And Homo Sapiens Shall Inherit the Earth

Life as we know, on our planet or for that matter in the entire universe, first stirred in a primordial sea of organic molecules from which were formed the more complex molecules such as amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins which in turn are the basis of all life. Most people of the non-nut variety accept this theory of origin of life. Single celled organisms formed first and thus started the fantastic assembly line of evolution that gave rise to the incredible number of species that exist on earth today. From fossil records we also know that quite a few of these species became extinct along the way. Modern man’s direct ancestor Homo Sapiens only appeared on the scene a few hundred thousand years ago. We are most closely related to the chimp on the evolutionary ladder. If you think about it we have come a long way indeed from such nondescript beginnings. We now lord it over all other species of life.  Question is what makes us so special?

You don’t have to be Darwin to guess that it is the human brain that gives us the advantage. If it were a contest of pure brawn we would have lost out a long time ago. Our brains are significantly larger than any other species on the planet, size does matter in this case I suppose. We obviously know the importance of the brain, that no doubt is the reason we call ourselves Homo Sapiens (translates as “wise or knowing man” from Latin). Large brain essentially translates into a more complex brain. If we were computers we would say that we are equipped with the best software. The real question is what does this fancy brain of ours permit us to do that let’s say animals cannot.

Actions of animals are dictated by survival and biological imperatives entirely. It is as if there is a very simple instruction set stored in their simple brains. If hungry then eat else just rest; if predator approaches then take evasive action else do nothing; if prey spotted attack prey else do nothing. You get the picture. You might be tempted at this point to chime in with cute stories about cats and dogs to counter my picture of simplicity. A dog is smarter yes but its actions are still dictated by training. Cats are a little different I suppose but they are either looking for mice, evading dogs or going to the neighbor’s yard to lounge. It is surely not thinking about what tomorrow holds nor is it reflecting on its accomplishments of the day. It is not troubled by visions of an apocalyptic future and what can be done today to prevent such a future.

Most of the time human actions are similarly simplistic. To make matters worse we have another simplistic motivation of just having fun. But as mentioned before our brains are just a wee bit more complex and therein lies our salvation. Through evolution we have developed a capacity for imagination and a capacity to weigh the pros and cons of our actions, specially when the cons are long-term and pros are short-term. We can imagine what a given course of action might lead to in future. A case in point would be fossil fuel consumption. Reasonable folk would agree that global warming is real and fossil fuel consumption is a major contributing factor. So we can imagine a day when multiple generations from now human race will be in trouble. This is where we need to use our ability to trade short-term pain for long-term gain for all of humanity. That view tells us we gradually need to stop our reliance on oil and gas and think not just about ourselves but about our future generations also.

That was just one example but the same thought process can apply to a multitude of scenarios. We have to think in this fashion to ensure the survival of human race in a distant future. Naysayers will tell you that it can all go to pot by events outside our control but be that as it may we have to do what is in our power. It is not easy but every small thought and step in the right direction counts and builds momentum towards a better tomorrow.


2 comments on “And Homo Sapiens Shall Inherit the Earth

  1. Kapil

    Modern man IS Homo sapiens. Ancestor species inclue Homo erectus and Homo habilis. Then there are creatures like the Pithecantrhopi (ape men).

    Modern man certainly has a brain wired for intellect and reason, but it is not the largest brain among the Earth’s creatures. Whales and dolphins have larger brains, i’m told, but their brains are wired for things like echo-location. That’s what enables them to survive, just as Man’s (and Woman’s) intellectual and reasoning capacities assure survival of Homo sapiens. Until we manage to blow ourselves up.

    Another thing that brought us to our present state of entellectual analysis is opposing thumbs. We have the ability to examine things in greater detail than our fellow primates, which have, in addition to opposing thumbs, opposing great toes. But, I expect that one day the apes of the world will figure things out, too.

    Time marches on, as does evolution. I would expect that, several thousand years in the future, mankind’s little toe will be little more than a vestigial nubbin.

    Hi to Carmen.

    John S

  2. My concern is that our human traits of self preservation and procreation, coupled with our intelligence, has allowed us to be so incredibly successful as a species, will ultimately be our undoing. As you pointed out, reasonable people understand that we are rapidly consuming a limited supply of fossil fuels while polluting the environment to unsustainable levels. Yet very few of us have the will power to actually change our behavior in a significant way. Will those same traits cause us to fly our ship, which we so recently learned to fly, right into the ground? I hope not, but suspect so…


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