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The Grand Tree of Life- From an Evolutionary Perspective

An Understanding Of Evolution and Our Family Tree

by. Reginald V. Finley Sr

In Christianity, The Tree of Life conjures symbolic imagery of a magnificent and beautiful tree. The first humans, we are told, were disallowed to eat of its eternal fruit. What many around the world do NOT know is that even today, we do have a Tree of Eternal Life; and it is not forbidden to investigate it. It's the Tree of Biological Life. The Only Tree that serves to tell us man's biological origins and the origins of species on this planet. "For as long as the Sun arises each day, the Earth will have life eternal." - Jordan Maxwell

Notice the family trees on this site. See the seemingly never-ending branches? One common ancestor for instance, Nate and Rose Gaylor, have given rise to many offspring. All with many various genetic mutations and variations that give us our distinction. Most mutations "appear" benign, some deadly and some of these genetic differences can be beneficial, deciding the fate of a species for many generations to come. The same viruses and bacteria that have plagued our ancestors for eons may not effect you or I due to a slight modification of our genes. When your parent's genetic material combined to create a life-form that eventually became you; as you were forming, you tossed out some traits, inherited others, and recombined some of your own.

Imagine if this went on for a million years. More than likely, you'd not look very much like your Great-grandfather x 10,000. So many generations with such a multitude of genetic changes. This can easily be seen in my family tree after just only a few generations. Imagine 10,000 generations.

It's beautiful to be able to look into our DNA and now see our evolutionary lineage. Thanks to the discovery of DNA, and more modern ways to interpret and understand the data, we now know more than ever about our evolutionary past.

The Fact of Evolution:

Due to some religious beliefs, evolution is viewed as abhorrent and despicable. However, this perception doesn't change the fact that evidence for evolution is insurmountable. Within our DNA are remnants of an invasion. An invasion that happened to our ancestors not long ago. Sometimes, viruses can invade our germ(sex) cells, write itself into the DNA and pass its genetic material on via our sex cells. Luckily, thanks to the miracle of imperfection, when cells replicate, they produce errors. Provided it isn't disastrous to the organism it has infected, the virus eventually becomes inactive and is passed on to future generations. These are called endogenous retroviruses.

What's cool about ERVs is that these are primarily passed on via sexual reproduction. So essentially, if you can find the same "viral remnants" located on the gene at the exact same location you can determine, quite well, one's ancestry.

Here's the kicker. In Chimpanzees, we share many ERVs. But again, remember, the common way to have an ERV in your genes is if an ancestor acquired the same ERV. How is it possible that many apes and humans share many of the same ERVs? We must share a common ancestor that at one time contracted this virus. We are cousins, with all modern apes and primates. We share a common ancestor in the Grand Tree of Life.

Another example is the fact that humans and apes both cannot produce Vitamin C naturally. Most other mammals can produce Vitamin C on their own, (accept the Hamster and some other rodents). As a result, Apes and Humans have to acquire Vitamin C from outside sources, fruits etc. What happened? Why would apes and humans have this same problem? It turns out, that when we look at the genes, that not only has something gone wrong with producing Vitamin C, but that our Ape cousins have the same gene.. broken, in the exact same place as humans. Our common ancestor at one time lost the ability to produce Vitamin C, and passed that trait down to us. Our hamster cousin? Well, the genes that would help him manufacture Vitamin C have changed and are broken too, non-functioning for the task of Vitamin C making. But, the hamster's Vitamin C gene is broken in a different place. Exactly what evolution would predict.

The pic to the right shows a Tree of Life, using ONLY DNA relationships. This is significant because.. if we had these samples and were ignorant of their origin, the tree would still be represented this way. We simply cannot deny the facts here.. the DNA show a common lineage. It just so happens that when we add the names, humans and apes share the same common ancestor. DNA analysis, provides amazing evidence for evolution and our ancestry.

Now, let's look at David Day's Tree in a Tree of Life depiction.

Interesting isn't it? It's the same distribution you'd expect in a 'modification with descent' scenario. David is the root, and the children are the branches, different than him, but similar, and so on. And those children start their own branches. It never ends. Allow a few million years of this branching and voila', speciation can occur. New species do emerge on the Tree of Life. We see this even more clearly with organisms that reproduce rapidly, such as bacteria and viruses.

We can see the genes in bacteria change with each mutation, with each new generation. The fly genome is becoming more and more well understood. We have seen flies become new species in the lab and in the wild. . Genes are the blueprints that allow all of our organs and appendages to form. Some genes have remained virtually unchanged since the very first lifeforms appeared on the planet.

Recent technological tools have begun a new science of repairing broken genes. We are now beginning to see how we are all interconnected, how we are cousins. This isn't playing God. This is man using the tools available to us to improve the human condition.

If God didn't wish for us to have these tools, he could have very easily disallowed us to find them.

We are all part of a very beautiful tree of life. Tracing our family tree is a very small part, of a very large and wondrous story of human evolution. This story, is our "Tree of Life."

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