An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of March 30, 2014
Issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center
in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas,
on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

    THE UNIVERSE, FACEBOOK
& INTESTINAL WORMS

Each day I spend at least two or three hours doing physical labor, and that's a good time for thinking. For example, this week while scraping old paint and caulking a building to get ready for painting, my rambling thoughts followed this path:

Ever since the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago, the Universe has been expanding and evolving. When life on Earth arose about 3.5 billion years ago, it similarly began evolving and diversifying. Moreover, the crowning accomplishment of evolving life on Earth, human mentality, also has evolved and diversified.

Something interesting to notice is that the evolution of the Universe, of life on Earth and human mentality all developed along the same path: In each realm, things started out simple and became more complex and diverse. The Universe evolved into galaxies with stars and planets, Nature became a biosphere supporting enormous diversity, and human mentality diversified from brutish attention to moment-by-moment survival, into rainbows of mental perspectives, predispositions, emotional states, and esthetic senses.

All three evolutionary realms also share this feature: As evolution produced ever greater diversification, the resulting diverse parts interrelated with ever greater intimacy, and ever more sophisticated patterns of mutual influence. The Universe's stars and planets fell into a great dance based on interacting gravitational fields; Nature's living things grew ever more interdependent, and; now human interactions are expanding into a whole new dimension via such social media as Facebook, and maybe even these Newsletters.

At this point in the thinking process I find myself before blistering-off paint forgetting to chip at it, for it dawns on me that we can go further with this thought. If we accept that the evolutions of the Universe, Nature on Earth and human mentality all follow the same general path, we can "look into Nature" to see what becomes of diverse, interrelating things, to gain insight into what may happen with evolving human mentality. Finding such revelation in the Universe is hard, especially because 96% of it is "dark matter" and "dark energy" we can't see.

However, with life on Earth, the evolution of Nature is an open book. On the matter of what the most highly evolved organisms are like, it makes an interesting point. That is, of all organisms on Earth, the group generally regarded as the most successful and highly evolved is that of... parasites.

From an ecological perspective, what's special about parasites is not that they steal resources from others, but that they have adapted to specialized niches where the resources they need are dependably supplied with little effort of the parasite, and they can reproduce effectively.

If you think about it, that's precisely the way humanity is heading: Toward ensured security and comfort, and obsessive reproduction, just like the worms in our intestines. Already, as humanity consumes resources without returning them, we are weakening the global organism known as the biosphere with our parasitization.

Personally, thinking of humanity trending toward being like intestinal worms gives me the creeps, though I think there may be something to the insight.

I hope that, in the end, humanity follows "The Middle Path" -- neither continuing the unsustainable behaviors we indulge in now, nor becoming so absorbed in mental interplay that physically and psychically we end up withering to the condition of happily communing intestinal worms.  Facebook Icon.