I’ve been watching “The Human Spark,” a documentary on the evolution of hominids presented by Alan Alda on PBS (which we now get in England). The programme I watched today was about the difference between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. It would appear that about 600000 years ago there was a hominid living in Ethiopia that could well be the direct ancestor of both Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. Some of these hominids moved into Europe and evolved into Neanderthals and the rest remained in Africa and evolved into Homo Sapiens. This ancient hominid used basic hand tools made out of flint and the Neanderthals inherited this technology. In all the hundreds of thousands of years that Neanderthals lived in Europe they did not change this technology or add to it in the slightest. They also continued eating exactly the same food (large game meat only) and did not alter their social organisation. The hominids that remained in Africa for another 500000 odd years or more evolved into Homo Sapiens who invented new ways of working with flint and other natural materials and adapted their social organisation to make the use of these new tools (such as spears and arrows) more effectively. In particular, unlike the isolationist Neanderthals, Homo Sapiens began to communicate and cooperate with each other wide areas which allowed the rapid transmission among the species of new technological methods. To put it simply, Neanderthals seemed incapable of changing whilst Homo Sapiens embraced change and reaped the advantages of doing so.
I’ve had a thought.
If evolutionary theory is right then the 600000 year old hominid did not wake up one morning to discover that he had changed into a modern human. That early ancestor of ours must have evolved into a describable new species over many thousands of years. My question is, are we sure that particular evolutionary process, from the inability to accept change to the willingness to accept change, has actually finished? Or are we still in a state where our becoming a species that accepts change is still an ongoing process with no certainty that we will not eventually revert to a Neanderthal view of the world. To give it a name, are conservatism and other manifestations of reactionary behaviour such as evangelicalism and fundamentalism, the lingering remnants of a 600000 year old way of coping with the world?
Conservatives are not very good at cooperating with people outside of their own local group. You may point out that conservatives often make a lot of money for themselves through international trade, but this is not really about cooperation it is about gaining advantage, a very self centred motivation. They are completely incapable of helping those who are unable to give them more in return. For example, look at private Republican (USA) charity initiatives in poor areas of the world. They are almost invariably linked to getting something in return. There is very little altruism involved. Those working for such charities in the field and being truly altruistic are probably not conservatives themselves and no doubt despise the strings their paymasters are attaching to the life saving work.
The inability of evangelicals to grasp the concept that life in Israel 2600 years ago, let alone life in the West 50 years ago, was markedly different to life today is another example of the conservative person’s genetic tendency not to regard time as a linear thing but to see it as “once delivered” so to speak. The usual response of a religious reactionary to any suggestion of change is that it cannot happen because “they’ve always done it this way.” You can imagine Neanderthal Southern Baptists preaching that the invention of a slightly different edge to their flint axe would bring about the wrath of God and, subsequently, the end of the world (and you never know, perhaps that’s why their race did die out so suddenly).
At this moment in time, because of the accidental coincidence that most of the world’s reactionaries live in the most powerful nation on earth, whether or not Homo Sapiens continue to evolve into a species that wants to move forward into a fairer future of cooperation and beneficial new technology, is in the balance. In fact, even the survival of our species is not looking very hopeful. To avoid devolution or annihilation the conservative gene needs to be wiped out. As we are more evolved we cannot, of course, unlike conservative evangelicals, suggest putting all the conservatives in a big steel cage. What we can ethically do is ensure that our seed mingles as much as possible with like minded eggs and that the seed of reactionaries do not prevail. Basically this means that we need to have more unprotected sex with our own kind (opposite sex only) and our males should have even more unprotected sex with conservative women, ensuring that male conservative sperm finds the room is already occupied when it goes a knocking. Sex, and lots of it, as it has always been with evolution, is the key to our survival. Go forth my change embracing friends and multiply!