Saturday, June 1, 2013

An evolution of attitudes.

Temperate rain forest, northern Iran. Photo by Argooya, (Wiki Commons.)

     Like the debate between the right to life and the right to choose, the debate between evolutionists and creationists is always fascinating. Something about the cut, thrust and parry, between two mutually irreconcilable points of view, strikes a chord that resonates within this writer.
     When everything is boiled down into thirty-second sound bites, when everything is simplified to the level of the lowest common denominator, the objective spectator is not particularly well served. Does an adult threatening suicide have the right to choose? Does an unfertilized egg, or do a few million sperm, have the right to live? These are often seen as perverse lines of questioning, but it goes right to the heart of the matter.
     When school boards have to choose between teaching evolution, or creation, or teachers are asked to present two points of view to the kids, it seems to me to be just schizophrenia of the institutional type. Evolution is a theory and has always been presented as such. People have the right to choose if they believe it or not.
     All of the life forms we are familiar with have evolved over the last two to forty thousand years. I can prove that. Let’s go over to Siberia and you can show me the Asian bison. Because if you can’t, then bison must have evolved here in North America in the last 12,000 to 20,000 years, or since the last ice age. And every day, more species go extinct. Because they didn’t adapt quite fast enough to changing environmental conditions, the bulk of which are caused by our own activities. So; animals that don’t adapt fast enough go extinct. It happens quickly. One of the commonest misconceptions is that evolution, including human evolution, takes ‘millions and millions’ of years. Yet the average height in this area has gone up by four or five inches in the last one hundred years. It didn’t take a million years, neither did it take a thousand.
     Virtually all mutations or adaptations are environmental. We have changed our environment, and we are in the process of changing our environment even further, and at an accelerating rate.
     This is not ‘bad science.’ But it is possible that the rapidly climbing rates of respiratory disorders, diabetes, or even simple morbid obesity are biological responses to the immediate environment. Biological adaptations to an organism happen to that organism—then and only then, does that organism transmit them to the offspring. It’s not like something happens to you, and then after three generations; some changes begin to occur. Does any reader have doubts, that in a changed environment, one not quite so calorie-rich, that the average human body type would quickly revert, or, ‘evolve,’ back to a slightly-built, yet wiry form of much-reduced mass? No new babies have to be born for this to happen. Does the reader doubt that simple natural selection and mortality tables relating to age and nutrition would come into play in developing
this new body type ever the next few generations? If not, how did we get taller? And then suddenly fatter? Perhaps one can deny global warming. Can one deny pollution? Can one deny our chemistry-enhanced diet? Can one deny that the human race is undergoing some changes?
      I’m not asking if these changes are welcome. Neither is Mother Nature, to characterize reality. The forces of unending creation are not cruel, neither are they kind, they are merely indifferent as to our belief systems.
      Neanderthals, the familiar club-swinging, hairy, brutish types who dragged their wives home by the hair have died out. This happened in the last twenty-five to forty thousand years. They were displaced, supplanted, or driven to extinction by Cro-Magnon peoples, who were of a more modern type according to scientific thought. Interestingly enough, the Neanderthals had much bigger brains than the Cro-Magnons. It is possible that the Cro-Magnons developed a superior culture, and that affected the outcome? In a sense, ants have a social structure, and this evolved to help them survive as a species. Why should not social evolution in humans play a role in our survival as a species?
     Wouldn’t simple education play a big role in achieving such a goal, i.e. human social evolution, with cooperation as opposed to confrontation? Wouldn’t we evolve the biological ability to thrive in our new social structures, which have become increasingly complex and challenging? If we have the ability to change the physical environment so markedly, do we not have the potential ability to change our social environments relatively quickly? We do it when we want to, such as adapting ourselves to motor vehicles, or color TV’s.
     The common dairy cow has evolved, by selective breeding, over the last two or three hundred years. Corn, wheat, and other cereal crops are almost unrecognizable compared to a few hundred years ago. Aren’t we also unrecognizable?
     There are three major causes of evolution in an organism. The first is environmental. The second is random, genetic mutations, whether they are caused by cosmic rays, or simply arise from some flawed portion of the DNA chain. There is such a thing as ‘genetic drift,’ probably due to the fact that the one constant in all of creation is change, and change is necessary. 
     And the third is ‘unnatural’ selection. I use this term advisedly. Because we select our mates.
     We select them for height, weight, hair and eye color. We select them for personality, beauty, and cultural reasons. The odds of anyone reading this marrying an Andaman Islander or a San (Bushman), or a Pitcairn Islander, is quite small. For one thing, there aren’t very many of them, and they live quite far away from us. But also in the smaller, human scale of things, we select our mates from the local environment—where we are all created equal, in terms of air and water pollution, crime, the types of foods available in local supermarkets, the need for transportation of many miles or kilometres per day. Our pudgy, soft bodies have evolved within our own lifetimes, we’re not built so much for walking anymore. Now we’re built to ride, aren’t we?
     We select the cow that produces the most milk. We select the hardiest grains, and the biggest, sweetest apples. No one goes out and plants small, sour apples that are not resistant to drought, frost or pests. A news report recently suggested that we are still evolving. Apparently relatively thickset women have more babies than slender women! But is this truly cause and effect, or is it effect and cause? What I’m asking, do the skinnier women have fewer babies, and so therefore they stay skinnier? Having babies changes the body. Not all scientists or the conclusions drawn by them, are trustworthy, especially when dependent on research grants to stay in business.
Virtually every study has some kind of limitation if not outright flaw.
      So we continue to pollute our atmosphere, our water and our soil in the name of progress, and prosperity for the few, and in the name of order and rule of law. It seems all the common man can do is try to evolve a little faster. Because a changing environment means a changing human race, and it doesn’t take millions of years, in spite of unfortunate impressions promulgated by fuzzy teachings. In a recent documentary, a spokesperson for a major industry advocated ownership of the air, the oceans, the electromagnetic spectrum, in fact anything was wasn’t already nailed down, such as real property, or things like the airways, and the airwaves, otherwise owned by someone somewhere. In his view, “People don’t look after their water, which is held in common trust,” and, “They don’t look after the air, or even the soil in the case of some farmers refusing to adopt new practices in cultivation.”
     And he’s right, isn’t he? The very people who depended on the cod fishery in eastern Canada were the ones who were always complaining about diminishing quotas, red tape and regulations, governments interfering with their livelihood. They were always demanding that the government ‘do something about it,’ when they themselves were the only ones with the power to do anything at all about it. Were they seriously expecting the government to stock the oceans with fully-grown cod, putting them out right where the nets were going to be? Now the Fraser River salmon fishery collapsed, and all the interested parties are screaming for someone else to do something about it, perhaps have a big public inquiry. As yet, development of hydro on the Fraser has always taken second place to the salmon fishery. Now that the salmon are gone, perhaps the equation has changed. Now the river can be sold to a big corporation, and they will perhaps look after it better.
     Essentially he’s saying that some big corporation somewhere is going to own the atmosphere, and if they are supposed to provide you with certain services—i.e. ‘air,’ then you are obviously going to have to pay some kind of fee, and one would suppose not get too far behind on your bill.
     Then, and only then, someone, the corporation for example, will have a proper incentive to look after the said atmosphere or ocean. It is, after all, in their best interests to do so. As long as they have a proper and hard-working debt slave, it also kind of behooves them to look after you as well. Let’s hope so.
     Scary as this sounds, and I’m definitely not an advocate, but this might be the new face of social progress. One of the questions often asked about the United Nations is, “Why don’t they have any power?”
     And the reason is simple. Because no one single nation or group of people, or even certain individuals I know, are going to give up one iota of money, power, influence, control, or anything easily, and not without a lot of assurances that everyone else will too. And also a lot of reassurances that none of the delegated power would be misused. If the reader considers how people feel when some new political corruption scandal makes the headlines, just imagine the big countries of the world, or some of the more excitable ones, sitting around the committee room table. Any kind of a representative democracy, such as the UN, ultimately gets governed by patronage, the collection and redistribution of wealth in some form or another. Imagine all those countries sitting around the committee tables, trying to agree on who gets what project
first, and how much gets spent on it, and how much work local contractors will get, and who will
manage the project. This goes for each and every dollar spent on saving the planet. It’s no wonder the more responsible countries prefer to work alone.
     Ultimately, no one can forget who they really are, and nothing ever gets done. Simply put, few nations have the trust, or the courage, or even the simple maturity to go first. We cannot save this planet without making some personal sacrifices.
     Our mental attitudes are going to have to evolve.


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