On evolution and methaphors

Anti-evolutionists have often used the argument that for evolution to succeed, it would be like a thousand monkeys typing randomly on typewriters for years and years and having a beautiful novel come out of it.

This is closer to the truth than they think. All you need to add is the equivalent of natural selection, and you’d have your book.

Have your thousand monkeys type away, and every once in a while you will see a couple of characters come out that could be part of a word. That is the only randomness that is needed. Unlike the claim, you don’t need the entire book to randomly appear. You only need a few characters at a time PLUS some kind of mechanism for recognising and keeping those characters while a few others at a time get added and added until, much much later, you’ve got your book.

The mechanism for recognising the needed letters is equivalent to the way nature recognises small changes in genetic material and adds it to the genome (overall set of genes). It does so only for the occasional mutation, and only when that mutation confers an advantage to the organism carrying it. Over many many generations, you get an additive total change that can be stark compared to what you started with. And can branch into other forms and variations as they disperse into separate populations, each with environmental changes that are slightly different.

Read more on evolution if you don’t understand it. It is an idea that has the potential to help us out of our bigotted, tribal, antagonistic behaviours. That is, if we realise that we really are just one more form of life on the only planet we have access to, we may start working together for community success.


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If I die in 5 minutes….

My most fundamental thoughts on society are:
– the human population of earth seems to be “progressing” and showing it can rise above “us-vs-them” by realising that we are all part of creation
– this progress is based on oil (ie more energy and, consequently, more food and more communication outside our tribes)
– I think it’s worth considering what will happen to progress once energy becomes limited again and/or we run out of room to waste (thus reducing our ability to expend all that energy)


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I am a westerner, and I like to see everyone’s face

Whether I am dealing with people or just reading about them, I like to see their faces. I understand that there is a certain power in hiding one’s face; we judge each other by how we look and what emotions our faces show. But although I try hard to wear a mask when not with friends, I still hope to get a glimpse of where people are at by what their faces show.

People hide their faces in my culture (Canada), and it can be done without niqabs, etc.; just use makeup and sunglasses and beards and hats and scarves. We can relate to that here. We like to hide (remain anonymous?) as much as immigrants do – we just do it in different ways.

I think we are probably very similar all around the world, with differences only in rural vs. urban experiences*, individually and as a society. If so, then when we realise this, we can leave our tribal, knee-jerk, small-mindedness behind and begin to develop some progressive paradigms for passing on to our children – paradigms that are not fleetingly based on the good times oil is currently giving us. And if we don’t do this, when the good times end, so, I fear, will our progressiveness.

Of course, to me, all niqabs look alike, and my own view is that they are meant to remove identity and individuality, but is that just my ignorance and unfamiliarity? Perhaps in Islamic neighbourhoods, wearing a niqab doesn’t hide your identity at all – isn’t meant to. Perhaps it’s just meant to show your “submission to god”, for example, while you know full well that everyone around you knows who you are.

*education, exposure to variety of thinking, exposure to anonymity of crowds, loss of immediate interdependence with neighbours, etc


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Are Rules Replacing Culture?

Culture is tradition. That is, it is the set of standard and expected behaviours that a person (or animal?) (or plant?) has negotiated over time with those around him or her. The fact that every person in the culture has to negotiate with every other person in the culture is what makes it similar to an ecosystem. That is:

– no two negotiations are alike

– a person is changed by every interaction with another person, which is different every time, which means the person brings something different to every future negotiation

– that creates a web of interaction that is changing all the time, just like an ecosystem

What is interesting to me today is that there are no boundaries to an ecosystem. So, there are no boundaries to a culture. For example, no culture completely insulated from other cultures. Even if a group of people were out of contact from all others (forever?), they weren’t always, and they have their biology in common with the others, and they may run into artefacts from others, like noise, litter, pollution, land uses, contrails in the sky, cities that light up the night sky, etc.

If you are out there, we will assimilate you (you heathens?)! Of course, you might assimilate us first. 😉 In fact, we will negotiate an assimilation, since we will affect each other.

The fact is that cultures have negotiations with other cultures (ecosystems also occur at many scales and extents in space and time!), so we can now go from one “group” to another easily, often without even noticing the boundary, such as it is.

What is interesting is that people can now go from one culture’s turf to another’s without really worrying about stepping on anyone’s cultural toes. At least, as long as certain rules are followed. And it is those rules that I’m wondering about. Are they another culture-to-culture negotiation, or are they an elimination of culture in the interests of allowing us to deal with all the tourists while maintaining some kind of living, and our sense of self esteem and status.

Just a couple of stories: I was at a B&B in Quebec’s north shore region and didn’t know that breakfast was supposed to be quite minimal, like a continental breakfast, so I should not have asked for seconds of the cook’s lovely oatmeal. Next time, I’ll try to be more sensitive to the traditions of where I travel.

I also had the experience of being with a Chinese national while travelling in Africa, and couldn’t help being embarrassed by the way he went poking around into people’s huts (in certain areas) with his camera.

But in general, we all get along and behave ourselves. This is, of course, still an ongoing, sometimes bloody, process with some of the tribal desert groups that are being overwhelmed by more global standards/cultures. But, in fact, this is not much different than bar fights in my neighbourhood, where someone feels insulted because of how someone else looks or behave (some of us really must learn the correct songs in a given pub!). Diss! 😀

So each person has their own culture, which is negotiated with those around him or her, and which is spread around groups of others that one associates with. And a different set of rules has also been negotiated for use with others that one does not normally associate with, and which are more and more strict and constraining depending on how “strange” and different and far away the people are that we are spending time with.

So I think culture IS a set of rules that grow organically and ecologically.

Knowing this (I’m willing to negotiate the details, of course) means we can make smarter decisions about getting along.

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