So I have been thinking about evolution lately.
It’s a topic that came up in my classroom last week, when the kids were reading a “Scholastic Magazine” about endangered species. They had a lot of questions about how animals can become extinct, and why they would be unable to survive in the wild. Someone brought up the idea that evolution is supposed to help animals to be more in tune with the natural world, and to be able to survive and procreate more successfully as the world changes.
Well, OK, the ten year olds in question didn’t actually use the word “procreate”, but they were definitely talking about evolution as a process by which animals become more successful survivors in nature.
And that got me wondering.
What happened to humans?
As animals evolve, it is the ones who can see better in the dark who thrive and pass on their genes. It’s the animals who develop the ability to endure the cold who live long enough to have babies, and the ones who can go for long periods without water who evolve to live in the desert.
Why did we evolve away from nature instead of toward it?
I don’t know any humans who can see in the dark. Even the most skilled hunters among us need technology and tools of one kind or another to get food (unless you think that you could survive by picking berries….). We are incredibly fragile; it’s been many millenia since we could survive out there in just our own skins! We catch every germ, we go to bed when we get a cold. We need fragrance free detergents so we don’t break out in skin rashes.
Black bears can eat entire bee hives without a problem; we can’t get through a cookout unless we have citronella burning and bug spray all over us. Lions can go days without eating if they can’t find enough prey; we can’t make it from breakfast to lunch without coffee and a bagel. Owls can hunt in the pitch dark, from 80 feet in the air. I can’t get from my bed to the bathroom at night unless I grab my iPod and hit the “flashlight” app.
What does this mean? Are we devolving, instead of evolving?
As I thought about this question one recent early morning, I thought about the ice storm of 2008, when millions of people in my part of New England went for about a week without power or light. Even though I had a wood stove, a propane cook stove, fifteen good flashlights and a hundred candles, I found the whole experience to be incredibly traumatic. I had to heat water on the propane stove every morning so that I could wash up before going to work! I had to pour melted snow into the toilet just to flush! I was warm, safe, well fed and comfy, but I still felt as if I was under attack. I wanted to watch TV, and make microwave popcorn! I wanted my electric blanket.
I have clearly not evolved to survive in the wild. How about you?