Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nature's 'tools'

Dream-fire, originally uploaded by halwis.

Living in a liberal democracy as free thinking individuals, getting by in cities surrounded by hoards of other people and being connected to a world where most of our daily chores are ‘enabled’ or ‘powered’ by reasonably sophisticated technology, where I sit at a desk and carry out intellectually challenging tasks to make a living and buy practically all my needs at a supermarket or department store… really sucks.
It sucks because I am not made to live this way. Millions of years of evolution did not design me to live life this way. This lifestyle has been engineered in a matter of a couple of centuries at most, while our bodies and most of the uncontrollable parts of our minds are literally still trapped in the stone age.
I am actually made – I’ll say optimised - to live in a small clan, to hunt for food, be obedient and subservient to the leader of my clan. Natural selection was kind to those who followed such simple rules and so that way of life is etched into our genetic memory. Now that I am at the prime of my youth, biology and hormones in particular conspire to make me feel horny and ever eager to do horny things with equally horny lasses from neighbouring clans. Then civilization comes along to muck it all up and poetic notions about love and morality have made me a social outcast by working against my hormones to keep me celibate.
Multitudes cramped up into cities meant we had to draw up elaborate social conventions and stricter codes of behaviour to maintain order and peace. But the real destroyer was philosophy, science and their offshoot - technology. Medicine gave every nincompoop an almost equal chance of survival. That is not how nature worked. Even though evolution by mutation continued to create more diversity, natural selection had no say in who survived and who didn’t. You didn't have to adapt to your environment to survive. Well, on the other hand natural selection would have purged Dr. Stephen Hawking’s genes out of humanity and propagated those of say... any powerful, not necessarily intelligent but dominating men like Dr. Silva for example (if only to illustrate the point). But is humanity better off for having someone who claims to know a lot about Blackholes? Maybe, but it’s sort of like giving a five-star safety rating to a car because it’s got leather seats and climate control, while knowing that its brakes are faulty.
In a just, egalitarian, democratic, world; brawn would matter less. In free flowing lanes, a car without brakes would not be at a disadvantage. But it seems our biology is not yet sophisticated enough to enable us to blend seamlessly into an egalitarian, democratic, peaceful world let alone being equipped to create one. Even though the learnable, programmable parts of our minds creates a fleeting glimmer of hope for such a world, the hard-wired vestiges of a long and brutal route through evolution has preserved in us a genetic memory of tribalism, violence and selfishness. We are poorly equipped to be in a fostering and peaceful coexistence with each other - let alone share a wonderful planet with an incomprehensibly rich diversity of other species.