Animals And Beyond

18 09 2011

Ok, so it’s been a while since I’ve written on here. I find it funny that in order for me to get a good crowd of regular readers, I have to post often, but in order for me to want to post often, I need a good crowd of regular visitors to comment. A bit of irony I guess. Anyways, here is a post I was working on. It was just kind of thrown together quickly, but I think I managed to get a few good points in there. Any comments are welcome. I’d love to get things going again, any suggestions for future topics are welcome.

I wanted to clear a few more things up about the way I see the world. These posts are simply my opinion being expressed, and I do not intend to offend anybody. Some people may be blindly ignorant to things that they just don’t care to learn more about, while others, just haven’t ever had the chance to hear another’s point of view that may or may not interest them.

Todays topic is going to be about animals. But not just any animals, us humans. This may or may not seem like an outrageous claim to you depending on your view of evolution. My view on the matter as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, but for those who haven’t read them yet, is a view that consists of humans as an animal. And I also view evolution as a fact and the mechanism that chooses the changes to adopt, via success or failure to reproduce, is natural selection. If anybody needs a refresher on what that means, let me know in the comments, and I can provide whatever type of source you would like. I can quote definitions, provide links to videos, articles, science references etc. Whatever you prefer as your explanation source, I would be glad to provide. So instead of explaining all of that now, I’ll assume most of you reading this already know what evolution and natural selection is. However, I know many people think they do know, but are completely wrong, or slightly misguided. But that’s what the comments section is for. I will move on now.

When I look at the things that happen in the world, and try to explain them or understand them, the only true way to really look at a lot of human behavior and characteristics, is to watch animal behaviors as well. Many things in the psychology of humans comes from a previous methodology used in our ancient ancestors and other species, and have just simply carried through unknowingly. What kinds of things? Well let’s go over a few interesting and controversial ones.

What is a smile?

First, just for a fun exercise, and to show that we are not so different from our previous great ape ancestors, a group which we are still considered a part of. To most people a smile is just a way of showing you’re happy, excited, interested or just friendly. One very common use of a smile is for photographs, which is likely because of the way we now view smiles. If you haven’t been in the following situation before, just imagine yourself for a second following the footsteps and think about how you might react. Have you ever been walking down the street at night and you see a person coming towards you, and for whatever reason you begin to feel intimidated by them. As you get closer, you wonder how to react assuming they might catch your eye as you pass by them, do you find yourself looking up into their eye and offering a slight smile as you continue to walk by. Or did they offer you the smile?

In looking at animal behavior in apes as well as many other animals, we see a similar thing. The smile itself is usually described as us widening of our mouth and lips to show teeth, in some cases, as many as we can pleasantly show. This same expression in some animals is an expression of fear. You can look up these expressions if you like. An ape showing fear, is very similar to our smile. Obviously, over extensive periods of time, we have adapted our own way of doing it, but in it’s origin, it was a way of expressing to another ape “look I’m afraid of you, so I am of no threat to you”. I’m sure you’ve either done the above example yourself, or have seen it in action. Next time you’re in a mall or public place just watch people walking by each other who are strangers that happen to catch eyes. It’s not a full on tooth display of a smile, but our own versions that have been adapted to fit our current uses. In some cases, we use smiles as a way of attempting to show interest in others, but this also is likely a newer social adaptation of the expression. So the next time you are having a photo taken, and they say “SMILE!” just reply, “but I’m not afraid”.  Now onto some bigger issues involving differences and similarities.

Is homosexuality normal?

This is a widely controversial subject among many countries and cultures of the world. And even in the most advanced societies of today, there is still a very large and discriminate population that views homosexuals as unnatural. HOWEVER! In other species the term homosexual doesn’t usually get used, they tend to use same sex pairings. But for the purpose of this blog entry, I will use the term simply as a commonly understood term, and also may use same sex pairings (SSP’s). In most, if not all species where there are a male and female, SSP’s have been seen to exist as more than just a by chance occurrence. For example; see this list here at wikipedia.

This list is not a complete listing of all occurrences, but is an example of how common the behavior is. So yes, homosexual behavior is normal in an animalistic behavioral sense. Society has yet to come to this conclusion as a whole, but I think it’s only a matter of time before there is some kind of movement to raise awareness and understanding on the matter. A large part of the problem is the lack of education on the matter that happens during schooling, and the fact that many religions frown upon same sex marriage and couples. Similar to racism, people just tend to not truly understand the issue. Homosexuality in humans, or any other animal for that matter, is not something that is chosen by the individual. It is a genetic difference that sets that sexual preference within that individual. I guess you could argue that there may in fact be some people who do “choose” to be homosexual, and it is entirely possible, but I’m going to assume that somewhere close to 99.9% of the people living a homosexual life are truly and genetically homosexual. With that said, I’ll move to my next topic of race.

How does race fit in?

Well, race can be somewhat of a loose term. So to set a temporary rule to keep things together in the context of what I’m talking about, I’m referring to skin color, nationality etc. Society and science have different definitions on what race might refer to. So I’m talking about what many might refer to as blacks, whites, hispanics, asians, natives etc. Many groupings of people that are usually described by how they appear on the outside rather than the true inner self. Race is something that when looked at genetically, makes a whole lot of sense. There are genes that have carried on through generations. Also, many reproducing couples will tend to be paired with a person who is generally accepted as another from their race, and this would cause those differences in genes to stay locked in place. But if we step back in time a bit to before the big change in how we as humans are able to travel and expand our genetic borders (ie: airplanes, boats, trains, vehicles in general) we can start to see how races were divided by these visual cues. If we hadn’t advanced so quickly as a whole poplulation, and instead of traveling far and wide mixing our genes with other races, we quite possibly could have eventually ended up becoming different species from one another. In many animals that have variations in their appearances, you can usually explain the differences based on where they tend to live. For example, the Ensatina salamander’s in California split at one point, travelled around both sides of a mountain range forming a horseshoe around the mountains. Along the way they began to look less and less alike, and eventually got to a point where they were unable to interbreed basically forming 2 separate species and several subspecies along the way.

Natural selection tends to put it’s stamp of approval on appearances that give advantages in it’s environment, such as colors to replicate something else that may be seen as dangerous such as bright colors, or shapes and patterns that look similar to other predatory animals. Other differences may be advantageous for reasons such as the climate, camouflage, weather, etc. Any number of things can be considered advantageous to these changes. In humans we have a similar situation. Originally right after the speciation between chimps and humans, we had a lighter skin color, probably similar to someone who now has one black parent and one white. We began to have less body hair, and as a result were subject to more sunlight hitting the skin. Those with darker skin were less likely to be negatively affected and so over generations skin color became darker as the norm. Then we began to migrate north into colder territory, needing more clothing, the darker color wasn’t needed as much and we began to see lighter pigments. And across the globe, the varying degrees of pigments are reflective of the same types of differences. Other characteristics such as height, or hair color have also been explained through similar methods. Early humans were simple, and chose mates based on visual cues such as shape of their body to determine whether they would make a good carrier for their offspring. Or hair colors that stood out as different and in a simple minded early human, could have been perceived as someone special in some way. Sexual preference played a large role in how the differences spread through each part of the world where new grouping migrated and eventually settled. So here all I want to say is that the current races that we see around the globe are just a reflection of previous differences of our environments where our ancestors lived for generations after generations. Again, each individual should be treated as equally as any other. Their race does not reflect anything personal about them other than where their ancestors may have lived and that also is not something we get to choose.

Why am I explaining this?

I guess the point I want to get across is that a very large portion of our behaviors, whether psychological or physical, are possibly derived from earlier times when we weren’t so human at all, or were on our way to becoming the modern humans of today. When we watch the things going on in our world that are culturally driven, we tend to see a lot of misunderstanding and aggression between two different groups. Examples being, blacks and whites fighting over race, heterosexual and homosexual disputes over sexual preference, or male and female arguments over equality. The list could continue in many directions, but the differences that cause them are not something that I think we need to bother disputing. Variety is great. If everyone was the same, in all ways, I doubt we would have advanced to the modern state we are in now. We would have a bunch of people almost like clones, just all doing the same things, thinking the same way, looking the same, so no individual would stand out. And it’s proof in itself that natural selection can and does continue to shape who we are today as modern humans. We shouldn’t be fighting over our differences, because those differences may be gone before we realize. Natural selection has it’s ways of choosing genes that are beneficial to reproduction rates, and it doesn’t choose preference to how society may view the end result.

One last thing as a teaser.

A topic I plan to talk more about is trying to talk a bit about our “Inner Self vs Outer Self”. There are many varieties of how this can play out in who we are, what choices we make in life, and how we are treated which again in turn affects both our inner self, and the choices we then make. While that may sound a bit repetitive and confusing to some, it’s an everyday reality to many people. Think of “in the closet” people, or multicultural people or overweight people. Sometimes what people see is completely different from who that person really is. Rather than trying to explain them all, when really I have no place in saying how a gay man might feel, or an overweight woman might feel, I can talk about multicultural or biracial people. I myself am the fine product of a collection of races/cultures. To be more specific, my mothers parents are of european descent, and my fathers are of african and native descent. With all these things playing into my genetics, how can it affect who I am and the choices I make, or the way I feel when I wake up in the morning. After-all, didn’t I just spend the top portion of this entry talking about how we’re all the same even though we may appear different, or act different? Well it’s a yes and no thing. To briefly explain the fun and exciting paradox, imagine walking down the street and you see 3 men. 1 man has dark skin, the second has tanned skin, and the third has a light skin color. You would assume that these three people are of different backgrounds based on their appearance alone. While this may be true, if you were to ask them what their background was, and then how they feel themselves to be, you could be surprised. 9 times out of 10, you will get the result you expect. But I myself, upon first glance from a majority of the public am a typical caucasian male. I don’t have strong or prominent features that would say otherwise, however I’ve noticed that many black women, or people of middle eastern descent, and on the rare occasion asian descent have thought that I belonged to their cultural or racial grouping. But when it comes to my inner self, it’s a whole different story. How I view myself, is completely different from the outside appearance, and this has caused many dilemmas in my life. I will discuss this more in one of my next posts. For now we will call this a teaser, and I hope you are hooked and want to hear more about the awkward life of a confused boy.





2 responses

19 09 2011
Monday Spiritual Joke #30 - Various Ideas On Many Subjects -

[…] DogOne of the Boys: Men’s Accessories Done RightB.o.B. at Barton HallUsing Video for BloggingAnimals And Beyond var analyticsFileTypes = ['']; var analyticsEventTracking = 'enabled'; var _gaq = _gaq || []; […]

25 03 2012
A Dumb Ape

Just noticed this random comment, not sure what it means really, but I’m sure it was very insightful. LOL. Thanks for reading.

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