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A Reflection: How Darwinism Widened up my View on LifeJanuary 27, 2021
During the 2020 December break, Parami offered a half-credit online course, “Chemicals, their Evolution and Life," hosted by Parami University President Dr. Kyaw Moe Tun. It is an introductory course on how inorganic materials give rise to the development of organic matter, and consequently life as we know it. Also, the course covered various subjects from the fundamentals of chemistry, life molecules, and basic genetics to case examples of speciation and evolution, and many more.
It helped students to understand the basic mechanism of evolution by natural selection, and how diverse species come about. As a fan of philosophy, our Parami student Han Thu Ya, who also participated in the online course, reflected and connected some of the main takeaways from this class with the outlook of life in general.
Inter-dependency of everything
According to Darwin’s evolution theory, we all are descended from the same ancestor, a single-celled organism that could be traced back to at least 3.5 billion years.
There are three domains of life, Bacteria, Archea, and Eukaryota, and we, humans, are made up of cells from all these three domains. Our bodies have about 37 trillion (3.7 x 10^13) human cells (hosts of the DNA inherited from our parents), and about 100 trillion (1 x 10^14) bacteria, mostly in the gut (American Society for Microbiology) http://bioprinciples.biosci.gatech.edu/module-1-evolution/what-is-life-2/.
In addition, the information in DNA is stored in the same way for all living beings. You share 96% of your DNA with chimpanzees, 80% with cattle, 60% with chicken, 90% with cats, and 60% with banana (Yes, you may have to read it twice). This makes me humble a great deal. How about we think of ourselves as just a member of nature, who share serendipity and sufferings by a natural process with our fellow organisms? After all, they all can be considered our distant relatives. This does not stop with animate things. Parts of our bones are made up of calcium phosphate, which is commonly found in rocks. If the assumption that the minerals contained in our bones come from rocks, that would only make us have gratitude for inanimate objects as well.
We are all on equal ground
Let me go back to the DNA thing. We, humans, share 99.9% of the same DNA. The remaining 0.1% makes up the difference in our skin tones, eye colors, and facial appearances. Yes, we are still unique in our ways by this difference but if we could appreciate 99.9% similarity instead of plain focus on 0.1%, this would somehow reduce the tendency to discriminate against each other.
Appreciation of life
Evolution does not always lead to the betterment of one species. You must have seen moths (poe-pha-lan) going into the fire and might have thought they are just simply suicidal. The fact is it is due to their evolutionary characteristics (Click here for more info). We are lucky enough to not have adopted these self-destructive instincts and if anything, we should even be grateful of what we have through evolution. Our ancestors back in years ago did not have the same eye as we do today. It is amazing how our eyes evolve from a mere light source detector to a powerful tool which can process 36,000 bits of information every hour (Click here for awesome animated explanation). This makes me appreciate more about the life I have.
Evolution does not lead to perfection and it is a good thing
I used to fantasize about having an ability to see through walls, be invisible, gain a photographic memory, or whatever superpower in my wildest dream. Now, I realized evolution is just enough for survival, and we still have to bear with our own imperfections. We still have to be reliant on one another, be it our own species or with the others. On the flip side, it can even be considered a good thing as it would require us to care for one another without taking anything for granted.
More questions added to more utility in life
I had never bothered to question my existence before. Where I came to be, how I had my body parts, who my ancestors were. Never. Neither did I think it was useful, but how wrong I was. This course taught me not how to ask questions but how to find questions in the first place. It is wonderful how answering one question leads to answering the seemingly unrelated one. A phylogenetic tree used to showcase the evolutionary relationship between different species helps find a way to the efficient production of Taxol compound which is used to treat cancer (source:https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/phylogenetics_12). It is also concerned with our health in general. In case you had a question on why your doctor doesn't want you to skip an antibiotic pill, it is because it will leave a chance for bacteria to form resistance.
Reflection by Han Thu Ya (PLP 7th Cohort)
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