Evolution III: Origin of Species
Thompson considers a number of challenges presently facing neo-Darwinian theory as a comprehensive explanation of speciation. Taking into account examples from the fossil record that suggest evidential shortcomings of inter-species “missing links,” coupled with as yet unspecified evolutionary mechanisms involving numerous critical systems, Thompson suggests the possibility that aspects of the theory could be influenced more by faith, rather than hard science.
TRANSCRIPT: Evolution III Origin of Species. Origins Magazine Seminar 8: San Diego - c. 1986 / (008)
Evolution of species: Actually, I was sort of in the middle of the discussion. The main point that I was making, and which is made in this magazine, is that scientists have not been able to explain how it is that one species transforms into another. Their basic idea is that random changes occur, called mutations, and that in the natural course of events some of these changes will turn out to be beneficial for the organism and others will turn out to be harmful. So the organisms with the beneficial changes will flourish and multiply to a greater extent than those with the harmful ones, and so gradually the improved type of animal will become more common and the inferior types will die out. And if this happens over long periods of time, then the animals will gradually change from one form into another – that’s the theory.
However when it comes to actually showing the series of stages that the organisms have to go through, no one can do that. So essentially one is being asked to accept on faith that these transformations really will change one species into another. So the matter has been presented in such a way as to build such faith in people, but no one can actually show the stages by which the process is supposed to take place. So various arguments are made on various sides, so in this chapter we are just pointing out some of the indications that show how speculative this whole idea is.
For example, one evolutionist named Maynard Smith (Actually in England he is known as the pope of Darwinism. So he is very prominent), so he once raised the question of what would happen if in the course of evolution you changed the mutation rate by, let’s say, one half. Let’s say for example, you cut in half the rate at which mutations are occurring, then over millions of years what will happen to the process of evolution? Will things evolve half as fast, or there will be no change, or what will happen? Or what will happen if you, say, double the rate of mutation? What happens then to the process of evolution? Well, he pointed out the answer, that no one actually knows. No one has the slightest idea of what the effect would be of doubling or cutting in half the rate of mutations. So this is quite significant because normally in a scientific theory, if you have some parameter which is important in the theory and you change it, then your theory will tell you what happens when you change the parameter.
For example, you know in chemistry what happens if you change the pH of the solution by one half, that is, you cut it in half or something like that. That should produce some marked, predictable effect on what happens. You should be able to say, “Well this will change the chemical reactions in certain way.” Or suppose you’re talking about some kind of machine like a computer, and you say, “Let’s increase the voltage on this particular component by doubling it.” What effect will that have? Well, you should certainly be able to say what effect that will have. Well you certainly should be able to say what effect will that have even if you increase it by 1%. So here in the theory of evolution, you can propose doubling the mutation rate, but nobody has any idea what that would do, which... well, yeah?
Well, alright, but that’s the point isn’t it? You don’t know what’s happening and that’s the point. So this whole thing is pure imagination, and not even very vivid imagination at that. One says in general, “Well, mutations occur and natural selection takes place,” but if you ask what really happens and how the process works in detail, nobody can say anything. So then what knowledge is there about this process? It’s all a complete guess work. So the idea is to give people a bluff and say, “This is the scientific understanding of things, and if you don’t appreciate it then you’re not scientific.” I have had this experience actually. I was asking a certain scientist that I know, who is a very famous man – he has a Nobel Prize and all that – I was asking him to explain some of the intermediate forms that take you from one organism to another and he couldn’t provide any. So I said, “Well, then why should we accept this theory of evolution?” And he said “Well, living organisms are so complicated it’s not proper for you to ask what all these intermediate forms are. Actually no matter what I tell you, you can always ask for more intermediate forms. This is quite improper. Actually you don’t understand science.” This was his claim. So indeed, [laughter] if you really understand science, you realize what’s going on here. Well, there are many points that can be made going back and forth.
So I was going through some of the pictures here; for example I pointed out this comparison of brain with an electrical circuit. Now the brain is very complicated, but we don’t know much about it. So to us it really looks more like an amorphous cloud – like this could look like a cloud you see in the sky. And anybody can imagine a cloud changing shape into something else; so similarly you can imagine the brain changing shape. You can imagine an ape’s brain getting bigger, just like blowing up a balloon, to form a human brain. And so you can imagine that evolution is a very simple thing: Just blow up the brain a bit and there you have a human being. But the thing is the brain supposedly works as some kind of computer in which different components are connected together in an intricate way. Now if you try to change the computer from one type to another, what is involved in that? You’ll find that you have to redesign the connections completely. You can’t gradually change one computer into another by slightly modifying the connections step by step. You can try that. Anyone is welcome to demonstrate that it can be done. But what I propose is that if you try it, you’ll see you have to make many changes all at once. You have to completely redesign things; so that would be highly improbable by mutations.
So people will argue though, that evolution is shown to be possible, for example, by breeding. It’s known that people can create various breeds of plants and animals by artificial selection. That is, you have certain plants, let’s say, and you pick out the ones with the characteristics that you want, and then eliminate the others, and then grow the ones you want. And when you see more variations in the direction that you are interested, then you pick up those and so forth. So you can produce different types of plants in this way. But people who do this have pointed out that there are limits to the process, which is an interesting thing maybe not everyone knows. But it seems that if you work very hard to change the form of an organism in a certain way generation by generation, you tend to reach a limiting point; and after that point the organisms tend to become sterile or else they tend to revert back to the original. It’s like stretching a rubber band up to a certain point. If you try to stretch it further then either it snaps back or it breaks. So this has been observed. So we have this comment here by Luther Burbank, who is a very famous breeder of plants, and he remarked that, “You can say in breeding plums, [which we show in the picture here], you can increase the size to a certain extent but beyond that you cannot go,” in his experience in breeding. So there seem to be natural limitations.
The same thing has been observed with fruit flies. In fact it was Ernst Mayr, who is a famous evolutionist, who was trying to increase the number of bristles on the body of a fruit fly. This is something you can really get involved with, and you can spend years doing it and become very absorbed in fruit-fly consciousness. So he was using breeding to do it. It’s mentioned in here somewhere that he got up to a certain number of bristles. Oh yes! He managed to increase the number of bristles from 36 up to 56, but at that point the flies began to die out. And then when he just let them live by themselves, just bred by themselves without any particular control, the number kept going back down toward the original, which is interesting.
And this also happens in nature. For example, rabbits in Australia look like wild rabbits apparently. Originally there were no rabbits in Australia. These rabbits came from domestic rabbits that escaped. But as you know domestic rabbits are white, and they have various other characteristics different from the wild rabbits; but somehow their descendants look like wild rabbits. So they reverted back to the wild type. The same thing happens with, for example, apple trees and various kinds of plants – they’ll revert back to the original type if you don’t keep breeding them.
So, people will argue on the basis of breeding that if people can create different species, different forms, by breeding, then in nature over million years just think of what could happen. But it doesn’t really follow that in nature you can get new species just because humans by artificial selection can produce different forms of one species. In fact human beings have never produced a new species by breeding. You can produce types of dogs from Pekingese to Saint Bernards and so forth, but try producing a cat, for example, by breeding dogs. No one has done anything like that. For example, you have to make the claws of the dog retractable the way a cat’s claws are. So, no one has done anything like that with breeding. So these arguments can be made but they’re not really conclusive.
So, another argument is based on what is called vestigial organs. So we give an example of that here: This is the whale. There’re different kinds of whales it seems. Some of these whales do not have teeth. In their mouth they have a sort of sieve; and what they do is they take a large mouthful of ocean water, which is full of little swimming creatures, and then they force the water out through the sieve and catch all the creatures. So that’s how they eat. It seems, though, that the embryos of these whales develop teeth, or begin to develop teeth, and then they reabsorb them before they grow this sieve. So this is taken as a demonstration that the ancestors of the whales actually had teeth, so therefore the whales evolved from creatures with teeth--so this argument is made. There are other examples of this sort also. So you may say, “Well, so that proves evolution.” But on the other hand there are other ways of looking at it.
For example, evolutionists such as Stephen Jay Gould now are proposing that there are things called regulatory genes. These are genes which regulate the actions of a whole series of other genes so that by changing one regulatory gene you can make a whole set of genes go into actions in certain way or also not going into action. There’s evidence that this is probably true. For example, in fruit flies normally from the head an antenna will grow which is a sort of sensing organ; but there’s a mutation that can occur in which a leg actually grows out of the head of the animal where the antenna should be. All kinds of weird mutations are possible. But if you think about this, what it means is that a whole program of construction must exist and then there must be an instruction that tells where to carry out the program. So the program of construction for leg a normally should be carried out starting from one part of the body where the leg normally grows. But if there’s some error in the instructions saying where to carry out, this program it can start building a leg at the point where the antenna should grow. So this way of organising the construction of the body corresponds to what is done in engineering and so forth.
For example, people don’t build machines just part by part. But they build them in terms of groups of parts. And then they can imagine taking the whole group of parts and putting it in a different situation. For example a machine may have an electric motor in it but you can think of taking the whole motor and doing something else with it for example. So one can say that maybe an intelligent creator designed the bodies of living organisms using similar methods. In that case he might have a program for building teeth just like you could have a program for putting together an electric motor. And in that case if the designer was to create an organism without teeth but with a sieve-like arrangement in the mouth and you can just say, "Let’s throw a switch which turns off the tooth program here at a certain point and add some new material, information for producing the sieve." So that might be a way to do it.
So in that case, that would explain why the partial formation of the teeth takes place. The programming for teeth is there simply because one basic body plan is being modified to produce various forms. Now the point is, all of this is speculation. But it shows that the speculations of the evolutionists aren’t the only possible speculations; if you want to speculate about how these things could come about there are other possibilities also. You can speculate that a super intelligent engineer devised plans for all these different body types for different organisms and he used some systematic method of setting up the plan and that explains what we see in nature. That explains why different things are related to other organisms in various ways.
For example, it is sometimes argued that because all living organisms have DNA and the same genetic code and so forth, this proves that they descend from a common ancestor because if they were all separately created why would they all have the same structures, the same molecules, and so forth. This argument is made. But there seems to be an implicit idea here that if they were separately created, then each one would be created starting completely from scratch using a totally new way of producing a body. But you might ask, “Well, why create them like that?” Certainly if a human engineer was going to design many different kinds of bodies he would use one basic type of machinery in all of them. He wouldn’t bother to create something completely new for each different body. Certainly that’s what people do. Say, for example, you are going to make a new kind of car, let’s say; you wouldn’t create something totally new, that is, make up a completely new kind of engine instead of using gear wheels and axles and things like that make up something totally different and so on. No. Instead you use the parts that you find already and modify them in various ways.
So the evolutionists will argue that because of different similarities between organisms this shows that they evolved, but it’s not necessarily the case. Another argument given is that if you look at, for example, the arm of the human being, and the arm of a dog, or even the wing of a bird you find the same bones are there. The shapes are just modified. This is called homology. Well, this proves that they descended from a common ancestor. So that demonstrates evolution. But it could be that they were produced by a common designer who just took the basic plan for an arm and modified it in various ways to produce different kinds of arms and legs and so forth. So all these arguments can be made.
And of course, another point to make is that these modifications involve rather complicated transformations. For example, consider the different kinds of arms; if you look at the hoof of a horse, for example, you see that that’s actually a very complicated structure. The evolutionist will tell you, “Well, this is just a large toenail essentially. So the hoof of a horse corresponds to a nail on your finger. It’s just grown somewhat larger. But actually it’s not really so simple. I was reading once that in the hoof of a horse there’re all kinds of complicated features which were designed to enable it to withstand very great stress. Because when a horse runs apparently, actually one leg at a time hits the ground when the horse is galloping; it means the full weight of the horse comes down on that hoof. But more than full weight, because it’s moving very fast; so it’s being pointed out that several tons of weight comes on each hoof one at a time. So how does it hold up under that kind of punishment? Well it seems there’re all kinds of special features designed for this.
For example, if you look at the hoof itself it has various kinds of fibres that go in different directions in a sort of criss-cross and this provides strength to hold the thing together. And then there are sort of sacs containing liquid between the bones so that when the bones are forced together, when the hoof comes down, these sacs serve like hydraulic cushions and they take up the pressure. And then there’re tendons that go around some of the bones that are springy, so that they stretch when the foot comes down and then will bounce back again. So there are all kinds of different features like this. And actually the whole thing is very complicated. “So how did all that come about?” you can ask. You can say, “Well, it happened gradually, step-by-step." But once again, what are the steps?
There are many different examples like this. In this whale for example how did the sieve come into being? That’s also a complicated structure. Or if you say that the arm of a lizard turns into the wing of a bird – well, somehow you have to come up with feathers; and supposedly the scales turned into feathers. But a feather, it turns out, is a complicated structure, because it consists of little veins which have hooks so that the veins cling together; they’re sort of like little zippers and this makes a very light weight structure because it’s mostly air actually, but yet it doesn’t fall apart because of these arrangement of hooks.
So imagine starting with a scale and going to the feather. How does that happen? So in general you can ask this kind of question and the evolutionists can only say in general, “Well, it happens by gradual steps.” But they can’t show that they are. And then there are highly complex structures; for example there’s the eye, which we show here. Now Darwin made this famous statement that, “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, etc., could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree”. So he said that, but then immediately he proceeded to argue, how really it could have happened anyway by natural selection.
But actually this eye is an extremely complex structure. For example, just to give an idea of this: In the cornea of the eye, which is the clear part in the front, there’s one little membrane called Descemet’s membrane and you might think, “Well, that’s a very simple thing – it’s just a little membrane.” But apparently somebody once wrote a 300-page doctoral dissertation just on that. So, that’s just one little membrane, and I’m sure he didn’t learn everything there is to know about it either. In fact, the eye is incredibly complicated.
For example, the lens of the eye consists of cells which have the property that they’re clear. They don’t refract light as light goes through them. So how does that work? Well, there’re many different chemicals found in the lens of the eye that aren’t found anywhere else in the body. So it’s very special arrangement. Not only are they clear, but it can change shape so as to vary the focus; and not just any bunch of cells will change shape in the right way. And of course it’s also curved in the right way to focus light in a very precise manner. Actually people who make lenses know that the surface of a lens has to be curved in just the right fashion. But here there’s an extra special feature, because when the lens changes shape, the curve has to change in the right way. That is, let’s say lens in one position can focus light properly because the curvature is right. Now let’s say you stretch it a bit so the shape is changed. Well now the curvature still has to be right for focus for objects at different distances. And that wouldn’t obviously happen if you just took a sort of glob of jelly and shaped it so that in one configuration it focussed light for objects at one distance. It wouldn’t follow that necessarily if you pushed it in a bit, and made it bulge out more, that it would focus light nicely for objects at another distance. So the lens has to be properly designed and of course it has an arrangement of muscles around the rim which contract in such a way as to change the focus. So how did that get arranged? And of course there are all the nerve connections going to those muscles.
And then there’s the iris, which can open and shut to let in various amounts of light; and you might ask how it works. So there’s an arrangement of muscles and different criss-crossing fibres there so that by contracting they can open up the iris or let it shrink down. Then of course there’s the retina, which is more complicated than any of these other things. There’re these cells that are sensitive to light of different wavelengths. And these cells are linked up with nerve cells so that when the light-sensitive cell detects light of a certain wavelength, then it sets up an electrical potential and the nerve cell that it’s connected to responds to that and fires off an impulse and so forth. So the eye actually makes man-made cameras look completely primitive. Actually nobody has built a camera that compares with the eye.
But one is supposed to imagine that just by accidental changes the whole thing comes about. The point is, though, no one has shown this. So another way of looking at it is that this could have been designed by some higher intelligence. So, I should say little bit... (What time is it by the way? Five till six. Ok.) So I should say a little bit about what the Vedic explanation is of how these different organisms actually came about. We speak generally of the idea of a higher intelligent being who could design different structures. However the creation of different material universes has been going on since time immemorial, according to the Vedic literature. So from Krishna’s point of view there’s nothing new to invent – it’s all been done in the past. In fact, there’s no beginning to the creation and destruction of the universes. It’s not that it’s just been going on for a very long time, but actually it’s been going on literally without beginning. So all the designs were worked out a long time ago; the whole thing is systematically arranged. So what happens in the course of the creation of particular universe is that first of all the different material elements are manifested which make up the material bodies and so forth, and different spirit souls with different conditioned desires are placed in different bodies according to karma. So this process is carried out by what you can call “inverse evolution,” if you like.
First Lord Visnu generates one living being with a material body within the universe and this is Brahma. So his body actually is superior to any of the other bodies which appear later within the universe, with certain exceptions like Lord Siva, who is in a totally different category. So what happens is that Brahma creates different bodily forms. He generates them from his body; and these are the Prajapatis, who are a superior form of demigod. Then they in turn create different bodily forms. But these successive forms that are created are inferior to the ones that came before them so that’s why you can call it a process of inverse evolution. It’s literally a descent generation by generation. Actually if you look at one definition of evolution it is that “organisms have come about through descent with modifications,” that is, they descend generation by generation from different ancestral forms with modifications as you go generation by generation. Of course the idea of evolution is that it’s really ascent rather than descent, in the sense that the original organism is something very primitive; and then gradually generation by generation they become more elaborate, more complex. And of course you have to explain where the first organism came from – and somehow atoms just got together to make that, all by themselves.
So the Vedic version, though, if you like literally be called descent with modifications. So you could say that in that sense we have evolution. But here the descent is from higher to lower. Now if you’re saying that there is an ascent from lower to higher then you have to explain how things get built up without any earlier intelligence to guide the construction process and that’s the whole problem in the theory of evolution which we’ve been discussing. But if you have descent from higher to lower then you don’t have that problem because the higher structure, bodily structure, can have stored within it information and plans for all the structures in the lower entities that are going to be produced. In fact this is explicitly what happens
Srila Prabhupada has explained that in the Bhagavad-gita when Krsna says that “I am the seed giving father” (aham bija-pradah pita) the word bija there for seed is not actually referring necessarily to the spirit soul. Of course, Krsna provides the spirit souls that are going to inhabit all of the different bodies. But this word bija refers to a seed in the literal sense of the seed of a tree. You know if you take the seed of the tree – it’s a tiny living entity – but if you plant that in appropriate circumstances it can grow and the whole body of a tree will be generated. And the idea is that all the information needed to produce the complete tree is stored up within that tiny little seed. So similarly, on the subtle level Krsna generates seedlike forms for the different living beings. It’s said that there are 8,400,000 different species of life within this material universe. So I should point out by the way that it’s not clear exactly what a Vedic species of life is. That’s not stated anywhere. So it’s hard to compare them with the material, with the species that the scientists speak of. However just as a matter of comparative numbers scientists now have about a list of some 2 million species – quite a bit less than 8,400,000. And of course we don’t know if those species are comparable with the Vedic species. But anyway, there are seedling forms for all of these different species. These different forms include everything from demigods down to the indragopa, which is a microbe, or microorganism. It’s interesting that in the Vedic literature there is knowledge of microorganisms.
We’ll hear that microorganisms were first discovered by Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek with his microscope, but even in Ayurvedic medicine there are rules involving the danger of infection by microorganisms. For example, antiseptic surgery is there in the Ayurvedic system. It’s understood that an incision can be infected by microorganisms. So there’s sterilization procedures and so forth.
So these seedling forms are not gross material seeds, but they’re subtle, and Brahma is supplied with all these different seedling forms. So his activity in the universe is to act as a gardener essentially. So he provides conditions in which the different seedling forms can manifest, just like planting a seed in the garden and letting it grow to form the ultimate plant. So generation by generation, different types of organisms are generated by Brahma and the different demigods that he produces, so we put a little diagram here showing the inverse evolution, just to illustrate the general idea
So there is the family tree of descent from one organism to another but it doesn’t exactly work the way that the evolutionists would say. In this family tree the starting point of the tree is Brahma and the first generations that come down are different kinds demigods. All of this is occurring on a subtle level so we won’t see fossils. Our record says that Brahma is still living, as a matter of fact, but then finally you come down to different, well, human beings, plants, animals, and so on. And by the way, the description initially, if you read it in the Bhagavatam, may seem like really wild mythology. It describes, for example, that various demigods generate tigers, owls, mosquitos and so on – different forms of organisms. But also, by the way, these demigods can assume bodies of different shapes just by will. For example, Indra could take on the form of a bird and so forth. So this, however, is possible if the body of a demigod stores up information for manifesting different types of shapes. For example, with a computer you can produce on the screen all kinds of different shapes based on programs stored up within the computer. So one program may produce one kind of pattern on the screen and that will be very limited. So if you work with just that program then you may think, “Well, this is all that a program can do after all.” It can produce just one kind of pattern. For example, it may produce a spreadsheet for calculating your income tax – something like that – so you may think, "Well, that’s what a program can do." But then you may have another program which can produce all kinds of different shapes based on the information stored in the program, and it would be much more flexible.
So the demigods’ bodies, which are also material bodies, contain much more, you might say, much more elaborate systems for manifesting different forms. So then a demigod by will can, if he likes, take on the form of a bird, let’s say, because all the information for the bird form is stored up within his body. So, and, of course Brahma has stored up within his body the information for all the different living beings in the universe. And it’s described that Brahma, simply by thinking of a given bodily form, can manifest it.
So I’ll stop there. Any questions, comments? Yeah?
Question: What about the Dinosaurs? [unclear]...
Answer: Well, the dinosaurs, that’s an interesting question. We asked Srila Prabhupada about dinosaurs and he said first of all, they are not extinct – it’s an interesting point. Now what does that mean? Actually, Srila Prabhupada said that no forms of life ever actually become extinct. So one thing that this means is that we do not have direct access to all the regions in the universe in which living beings are existing. That’s one basic point. You can see that by reading the Bhagavatam directly. For example, many different planetary systems are described within the Bhagavatam, and of course you’d expect dinosaurs to live in an earthly type planetary system since they were living on the earth. But the earthly planetary system is extremely vast compared with what we experience, what we have connection with.
So there are all kinds of places where you could have all different kinds of organisms living. Now this question of extinction is interesting. We see that practically whenever modern-type human civilization comes in contact with a certain kind of organism it wipes it right out – this is what we see. So we kind of think of living organisms as being rather fragile. So then how could it be that the given kind of organism is immune to extinction? Well, the answer would be there must be some place where it is living, where modern civilization hasn’t penetrated. So that’s the idea there. Actually this idea also takes getting used to. But the concept in the Vedic literature is that what we call modern progressive civilization is actually quarantined within a small part of the universe. It’s just like a leper colony, the old fashioned type where you put up walls to keep the lepers away from everyone else so that they don’t infect them. Well actually the Kali-yuga civilization is walled off from other parts of the universe. You can see that if you read, for example, the Fifth Canto of the Bhagavatam which is another section that is hard to understand, but there are many regions that we don’t have direct access to.
As far as extinction goes, take animals like wolves for example. It used to be that wolves were prevalent throughout the United States, but now from what I understand, there’s only one place in the United States, the continental United States that is, where you still find wolves. Well I guess you find them in Alaska, but you also occasionally find them in northern Michigan, and even there, they’re just crossing over from Canada during the winter – they don’t live there permanently. So if you’re living in a place like, let’s say, New Jersey, you might think that wolves have become extinct. You may find some bones or something like that, but the animals aren’t there anymore; so it seems that they’re extinct. But if look at a larger picture of the earth, then you’ll see that they are just living somewhere else where actually modern civilization hasn’t penetrated so much, namely way up in the north woods of Canada somewhere. Well, a similar situation can hold true for many different kinds of plants and animals.
Another point about dinosaurs, by the way – this is even more controversial – is that there are continually these reports of people seeing such beings. I have a whole series of newspaper clippings on the subject because people give me these things from time to time. You will see about every fourth or fifth morning Badrinarayan here will give me little clippings of some sort, and this has been happening for years. These things keep drifting in. So I have a whole folder of clippings on reports of sightings of dinosaurs. Mostly these are from Africa, from jungle regions around Kenya and thereabouts, where it’s very hard to penetrate through the jungles. I certainly don’t know if any of this is true, and one should never repeat anything like this if it’s true, by the way, because that would be a big mistake. But it just indicates that even on this earth that we have access to there are many things that we don’t know about. One basic feature of modern education is that we’re taught that we know everything about this earth: We’ve been everywhere; we know everything that’s there. But even that is not necessarily true, what to speak of the possibility that there are inhabited realms that we don’t even have access to.
A: Well that’s a good point because in breeding it’s a fact that an intelligent person is guiding the selection. So in nature, the evolutionists are saying that there’s no intelligence guiding the selection. So why should you get results that are even equivelent to what you get if there’s intelligent selection? Actually the whole idea of natural selection is fraught with difficulties.
I’ll just give another example: Everyone has probably heard the story of how the giraffe has got its long neck. Well the story is that certain kinds of animals in the African savannas were eating the leaves of trees; and so if some of them had longer necks they could eat leaves that were higher and get more to eat because their fellow animals couldn’t reach that high. So they have more to eat, so then they have more offspring, so then gradually all the animals wound up with necks of that length because they inherited them from their ancestors. And in this way gradually the necks got longer and longer. So that’s the explanation for how the giraffe got its long neck. But you can say, “Well wait a minute! It may be by having longer necks you might get more leaves to eat, but you also have more danger of breaking your neck – what about that?" So maybe the animals with shorter necks can actually do better. And also your heart has to pump blood up for a longer distance – that’s also a problem for a giraffe. The difference in blood pressure between the head of a giraffe and its heart is very large – it’s maybe 20 feet, or something like that – so it has to have a special heart and a special circulatory system so that the blood vessels don’t burst and so forth. So you might say with the shorter neck you don’t have that problem.
And then when it runs just consider, if you’ve seen a picture of a giraffe running it looks like a pretty awkward thing, so an animal with a shorter neck doesn’t have this awkward neck to deal with. And then if you’ve ever seen a picture of a giraffe trying to drink water, now that’s really difficult. It has to straddle its legs out at an angle and get its head down; and at that point a lion can jump right out and eat it immediately. So you can argue also that it’s better to have a shorter neck. And then there’s the fact that giraffes have these long necks, but then what about the different gazelles and antelopes and so on, which have short necks. Why didn’t they all develop long necks if it’s so great? I mean there are a lot of animals that eat leaves from trees. But they have shorter necks. So if you look at the story the whole thing falls apart, and it’s hard to see how without some guidance behind it that you necessarily even favour a particular shape like that. So anyway, we’ll stop there. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.