Only Human: Two Treatises of Evolution
“The silent casket has her picture atop it, draped in flowers, her long, pretty black hair, alabaster skin, green eyes and perfect smile were no more…unfortunately, all who live shall meet her fate, so we must always live by our instincts, keep our friends close and our families surrounding us. All who love die, all who hate die, and all who wonder die. Love is like magic, but magic can sometimes be just an illusion. And so it is part of our world, the great cycle of life and death, Mother Earth and Father Time, the endless cycle of seasons, it is all inevitable. When we die, we return to nature, forever sleeping. It is simply the way of things. Change over time is inevitable, whether it be by nature or divinity; we all live and die in the dark, not knowing our purpose until we know it.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It’s All Connected: From Ape to Empire
George Washington, the Great Monarchs of Imperial Europe, the Chinese emperors and navigators, and the despots of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s all share one thing in common: They help found the grandest civilizations in human history: the United States, Europe and China. The statistics are staggering. By 2052, as Jorgen Randers writes, America, Europe and China will control 80% of the entire world’s wealth, upwards of $350 trillion. These three regions will have the most advanced technology, the wealthiest people, and the most imposing militaries. In light of these statistics, we wonder, how just 3 societies could reach such a staggering level of power. Even since Adam Smith published his landmark treatise, The Wealth of Nations, economists, lawyers, politicians, and world leaders have tried to explain this simple question: Why are some societies rich but other incredibly poor? Why does Central Africa, with considerably more natural resources than Europe, languish in extreme poverty, while Europe enjoys unparalleled levels of prosperity, except by America and China? As economically compromised as all three of these regions were in the early 2010s, they still dwarfed all other societies in power and influence. There is no “the answer” for this question; as hundreds of factors can influence a country’s wealth; size, population, military power, technological development and economic growth, just to name a few. What I believe, however, is that the underlying cause of these factors and the basic reason why some societies are rich and others poor lies not in politics or economics, but in the realm of science. Human beings, Homo sapiens, evolved from Homo erectus about 100,000 years ago, and quickly began to spread around the world, in what Jared Diamond calls “the Great Leap Forward.” A suitable starting line from which to compare human societies on different continents is around 11,000 B.C., when the first records of village life appear in the form of remains of ancient structures, stone objects, tools and butchered carcasses in a few, isolated parts of the world, such as modern-day Iraq, Iran and the Fertile Crescent. It also marks the beginning of the Holocene Epoch, and the first universally accepted date of the peopling of North America. Plants and animals were domesticated in some parts of the world a few millennia after that date. At that time, did some societies have a “head start” over others on other continents? If so, that head start would explain the European, American and Chinese hegemony today, as Europe and Asia were colonized by humans about 650,000 years ago, with Homo erectus, the modern human ancestor, marching across the vast lands of the Middle East, Europe and the Asiatic steppe, and America was colonized by natives from Siberia, crossing into North America via the Bering Land Bridge or by West Coast sailing vessels, bringing European and Asian technology with them. As Jared Diamond has pointed out, “head starts” tend to lead to smarter people. Data from Harvard University researchers has shown that people in China and Europe tend to have average IQs almost 30 points and 40 points higher than Americans, respectively, especially those in Russia and New Guinea, and this was far before the degradation of the U.S. educational system. The reason for this is simply that Europe and China have been occupied by humans longer. This doesn’t necessarily make them more knowledgeable or better-informed, but their cognition skills are considerably greater. To get an idea of just how monumental this “Great Leap Forward” was, I will describe humanity’s expansion, from our African origins to the present day.
Our species’ closest extant relatives are three species of great ape, the gorilla, chimpanzee and Bonobo, or Pygmy Chimpanzee. These three apes are found nowhere else except Central Africa, and the abundance of hominid fossils in Africa, namely the Eastern Rift Valley, shows that the dramatic ascension of our species began in Africa as well. Human history began there about 7 million years ago, but some sources put it between 6 and 9 million years ago; and around that time, a certain population of apes in East Africa broke off into multiple taxa, one into gorillas, one into the modern chimpanzees, and one into hominids. Hominids split off from the gorilla line, and began to evolve a much more complicated social structure than the other apes. The first evidence of a truly human-like ape comes from Ethiopia in East Africa, called Australopithecus afarensis; this ape had taken the first steps to being human…quite literally. As a result of the changing environment of the Great Rift Valley at this time, the australopithecines came down from the trees, which were rapidly disappearing as the Pleistocene Ice Sheets began to creep into the lower latitudes. Adapting to the change in lifestyle, these apes walked upright, bipedal, just like a human. Fossils show that this upright gait evolved roughly 4 million years ago, and began to increase in overall body and brain size about 2.5 million years ago. Before that point, hominids were simply apes that had evolved to walk upright. They were no different than chimps, gorillas or other eutherian primates, such as monkeys, in the way that they used tools or their social structure. Then, as the Ice Age broke into full intensity around 2.5 million years ago, these apes suddenly surged in brain and body development, presumably to adapt to survival in a very cold, crippling environment. This was the start of the Pleistocene epoch, which was defined by wild and unpredictable climate shifts, colossal storms wracking the northern hemisphere unlike any seen since, and Ice Ages, with prolonged warm periods in between cold snaps, which could start in less than 20 years, according to NOAA, investigating the Greenland ice cores…and the start of the human Great Leap Forward. Of course, humanity didn’t just evolve immediately from the ape ancestors. From the ancient australopithecine line, “proto-humans” evolved, such as Homo hablis and Homo erectus, in that order. The form erectus, which appeared 1.7 million years ago, was close to modern humans in body size, but had only half as much brain function as a modern human; this proto-human was more than an ape, but a far cry from a man. It used tools, but only the crudest and most unsophisticated stones and sticks. All of this development and evolutionary experimentation was confined to Africa for 6 million of those 7 million years of human history, with no contact with any of the other continents. Then, about a million years ago, a great climatic cataclysm occurred, in which the world entered another global cycle of extreme cold and mild temperatures that continues to this day. Drought, storms, and competition for food had driven some of our ancestors out of Africa, or maybe it was human curiosity, the desire to push the boundaries of our own existence. Whatever the reason, at about the same time as the Ice Age began, human fossils, Homo erectus, were found in China and Indonesia, namely near modern-day Beijing and Java. Europe followed suit around 500,000 years ago, with tools found in caves near the Mediterranean and the Balkan Peninsula. It is roughly assumed that China and Europe were colonized at roughly the same time, as, aside from the Ural Mountains, there are no major barriers between the two landmasses. This bit of information is crucial to the eventual development of Chinese and European wealth. Homo erectus did not have the brainpower or social structure to comprehend trading with other groups of primitive humans, nor did they have a social structure to coordinate and cooperate into cohesive “nations” or even “tribes,” they were like a group of chimpanzees, not much smarter than 2-year old toddlers and with a very primitive social structure compared to modern humans. Still, fossils offer unquestionable evidence for the presence of humans in both regions, starting a million years ago.
The fact that humans arrived in Europe and China first is an indicator of the “head start” phenomenon. Though the distribution of wealth in the modern day is socioeconomic, political and environmental, the human desire to build, invent, bond and conquer, rooted in those ancient, primitive inhabitants of China and Europe during the Pleistocene Epoch; since humanity, every single one of us, came from a common ancestor in Africa, those instincts are in our genes and passed down as “genetic memories,” as I will describe later. This all boils down to the very byword of evolution and capitalism: competition. It is because of Darwinian evolution and human colonization of lands outside of Africa that made it inevitable that some societies would be rich, and others poor. Total equality is impossible. To explain the rise of civilization in Europe, we will need to look at the whole of European history in four phases:
-Prehistoric Europe and Ancient Europe
1. PREHISTORIC and ANCIENT EUROPE: From Caves to Rome
Europe during the Ice Age was a harsh, unforgiving place; winter temperatures on the northern plains often reached -50o Celsius, with feet of snow and wind chills that plummeted to -100 degrees Celsius, it seemed impossible that anything could survive in this savage climate, but Europe was nothing short of a winter wonderland for mega-fauna and humanity alike. There were mammoths, thousands of them, marching across the Siberian tundra and the wintry lowlands of Europe in the fall and winter, and feeding on the endless sea of grass and flowers where the North Sea is today; the ice had locked up so much water in the poles that sea levels were 500 feet lower than they are today during the summer. Accompanying the massive, shaggy-coated elephants, there were giant deer, also known as the Irish Elk, although they were found all over Europe, not just Ireland, musk oxen, Saiga antelopes, giant European bison, wolves, huge European lions and colossal hyenas, the last two retreated back to Africa once the ice melted. The most critical aspect of this era, about 30,000 years ago, was the arrival of the first modern humans in Europe, the Aurugnacian tribes. These were not the first humans to arrive in Europe; that honor belongs to the Neanderthals, a human species adapted for a cold-weather climate and considerably more primitive than modern humans. These Neanderthals likely bred with modern humans, as genetic evidence provided in 2010 suggests that 1-4% of European and Eurasian humans share DNA with Neanderthals, which occurred somewhere on the order of 80,000-50,000 years ago. Eventually, however, modern human beings likely displaced the Neanderthals and driven into extinction, although there are many theories on exactly what triggered their demise. One other view suggests that trees, not competition, were the exterminating agents for the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals were largely confined to open space and plains, which were very common during the Ice Age. As the ice melted, however, the trees began taking the place of the steppes, driving the Neanderthals into extinction for lack of habitat and competition with modern humans. Whatever the reason, modern humans now stood alone as the new masters of the European continent. Still, however, there was no real “civilization” in the modern sense. More than 99% of human history had us in a hunter-gatherer existence, with no towns, farms or cities. Starting around 11,000 BC, however, as the Pleistocene Epoch began to wind down, humanity’s behavior changed dramatically. After hunting all the large animals in Europe to extinction, and the climatic warming trend, humanity had no choice but to alter its lifestyle and become “Man the farmer” as opposed to “Man the hunter.” Around 10,000 years ago, the first evidence of towns and communities appear in the Middle East; the oldest known human structure is the Tower of Jericho, in modern-day Israel. Dating from around the end of the last Ice Age, the Tower of Jericho is a massive stone monument that dates from 8000 B.C., one that would have taken more than 40-50 years to build. Other than the fact that the tower is so big, the purpose, according to archaeologists at Tel Aviv University in Israel, was for astrological or social purposes. It is positioned in such a way that the “proto-city” that it marked would have been illuminated radiantly by the Sun on the Summer Solstice and darkened by shadows of the nearby mountains on the Winter Solstice, acting as a solar calendar for practical uses, but it was also a symbol of power, to encourage the townspeople to work hard and achieve prosperity. In sociology, this is one of the critical steps taken towards true civilization; with the concept of “hard work pays off,” this triggered a new kind of competition other than the Darwinian struggle to survive. As well as competing with other species for food and resources, humans now began to compete with each other in a Darwinian manner. The desire to obtain more than your rival or make a better life for yourself became the primary goal of humanity, rather than just simply surviving. In that sense, not only do organisms evolve and change over time, societies evolve in almost exactly the same way. Slowly but surely, human society began to expand into an area that later became known as the Fertile Crescent; or “Mesopotamia.” This “Land between Two Rivers,” was perhaps the most productive environment ever encountered by humans, and the closest place to paradise that could ever be found on Earth, other than the mini-continents of New Zealand and Madagascar, which weren’t settled until much later. Because the Middle Eastern climate was so much wetter than it is today, everything from the Jordan River east to Pakistan and parts of India was not a desert, but a warm, wet, lush and vibrant series of rivers, swamps and huge lakes, centered on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern-day Iraq. There would have been hundreds of species of birds, many now extinct, Sivatherium, or a now-extinct giraffe, hundreds of species of fish, some huge, such as the Nile Perch and Vundu Catfish, mammals, insects and invertebrates. The temperature would have hovered around 90o Fahrenheit and rain would have been in great abundance. In what is now the Sahara Desert, cave paintings show people swimming in huge rivers that no longer exist, vast plains of grass supporting elephants, rhinos and other African wildlife. So rich was this region that many scientists believe that the earliest settlers formed the Garden of Eden story in the Old Testament, based off of this location. In that manner, the human race took another step towards civilization: bonding and sharing ideas and beliefs. Religion and faith were the first human ideas that created bonds between humans. Psychologically speaking, this pertains to evolution in the fact that religion is nothing more than an evolved tool used to bind likeminded individuals under one ideal. With the desire to compete for wealth and unity between groups of humans, nations, states and empires became possible. Humanity was about to embark on its journey. The Great Leap Forward would begin, and Europe would never be the same.
The first major European and North African settlements were around the Mediterranean, with modern humans arriving there about 8000 years ago. There, they encountered spectacular fauna, such as 7-foot long, 120-lb flightless swans, pygmy hippos, waist-high elephants and enormous eagles. Islands like Crete and Cyprus, as well as the Balkan Peninsula became the cradle for some of the grandest civilizations ever seen. At that point, however, the first true Empire was Ancient Sumer. Headquartered in modern-day Baghdad, the Sumerians were a vast empire of farmers, who had mastered agriculture around 5,000 years ago; agriculture was not the only Sumerian invention; the other two, the wheel and writing, were also critical to humanity’s later successes and the evolution of prosperity and society. Most importantly for the development of an economy, the Sumerians bartered, that is, trade, but no currency. Goods traded could range from livestock to slaves. What was truly amazing about the Sumerians was their architecture. Around 5,000 years ago, the city of Ur, in modern-day Baghdad, became, at the time, the most powerful society ever. Ur’s centerpiece was the ziggurat, or a step pyramid used for worship. These ziggurats were the centerpieces of various urban areas, called city-states; the city was its own country. Even though each city-state was occupied by Sumerians, these city-states weren’t always cohesive. Each city-state followed different policies and directions, and sometimes the city-states even fought wars; the first large-scale battles in human history. Prior to the Sumerians, war was usually conducted on a very small scale, with one tribe of hunter-gatherers fighting with another over a dead mammoth, for example. Now there were things to protect! Thus, a critical aspect of human and especially European society evolved: warfare. Indeed, the Sumerians did fight wars with marauding invaders, such as the Semitic-speaking peoples of the Akkadian Empire, who conquered Sumer in 2270 B.C. but ousted by the Sumerians, forming the Third Dynasty of Ur. The first known city, however, was the city of Eridu, founded in 5400 B.C, in modern-day Iraq. By that point, archaeologists like Gwendolyn Leick hypothesize that Eridu was formed at the union of three separate ecosystems, supporting three distinct lifestyles, which came to a diplomatic agreement about access to fresh water in a desert environment. There is no evidence of any armed conflict over this most precious of resources, so that can be ruled out. The oldest agrarian settlement known seems to have been based upon intensive subsistence irrigation agriculture derived from the Samarra culture to the north, characterized by the building of canals, and mud-brick buildings. The fisher-hunter cultures of the Arabian littoral were responsible for the extensive middens along the Arabian shoreline, and may have been the original Sumerians. They seem to have dwelt in reed huts. The third culture that contributed to the building of Eridu was the nomadic Semitic pastoralists of herds of sheep and goats living in tents in semi-desert areas. All three cultures seem implicated in the earliest levels of the city. The urban settlement was centered on an impressive temple complex built of mudbrick, within a small depression that allowed water to accumulate.
Kate Fielden reports “The earliest village settlement (c.5000 BC) had grown into a substantial city of mudbrick and reed houses by c.2900 BC, covering 8-10 ha (20-25 acres). By c.2050 BC the city had declined; there is little evidence of occupation after that date. Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the site underlie the unfinished Ziggurat of Amar-Sin (c.2047–2039 BC). The finding of extensive deposits of fishbones associated with the earliest levels also shows a continuity of the Abzu cult associated later with Enki and Ea. This apparent continuity of occupation and religious observance at Eridu provide convincing evidence for the indigenous origin of Sumerian civilization.”
The decline of Sumer was a result of a climate and population shift northward; one major problem was salinity in the soil near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers making irrigation and farming impossible, as well as the rise of the Babylonian Empire under Hammurabi. Babylon was perhaps one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world, but its most important contribution to the evolution of society was its system of law. Prior to the rise of Babylon, “law” and “legality” were decided by primitive methods that had no real way for defining or discouraging crime and administering effective punishment. For example, someone accused of theft might have their hand thrust into boiling water. If the burn healed quickly, they were innocent, if not, they were guilty. Such justice was reasoned as the gods passing judgment on the accused, and there wasn’t even legal theory at that point. There were no trials, no arguments, no cases and no lawyers, just “the gods had spoken.” Hammurabi, however, created the first recognizable, albeit brutal legal code, called “The Hammurabi Code.” This stated that “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” stating that whatever a criminal did, he would have the same thing done to him as he did to the victim of the crime. In many ways, our modern system of crime and punishment still borrows from the ancient Babylonian laws, in the sense that the punishment must always fit the crime and that judges are used to interpret the law before making a decision, which was also introduced in the Babylonian Empire.
This, of course, begs a question: How did humanity become intelligent enough to form nations and empires in the first place? Again, we turn to evolution and genetics. Essentially, Darwin’s theory states that environmental conditions influence and result in the mutations that trigger evolutionary change. The missing piece, however, is the exact cause of the extremely drastic mutations, these occur directly after mass extinctions; as well as the “Cambrian Explosion,” in most cases, mutagens cause these anomalies on a gradual scale, things such as radiation, DNA errors, and viruses cause mutations, but these take millions of years to evolve into new species. After a mass extinction, however, evolution rate speeds up dramatically, with an entirely new biosphere evolving in less than a million years, in some cases. However, when one looks at fossil evidence, the situation becomes rather clear, when one looks at the “Big 5 Mass Extinctions,” the Ordovician-Silurian, Late Devonian, Permian-Triassic, Triassic-Jurassic, and the infamous K-T boundary, which wiped out the dinosaurs, the species that evolve immediately after the disaster occurs are, from fossilized records, very similar. These “disaster taxa,” as they are known, diversify into various forms very rapidly; in each mass extinction, we see a surge of new species over a period of less than 2 million years, the Ordovician-Silurian extinction saw the rise of land-dwelling organisms, the Late Devonian triggered the rise of the tetrapods, the Permian led to the rise of dinosaurs, the Mid-Triassic-Jurassic extinction saw the rise of enormous land vertebrates, and the K-T led to a diversification of mammals. No species evolves specifically to survive a mass extinction, but the survivors evolved to fill the niches of those that perished. However, these patterns are an interesting anomaly. What’s happening is that the disaster DIRECTLY TRIGGERS mutations, as in, cataclysmic abiotic factors, such as disasters, triggering genetic anomalies that cause evolution. Not just that, the magnitude of the diversification and change is directly correlated with the size of the disaster and the scope of the disaster is determined by the level of diversity in the biosphere immediately preceding the cataclysm, and the resulting change is directly proportionate to the severity of the cataclysm. For example, the Snowball Earth, where glaciers covered the earth more than 700 million years ago, possibly resulted in the ‘Cambrian Explosion;” the point where complex, multicellular life evolved out of protoplasmic slime through a series of genetic bottlenecks, the survivors would have evolved into complex life. Another theory that could also fit into the explanation of the ‘Explosion” is just that: a huge volcanic explosion on the sea floor surged calcium, a necessary mineral to build skeletons, into the water. The Cambrian Explosion, however, could have also been generated by other cataclysms; however, this depends on how “cataclysm” is defined, it could be an abiotic disaster, such as a volcano, Ice Age or bolide, but it could also be a biotic one, such as a mass-emergence of new species as a result of a colossal environmental shift. This also explains why huge species “dynasties” occur, such as the dinosaurs, which existed from the beginning of the Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous. What I see is that the disasters are a cyclical agent of evolution, for example, the disaster triggers a mass extinction, the survivors radiate rapidly into a massive, diverse biosphere, until “over-diversification” creates too many specialized species, compromising the biosphere’s integrity, and triggering another mass die-off after a random cataclysm, every 60 million years or so, so we usually see the inter-extinction period lasting for that period of time before the biosphere hits critical mass. The cycle then starts again. Disasters wipe the slate clean when the planet is “sick,” as in, has too many species. In nature, being too big is never a good thing. Your population becomes vulnerable to a disaster that your species can’t survive, also, being too diverse triggers the same kind of vulnerability, as we have seen, the 5 major mass extinctions, immediately preceding them, the biodiversity on the planet was abnormally high, especially during the Permian-Triassic “Great Dying.” The Permian biosphere was the most diverse the planet had ever seen, and the disaster, the breakup of Pangaea, the supercontinent, which ended this grand world, was just as spectacular. The book “Future is Wild” predicts another extinction on this scale 100 million years from now, this time FORMING the supercontinent Pangaea Ultima. Also, the scale of the extinction triggered such extreme mutations in the survivors that dinosaurs, heavily modified reptiles, became so successful that they ruled the Earth for 150 million years, until another extinction started the whole cycle again. Therefore, the basic “Cycle of Existence” is:
– Stagnation of the Biosphere
Each of these steps leads directly to the next one. This basic process is behind the whole process of evolution, the engine of the great machine, if you will. It is a possible explanation for all mass extinctions, the fact that catastrophes, not just influencing evolutionary change, actually are mutagens themselves. This also has considerable influence on genetics; if we understand what causes “accelerated evolution” as a result of cataclysms, we can trace mutations to their origin, and theoretically reproduce the un-mutated DNA. Since mutations don’t destroy genes, and only modify them, it is possible, once we manage to crack any organism on earth’s genome, we could make a map of all previous members of the clade that the current extant species belongs to, creating an effective genetic catalog of EVERY ORGANISM EVER, with the power to re-generate their DNA with an artificial transcription enzyme, allowing us to revive any species in the planet’s history. By 2050, this may be a reality. We would be able, over many generations, be able to turn a species into something else through “artificial evolution,” create drugs that alter our DNA, giving us the ability to generate electricity from our bodies, for example, cure any genetic disease or pathogen, or back-engineer a species that had gone extinct millions of years ago. The ultimate goal, however would be to create human life in this way, and even create a new planet, with an explosion of life to match the Cambrian Age. My personal goal is to create an individual that possessed the normal human attributes, except with strange, ultra-advanced powers and abilities, generated by brain restructuring; however, we’d need to completely understand the genome, brain structure, cell structure and every other bodily system that a standard human being possesses before this could even be attempted. The individual would look physically attractive, smart, and talented, essentially the “perfect person.” Also, non-human “super species” are possible, such as ones that are smarter, faster, reproduce faster and more powerful than we are, only one would be created, to prevent this species from ever reproducing. In 550 years, we might even have the pharmaceutical and genetic technology to create a new biosphere, as in, clone, modify and create entirely new “man-made” species to inhabit our planet, and evolve just as naturally-occurring species do. We’ve already created artificial cells in laboratories, ones that live and carry out life functions just like normal, naturally-occurring cells, the same cells that evolved out of minerals and carbon-bases more than 3.5 billion years ago. We could create any organism we desire in any form; however, even beginning this process would not be possible at least for another century, at least. To completely map every genome and every organ system for every organism ever would take more than 550 years, as current budget and research speed is concerned; however, if some crisis were to demand an acceleration of this development, it could be done in less than 50. This is the kind of science that Dr. Mengele of Nazi Germany, and Stalin’s doctors in WWII performed, however, they didn’t even come close to succeeding; even now, this technology will not exist for a considerable time. However, in the far future, by this I mean 550 years, we would be able to identify and cure any genetic illness in any species, cure all viral infections by attacking their DNA, and completely eliminate most pathogen-related illnesses. Pharmacists will be able to create drugs that alter human DNA, create new types of gene therapy and also anti-cancer drugs that don’t harm healthy cells. If this succeeds, humanity will become nearly invincible as a species. That aside, however, this is the case in most normal scenarios, but now, with the “Sixth Extinction,” caused by Mankind, raging, this theory is changed. How do we fit into this equation? Simple. We are a cataclysm ourselves. Our species has wiped out more than 30% of the planet already, equivalent to the Ordovician-Silurian extinction, and the worst may yet come. By 2100-2200, perhaps even earlier, scientist Michio Kaku predicts, our species will have built a society where technology will have influenced the world so much that it begins to alter the very nature of society, as well as the rise of new technology, such as this genetic market hypothesis, which could trigger a war between nations on a scale that no one has ever seen. Such a conflict would be just as devastating as any asteroid impact, with every country in Europe, Russia, the U.S., and most of the other world powers involved as well fighting over the technology and using it to colossal effect. It would be a horror show, with millions dying from one battle and a return to trenches and concentration camps, this time with ultra-modern technology. If that happens, this research will not ever come to fruition. Our technology would prove to be our undoing. The conflict would likely wipe us out, ending the cataclysm and allowing nature to pick up the pieces. By 2100, our own activities will make the planet sick from industry and development, with technologies such as the genetic drugs becoming so advanced that we cannot control them, if not that, ourselves. Interestingly; our own technology is the only thing that could possibly destroy our species completely. Bolide impacts, super eruptions, plagues and Ice Ages would all kill a lot of people and even our population out, but humanity itself would not die, technology would allow us to endure in some way, shape or form. Technology is a double-edged sword. To wipe us out, there would have to be a war between multiple superpowers on the scale of the U.S.A. and the USSR; this war would be the end, it would be Armageddon for our species…but others would rise to take our place. However, what caused us to evolve in the first place was a cataclysm as well. The Ice Age, which lasted for most of the Pleistocene, was the cataclysm that triggered the rise of our intelligence as a survival tactic, but in effect created a “flaw,” that sowed the seeds of the next cataclysm, which brings me to “flaws.” Every species has a “flaw,” a vulnerability that is eventually exposed by the environment, driving the species into oblivion. Ironically, it is our very Ice Age-survival tool, intelligence that will likely wipe us out, because we can use it to destroy our environment through hate and desire to obtain and take. For most species, it is a form of isolation, over-specialization or competition that “flaws” them. However, the human tree of existence is far more complicated than a rabbit’s, for example. Our environment influences us to invent technology, and technology influences the environment, changing it, causing us to invent more and more advanced technology. It is this “technology cycle” that is killing the planet. When you add war to this cycle, you see a definite pattern of problems. In addition to the traditional Cycle of Existence, we see the human one here:
-More advanced technology
-Extinction (as a result of the cataclysm.)
Knowing this, we see the roots of prosperity and poverty, war and peace, love and hate and everything humanity does or is. This book will delve into each of these theories and prove that, just like anything else in nature, everything’s connected, from the utterly non-human, gigantic, vicious Scolopendra centipedes that can prey on anything that they can catch, including mice, bats, birds, frogs, snakes, other centipedes and even fish, to the huge Scarab and Stag Beetles, some of which are longer than a man’s hand, the giant Titan Beetle and Macrodontira cervicornis, to the spectacular Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing and bizarre Poodle Moth, and all other 1.8 million known organisms, to humans.
MEDIEVAL EUROPE: The Power and the Glory!
What do you think of when you think of the medieval Europe? Knights, ladies, chivalry and Crusades are probably your answer. The truth, however, is that, far from being a backward, stupid, ignorant and religiously-fixated society, the Middle Ages are among the most important period in Western history. Almost everything in the past 700 years was founded in the Middle Ages. Universities, degrees, medicine, science, literature, language, politics, culture, all originated in the Middle Ages, and even more surprisingly, the Middle Ages were far more advanced than anything the Roman Empire could have mustered: fireplaces, buttons, glasses, sailing, compasses, printing press, you name it, and France was the center of this world. France, and its royal house in the 14th century, has tremendous influence in culture, education and art, French was the most commonly-spoken language in Europe, and even English had roots in French, which in turn had roots of German. Paris was the education capital of Europe, and Spain, Portugal and England were essentially French satellites, conquered or at least influenced by Franco-German invaders. The 100-Years’ War, which actually lasted for more than 120 years, was a struggle for mastery of Europe between the French Valois kings and the English House of Plantagenet, which, incidentally, was ruled by descendants of the Normans, a French people. It was amongst the bloodiest conflicts of the medieval world, lasting from 1337-1453, and nearly destroying both France and England, with the English War of the Roses starting and lasting from 1455-1485, placing the Tudor Dynasty on the throne of England and culminating in the establishment of England as a European Great Power, which it remains today. Slowly but surely, Imperial European and even Modern European society was built in medieval Europe, with methods of war, weaponry, and many other innovations that make up the three global powers, the U.S., Europe and China today. Many would argue that Europe has the greatest technology and science the world has ever seen, has created some of the most incredible art ever, and is the grandest example of scholasticism in human history. The E.U. is the epitome of technology and science, as well as human rights and social mobility, even though its economy was in a recession in the early 2010s. The death penalty is banned in every E.U. member state; everyone has a legal right to universal health care, a job, a good education, a pension and retirement fund, as well as all the freedoms America enjoys, which is absolutely incredible, given Europe’s hellish past. All is not well, however, in the year 2012. The entire global economy appears to be on the brink of collapse; if this financial malaise continues, Société Générale, a French economic think tank worries that the muddle-through approach used by Europe will mutate into something much worse: rising tensions, an angry populace, social unrest and political tension. Eventually, by 2024, the same think tank has found that the E.U., the wealthiest, most advanced and most respected economy in the world prior to the recession will simply run out of money. According to Credit Suisse’s Soss, based on current trajectories, in 2024 all European federal tax revenue will go to entitlement spending and interest payments. Nothing else. The destruction of the Euro will lead to the demise of the U.S. dollar and trigger a collapse in China. There won’t be a single country on Earth that is not damaged by this collapse. Riots, political tension, enraged citizens and other forms of unrest could lead to a resurgence of Fascism and communism, revolutions or flat-out civil war. The entire global order would be restructured and rebuilt…and, as of this writing, this is possible in just 12 years. That, however, is inevitable. As Jared Diamond pointed out in his award-winning book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, the most common feature about societies is the most constant one: collapse. It is in human nature to compete with and out-perform one another, which leads to the rise of empires, racism, war and economics. Eventually, a society becomes simply too big to support itself and collapses, it is destroyed in war or buries itself alive because of irresponsible decisions made by its leaders. A good example is that of the Roman Empire; during its heyday in the 3rd century A.D., it covered most of Europe and the Fertile Crescent, and held sway over a third of the world’s population. Rome wasn’t just the center of the ancient world, Rome was the world. “All roads lead to Rome” wasn’t too far from the truth. There was something about the Roman world so different from any society before it or since its collapse. For hundreds of years, Rome kept the peace in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa; so powerful was the Roman Army that most people living in Rome had never seen a Legionnaire, as they were all on the borderlands, defending Rome from barbarian invasions, and the Emperor’s power was so absolute that anything that threatened or subverted the authority of Rome or the Emperor was completely and utterly destroyed. The only leader that came even remotely close to Rome’s style of authoritarianism was Peter the Great of Russia in the early 18th century. Rome’s collapse was explained by all three factors, it was too large to maintain, so it was divided in half, the West was destroyed by German warriors under Odoacer, killing Romulus Augustus in 476 A.D., and the continued insistence on Roman generals in spreading the Roman Army too thin. As a result, the Eastern Empire survived from around A.D. 500 to A.D. 1453. Society in the former Western Roman Empire would not recover until the Power and the Glory of Florence, from A.D. 1138 to A.D. 1737, in a period known as the Renaissance. Recall that the Middle Ages were still a time of innovation and technological development, but the real medieval era was, thanks to France and Italy, a time of great construction, innovation and learning, culminating in the Renaissance and paving the way for Imperial and later Modern Europe’s ascension, as well as the U.S.
The biggest point emphasized here by the fall of Rome and the colossal shock that engulfed Europe from the Empire’s collapse is that no society is too big to fail, even our own modern one. If the European Union implodes, it will fulfill Jared Diamond’s theory, and will be the biggest fall since Rome. The entire map of Europe will be redrawn, and trigger a 5th European era, a post-modern, that is, a post-Stage 4 Europe. Again, we see the cataclysmic cycle of evolution in society. A society is born out of the ruins of an old one, grows, hits a peak and then collapses, and the cycle begins again. After the culmination in the Middle Ages with the Renaissance, the era of Imperial Europe began with Columbus’ arrival in Haiti, and ended in 1992 with the total collapse of the USSR. For 500 years, Europe was the center of the world system, and the center of society. After WWI and WWII, however, the society hit a cataclysm, and then slowly died until the fall of the last global European power, the Soviet Union. The era of Modern Europe began in 1993, and peaked in 2007, with the global analysis rating the E.U. as “the pinnacle of civilization creating unrivalled prosperity.” Now, this brief era of prosperity is on a path to total collapse, as a result of irresponsible leadership. Even in 2007, beneath that polished exterior, a dark, debt-ridden secret existed. Countries such as Greece and Italy were run by elites and a few ultra-rich banking families that gave out loans for a variety of reasons, many of them having nothing to do with business. This “sub-prime” loaning and granting loans to people who would normally never qualify for a mortgage jacked the price of housing up nearly 500% in the time between 2005 and 2009. The same thing happened in the United States. Eventually, people couldn’t afford to pay off their debt or their mortgages when the “bubble” burst, leading to the utter and complete destruction of the market; as even though the cost of a home was rising, people’s incomes were not. Greece is bankrupt, as are Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal, and elsewhere in the E.U., disturbing and horrifying scenes that seem like something you might see in the poor parts of Africa are common. In Greece, more than 30% of Greeks are homeless, more than 50% of businesses are closed, and the unemployment rate is close to 35%. People in Spain are burying money in their backyard. Italy is facing a growing hunger problem. Germany will soon be unable to support the E.U. without bankrupting itself. Throughout the European Union, graffiti in the form of the Hammer and Sickle of communism, swastikas and anarchist symbolism is popping up on nearly every abandoned building. In just 5 years, the E.U. has gone from “the pinnacle of civilization” to a miserable hellhole. What comes next is anyone’s guess. All we know is that evolution is responsible for everything humanity has, does or thinks as a species. We are not invincible, however; after all, we are only human. Evolution and competition are double-edged swords for the human species, as is competition’s product, capitalism. Capitalism requires responsible leadership and for consumers to buy, work and compete with others. If a strong leader who simply does what needs to be done isn’t elected, this mess is the result. It is that simple. Responsibility equals freedom and prosperity.
Prosperity, however, is a product of nature. For a country to prosper, it must have an abundance of natural resources, or it must fight to obtain them. Therefore, it is no surprise that the largest countries by area and population are also the wealthiest. The wealthiest areas on Earth, as defined by futurist Jorgen Randers, are, and will continue to be, the U.S., China, the OECD minus U.S., basically Europe, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and the BRISE, Brazil, Russia, India and the other emerging economies, such as Ukraine and Turkey. Even if the European Union collapses, Europe will still be the center of technological development; Randers predicts that the U.S. and China will buy millions of new patents from the European countries, with Europe retaking its pinnacle as the most technologically advanced society on Earth. If the E.U. dissolves, Germany will automatically dominate Europe economically, and it very well might create an alliance of smaller satellite states to protect its resources, such as former parts of the Old German Empire, parts of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria and perhaps even Belgium or The Netherlands while promoting German-European political and individual unity. Notice the emphasis on resources; and the fact that all four of these regions have huge populations, advanced technology and abundant natural or human resources. The four largest countries by land area are the United States, Canada, Russia and China, and naturally, they are among the world’s wealthiest.
We survive for now, but I fear that the sins of our past have damned us to extinction.
From the video game “Sins of a Solar Empire”