Wednesday, February 2, 2011


It is somewhat timely that this blog was prepared for this time considering the events unfolding in Egypt this week. It is only another form of evolution, social in nature, but change is coming. To look into an historical perspective and take a break from the events of the day....

I am currently reading one of my favorite Writers, the esteemed scientist and humanist, Loren Eiseley. The book is, "Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X". It is a fascinating book about Darwin and those and that surrounding his era, life, expeditions and writings. All of Eiseley's books have so far been excellent, those that I have so far read; "The Star Thrower" being the first many years ago.

There is a passage in this book that goes thus, in reference to Darwin and his contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace:

"In 1864 Wallace composed a paper which led eventually to strong intellectual differences, but never a personal break, with Darwin. In this paper he gave vent to a new view; namely, that with the rise of the human brain a creature had emerged who, for the first time in the long history of life, had escaped from the specialization of parts toward which evolution seemed always to progress.

"With man this process was apparently at an end. Man, in his brain, had developed a specialized organ whose whole purpose was to enable him to escape specialization. He could now increasingly assign to his clothing and implements the special activities by contrast, could take off and put on. Specialization could be left to his cultural shell, his technology. Armored within that shell, great-brained man was in the process of acquiring a sort of timeless, unchanging body in the midst of faunas and floras still forever evolving and vanishing.

"Wallace did not deny that small alterations might still be taking place in man, but he regarded them as insignificant."

Is this not fascinating?

He went on to say:

"Natural selection, pondered Wallace, "could only have endowed savage man with a brain a few degrees superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one very little inferior to that of a philosopher." Man's curious hairlessness, the structure of the human larnyx, and other odd human features began to loom impressively in Wallace's thinking. Finally the man who had not been impressed in his youth by organized religion was led to suggest that a higher intelligence might have played a hand in the development of our kind.

"I differ grievously from you, and am very sorry for it," wrote Darwin courteously.

"Huxley was severaly critical.

"Hooker wrote to Darwin of Huxley's remarks: "The tumbling over of Wallance is a ... service to science." "

What I would like to focus on here is not the disparity between "intelligent design" (curiously so obvious in our current media of late) and pure evolutionary theory, but that of the comments regarding specialization and how man may have stopped evolving. Arguing about intelligent design vs evolution is kind of a waste of time. First of all, intelligent design people are mostly intent upon proving God's hand in things, when really, intelligent design doesn't need to have a thing to do with a Supreme Being, or it could be one that has nothing to do with God, per se (aliens far advanced of us at the time). Since one could argue that a God has made things as they are, even by using evolution, to argue that is just useless.

Since the text included above pretty much says what I would say about specialization, let's focus on that for now. The part referring to man not evolving; that part, really was about the slowing down of evolution, not in the ending of it, no matter how contended Wallace was by saying:

"Wallace did not deny that small alterations might still be taking place in man, but he regarded them as insignificant."

How cavalier. What he was noting, was not the ending of man's evolution, with some minor variations, but a slowing down process, not unlike that of an alcoholic's emotional development being stunted until he quits his inebriations, to then be able to continue on and develop again at a more normal rate. I just found that humorous. What I'm saying though is that if you don't need to use something because you can think your way around it, you won't develop in that direction, some would argue, at all; I would argue, you would develop but not as quickly, possibly even, extremely slowly.

And so Time has only slowed for the organism known as man, or the more currently used, Humankind. If you think about it, once we were able to evoke changes in our environment without having to physically adapt to them, we no longer needed to evolve in certain directions, unless the situation remained over time; only then would we slowly adapt. But as long as we are adapting physically, we are evolving. If we are evolving physically, then we are also evolving mentally.

Of course, even if we are not evolving mentally due to physical changes, we are also evolving mentally as our mental challenges change all around us on a continuing basis. Just take consideration of the new devices we have been dealing with in the recent decade: cell phones, text messaging, laptops, IPads, and on and on. Within each of these devices are things mutating our environments, such as connectivity, and because of that, stress at being so available; at knowing so much about so much, and so many; being better able to track a variety of things. And so we are getting better at somethings, and not as good at others, as we are taking on more of an information load, but using devices to manage much of that.

But do not fool yourself, we are still evolving.

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