An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 15, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve Headquarters in
Jalpan, Querétaro, MÉXICO

ADOLESCENT ROOSTERS

Adjoining the Reserve office compound, up by the gate, there's a half-acre-large poultry farm. The man operating it isn't into eggs or selling pullets to the fried-chicken market however. He raises fighting roosters. Quite a number of roosters are staked out across his ground, each with a leg tethered by a rope attached to a stake. The roosters crow 24 hours a day, though sometimes there are brief intermissions from around 9 PM to midnight. Still, even then, one rooster can start crowing and soon the whole community sets in.

A few weeks ago a number of hens were running around the grounds followed by chicks. Now those chicks are about one-third grown, not yet with tail feathers, but already showing personalities. They're in their 9-year-old boy stage.

When I walk past the grounds I can't take my eyes off these young roosters. What's interesting is their aggressiveness. Most young chickens will try to steal another's grasshopper, or will peck at a mate just for the fun or the meanness, but these birds are clearly programmed to attack, and to fight back with vicious stabs of the sharp spurs on their legs. No one taught these young birds their aggression or to fight with their spurs. What I'm seeing is a pure expression of the birds' genetic heritage, and every time I pass the gate, this sets me to thinking.

For one thing, how much of human behavior and thinking is NOT programmed by our genes the same way it is for these young roosters? Even when it's our families and societies who program us, weren't we programmed to structure our families and societies so that they reinforce our individual programming?

Still, as I walk along the reservoir beneath the afternoon blue sky and white clouds, I always come to the conclusion that we modern humans are capable of "free thought."

We are capable precisely insofar as we exercise our minds within the domains of art, science, and spirituality ("spirituality," not religiosity). (Agape "love" I lump with spirituality.)

Outside those domains -- walk as far as I will and think as hard as I can -- so far I haven't come up with a single human thought or behavior I'd regard as not rooted in genetically fixed "animal" needs.

It's important to recognize which of our thoughts and behaviors are "free," and which are dictated by our genes. For, our genes were encoded throughout millennia of animal struggle for existence. The life-threatening problems that face us now are too complex and subtle to solve with behaviors and thoughts arising from genetic instructions written into our genes on the African savannah.

To save Life on Earth, then, we must recognize the sanctity of art, science and spirituality (not religions), and always keep clear in our minds which of our impulses are shared by all mammalian primates, and which are indeed worthy only of the most sophisticated, highly evolved animal of all.

For, giving free reign to our "animal predispositions" has gotten us into a lot of trouble, and that trouble will increase as time passes. "Trouble," such as global warming, overpopulation, warring over limited natural resources, etc.

Only thoughts and behaviors blossoming from art, science and spirituality (not religion) can save us. Facebook Icon.