A Table of Contents

Living things first appeared on earth around 3.8 billion years ago. The posts here discuss bits of that history of life as well as its results in present-day organisms. I’m not a scientist, but gaining some understanding of this epic has become intensely meaningful as I’ve grown older. It intrigues me, consoles me, excites my imagination, and beckons me to see myself and all the living things around me as its outcomes.

The blog also turns out to be about time. We—I, for sure—cannot grasp such spans as a million or a billion years. But filling in the story of the development of life—such as the evolution of humans over six million years–gives images and substance to those eons. Time, I keep thinking, is like descriptions of a deity: something that is not within my capacity to envision but which I catch glimpses of as I learn a little about its slow work.

Within such a broad subject matter, the posts here jump around a good deal. For readers who may wonder what themes link them together, here is an outline of topics and some of the relevant posts for each.

1. The Cosmos and the Origins of Life. We don’t know exactly how we living things got started, but we know a lot about the probable process and we know approximately when.

On the Cosmic Calendar, A Date to Remember
New Thinking about the Origins of Life (2): Catalyst and Containers
Is DNA Alive?
Neil Shubin’s ‘The Universe Within’

2. The First Two Billion Years: Single Cells. The evolution of the groundwork of life was slooooww, complicated, and vital.

Genesis For Non-Theists
The Pioneers: Archaea and Bacteria
Cyanobacteria: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Life Before Fossils
Most of Your Cells Aren’t Yours

3. Plants and Animals. The closer and longer you look at them, the more you see.

Plants As Aliens
I Like Lichens
400 Million Years of Ferns
Hope Jahren’s ‘Lab Girl’ and the Dramatic Life of Plants

Reverence For (Some) Life
Beavers, Humans, and Evolution
Animals and the Law: More Like Persons or Property?

4. The Processes: Emergence and Natural Selection.

Genes Are Like Sentences, Genomes Are Like Books
Emergent Phenomena: More Than the Sum of the Parts
“We Are All Mutants”: Mutation Basics
It’s Diversity All the Way Down

5. The Human Body. How we evolved and how our body works.  First, we learned to walk on two feet—without a tail.

Walk, Run, Eat: The Evolution of Our Body
How Consciousness Might Have Evolved
The Body Electric
Breath: Divine Gas In a Smart Body
Stem Cells: How to Build a Body

6. Thinking and Feeling. Our brain gets us by, with some help from irrationality.

Steven Pinker on Disgust, Sex, and Happiness
Comparison is the Thief of Happiness
The Biology of Suffering
“The Mind Is Mainly Drawn to the Future”
The Gambler’s Fallacy and Other Biases of the Brain

7. Competition and Cooperation. Organisms have been competing against and collaborating with each other for a long time. Humans take the second for granted.

Darwin’s Dark Vision: “Ten Thousand Sharp Wedges”
Symbiosis, Or How We All Get Along

8. Aging and Dying. Death frighten me a little less when I think about the long linkages of lives of all kinds before me, around me and after me.

The Death of Everything
Oliver Sacks and The Comforts of Metal
Feeling Old? Envy the Lobster
The Immortal Jellyfish

9. Religion and Spirituality. Religions tell us our Story, reassure us about life after death, and urge us to live in certain ways. Can naturalism do the same?

Buddha and Darwin Genesis for Non-Theists
Hindus Seek Detachment. Have Plants and Animals Already Found It?
How To Make A Religion

tree of life 3

6 thoughts on “A Table of Contents

  1. Very pleased to have discovered this blog! I really enjoy the exploration of where supposed opposites meet and blend, and where meaning is revealed. I too have a great reverence for life, and believe that we must apply our critical thinking whilst also honoring the unfathomable mystery. Compassion, intuition, imagination, logic and reason are not mutually exclusive! I look forward to reading more…

  2. The following is quoted from Finding Spirituality in Biology. “One popular voice these days is Sam Harris. Harris is a neurosurgeon who argues in his book The Moral Landscape…”
    Sam Harris is no neurosurgeon, nor is he a surgeon of any persuasion.
    Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, an important distinction.
    How can I believe any other obscure declaration on the blog after discovering this unverified and erroneous presumption published as fact?

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