Quest For Greed

SantamonicafreewaynearrobertsonSeveral years back there was a big earthquake in the Los Angeles area and one of the bridges on the Santa Monica Freeway (Rt. 10) collapsed. Back then Wilshire Boulevard (or one of the other boulevards like Pico or Olympic) was probably the best alternate route but traffic must have been a real mess (I had left L. A. so I could only commiserate from New Jersey).

As the story goes, a well-known local construction company took the bid to rebuild the bridge. They not only finished the work before the deadline but they actually received a contractual  bonus for getting it done weeks earlier than imagined. I was very impressed.

But then one of my periodic fears crushes my elation like a three-hour tour: I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to rebuild that overpass. Is there a book that tells me how to go about it? Where’s the Professor when you need him?

After I stop bemoaning my incompetence I realize that the bridge construction didn’t happen in a limited number of weeks but actually took years and even centuries to develop the skills and techniques required for bridge building. It probably started with an ancient Egyptian or Babylonian and if I put my mind to it, I might be able to construct a bridge as good as they did back then. Bridges have been built for centuries and the knowledge required to build them and improve on the old bridges has been developed over those centuries. Then a can-do contractor puts in some serious work and the Santa Monica Freeway is re-opened for traffic.

Quest for FireI see the science of Evolution in the same way. Put me in a room and tell me to design an eye and I wouldn’t have any idea how to start; but give Evolution thousands and millions of years of trial and error and natural selection gives us the human eye. It also gives us thousands of other eyes, some of which are highly functional for the animal or bug or nudibranch that enjoys their use.

But note that the human eye is far from perfect According to those that know, it is upside-down and backwards. Or to put it in a general way: it is hardly intelligent design.  Besides, the eye is actually not finished evolving. In fact, the animal we call human is clearly not finished evolving.

But this assumes we don’t destroy ourselves and the planet first in our exceptional Quest for Greed.

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