Theory of Everything
12th March 2003 Rocky 1 North Sea.
Jims Theory on the Evolution and Development of Homo Sapiens
I will write this as if I am speaking directly to you. Of course, this gives me the writer, the advantage over you, the reader (listener) because I can just keep talking without interruption on contentious points, of which there will be a few (many) I can only leave you the option to stop reading or listening.
I haven’t arrived at this (my) view of the world over night, in fact I haven’t really arrived at all I see this as an ongoing project based on my studies to date. As I continue to learn, as I hope I will throughout the rest of my life, I reserve the right to alter my hypotheses as new research confirms or disconfirms my beliefs.
I hold no recognised qualification in any of the fields which go to form the basis of what I hope to set out here. I am an ROV Pilot / Technician, well technically qualified in Electrics, Electronics, Mechanics, Sub Sea Engineering and Hydraulics and I would be considered a very experienced ROV pilot. Before this I was a professional diver.
Not a very auspicious basis for attempting an explanation of how mankind came to be where he is today I hear you say…..However I am widely read in History, Earth and Natural Science, Zoology, Physiology, Medicine, Evolution, Genetics, Psychology, Sociology, Art, Religion, Anthropology and Philosophy. It was as a result of my disparate taste in the subject matter of my reading material and the amount of spare time that I have to indulge these tastes while I am offshore working, that gradually, over nearly 20 years I have managed to pull the threads of all these subjects together to form, what I think, is a fairly coherent explanation of us, HUMANKIND.
This is not a conspiracy theory and it’s certainly not a call to you, the reader (if you’re still there) to become followers of my ideology. I am not advocating anything actually and I wouldn’t make a good cult leader. I like it when I can use Science to explain things, I like to feel that I have reached some understanding of why I’m here and what I should do about it, it works for me but it may not work for you, if you read on until the end, then you must make up your own mind.
I will accept FACT as in Historical fact and until a properly researched and tested scientific Hypothesis has been disconfirmed then I will accept that as Fact also. This is a perfectly acceptable scientific principle.
Where should one start when trying to explain such a sophisticated organism as man? Such a complex, wonderfully adapted triumph of Physiological engineering needs a big entry and a suitably grand stage to enter onto. How about the continent of Africa as the stage and a climb down from the forest canopy out into the open savannah as the grand entrance…….
Estimates differ, but let’s agree here with the best Scientific estimate currently available that he first put in an appearance between 250 000 and 500 000 years ago. The primary reason for such a large disparity in the approximation of his time of arrival is that the fossil record gives no clear indication of exactly which of all the Hominid fossils found to date is Homo sapiens, some earlier fossils bear many of the characteristics of H sapiens and may have belonged to members of the species from a different ecosystem which rendered on them phenotypes peculiar to that region through adaptation. However, the situation is, that we, for in essence H sapiens bears all the physical characteristics and mental potential of modern man (in fact, dressed in modern clothing and given the ability to communicate, if he walked into your local bar, had a beer and left, you wouldn’t know him from all the other people coming and going) took the first tentative steps on the road to here and hopefully beyond.
Homo sapiens didn’t appear over night. If the fossil record tells us anything clearly it is that he was the result of millions of years of Evolution, Genetics ,Natural selection acting on heritable variation, random Mutation and it would seem, the most unbelievable luck.
The bone yard that is the fossil record is littered with what appears to be, countless dead ends and natural miscalculations represented by offshoots going nowhere on the branch of the Evolutionary tree leading to H sapiens. Fruit that flourished momentarily but ultimately ran out of nature’s credit and withered on the vine, leaving us no idea as to how near they came to being self aware, Human.
Homo sapiens on the other hand, from the time of his appearance have had a profound effect on everything he touches and has left us in no doubt as to his abilities even in the darkness of pre history.
The arguments between Creationists and those that espouse the Darwinian Evolutionary theory have raged since Darwin’s time and show no sign of abating in the 21st century & I have no intention of stoking those embers here. Arguments that make perfect sense to both sides abound, but it is my belief that as we peel back the layers of superstition science takes the place of faith.
Like I said earlier for one stop listening or reading, be my guest
Homo sapiens arrived one day fully adapted by a billion years of evolution to his new role as a bipedal super creature.
Standing tall , noble and intelligent way beyond anything that had gone before him. Leaving his arboreal herbivorous past behind, he struck out to conquer his world as no other creature has ever done and to turn nature to his will. Of course he wasn’t as tall as a giraffe or as strong as bear or as fast as a gazelle, he didn’t have the teeth and claws of a lion and he couldn’t swim like a crocodile or a fish but, he possessed something far more powerful and adaptable, intelligence, and the ability to reason and think abstractly. He was now bipedal and an omnivore, he was mobile and his omnivorous diet gave him the advantage of being able to store energy in his body leaving him free time to turn his super intelligence to taming his environment, creating tools, creating art, solving the problems of daily life, working on our thesis, our explanation of everything and inventing god.
His arboreal herbivorous ancestor, constantly grazing on leaves and fruit and staring furtively out through a curtain of foliage could not have taken these great steps forward in a billion years of evolution, chimpanzees have always been chimpanzees. In order for Homo Sapiens to truly conquer the world he to had stride through it, watching, learning and thinking.
Coming down to Earth was an absolute necessity but the anatomical changes required to facilitate the climb down came at a price and had an enormous impact on how Human society would develop.
I mentioned earlier, unbelievable luck as being one of the necessary, and maybe the most important, ingredients that came together to create H sapiens. It would be a lot easier to see” The hand of God” involved even in the role of just directing mutation over the millions of years needed to create a Human animal but science doesn’t give us that option, random mutation, genetics and evolution as understood now, explains the circuitous journey of the development of any organism very well. It is virtually impossible for us to imagine the most minuscule variations between generations that drive evolution inexorably towards a dead end or a totally new species. These changes happen with such slowness to our human mind, as to be not happening at all….
However, happen they do, and we are proof. One of the most profound changes to occur before we could begin our bipedal existence was what happened to our pelvis and spine to allow us to stand erect and move easily in that position. The pelvis had to become lighter and smaller to facilitate the new hip and leg bone structure, our spine curved and became supple allowing turning twisting and bending easily. Some back problems today are as a result of this change and we can only hope that Nature will iron out that particular crease for future generations, but the pelvis, there the changes had altogether more immediate and weighty implications for a new species, finding his feet as it were. A smaller pelvis means a smaller birth canal in the female, means a smaller, less developed and longer dependent infant. Birth itself is difficult for both mother and child and while in late pregnancy and labour the mother and the unborn baby are extremely vulnerable and totally dependent on her mate for protection.
Of course a new born baby is helpless and renders the mother further vulnerable because of her devotion to it; again the protection of a mate is vital for their survival. I believe that the devotion of a mother to her child and the devotion of a man to his family are not whimsies of mood, they are deeply imbedded instinctive responses bestowed on us as survival mechanisms by nature.
Species must survive and the easiest way, it seems to me, is to program each individual with an almost immutable directive to protect their offspring and their mate. We might call it love. Certainly most mothers would die without thought for their child and for myself I know that I would die without question to protect my family, in fact I believe that most adults would risk their life to save a child, even in the most forlorn of situations.
I have thought about this behaviour, which is not exclusive to Humanity by any means, and I cannot in all truth believe that the fierce protectiveness of parents or the willingness of strangers to risk their lives in the saving of a child is not governed by something deep, deep within our genetic makeup, purposely put there by nature to give the best possible chance of survival to fledgling Homo sapiens, but no less relevant today as when he set out on this epic journey.
So why am I going on about survival instinct and the necessity for the early human families to adapt certain sociological behaviour to survive in the dangerous world of
250 000 or 300 000 years ago? What relevance does it have today? Don’t we have maternity hospitals, houses and social care? Certainly in the west a woman doesn’t have to have her baby in a cave, modern man doesn’t have to stand vigilant at the entrance to protect his mate and child from wild animals. Won’t any man do? However even if the environment has changed for a lot of us, these instincts remain and will come to our aid with as much intensity as they did all those millennia ago…..To me this says quite simply that their relevance hasn’t diminished and that this economical and simple family unit is the best design available to us to get our offspring to maturity.
The nuclear family has been under sustained attack from social pressures since the in late 20th and into the 21st century. The apparent need for individual freedom has taken priority over the evolutionary obligation to reproduce and protect our offspring.
Our elemental self is never far away. Few women would willingly raise a child from birth without a mate. The mate may not be the biological father and indeed may not be a man at all.
Nuclear families come in all genders the important thing being that children are protected and nurtured.
We are a flexible species, masters at adaptation but it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to transpose a modern family of two parents and one infant child to a cave or a crude shelter in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa 80,000 years ago.
The woman cradles her child, nursing it whilst her mate guards them and provides the sustenance that they both need.
Monday, 12 November 2007
On-board DSV Academik Tofiq Ismayilov : Caspian Sea
A transcript from my hand written diary.
In June of this year, my family and I were lucky enough to see the cave paintings at Fonte de Gaume in the Dordogne, France.
We were the last of some thousand people that will ever see the originals. The cave closed in October 2007 and what people see these days are facsimiles.
When I saw those paintings in person, I became more convinced if such were possible, that the person or persons who created those incredibly beautiful pieces of art 30 000 years ago, were identical to me, to us.
They were simply finding their feet in a dangerous world.
They lived in caves, forming mating bonds, having children, protecting their family from wild animals, and hunting cooperatively to provide for the families of the tribe, the group or the extended family.
They spent time making hunting weapons and tools from horn, stone and wood, and they developed strategies for hunting and fishing.
They invented sewing needles, barbed hooks, axes, knives and hundreds of other tools crafted out of necessity.
Crucially, they had time to make jewellery and other body adornments; they painted themselves and the walls of their homes.
They thought abstractly as we do, they sought to explain and understand their environment through their art, just as we do today.
Artists attempt a deeper understanding of humanity through their experimentation with everything from the written word to expressive dance.
As we walked through that cave, and as more and more of the wall paintings were shown to us, I felt a deep attachment to those people, who hunched, sat, lay or stood there so long ago, expressing themselves and their people in their wall artwork.