Holiday Thoughts

I’ve been talking about how the evolution of things for a long time now. And it’s very, very cool stuff. I’ve talked about shoulders, feet and hands. I’ve talked a little bit about Neanderthals. Animals. Cuttlefish.

But there’s still a great deal of mystery out there. A lot about life in general and a whole bunch about us in particular.

These mysteries are still there. For one, our brains are seriously over-engineered for hunter-gatherers. Chimps are hunter-gatherers and don’t have near the horse power under the hood we do. I know that comparing chimp hunting and gathering to what we do in the wild is a limited comparison– we do a whole lot more. But, that said, why is the horsepower so necessary for what we clearly did in the past?

Why is there art, for example? And we’ve had art for a long time– over twenty-thousand years if you judge by the cave paintings. Probably a lot longer. What is it about our evolutionary history that caused us to accrete an appreciation of beauty? Is it just that our surroundings were important to us? Then why do we view such blasted landscapes as the badlands or the Grand Canyon as beautiful?Why do we care?

Why is there music? How is it we can be transported by a Beethoven symphony or a Bach concerto? How is it we’re transported at all?

Are these qualities side effects of the extraordinary brain or is there something more going on here? Something fundamental. Something interesting.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying there is any supernatural force here. We made ourselves by our reproductive choices over the last few hundred thousand years. There’s nothing supernatural to it.

But I am saying that if there is such a thing as divinity in the universe: it’s us and it would be a big improvement if we started acting like it.




Holiday Thoughts — 2 Comments

  1. As for humans versus bonobos and chimpanzees, you can always read Jon Cohen’s compendium Almost Chimpanzee. Quite a lot of explanations there for the cumulative differences across scales.