Monday, March 10, 2003

HANDS ACROSS TIME & SPECIES

Dawkins versus the priests and New Age shamans? No contest
Richard Dawkins is suitably knockabout in A Devil's Chaplain - but he should stop pulling his punches, writes Robin McKie

...Consider this experiment in temporal ingenuity. You are holding your mother's left hand. At the same time, she clutches her own mother, your grandmother, with her right. Your grandmother then holds her mother's hand, and so on into the past.
With each individual allocated a yard of private space, your ancestral queue snakes off into the Industrial Revolution, through the Middle Ages and on into prehistory, until, 300 miles down the line, it eventually reaches the missing link, the common ancestor that humans shared with chimpanzees six million years ago.

Now imagine a similar, parallel queue emerging from that common ancestor, this time following the chimpanzee side of her family - until it reaches the present day. 'You are now face to face with your chimpanzee cousin, and you are joined to her by an unbroken chain of mothers holding hands,' Dawkins observes....