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Thread: And Yet, We're Here ...

  1. #1

    And Yet, We're Here ...

    On the rarity of human life ...

    In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha used the metaphor of a blind turtle in a vast ocean to explain how difficult it is to be reborn as a human being.

    Suppose there is a small piece of wood floating on a vast ocean. The wood has a small hole the size of which is just enough for the head of a turtle to pop into. There is a long-lived sea turtle in the ocean. Once every one hundred years, this turtle comes out from the bottom of the ocean perchance to pop his head into the hole of the wood. To be born as a human being is just as hard as for the blind turtle to encounter the small piece of wood on a vast ocean and let its head go through the hole in the wood piece.
    And so, this ...

    Humans May Be the Only Intelligent Life in the Universe, If Evolution Has Anything to Say
    By Nick Longrich - Senior Lecturer, Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Bath


    Are we alone in the universe? It comes down to whether intelligence is a probable outcome of natural selection, or an improbable fluke. By definition, probable events occur frequently, improbable events occur rarely — or once. Our evolutionary history shows that many key adaptations — not just intelligence, but complex animals, complex cells, photosynthesis, and life itself — were unique, one-off events, and therefore highly improbable. Our evolution may have been like winning the lottery … only far less likely. ... Could intelligence simply be unlikely to evolve? Unfortunately, we can't study extraterrestrial life to answer this question. But we can study some 4.5 billion years of Earth's history, looking at where evolution repeats itself, or doesn't

    Evolution sometimes repeats, with different species independently converging on similar outcomes. If evolution frequently repeats itself, then our evolution might be probable, even inevitable. ... Here's the catch. All this convergence happened within one lineage, the Eumetazoa. Eumetazoans are complex animals with symmetry, mouths, guts, muscles, a nervous system. Different eumetazoans evolved similar solutions to similar problems, but the complex body plan that made it all possible is unique. Complex animals evolved once in life's history, suggesting they're improbable.

    ... Surprisingly, many critical events in our evolutionary history are unique and, probably, improbable. One is the bony skeleton of vertebrates, which let large animals move onto land. The complex, eukaryotic cells that all animals and plants are built from, containing nuclei and mitochondria, evolved only once. Sex evolved just once. Photosynthesis, which increased the energy available to life and produced oxygen, is a one-off. For that matter, so is human-level intelligence. There are marsupial wolves and moles, but no marsupial humans.

    There are places where evolution repeats, and places where it doesn't. If we only look for convergence, it creates confirmation bias. Convergence seems to be the rule, and our evolution looks probable. But when you look for non-convergence, it's everywhere, and critical, complex adaptations seem to be the least repeatable, and therefore improbable.

    What's more, these events depended on one another. Humans couldn't evolve until fish evolved bones that let them crawl onto land. Bones couldn't evolve until complex animals appeared. Complex animals needed complex cells, and complex cells needed oxygen, made by photosynthesis. None of this happens without the evolution of life, a singular event among singular events. All organisms come from a single ancestor; as far as we can tell, life only happened once.

    Curiously, all this takes a surprisingly long time. Photosynthesis evolved 1.5 billion years after the Earth's formation, complex cells after 2.7 billion years, complex animals after 4 billion years, and human intelligence 4.5 billion years after the Earth formed. That these innovations are so useful but took so long to evolve implies that they're exceedingly improbable.

    These one-off innovations, critical flukes, may create a chain of evolutionary bottlenecks or filters. If so, our evolution wasn't like winning the lottery. It was like winning the lottery again, and again, and again. On other worlds, these critical adaptations might have evolved too late for intelligence to emerge before their suns went nova, or not at all.

    Imagine that intelligence depends on a chain of seven unlikely innovations — the origin of life, photosynthesis, complex cells, sex, complex animals, skeletons and intelligence itself — each with a 10% chance of evolving. The odds of evolving intelligence become one in 10 million.

    But complex adaptations might be even less likely. Photosynthesis required a series of adaptations in proteins, pigments and membranes. Eumetazoan animals required multiple anatomical innovations (nerves, muscles, mouths and so on). So maybe each of these seven key innovations evolve just 1% of the time. If so, intelligence will evolve on just 1 in 100 trillion habitable worlds. If habitable worlds are rare, then we might be the only intelligent life in the galaxy, or even the visible universe.

    And yet, we're here. ...
    https://www.livescience.com/evolutio...gent-life.html
    ... add to that, of course, the even greater seeming improbability of your own individual birth, dependent on every twist and turn of human history, and your personal ancestral genetic chain, since this rather hospitable planet popped up where it did in the 'goldilocks zone' of our solar system (not to mention the advent thereon of any genetic chains at all!): Every parent and grandparent and their grandparents in your family tree who fell in love and into bed on a certain night, every single mammalian or piscene or eukaryote ancestor of yours over millions and a couple of billions of years who happened to crawl, swim or slither to the left and the breeding ground, and not to the right and the clutches of a waiting predator!

    Heck, a good case can be made that countless events of history ... both the happy and the sad, the pageants and peach blossoms, plagues and pogroms (alas) ... would have had to have been more or less just as they were lest history had wandered off in some other direction ... with your ancestors in tow, and thus without you.

    So ... whether there is or is not intelligent life on another planet or countless planets, it seems certain that your personal life, here and now, is incredibly rare. I am convinced that something more is afoot, some as yet undiscovered physical process behind the scenes, some magic trick pulling the rabbit (you) out of life's hat, so that the dice are a bit more loaded than they appear, the seemingly avoidable more inevitable than on first blush, with our conscious awareness right now having more to it than meets the eye. Still, no matter the odds, one can easily imagine that this universe could have been on its merry way, and gotten along quite well without you and me, thank you, so it is some wonder that we should be here to imagine that fact at all. Yet, here we are.

    So, live gently ... with grace and appreciation. As the Buddha taught: Don't blow it.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-24-2019 at 12:16 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo.

    A favorite writing of mine is On White Ashes by Rennyo Shonin. It very much follows the same idea of Human life, indeed all life as being rare and precious. May we all have deep gratitude for our life.

    On White Ashes (Hakkotsu no Gobunshø)
    This letter by Rennyo Shonin is usually read by Shin ministers at funeral services.

    Now, if we look realistically at the nature of human life, we see that it is fleeting and unpredictable, illusive almost. Birth, life and death pass by in the twinkling of an eye. Thus we never hear of the human body lasting for ten thousand years.

    And who today can keep the body young and healthy for even one hundred years? Yes, how quickly our lives slip away. Whether I am the first or someone else, whether today or tomorrow, our lives on earth do indeed one day come to an end. Life seems to vanish unseen like ground water, or to evaporate like the morning dew on the summer lawn.

    Thus our bodies may be radiant with health in the morning, but by evening they may be white ashes. If the right causes and conditions prevail, our two eyes are closed forever, our breathing ceases and our bodies lose the glow of life. Our relatives in great numbers and with great wealth can assemble, but they are powerless to change our situation. Even the rites and rituals of grief and mourning change nothing. All we can do is prepare the body for cremation; all that is left is white ashes.

    In view of these facts, does it not make sense to focus on the things we can change? We cannot control the passing away of both young and old alike, but each of us can take refuge in the Buddha of Infinite Life who promises to embrace, without exception, all beings who but recite his Holy Name - Namo Amida Buddha. This you can do here and now, freeing yourself of any worries concerning your future life.

    With friendly reverence, I remain,

    Rennyo (1414-1499)


    Edited to add: I realize that it is not a Zen writing, but I think the spirit of it transcends "this or that".
    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

    Sent from my Pixel 3a using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Junkyo View Post

    Edited to add: I realize that it is not a Zen writing, but I think the spirit of it transcends "this or that".
    It is a perfectly fine Zen writing.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Jundo this is one of, if not my favorite, post of yours I’ve read; it’s beautiful; it really stopped me in my tracks. What is there to ever complain about? yet i know i will lol

    gassho

    Rish
    -stlah

  5. #5


    Gassho, J

    STlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post


    Gassho, J

    STlah
    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

    Gassho,

    Hobun

    STLAH

    Sent from my SM-T387AA using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    San Diego County, California
    Monty Python has a way of making me very happy, but also kind of sad at the same time. They are master mirrors of the silly human condition.

    Gassho
    Sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  8. #8
    Very nice and yes.

    For some reason a soundtrack played from the early days of the Moody Blues while I read your words

    Thank you

    Gassho
    Doshin
    St

  9. #9
    I personally believe (and hope) we are not alone in the universe, but that's just intuition and wild dreaming. One theory of life on earth is that it arrived on an asteroid slamming into our planet billions of years ago. Some theorize that the rock slamming into us was from Mars and we are actually Martians... if life arose and collapsed there long ago. All fun to ponder.

    But to bring it back to earth an oft quoted last line from Mary Oliver's poem The Summer Day:

    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    bows

    Anne

    ~lahst~

  10. #10
    The rarity and precious opportunity of a human birth is all the more reason for us to practice, practice, practice! Practice like your hair is on fire! We don't know when (or if) this opportunity will come again!

    Gassho
    Sen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  11. #11
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    I personally, based on zero science or theistic understanding think that the universe, its inhabitants including everything that makes up this lump of rock we called Earth is always in a state of evolutionary process.
    I don't think that humans are particularly intelligent despite everything we are able to destroy.
    I also find it a bit arrogant that despite our penchant for war, killing and destruction of our own home, Earth that we see our intelligence as something particularly special within evolutionary understanding.
    I enjoy learning and practicing Buddhism, I hope it leads to contributing with less destruction but ultimately I'm still a burden on the Earth because I'm human. I take from the Earth but the only thing I can contribute is to be more mindful of my interactions with the Earth. The scales will always weigh heavier on the side of the taking from despite our efforts.
    I chose not to breed as I didn't want to contribute to further destruction but that's not a judgement on breeders.
    Gassho
    Anna
    stlah

    Sent from my Lenovo TB-8304F1 using Tapatalk
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  12. #12
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by Cooperix View Post
    I personally believe (and hope) we are not alone in the universe, but that's just intuition and wild dreaming. One theory of life on earth is that it arrived on an asteroid slamming into our planet billions of years ago. Some theorize that the rock slamming into us was from Mars and we are actually Martians... if life arose and collapsed there long ago. All fun to ponder.

    But to bring it back to earth an oft quoted last line from Mary Oliver's poem The Summer Day:

    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    bows

    Anne

    ~lahst~
    I'm really enjoying your posts over the past few weeks Anne

    Gassho
    Anna
    stlah

    Sent from my Lenovo TB-8304F1 using Tapatalk
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  13. #13
    Anna,
    Thank you, and me yours.

    Bows.
    Anne

    ~st~

  14. #14
    reminded me of the famous quote from Carl Sagan when Earth received a picture of itself from way out in space...

    “Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam..."

    SAT

    Seiryu
    Humbly,
    清竜 Seiryu

  15. #15
    Wonderful post. Thank you Jundo

    Gassho
    Washin
    sat today
    Kaido (有道) Every Way
    Washin (和信) Harmony Trust
    ----
    I am a novice priest-in-training. Anything what I say must not be considered as teaching
    and should be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

  16. #16
    Thank you, Jundo, thank you very much. My own karma leads my wife and to look to our daughter who may never marry. Her legacy will include written translations, yoga (her meditation), two parents who love her, though flawed, who have passed on the love of books and learning, both parents still together to let her stand on our shoulders. There are others who have had children in our lineages, none following just yet for she is 30-years-old, and our only one. She may pass on her worth in other ways than children, so the jury is still out, and it is none of our business. So the evolutionary probabilities, may be impossibilities. Who knows? WE DO NOT KNOW, mother and father.
    Tai Shi
    sat/lah
    Gassho
    "As the Buddha designed it, the Sangha's responsibility is to keep their vows, learn and practice the Dharma, and teach and guide the lay people. The lay people in turn, provide the requisites for life..." So are not the lay people the Sangha? Thubten Chodron.

  17. #17
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    Thankyou Jundo.

    Having lost loved ones to illness and accident,
    having welcomed new loved ones into this world.
    I cannot help but think
    I will never live this life
    again.


    The presciousness and sanctity of every life (human and non) is so very fragile.

    Where we go, came from or do - reflecting on our own miraculous existance seems wonderful in itself.

    Gassho,
    Geoff.

    SatToday
    Lah.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  18. #18
    Member brucef's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Encounter Bay, South Australia, Australia
    This is a poem that the Australian poet Bruce Dawe wrote to his wife Gloria, who was dying of cancer

    You and Sarajevo
    by Bruce Dawe
    for Gloria

    Hearing the sound of your breathing as you sleep,
    with the dog at your feet, his head resting
    on a shoe, and the clock's ticking
    like water dripping in a sink
    -- I know that, even if reincarnation were a fact,
    given the inherent cruelty of the world
    where beautiful things and people
    are blasted apart all the day long,
    I would never want to come back, knowing
    I could never be this lucky twice...
    Gassho
    Bruce
    Sat today.
    Last edited by brucef; 11-07-2019 at 12:01 PM.

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