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:
- Hereditary changes in organisms occur by chance through changes in their genetic make-up, e.g. during cell division.
- 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.
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 does indicate that this is the case.