Sunday, June 17, 2012

Evolution, revelation and Khama

Egerton Chang, Contributor - Jamaica Gleaner:

I was raised a Roman Catholic. So I am not supposed to play around with the creation theory. However, I have a scientific background, and I also like to play around with figures. And, in any case, evolution does not preclude the Creator.

The universe has been around for some 4,500 million years. That's a long, long time. Now let's say that evolution started when the first forms of life appeared some 3,000 million years ago (most say earlier than that). And let's say that they evolved at a snail's pace. At a rate equivalent to virtually no rate at all. That's, for argument sake, a rate of 'improvement of quality/complexity' of doubling once in a million years. Now, that's dead slow. That would be at a rate of improvement of 0.000001 per year.

However, given the nature of compounding, that figure, over a long period, multiplies itself exponentially. Thus, for 10 million years, that would amount to an improvement of 22,026 times. A seemingly minuscule improvement given the very long period involved. Ten million years is unimaginable.

So what about 100 million years? This figure compounds to 2.68798E+43. That is:
2.68798 x 1 followed by 43 zeros. Or a 26,879,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 improvement on the very first single-cell creatures.

But that's just 100 million years. What would it be at 500 million years? It would be 1.4032E+217, or 1.4032 x 1 followed by 217 zeros or 14,032,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. My finger is getting tired just typing these zeros. But by now you should be getting the picture.

Remember, the first forms of life appeared over 3,000 million years ago, and we have only calculated for 500 million years. Recall, also, the exponential increase going from 100 million (43 zeros) to 500 million years (217 zeros).


So you can see that this would be an extremely, extremely, extremely large figure. Probably approaching over one googolplex. A googolplex is a very large number - 1 followed by a thousand zeroes.

Nevertheless, let's acknowledge that the rate for the vast majority of this period up to 250 million years ago was even slower than dead slow, so that, let's say, the first 2,750 million years amounted to just 100 million years as far as the evolutionary clock is concerned.

For the last 250 million years, however, it is acknowledged that this same evolutionary clock has speeded up. Let's say this rate was increased to just 0.000002 per year. Thus, 1.000002 to the 250 millionth power would be 1.4029 x 1 followed by 217 zeroes; 3.7709 X 1 followed by 260 zeroes would be the compounded effect of these 350 million years.

Number of Stars

In fact, that number makes the number of stars in the universe look minuscule (even insignificant) by comparison. A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion stars, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros or 3 trillion times 100 billion. That is just 30 times all the grains of sand on the world's beaches and deserts. The improvement in the first forms of life has 260 zeros and counting, according to my playful hypothesis.Isn't it at least possible (indeed probable) that we (and all living things we see today) evolved from these early life forms?

And what is to come?

According to contemporary cosmologists' best guesses, the universe will continue to last for an extremely long time, something over a googolplex years. Some estimates are even longer.
Whether us, or our descendants, or that of another species on some distant planet, what will eventually evolve is many googolplexes of improvement/complexity on what exists now. That is truly mind-boggling. In fact, whatever we imagine of life, one million years from now, it probably won't be like that.

Come to think about it, it must be a fact that God created man. For how else would anyone other than Him appreciate the enormity of His works.


I 'Googled' my last column titled 'An Unusual Friendship: Botswana' and found that this article was referenced by more than 30 newspapers and websites from around the world. From the Kalahari News to South Africa Republic to Botswana News to; IPTV Caribbean, World Africa Business News and The World News Network (CHOGM News), among many others.

Incidentally, and for those interested in the meaning of names, I was reminded that Tshenolo means 'revelation'.

Interestingly also, it appears that interracial friendships took on a political face with a Jamaican twist when the British, in 1950, conspired with tribal leaders in Bechuanaland (later independent Botswana) to remove Seretse Khama as the chieftain of the Bamangwato tribe and exile him because he had married a white English woman.

This was brought to my attention by Ambassador Audley Rodriques, who emailed me the following on the same day of publication, May 20, 2012:


You may know that the British, in 1950, conspired with tribal leaders in Bechuanaland to depose Seretse Khama as their chief and send him into exile because he had married a white English woman, Ruth Williams. Plain racism it was. The apartheid government in South Africa, which had banned interracial marriages, was not happy with a black chief married to a British white woman and living next door. And there were concerns that South Africa would invade Bechuanaland. Of course, there were other more complex geopolitical factors at the time, including South Africa's enormous mineral wealth, British post-war indebtedness, and uranium for the atomic bomb.

Interestingly, Seretse Khama (who subsequently became prime minister and president of Botswana) was, at the time of his exile, offered a small job in Jamaica by the colonial office to "keep him quiet". In refusing the kind offer, he reportedly said he would not want to take bread out of the mouth of any Jamaican. There is, of course, much more to this story, including the support Khama received from Jamaicans (and other West Indians) in Jamaica and the UK.

Audley Rodriques

[Jamaican ambassador to Kuwait and former high commissioner to South Africa]
Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to and

June 17, 2012

Jamaica Gleaner