Human Evolution or Devolution
This essay uses the term Life as an expression for the concept of a driving force behind evolution. In using this term, I attempt to demonstrate that this driving force controls the existence, and adaptation of life, and that humanity is simply a tool employed by Life to play a certain role in the evolution of life on Earth. By comparing the components of early, and modern human societies with the preceding eras of environmental evolution, the development of human consciousness will be shown to be merely another step in the proverbial ladder of evolution, which will ultimately result in a regression, or elimination of human existence.
While driving from Cairns to Townsville, I noticed the effects of the recent cyclone on the rainforest. I began to think about the beneficial effects of cyclones on the environment. Cyclones assist in removing weak, decaying branches from trees, as well as uprooting weak trees themselves. Consequently, the forest becomes littered with organic matter, which breaks down and becomes mulch and fertiliser for the remaining healthy trees. Furthermore, the forest is thinned out, allowing sunshine to reach juvenile trees on the forest floor. This destruction is essential in maintaining a healthy environment and promoting the reproduction of life. Therefore cyclones perform a critical function for the rainforest eco-system. I began to think about the functions of other occurrences in nature, such as bushfires, which perform a similar function to cyclones in areas where cyclones do not occur. Rain obviously brings life-giving water to plants and animals, and wind spreads seeds and pollen. Equally, plants and animals have functions also. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, bees pollinate flowers, birds control insect populations and assist plants in reproduction by spreading seeds, large herbivores control the amount of vegetation, and carnivores control the amount of herbivores. Basically, everything that exists in nature contributes to two fundamental elements of life: maintaining balance in the environment, and ensuring life spreads and multiplies. Essentially all things are interdependent for survival. This interdependence may also be referred to as organic solidarity.
Humans are interwoven in this environmental relationship also. We are dependant on plants to maintain oxygen levels and provide food, animals for meat and clothing etc. If you look at the basic evolutionary sequence of life, evolution of plant-life, subsequently led to evolution of insects and birds to assist plants to reproduce. A further evolution brought plant and insect-eating mammals, reptiles and amphibians to balance the existing eco-system, by controlling the plant and insect population. The evolution of carnivores further serves to balance this new ecosystem. Presumably, when the environment begins to become unbalanced, evolution or Life asserts itself, and rectifies the issue. Relationships between life forms (though being interdependent) are based on one critical element: conflict. The environment is in a constant state of conflict for resources. Plants compete for sunlight, water and minerals, while animals compete with each other for food, mates, and habitat. Human society is a direct reflection of this environmental conflict. Marx’s conflict theory describes social conflict between capitalists and working class. Essentially, these are synonyms for weak and strong, or powerful and powerless. For example, the strongest trees survive from the fall of weaker trees during cyclones, and stronger animals survive by overpowering other weaker species for food and mates. Just as the bourgeoisie (the strong or powerful) subjugate the working class (the weak or powerless) to ensure survival and optimal breeding opportunities for themselves. Conflicts ensure balance in society (human and environmental), and ensure the most highly evolved species continue to prosper, leading towards the next level of evolution.
The evolution of Humankind has developed aspects no other creature has: consciousness, the ability to interpret abstract concepts, and consequently, the ability to consciously manipulate the world for our own benefit. This ability to interact with the environment and each other on a conscious level, has led to the construction of cultures and symbolism within the sub-groups of the human species. The collective beliefs and interpretations of each human society, unifies each group and enhances the chances for survival and reproduction of individuals within the group. The individual’s identity becomes entwined with the collective consciousness of the group; subsequently individuals become dependant on the survival of the collective group identity. This constructed group identity, or mechanical solidarity, evolves into organic solidarity, as numbers increase, and different roles within the group are allocated to individuals to effectively manage the needs of the group. Conflicts between individuals within the group over individual roles, resources, and mates, establish dominant roles for the strongest and most highly evolved. Thus ensuring the survival of the group as a whole by maintaining hierarchy and balance within the social structure. Without this conflict, there would be no balance or genetic refinement of the species. Therefore, conflict is essentially functional, and is a critical component of all societies, human and environmental.
All species play a specific role within the global eco-system. What then is the function of humanity? If all life forms have evolved to meet some need in the environment to maintain balance, and to expand and multiply life, it is plausible to say human kind also has evolved for a similar need. Life requires humanity to serve some kind of function that is related to the balance and expansion of life. Life has evolved within humanity the ability to interpret and utilise information beyond that of any other species, along with the natural drive within all life-forms to multiply and expand. Perhaps Life, with it’s demonstrated need for expansion and multiplication, is aware of the limitations of the planet, and has endowed humanity with this collective consciousness and ability to imagine and dream, to ensure humanity develops the capabilities to expand beyond this planet, securing the continued existence of life.
Metaphysics aside, if humanity does not balance it’s own impacts on the world and ensure environmental sustainability, whether that be by systematic culling of the human race to reduce our impact on the planet, or (preferably) dissipation of the population through space travel, as predicted by Malthus, Life will be forced to balance things itself. Past natural occurrences such as the Ice Age, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and the evolution of species to control other species, indicate processes employed by Life to counter imbalances in the environment. An example of what is becoming an imbalance in the world is globalisation.
Globalisation is bringing the collective identities of societies all over the world and unifying them into a super-society, with a collective consciousness and intelligence that is beyond anything seen on this planet before. The advancement of technology and the human population is placing greater demands on the planet’s resources, and subsequently, the balance of the environment. Global warming, depletion of resources, and mass war, are some of the obvious results of societal progression. These outcomes threaten the organic solidarity of the unified world, and if not addressed, will result in a breakdown of the global society, and a regression of life on Earth. Assumedly, the evolution of human consciousness, that appears to have led to the remarkable success of humanity, may in fact be the very thing that results in the fall of humanity. Life’s balancing mechanism, to counter the devastation wrought by man on the planet.
The growing consumption and globalisation of humanity is a serious threat to the future existence of life on Earth. Arguably, Life has displayed it’s ability to neutralise threats to it’s harmonious balance, using environmental cataclysms such as volcanos, cyclones, and tsunamis, as well as the evolution of species as control units. Therefore, the role of globalisation in modern society needs to be deconstructed as an uncontrollable, economically driven superpower, and instead be utilised in collectively addressing the issues of human impact on the environment, and avoiding what appears to be inevitable environmental repercussions.