After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isnt it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am askedas I am surprisingly oftenwhy I bother to get up in the mornings.
My main reason for scepticism about the Huxley/Sagan theory is that the human brain is demonstrably eager to see faces in random patterns, as we know from scientific evidence, on top of the numerous legends about faces of Jesus, or the Virgin Mary, or Mother Teresa, being seen on slices of toast, or pizzas, or patches of damp on a wall. This eagerness is enhanced if the pattern departs from randomness in the specific direction of being symmetrical.
We think we know that chimpanzees are higher animals and earthworms are lower, we think we've always known what that means, and we think evolution makes it even clearer. But it doesn't. It is by no means clear that it means anything at all. Or if it means anything, it means so many different things to be misleading, even pernicious.
A biochemist colleague has kindly provided me with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and enough hydroquinone for 50 bombardier beetles, I am now about to mix the two together. According to the above, they will explode in my face. Here goes...Well... I'm still here! I poured the hydrogen peroxide into the hydroquinone, and absolutely nothing happened. It didn't event get warm!