This educa­tio­nal trail about evolu­tion lets you expe­ri­ence the important stages in the 4100 million year history of life on earth. From the first traces of life to the present day, the trail is 1000 m long.

With every metre, with every big step, you over­come a whole 4 million years. Every milli­metre repres­ents about 4000 years, which is the time between the cons­truc­tion of the pyra­mids in Egypt and the present day.

Feel with every step how much time it took life on earth to deve­lop to the point where life — us humans — came into being that can build pyra­mids and fly to the moon.

Self-concep­tion of the gbs
The Giord­ano Bruno Foun­da­tion repres­ents the posi­tion of “Evolu­tio­nary Huma­nism” with the ethi­cal basis of the “prin­ci­ple of equal conside­ra­tion of equal inte­rests”. Discri­mi­na­tory ideo­lo­gies are ther­e­fore incom­pa­ti­ble with our world­view. We are convin­ced that ever­y­thing in the universe and all its states, proces­ses and proper­ties are of natu­ral origin — inclu­ding evolution.

The infor­ma­tion about the stati­ons is also available in simple, child-friendly language at evokids.de. And there are also many other inte­res­t­ing infor­ma­tion and teaching mate­ri­als at Evokids. Have a look!

Even small child­ren learn in kinder­gar­ten that the evolu­tion of life on earth took place in six days with man as the “crown at its top”. The story is pretty, easy to under­stand even for small child­ren, but still wrong.

How it actually happened and how it can be unders­tood has been rese­ar­ched and disco­vered by science for 200 years, and since then new pieces of the puzzle of know­ledge have been added conti­nuously, comple­ting our know­ledge of how life on earth has developed.

But it is certainly not as if we know ever­y­thing, or at least most, about the evolu­tion of all living beings that popu­late this planet. But what we do know for sure is based on proces­ses and laws that do not require super­na­tu­ral forces or influen­ces, and it streng­thens our deep convic­tion that ever­y­thing on this earth is of natu­ral origin. We, that is the regio­nal group of the Giord­ano Bruno Foun­da­tion (gbs-Rhine-Neckar), a group of secu­lar huma­nists in the metro­po­li­tan region, which has set itself the task of making the process of the deve­lo­p­ment of life on earth under­stan­da­ble and compre­hen­si­ble even for people who are not experts in this field.

Our ideas about the deve­lo­p­ment of life were first put on a scien­ti­fic basis about 160 years ago by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, the basic features of which are still valid today: the theory of evolu­tion. Of course, this theory, which deals with the deve­lo­p­ment of the various forms of life on earth, but not with the origin of life itself from inani­mate matter, has under­gone various adapt­a­ti­ons and detailed chan­ges over time. In prin­ci­ple, howe­ver, it has remained unch­an­ged. It is summa­ri­sed in two short sentences:

  1. Heredi­tary chan­ges in orga­nisms occur by chance through chan­ges in their gene­tic make-up, e.g. during cell division.
  2. These chan­ges are subject to a selec­tion process that gives the orga­nisms best adapted to their habi­tat a survi­val and repro­duc­tion advantage.

We explain this in more detail in our back­ground text on evolu­tion.

The theory of evolution is not a hypothesis!

To avoid a common misun­derstan­ding: In common parlance, theory is unders­tood as an unpro­ven asser­tion or an idea of how a process or mecha­nism might work without show­ing that this is really the case.

This is not true of scien­ti­fic theo­ries. On the contrary, for a scien­ti­fic claim to first become a hypo­the­sis, there must be an expl­ana­tory model that can explain further proces­ses, states or proce­du­res inde­pendently of the origi­nal process. Only with the repro­du­ci­ble predic­tion of previously unknown proces­ses and their confir­ma­tion does the hypo­the­sis become a theory. Such a theory is a system of scien­ti­fi­cally foun­ded state­ments which serves to describe sections of reality and the under­ly­ing laws, to make progno­ses about the future or to explain how a found final state has deve­lo­ped from known preli­mi­nary stages.

A well-known exam­ple of a scien­ti­fic theory is Albert Einstein’s Gene­ral Theory of Rela­ti­vity. Like the Theory of Evolu­tion, Rela­ti­vity cannot be proven in gene­ral terms, but both would be dispro­ved (falsi­fied) by a single finding that cannot be explai­ned by these theo­ries. Both are justi­fia­bly attempted conti­nuously, but have not yet succee­ded, which speaks for the quality of these theories.

This “Evolu­ti­ons­weg”

The project presen­ted here is an attempt to trans­fer the unima­gi­n­ably long period of 4 600 000 000 years, the age of the Earth, to a distance of just over one kilo­metre. At this scale, one metre repres­ents 4.1 million years, or 1 mm corre­sponds to 4100 years, roughly the time that has passed since the Egyp­tian pyra­mids were built.

Signi­fi­cant deve­lo­p­ments or events in evolu­tion (or fossil finds or other evidence of these deve­lo­p­ments) are marked by signs along this path where they are described.

The indi­vi­dual points of the path do not repre­sent the direct evolu­tion from the begin­ning of life to us humans. Rather, they pick out fossil finds on important deve­lo­p­ments and events from the large and inten­si­vely bran­ched evolu­tio­nary tree, which have stron­gly influen­ced our world as we find it today, or without which we humans would not exist here on earth.

Although by far not all signi­fi­cant deve­lo­p­ments could be high­ligh­ted with their own sign, it is clear that the speed of evolu­tio­nary deve­lo­p­ments has increased expo­nen­ti­ally — events came in ever shorter intervals.

There have been drama­tic cuts in the deve­lo­p­ment of life time and again, without any non-natu­ral influen­ces being discer­ni­ble. Of these cuts, which we call mass extinc­tions, there were certainly count­less. The most signi­fi­cant six of them are speci­ally noted on the signs. Accor­ding to our present state of know­ledge, most of them were caused by extreme tempe­ra­ture fluc­tua­tions within short peri­ods of time, although the reasons for these tempe­ra­ture fluc­tua­tions were very diffe­rent. Examp­les are the increase or decrease in CO2 concen­tra­tion, the occur­rence of oxygen in the atmo­sphere, but also volca­nic erup­ti­ons, meteo­rite impacts or conti­nen­tal drift. The last of these major mass extinc­tions wiped out the dino­saurs and many other animal and plant groups about 65 million years ago.

Whether we are curr­ently at the begin­ning of a mass extinc­tion again, we do not know. Howe­ver, the undoub­tedly measura­ble rapid increase in the mean tempe­ra­ture of our Earth’s atmo­sphere, which is not least caused by us humans, does indi­cate that this is the case.

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