"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Oct 11, 2008

Evolution expands your mind

What a crazy week in the world it has been. Shareholders have acted like a herd of panicking beasts running towards a cliff. They bolted for the cliff , withdrew a little , then headed for the cliff again and again and nearer and nearer each time. Much, if not all of it seems quite irrational. People have fears of recession and instability and that very fear has made them behave in ways which seem quite irrational. It's easy to feel dwarfed by events.

And I suppose in a way that's the point. None of us is terribly special in the grand scale of things. The march of history stomps muddy boots on us periodically and at such times events seem beyond anyone's ability to control.

This shatters our illusions of mastery of course and so it should. For we are at the end of the day only a very intelligent mammal. We are natures creation and not perfect. Human affairs still go astray regularly and probably will do for many years to come.

Our animal inheritance as well as contributing to our occasional herd like behaviour also lies behind our sense of US and OTHER. This can manifest in racism and bigotry. Racism itself is not of course directly inherited from our mammalian lineage. But we do inherit instincts that lead us to group behaviour some of which can lead too racism and bigotry.

Our apelike ancestors, in common with the the great apes, probably lived in groups. Baboon troops can be large. Chimpanzees live in substantial sized groups and so do many monkeys. These groups are invariably territorial and will defend their territory from other groups or seek to expand.

Humans have such "group psychology" in spades, as demonstrated by the financial lemmings currently headed for the cliffs. ( I am swept up in the middle of this rushing crowd by the way. I am the one over by the big rock jumping up and down shouting that we're all running the wrong way.)

Now to someone who doesn't understand the Theory of Evolution or who finds it difficult to accept because of religious upbringing it may seem strange to suggest that understanding evolution could be a mind enhancing thing. Such people just don't get the beauty of the theory though.

A simplistic view would be that if we accept the theory of evolution then this justifies things like racism because animals display similar in versus out group behaviour. This is nonsense of course. We have become a dominant species because we developed great powers of reasoning and evolved this from more basic abilities in our ape ancestors. We use this reasoning to understand what may be good for us and what may be bad. We can focus on the big picture. That is probably our unique gift as a species.

This ability to "think big" probably developed alongside early myths and religious beliefs. It was a sign that humans could look beyond themselves and search for explanation. We have used this ability to see the bigger picture both practically, analytically and metaphysically.

As a species we have spun numerous tall tales for ourselves about what the world is and what it is all about. We have invented religions by the dozen. We have built civilisations and seen them fall. Over more than two thousand years while some men prayed at the temples for the big picture, others, men of science and mathematics, grappled with the world and reason in their search for truth.

There is beauty in mathematics and science. It is the beauty that comes from knowing that human beings have prized open some part of the amazing ways of nature and laid them out for others to see and understand.

The theory of evolution and the mechanisms which underlay it are arguably among the most beautiful of all theories. Few theories are able to encompass so many potentially different facts about the world and explain their connections. It is a profound and beautiful theory. When you get this you have understood evolution.

I read a really excellent post on a blog called Earthmans notebook. The blogger tells how he thinks that his understanding of the implications of the theory of evolution ended up freeing his mind from the shadow of racism. He clearly understands the profound nature of the Theory of evolution. We may have inherited a group instinct to define OTHER but understanding evolution helps one understand that we are all US.

It is beautifully written and you should read it.

If you haven't understood how profound a theory the theory of evolution is then you haven't understood it at all.

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