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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