My doctor said something to me the other day which got me to thinking.
When I was in the office on Monday, getting my BP medicine, he was explaining how high BP is really nothing more than a risk factor, and not something fatal in and of itself. He explained how some people live for years and years with very high BP and die happy and very, very old. He also pointed out that some otherwise very healthy people keel over at young ages, having shown no symptoms of any problems at all.
His point was not to make me worry, but to encourage me to just keep on truckin’, and do what I can to mitigate the risk factors that present themselves in my life. After all, he said, “biology doesn’t really care at this point whether you live or die. If you’ve procreated, and nested with your offspring, you’ve fulfilled your biological imperative. After that, it doesn’t matter to human biology if you die immediately or 50 years later.”
Wow. So what is this drive I have to live onward? I got to thinking about it, and the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that the drive to live on, well past the fulfillment of whatever it takes to ensure the survival of the species, is a uniquely human trait, which sets us apart from the rest of nature. Let me explain.
Think about all the species that live on our little planet. Insects, plants, animals…. all of them have one imperative: procreate with the express intent to ensure the survival of the species. Absolutely everything Mother Nature does is geared toward that purpose.
Every plant that lives does so with the sole purpose of flowering and seeding so that another plant can take its place when it dies. The vast majorities of plants wither and die in one season, after flowering and seeding. The next season, replacements sprout from the seeds to repeat the cycle and continue the species. They accomplish this is many different ways, but the biological mission is the same. Farmers remove plants that no longer flower or seed, because they no longer have a biological purpose. They do not produce fruit, from which come seeds, and therefore their purpose is over.
Humans place an esthetic value on plants, and they have uses beyond seeding, such as lumber for building and medicinal uses, and just plain beauty, but those are human values, not nature’s biological concerns. I love to look at a rose, and enjoy the scent, but those are by-products of the biological mechanisms the rose uses to procreate. The rose doesn’t care that it smells good or is pretty. In fact there is a flower which produces one of the most hideous aromas known to mankind, but it does so because that it the scent that attracts the insects which pollinate that flower. Humans would never have one of those flowers in their homes, but biology doesn’t care. The flower procreates, and fulfills the mission.
Insects are the same way. They exist, many of them for less than one day, to procreate. They hatch, grow, consume, and lay eggs, beginning the process anew. Most die soon after. The males of most spider species are killed immediately after fertilizing the female, their reproductive duty having been done. The females live on because they are the egg layers, and it is their job to lay as many eggs as possible to ensure the survival of the species. The female, egg-producing segment of any species is always the most numerous (humans included) because one male can usually fertilize several females (again, humans included, to the chagrin of many human females). There are always exceptions to the rule, such as bees, but their mission is the same: reproduce.
Even the animal kingdom; lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Their existence is also driven by the biological mission of procreating. Think of your family dog or cat. Without population control (spay and neutering), the US would be overrun with dogs and cats. They give no thought to how many offspring is enough, or to how they will be cared for. They just do it because nature drives them too. We’ve all seen dogs and cats in heat: they lose their minds and become different creatures than the ones we’re used to, and the males go nuts over it, because biology drives them to. Its how they survived as a species, before human intervention.
With Mother Nature, it’s usually a numbers game: the more offspring, the better chance some will survive. Think rabbits. Think fish! Just about every non-predatory animal species survives by having large numbers of offspring, because they are always going to lose some population to predation. But not a single one of them does anything with their lives that does not contribute to the biological mission: procreate and ensure the survival of the species, unless humans intervene, such as the case with household dogs and cats.
Even predators, like lions or bears, seem to exist solely to fulfill this mission mandate. They don’t have large numbers of offspring, but they ensure survival differently: by raising and protecting their young until they are able to care for themselves. Then what happens? Do the new adult children hang around and become friends with mom and pop? Not usually. With few exceptions, the new adult males are usually run off from the family unit to start their own unit. Why? Continued existence of the species. They gather their own group of females and begin the process over. There is no other reason.
I’m convinced that every form of life on this planet exists with the sole mission to procreate and fulfill that biological mandate. Every form with one large, notable exception.
Humans, being a part of nature on this planet, do of course have a desire to pro-create. I’d be silly to say we don’t. We are, though, the only species that will take a perfectly healthy and viable unborn offspring, interrupting a perfectly normal pregnancy, and kill it before it’s born, for the sake of convenience. There is no other species on earth that does this. Not one.
Abortion is just not biologically good sense, so mother nature makes no provision for it. Miscarriages, of course, occur in all species, and some animals even eat their young (again, rabbits anyone?), but that is biology at work, not human desire. Not human choice.
Humans are truly unique on this planet. We operate by a different set of rules than the rest of nature. Everything nature does is to ensure the survival of the species. There is very little extraneous behaviour or activity in nature that doesn’t help achieve this goal.
We however, obsess on immortality, when the rest of nature has no inkling of the concept.
We dream of living forever, when most of nature doesn’t even give conscious thought to tomorrow.
We can live lives we consider fulfilling without ever accomplishing the biological mission that is so imperative for the rest of nature.
We can appreciate art, beauty, heroism, and love.
We detest horror, ugliness, tragedy, and hate.
Yet these are things the rest of the inhabitants of our planet do not care about, much less have a concept of.
Why is that? Why, if we are only biological organisms evolved from previous versions of our selves, do we even have an awareness of art? How does art contribute to the mission of procreation and survival of the species? It does not, therefore there should have never evolved a need or appreciation or even awareness of art.
What about heroism? To appreciate the concept of heroism means that we must place value on another person’s life. A hero is someone who has gone above the normal activities of human life, and done something that positively affects the live or lives of other humans, usually by placing themselves in direct danger to do so. How is it biologically efficient for one human to place their own life in danger to save that of another?
Biology would dictate that the would-be hero keep themselves safe so as not to risk two or more lives (think of a herd of elk running through a river: Elk don’t stop to help each other out, they are out for themselves, and will readily climb on top of another elk in order to save themselves). But humans don’t think that way, do we? We value other humans, and many, if not most of us, would willingly place ourselves in danger to help rescue another human. It’s not biologically sound, but it’s what we are driven to do.
How, if we are randomly evolved biological organisms, would anything like the appreciation of a sunset, or the enjoyment of music, or the indefinable, completely unexplainable and indescribable feeling of love, ever “evolve”? They serve no natural purpose, except to help us our enjoy life.
In order for one to enjoy something, there needs to be an awareness of the fact that the thing is finite. No one enjoys air. We breathe it because we must, and it is always there. We enjoy different aromas, or fresh unpolluted air, because it is what? A finite, fleeting experience. Like working in a coffee shop, eventually you stop “enjoying” the fresh smell of coffee all the time, because you become accustomed to it. The finiteness, the fleetingness of the experience is gone.
We humans experience, feel, think about, and do so many things that have absolutely nothing to do with the biological mission of procreation.
We foster friendships simply because we like being with certain people. Animals do not. They form relationships based on a societal hierarchy that has nothing to do with whether they like another animal or not.
We educate ourselves beyond the basic need for life, because of the desire to learn and explore. Animals do not do this at all. Animals do not go over the next hill just to see what’s there. They go over only if they are driven, looking for food or some other basic necessity. There is no curiosity.
Humans are set apart on this world. We are different.
In fact, the very foundation of our nation is contingent on this idea, that humans are set apart, “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights”. In 1775, the King of England was all powerful in his domain. He granted rights and privileges, and delved out punishments, via the authority of the English throne. The US founders essentially went over the King’s head, appealing to the supreme authority, the Creator itself, and claimed that the inalienable rights, which we all hold so dear to our hearts and would never willingly recant, were granted not by the King, but by that same Creator from which the King derived his authority. Our founders claimed the Creator gave them the right and indeed the authority to stand among the worlds nations as equals, and that no one but the Creator had the authority to take that right away.
Interesting that we live in a nation whose very bedrock foundation is built, indeed is absolutely standing solely upon, the concept that we are created; and that there is indeed a god who grants us the rights we claim so dearly; and that we are indeed different and set apart. If these claims are not true, then there is no responsibility or appeal to a higher power, and the bedrock of our society is a false claim of authority. Without these claims being true, American law, indeed the Declaration of Independence and the very Constitution itself have absolutely no authority. Without an implied personal responsibility to, and a receipt of rights from a higher authority, our society would collapse.
And yet, we live in a nation desperately trying to kill off the concept of a creator, by those who insist that the complexity of human existence is the end result of random chance.
The more I look around at the simple evidence in nature and life, the more I am convinced that there is more to this life that meets the eye. There is so much evidence for a creator that it staggers the mind. I wish more people would open their minds and be willing to look at and honestly consider the evidence around them, then reason and judge for themselves, instead of driveling out what someone else tells them to believe.
This all, naturally, given as my ever humble opinion.