Evolution and six actors

With our six actors all on stage, the play begins and my story ends. As an epilogue to the performance, I add some brief remarks about the practical lessons that we may learn from the story. Our species faces two great tasks in the next few centuries. Our first task is to make human brotherhood effective and permanent. Our second task is to preserve and enhance the rich diversity of Nature in the world around us. Our new understanding of biological and cultural evolution may help us to see more clearly what we have to do.

~ Freeman Dyson from, https://www.edge.org/conversation/freeman_dyson-freeman-dyson-1923-2020

Arranged as a pleasant conceit, Dyson lays out a sweeping and crystal clear history of our understanding of evolution. That alone is worth reading. The real gems however, are to be found in his commentary in the final paragraphs; Don’t skip to the end.


I matter

That I matter, that my life demands the ceaseless attention I give it, is exactly what those genes would have any organism believeing, if that organism was evolved enough for belief. The will to survive evolves, in a higher creature like us, into the will to matter.

~ Rebecca Goldstein



Stone tools were the first invention, dating back to the beginning of that 2.5-million year period, eventually including simple hand tools such as axes and spears. Maybe a million years later or more, other cavemen learned to control fire, and at some point began cooking their food. They lived in tribes, hunting and foraging together, possibly caring for their weak and infirm, and burying their dead. But other than stone tools, fire, and simple tribal behavior, they had almost nothing else, for most of that 2.5 million years—including at least 100,000 years or more of Homo sapiens existing.

~ Jason Crawford from, https://rootsofprogress.org/the-beginning

I often joke that there are three thing I can stare at endlessly: Fire, moving water, and other people working. And I’ve often expressed my theory that it’s the movement of those first two, (the third we’ll leave aside for today,) which is the key to holding my attention. Fire and water both dance semi-predictably; But not so predictably that the movement is easily ignored. There’s always just enough movement to hold my attention.

When I let the idea settle in that we’ve been staring at small fires—fires which literally represented warmth, safety, food and tribal companionship—for about a million years… Actually, a “million” is hard to apprehend. Let’s say, there are 25 years per generation. We’ve been staring at small fires for about 40,000 generations. No wonder I’m staring at this fire. We’ve evolved to be attracted to fire!


Music in human evolution? Aposematism?!

… the goal of aposematism is to advertise that, as a piece of prey, you are decidedly unprofitable for the predator. If a predator can easily recognize you (and other members of your species), and remembers getting burned during past encounters, it will quickly learn to stop attacking you in the first place.

~ Kevin Simler from, http://www.meltingasphalt.com/music-in-human-evolution/

Long [long!] ago humans stood up (makes us easy to see),
moved into the open grasslands (makes us really easy to see),
lost our claws/protective-thick-skin/fangs (makes us soft and easy to kill),
did NOT have tools other than rocks we could pick up (makes us unable to defend ourselves),
started singing ON THE GROUND (makes us easy to hear and find, NO OTHER ANIMAL DOES THIS),

… and then we took over the planet.

AND we are the only animal that uses RHYTHM,
ALSO, all humans dance (ever have the urge to tap your foot or more your head to music?)…
Wait, also, why do we always — every society, every religion, every military — ALWAYS retrieve/prepare/handle/bury our dead?


Intrigued? Click that link… I’m a simple person, with a small brain, and I’m easily amused. This article. BLEW. MY. MIND.