I've been struggling with this question for some time now. A member of my family and I recently got into a debate about what is natural and what is unnatural. They are Christian so their opinion was "naturally" a warped one, but it got me thinking nonetheless.
I think that what separates us from other animals is fairly straightforward from a cognitive and technological perspective, but no one, not even the omniscient Google, has been able to give me an answer as to WHY this is the case.
Why are humans more technologically and cognitively advanced than other animals? Why are we the dominant species on this planet? Are we more evolved than other animals? If so, why have we seemed to evolve further (and faster?) than others?
On a less scientific note, do you envision a world where humans de-evolve or stagnate in their evolution allowing a new dominant species to take over?
The problem is with the word advanced, we aren't. We only have larger impacts. Without Homo sapiens around to dominate the Earth, some other species might have ended up with this technological bend.
My intrigue is this one, why did we start as apes/primates and up like ants or bees???? This I have never understood. Ants and bees live in particularly numerous colonies and effect huge changes to their environments. If a shift in the ecosystem were to happen that broke the balance of things, ants and bees might have ended up being the dominant ecosystem modifiers on the planet. To me, our technological prowess is but the proverbial giant antlers of prehistoric ongulates that eventually became too big and worked against their own evolutionary fitness.
Yep, my question is, when did us apes decide it was cooler to imitate ant colonies as society models instead of primate societies?
If we do not create an ecosystemic cataclysm, we'll survive for quite some time, more numerous ever more (I know doone will want to place a hypothetical graph of population stability by 2090 here, but capitalism would not allow that, power needs cheap babies to perpetuate power), and we'll be eating food tablets such as soylent green which will keep our numbers coming. We're already halfway there. Cheap commercial dog food (purina for example) is an equivalent to soylent green. How many years before we humans give up on "nature's bounty" completely for our sustenance in exchange for synthetic/recycled food, yes even for humans we are nearly there. Consider the "wiener", both animal based and vegetarian wieners, how close is that gross stuff to soylent green, only one ingredient missing, very close. Consider Korea which is now able to take waste water, treat it, and render it potable anew... Once our cemeteries are full, and the land no longer allows wastage and our numbers are so vast that food eventually dwindles, it WILL BE THE RATIONAL CHOICE TO RECYCLE HUMAN FLESH. We're only a couple of paradigm shifts away.
Religion happened hand in hand with stepping away from nature. Religion has generally been an anthropocentric cultural force. Stating that nature is un-enlightened, and that humans must search for enlightenment, to rise up and away from our yucky base animal instincts. Forging society rules to regulate behaviour at the beginnings of overpopulation was essential. Fear is the best tool to keep humans in their place. Religion, through morals, has always been a tool of conformity, only necessary to ensure overly densely populated humans can coexist without killing each other. As most species are known to do in overpopulation conditions.
Religion is the very essence of un-naturalness.
I was agreeing with most of your post until this:
[...] lead to larger birth canals, which in turn lead human males to have much larger penises than the great apes. [...]
Great response T A A. I really like that perspective.
@ Christopher B,
Nope, religion was considered natural and homosexuality was used as an example of what is unnatural. They also considered a woman-headed household unnatural, saying things like, "Men are naturally meant to be the breadwinners of a household."
I mentioned that there is homosexuality in nature, then they said that the Bible says we are not animals, so I said that we are animals. Then they countered with, "But we're intelligent and far more advanced, way beyond animals."
Thanks for the penis-talk doone. Really interesting stuff :)
Well... religious appeals to nature are generally unfounded scientifically and essentially come from uneducated and moronic people. Humans weren't always religious. I rarely hear religious appeals to nature. All the religious people I know consider nature a vile, dirty, and dangerous place, nature is something to be afraid of. I think the religious 'appeal to nature' of the past two centuries is a reaction to the new biological understandings of life. The result of a backlash of sorts... as biological understanding of life was reaching new levels, religious people felt left out and felt they needed to demonstrate the 'logic' of the bible with 'nature talk'. In a not so different way than creationists have developed their own false-science about nature. Modern religious people want to take scientific words to describe their delusions.
I will fight them all the way on such bastardisations of language and knowledge.