A recent trip to the Galapagos, Charles Darwin’s remote research center in the Pacific Ocean, got us thinking about evolution, that heretical theory that certain school boards around our semi-enlightened country don’t want taught to impressionable children who might question the validity of the Creation Story.
Evolution is not kind. It’s a wicked filter that removes from Earth all but the fittest species. The Galapagos archipelago, in fact, is not a bountifully bio-diverse place. Only a handful of species of animal life survive there, somehow managing an existence on infertile volcanic islands in the sea. Naturalists estimate that 99% of Earth’s species have gone extinct — not just off the coast of Ecuador, but worldwide. What we have left represents the hardiest and most adaptive species on the planet.
The king of the beasts is homo sapiens. The human animal is more intelligent, more creative, and more powerful than any four-, two- or no-legged creature to roam the planet. We’ve evolved into thinking machines so far beyond our mammalian cousins that William Jennings Bryan’s famous retort to Clarence Darrow in the Scopes Trial — “Am I a monkey’s uncle?” — seems like a fair question, even though scientists tell us the answer is yes. We are the most perfect creature God ever created.
Yet our imperfections — our penchant for homicide and cruelty — seem destined to bring about the extinction of our species. How ironic (and how darkly humorous) that the most evolved animal to ever walk the Earth, a species with no enemies or dominant predators, has figured out myriad ways to obliterate itself.
One day millions of years from now someone or something will discover the remains of human life amid the cockroaches and beetles that will inhabit our pockmarked planet. They’ll marvel at us as we do the dinosaurs. And they’ll theorize about what could have brought about the obliteration of such a marvelous and adaptive form of life. Eventually, the Charles Darwin of the distant future will propose a revised Theory of Evolution, in which it is possible for a species to become too smart, too powerful, too rapacious. And the living beings of the year 10,872,442 AD will realize that the magnificent creatures who once ruled Earth managed the impossible feat of ending God’s great experiment.