The Miami Face-Eater and the Theory of Evolution

I’ve been trying to educate my 77-year old mother about the theory of evolution for some time now. My mother was born and raised in Cuba, moving to the United States in the early 1960’s. She was raised as a Roman Catholic, although when pressed she has a vague, pantheistic view and real anger toward the Pope and the Catholic hierarchy for their crimes against humanity and particularly their accumulation of wealth. So I don’t think it was religious thinking that was blocking her acceptance of evolution. I believe it was comprehension of the mechanism for it.

My most recent effort was to purchase “Why Evolution is True,” by Jerry Coyne as a gift for her. I bought it on Amazon and had it mailed to her. It’s my favorite book on Evolution and I thought it would finally bridge the gap in her understanding. She promised to read it. I thought I’d made some progress when she emailed me one day saying she’d wished she’d never heard of this evolution business. Now when she watches animal shows on TV, she is trying to understand how an elephant, giraffe and all the various animals could have common ancestry. She is very troubled by it. I tried again explaining common ancestry and that the very disparate animals have common ancestry long into the past, and that she should look at the animals that more closely resemble each other and try to visualize small, incremental changes in populations over large spans of time.

My mother is a news junkie, leaving the cable news shows on all day. As the news of the horrific attack on a Miami man by a naked man on the MacCarthur Causeway hit the airwaves, my mother was sure to give me her thoughts on the subject. The following is a text message exchange between us last evening. I’ve made only minor spelling and punctuation corrections to make it more readable:

Mom:
I believe in Evolution! No more doubts. We’ve a beast inside. The front of our brains can make us act like savages. I am sure you know what happened here. The news is all over the world!

Me:
The face-eating guy?

Mom:
Yes. 85% of his [face}. The guy who saw it all called the police…will be traumatized for life. You have not seen it?

Me:
What does this have to do with the theory of evolution?

Mom:
We come from animals…savage ones. We became humans but still we can go back to our beginning. This guy made noises like a lion. Police had to shoot 4 times to kill him. Read about it.

Me:
I have read about it. Evolution is a fact mom, but this has nothing to do with it. This was a crazy person on drugs.

Mom:
I know, but now I am convinced we were not humans from the beginning.

Me:
Humans are apes, close cousin of the chimpanzee and gorilla. There was no “beginning” for humans. It was a gradual process.

​Mom:
Now I know, I was in denial. Now I am sure we come from big monkeys.

Let your DNA do the Walking

Forever changed after watching Nat Geo’s, “The Human Family Tree,” I decided to participate in the Genographic Project and not only contribute my DNA to the growing collection but to trace my ancient ancestral origins, and discover the path my ancestors took out of Africa.

The fossil, archaeological and now genetic records have basically confirmed that East Africa is the birthplace of the human species. The oldest fossil of a Homo sapien is dated to 195,000 years in the past, and it’s estimated that our species spent ¾ of our time on Earth in Africa before the great migration began. In what are essentially two migrations out of Africa, Homo sapiens left Africa and ultimately spread across the globe over the last 60,000 years.

I’m very early in my educational process on genetics, so I’ll likely make the mistake of oversimplification, but I’ll give it the old college try. The sex hormones are passed along from parent to offspring essentially unchanged, so the son inherits the father’s Y-Chromosome and the mother’s mtDNA, while the daughter inherits only the mother’s mtDNA. While the male carries the mtDNA of his mother, he cannot pass it along to his offspring.

Continue reading “Let your DNA do the Walking”