Phenomena That Evolution Has Yet to Explain
Charles Darwin is undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists of all time. When he wasn’t uncontrollably vomiting or producing severely ill children with his wife/first cousin Emma, he was furthering our understanding of the natural world in an incredible way with his research on evolution. As with some of the most revolutionary theories, once discovered, it made perfect logical sense: That over a massive timeline, mutations among a species that give them an advantage in survival will naturally be preferred, will selectively propagate and eventually become the norm.
For example, he observed subtle differences in the shells of tortoises depending on where they tended to get their food. Tortoises that needed to raise their head to eat sources of food such as tree cactus as well as fight over limited resources began to evolve a shell that curved up around the neck and allowed for this vertical movement more easily, known as saddle-back tortoises. Tortoises that had it made, living in a dreamland where the ground was covered in plentiful food, had no need for this, and had a simple dome-shaped shell. Though not confirmed, it would also make sense that their protective shell comes from balancing the difficulties of being slow as fuck and made of meat, without being the world’s easiest meal.
There are undoubtedly, however, among the animal species, some developments that don’t seem to enhance survival at all. Let’s examine those, shall we?
The human race’s intelligence is what’s enabled us to become the dominant species on Planet Earth. Our ancestors’ development of tools, weapons and strategic thinking allowed us to get to where we are today, and we’d still rapidly fade into obscurity without those advantages. Whether you’re a creative director or an ex-marine, without planning or a weapon, a bull moose is pounding you into wet jelly, full stop. We may not be the strongest or biggest animal, and our bodies might be mushy and our teeth woefully flat, but luckily, we figured out how to work metal and then a billion different ways to get it into a part of our enemy that makes their body stop working as quickly as possible. Now, we have exerted total dominance over the animal kingdom. If you don’t believe me, just watch a French bulldog try to breathe.
Yet, it seems there is a price to pay for the high level of brain function and cognitive thought that brought us cities an elephant can’t kick over: feeling things all the time. Particularly the seemingly useless emotion of shame. Even the most religious of people talk about shame as the original nightmare, forcing Adam and Eve to cover up their respective danglers post-bite of the apple in the Garden of Eden. Whether it came from a magic fruit or biological development, it sure seems like an unpleasant bit for your brain to devote valuable electrical activity to.
What, exactly, about our brain, felt a jolt when some caveman’s loincloth got caught on the underbrush, revealing his club and boulders, and thought, “This is important, I must hold onto it forever”? In a real way, a lack of shame, and emotion in general, suggests more success, at least in our modern world. Take a look into most highly successful people’s dead shark eyes for evidence. Have you ever seen a picture of Jeff Bezos looking directly into the camera? It feels like he just stole a year from your life. Even in prehistoric days, you’d think the Neanderthals most blase about tripping another dude while running from a pack of velociraptors would be the ones who stuck around.
Some people have argued that shame was developed in order to keep humans acting in accordance with social norms, required for acceptance into civilization versus being tied to a rock outside. However, Scientific American pushes back on this, mentioning the fact that the emotion of guilt, separate from shame, is what serves such a purpose. In fact, if the purpose of evolution is to further propagate the species and your own bloodline, remembering getting rejected over AOL Instant Messenger in high school seems to be doing no one any favors in that regard.
So what exactly is the purpose? When your tighty-whities are run up the flagpole, what exact proud purpose does your grey matter think it’s achieving by barking out the orders to send all the blood in your body to your face? Darwin is, of course, dead, so we don’t have the luxury of contacting him, outside the scope of a powerful mystic, to ask his opinion on why our body decided to respond this way to the experience of taking a loud and violent shit in the work bathroom.
Maybe it’s not a feature, but a bug. An unfortunate occurrence of the wiring of a complex human mind that, over centuries, has mistranslated “danger afoot” from imminent physical harm, and connected that same mental terminal to “taking too big of a bite of your hot dog while on the Jumbotron and starting to dry heave.” Maybe our brains, for the unbelievable natural miracle they are to have developed to such a state, are still jerry-rigged in ways we don’t understand, and evolution is looking at it like a car whose heat won’t turn off, saying, “Well, does it get you to work or not?” Maybe, for the honor of being able to tie a knot, make a sandwich and think up clever comments like, “You should be ashamed of writing this article,” we’ve got to take the mental lumps.
Science, the ball is in your court. Hook electrodes up to my brain and then show me my old DeviantArt page. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for all of our mental health.
Look at this fucking idiot! Nice tail, dumbass! You get that at the beaver store? Fuck you!