Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

The malignancy of the wasted brain

In Eish!, Fools, Free-thinking, Science on March 5, 2015 at 3:03 pm


I shed a silent tear when I heard of the death of Leonard Nimoy. He was no relation and I never knew him, but his passing was tragic for me. As Spock, my favourite character in Star Trek, and as an actor and poet, he displayed a wondrous capacity for balancing logic and creativity, and a remarkable empathy for his fellow man. He also unveiled the vagaries and limitations of human thinking.

If you’re looking for evidence of such vagaries, you only have to follow the rapid rise in Islamic fundamentalism; and before Christians and Muslims say “yeah, exactly”, let’s not forget that they’re just as guilty. The fact that religion hasn’t been pushed to the fringes of human frivolity to hide alongside astrology and the belief in fairies, is not only puzzling, from an evolutionary perspective it is downright worrying.

Let’s for a minute use just a smidgen of logic: religions are different belief systems that influence – or control – a lot of human thinking and behaviour. They all differ in their fundamental constructs. Each different belief system is furthermore riddled with internal competitive dissension, with each offshoot claiming to be the correct interpretation of its parent construct. This is not only highly illogical, it is obviously impossible; ergo they are all flawed.

Being religious therefore requires the continued suspension of disbelief. It means that contrary to all obvious reason that central tenets of a belief system are irrevocably flawed, people still adhere to them. From an evolutionary perspective, the inability of individuals within the human species to understand this and therefore reject such nonsense shows their inability to adapt. It is a weakness.

However, such illogical religiousness is so widespread it’s fair to say that this is not a failure of individuals, but of the human species as a whole; especially when you consider the remarkable capacity of the human brain – as displayed in extraordinary individuals such as scientists – to boldly pursue the depth and level of thinking made famous by Nimoy’s Spock. If it weren’t for religion, just think how advanced the human species would be.

Religion is indeed a malignancy of the wasted human brain.

So long, and thanks for all the bamboo

In Eish! on November 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm

"Why Henry..."

For most people the panda is the cute and cuddly symbol of the World Wildlife Fund; but for many conservationists quite frankly it’s a pain in the butt.

It only eats bamboo, which is virtually indigestible and has almost zero nutritional value, and it must be the only animal in the world that doesn’t see any value in procreating. Essentially, in evolutionary speak, it’s overstayed its welcome. In conservation speak it’s a serious strain on limited resources; which is why a recent survey of about 600 scientists suggest that when it comes to the panda we need to entertain the notion of what they call ‘conservation triage’.

I first came across the concept of ‘triage’ when I was a captain appointed to South Africa’s 1 Medical Battalion. My role was as a counsellor helping young soldiers exposed to post traumatic stress disorder. During a large scale battle training exercise the surgeons in the unit established a frontline triage facility. I enquired about the term and they said it’s where they prioritised any injuries that came through – those that received priority, those that didn’t and those for whom it was too late.

Conservation triage is the same thing: it is the prioritisation of the allocation of increasingly scarce conservation resources to the most deserving cases. If implemented it’ll mean that unless the panda pulls its weight and learns to procreate, conservation will wash its hands of the remaining pandas and let them quietly die off.