There’s nothing like becoming a parent to make you re-examine your values and start asking yourself the bigger questions. Things like: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? And (when looking at yourself in the mirror and discovering more baggage under your eyes than Air Canada has ever lost): When did I get to be a 47-year-old mother of four?
In the United States, some school systems are (still) embroiled in legal battles over a similar question: What about the origin of humanity? Some fundamentalist groups are advocating something called “intelligent design” which believes we are very complex beings that could only have been designed by a creator. On the other side are those who would prefer to keep the public school system curriculum secular and stick with teaching the scientific explanation, evolution.
Personally, I’m not sure either side* has it right when it comes to explaining some of our features. Consider teething, for example. I’m sure every mother would agree that when it comes to nursing, the fact that babies are born toothless is very intelligent indeed. On the other hand, why does teething have to involve pain? It doesn’t hurt to grown fingernails or hair or toes. And why, oh why, do babies only teethe at 3 am?
Babies also tend to put everything in their mouths. I do not understand how we still have this trait after thousands of years of evolution, as it’s not very conducive to survival. Back in our cave days, a baby might end up grabbing and chomping a poisonous plant. These days it’s even worse: he might grab and slurp his toddler brother’s favourite Thomas train.
Then there’s the waking up all through the night thing. In a way, having to settle your baby several times a night is much like using a computer. You get an error (crying), try to investigate the cause (usually no discernible reason), and reboot (pat him off to sleep). I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single person who thinks computer operating systems are intelligently designed.
Having a baby wake up crying in the night can’t have been good for our ancestors either, as you’re not likely to survive long if you advertise your position to the local wildlife. Plus being sleep deprived can make mothers do dumb things (like hand the bottle to the husband and the beer to the baby) or dangerous things (like cutting a sandwich in half and forgetting to move your finger). Er, or so I’ve heard.
Humans can’t walk for almost a full year and so must be carried around. From a design point of view, this doesn’t seem very smart … unless the creator is also the patron saint of chiropractors, in which case it all makes sense. Humans can’t talk very well for ages either, and so to an inexperienced cave mother, “waaah!” could mean “Feed me!” or “I’m tired” or “Look out! You are about to be stepped on by a woolly mammoth!” and she’d not know the difference.
Our feet do not seem to have been designed with, nor have they evolved with a protective layer against Lego bricks. We have only two hands to deal with four bags of groceries, a toddler, a baby, a purse, a diaper bag, and a stroller. And in spite of what our kids sometimes think, we do not have eyes in the back our heads, and darn it, that would be a really, really handy feature.
So what about our origins? Where did we humans come from? Clearly, there is only one answer:
We were designed by a committee. After a lot of arguments. And at least one of the committee members had a very sadistic sense of humour.
* For the purposes of this column. For reals though, evolution. Science is a thing.