he did not explain the origin of the original carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen atoms necessary to create that first DNA molecule. The leap from single DNA molecule to the first prokaryotes is massive and one that scientists have yet to understand or explain.
If biology teachers are truly intellectually honest, they find themselves in a huge ethical and moral dilemma. They obviously can not “scientifically” describe the origin of life as being caused by God (or some form of Supreme Being) and they can not claim that life was caused by “nothing.” Evidently, Thomas Huxley ( and his crones) in their haste to anoint Charles Darwin as the new God of Creation, huddled together and agreed that life must have been caused by a lightning bolt. Many modern scientists continue to perpetuate this myth. There is nothing in science that supports his theory. In fact, what we do know is that living organisms often do not survive a direct lightning strike. While few forms of life can withstand temperatures above 212 degrees F, some rare forms of marine bacteria can withstand 121 degrees C (249.8 degrees F). As amazing as that might be, 249.8 degrees F is a far cry from 50,000 degrees F. To most rational minds, this renders the theory that life was started by a lightning bolt as one of the greatest fool’s errands that modern scientists have blindly claimed to be true.
The only honest description for the origin of life is similar to the origin of the Universe; both remain as events without a known cause, which means that they are unfathomable mysteries. Celebrate the Mystery.