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The measure of man and everything else.

As always, a book by E. O. Wilson is a pleasant experience because he has a deep kindly wisdom of his subjects based upon a lifetime of being in the center of his scientifically inclined intellectual world. The goal of his creative instinct is to “translate the previously unperceived into the limited audiovisual world of human consciousness. … the advance will come with understanding the evolutionary forge in which culture was shaped, slowly and often painfully, from animal instinct.” … “The study of religion is an essential part of the humanities. It should nonetheless be studied as an element of human nature, and the evolution thereof, and not, in the manner of Christian bible colleges and Islamic madrassas, a manual for the promotion of a faith defined by a particular creation story.” (p. 194-95) This way of approaching religion is similar to 1st Presbyterian Bishop John Shelby Spong‘s approach which I discussed in several posts. Both of these scholars have had a life-long pursuit of truth from very different perspectives but have come close to a common worldview.

In Wilson’s concluding pages, he writes, “The real limitation of present-day philosophy is not clashes of authorial logic but incoherence, due chiefly to inattention to science. This is curious, since we are in what can reasonably be called the Age of Science, and science is positioned to combine with the humanities to rekindle the spirit of the earlier Enlightenments. I believe that the two, meeting in common inquiry, can at last solve the great questions of philosophy. … At the base, we need to explore ever more deeply the meaning of humanity, why we exist as opposed to having never existed. And further, why nothing even remotely like us existed on Earth before. The grail to be sought is the nature of consciousness, and how it originated. Equally fundamental is the origin and proliferation of life as a whole.” (p. 196-97) These two longish quotes illustrate the coming together of Bishop Spong and Harvard Professor Wilson.

What caught my eye was the sentence bolded by me but emphasized by Wilson with the words “The grail to be sought, … and how it originated.” That is precisely what was discussed in Selection – Natural, Sexual, Artificial and Eveish. Below is a quote from that post.

“Eveish selection is a new term delineating what we humans have been doing to other humans for over 50,000 years. It is a form of sexual selection but with a human difference. The older sexual selection tends to choose a single quality as a marker for genetic health and thus environmental adaptedness but Eveish selection chooses a composite of many, many qualities. Human women make their selection of mates based not only on animal vigor but on all of the qualities in a mate including those which distinguish humans from other animals. It is a very complex decision process because the environment is very complex and the qualities being valued are difficult to assess, even for humans. Women converse at great length with each other about humans the various human qualities and it is generally given the derogatory name of gossip. But, it is this measuring of humans against some infinitely variable complex of qualities which is what gossip is about and it is what ultimately improves the quality of the human species from one generation to the next.

Adam+Eve

Eve chooses Adam with a little help from her friends.

I made this composite picture, derived from Michelangelo’s “God creating Adam” and Goya’s “Naked Maja” to illustrate my theory of human-style selection in action. The picture shows Adam having ascended some difficulty, showing his prowess over another man and Eve choosing him as her mate but with the advice and counsel of a group of angelic friends whispering in her ear.

Males are still choosing females based on their physical attractiveness, health and vigor but females have been choosing males since the beginning of modern humans and of speech for all of those qualities which make us human. It is reasonable in this view to replace Michelangelo’s God as the creator of the human species with Eve and her talkative companions.”

It is women who are measuring man and breeding with the best available one.

The big problems for Wilson and Spong are answered by observing human women and who they choose to mate with.