Editor’s note: We are pleased to present a series adapted from biologist Michael Denton’s book, Fire-Maker: How Humans Were Designed to Harness Fire and Transform Our Planet, from Discovery Institute Press. Find the whole series here. Dr. Denton’s forthcoming book, The Miracle of the Cell, will be published in September.For Fire, Our Planet Is Just the Right Size by Michael Denton
Let’s set up an incomplete index for the articles below!
The unique fitness of nature for carbon-based life and intelligent beings of our biology is an empirical discovery.
One area where very fast nerve conduction is vital is vision, more specifically, in keeping the eyes fixed on some object in the field of vision while in motion.
As every medical student comes to learn when first dissecting the human body at medical school, our limbs are almost entirely composed of muscles.
It is likely that no further improvement in muscle power can be achieved by increasing the density of packing of the myosin motors.
How is it that an ant appears proportionately so much stronger than a trained human weight lifter?
Only an organism of our dimensions and android design — 1.5 to 2 meters in height with arms about 1 meter-long ending in manipulative tools — can handle fire.
Without lignin, there would be no woody plants, no wood, no coal, no charcoal, no fire, no pottery, and certainly no iron or metallurgy.
There is another aspect of the Earth’s environment that is absolutely crucial in allowing the utilization of fire for metal-based technologies.
If the conductivity of copper were ten times less, wires would have to be ten times the cross-sectional area to provide the same conductivity.
It is very doubtful that any beings in the universe could develop a civilization remotely comparable with our own without the use of metals.
Self-evidently, the gravity on the surface of a planet limits the maximum size of large terrestrial organisms.
James Lovelock has pointed out that atmospheric levels of oxygen much above about 25 percent, let alone 30 percent, would cause raging conflagrations today.
As we have seen so far in this series, fire was an absolutely crucial component in humanity’s rise to civilization and technology.
The importance of metals, particularly iron, and the importance of the discovery of metallurgy can hardly be exaggerated.
The ability to tame fire led to the invention of the art of cooking, and much more.
Of all the discoveries made on mankind’s long march to civilization, there was one primal discovery that made the realization of all else possible.