Megafauna Extinctions

About 13,000 years ago, close to 80% of the megafauna were wiped off the map.  Mammoths, mastodons, dire wolves, giant sloths, and smiledons or sabre-tooth tigers all disappeared.  And Clovis points made by Paleo-Indians cannot be found in dig sites after 13,000.  What caused this mass extinction?

About 13,000 years ago, a climate change occurred, called the Younger Dryas, also known as the Big Freeze.  The weather got colder and dryer for over 1,000 years.  Typically, the megafauna had survived many climate changes over the years, so why was this change so devastating?  Well, it seemed to be rather sudden with temperatures dropping about ten degrees and large dust storms and draught killing off plant life.  What caused the Younger Dryas?

There are two major theories as to what caused the Younger Drysas stadial.  First, scientists argue that the earlier warming period caused a significant influx of freshwater along the St. Lawrence River to the North Atlantic that disrupted the current and conveyor system that moderated the weather.  This could have led to colder weather.  Second, some scientists have discovered nano diamonds and other extraterrestrial evidence in the layers above 13,000 years ago.  They have uncovered fullerenes, extraterrestrial carbon carriers, which were also discovered in the Permian-Triassic layer, which could be evidence of a meteorite or comet that caused that extinction as well as that in the Younger Dryas.  Actually, the second theory could be the primary reason with the influx of freshwater being a secondary reason.

The Wisconsin Glacial Episode technically ended about 11,000 years ago, about the same time that the Younger Dryas ended.  The megafauna had survived significant climate variations during the different ice ages over the centuries, so why did the Younger Dryas lead to extinctions?  The first theory does not provide a good answer, but the second one does.  The megafauna could not survive the rapid changes caused by the comet or meteorite that may have hit.  Where is the evidence of a crater in North America?  Well, since it probably struck the deep ice sheets that covered the northern part of North America, the crater in the ice would have melted.

No Clovis points have been found during the Younger Dryas period.  Folsom points dating back to 9,500 years ago were the next spear heads located in America after the Clovis points.  The 3,000 year gap is difficult to bridge.   The Folsom Paleo-Indians seem to have genetic connections to Asia and the Clovis Paleo-Indians may have a nexus to Europe.  If this is true, the Asian presence either was able to survive the Younger Dryas period or entered North America when the climate improved.  They clearly were the forefathers of the Native Americans that populated North America when the European explorers landed on the east coast.

If you examine the moon, there are hundreds of craters, so it would not be unusual for earth to be the target for numerous comets and meteorites over the years.  Most of these craters have been erased by erosion.  If the meteors were large enough, they could have had a devastating impact on life on earth at that time.

One of these was probably the culprit that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.  At the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary, when the dinosaurs went extinct, there are large amounts of the metal iridium, which typically is not found on earth, but is found on meteorites.  It is highly likely that a large comet or meteorite impacted earth about 13,000 years ago, causing the extinction of the megafauna.

Evolution for Afterlife

We are all familiar with Darwin’s theories of evolution during life, but very little has been written on evolution after life.  If you believe that there is nothing after life, then you will not be interested in this discussion; however, you might want to read this just in case there is something waiting for us after we die.  Since it is impossible to say with certainty that there is nothing after we die, it might be good to at least think about the possibilities.

You have heard stories about parents who wanted their children to have a better life and sacrificed their own lives to provide an education and whatever else they could to give their children a better chance than they had.  Evolution is a part of that process.  Survival of the fittest is one of the evolutionary principles that generally create a better and stronger species.  The weaker and less efficient members of that population die or don’t reproduce.

We know that Homo sapiens was lucky to become the dominant species.  If the dinosaurs had not suffered a mass extinction, mammals would not have had the opportunity to flourish.  And our species was nearly wiped out several times, but it fortunately survived the eruption of Mt. Toba and the ice ages.

So even though we consider ourselves as the ultimate species at the top of the evolutionary peak, this is not true.  Consider the source of that belief.  Our species consists of very fragile animals that cannot survive in extreme conditions.  The species has only existed for a short period in geologic time.  Our selfish tendencies will eventually doom us.  We would rather satisfy our individual needs than do the right thing to protect our progeny.  An example is our inability to preserve our environment for future generations.

We attempt to improve ourselves during our lifetimes, but our humanness limits our ability to evolve into selfless creatures.  Perhaps the best we can hope for is that we would sacrifice our lives to protect our children.  So, it may be that any significant evolution of man must occur after death.  Assuming that we are still conscious after death, we may have the opportunity to evolve into a much better entity.

The Bible indicates that there are three Heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2).  We can only speculate on these different Heavens, but there may be three separate tests for each Heaven.

The first Heaven probably is the obvious one where Christians go if they believe in Jesus who died for their sins.  But Jews and Muslims also know this Heaven as a place where believers of God are admitted.  Other religions and beliefs are not excluded from this Heaven.  This destination is not an exclusive club for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or any religion.  But your choices made during life may be a part of the judgment, including analyzing your actions as evidence that you actually believed.  So, this Heaven perhaps is the easiest to reach as long as you believe.  There may be a clear division between believers and nonbelievers.  The Bible refers to an abyss between the two groups.  Near-death experiences consistently refer to crossing over.

We apparently will retain at least some of our senses to detect this Heaven.  This is the Heaven that has been seen and heard by those who have had near-death or death experiences.  It probably is a beautiful and peaceful place, but still should be within the confines of God’s created, closed universe.  This is where we may see and talk to relatives and friends who predeceased us, angels, and Jesus and Abraham, all in recognizable human form.  This probably is by design so we will feel welcome and will not be afraid of unfamiliar forms and entities.  The face of Jesus will be comfortable and familiar to us, so we may see Him here.  But the face of God might be more hidden from us in this Heaven.

The second Heaven may require an evolution of spirit, going from selfish, centrist thought to “big picture” thinking.  In other words, you become less important as an entity as the whole becomes more important than your part.  This Heaven, more than likely, is reached through your thoughts.  You may find the mid-Heaven quite a bit more difficult to reach since there may be temptations in the first Heaven that impede your progress.  However, if you become one with God, you should be able to avoid selfish and prideful thoughts.  Some religions teach this unification, which is critical in order to evolve and transfer into the second Heaven.  Reaching this goal requires much more than a belief in Jesus or God; it requires a complete makeover of your personality, focusing on the universe that is beyond you.  I have no idea about the structure of this Heaven, but it probably is still within the border of our closed universe.  We may be judged by our actions in the first Heaven to determine if we will be permitted to transition to the second Heaven.

The third Heaven probably is God’s universe, which is outside our known universe.  The law of conservation of energy basically states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed in a closed universe.  So, God’s creation probably occurred outside our closed universe in God’s kingdom.  The transformation that is required to reach this kingdom may be of such a magnitude that I would be surprised if many souls ever made it.  In fact, the Bible, including the teachings of Jesus, is very clear that only a very few make the grade to reach God’s kingdom.

Pastors rarely will discuss the three Heavens and even less often will mention the difficulty in reaching the third Heaven, God’s kingdom.  It would be too controversial.  The pastors would be run out of town.  Most believers only want to hear about the first Heaven, which is the easiest destination.  So, ministers focus on how members of their church can reach the first Heaven.  It would be difficult to sell Christianity or any other religion if people had to work too hard at it.  So, don’t expect too many articles on evolving from the first Heaven to the second and third Heavens.

The significant evolution of our spirits must occur after we die.  My wife and I look forward to the Heavens as a challenge.  We will do our best and reach as many Heavens as we can.  We believe we have a chance to reach the second Heaven, so we will prepare ourselves as much as we can during our lifetimes to be ready for whatever happens.

If there is no afterlife, then all will be still when we die, and we will not suffer from our beliefs.  However, if there is an afterlife, then we will be well served by our preparation for consequences.  The free will that God gave us must have some significance.  As religious existentialists we believe that free will without the consequences of God would be quite absurd.

Also, it seems logical that a creation must have a Creator and that a design must have a Designer.  If I were an odds maker, I would say that it is more likely than not that there is a God.  If I were a gambler, I would place my money on God not only because of better odds, but also because of the consequences if you are wrong.  Even if the chances of there being a God were one in a million, I would still bet on God because if I’m wrong, it will not cost me anything.  But if I don’t pick God and I’m wrong, it will cost me everything.

My wife and I have taken a vow of abstinence for the past twenty years.  We will die without having sex again.  This may seem a bit extreme, but believe me, getting to the other Heavens requires extreme effort.  It will not be easy, no matter what religion and beliefs you have.  You must be willing to sacrifice yourself and your desires.  My wife and I study the Bible together as we prepare for our final days.  We are not perfect, but we work toward reaching the final goal.  If you get halfway toward your goal each day, you will never reach the goal, but you will keep edging closer.

It is interesting that many people do not like their lives, their work, their sex lives, their sex (male or female), but there are days when my wife and I find that we don’t like our species.  We apologize for this, but sometimes, we like our dogs better than humans.  In fact, we hope God has animals in the first Heaven.  We feel confident that the second and third Heavens require a complete transfiguration from our species into something altogether different and, of course, becoming a better entity through the evolution for afterlife.  Good luck.  We all will need it.

Stromatolites – Our Ancient Ancestors

Our earliest ancestor was a plant, not an animal.  This most ancient ancestor was a stromatolite dating back more than 3.5 billion years ago or about a billion years after our earth was first formed.   Stromatolites consist of blue-green algae that aggregates, creating layers.  Even though most of our early ancestors have gone extinct, stromatolites still exist today.  A large population is located in the Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay in western Australia.

Stromatolites were the most abundant fossils found in rocks dating to the Precambrian era, from the origin of Earth about 4.5 billion years ago to 544 million years ago.  Stromatolites became prolific starting about 2.5 billion years ago, releasing oxygen into the environment which set the stage for animal life.  Both plant and animal kingdoms diversified over the years, but stromatolites remained the same since they were able to adapt to many environments and did not require diversification to survive.  They formerly existed all over the world, but today they are endangered.

Over billions of years, both plants and animals evolved into large trees and dinosaurs, but there were many mass extinctions that cut off the branches in our family tree.  One of the most widely discussed was the death of the dinosaurs, which occurred about 65 million years ago.  The K-T boundary or thin geologic line representing the end of the Cretaceous and beginning of the Tertiary ages included iridium.  Iridium is found primarily in meteors.  This was strong evidence of when the large mountain of a meteor about six miles wide crashed into the Yucatan Penninsula near the town of Chicxulub in Mexico.

Scientists are fairly confident that this meteor caused significant stress on the dinosaur population, but are not certain if this event could have accounted for the mass extinction by itself.  However, if you examine the effects of the meteor’s impact, it might be sufficient.  The impact set off volcanic eruptions, massive earthquakes, and tsunamis, all sending dust and debris into the atmosphere, where it blocked sunlight for centuries.  This created a nuclear winter with temperatures plummeting.  There were wildfires all over earth, causing acid rain.  This sounds pretty convincing, but there is one more piece to this puzzle.

About this same time, a large volcanic eruption occurred in the Deccan Traps located in the northwestern part of the Deccan Plateau in India.  It may be the largest volcanic province in the world, consisting of more than a 6,600-foot depth of basalt lava flows covering an area of 190,000 square miles.  When the event occurred, some estimates show that 580,000 square miles were impacted.  This would have been a significant event, which when combined with the meteor could have been too much for the dinosaurs.

Some scientists believe that the Deccan Traps eruption occurred first about 66 million years ago, lasting for thousands of years, and then the Yucatan meteor smashed into the earth about 65 million years ago, causing a double whammy which wiped out the dinosaurs.  However, it may be more than a coincidence that the Yucatan impact area is on the opposite side of the world from the Deccan Traps.  If you place your finger of your right hand on the area where the meteor landed and a finger of your left hand on the Deccan Traps on a globe of the earth, these locations are eerily opposed to each other.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  I would argue that the time lines need to be reexamined.  It is more likely that the meteor stuck first, which triggered the great Deccan Flats eruption.  Whether this occurred 66 or 65 million years ago is not known, but it must have been closer in time than scientists believe.

Mammals were able to survive these events and over time, an animal called Homo erectus popped up in the east African rift zone about 2 million years ago.  These hominids were able to stand upright, so we believe that we descended directly from them.  Homo sapiens seem to have entered the scene about 500 thousand years ago, and the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, which is very similar to modern man, can be found about 200 thousand years ago.

Our subspecies just barely hung on after the mega-volcanic eruption at Lake Toba in Indonesia about 75,000 years ago.  This was the biggest eruption that we know about during the history of earth, which caused a nuclear winter just like the Yucatan meteor and Deccan Flats eruption.  Our species came very close to being wiped out.  There were only about a thousand of our species that survived this event, which explains why all humans are so genetically similar.  After surviving the ice age, our species started repopulating the earth about 10,000 years ago.

So the bottom line is that Homo sapiens sapiens has not been king of the earth for very long.  In the great scheme of things, we should examine all our ancestors and realize that we are very insignificant in the great scheme of things, not only in the amount of time that we have occupied the earth, but also in our vulnerability to changes.  We have been very fortunate that we are right in the middle of a warm, moderate period, but will we survive the next ice age or cataclysm?  Time is really not on our side.

Bonobos vs. Common Chimpanzees

There are two species of the genus Pan of chimpanzees:  one is bonobo, Pan paniscus, and the other is the common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes.  The bonobo and common chimpanzee were separated by the Congo River in Africa, and they actually evolved into two distinct species.  These monkeys were not very good swimmers, so the bonobos lived on the southern side of the river, while the common chimpanzees lived on the northern side.

The bonobos are a very peaceful species, while the common chimpanzees are very aggressive.  Humans are related to the common chimpanzees, so some scientists believe that Homo sapiens inherited our aggression from the Pan troglodytes.

During scientific experiments, the bonobos who have been provided food will open doors for other bonobos to ensure that they all share the same meals, while common chimpanzees are genetically predisposed to protecting their own interests and will aggressively fight others who attempt to take their food.

It is interesting that the bonobos are down to a population of somewhere between 29,500 to about 50,000 and are on the Endangered species list.  Even though some of this reduction in species is because of habitat destruction and hunting by our species, it may also be because of the timidity in its genes.

The bonobo and common chimpanzee species separated about a million years ago, and Homo sapiens branched out from the common chimpanzee side.  Recent genome analysis shows that the common chimpanzee is our closest living relative.

The bonobos are recognized as being capable of “altruism, compassion, empathy, kindness, patience, and sensitivity” by primatologist Frans de Waal, who studied them in captivity for many years.  Most studies indicate that bonobos have matriarchal behaviors.  The females seem to have a higher social status, and the males derive their status from their mothers.  The males are less aggressive in their roles.  In short, bonobos are similar to the hippies of the 1960’s and 1970’s in that they have communal sexual activity that seems to decrease tension.  They also are known to share their food in communal style living.  Their sexual activity is not monogamous and is not limited to one gender.  They have no self-imposed restrictions on having same gender sex.

De Waal describes the bonobos as extraordinarily peaceful, and he documented how the species resolves conflicts with sexual contact which has given the monkey a famous hippie saying, “make love, not war.”  Scientists noticed social mingling occurs, in which members of different communities have sex and groom each other, behavior which is unheard of among common chimpanzees.

It is interesting to note that recent studies appear to show that there are significant brain differences between bonobos and common chimps.  The brains of bonobos are more developed with larger regions that may be developed for the feelings of empathy and in sensing distress in others, which may make them less aggressive and more empathic than the common chimpanzees.

The aggressive gene, appear to be a dominant force in survival for not only the common chimpanzees, but also for most of the other primates, including Homo sapiens.  However, it will be interesting to see if this holds true as our species becomes more dominant and overpopulates our world.  Currently, the population of humans is about 7.24 billion, and scientists predict that we will be at about 8 billion by 2024.

Some believe that this is like packing more gunpowder into a powder keg.  Eventually, it will explode in a very self-destructive manner.  It is quite likely that man’s aggressive heredity was important in survival when our numbers were down to perhaps a thousand after Mount Toba, a super-volcano, exploded about 74,000 years ago, creating an ice age that nearly wiped out our species.  This is probably why Homo sapiens have little diversity in its genetics.

It would be quite anthropocentric of us to claim that we are a superior species and are God’s chosen one since we have only been around a short period of time on a geologic scale.  We might boast that we have done a remarkable job in overpopulating the earth, but that is a specious species claim.  We could legitimately argue that our propensity for aggression was helpful when we were on the ropes with only about a thousand of us in the world, but that aggression may be our downfall as we reach the 8 billion mark.  It does not take a genetic scientist to predict the outcome of having too many aggressive animals in one cage.

You may think that I am arguing that we would have been a better species if we had come from the bonobos rather than the common chimpanzees, but that is not even close to the truth.  Quite frankly if we had come from the bonobo family, we probably would not have made it much past the Mt. Toba eruption.  It was probably our fierce aggressive spirit that kept us going and saved our species.  In other words, if we all joined the ranks of the drug-induced passive world of the hippies, we would eventually be wiped out, either by a more aggressive species or those Homo sapiens who did not become hippies.

All I am saying is that this aggression could also be our undoing as we overpopulate the world.  It is only a matter of time before a highly aggressive group like a terrorist organization obtains nuclear capability and is not afraid to use it, even if it is self destructive.  Humans have now reached the pinnacle of aggression, so that we are ready to die as long as we can kill others in the process.  Suicide nuclear or biological bombers could be the next step.  If we can set off enough nuclear weapons, we could create a nuclear winter, much like Mt. Toba did 74,000 years ago.

But I believe our species is aggressive enough that if a thousand of us survive the nuclear holocaust or biological weapon release, whichever occurs first, that a hearty group will fight back in an effort to repopulate the earth again.  But don’t ask me if we deserve to rule the world again.

Gibb’s Gut

A popular television program called “NCIC” has Leroy Jethro Gibbs as its lead protagonist.  He makes many of his decisions based on the famous “Gibb’s Gut.”  He may not know who committed the crime based on the hard evidence, but his gut instinct will point him in the right direction.

Homo sapiens will make many decisions based on instinct rather than reason.  This carries back to prehistoric times when our ancestors had to make choices within seconds.  We notice many of these instincts even today.

I will mention a half dozen things that appear to be programmed into humans:  (1) a startled reflex that awakens us probably dating back to when our ancestors lived in trees, preventing falling to the ground where a predator would snatch us up if we survived the fall, (2) a running instinct when we perceive danger, (3) sweating when we are afraid, perhaps allowing our ancestors to slip out of the clutches of predators, (4) getting “goose bumps” when we are afraid, which also stimulates our hair and makes it stand up, probably allowing our ancestors to appear larger and more muscular, (5) aggressive behavior, perhaps allowing our ancestors to compete more successfully for food and shelter, and (6) disgust with things that might carry disease, which would have been imprinted in our brains to protect us from contagions.

But there are two others that deserve additional study:  (1) a conservative approach that allowed our species to have a greater chance of survival in a predatory world and (2) a quest for security that also led to the same end goal.

First, man was programmed with an instinct to take conservative approaches to life.  By being hard-wired to avoid dangerous conditions, man had a better chance of surviving the predators that were lurking in the shadows.  Early hominids might survey the area for minutes before climbing down from the tree.  Early hominids might not wander too far from water supplies.  Early hominids might form social groups for additional protection.

The other subconscious adaptation was to seek security or control in a chaotic and unpredictable environment.  There have been about 30 billion species of animals over the life of the earth, and only about 99.9% of them still remain.  Homo sapiens almost went extinct about 74,000 years ago when Mt. Toba erupted in Indonesia, creating an ice-age, destroying both plant and animal life.  Humans were reduced to about 1,000, thus creating a bottle-neck for our species.  This is why all DNA in all humans is 99.9% the same.

Perhaps because of all the mass extinctions and the potential for chaos in the universe to extinguish our lives in a heartbeat, man needed to have a God to protect us from asteroids, super- volcanoes, polar reversals, ice ages, draughts, floods, and all the other potential cataclysmic events.

God may also exist because we are conservative and do not wish to gamble on what may happen after death.  There is no downside to believing in God, but there is a big problem if we do not believe in God and there is an afterlife.  This ties in to the second instinct to seek security.  God would be our security blanket, providing control in a potential world of chaos in the afterlife.  God is the conservative bet.  Even if the odds are a million-to-one against there being a God, it still is the best bet because if there is a God and you don’t believe in him, there are significant consequences.

Gib’s gut should tell you that you should believe in God since it matches your instincts.  We know that man has honored and worshiped God or gods for millennia.  This probably is part of our instinct to satisfy our craving for a conservative approach and security.

More than likely, there will never be any hard, concrete evidence proving that God exists.  The evidence will only be circumstantial.  The only proof will be what we find in our Gib’s gut.  One of our instincts, as we discussed earlier, is disgust.  We feel sick when we view a mutilated body.  We are disgusted primarily because we fear that it could happen to us.  We may be disgusted when we see dead bodies in morgues.  Again, part of this disgust is because it brings home our temporary position on earth.  We are disgusted if we have to face the fact that there is nothing after we die.  As existentialists would say, “We are disgusted because life is absurd.”  However, let’s take it a step further.  A Christian existentialist like Soren Kierkegaard would say, “Life is absurd without God.”  So we will not be disgusted if there is a God.

Thus, God appears to be a gut reaction to our living on earth.  We instinctively know that God exists.  Therefore, we are comforted in a chaotic universe.  Even if there is no God, the fact that God is imprinted in our minds is sufficient evidence of his existence.  He certainly exists in our minds, which may be the most important location for his existence if we are still thinking after we die.

Of course, we make many decisions during our lifetimes, and not all of them are based on reason.  Many choices are made based on instinct.  So, it is not unreasonable for us to believe in God based on a priori reasoning.  We can infer that God exists from his fingerprints of the Big Bang, DNA, and the controls within our universe.  If these fingerprints did not exist, then we would not exist.  Controlled existence is some evidence of a creator or God.

However, the bottom line is that Gibb’s gut tells us that God exists.

Weather or Not, There Are Climate Changes

Some scientists argue that climate changes occur in cycles, not necessarily the result of temporal weather patterns.  For example, we had a series of vicious winter storms that struck the eastern United States in 2013-14.  On one day, all fifty states had snow.  This weather is not indicative of a climate change, by itself.  It may have been an anomaly.  So you may have bitter cold weather patterns interspersed during a warming climate change.

However, there may have been some interesting reasons for the unusually cold winter.  Typically, a Polar Vortex circling in Canada and the Arctic area, keeps frigid air north of the United States, but when there are unusual warming trends in the climate, this could disrupt the Polar Vortex, breaking it down, allowing cold air to drop into the deep southern states.

Many scientists now believe that man’s burning of fossil fuels has triggered a climate change that may be locked in and cannot be reversed.  Once the climate is tipped into a new direction, there are forces that not only continue down that path, but many times can accelerate it.  For example, the drought conditions in the southwest create more forest and grass fires, which, in turn, cause more soot to carry to the poles, causing “dark ice,” which causes accelerated melting of the ice. 

As the air and oceans warm, the most dangerous consequence awaits us in the cold depths of the ocean.  Methane ice is frozen at great depths, but it only takes a few degrees of warming of the ocean to trigger the thawing of the methane gas, which would create a global warming scenario hundreds of times worse than what man can cause with fossil fuels.  This warming of methane in the oceans may have been what caused the Permian extinction.  Once the blanket of methane covered the earth’s atmosphere, we would move quickly into a Global Winter for decades with most plants and animals dying off.

The new normal with our climate will be its extremes and unpredictability.  We will have more intense storms, more mega droughts, more ice storms, more tornadoes, more hurricanes, more flooding, more fires, more snow… more extremes in weather.

The Arctic has been our bellwether for climate changes, and it clearly points to climate change that is here to stay.  The ice is melting at a rapid rate.  Greenland is losing 300 billion tons of ice each year.  The Inuit hunters are not finding wildlife along the ice pack near their home because the ice edge is moving further north away from them, causing the walrus and seal population to move north too.

There is a theory that the ocean currents are being impacted by the new climate change, so that normal warming from equatorial waters, being carried north and south, is also being interrupted.  This disruption of warming currents and the methane melt could combine to cause our world to go into a deep freeze.  It sounds strange, but global warming may actually be the trigger for the next ice age.