Friday, November 25, 2011

Migration 7: Flannery's Cooperation

If Flannery (Flannery, Tim; "Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet",2010, Melbourne) wants to counter Dawkins' selfish genes, he needs cooperation to work at all levels, and most especially the human. He needs to counter "ruthless selfishness" (17), and the example of the child using its smile to manipulate the parent. Which he does with an assertion of complexity.

Humanity, however, can take its complex, rich place in his gaia-structure more deservedly than that. My argument has to start at several places at once. It must say, in the first place, that the Neolithic Revolution of ~10 kya is a cultural mutative event in the evolution of humanity. The invention of domestication, the development of farming with its increase in population, its need to stay in one place (settle) and to acquire/amass land, leading to the invention of property, and thus to the understanding that strength can be power to control resources, with the shift to seeing women and children (anyone weaker) as labor, necessary to cultivate the land, giving us slavery in various intensities, male domination, mono/poly-gamous couplings, government, omnipotent-being religion, the monopoly of violence & its threatened use, the monarchical state. All this evolution is cultural, not genetic, yet in a few thousand years, perhaps a hundred or two generations, gave us civilization and its own rules of development by selfishness and competition. 

Second place then is that we evolved genetically, through 100's of thousands of years of hunting & gathering, of cooking and the use of crude tools, into the threshold of Homo sapiens. That was genetic, and those forms of earlier Homo and their precursors, lived in groups. Can we distinguish whether they were chimp or bonobo or whatever groups? We cannot, but lets continue. These beings 100-200 kya living in groups, hunting & gathering, migrating if need be (i.e., not totally afraid of moving into unknown territory) also had other characteristics: concealed ovulation, recreational/promiscuous sex for pleasure equally for either gender, the chemicals necessary for falling in love, i.e., being enamored long enough for procreation to take place, and fading away, thus allowing other matings and foregoing paternity, the ability to be attracted/attractive (for whatever characteristics worked; point is, both genders were attracted/attractive and pleasure-able and infatuation-prone as well as infatuation with a short shelf life). This is the time where the band, the group, would have been "getting used to" being together, while at the same time, with migratory impulses, also able to deal with strange H.s. groups sexually as a form of getting along, i.e., not being hostile and using violence.

Third place is the evolution of the Homo sapiens sine qua non: Language. This is it, the evolutionary, genetic development that defeats the selfish gene by making genuine, multi-form, complex cooperation not only possible, but more rewarding, even more, necessary for survival and procreation. Language is above all else, a group property, not a selfish, individual (or even couple-based) property. It arose out of groups, it fructified in groups, it strengthened and reinforced groups. It is the great leveller, as well as the great cementer. Add in language's products: education, narrative, history, hypothesizing. All of these activities reinforce the group; all require several individuals living/working together, benefiting and reinforcing the benefits. Misbehave, get greedy, demand obedience: what do you get? Ostracized, the silent treatment, the conspiracy of others to bring you down. Leading to the stories of what happens to the one who does not contribute to the mutual support of all. Language is both the binder and the threatener; the reward for mutual supportive behavior and the punishment for not. 

Fourth place is migration and culturation: These groups of mutually supportive H.s. mature: education, gossip, story, art, explanation, consideration of the past and of alternatives, of solutions to problems. And they migrate, and over some 2-3000 generations, cover the world. And that story, that history, so little known in detail, is the great story of humanity, complete with all the necessaries and luxuries that are needed to survive, prosper, meet adversity, build culture & cultures, societies of complexity, and then, one day, invent domestication, the machine gun, and the iPhone. And threaten Flannery's Gaia.

No comments:

Post a Comment