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Are we moving forward?

elly's picture

Last Thursday we discussed whether there was such a thing as progress in evolution. Are we moving forward as a species, or is it just change for the sake of change, as adaptation to our current situation and environment. How can we compare our ability to survive to humans who came before us? It is all situational. If there is no such thing as "forward evolution" then there is no proof that we are more advanced than our predecessor. This idea is representative of the problems that Darwin's ideas created for people associated with the Church, and with colonization during his time. If we are not more advanced, then there is no basis for the ideas behind colonization and the "salvation and settlement" of a people by a higher level of being, as were those behind the colonization of many British colonies.

This questioning of "forward evolution" brings me to the idea of "cultural evolution" and the changing of our way of life. Are our technological advancements representative of some sort of evolution within our culture or our trends of civilization? Can our ability to think and create material things, physical environments such as cities for example, somehow place us above other creatures or species? Is being able to think for ourselves even a good thing? There is no solid explanation, that makes sense to me at least, for our sense of a "soul" or consciousness, but I know that our ability to think and feel these things is real. Yet don't our conflicting beliefs and thoughts often lead to war and destruction? How can that be a sign of forward progression?


rachelr's picture

Tempting, but its all about context



Yes the whole idea of consciousness and forward thought troubles me. Darwin said that “in the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” But plenty of species collaborate without the highly developed consciousness of humans. This ability to communicate so broadly, plan and think ahead, collaborate, makes up for things that other species have that we lack: speed, regrowth, strength. But we could have just as easily died out instead of evolving to this level of consciousness. What level of randomness accounted for this? How many pieces of the puzzle of biodiversity had to have been fit together so that we could make this change?


In regards to this higher consciousness placing us above other species, we already know that nothing is perfect. For example bacteria has been here on Earth pretty much as far back as we know and cannot die. They will outlive all humans, animals, plants. However the price they pay is that they have no consciousness, no sense of choice and really freedom that we as humans have. And, inversely, we as humans cannot live forever, but I'm sure most of us would rather be human than bacteria. We can hear, smell, touch, love, hate, see, interact. There is nothing on Earth that combines the complexity of humans and animals (the consciousness and awareness) with the hardiness and immortality of bacteria. There is a trade off for everything, a natural balance between all organisms on Earth.

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