Do you ever wonder why our species, “homo sapiens,” exists? I do!
I have come to wonder about it more and more lately, in the wake of news that increasingly makes me question the sanity of having a prefrontal cortex.
Aristotle described our kind as “rational animals.” But when I match that up with the nightly news, chock full of reports featuring what appears to be profoundly irrational human behavior, I think maybe that description is outdated.
Perhaps “sometimes rational animals” would be more accurate today.
Archeology tells a story of how our bigger brains helped us create art, write our stories down, and develop an extended suite of social skills.
To be honest, I think other animals do all these things, too. They just don’t do them the way we do.
Take the pufferfish, for example. This plump and precious salt water fish spends 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, creating an intricate sand sculpture to advertise to passing lady pufferfish that he is single and available.
In contrast, these days, we can barely spare the time for a Tinder swipe or two before we’re on to the next to-do list item our enormous brain has conjured up for us.
I guess what I’m wondering is – what I would really like to ask Darwin if he were around today – is, why have we evolved to the point where we are today? Is our evolution really evolution at all, or perhaps it’s a type of devolution that backs away from the much more rational-seeming and orderly lives of the other animals with whom we share this planet?
There is an argument in all this supporting the theory of “just because we can.” I mean, why not? Why not keep evolving and growing and changing and developing and just seeing what is possible? I personally am all about this sort of mindset (although it has gotten me into trouble more times than I care to recount here).
Another intriguing question is whether our fellow non-human animals – our planet-mates, so to speak – would behave like we behave now if they were us. What would they do with our alleged expanded capacity for thought?
Perhaps that is really the crux of the issue. Because unlike us, our fellow animals don’t really have time to do all that much extra thinking. They are pretty busy already with finding food, evading predators, stalking prey, creating romantic hideaways in the trees or the earth or the sandy ocean floor, dating and mating and rearing young.
It feels like, the moment our brains changed to the point where thought became dominant, we needed to clear a path to do more of it – our brains insisted on it. So we had to start figuring out how to task-share, automate processes, mass produce food stores, and eradicate potential predators so we would have the luxury to think more.
That might be way out there.
If you look back at my grades in Biology, you will have proof I have no business concocting wild theories about why homo sapiens even exist at all, why we behave the way that we do, and whether “evolution” really deserves to be seen in such a positive light – hindsight being 20/20 and all.
I just look around and see an ocean of plastic, a sky full of pollution, a contaminated earth, struggling birds and bees and fish and animals of all kinds, and millions upon billions of truly unhappy, anxious, depressed, sometimes suicidal homo sapiens and think, “Why are we here? I mean, why are WE – homo sapiens in particular – HERE?”
Were we already a gleam in the Big Bang’s eye when the first single-celled organisms started to hook up? Do we contribute something – anything – essential that is actually helping the planet?
Are there any other single species that would be missed less than ours by all the other species and the earth itself were we to suddenly disappear?
What do you think?
Today’s Takeaway: A disclaimer: This is not written from an “-ist” perspective, as in creationist or evolutionist. I have no vested interest in maintaining a particular set of religious beliefs or scientific theories. Rather, as one fellow caring and concerned human being to another, why do you think homo sapiens are here? I’m just curious to hear your (hopefully kind and open-minded, open-hearted and genuinely curious) thoughts!