Archives for posts with tag: evolution
Named after the Ancient Greek mythological serpent, the freshwater hydra has a remarkable ability to regenerate (Credit: Natural Visions/Alamy)

Just finished reading a very interesting article on BBC.com/future. Why do we die. Authored by William Park.
Just click on the picture above and read it.

Despite the “we” in the title, it’s a compendium of plausible explanations for why most individual organisms eventually die. And an interesting row of examples of species comprised of individuals which live practically for ever.

Here’s another explanation.

Charles Darwin’s Evolution was about ‘species’. Not about individuals!

Very few species have been able to survive without ‘killing’ their individual ‘members’.
Hydra, the species of fresh water jellyfish pictured above, is one of those species. Each individual hydra is able to survive practically everything but total annihilation. Cut it into pieces and each piece would regenerate the rest of the organism. Allow a big enough (?!?) piece of it to survive while attempting to eat a hydra… and you may be able to eat it again! If you live long enough for the encounter to happen again…

Since when have we been observing this species? A hundred years? Two hundred? Have we had preserved an individual hydra since the start of our observations? Is is still alive? In the ‘original form’?
And even if ‘yes’, so what? That would only prove that an individual hydra is able to survive for more than, say, two hundred years. Not that it would live forever….
Again, being able to regenerate a portion of an organism doesn’t mean the whole organism would be able to live indefinitely. As in live forever. Never die…
The way I see it, being able to regenerate the rest of the organism is only yet another form of ‘reproduction’, not the ability to live forever. Bacteria use the very same mechanism. We the ones who use a different name for it, under the pretext that bacteria are unicellular organisms…

Now, the fact that there are so few species whose individual members are able to regenerate parts of their organisms does tell us something.
And the fact that it’s only the ‘simply organized’ species – among the animal kingdom, at least – which share this ability must surely mean something. Evolutionary wise!

Do you think they’ll ever make it?

You know how much I hate having to admit that I have no clue about something, right?

I didn’t ask you what’s going to happen! Nobody knows that… I only asked you what you feel about it. What’s your impression about what’s going on!

Well… They surely evolved a lot faster than what we’re accustomed with… But none of them reached the point we’ve been expecting… not yet, anymore. And the signs don’t bode well…
On the other hand, evolution is like tennis. A sport they had invented and which is very popular among them. Among all of them!
Coming back to evolution, no matter what the signs suggest, it’s not over – one way or the other, until the very end. Until the last ball had been played and the last individual had died. Or until the ‘field’ had become unusable…

And what seems to be their biggest problem?

They still have to overcome quite a number of hurdles… the most important being the fact that they haven’t yet learned how to balance their need to maintain their distinct individualities with the reality that they have to coordinate their efforts in order to achieve anything worth mentioning. Including their own survival!

Any possible explanation for this inability of theirs?

The only thing I can think of is their particular sexuality. The more evolved among them have only two sexes. And the roles played by each sex are hugely different! Hence they have a clear idea about what complementarity means but also this strange notion of ‘priority’. Each sex considers itself more important than the other…
Starting from here, it’s almost understandable that each individual, as they grow up, attempts to assert their individuality. Defend it from ‘intrusions’. Impose it upon as many of the others as they can…
This impulse is so strong that even now, more than 5 generations after one of them – a certain Charles Darwin, had figured out a theory of evolution, most of them still consider that evolution is about the ‘survival of the fittest’…

This being the only difference?

Yep! They check on all other bench-marks…
We can review each of them, if you want.

According to Charles Darwin, natural evolution is the process which has brought us, animal beings, to where we are now. Each to its own place.

According to some, evolution is about ‘the survival of the fittest’.
According to Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is, evolution is about ‘the demise of the unfit’.

It’s up to us to ‘choose sides’.
For no other reason than the fact that Darwin’s evolution was driven by ‘accidental’ changes in the environment. The species which happened to live ‘under the weather’ had to adapt to those changes. Or to ‘exit stage right’!
While nowadays we have to make do with consequences resulting from our own decisions…

“Dr. Jack Lyons remembers the pandemic’s early days when grateful communities banged pots and pans to honor frontline health care workers.
But now, faced with hostility just for trying to save his patients’ lives, he says that, sadly, those days are long gone.”

“Now health care workers fighting on the front lines of the pandemic are also coming face to face with patients who dismiss and even threaten them over how they are being treated for the virus.
“Folks act as if they can come in the hospital and request any certain therapy they want or conversely decline any therapy they want with the idea being that somehow they can pick and choose and direct their therapy. And it doesn’t work,” Lyons told CNN from the CentraCare hospital he works at in St. Cloud, Minnesota.””

“They insult your intelligence, they insult your ability, and most hurtful, they say that by not using these therapies you are intentionally trying to harm the people we’ve given everything to save,” Lyons said.”
“About 70% of the patients in Lyons’ ICU are sick with Covid-19, and almost all of them are unvaccinated.”

Evolution happening under our own eyes. The ‘pot and pan bangers’ got jabbed and no longer have to go to the ICU. Not with Covid, anyway.

Hence the likes of Dr. Lynch are left with the Covid deniers… who already know the ‘right’ treatment…

Deflated health care workers and desperate patients clash over alternative Covid treatments
https://edition.cnn.com/2021/12/24/us/doctors-patients-threats-coronavirus-treatments/index.html

There are some things each of us must do.

Breathe, drink, eat, take cover.

There are some things each of us should do in moderation.

Drink, eat, ‘rest’…

There are some things each of us should never do.

Lie, steal, kill.

The things we must do ‘depend’ upon our DNA.
Unless we do what our DNA tells us to do, we die.

The things we shouldn’t do have been determined culturally.
Our fore-fathers have noticed that not doing ‘those things’ helped a lot.
That communities who taught their members to not do those things survived a lot easier and fared a lot better than those communities who had been ‘lax’ about ‘things’.
Teaching what to do and what to not do across generations transformed learned information into culture.

In time, culture has fulfilled the same function as DNA.

DNA had made it possible for life to exist. For species to survive. And to evolve when needed. When the environment had changed.

Culture had made it possible for communities to survive.
Individuals belonging to each generation didn’t had to reinvent fire each time they were cold. Or afraid. Or hungry.
They just remembered what their ancestors had taught them and put it into practice.

But there’s also a huge difference between DNA and culture.
Both consist of information passed over generations and both are instrumental in the survival of those who depend on that information being put to use.
The difference consists in the fact that DNA actually demands a certain behavior while culture only recommends certain ‘answers’.

There’s more.

DNA is a ‘language’. It has ‘letters’, ‘syntactic’ rules and even means to correct errors.
Culture uses languages as a vehicle.

Both code information using ‘letters’ and ‘words’ but they differ in how that information is passed to the next generation.
DNA passes that information in a way more ‘rigid’ manner than culture does.

While it is true that slight differences occur whenever genetic information is passed from one generation to another – that’s how evolution works, those ‘directly interested’ in the process have nothing to say about this whole thing. The differences occur accidentally and survive only if they don’t harm the organisms where they appear.

With cultural information things happen in the exact opposite manner.
Differences occur only when enough individuals notice that it would be beneficial for them to change that particular habit in that particular manner.

And now we have reached the moment to contemplate another similarity.

As the DNA has become more elaborate, the ‘superior’ organisms had enjoyed more individual ‘freedom’. Or ‘lee-way’.
Insects have more lee-way than worms, fish have more lee-way than star-fish, dogs have more lee-way than frogs and humans have more freedom than the rest of the apes have lee-way.
Similarly, people belonging to the hunter-gatherer culture had accrued a lot more freedom when they had learned – and taught it to their children, how to make fire. And so on.
Those who had learned how to grow their own food – and passed the information to the next generations, had far less chances of dying of hunger. And a lot more lee-way to conduct war…
Those who had learned how to make metal tools were a lot freer than those who shaped their tools out of stone. And very soon the stone-shapers had been ‘subdued’ by those yielding bronze weapons.

And so on to the present day.
Those who have become adept users of mass-media are seeding ‘change’ into the minds of the naive.

I only hope that they will eventually find out what Ernst Mayr had to say about this process.

Evolution is in no way about ‘the survival of the fittest’.
It is only about the demise of the unfit.

The problem with the ‘lee-way’ generated by culture being that whenever it becomes too wide the whole system becomes fragile.

Whenever people get high enough on freedom they forget that in order to survive we need to remain inside the ‘straight and narrow’ mandated by DNA and endorsed by culture.

Otherwise put, being torn between musts and don’ts is far better than being stuck. In a grave.

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Change can either be inflicted upon you or effected by you.

‘Change’ as in ‘something you need to overcome if you are to survive’.

We, humans, are the first to be in this situation. The rest – from the humble sub-atomic particles to our cousins, the great apes, experience change only as being inflicted upon them.

Gravity pulls together a huge cloud of gas and dust until it becomes hot enough for the fusion reaction to transform it into a star.
A supernova becomes so hot that gravity can no longer keep it together. It explodes and releases the heavier elements needed for planet building.
As it cools down, the second generation nebula is again pulled together by gravity.
A smaller star appears, this time ‘entouraged’ by planets.
On one of those planets, conditions are ripe for life to appear.
Wind and frost erode the mountains. Water carries the debris into ravines. Micro-organisms transform the debris into soil.
Vegetation – starting with the blue-green ‘algae’, which are actually cyanobacteria, have transformed the atmosphere into what it is today.
Animals have evolved into their present state by eating plants – at first, and then each-other.
Fungi have added their contribution towards what we witness/enjoy today by digesting whatever they ‘perceive’ as being ‘food’.

All of the above mentioned ‘change’ has been ‘inflicted’ upon those who bore it, by the ‘changing factors’, according to ‘natural laws’ implicit to the nature of the ‘changing factors’.
Gravity pulls because…
The blowing wind and the freezing frost who had broken down mountains did change the face of the Earth because it was in their nature to do what they did.
Plants, animals and fungi, together, have transformed the planet into what it is today as a consequence of each of the species doing what it was natural for it to do in order to survive. None of the species, nor any of the individual members of those species, had ever done anything ‘on purpose’!

Until we, the ‘naked apes’, have become ‘conscious human beings’.

We continue to have a lot of change inflicted upon us, of course.
Inflicted by factors outside our species – the current Covid pandemic, for instance, or by ‘agents’ amongst us. The first example which comes to my mind being the plane high-jacked by Lukashenko – the ‘last European dictator’, because he wanted to arrest a dissident journalist who happened to be inside.

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My point being that we’re the first who effect change. Who do it ‘on purpose’.
Which very ‘purpose’ makes us responsible for the outcomes of our actions.
For no other reason than the fact that it will be us who will suffer the consequences of our own ‘edeavours’!

It’s our consciousness which instills purpose into our actions.
Then our very same consciousness should better become responsible towards the consequences engendered by our purposeful actions.
For no other reason but the simple fact that it’s our own survival at stake here!

Time is but the consequence of matter/energy interacting with itself.

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There was no time to speak about before matter divorced energy.

Nobody was actually aware of time passing by until we started counting Sun’s revolutions.

Earth turning round the Sun is matter interacting with itself.

We, humans, are a consequence of evolution. Of matter interacting with itself.

History – the times be bothered to record, is a consequence of human interactions.

Environment is the consequence of the living things interacting with the rest of the planet.
The current state of our ‘backyard’, the Earth, is, increasingly, the consequence of our interaction with the environment.

Time might be passing its own.
We used to count it.
Nowadays, we’re the ones driving it.

Resources, Time, Evolution.

Information, Learning, Revelation.

Opportunities, Experience, Self-Improvement.

Things, Structure, Understanding.

Limits, Interactions, Outgrowth.

Smells like The Dow Theory?
Because that was my starting point….

But we should not forget Abraham Maslow.
If you think of it, Maslow’s stages are nothing but the three thrusts up which define a bull market.
For an individual to be able to master the ‘self actualization’ phase, they need to have mustered enough resources, have had enough relevant social experience and to have ‘properly digested’ the information accumulated during the process.


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The sole difference between the living and the non-living is the fact that only the living is able to die.

Which death is the prerequisite for evolution!

Nature is made of atoms.

Same thing is valid for viruses. And for people.

Both viruses and people are atoms put together according to specific sets of rules.
Further more, the same sets of specific rules determine how each of them interact with the places where each of them happen to live.

I need to make a pause here.
And mention the fact that life alters, profoundly – if given enough time, the space where it ‘unfolds’.
For instance, the blue-green algae have transformed the Earth atmosphere into what it is today.

We balk at it today but blue-algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, is responsible for the Earth atmosphere having so much free oxygen.

Same thing is valid for viruses. And for people.

Viruses which kill too much of what they get in contact with do not survive for long.
They either peter out, like Ebola usually does, or have been wiped out. Like small pox was. And polio is close to be.

People who destroy too much around them… soon find out they no longer have a viable home.

And this is valid both for individuals and for the entire species.

Nature, on the other hand, doesn’t care.
It simply goes on.

Society exists in two forms.
One in which the individual members have a certain amount of respect towards their peers.
And another one, where John Doe doesn’t give a damn about anybody else. Or even hates everybody else.

The first kind evolves. People talk – and listen, about their problems. Then find solutions.
The second experiences revolutions.

When too many individuals have never had anything ‘substantial’ on their name, and feel they have no chance of improving their lot – because ‘everything’ has already been appropriated by a small minority, that society has a marked tendency towards communism.

Sometimes, too many individuals see their fortunes go down the drain, for no matter what reason. From there, only God knows how, those fortunes go straight into somebody else’s pockets. Any society which experiences something similar has a marked tendency towards fascism.

The problem with both communism and fascism being that they have always failed. Crumbled from within before being pushed into the precipice by those who has seen the situation as an opportunity. As an opportunity too good to be wasted.
Then, if neither had ever survived for long, why are so many people who continue to profess either? So many intellectuals who try to convince their audience that …

Well…, first of all, because ‘intellectuals’ are nothing but regular people. With a twist! Not only that intellectuals have the same ‘passions’ as the commoners – ‘greed’ being the most intense, but they also have a very good opinion about themselves. Hence too many of the intellectuals consider that they are the ones who should be in charge. That they are the ones who know what everybody else need to do if they want to live comfortably.

In a nutshell, too many intellectuals fall into the trap of considering themselves infallible. And ‘deserving’!
Hence those would do everything needed to get what is rightfully theirs.

If a society is ripe for communism, one/a bunch of the ‘intellectuals’ I described above will, for sure, drape themselves in a communist flag.
If another society is ripe for fascism, in a similar manner, one or, probably, more ‘intellectuals’ will drape themselves in a fascist flag.

It’s up to us, who’ve experienced at least one of them, to blow the whistle.
And it’s up to the rest to listen…

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