Chapter 2 - The Birth of Mankind. Print

Chapter II. The Birth of Mankind.

  1. The rule of death.

  2. Reproductive success and Darwinism.

  3. Meiosis and the birth of emotions.

  4. The birth of man.

  5. The precariousness of life.

II:1. The Rule of Death.

For some ten thousand million years absolute death ruled in our universe. The Big Bang has now, rather firmly, been located to 13,7 billion years ago, the first form of known life to 3,7.

For ten billion years, in between the two, there was death.

Death is thus the natural condition, not life. This is our first good reason to treat our globe with loving care. Instead of letting it bedestroyed by a blind power struggle.

Individual death is deeply tragic. We know this extra well today, in early 2005, when media reports that 165,000 human beings have died in the “Asian Tsunumi Wave”.

That our whole globe should suffer a similar calamity and after that just go around in circles in a dead universe, in which billions and billions of other heavenly bodies already do so, that scares us even more. Nonetheless, it is in that direction we are going.

Why it is so, I would like to understand. Below.

This is one of the deepest questions I am posing myself: Is it within man’s capacity to stop the human power game before we are all victims of it and the earth for eternity enters the natural lifeless emptiness of the immense universe?

If so, how?

II:2. Reproductive Success and Darwinism.

Modern biological research explain all animal behaviour with the hypothesis that those comportments which survive are those that lead to reproductive success. Not only reproductive success for the individual but also, and possibly as a primary factor, for the continuation of the “selfish genes” of the individuals. Dawkins famously claimed that animals, like us, are nothing but busses, transporting our genes from one generation to the next.

However that may be, the unconscious striving for reproductive success is the ultimate explanation for all superficial variations of behaviour in all animals.

If man is an animal, as we have to believe with Darwin and Mendel, that explanation should be true for the man, too. My hypothesis is that the struggle for power is but the human expression of the struggle for reproductive success in all other animals. And that Darwin ’s own opinion of this realization is valid also for mankind:

”Nothing is easier than to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life,

or more difficult - at least I have found it so - than constantly to bear this conclusion in mind.

Yet unless it be thoroughly engrained in the mind, the whole economy of nature,

with every fact on distribution, rarity, abundance, extinction, and variation,

will be dimly seen or quite misunderstood.”

This is the shocking truth of Darwin ’s "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life". For “knowing ourselves”, Darwin is arguably the most important philosopher in human history. People exist, and they are not few, who say that modern, realistic men should start to count a new age from the publication of this book in 1859.

As many readers just react badly and madly, suggesting this is Nazism, please look at the words underlined by me; Darwin liked the cruelty equally little as I do, or as those who spit at him presumably also do.

Contrary to many in the present political discussion, however, Darwin was able to understand the difference between analytical and normative statements. That you write about it or show that the world sometimes is ugly does in no way mean that you like the ugliness. Only that you are forced to recognize its truth, if you want to have any realistic chance of affecting its development.

Darwin ’s theory of evolution is one of my basic starting points.

II:3. Meiosis and the birth of emotions.

Food is important to us. But the desire for sex drives us crazy. These are the two basic human needs that rule the world.

The joy we can feel in front of a tournedos, with a yolk of egg and a creamy sauce, can be strong. Food is a necessary part of life. A stone can be warm in the sun. It is dead. Unlike the moss that covers it, it cannot digest the energy from the sun to create life. And so it has been since the first microbe.

Life requires some form of food for its capacity to reproduce. In more developed animals, the struggle for food is surely connected to emotions. Look at your dog, defending his bone against a stranger.

Sex wasn’t that necessary in the beginning. For some three billion years living nature could do without it. Like amoebas, nature reproduced by division or other forms of parthenogenesis. Then, around six hundred million years ago, came meiosis, the sexual cell recombination.

This is where the reproduction of life starts to take place with the help of sexuality. It was an immensely important change in the history of life.

Natural selection took place much before. Sexual selection is the only pre-agricultural modification of the natural one, as Darwin discussed and modern research has shown. It is one of the two important factors affecting who survives and who doesn’t.

Food is, no doubt, connected to emotions. But the very strong emotions, such as love and hate, generosity and envy, altruism and egoism, anger and excitement, fear and aggression have surely intensified by 600 million years of struggle for reproductive through sexual success. Look at two mail cats in springtime, when a lady in heat is around. Man has the same emotions.

With modern technology these emotions can literally be seen in the various parts of the brain, in the old reptile brain and the amygdala. They have similar locations in macaque monkeys as in men. They have a biological foundation.

Modern man loves to think that he is highly rational. Yet, emotions may be infinitely more important for us than we want to admit. We may, indeed, not be as rational as we want to believe. Because, as a leading brain researcher has said: “we do not know our innermost thoughts”.

Is that what causes the Middle Eastern imbroglio?

David Hume made it clear already in 1739 when he wrote: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

We will come back to this problem, when we discuss the birth of intelligence.

II:4. The birth of man.

After some 594 million years – if we accept that sex was born 600 million years ago – nature created a curious entity that was very similar to the chimpanzee. But it was so different that even if it still could copulate with the chimps, like a donkey can do with a horse, no mule resulted.

A new organism was born.

This took place, according to our present knowledge, about six million years ago. Out of that period, the present form of non-chimp has only existed for about 1/24th part, that is for only a quarter of a million years.

In between the first non-chimp and us, as I said in the introduction, some twenty different prototypes for ourselves have carried on that sort of human life. The names we have given them are many and, to inflate their own importance, researchers have constantly quarrelled over which of the alternatives that is correct.

The latest type we now call Homo sapiens sapiens, which can be translated into “the doubly wise man”. It is what we love to imagine ourselves to be.

Considering, however, the fact that we are the worst predator nature ever created and suffered, I would suggest that we, in realistic shame, re-baptise ourselves as Homo sapiens praedator, man, the astute predator.

II:5. The precariousness of life.

In Rudyard Kipling’s classic Jungle Book there is a story, Quiquern, about a young Inuit couple struggling against a horrible winter storm over the Arctic ice fields to find some food for the survival of their family. They come very close to death, and yet……

That is the shortest summary I know of man’s first six million years.

The best estimates of the number of human individuals on the whole earth when we started agriculture, at DD in my figure, indicate that we were less than ten million individuals.

As an average, that gives a growth of global population of less than two individuals per year, not even one man and one woman every year. At the present moment in time the yearly increase is some 35 million men and equally many women. But then, for six million years, not even one man and one woman every year!

Considering what I said about the emotions related to sexual reproductive success, feelings such as aggression, envy and jealousy were surely strongly intensified in such circumstances.

The life of early man was extremely precarious. That is the conclusion we surely are justified to draw.

Why? About that we can only speculate.

We were, of course, very few to start with. We were surrounded by a great number of predators, since long established in “our” nature, who found our babies, and even ourselves, as tasty as we find reindeer kids.

We may have increased a bit faster once in a while, but then came “bottle-necks”, disasters which reduced us again and again towards zero.

Some tried to escape from the African wilderness and came as far as Java and Beijing . But we now know that they surrendered to the harshness of nature. Their children are no longer with us.

The birth of man in the African jungle was as troublesome as the most difficult birth of a big child in a small woman may be today. And there was no Caesarean section to help us. Infant death of our species must have been a very serious threat. And yet…..

For a very long time, indeed, for 99.8 percent of our existence, the life of man and woman must also have been as precarious as the life of the Inuit saviours, Kotuke and the unnamed “girl from the North” in Kipling’s Quiquern.

This is the period in which almost all of the 0.6 per cent of our present biological inheritance that is different from the chimpanzees was formed.

What helped us not only to survive but also to take over the possession of the globe?

The first answer to that question we find at point B in my figure.




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