We humans tend to think of ourselves as an enlightened species. No question that we are different in some essential respects from the other species with whom we share out little planet. We are, no doubt, the only species that is aware of its mortality, for example, and we are the only species that possesses the ability to imagine. I can imagine myself to be a Great White Shark. And, unlike other species, we believe that our actions, and those of others, have moral consequence; Great White sharks are not bothered with such concerns. These features make us rather unique, but we know all of that thanks to philosophers, Darwin or even if we are reasonably observant and self-reflective.
None of this shocks you. But what I am about to propose might. First, let’s remind ourselves that it as been a long, but necessary, evolutionary slog through the millions of years, up (or down) to the likes Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. There were, among others, hominid species such as Australopithecus, and Homo Erectus (sometimes referred to as Homo Cialis), Homo Habilis, then much later, Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, and the somewhat hubristically named Homo Sapiens.*
We know that only the last of these survives (although there is a guy who comes to the café who looks pretty Neanderthal). We are, we think, the top of the evolutionary tree—in fact, some of us believe that we are the reason, not just of evolution, but of creation itself. We think evolution is over and we’re just waiting around for the Rapture.
So, here comes the shocker I warned you about. I am alleging that evolution ain’t over untilHomo Fat Lady sings.**
I am about to propose that within the species of human beings there has long existed a sub-order, a part of the species that somewhere set off on it own social evolutionary branch, a branch we might call Homo Credulous. Both H. Credulous and H. Sapiens have existed alongside one another for a very long time. Indeed, they have intermarried and their characteristics frequently appear within the same human being. But we do know that for many millennia the version we call H. Credulous held sway over the version we have long called Homo Sapiens.
You can’t tell the difference in these two species by the mere look of them, or by their racial features. Rather you have to listen carefully to they way they express themselves, and that can be in most any subject. Here for example is a [re-creation] of a dialog between a Homo Credulous and a Homo Sapiens, from the same clan, circa 60,000 years ago outside of a cave in Southern France.
HS: [Standing at the mouth of a cave] Looks like rain today, Cred.
HC: Yes, the Sky Spirit will be weeping.
HS: Gimme a break with this weeping Sky Spirit stuff? Haven’t you noticed that every time those dark clouds form and the barometric pressure drops, it rains?
HC: No, the Sky Spirit weeps from the heavens. He weeps because Sap porked Cred’s woman.
HS: Hey, don’t blame me, man; she says you’re a real clunk under the fur. Anyway, that has nothing to do with the rain.
HC: Sap and my woman have pissed off the Sky Spirit, and now it will rain and drive all the animals to Florida and we will have to raise taxes.
HS: That’s bullshit, Cred. You just want to scare the clan because we have a Headman election coming up. Last year you said that we had to attack those Homo Iraqus people down the valley because they worshipped a bad spirit and would come and snuff out our fire.
HC: It is scratched on the Great Stone: To stop the rain you must take your son, Ahak, to the mountain top and cut out his heart with a sharp stone as sacrifice to the Sky Spirit. The Sky Spirit demands it, and tax cuts, too.
HS: Hey, look, Cred. I think the sun is going to shine and it’s not going to rain. You’re screwed, Cred.
This sort of thing has been going ever since. While Homo Sapiens has been endeavoring to apply his rational capacities to unravel the unknowns and mysteries of Nature through science,Homo Credulous has chosen to conjure belief systems that account for existence and the behavior of everything through the actions of unseen supreme beings and battles between imagined forces of good and evil.
The fact is that HC appears to vastly outnumber HS. Most people in the world believe in some sort of deity or unseen forces at work in the world. Superstition and magical thinking are rampant. Belief in narrative creation myths vastly outnumbers comprehension and acceptance of scientific cosmology. Pearly-gated and golden-paved cumulous heavens take precedence over the revelations of Hubble telescope. Astrology trumps Astronomy. Indeed, some of the putatively most “advanced” societies contain the greatest numbers of Homo Credulous. Ironically, the more science advances our understanding of the dimensions of our existence, the greater the resistance to its findings and implications, the greater the threat to their “scriptural” accounts of things.
While mythology (imagination) will and must always be part of the human persona humans become delusional when they accept or make magical and mystical thinking their reality. Consider this from a recent report on Huffington Post:
Anti-abortion activist Lila Rose said at last weekend’s Value Voters Summit that as long as abortions are legal, they should be “done in the public square,” thus disgusting people into action. And then “we might hear angels singing as we ponder the glory of conception.” Rose is a student at UCLA and president of Live Action, a “new-media movement for life.” Angels singing? Excuse me, Lila, most people just refer to the “earth moving” at moments like that. And I tried pondering he “glory of conception” and got bored with the image of a bunch of spermatozoa conducting a breaking and entry on an ovum.
Stuff like this sometimes seems to be taking place in another universe until, in a causal conversation that started on the subject of education with a 20-something guy at the café last week, my discussant made reference to Satanic forces that are at work in the land. At first, I laughed at what I though was a lame attempt at humor. But he told me he was dead serious. I said, “you mean like guys with horns, who come from Hell?” He said, yes, “they’re everywhere at work creating “evil in the world.” He admitted that he had never actually seen a devil, but he was nevertheless certain of their existence. I asked if he could tell if I was a devil. I said I wasn’t, but that I might be lying. He was starting to look confused and I suggested he get some counseling—immediately. At first we might consider this kid as exceptional; but he is closer to the norm—Homo Credulous.
We live in a world in which the prevailing supposition is that we are highly evolved beings with the most complex brains in Nature. But while we have made great advances in science, mathematics, philosophy, the humanities an the arts the majority of humanity conducts much of its affairs in personal, social and political life on the basis of beliefs based on beings and entities never empirically experienced. There are many people who will believe in the literal account of Genesis, for which there is not a shred of evidence, and a ton of contradiction, and deny evolution, or the preponderance of evidence of global warming. Unnatural selection is not Darwinian evolution, it is the decision, from fear and ignorance, to choose belief over knowledge to be Homo Credulous. And they are all around us . . .
© 2010, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 9.21.2010)
*I know this must distress those Biblical literalists who believe that it all started 6,000 years ago with Homo Adam and Eve and their pet velociraptor, Spike, but don’t leave me here.
**I have already copyrighted her first album title: Homo Fat Lady Sings the Blues. So don’t go getting any ideas.