Chapter One The Past Is Connected to the Now

Nothing exists in isolation. Everything today is a continuation of the past as well as an indication of the future; everything around us is impacted by distant things, and in turn influences other things in the distance. In order to answer questions about mankind and human society, one must first understand humanity and human history itself, as well as the environment in which humans survive.

SECTION ONE: THE PURSUIT OF TRUTH

In the thousands of years of recorded human civilization, truth is often mistaken as fallacy, while fallacies are often regarded as sacred and inviolable truths. The birth of a revolutionary truth must always weather a ruthless and bloody storm of opposition: that has been the universal law throughout time.

Many scientific conclusions have led to tragic persecution and brutal combat in the long course of history, but truth always wins out in the end. Through the endurance of time, fact will always shine through the layers of absurdity and make its brilliance known universally.

The path to truth is often filled with hardship. Three such examples are introduced below.

One: The Story of Earth’s Relation to the Universe

Since the beginning of time, humans have been preoccupied with understanding the earth we live on and the universe surrounding it. Due to the limitations of the known world, for thousands of years after entering civilized society, humans could only rely on their intuition and imagination to observe the sun, moon, stars, earth, and sky and attempt an understanding of the earth and universe.

“Geocentric” was a cosmologyical doctrine established in ancient Europe; it was first proposed by the third-century BC ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. He theorized that the earth was the center of the universe, with the moon, stars, and all cosmic matter orbiting around it. Aristotle was a master of ancient Greek philosophy and a teacher to the famous Macedonian king, Alexander the Great. His lofty status and seemingly reasonable explanation might have been the reason this wrong theory dominated the Western world for more than a thousand years. It is often through a series of “developments,” misinterpretations, and accidental applications that falsehoods gain and cement their dominance in the world.

The astronomer Ptolemy further developed and improved upon the geocentric theory. He believed that Earth was located in the center of the universe, with the moon, Mercury, Venus, the sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn ranging around it in successive order. According to him, these planets all orbited the earth within their own trajectory at regular intervals.

All of the above views regarding the earth and its relation to the universe fall within the realm or normal academia. According to the general principles of scientific research, as long as there is sufficient basis, a new correct scientific conclusion can overturn a previous wrong one without much difficulty; however, once a scientific theory is deliberately exploited by the dominant religious or political authorities, the situation becomes much more complicated.

Christian doctrine took up the incorrect geocentric theory. According to Christianity, God created Earth and the universe. The earth was the center of the universe, and everything in the universe, including mankind, was created by God. During the dark medieval times, Christianity firmly imprisoned people’s belief systems, not allowing any doubt or rebellion against predetermined Christian ideology. This allowed the geocentric theory to dominate cosmology virtually unchallenged.

The first person to offer substantive challenge to the geocentric theory was Copernicus. Nicholas Copernicus was born in Torun, Poland, on February 19, 1473. He studied law, medicine, and theology at university, but his interests lay in astronomy. In his spare time, Copernicus would observe and study astronomy. Coupled with his reflections on the universe, he proposed the heliocentric theory and dedicated his life to completing the astronomical masterpiece, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. This work stated that Earth was not the center of the universe but just an ordinary planet. The center of the universe was the sun, followed by Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, in that order.

Today, we can see that Copernicus’ argument is not the ultimate truth either, but it was a crucial first step on the path to truth and a complete denial of the geocentric theory. More importantly, the heliocentric theory’s denial of geocentric theory would move beyond an astronomical debate to evolve into a challenge of Christian religious theology. The revolutionary consequences inspired by the heliocentric theory would trigger a chain reaction across a series of other fields. This was absolutely unacceptable to the Christian church.

On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres was published after Copernicus had been bedridden by a stroke. With trembling hands, he caressed this masterpiece for which he’d struggled his whole life, and he died not long after.

It was the genius, atheist, Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno who developed Copernicus’ theory. Bruno was not an astronomer; he used his own philosophical speculations to propose the idea of an infinite universe, further developing the Copernicus theory. Bruno believed that the sun was not static but constantly moving, and that the sun was not the center of the universe either. He believed that there were an infinite number of worlds outside the solar system, and the universe—being unified, material, and infinite—could not have a center.

Bruno’s ideas infuriated the Catholic Church, and the inquisition held a seven-year interrogation against him. Bruno was indomitable and insistent upon the truth, even in prison; he was ultimately sentenced to death by burning. On February 17, 1600, Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori.

Brutality, bloodshed, and violence can never stop people’s pursuit of truth, as evidenced by one of the most outstanding pioneers of modern science: Galileo. Through astronomical observation, Galileo concurred with the Copernicus theory and published the book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632. This book was soon banned by the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo himself was tried in Rome and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1633.

The period in which Bruno and Galileo were sentenced by the church was the darkness before the dawn for Europe. The fourteenth-century Renaissance movement, originating in Italy, sought to organize ancient Greek and Roman works as cultural weapons against religious theology. The movement took up a human-centered humanism ideology to confront the God-centered religious ideology, opening the way for modern ideological liberation.

It was the dedication in the pursuit of truth and fearless sacrifice for righteousness demonstrated by men like Copernicus, Bruno, and Galileo that woke the dawn of the new world. From the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, the Western Enlightenment movement started in Britain and France and expanded to Germany, the Netherlands, and many other countries. The Enlightenment movement used rationalism as an ideological weapon, with its spearhead directly pointed towards feudal autocratic rule and religious theology. It opposed religious superstition in favor of promoting the spirit of science and opposed authoritarian dictatorship in favor of democracy and freedom. The Enlightenment movement even advocated for a rational society free from religion—a secularization of human life. It was the effort of Enlightenment thinkers that uncovered the path to science and reason for all humanity and removed the shackles of religion from the pursuit of truth once and for all. And then there was the American Revolution and the French revolution . . . and so scientific research suddenly saw the light.

It was the power of truth that drove the world to momentous change.

 

Two: The Story of Earth

The earth is home to man. Our ancestors hunted, gathered, and farmed here day in, day out. It is Earth—the home our survival depends upon—that provides a habitat for humanity within the vastness of the universe. And thus humanity has endured from the beginning of time until today, evolving from apes to Homo sapiens, from barbarism into civilization.

However, the surface of the earth we live on is far from fixed and eternal; it consists of separate plates that constantly drift and change. From the formation of the earth until this day, this surface has undergone much change. About two hundred million years ago, Earth was one supercontinent encompassing all lands. What is today the east coast of South America was connected to the west of Africa; North America was adjoined to the west of the Eurasian continent; Australian was a peninsula off the east of Antarctica; the Indian subcontinent was all the way in Antarctic, thousands of miles away from Southwest China; and China’s Tibet was bordered by vast seas. This was not the first time a supercontinent existed on Earth. Another supercontinent had formed about seven hundred million years ago, but the shapes and locations of the landmasses varied.

The landmasses on Earth have been separating and uniting throughout time. Just as brothers who must go their separate ways once the time comes, this supercontinent finally broke apart, the landmasses starting their separate journeys, two hundred million years ago. The Americas drifted westward, away from Europe and Africa, while the Indian subcontinent broke off from the Antarctic continent and traveled north until it bumped into eastward drifting Asia, forming the magnificent Himalayas in the process. Australia left Antarctica shortly after the Indian subcontinent and traveled north, and it maintains a northward voyage until this day.

Today, the Americas continue to drift westward with the Atlantic Ocean, expanding at a rate of one to four centimeters per year. In fifty million years, the Atlantic will have widened by more than one thousand kilometers. At the same time, the Asian continent is drifting eastward and the Indian Ocean is also enlarging. Under attack on both the east and west side, the Pacific is becoming narrower; eventually, it will no longer be the largest ocean in the world.

As the African continent continues to move north, the Mediterranean will become an inner lake and eventually disappear. The stubborn Indian continent will remain firmly pressed against Asia, causing the Himalayas to rise at a rate of one to five centimeters a year. In some tens of thousands of years, Mount Everest will be more than ten thousand meters in height, further cementing it as the world’s highest peak.

After swallowing the Mediterranean, the African continent will continue its “northern expedition,” eventually hitting Europe and creating a tall uplift along the African-European continental margin. The Alps will gain in height as well; however, the African continent itself will face large internal divisions. The Great Rift Valley will rupture completely, East Africa will begin an eastward drift, and a new ocean will be produced.

This almost fairytale-esque story is the theory of plate tectonics, which originated from the continental drift theory proposed by German scientist Alfred Wegener. In 1910, when Wegener was lying in bed sick, he was inspired by the world map in front of him. He was fascinated by the similarity of the landmasses on the two sides of the Atlantic, as the protrusion on one side perfectly fit into the concave of the opposite side. With such consistency in shape, could it have been possible that these two continents were once connected? With this idea in mind, Wegener began a series of studies. He not only conducted comparative studies of the continental strata on the two sides of the Atlantic, but he also researched the consistency of African and Brazilian paleontology, eventually producing the theory of continental drift.

Wegener’s theory was almost unanimously opposed by geophysicist everywhere. People laughed at his “great poetical dream” and regarded him as an ignorant grandstander lacking basic knowledge of Earth science. Wegener’s ideas were deemed to be simply ridiculous and completely unjustified.

Wegener was extremely marginalized and shunned in academia; this exclusion and contempt even affected the small number of people who expressed recognition or sympathy to his theory. During that time in the United States, you could not become a university professor if you subscribed to the theory of continental drift, and you would also face endless irony and disdain. In such an environment, even those who wholeheartedly supported continental drift theory could not express it out loud—this was a rare phenomenon in the United States, where democracy and freedom were such important values.

For a long time, the theory of isostasy held dominance in geology circles. It theorized that the earth’s crust moved in an equilibrium of alternating rising and sinking movements that relied mainly on vertical movement and only minimally on horizontal movements. Therefore, the continental drift movement was undoubtedly a fundamental negation of isostasy theory, openly challenging existing geological theories and authorities.

Wegener was alone in his battle; even his famous meteorologist father-inlaw held continental drift theory to be mere caprice. But Wegener persisted in his academic beliefs and was committed to proving continental drift theory in every way possible.

In 1930, the fifty-year-old Wegener met a tragic death in Greenland while attempting to find further evidence to support his theory. The continental drift theory faded into obscurity along with its founder.

It was only in the 1950s that breakthroughs in paleomagnetism research finally validated his theory. When magma goes from hot to cool in its solidification process, it gains magnetism from the earth’s magnetic fields. Rocks from different times magnetize in the same direction. Since rocks can be dated, the magnetization direction of rocks across different time periods can also be determined; thus, the different locations of different regions at different times can be determined as well.

In the 1960s, scientists conducted differential research into seabed rocks and terrestrial rocks in conjunction with research into submarine magnetic anomalies, eventually finding evidence of subsea expansion. Wegener’s continental theory finally became recognized as truth instead of “absurd heresy.” Both Wegener and his theory were vindicated in the academic community. Scientists established the theory of plate tectonics based on Wegener’s theory, marking a geological revolution and the advent of a new era in Earth science.

 

Three: The Story of the Origin of Humanity

When it comes to the origin of humanity, almost every nation has developed its own interpretation over time. Most of these explanations state that humans are created by deities and are accompanied by numerous folktales and legends. When the “God created man” story became a theological doctrine of the prevalent religious power, however, it became uncontestable, as any challenge to theological doctrine in a religion-centric world could mean imprisonment, or even death.

British naturalist Charles Darwin and biologist Alfred Russel Wallace were both revolutionary figures in the impetus to overthrow the “God created man” ideology. Darwin in particular cast unprecedented doubt on the creation theory through his detailed research and rigorous scientific analysis.

In 1831, the British Navy ship Beagle was set to embark on a scientific investigation of South America. Its main task was to conduct hydrological mapping of the east and west coast and islands of South America, as well as record a time for completing an around-the-world voyage. The ship was missing a naturalist with geophysical knowledge, so Darwin was suggested due to his interest in botany and geology, even though he was not a geologist. This voyage took nearly five years, stopping at many places around the world. While managing geological inspections and collecting data, Darwin discovered many occurrences that contradicted the creation theory.

On the South American Pampas grasslands, Darwin often observed a kind of bird that could not fly, called the rhea. These birds lived in environments similar to that of African ostriches, but although rheas were similar in body structure to ostriches, they were not identical. If God decided to create these beings, wouldn’t one be enough? What point was there in repeating the process?

What struck him as even more odd was his experience while investigating the Galapagos Islands; each island had their own unique creatures. These islands were very close to the South American continent, and the islands’ creatures were obviously different yet still clearly genetically related to the creatures living in South America. Even among the islands, though each island’s creatures were significantly different from each other, they still shared obvious genetic traits. This phenomenon made it possible for people to imagine that such creatures shared the same origin and developed differently in diverse environments—so species were not necessarily immutable. This ideology was undoubtedly incompatible with the “God created all things, and all things are eternal” belief.

Upon arriving in Brazil, Darwin was mesmerized by the variety of plant life, the beautiful leaves and flowers in the Brazilian forests. All this natural splendor dazzled Darwin and caused him to question if God had really created such diverse marvels one by one, all by himself.

After Darwin returned to the Britain, he started thinking in-depth about his voyage and studying domestic animals, ultimately forming the concept of evolution and publishing his far-reaching book, On the Origin of Species, in 1859. In this book, Darwin systematically expounded on his theory of evolution. He believed that all creatures were capable of evolving; some evolutions were heritable, and some were not. Evolution was caused by changes in the living environment and the use of organs; individuals evolved to better suit the environment had better chances of surviving, and organs used more were gradually developed. For example, wild ducks have stronger wings than domesticated ducks because they fly more, while domesticated ducks have stronger legs because they walk more.

Darwin believed that there was a surplus in nature, and that organisms reproduced in far greater numbers than necessary for survival. Only those individuals who evolved to best adapt to the environment survived and produced offspring, while less suitably evolved individuals were eliminated. Under natural conditions, evolution is a need for survival and reproduction. Animals compete for food and mating opportunities, while plants compete for sunshine and nutrients. They are all evolving through such competitions.

In Darwin’s mind, a primitive ancestor could produce a variety of species each with their own traits. Different individual hybridizations and isolated geographical environments all contribute to the formation of new species and varied traits. All creatures within the same genus share a genetic connection, just as different foliage on a tree connects to the same trunk.

Shortly after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin’s follower, Thomas Henry Huxley, published Man’s Place in Nature in 1863. In 1871, Darwin published The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, in which he enumerated many facts to scientifically prove that humans were evolved from animals and shared “kinship” with animals, thus pointing out man’s position in nature. Darwin’s assertion completely denied the religious doctrine of “God created the world and man.” These two books once again caused a sensation. They told people that there was no Creator, that the world evolved according to its own laws, and that species evolved from other species from one common ancestor, producing a variety of complex biological species, including humans.

Darwin and Huxley’s arguments caused great waves and infuriated the religious community. One debate on creation versus evolution went down in history. On June 30, 1860, the British Association for the Advancement of Science arranged a debate on creation versus evolution theory. Due to physical discomfort, Darwin did not participate in this debate. Attending on his behalf was staunch Darwinist and quick-thinker Huxley; on the other side of the debate was eloquent Oxford Bishop Wilberforce, a man renowned for his religious attainments. This debate is known in history as the “Oxford Evolution Debate,” and it took place in the Oxford University Museum. The sensitive nature of the theme attracted a large volume of listeners; the venue was packed with over seven hundred attendees.

Wilberforce spoke first. Playing on the religious feelings of the people, he carried out a deeply provocative attack: “Mr. Darwin would have us believe that every animal, every reptile, every fish, plant, fly, and fungi descended from the first living creature that could breathe. This is a blatant denial of the will of God. Can we allow such betrayal of orthodox religion?” Wilberforce quickly turned his glance to Huxley and asked, “Mr. Huxley, do you consider yourself descended from an ape through your grandmother or your grandfather?” This clearly humiliating provocation caused the audience to burst into laughter.

After hearing Wilberforce’s speech, Huxley quickly realized that Wilberforce did not know what evolution was, nor had he seriously read On the Origin of Species. Huxley calmly stood up after the crowd had quieted and spoke: “I have come to defend science, and I believe that no prejudice can take away the prestige of my respected party.” He then plainly explained the fundamentals of the theory of evolution, pointing out that this was the result of twenty years of observation on Darwin’s part, not fabrication, and that it reflected the objective laws of the biological world. Then Huxley said, “On the question of humans originating from monkeys, it is not as superficial and literal as the Bishop understands it to be; it just means that humans are evolved from animals like monkeys.” After further illustrating Darwin’s views in a more comprehensive manner, Huxley turned his head and started straight at Wilberforce, replying, “[A] man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling, it would be a MAN, a man of restless and versatile intellect, who, not content with a success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions, and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.” The audience responded with warm applause to Huxley’s brilliant retort.

The Oxford Evolution Debate had great repercussions. It helped people to clearly understand the absurdity of creationism and the scientific nature of the Darwinian evolution theory. It was evolution that removed the shackles of feudal theology from the field of natural science, allowing it to embark upon a path of independent development. Simultaneously, the theory of evolution further shook the rule of religion through obscurantism, liberating people’s minds and defending the dignity of truth.

The pursuit of truth is a demanding process; it requires a certain spirit and a type of courage. Daring to challenge traditional ideas, daring to contest authority, daring to face persecution: these are all premises for the birth of a revolutionary truth.

This book bases its research on the pursuit of truth and the respect for reality. This author is determined to go forth undeterred, with no regrets or fears, because he firmly believes that the conclusions of this book are fundamentally related to the fate and future of humanity.

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