Edinburgh Geologist, the - Issue no 29 Strange Earth, Bill Baird
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
If we accept that an increase in brain size is necessary for human social and technical skills then it should follow that the larger the brain the more dextrous and socially skilled the owner. How then do we explain the Neanderthals, with an average brain size of 1600cc for males, which is greater than that of modern man? This race, widespread in Europe, the Middle and Near East from over 100,000 to 35,000 years ago seems to be an exception to the rule. They have left little of significance in the way of artifacts, either tools or ornaments……
Imagine an environment where human numbers had not significantly reduced the once huge numbers of edible species of food animals and plants. Where the climate was reasonably kind and the threat of predators, both animal and other humans, was low. Where there was time to ponder on the song and flight of birds, to watch the rising and setting of the sun, moon and stars. To listen to the wind and rain, watch some things grow and others die, to be overwhelmed by the beauty of this wondrous earth with all its riches. It is pleasing to think that these might have been some of the pastimes of our big brained ancestors. However, that time, if it ever existed has gone forever, so where do we go from here? Can we draw any understanding of our present situation and compare it to the lives and thoughts of previous races?
For what it is worth I make a suggestion which I believe has the hallmark of simplicity and practicality. It may be that the increase in brain size was only a benefit when it achieved maximum social conformability with greatest manual dexterity. Anything further was a positive irrelevance. At the optimum stage of racial, national or social groupings the human race can operate almost like the social insects. We can use manual skills to manufacture weapons or dam rivers. We can defend our territories to the death, at the command of an accepted individual or elite. We can create power and circulate it for use throughout a nation. With our size of brain we can either manage to operate adequately on our own or combine to operate as a super organism like the ants or termites.
With a bigger, more complex brain, I suggest that we become different. We become knowing, questioning and immensely aware of our position in and links with the environment.
Not for nothing does Homo sapiens network computers, set up think tanks and hold group brain storming sessions. We have little to learn from the ants.
We should not look back on our ancestors with disdain for their primitive life but forward with apprehension to our facade of a modern life.