What I Believe

I believe that:

Life

· Planet Earth came into existence around 4600 million years ago. At first there was no life. But then, perhaps around 4000 million years ago, the first living and reproducing cells came into being. By 2000 million years ago there were microbes capable of capturing light energy from the Sun and converting it into energy-rich carbohydrate molecules through the process of photosynthesis, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere in the process.

· The first multicellular organisms that would have been visible to the naked eye appeared around 700 million years ago, and after that, biological evolution brought millions of life forms into existence, leading eventually to the rich network of interacting and interdependent living organisms that inhabit our world today.

· All living organisms, except for some viruses, share the same means by which genetic information is passed from parents to offspring. The essential agent in this process is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). It contains, in coded form, most of the information necessary for the formation and functioning of the new individual.

· All plants and animals, as well as human civilisation, are entirely dependent on the process of photosynthesis in green plants.

· Our species, Homo sapiens, came into existence around 300,000 years ago – as an omnivorous animal adapted genetically to the conditions of life of hunter-gatherers.

· The most distinctive biological attribute of our species, unique in the animal kingdom, is the ability to invent and memorise a symbolic spoken language, and to use this language to communicate among ourselves.

Humans

· The human aptitude for language led to the accumulation of shared knowledge, beliefs and attitudes in human groups. That is, it led to human culture.

· Human culture has recently emerged as a powerful new force in Nature. It has led to activities that have been to the benefit of humans (cultural adaptations) and to activities that have been greatly to their disadvantage (cultural maladaptations).

· Around 12,000 years ago, or around 500 generations ago, some of my ancestors were turning to farming as a way of life.

· My ancestors of three or four generations ago witnessed the beginning of the fourth, Exponential Ecological Phase of human history – the Anthropocene. This resulted in an explosive increase in the human population, in the use of fossil fuels, in the pollution of the natural environment and in the extinction of other species.

Me

I also believe that ninety seven years ago I did not exist. But then one day, inside my mother’s body, a miniscule cell from my father joined up with a cell from my mother,

and over the next nine months this new composite cell gave rise to a human baby, with all its organs, with a heart beating, with hair, a face, fingernails and toenails, and with the ability to breath, cry, suck and look around. This was me. I didn’t exist. Then I did exist. I was created. This I believe.

I came into a world inhabited by thousands of millions of other human beings, and by countless billions of other living organisms, ranging in size from invisible sub-microscopic viruses and microscopic bacteria to the 30-metres-long Blue Whales and the 100-metres-tall Mountain Ash trees of south-eastern Australia.

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