We’re what happens continued

So as I was saying…

The idea that evolution is a sentient agency that has a plan for us even creeps into the subtitle of a book as sophisticated as Nick Lane’s Life Ascending: The Ten Greatest Inventions of Evolution. He is not talking about intelligent design or anything like that–I think it is more the irresistible human drive to make every pattern into a story (the pattern of evolution is a particularly beautiful one, too) and to give every story a point. It reminds me of when I was a kid taking standardized tests; I would finish and find myself with some time to kill, and I would occupy it by turning the random pattern of answers into a baseball game: a and b were base hits, c, d, and e were outs. When one team got three outs, the other came to bat.  I think the ‘contest’ of natural selection is rather like that. Though the tapestry of history is fabulously complex rather than random, its transformation into a game with winners and losers still says more about us than about it.

Anyway, I think all this matters because the  idea that our purpose on earth is to spread our genes really does have a lot of power over us.  It gives a quasi-scientific veneer to the idea that your biological parents are your “real” parents, that people who don’t have children have failed in some endeavor, that people whose sexual impulses don’t lead toward reproduction are going against nature, just a whole raft of habits of thought that we could _so_ do without.

Getting back to the impulse that makes evolution into a goal-oriented story, maybe one way to get around it would be to look at time the way physicists do, which is pretty much the way that  the Tralfamadorians do in Slaughterhouse-Five.   That is to think of time as a dimension like the usual spatial dimensions, to see an event as a whole shape in spacetime, not a succession of moments leading to now.  One might think of a tapestry vs. a movie, I suppose…sorry if this doesn’t make any sense.

Here’s a video for you, more or less on-topic:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to We’re what happens continued

  1. Ann Foxen says:

    One might think of a tapestry vs. a movie
    That’s good. What would, say, 9/11 look like as a tapestry instead of a movie?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s