Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Theory of Devolution

Man has come so far. 5 million years ago we broke off from our cousins the apes and showed no sign of turning back. Steadily we have evolved, discovering the temporary limits of knowledge and physical feats of the human imagination. From building the pyramids, to understanding relativity, to creating iPods, intelligence has allowed us to create a world which would be surreal to our ancestors.

The importance of cultivating intelligence is pretty clear, and therefore we have put into place a system which is meant to teach intelligence to the youngest members of society in hope that they will be able to carry on the torch of innovation and test the boundaries of life. Recently however, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the effectiveness or necessity of traditional schooling in producing innovative minds at the highest level. Everyone from Suli Breaks, the spoken word poet behind the “Why I Love Education but Hate School” YouTube hit, to the highly esteemed Jacque Fresco have questioned the viability of the current institutions as they stand today.

To some extent I can’t help but disagree with them, as most conventionally successful people have been through the traditional system as we know it and achieved great things. That statistics are overwhelming. Nevertheless, the one peripheral question which arose in my mind was this: has intelligence been the only thing in helping us get here?

Here’s the problem: where’s the room for innate animal instincts? After all, that’s all we are, glorified apes who broke away from the family. Bearing in mind this is simply an observational response to my own thoughts, I am inclined to wonder if there’s a fine and delicate balance between brutal animal instincts and evolutionary intelligence. Some of the greatest thought leaders of humanity have not only been intelligent thinkers, but have embodied certain qualities such as competitiveness, ambition, and unwavering and unshakeable commitment to their goals. They laughed in the face of fear and failure, and simply strived to make their unfathomable dreams something which have become social norms for us everyday. From Martin Luther King to Richard Branson, many men have risked everything which was normal for them, including their own lives in order to pursue a higher goal. Now how many of us can truly say we would stand by a goal even if it meant the death of us?

Accepting death for a goal which others may not understand, and being able to pursue that goal relentlessly, are both characteristics which are likened to the warrior instinct at the rawest level. We all know the tales of the Japanese Samurai and how they would rather die or commit seppuku than lose a battle. At first glance, to someone who believes themselves to be intelligent, this would seem extremely foolish and downright pointless. I mean, you live to fight another day, right?

In a recent article for Time magazine, Jeffery Kluger spoke about how many serial killers have an imbalance of genetics which causes them to act aggressively and embark upon paths of terror and destruction. Colloquially, this imbalance is known as the “Warrior Gene”. It’s this sort of terminology and connotation which we award to the word ‘warrior’, which has led us to shun these primal instincts as crude and uncivilised in the increasingly sanitised world we live in.

But what is warrior instinct? Is it not simply the ability to execute the task you’ve been trained to do at the right time without fearing for death or any other obstacle?  It’s the ability that you can still carry out your duty under pressure, something which is probably innate in all human beings, but has been steadily been weaned out of us under the veil of civilisation. If we take a look at our closest cousins, the chimpanzee-who share about 99% of our DNA- on average, they are stronger, faster and do better under stress than humans do, and often risk life and limb to prove a point however small it may be. Perhaps it’s a sign of evolution, or maybe it’s a sign of devolution.

Nowadays, this sort of stubborn courage is likened  mainly to fighters, or the modern day warriors. Many fighters will avidly state that they will risk their life to prove they are the best. Unfortunately, the way it’s portrayed in the media, is quite negative and typically cage fighters have a rep for being brutal animals and therefore inherently, the qualities they so avidly embody, are slapped with negative stigmatisms. But the focus here is that the fighter is already putting his body on the line in order to achieve an often very personal goal and therefore it seems absurd that this goal is worth risking life and limb for. But let’s take a second and view someone who is truly great in their own arena. Perhaps some of you thought of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or even BeyoncĂ©. The first two already gave their lives for their causes. Granted, they had causes which were somewhat universal, but it does not take away from the fact that they were willing to put everything on the line to achieve the goal. Even if we took BeyoncĂ© for example, there are countless stories of her simply disregarding her own health and well being in order to achieve a certain goal. I’m sure if we took a poll of the best athletes, academics, musicians and people, we would find that the vast majority would embody all these characteristics even insofar as death, in order to fulfil their goals. Will Smith once famously said, “I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. You will not outwork me, period!”

Now don't get me wrong, i'm not saying to be great you have to die, but its simply the clearest and crudest example which i can offer in this instance. 

To put it into perspective, don’t all people who achieve great things, work well under pressure and execute their knowledge when it’s necessary? Whether you are an academic or a professional fighter, the common factor is the drive to be better against all odds.

Therefore the question remains: by downplaying such instincts within our nature, are we limiting the process of evolution? In a world where everything is convenient and you pretty much have everything at the touch of a button, are we at risk of losing what brought us this far in the first place. Is there still a place for the struggle and strife of a human?

Intelligence is one thing which each and every human has been blessed with. It’s how you use it and apply it which has brought us this far. But in my opinion, we cannot ignore the raw instincts so many great people past and present embody which have aligned so perfectly with their intelligence and allowed them to make a dream a reality, or turn a simple thought into a tangible object.

In that respect I agree with Fresco and Suli Breaks that perhaps the school system does have an inherent problem insofar as the mechanisms it uses to educate children. Perhaps these same mechanisms have the ability to wean out certain characteristics gradually over time and teach you and I how to follow instructions instead of questioning and believing.  

This isn’t supposed to convince you that we are worse off than we were 100 years ago as that would obviously be foolhardy and ignorant, nor is it meant to slander the current school system in any way, it’s simply an attempt to get you to question what your own delicate balance is. Have the heart of a lion, and live your life as a champion. 

By Viren Samani (@VirenSamani1)  


  1. Hey man just wanted to say that I have been reading lots of Nietzsche, and contrary to the many negative illusions he has cast around him, he is very much along the same lines as this. I also was starting to come to the same conclusions as you and him, in the respect that our education system treats kids like blank slates who are supposed to be written on by teachers. The problem I have found with my education is that I had to fight to think! And by that I mean i was put in classrooms where you were on the whole told to remember rather than inquire. The system from an early age works to standardise rather than diversify our individual talents and personal interests, it squashes our child like curiosity as we get older and older, and when we have no clue what to do next we are then blasted by those in authority as un creative or mediocre. I don't believe that life should be an endless struggle against all odds and poverty etc, but every individual must be made to face the self, and ask themselves the ultimate question, what am I doing here on this planet, as well as what can I do that I would want to remember and be remembered for? and what was it that I loved when I was a child, in that beautiful timeless trance that is the most pleasant dream? Basically the one subject they need is philosophy... But oh no wait it is the one subject they do not do... I wonder why? Hmm maybe it is to stop us thinking too much!!!?!

    1. Also, just wanted to say thanks for your great articles, I hope you are advertising these they are seriously very good!


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