Survival and the Tools of the Trade

There is a point in history when written text, hieroglyphs, and oral record descend into the unknown.   This unlit path leads to a time in human development before organized language played its role in human affairs.  Only fragments of detail piece together the mystery of our origin as a species.  Any animal in existence today can help us gather the very roots of our procession – not merely in linguistic areas, either.  Methods of communication ranging anywhere from the non-vocal defensive posturing of a male silverback gorilla to the complicated sonic apparatus used by dolphins, deep beneath ocean wakes contribute to specie diversity.

Some may ask, “how did humans first learn to speak?”  The question may be followed by an assertion that the human language is far too complex for any animal to develop.  This objection, though seemingly rudimentary, is similar to many claims supporting the idea that humans are not animals at all.  On the contrary, it is only reasonable to argue the counter point in this case.  In fact, due to the complexity of their communication, the bottle-nosed dolphin is commonly ranked as the second in intelligence among the millions of species on the planet.  Researchers are currently estimating that these dolphins produce unique vocal sequences indicative of their family, but also “signature” calls that designate the individual as well.  Like humans, they have the capacity to express a wide array of emotions, such as fear, aggression, distress, playfulness, among other complex behaviors.  Also, these water faring intellectuals have shown to differentiate between numbers and participate in co-species interaction with what we’d call “positive intentions.”   In fact, it is our species that lacks in sophistication when clicking and whistling at thirty-five millisecond intervals spanning from low frequency broadband to frequency modulated variations.  No, to assert that the human species is unparalleled in its complication finds truth in only narrow minds.

The examples of the gorilla and dolphin are not to be retired yet.  These two distinct species relate to humans due to other social customs as well.  Mammals of all types and region live in communities.  The diversities of social behavior change daily as the research piles up.  As with any sentient being, we respond to the changes in our respective environments, carrying survival first.  It could be argued that social behavior was first adopted out of necessity.  Perhaps, somewhere in our trouble shooting processes, social animals reached agreement (through each community’s unique communication) that cooperation was equally essential for the survival of the individual, as well as the whole.  However, not all earth goers need to adhere to such a strategy.  Evidently, certain cross-species censuses hold that communication and cooperation have proven to be imperative to survival.

If evolution is going to make sense, we must stop thoughtlessly gawking at billions of years of change with gaping jaws and not much but a question mark filling our minds.  Reality bends little to our preferences.  Yet, my sympathies should be noted.  Looking at a puzzle with only two pieces in one’s sight does present a cumbersome problem. To demonstrate, imagine learning about the number one (and only the number one), and then being asked to interpret a chalk board laden with a calculus based statement.  You might exclaim, “This is far too complex to have been created by the number one!”  Confusion easily corrupts the mind with such a void linking the two concepts.  Another line of thinking might lead, “If calculus evolved from the number one, how can both calculus and one exist simultaneously?”  These same arguments and objections are often raised concerning evolution.  In both cases, the dissenter has only pointed at the gaps in his/her education and/or understanding.  These are both examples of situations where convincing the opposition that calculus came from one, or complex mammals arose from the one-celled organism is not going to satisfy the incredulity.  In such cases, it is easy to assume the lethargic position and grasp at preferences rather than concrete information.  With such intellectual apathy steering onto these new frontiers of knowledge, we aren’t likely to gain much knowledge at all.  Again, these two particular illustrations have been employed to serve a much larger point.

Similar to mathematics, DNA is an arrangement of information varying in complexity.  A statement in elementary math might be that 1 = 1.  Just as numbers hold values in arithmetic, DNA carries the information, or genetic value, of an organism.  At least, this is how we have learned to interpret it.  Through the study of genetics, researchers have learned to understand DNA as a natural language of sorts.  Our own development of language has helped us categorize, and, through our own encoding, understand the world around us.  Much of the outside world may seem impossible to understand at first glance, but apparently, understanding is the hallmark of human beings.  A common misconception is that natural selection favors the “fittest” to survive.  This misinformation can also throw a wobble on understanding how evolution works.  This does no justice to the theory in its entirety, though, it factors into the process of natural selection.  For example, the subject may be physically and mentally superior to those it occupies an environment with, but environmental conditions may render these traits useless.  There aren’t many ways to outsmart or outrun a collision with a meteor, two miles in diameter.  You may be able to handle a hot stove in the kitchen, but the eruption of a super volcano will not be handled.  The beings that do survive such cataclysmic events aren’t guided by chariots of fate, nor are they necessarily kings unmatched by the local food chain.

Outside of monstrous environmental upheavals, less than one percent of all species to have ever existed, live today.  Since the first splash of life in this primordial soup, new species have evolved to walk, crawl, slither, and swim among time’s chosen few in these moments.  Many nonexistent specie could aptly be known as nature’s failed prototypes.  Yet, some non-existent species may have been at the height of natural perfection, however that is, or could be, measured.  Most species alive currently, enjoying their current reign, share common ancestry with other species.  Change occurs over time, thus time is the sculptor of ages.  Ages beyond human rationale.  Time favors nothing.  It is both the creator and destroyer of worlds.

Adaptation is a common term in evolutionary biology, and necessarily so.  The aftermath left by ecological damage may result in the extinction of a food supply, or make survival insurmountable through other measures for a particular organism.  Beings that are flexible physically and psychologically may survive such a collapse.  However, the change may be gradual, allowing for nature‘s greatest secret – mutation.  Advantageous mutations (nature’s little imperfections) may sustain a particular species.  The change may occur at the mouth, feet, stomach…the possibilities are endless.  The change may even be a little nub on a paw.  The nub, proves, over time, to be advantageous and leads to the mutated victim achieving primary mating status in the social hierarchy.  Each generation thereafter, uses the nub (those carrying the gene) with similarly favorable results.  Over time, the nub extends into an opposable thumb.  Each genetic combination attempts to pick the lock of survival.  It seems that we, and our hominid cousins by extension, naturally developed the first tool – the thumb.  The opposable thumb gave our old tool (paw with fingers) a new lease on opportunity.  Our ancestors quickly found themselves independent of bodily limitation.  Sticks and stones were tossed.  Those watching took notes, however small, on cause and effect.  Finally, a species began to measure an environment with something other than size, strength, claws, and teeth.

Opposable thumbs led to tool usage, which, in turn, evolved the level of communication.  After mastering various degrees of tool usage, our ancestors soon manipulated physical reality with greater reward.  After the tool, came skill and craftsmanship.  Communication rapidly developed out of necessity in order to teach others.  So many people are detached from such a world today.  It is not difficult to imagine why a concept like evolution is glossed over like third-period French.  Apparently, language, communication, and conceptual identities are something the species continues to struggle with.



Filed under anthropology, cultural relativism, culture, evolution, non fiction, Social Evolution

11 responses to “Survival and the Tools of the Trade

  1. Very interesting. I’ve wondered about that alot. There appear to be certain points thoughout the lifetime of the Sapien, where a leap occurs that is not explainable, that we struggle to fill in with whatever we can.

    Fire. Smelting. Cooking even. Language, certainly.

    And looked at in totality, the last 300 years has seen us change so utterly, in such a small percentage of the whole period of time they say we’ve been us.

    • “And looked at in totality, the last 300 years has seen us change so utterly, in such a small percentage of the whole period of time they say we’ve been us”

      And we’re billions of years in the making…

      It’s amazing to think about. Thank you for the thoughtful response. :)

  2. Beautifully written, and perfect analogies. . . .awesome writing!

  3. czarina88

    ‘This’ is a beauty!

    My bias:)

    By discipline in the real world I am neither; but by nature, I am not much of a metaphysical philosopher, but I am very much a scientist.

    • Thank you, Flo. :)

      Had a feeling you’d like this piece. It will all fit together someday – from the physical to the cerebral, to the meta, and circle back again….


      I should name it “Mindfuck” j/k

      It will surprise even those following along here on the blogs. Much writing is being withheld.



  4. “Survival And The Tools Of The Trade”

    Increasingly destructive weaponry serves both as a “tool” to help us “survive” against other humans, while also appearing to be destined to destroy our species. In fact, such has already unpleasantly & prematurely dispatched a quite large number of our kind.

    “Hoist by our own petard” – Shakespeare

    “We have seen the enemy, and they is us.” – Pogo cartoon

    Mental health professionals say that a certain amount of denial helps get us through life. I’ll say – and a dash more added in to help us continue perpetuating it.

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