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For Devanshi---the story of "Penguin Island"

mindyhuskins's picture

Devanshi brought up an interesting point in discussion on Thursday: the idea of thought and how evolution applies to it. Are we evolutionarily better than other organisms because we can think? Is thought a way to prove that evolution is progressive? I think that thought is not a feature that can be described as "better" nor do I think it is proof of progressiveness. I still think that organisms are different and it is unfair to compare them on an evolutionary scale.

However I wanted to use one of my favorite stories to explain how I felt to Devanshi. It's called "Penguin Island" and is a classic satire written by Anatole France. The story begins with an old, nearly-blind monk sailing away from his monastery. After much time at sea he lands on an island and comes across a group of penguins. Since he is blind he accidentally baptizes all of the penguins, mistaking them for people. God and the angels have a huge discussion on heaven about what to do about this, because you cannot baptize animals. They finally decide that the penguins will be turned into humans to justify the accidental baptism. The rest of the book chronicles the history, art, culture, war, and lives of these penguin/people, and in the end the reader comes to the conclusion that the penguins would just have been better off if they had never been given the ability to "think".

While we cannot imagine life without thought as a good one, I think that is because we have had it for so long. We do not know what life could have been like without some sort of thought process, and that is just because we are humans.  I think if we take the idea of thought vs. being an "animal", and apply it to something else so we can clearly see the before and after, thought never seems to be worth it.


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