Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The way we were meant to be

"God did not mean for us to be this way. If he had, he would have given us _________"

I've heard this refrain a million times and if you push the refrain enough, it always ends with the other person saying "yes, maybe we'd be better off in the caves, the way we were supposed to be." But I always do wonder why we as a species are the way we are.

Let me clarify what I mean here. Why are we, human, so different from other animals? In terms of sensory abilities and physical endurance, we are far far inferior to most high-order mammals. Most commonplace answers such as "language" and "learning and teaching" apply in great measures to other species as well. Why, then is it, that we alone moved out of our evolutionary beginnings as bi-pedal hunter gatherers?

The book I'm reading currently (I am a strange loop) throws some light on this. Our ability to create analogies and isomorphisms expands our ability to create, manipulate and extend things beyond their natural uses. To be able to use coal not only as fuel, but to be able to modify it and use it to create steel. Our capacity to process perceptions and to be able to reference things (from others of our species, written words, our own memories) allows us to move beyond that which we can directly experience. There IS a greater mental capacity that has enabled us to move beyond the caves and our intellect isn't a self-effacing fancy.

So my only answer to those with that refrain: Evolution (I prefer that word to God) may not have meant for us to be this way, but it certainly did not mean for us to be stuck in the caves. The way we are right now is a function of the countless choices made in every single moment not just by humans but by all of existence. We may have been something else but I very much doubt if we'd have been stuck in the caves for all eternity.

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