Passing Gas

August 2005

Your Question

How did [passing gas] evolve?

Our Response

Right off the bat, apologies for doing a little editing on your question. We do try to be a bit careful about our vocabulary around here.

Now, on to the answer.

There is a great deal of debate on the subject of the evolution of gas passing. The reason is that, on the face of it, the practice makes no evolutionary sense. Consider:

  • Predators can more easily find prey that is unable to hide in silence.
  • A hunter that can be easily smelled will find it difficult to get within killing distance of its intended target.
  • Intestinal gas can be painful and, in extreme cases, life threatening.

So here we have something that made it harder for our ancestors to hide from, say, saber-toothed cats, made it easier for deer and other animals to know that they are being stalked by a human, and can make you bloat, cramp, or explode. It seems like evolution would weed the thing out, doesn't it?

Delving further into the subject, we spoke with Bertrand Ostrich with the Institute for Critical Science. He made several points worth considering:

  • The process by which the body produces methane gas is both complex and irreducible. By this scientists mean that if you removed any part of the system, the whole would collapse. For example, intestinal gas is produced in the intestines, and without your intestines you would starve to death. And if the body produced methane in the intestines without a means for expelling it in controlled amounts, there would be the potential for either deadly internal ruptures or massive external explosions. This fact makes evolution impossible because a system cannot evolve if parts of that system would not work on their own.
  • The gas passed by humans is flammable, but this presumes the existence of fire. Humans did not learn to make fire until well after the ability to pass gas had (supposedly) evolved.
  • The only other animal known for passing gas is the dog -- "man's best friend."
  • If you were digging in the desert and found, hundreds of feet down, an ancient canister filled with pure CH4, you would assume that it had been put there by someone, not that it had grown there through some natural process.
  • The late Stephen J. Gould, famed proponent of the theory of evolution, admitted under pressure (and with obvious embarrassment) that he had, at times, passed gas.

Ostrich contends, "the ability to flatulate must have been placed in humanity by some creating entity with enormous power and a sense of humor." And if this one aspect of humanity must have been created, then surely all of humanity must have a creator. And if humanity has a creator, then that creator created not just flatulence but incontinence, hiccoughs, impotence, yawning, kidney stones, and inexplicable random projectile vomiting, from which one might conclude that the creator is either in possession of a very unusual sense of humor or is kind of a jerk.

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