5 Nov

caveman photo: Caveman Random_Caveman3.jpg
The human brain has hardly evolved at all since mankind lived in caves and told stories to his chums outside on cool winter evenings, warmed by a blazing fire. Evolution is quite slow.
So bearing that in mind I often find myself wondering why some people think that they represent the end-product so far as evolution is concerned, and that it drew to a halt with their birth. Because it plainly hasn’t. And if it has, how come there are some who seem to be trapped in the Middle Ages, with medieval thought processes and medieval belief systems. Not that I’m trying to pooh-pooh such archaic times, but though evolution may not have marched so much as a hair’s breadth in the time that has elapsed since, say, the bloody Crusade wars, the general trend of philosophy has.
For instance, quite a lot of people (and more every day) dismiss the notion that they live in a god-created world with a bearded bloke overlooking them. Instead they conclude that we as a species are masters of our own destiny. The trouble is with the structure of some belief systems, those that don’t allow for the development of ideas.
Way back in the stone age they must have experienced similar challenges to belief, and brains similar in processing power to our own must have struggled to come to terms with new and more attractive ideas. It’s not always easy to dismiss sacred thoughts as being old-fashioned and consequently wrong, especially if actual physical evidence isn’t straight forward and unambiguous. So Owongo, for instance, in his wisdom may have struggled to dismiss his firmly-help belief that everything beneath the sun was created by a gigantic all-knowing daisy.
But that doesn’t mean that Owongo was thick. It means that unambiguous evidence wasn’t exactly at hand whereas the daisy’s diminutive offspring were, to herald a new growing season or decorate his woman’s love-nest while she produced yet another little Owongo.
Someone might have tried to convince him that the Creator of all things was the sun, but where was the evidence for that? The sun vanished every night, weary and in need of a good long sleep, and sometimes, when it should have been bestowing blessings on the world it was shrouded with clouds. The sun, therefore, was ambiguous.
These days we have a huge amount of proven evidence at hand, and the sum total of most of it points in the direction of there being a natural Universe in which order is maintained by natural laws. No big bearded bloke there, then, and no giant daisy or need for an intelligent sun.
Yet there have been many centuries before us, many millennia even, during which really bright people have thought very differently from the way we are tempted to think today. If we select a genius at random we might well select Isaac Newton, the man who did so much to guide the future along specific lines of scientific discovery, yet a lot of his own time was consumed by what to us is arrant nonsense. He believed in alchemy and the Jewish god as well as the innovative work he did on light and gravity. Yet the man was a genius and he must have considered he had sufficient evidence for what are, to us, preposterous ideas.
What about our own evidence for whatever belief system we have? As I suggested at the start of this piece, we haven’t changed very much at all as a species from our caveman ancestors. What has changed is our viewpoint, and so far as that’s concerned we’re by no means at the end of a metaphorical road. What we think we see quite clearly now may, over time and in the light of even more precise vision, blur and our conclusions, or those of our progeny, may change until we become the primitives with primitive vision and our philosophy has morphed into something quite unforeseen and unforeseeable.
We are, quite possibly, the thinking ape waiting for the thinking man to emerge from our gene-pool. So it might be humbling to suggest that the wisest amongst us don’t condemn too forcefully those who see things differently to us. Because their vision may be the clearer and ours be ready to recede into the dustbin of lost thoughts.
© Peter Rogerson 05.11.15


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