Does Evolution Answer This One BIG Question?

Does Evolution Answer This One BIG Question?

Discovering DNA

Dearest Global Family,

Hello and welcome to the Summer 2017 edition of “Bridging Science, Spirituality, and the Real Word,” my one and only official Gregg Braden newsletter!

Just as we were going to press with this newsletter, the winners of the 2016 Nautilus Book Awards were published. The winners learn that their books have been selected at the same time the rest of the world does, and I’m happy, proud and totally thrilled to announce that our 2016 book, “Resilience From The Heart: The Power To Thrive In Life’s Extremes” has received the Gold Award in the category of Social Change! For 19 years the Nautilus book award program has worked to acknowledge “exceptional literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living & green values, high-level wellness, responsible leadership and positive social change as well as to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults” from authors representing over 40 different categories. This year I was blessed to be one of those authors. Thank you Nautilus Book Awards for honoring the work of so many people in such a beautiful way, and to my community for your continued and loving support of my message of possibility, potential and discovery!

As I thought about our second quarter newsletter, I felt that I wanted to offer you something a bit different in this edition—some of the science that’s defining the new human story. It’s also the science that you’re writing to me about after taking my on-line Hay House course or seeing the new GAIA television series, Missing Links. With that science, we’re learning about new ways to empower our lives. I realize that for many of us, the science is simply catching up with what we’ve believed and known to be true since childhood. For others, however, the revelations that are coming from the best science of the modern world are like an earthquake that is shaking the foundation of what has been accepted and taught in mainstream classrooms and textbooks for over 150 years.

It’s all about us—the story of our origin, what we believe about ourselves, our capacities, and our capabilities. And because I’m offering facts and statements that are rarely seen in mainstream media, I’ve also offered a brief section of references at the end of this article to make it easy for those who would like to know more. I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter as much as I have enjoyed writing it for you!

Sometimes the best way to understand a complex idea is through the eyes of someone who sees the world simply. The wisdom of Forrest Gump, the character played by Tom Hanks in the 1994 film of the same name, is a perfect example of this kind of vision. When Gump is asked about the role of destiny in our lives, his timeless words ring just as true today as when he spoke them on the big screen for the first time, over two decades ago. “I don’t know if we each have a destiny,” he says, “or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it’s both.” 1

Gump’s philosophy precisely describes what personal transformation is all about. As individuals we each have a destiny that awaits us as the fulfillment of our greatest potential. Our destiny is ours, however, only if we act. Through the choices we make in each and every moment in our lives we claim this personal destiny. The way we answer the question “Who am I?” is the compass that can guide us as we make our choices one day at a time. And if you’ve ever felt that there’s more to the human story than we’ve been led to believe in the past, I want you to know you’re not alone.

A 2014 Gallup poll revealed that in the United States alone, a whopping 42 percent of the people who were asked believe that there’s something more to human origins than is typically acknowledged in the mainstream—that something beyond Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is responsible for our existence. The results of this poll reflect a growing sense that we humans are part of something great, powerful, and mysterious. Some of the greatest minds in science agree.

Something is Missing from the Human Story

Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize–winning co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, believed that the eloquence of life’s building blocks has to be the result of something more than random mutations and a lucky quirk of nature. Through his pioneering research, he was one of the first humans to witness the complexity and the sheer beauty of the DNA molecule that makes life possible. Late in life, Crick risked his reputation as a scientist by publicly stating, “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle.”2 In the scientific world, this statement is the equivalent of heresy, suggesting that something more than chance evolution led to our existence.

The feeling that there’s something more to our story is not just a recent phenomenon. Archaeological discoveries show that, almost universally, from the ancient Mayan Popol Vuh3 and the indigenous traditions of the American desert Southwest to the roots of the world’s major religions, ancient humans felt connected to more than just their immediate surroundings. They sensed that we have our roots in other worlds, some that we can’t even see, and that we are ultimately part of a cosmic family that lives in those worlds. Could there be a simple explanation as to why such a sense has remained with us so strongly, across such diverse traditions, and has lasted for so long? Is it possible that our feeling of having an intentional origin and a greater potential is based in something that’s true? And if so, what does such a past mean for us today?

When we ask Who are we? The short answer is that we’re not what we’ve been told and we’re more than most of us have ever imagined.

The Old Story: Small, Powerless and Insignificant

For the last century and a half we’ve been steeped in a cosmic story that leaves us feeling like little more than trivial specks of dust in the universe—biological sidebars in the overall scheme of life. Carl Sagan described this mind-set perfectly when he commented on the scientific perspective on our place in the cosmos: “We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”4 This kind of limited thinking, promoted by the scientific community, has led us to believe that we’re unimportant when it comes to life in general and also separate from the world, from one another, and ultimately, even from ourselves.

The story of human insignificance, with its roots in the 19th-century theory of human evolution, is taught as undisputed fact in today’s classrooms, leaving no room for consideration of any other possible explanation for the mystery of our existence. And because the mainstream story does not take into account recent discoveries made using the best science of the modern world, it leaves us unprepared to address the radical social issues and global challenges we’re experiencing today, including everything from terrorism, bullying, and hate crimes to the epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

Human Evolution: Speculation Taught as Fact

The conventional thinking of today leaves us with the sense that, when it comes to explaining our beginning, Darwin’s theory of evolution is a “done deal.” That it’s an open-and-shut case universally accepted by the scientific community, and there is little room for doubt when it comes to the explanation of human life as we see it today. Evolution is described as fact in textbooks and classrooms. In this environment of unconditional acceptance, scientific discoveries that fail to support evolution are often not reported, or worse yet, are ridiculed as superstition, religion, or pseudoscience. For this reason, people are often surprised when there is any mention of discoveries casting doubt on Darwin’s theory. They’re surprised, as well, to learn that passionate objections to Darwin’s theory appeared almost as soon as his book was published in 1859, and they came from within the scientific community itself!

The first was raised by Louis Agassiz, who is regarded as one of the great scientists of the 19th century. His pioneering legacy is recognized in the field of natural history, specifically for his work in the areas of geology, biology, paleontology, and glaciology. While he and Darwin were contemporaries using the same methods and looking at the same information, their interpretations couldn’t have been more different. Commenting on Darwin’s theory in an 1874 publication, Agassiz wrote, “There are… absolutely no facts either in the records of geology, or in the history of the past, or in the experience of the present, that can be referred to as proving evolution, or the development of one species from another by selection of any kind whatever.”5

Agassiz was not alone in his objections. A community of respected scientists has objected to Darwin’s work from the time it was first published. That community continues to grow. Its roster now sounds like a who’s who of leading minds in contemporary science. Following is a brief sampling of the types of criticisms that have been raised from the time Darwin introduced his theory in 1859 to the present to give you a sense of these objections.

  • Darwin’s theory is not inductive—not based on a series of acknowledged facts pointing to a general conclusion.”6Adam Sedgwick (1785–1873), Cambridge University, British geologist and one of the founders of modern geology
  • The theory suffers from grave defects, which are becoming more and more apparent as time advances. It can no longer square with practical scientific knowledge, nor does it suffice for our theoretical grasp of the facts… Darwin ransacked other spheres of practical research work for ideas… But his whole resulting scheme remains, to this day, foreign to scientifically-established zoology, since actual changes of species by such means are still unknown.7Albert Fleischmann (1862–1942), University of Erlangen, German zoologist
  • Evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their observations to fit with it.8H. S. Lipson (1910–1991), University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, British physicist
  • Evolution is the backbone of biology and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on unproven theory—is it then a science or a faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation—both are concepts which believers know to be true, but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof.9Leonard Harrison Matthews (1901–1986), Cambridge University, British zoologist
  • The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein. I am at a loss to understand biologists’ widespread compulsion to deny what seems to me to be obvious.10Sir Fred Hoyle (1915–2001), Cambridge University, British astronomer; formed the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis
  • Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more or less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century. The truth is that despite the prestige of evolutionary theory and the tremendous intellectual effort directed towards reducing living systems to the confines of Darwinian thought, nature refuses to be imprisoned. In the final analysis we still know very little about how new forms of life arise.11Michael Denton (1943– ), British biochemist, senior fellow, Center for Science and Culture
  • The point, however, is that the doctrine of evolution has swept the world, not on the strength of its scientific merits, but precisely in its capacity as a Gnostic myth. It affirms, in effect, that living beings create themselves, which is, in essence, a metaphysical claim… Thus, in the final analysis, evolutionism is in truth a metaphysical doctrine decked out in scientific garb.12Wolfgang Smith (1930– ), American mathematician and physicist

The preceding statements offer insights seldom seen by the public, and certainly not shared in typical school classrooms, when it comes to accepting Darwin’s theory. Clearly, the jury is still out on the viability of Darwin’s theory of evolution when it comes to solving the mystery of human beginnings. It’s obvious from objections such as the ones listed, and more, that criticism of evolution continues with passion and vigorous debate. And while Darwin’s ideas are a century and a half old, they’re still among the most emotionally-charged issues of our time.

A Theory In Need of Proof

Immediately following Charles Darwin’s 1859 release of Origin of Species, scientists began a search for the physical evidence to support it: the “missing links” between species that were believed to exist in the fossil record. If scientists could find these clues, the logic goes, then they would be able to reconstruct our ancient family tree of development. Just the way we can document our individual family lineage in reverse, going from our parents to our grandparents, and then to our great-grandparents, and so on, they assumed one day it would be possible to create a family tree of all our collective ancestors.

The current thinking about our origins is often illustrated as a tree, with us at the top of the tree having emerged from less evolved forms of life shown on the lower branches. In this way of thinking, the lines that connect us to the life forms lower on the tree represent the various paths of development—the evolutionary paths—scientists believe have led from early primates to us today.

A close look at the conventional illustrations, however, reveals that the links between the fossils are shown as dashed lines rather than solid ones. This means that the lines represent speculative or inferred connections rather than proven ones. While the links are believed to exist, after 150 years of searching for the evidence to support them, they have yet to be proven.

In other words, the physical evidence to confirm the evolutionary links that influence aspects of our lives ranging from healthcare to the moral justification of hate crimes, suicide, assisted suicide, and the death penalty as well as the criteria for our self-image and intimate relationships, has yet to be discovered. Even so, the theory continues to be taught in public classrooms as if it’s an undisputed fact!

It’s against the backdrop of these ideas and criticisms that an astounding discovery in the late 20th century gave scientists the opportunity to put some of the strongest-held arguments for evolution to the test. If human evolution has in fact occurred, as Darwin’s theory hypothesizes, then the best way to prove the theory would be to compare us to our ancestors at the deepest level of our cells. To do so, scientists would need to sample the DNA of our early ancestors and compare it to the DNA of our bodies today, which is a problem because modern humans have already been on earth for 200,000 years. Because DNA is fragile, it doesn’t last that long.

Is it possible that DNA from ancient primate life could still exist today? And if it were to exist, could we test the recovered DNA the way we routinely test our DNA today? Although these questions sound as if they could have come from the plot of Jurassic Park, a movie depicting ancient dinosaurs being resurrected through DNA in the present day, the answer to these questions came to light in the form of a one-of-a-kind discovery in 1987. The revelations of the discovery have left more questions unanswered, created even deeper mysteries, and opened the door to a possibility that has been forbidden territory in traditional science.

Retrieving DNA from a Neanderthal Baby

In 1987, a paradigm-shattering discovery was made in the Caucasus region of Russia, near the border between Europe and Asia. Buried deep in the earth, in a place called Mezmaiskaya Cave, scientists discovered the remains of a Neanderthal infant—a baby girl that lived about 30,000 years ago! For reference, the last ice age ended about 20,000 years ago, meaning that this baby was alive during the ice age. Her remains were in an extremely rare state of preservation, and scientists were able to determine her age as somewhere between that of an unborn seven-month fetus and a two-month-old infant.

Using forensic techniques, like the futuristic technology that’s depicted in the TV series CSI, scientists were able to extract a form of DNA called mitochondrial DNA from one of the baby’s ribs for analysis. Mitochondrial DNA (abbreviated as mtDNA) is a special form of DNA that’s located within the energy centers (mitochondria) inside each of our cells, rather than in the chromosomes, where most of our DNA is found.

The reason mtDNA is key when it comes to the question of human evolution is that we inherit it only from our mothers. It’s passed from the egg of a mother to both her sons and her daughters, and this typically happens without any of the mutations that can lead to new features in children. This means that the mitochondrial DNA lines in our bodies today are the direct descendants, and exact matches, of the mitochondrial DNA of the woman who began our particular lineage long ago. It’s the uniqueness of this form of DNA that set the stage for the bombshell revealed by the Neanderthal infant.

Now We Know Who We’re Not

Using the most advanced techniques, with results that are accepted in the highest courts of law, Russian and Swedish scientists tested the Neanderthal infant’s DNA to see how similar hers was to that of modern-day humans. In other words, the scientists wanted to know if the Neanderthal girl was actually one of our ancestors, as the evolutionary family tree leads us to believe.

In the year 2000 researchers at the University of Glasgow Human Identification Centre published the results of their investigation comparing Neanderthal DNA to that of modern humans. The results of their study were shared in a way that made sense even to the most nonscientific reader. And the meaning of what they found could not be dismissed. The conclusion of their report was shared in the peer-reviewed journal Nature and directly stated that modern humans “were not, in fact, descended from Neanderthals.”13

Now there could be no turning back. While scientists had originally believed that the mtDNA of the Neanderthal infant would solve the mystery of our ancestry, it actually did just the opposite. If we’re not descendants of Neanderthals, then who are our ancestors? Where do we fit on the tree of evolution—do we even belong in Darwin’s evolutionary family? The comparison of DNA from Neanderthals and other primate fossils has shed new light on this question. In doing so, however, it’s also forced scientists to ponder a new possibility when it comes to unraveling the mystery of our origins.

They Are Us

Scientists generally agree that Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) first appear in the fossil record approximately 200,000 years ago and mark the beginning of the subspecies Homo sapiens—the term used to describe the people living on earth today. Scientists now believe that the AMHs are us, and we are they. Any differences between contemporary bodies and those of the AMHs of the past are so slight that they don’t justify a separate grouping. In other words, although ancient humans didn’t necessarily behave like we do, they looked like us, functioned like us, and appear to have had all of the “wiring” in their nervous systems that we have today.

Stated another way, we still look and function as they did 2,000 centuries ago, despite our incredible technological achievements. A 2008 study of AMH remains performed by collaborating geneticists from the universities of Ferrara and Florence in Italy, tell us that these similarities are more than superficial. Researchers report, “A Cro-Magnoid individual (Now named Anatomically Modern Human) who lived in Southern Italy 28,000 years ago was a modern European, genetically as well as anatomically.”14

It’s the fact that members of our species, Homo sapiens, haven’t changed since our earliest ancestors first appeared in the fossil record that poses a problem for the traditional story of evolution, which is based upon slow changes over long periods of time.

The New Human Story

Following 150 years of the best human minds applying themselves under the auspices of the world’s most respected universities, being funded with tremendous sums of money, and using the most sophisticated technology available to solve the mystery of our origins, if we were on the right track, it would seem that we’d be farther along than we are today. In light of the failure of Darwin’s theory to explain our existence, and in consideration of the new evidence that I’ve presented, it’s reasonable to ask the question that’s become the big pink elephant in the room: What if modern science is on the wrong track?

What if we’re trying to prove the wrong theory and writing the wrong human story? The answer to this question is the reason I’m sharing these discovers, and what they mean for us today, in my 2017 books and presentations. If we’re on the wrong track, it may help to explain why so many of the solutions applied to the world’s problems aren’t working. This would mean that our thinking and the “solutions” our approaches have produced are based on something that’s not true! It would also mean that the extraordinary abilities available to us today, such as the ability to self regulate vital functions that include our immune system and heart rate variability, to trigger self-healing, our access to deep intuition on-demand, to super learning and more, appear to be part of our original “blueprint” rather than abilities that developed slowly and gradually over a long period of time.

My question is simply this: Why not allow the evidence to lead us to the story of our past, rather than trying to force the evidence into a template that was formed over a century and a half ago? What if there is no evolutionary path leading to modern humans? What if the pieces of the genetic puzzle that makes us who we are appeared intact and fully functional all at once as the evidence suggests, rather than accumulating gradually over time? What would such a story look like? The DNA that make us unique, the lack of fossil evidence documenting the transition from one hominid species to another, and the lack of common DNA between humans and less advanced primates all suggest that we may not belong on the same tree with the early hominids commonly shown in the textbooks. In fact, they suggest that we may not belong to a tree at all!

In other words, we may find that we’re a species unique unto ourselves on an evolutionary “shrub” that begins and ends with us. This is not to say that evolution doesn’t exist or hasn’t occurred anywhere. It does and it has. As a degreed geologist, I’ve seen firsthand the fossil record of the evolution that’s occurred in a number of other species. It’s just that when we attempt to apply what we know of the evolution of plants and animals to humans, the facts don’t support the theory. They fail to explain what the evidence reveals.

If we were to place the essence of the new discoveries about us into a concise list, the statements that follow would offer a high-level summary. Additionally they would give us a good idea of where the new theories, and our new story, may be heading.

Here’s What We’re Not

  • The theory of living cells evolving (mutating randomly) over long periods of time, in and of itself, does not, and cannot, explain our origins or the complexities of our bodies.
  • The evolutionary family tree for humans is not supported with physical evidence.
  • DNA studies prove that we did not descend from Neanderthals, as previously believed.
  • We have not changed since the first of our kind, the anatomically modern humans, appeared in the fossil record of the earth approximately 200,000 years ago.
  • The precision and timing that produced the DNA that gives us our uniqueness is not commonplace in nature.

So now that we know what we’re not, what does the best science of our time tell us about who we are? What does the new human story look like?

Here’s What We Are

  • We appeared on earth approximately 200,000 years ago with the DNA and the advanced brain and complex nervous system that set us apart from other forms of life already formed and functioning.
  • We appear to be a species unique unto ourselves, with our own simple family tree, rather than being a variation of pre-existing forms of life traditionally shown on an increasingly-crowded family tree.
  • The DNA that makes us unique is the result of a rare arrangement of chromosomes, which are fused and optimized in a way that cannot be identified as random.
  • We’re here with the bodies and the nervous systems that afford us the abilities of compassion, empathy, intuition, self-healing, and much more. The fact of their presence within us suggests that we’re intended to utilize—and master—the sensitivities that we arrived with.

To honestly acknowledge these facts opens us to a paradigm that shifts the way we feel about ourselves and view our place in the universe. With this shift, we free ourselves from a paradigm of lonely insignificance and move into one of possessing a rare heritage that we are only beginning to explore.

And this is where the books, videos, television specials and presentations that I’m presenting throughout 2017 come in. The new human story begins with our beginnings. It begins with the fact that from the time of our origin we’ve been neurologically wired and biologically enabled for extraordinary abilities. This design affords us extraordinary ways of living and extraordinary lives.

Through the remainder of this year, I invite you to share this personal journey of discovery as I offer the scientific discoveries that are so new, they are not yet reflected in mainstream media, classrooms and textbooks, and help us to apply those discoveries in our everyday lives. I look forward to seeing you at the events that follow in this newsletter, and that are listed on my only official website:

Until then, I want to thank you personally for your love and support, as together, we discover what it means to be human by design.


Gregg Braden
Santa Fe, New Mexico

  1. Forrest Gump (1994), directed by Robert Zemeckis. Written by Eric Roth, based on the novel Forrest Gump by Winston Groom (New York: Vintage Books, 1986).
  2. Francis Crick. Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Touchstone, 1981), p. 88.
  3. Adrián Recinos. Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiché Maya, “Creation Myth,” chapters 1–3, Delia Goetz and Sylvanus G. Morley, eds. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950), pp. 167–168. Available Now.
  4. Carl Sagan, “The Backbone of Night,” Cosmos episode 7, November 9, 1980. Available Now.
  5. Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence, Elizabeth C. Agassiz, eds. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1893), p. 647. Available Now.
  6. Adam Sedgwick. Spectator (March 1860). Quoted in David L. Hull, Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), pp. 155–170.
  7. Albert Fleischmann. “The Doctrine of Organic Evolution in the Light of Modern Research,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute or Philosophical Society of Great Britain, vol. 65 (London, U.K., 1933), pp. 194–195, 205–206, 208–9. Available Now.
  8. H. S. Lipson. “A Physicist Looks at Evolution,” Physics Bulletin, vol. 31, no. 4 (May 1980), p. 138.
  9. Leonard Harrison Matthews. “Introduction,” The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1971), pp. x–xi.
  10. Fred Hoyle. “Hoyle on Evolution,” Nature, vol. 294, no. 5837 (November 12, 1981), p.
  11. Michael Denton. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Chevy Chase, MD: Adler and Adler Books, 1986), p. 358.
  12. Wolfgang Smith. Teilhardism and the New Religion: A Thorough Analysis of the Teachings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 1988), p. 24.
  13. Igor V. Ovchinnikov, Anders Götherström, Galina P. Romanova, Vitaliy M. Kharitonov, Kerstin Lidén, and William Goodwin. “Molecular Analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the Northern Caucasus,” Nature, vol. 404 (2000), pp. 490–493. Available Now.
  14. Public Library of Science. “Europe’s Ancestors: Cro-Magnon 28,000 Years Old Had DNA like Modern Humans,” ScienceDaily (July 16, 2008). Available Now.
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