Galapagos to SL: Devolution on the cards – homo vitium?

Thursday, 12 August 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In Greece, Turkey and California wildfires are running rampant. The UN is indicating a code red situation for humanity. One of the greatest shows on earth has been concluded in Tokyo. In Greece, people have been trying to save the original site of the Olympics. It appears that Rome is not the only place that is burning. Here in Sri Lanka, we are in the throes of the Delta version of the coronavirus – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara


In Greece, Turkey and California wildfires are running rampant. The UN is indicating a code red situation for humanity with its recent report on climate change and even indicating a state of irreversibility has been realised. We are in the throes of the Delta version of the coronavirus and our ill-discipline is adding to the deadly chaos. 

One of the greatest shows on earth has been just concluded in Tokyo with all playing on-camera! Some have described the situation in Tokyo as ‘Tale of Two Cities’ with those who happened to be outside the enclosure even in Tokyo having to watch the games on-screen and there is no difference to an Alaskan in viewing Olympics. 

In Greece, at the same time, people have been trying to save the original site of the Olympics from the rampaging wildfire. It appears that Rome is not the only place that is burning yet there are Neros and quite powerful Neros too who are simply doing nothing or interested in doing irrelevant things. 

That is where the question of our utilisation of evolutionary advantages comes to be questioned. Are we forcing de-evolution by neglecting the assets that we have within us?

Evolution and revolutions

The virus must be considering that our actions in the past year as actually quite funny – the forced separations, frequent hand washings, and double masking etc. – and quite unbecoming for humans! Humans have shown some remarkable abilities while heralding revolution after revolution.

Some fired-up political humans too have contributed with their versions of revolutions and in most cases one can be less proud of those than the advances that have been shown via the cognitive revolutions. If one stays closer to the cognitive dictates of greater good through scientific revolutions, we may actually not need the other revolutions. 

Charles Darwin went to Galapagos Islands and his critical observations cemented his theory of evolution which is considered as a great advance in human knowledge. Humans demonstrated that they indeed are a different species by the way different frontiers were opened up through their insights and actions. We have now with our abilities do not rely on natural selection to grow but are capable of intelligent design and prosper. If not for the virus, we would have been planning travel to Mars much more actively and openly. 

To some of course the drive is to find another planet before this one is doomed. The doomsday scenario too has come from our actions. I dare say if we can have the scientific revolution without the race for economic dominance, I just feel that we may not be in this situation that we are in today. 

In the early day’s science was a rich man’s study and money was spent for exploration and discovery. Today the situation has flipped. Science is a vocation yes but we know that it is not yielding riches to the individual. However, those who engage in that see and adore the beauty of discovery. In applying findings as solutions, another significant group enjoys seeing the relevance. 

Scientific discovery and seeking out new knowledge has shaped a new purpose to many a life. However, in the current society, pursuit of wealth has become the dominant driver. Quite a few actually practice science with that motive than the higher-order motives of the early scientists. Pursuit of science is as per an action plan and limited allocations and the process is doomed at inception. Putting the knowledge into action is a dream for many and almost always in science poor environments.

Ignoring science

Homo sapien means a wise man! We have additional compartments in our brain other than the quite common reptilian brain. Those additionalities make us what we are. Yet the evolutionary presence does not mean some of us really use all the parts the evolution has so kindly endowed us with. We risk losing evolutionary gains. Do I see that in Sri Lanka? May not be the favourite question to ask and reflect upon. Yet one must reflect upon the body of knowledge one possesses and the utilisation.

Both COVID and climate management had shown strong anti-science approaches across the world and in the case of the former the results have been dear. When you ignore science in climate management, you are risking the very existence of humanity, not only lives as in COVID. Yet the practitioners of anti-science have managed to move along making use of the 21st century tribal behaviour based on political party lines. 

Science today definitely is at its strongest, yet the tribal ‘party’ behaviour too is almost equally strong. This is the behaviour hard to understand. Party politics have gone more into the DNA than the strength of knowledge and wisdom. If we resort to decent studies with DNA, profiling much of the segregations could be immediately sorted out. Yet such ventures are avoided as upsetting the conventional foundations that we have built our current institutions. 

While the advancing knowledge is spelling out quite differently, we appear to read the old text, closing our minds to the new advances. May be the use of the words culture and tradition and the value system centred on those imposes a certain blind allegiance and rocking the boat is heresy. The scientific method operates with the understanding of ‘we do not know’ and then proceed to understand. Again after getting to know an answer we still are open to question and change. The advances have happened through that process. 

Island mentality

Charles Darwin went to Galapagos Islands in 1835. If he had decided to visit us, the situation would have been interesting. We certainly would have been in a position to offer him enough diversity and perhaps more to test his powers of observation and fuel his thought process. 

Endemic species were central to Darwin’s arguments and we have had plenty to offer. Have we ever looked at our endemism in a way Darwin looked at finches at Galapagos? Wonder however if he witnessed so much diversity in one island whether he would have been able to cement his theory? However, he did write later subsequent to his Origin of Species on the Ceylonese – our noses, beard and the polygamy based on other research as well as having a tussle over the Ceylon jungle fowl – Our national bird. 

We speak of an island mentality and we as a species should have been evolving to suit our ecological niche too. How are we seeing and experiencing these scientific revolutions is an open question. Interestingly, when trying to answer this question, as we do practice our island mentality differently too – actually being more open and friendly to the outside in valuations and acceptance. 

Vice to the fore

When you go through the system of education in America, the use of the word sophomore for second year university or college students is known. If we have been excellent sophomores, we should be developing our capabilities in abstract thinking in passing through that stage of education. The word has come from Latin meaning wise fool! This signifies the learning and folly – you may have read much yet not understood well either. 

Preoccupations with rote learning and past papers is not helping in developing abstract thinking. Wise men becoming wise fools and sliding down to ‘vice men’ appears to be a sequence in action that we observe as one reads the news bulletins. 

Roman civilisation’s demise came as per one theory is attributable to their use of lead in water piping, eventually forcing their IQ to go down. Our actions or inactions can retard us and heralds a society in retardation. The symptoms should be visible. 

The Sri Lankan position in the Corruption Perception Index is worthy of close scrutiny. We are positioned at 94th place among 170 nations, not something that we can boast of. Honest action on all fronts is necessary as we know corruption erodes every other gain and it is something that should be ousted as a first step to every other thing and that is lesson number one from Singapore.

From the simplest to the complex, our actions have brought us to this situation. We know that the other indices too are not too kind to us. Though Yuval who wrote the best seller ‘Sapiens’ started with the comment ‘fire gave us power and science made us deadly,’ the fact is, remove science and you remove growth. Knowing this correlation is missing in our planning.

While broadly we have to marshal our abilities to respond to the dangers of climate change, internally we should marshal our cognitive resources to charter a way forward without collectively losing sanity and stability. Homo vitium (vice man) emerging as the dominant species is not acceptable!

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