Michael Denton gives a fascinating excerpt from his new book, The Miracle of Man.
As I show in my book The Miracle of Man, the path followed by our ancestors from stone tools to our current technological civilization was, in broad outline, the only possible path, and it was a path only possible because of yet another stunning ensemble of prior environmental fitness in nature. Not only was the “chosen path” unique, but only a special type of unique being very close to our own biological design could have taken the first and vital step to technological enlightenment, fire-making.
From first principles, a creature capable of creating and controlling fire must be an aerobic terrestrial air-breathing species, living in an atmosphere enriched in oxygen, supportive of both respiration and combustion. This fire-maker must have something like human intelligence to accomplish the task, and while it is true that other species — e.g., dolphins, parrots, seals, apes, and ravens — possess intelligence and remarkable problem-solving abilities, as far as is known, no other organism comes close to the intelligence of humans.
The species in question also needs to be mobile and possess high acuity vision in order to be able to create and master fire, and follow the subsequent route via metallurgy to an advanced technology.
Being a social species possessed of language would also have been essential for the peripheral tasks associated with the regular making and controlling of fire among small tribal groups, including the hewing and collecting of the necessary wooden fuels to initiate and sustain the fire. While many other species are social, none possesses a communication system remotely as competent as human language for transmitting information, including abstract concepts.
In addition to being terrestrial, air breathing, sighted, mobile, intelligent, social, and possessed of language, a fire-maker also needs the right anatomy. And in keeping with the anthropocentric claim, only humankind of all the creatures on Earth is properly endowed with the right build to make and control fire. Neither a giraffe, nor an elephant, nor a parrot, nor a cat, nor a chimp nor any other terrestrial organism has the right anatomy to master fire, none apart from humans.
The perfection of the [human] hand was a popular topic among 19th-century natural theologians such as Oxford Professor of Medicine John Kidd, who quoted liberally from Galen. Charles Bell, in his Bridgewater Treatise, also waxed lyrical about the hand, while citing one of the ancient Greek thinkers: “Seeing the perfection of the hand, we can hardly be surprised that some philosophers should have entertained the opinion with Anaxagoras, that the superiority of man is owing to his hand…. it is in the human hand that we have the consummation of all perfection as an instrument.”
So our size is right for approaching a fire, for generating the necessary kinetic forces to hew the wood needed to fuel high temperatures fires, and for mining metal ores from rocks. We could be neither fire-makers nor metallurgists if we were significantly smaller.
As matters stand, the evidence increasingly points to a natural order uniquely fit for life on Earth and for beings of a biology close to that of humans, a view which does not prove but is entirely consistent with the traditional Judeo-Christian framework.Evolution News