Mere specks of life, yet gifted with eternity
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2019 - 12:00am

There’s only one human species today, Homo sapiens. For centuries has been studied an extinct second, H. neanderthalensis, in Eurasia. Then was discovered in 2004 a third in the Indonesian island of Flores. From skeletons, H. floresiensis was nicknamed “The Hobbit” for its short build. Human groups crowded the earth, it seems. In 2010 geneticists differentiated a fourth, the Denisovans, from a single finger bone found in western Siberia. Not enough bone specimens are available for it to merit a scientific name. Still genetic sequencing indicates three populations of the Denisovans, evolving separately for hundreds of thousands of years in Asia-Pacific.

Last week a fifth species was declared from diggings in Callao Cave, Cagayan. Bones from hands and feet, along with teeth, show H. luzonensis to be distinct. It walked on bipeds and climbed trees, was squat like floresiensis, and existed in Luzon 67,000 years ago. Three sets of bones had been dug three meters from the cave floor in 2007, 2011, and 2015. The archeological team led by University of the Philippines professor Armand Salvador Mijares attributed them to two adults and a child. Uranium dating, verifications, and publication in the science journal Nature has multidiscipline researchers worldwide excited.

Callao Man resembles both the hominid Australopithecus and modern humans, Mijares says. He is different from 40,000-year-old Tabon Man, earlier discovered in Tabon Caves, Palawan. Tabon Man might be indistinguishable if dressed in modern garb. But Callao Man would stand out.

It’s unclear if Callao Man evolved in Luzon or paddled – swam? – from Asia. He could be related to a similar spectacular find last year in neighboring Kalinga province. In another cave there, stone tools and bones of a slaughtered ancient rhinoceros hint that early inhabitants hunted and ate game as far back as 700,000 years ago.

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Modern man has learned conceit, avarice, and deceit. He overly raises himself, amasses excessive wealth and power, subjugates and oppresses. He forgets that he came from dust and to dust he shall return (Genesis 3:19).

Best to remember that we humans are made up of tiny particles. Ninety-nine percent of our body are atoms of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. We also contain smaller amounts of other essential elements.

The hydrogen atoms in us came from the Big Bang. Fourteen billion years ago, when the superhot, ultra-dense speck that was our universe expanded, hydrogen was formed. Carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen came from burning stars. Exploding stars brought forth other elements. We are as old as the universe and the stars, particle physics teaches.

The atoms combine into cells, and cells multiply and diversify to give birth to us. When we die the atoms stay. They separate from each other then form new objects, living or nonliving.

The size of an atom depends on the location of its electrons. The nucleus around which the electrons revolve is 100,000 times smaller than the atom housing. If a nucleus were the size of a peanut, the atom would be as big as a sports stadium.

Back to our body. If the blank spaces within an atom were to be removed and all the electrons and nuclei packed together, we would each be but a speck of dust. The entire human race would fit in half a matchbox.

Our body has heft because of kinetic energy. That energy comes from quarks: the protons and neutrons in the nucleus and the electrons of each of our atoms. Plus the binding energy of gluons. Every day from air, the ground we walk on, and objects we touch, we acquire and lose some atoms. Our body produces radiation, about the power in one year of four chest x-rays. We are also bombarded with radiation that keeps us alive but could cripple us in excess.

Back to the Big Bang. With that explosion all of the matter and antimatter that existed should have been zapped, leaving nothing but energy. Yet left behind were some particles that combined into masses and charges. And we have not begun to consider the black holes and black matter that comprise 85 percent of this room and the universe.

Our earth is but a speck in our solar system, our solar system a speck in our galaxy, and our galaxy a speck in our ever-expanding universe. The stars we see are hundreds of light years away. One light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one human year. If nearby North Star explodes in supernova, the earth would not know it till about 500 light years later.

 In all that expanse and density, of particles and masses, amidst charges and energy, emerged life. On earth life first was uni- then multicellular, then separating into plants, protozoa, animals, and humans.

Humans acquired intelligence and built up the world. Tools, crafts, arts were invented. Love, joy, worship were learned. Along with those were committed the sins of pride, envy, murder, and more.

We humans strive, but it is impossible, to grasp everything. When we fail, we blame God. We cannot accept that our intellectual capacity – great as it can be – is but a hole in the beach sand and cannot take in all the waters of the ocean.

There’s promise of eternity, however, for mere dust particles like us, in Genesis 3:22: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.’”

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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