Now, I’ve heard from a certain sectors that we were given digits, so that we can type on computers and throw footballs, but that’s not the case. We have digits in three-dimensional vision in color because we evolved from creatures that once lived in trees. I hope that’s obvious.
Well, here’s where I’m going with this, and that’s we need all of these events to take place, and primates we need to get then out of the trees and onto the ground. And this is where the third statistically improbable event takes place that I want to talk about tonight and has to do with the East African Rift zone.
The East African Rift zone started tearing Africa apart about 10 million years ago. And it has been rifting Africa apart ever since then. The faults in red here, the large triangle, there are big volcanoes – and they are in red. And those blue dots, those are Hominin localities, but most of the main ones are on there.
And these hominin localities are where we find fossils of upright walking bipedal creatures. If somebody says to you we are all of these missing links, show them this diagram, that where all the missing links are, they’re everywhere out there.
We not only have our direct ancestors, we have our first and second cousins, you name it, they’re out there. You know, that 7 million years ago we found a fossil that was walking in East Africa upright, and it had bipedal motion, it had a brain about the size of a chimpanzee, and it’s just when genetic clocks tells us it should be there. So I think that’s amazing.
So what has to happen to cause this bipedal walking motion and the big brains that we have today?
Well, it has to do with the East African Rift zone. The East African Rift zone cause conditions to dry and become arid in East Africa. It destroys the jungle and it forces the primates out of the trees and onto the ground.
And then we see these amazing things happened, we start to see these creatures that are walking upright, we start to see them develop amazing size brains, and it’s like nothing in the history of life on the planet, I’m not kidding you. We don’t see this anywhere in the history of life.
I’m going to give you an example here. Australopithecus, about 3 to 4 million years ago, it was an upright walking creature, that had a brain, just a little bit bigger than a chimpanzee’s, and this Australopithecus evolves into stone tool makers, then Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, and then us Homo Sapiens and it moves on Africa a hundred thousand years ago populates the planet, us.
And that happens because of aridity in East Africa. It’s an amazing event, in my opinion. And where’s the statistical improbability come from? Well, think about this, if this was an East South American Rift zone or an East North American Rift zone, we might not be here. That rift zone need to cause aridity where the primates are, and not just the primates, the largest primates, the great apes. So it has to occur in East Africa.
Well, that’s a fortuitous event, an improbable event. Now, I don’t want to come from an anthropocentric point of view tonight. I’m not suggesting that the god made all of these statistically improbable events occur, so that we would be here. That seems mildly arrogant to me.
No, what I’m suggesting is that in the nearly infinite universe that there might be few localities where you have all of these statistically improbable events occurring at just the right time to get an intelligent life like us. But in most of the places out there, and I’m talking about the rest of our galaxy and most of the universes, it might have a few of these statistically improbable events, but not all of them, and not in the right order. And that’s why I think that SETI is having trouble finding intelligent life.
Now I’m not on some campaign to shut down SETI, I’m not on the warpath to get rid of SETI, that’s not my point here. That’s a relatively negative point of view, and that’s not the way I want to finish.
I want to finish with the positive point, and I hope you recognize my point here is that life is very very rare. I mean think about how difficult it was to get our species here, and then, I want to point out to you that every one of you is very rare.
Think about this. Every one of your ancestors, and I’m talking about your parents, your great-grandparents, your grandparents, all the way back to the first cell. Every one of them had to be successful at least one thing, and that was getting their genes passed on to the next generation.
And if they weren’t you wouldn’t be here. I think of the gazillions of things that had to happen in order for you to be here. Well, it’s an astounding thing.
So what I would like to leave you with tonight is that life is rare, life is precious, and we need to take advantage of. And I can’t see it, I don’t think of any better than John Lennon.
So I’m going to leave you with John Lennon’s words tonight, and I want to thank you very much for this opportunity to come and speak to you.