Sept/Oct 1999 Miscellany

From the Cave to Upsilon Andromedae

by Ron Callari

Two recent thought-provoking scientific discoveries have recently come to light. The fact that they occurred the last year of the 20th century and moments before the dawn of the new millennium may be purely happenstance. It is curious, however, that these revelations have uncovered new evidence about missing links in mankind's past lineage and his future heritage. The former relates to the findings of a Portuguese anthropological dig that unearthed a hybrid skeleton suggesting interbreeding between the Neanderthal and the Cro-Magnon species. And the latter is based on the discovery by NASA astronomers in Hawaii who have clear evidence that a budding solar system is in formation around a nearby star. Could these divergent events be synchronistic in nature? Might they provide us with some auspicious message that has only taken ten million years to reach us? And if so, what is the portent of this long-awaited dispatch?

When you think about the juxtaposition of these two monumental findings, the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick's classic movie 2001 comes to mind; i.e. [close-up, center stage]: Joe Caveman heaves his primitive tool to the heavens and it transforms itself [wide shot] into tomorrow's spacecraft.

Evolutionists and Creationists could have a field day with both these events, but I would venture a guess that the greater concern lies in that Portuguese ditch. Neanderthals are the ancestors that nobody wanted. Believed up to now to be a separate species from modern man, they were physically and mentally deficient. They were stooped shouldered and arthritic. They never developed a larynx, so they never had anything to say. The Cro-Magnon model on the other hand was equipped with voice boxes, which led eventually to speech and the formation of brain patterns that became constructive (or destructive, dependent on your point of view) thought. If non-consensual interbreeding (as I am sure, rape and pillage was the sport of the day) occurred between the two, does this put us one step closer to fraternizing with the ape? Even without this discovery, scientific fact has modern man sharing 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees. I wonder if Barry Scheck is onto this case.

Flash back some ten million years and a star is born. Upsilon Andromedae (code name: HR4796) first came on the scene as a result of a cloud of interstellar gas collapsing. Flash forward to 1999 and we are now witness to this young star moving into adulthood and actually starting its own family of planets. According to astronomers, this finding represents the missing link in the study of how planetary systems are born and evolve. Up to know we've seen baby pictures of new stars and we are knowledgeable of middle age stars because we circle one. It was not until the discovery of HR4796, that we were able to capture our first glimpse of a new solar system in progress. To put this in perspective, our Sun is a couple of billion years old, and it also took about ten million years after its creation before Earth and its sister planets evolved.

With these epiphanies comes reflection. Are we as some believe the blink-of-an-eye inhabitants of one of several specks of dust circling an ordinary star at the edge of an average galaxy among 125 billion others in the universe? After all we could fit one thousand Earths inside Jupiter and one thousand Jupiters inside the Sun. And if our beginnings share common ground with lower forms of life does that reduce our stature in the cosmos even more? Maybe, maybe not!

What these two mind-boggling events may be telling us is that we haven't lived yet. What is two thousand years when you think of it, or five to forty-thousand, for that matter? It's not that we pale in size, but that we lack time. Think of it this way. In the Middle Ages we lived in a spiritual realm that was governed by religious leaders and other-worldly dogma. We were told that mankind was at the center of the universe, surrounded by the entire cosmos, for one solitary purpose: to win or lose salvation. And while this world-view was adhered to for hundreds of years it began to erode when the interpreters of God were found fallible and non-trustworthy.

What followed was a movement from spiritualism to individualism, a dependence on one's own ability. We shed our spiritual cloak by taking matters into our own hands, by focusing and controlling Earth's resources to create a economic security to take the place of the one that we lost. We gradually became preoccupied. We have become a culture of work-obsessed individuals who have left very little time for the evolution of spirit. The question of why we were alive and what was going on here spiritually was pushed aside and repressed. James Redfield in The Celestine Prophesy sums it up by saying, "Working to establish a more comfortable style of survival has grown to feel complete in and of itself as a reason to live, and we've gradually, methodically, forgotten our original question... We've forgotten that we still don't know what we're surviving for."

And now as we approach the dawn of a new millennium, you can actually see a yearning to return to the ethereal realm. Our fixation with economic security is not enough and there are numerous movements afoot that are focusing once again on spiritual evolvement. This entire process only took five hundred years of this most current millennium to transpire.

It took five hundred years to discard what we didn't like, try something new and then gravitate back to the center again--this time, in hopes of making it better. Seems like we could have done all that during the course of a good meal and the right mix of dinner guests; i.e., historians, philosophers, economists, religious leaders and a couple of good comedians. But in the grand scheme of things, this all did occur within the blink of an eye. Time is the great leveler, not size. So what the Neanderthals and Upsilon Adromedae might be telling us is that we are just on the cusp of understanding our link to the cosmos. They have helped us locate a couple more pieces to mankind's jigsaw puzzle. And like all good puzzles, with each added part, the big picture begins to unfold. Even though we may perceive ourselves as drifting far in stature from the center of the universe, their ten million-year message (talk about snail mail) might be that it's not the size that counts. It has more to do with the fact that we've got a long way to go baby!


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