Looking at the crisis we are in, demands an urgent needs for introspection.
We all have Delusions. How Did We Get to Be Called Wise? Part 1.
Oh, the good ol’ days, when the hunter-gatherers spent quality time with their kin, their tribe, huddled around fires, telling stories, families looking after other families, everything shared, nothing owned, no need for a counting system beyond 1, 2, and 3—anything higher being simply more—cooking organic food, taking long naps, washing in clean water, bathing in the sun, breathing pure air, counting the stars, thinking big thoughts like why? Then a hunger pang—“Feel like joining me on a hunt tomorrow morning?”
Now, look at us today, look at our future, look at your oligarchical fate drawing inexorably closer . . . “the one power to in the darkness bind you.” Look at a Chinese factory worker—work, work, work—seventy hours a week, Sundays off, subservient to the politburo, subservient to the numbers within the algorithm demanding maximum productivity to the party, now recouping energy in a tiny apartment high in the smoggy sky with near-zero visibility, consuming tainted homegrown produce. Wow, how did we pull that off—o, wise man?
Homo sapiens, wise man—who came up with that? History is written by the winners, I guess. Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) coined the term (under pressure) in 1758. He was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist. He had previously classified (for the first time) humans as primates. As hard as I tried, I could not find anything to counter the notion that this man was anything other than a genuinely wise man. But then I noticed that he did the body of his work long before Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859.
Darwin’s theory of evolution is more of a law than a theory. Those creationists that today reject this law would seem to have the same mental age as children believing in Santa. This was the law, the science that theoretically should have liberated humankind from its age of myth.
If an alien spaceship had landed in London in, say, 1860, such superior (must be superior in order to have built a spaceship capable of traveling light-year distances) life forms would have said to themselves, “These guys aren’t so dumb—they have discovered fire, the wheel, and finally, the theory/law of evolution. We can have an intelligent conversation.”
But the year is not 1860. And who knew that large swathes of mankind 150 years later would still be stumped by the issue. The year is circa 1760, and Linnaeus had, with his classification, stirred up the possibility that his newly defined primates were not significantly distinguished from humans, who until then had unquestionably been at the top of the animal chain, created in the image of God. Monkeys and apes having souls? Did they? Would he be burned at the stake?
Facing controversy, he coined the term Homo sapiens (fearing that few would appreciate his first rendition, Cepa sapiens). So a wise man, in order to appease Onions, has to call Onions wise men. Problem solved—except that it proves my point. What is my point? I have yet to make it.
We need to go back around fifty thousand years. Back then, it was not simply monkeys and apes that complicated the issue that trapped Carl Linnaeus; the situation was worse than he could have imagined. We now know there have been various types of now-extinct archaic humans over the ages, none of whom would have taken themselves to be at the top of the food chain. But we will consider just one other primate, the much-maligned Neanderthal. Since there are none left standing to argue their case, they need an advocate. Luckily, we do not need eyewitnesses—we have twenty-first century science.
There is a new fad company, 23andMe. Their name is a reference to our twenty-three pairs of chromosomes in a normal cell, which can be analyzed to tell you all about where you come from. I have run into a number of their happy customers. The question that I personally find most interesting is, “How much Neanderthal do you have in you?” (It is generally accepted that until beginning about forty thousand years ago Neanderthals and Homo sapiens still shared the earth.) A few people (it may be more) come up with amazingly high levels of Neanderthal, like 3 percent (after around 1,500 generations—wow), and they are proud of this.
The thing is, they should be proud. I am jealous—scared to check myself, fearing I might fall short.
Why so jealous? Firstly, and as you look around—and you must sense this with every fiber in your body—our brains are shrinking:
Neanderthals were much stronger: they functioned better in cold climates, their offspring matured faster, they used tools, they made fire and they buried their dead. Since their DNA turns up in people today, it is now presumed that on occasion these archaic hominins (I am avoiding the word species, for the sake of brevity) interbred with Homo sapiens. Much science has devoted itself to figuring out how the smaller Homo sapiens brain must have somehow been more intelligent. The way I read that is that such scientists start by assuming that Homo sapiens must be smarter. Thus, they try banging a square peg into a round hole, in order to deduce how the smaller Homo sapiens brain can have been smarter.
Now, it looks like such scientists were getting the wrong end of the stick. For me, the most logical theory is that Homo sapiens was the first life form on Earth to go to bed fearing death and wake up believing, “No worries—some of us can go to heaven.” That is, someone came up with the theory of God. After that any flood, drought, feast, or famine must be attributed to an imaginary superpower. Since this was before Adam and Eve, Abraham, Zeus, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad—everybody must agree with this statement—Homo sapiens around fifty thousand years ago started believing in myths.