Total solar eclipses exist because, at this time in human history, the sun and moon subtend the same arc in the sky – they both have the same apparent diameter – the moon can just cover the sun. This is a configuration of very low probability – which all scientists (even Carl Sagan) insist must be just a coincidence. Speculation that there was a “cause” or “purpose” for this sun/moon configuration, just at the time humans were emerging, is a taboo topic.
Although creatures that navigate at night show evidence of detecting North-South direction from the night sky, there is no evidence that creatures other than humans attend to star patterns in the night sky. However, much life behavior is tuned to the moon phases, and to the relative movements of the sun. Dung beetles do orient to the Milky Way.
Speculate, for a moment, that if it were not for the total solar eclipse humans might have been delayed many millennia in attending to the night sky, specifically the star patterns – and thus, the rapid advance of our Sci/Tech civilization would have delayed.
I haven’t yet read of an estimation of the probability that the sun and moon would subtend the same arc, with such precision, during the evolutionary rise of humankind. Theory claims that earlier the moon was closer and is moving away. With the moon closer, solar eclipses would be much more frequent and taken as a regular “weather” phenomenon by creatures living on the earth at that time. Later, when the moon is further out, there would be no total solar eclipses and no deep darkening.
Those with eyes able to focus on stars still may not attend to the stars. We often don’t attend to phenomena that don’t influence us and are not “sudden”, to attract our attention. Individual humans probably noticed the stars occasionally, in the clear night sky, but those experiences were never socially relevant. That is, until they saw the stars in the daytime, during a total solar eclipse. Seeing constellations in daytime that were then seen only in other seasons at night was probably a significant feature.
Animals are fearful of lightning and thunder, as harbingers of trouble. Do animals see rainbows? Animals react to environmental changes, and there is probably lore about animal behavior during eclipses. I expect there is no evidence of other animals forecasting eclipses.
Very early humans probably treated total solar eclipses as they treated storms. They adapted. Later, in advanced tribal times with social structure and shamans, the total solar eclipse became significant. Are there ancient artworks of eclipses? What records do we have of early shamans and eclipses? The role of shamans in human history is very significant, but I won’t go into it here.
Shamans and tribal cultures could elevate eclipses to significant religious events. When shamans could predict solar eclipses with some accuracy they could command much more respect. I have read that total solar eclipses could have been forecast approximately, in tribal times, from basic information available to shamans.
The lack of total accuracy was actually advantageous for the shaman. He would have the tribe perform rituals to keep the eclipse away (the moon eating the sun); if the prediction failed and there was no eclipse, the ritual was successful. If the ritual failed, more ritual during the eclipse would assist the shaman in bringing back the sun. Failure of tribal persons to properly perform the ritual would be cited for the reason the eclipse happened.
Although total solar eclipses are rather frequent somewhere on Earth, they are far less frequent at any specific location: averaging about one every 375 years, many generations. Total solar eclipses would be in the lore of a culture, not a periodic occurrence. Partial eclipses would have been more frequent.
Being able to predict solar eclipses motivated some tribal persons, especially shamans, to attend to the details of the night sky, which launched humankind on it path towards sci/tech civilizations.
The stars provide no useful energy to the Earth. The night sky is pure information. There are the fixed pattern of most stars in relation to each other (the constellations) and the uniform rotation of the overall pattern, varying over each evening and over the seasons.
An early phenomenon that attracted explicit human attention was the changing/unchanging patterns of the starry night sky. They invented ways to improve observation and make records. South Sea islanders learned to use the night sky to navigate thousands of miles in open sea – to Hawaii.
The star field was the first example of invariance. The pattern of a constellation (whether lines between stars, or the spaces between the lines – a cultural variation) was fixed. And yet, it changed in a truly regular ways. The night sky was the exemplar of regularity.
Geological and biological features always exhibit variation. Even mountains look different during different weather conditions. The night sky became the primary phenomenon for the emergence of mathematics and science for millennia.
The retrograde motion of the brightest “stars” (planets) was the first major scientific challenge, which took millennia to solve – a process that motivated the creation of instruments, observational procedures, data recording, and mathematical representations – scientific tools and techniques that evolved quickly to be applied to other phenomena. Our solar system, not phenomena on Earth’s surface, was the first for humans to “cut their scientific teeth”.
Where might we be if we hadn’t total solar eclipses to prematurely launch us through our scientific, industrial, and now digital revolutions? Would we have electricity, let alone computers?
In NU GENESIS, I speculate that the Earth/Moon system, set for total solar eclipses, was “somehow caused” by Gaia, to provide Gaia/Earth with the technology to avoid the next asteroid caused major extinction. Gaia recovered (and gained from) each prior extinction; but another major extinction would wipe out all higher life forms (all mammals and birds). This was risky, as the premature technological advancement outstripped our human systems organization, which now threatens a major extinction of our own making. Might this knowledge of our purpose for Gaia motivate us to avoid the disaster ahead? Abandoning technology is not an option, for it is needed for us to avoid future asteroid collisions. Contemporary science isn’t at a level to discover what may have “caused” the Earth/Moon system to be as it is now. Nor, should a lack of explanation justify scientific establishments from accepting this as a challenge. Unfortunately, established science does just that; as evidenced by the rejection of Continental Drift data, until plate tectonics provided an explanation.
Might NU GENESIS
be a useful Creation Myth
to assist us, facing our