we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

Young Buddha at Home, Part-3: Pandora’s Box

The fourth section of Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice begins.

PART IV —Pandora’s Box

Give me a lever, a fulcrum, and a place to stand, and I will move the Earth. —Archimedes

PrometheusGk Myth a demi-god … worshiped by craftsmen. 
When Zeus hid fire away from man 
[author’s note: according to Bullfinch’s Mythology, 
fire is inseparable from weapons, tools, 
shelter (in all climates), the arts and money], 
Prometheus stole it by trickery 
and returned it to earth …  
—Canadian Oxford Dictionary

Pandora Gk Myth the first mortal woman 
… created by Zeus and sent to earth with a 
… box of evils in revenge for Prometheus’ having brought 
the gift of fire … to the world. 
Pandora opened it out of curiosity, 
and all the evils flew out; 
Hope alone remained to assuage the lot of mankind. 
—Canadian Oxford Dictionary

A short selection from Essay Twenty-Nine in Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice.

In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. —Marshall McLuhan [1]

When speculating on human evolution I’m inclined to think that an understanding of the distinctive roles played by structure and behaviour during this eco-evolutionary transformation is of some importance if we want to unravel the many convoluted effects of historical accident. If we accept the proposition that behavioural experimentation beyond the resource partitions for an optimized body structure is a liability for animals in a stable ecology, then it follows that only prolonged instability can allow truly inventive brains to evolve, for instability might continue to favour opportunism, and thus reduce the competitive handicap of risky cultural experimentation for the duration of a speciation event. [2] It’s now thought that climate change at the end of the Miocene favoured the dispersion and the evolution of large brained opportunist apes in general; [3] if this is true, could the ‘punctuated equilibria’ of the Pleistocene have eventually made room for technology? And then might sexual selection, and ultimately ‘real’ language, have taken over from a foiled natural selection and committed these LAST Niche renegades to their un-Natural strategy (giving relevance twice over to the opening line in the Book of Genesis, “in the beginning was the Word”)? Most likely both instability and naturally increasing brain size were important in establishing the conditions for a synergistic elopement of hominin tool-use with human language, resulting in the runaway innovation that defines us. But before we speculate further, let’s first establish our terms.

tools defined, and the two domains of intelligence

A persistent means to an end, a.k.a. a tool, is any structure or behaviour that is adapted and maintained: 1 by gene selection pressure arising from elemental conditions and ecologically emergent resource partitions to support bio-associations; or: 2 by behaviour conditioning pressure arising from direct experience and psychologically emergent conceptual categories to support human cultures. (See Occam’s razor.) 


1. McLuhan, Marshall. 1964 Mentor paperback second edition. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 23.

2. Begun, David R. Aug. 2003. Planet of the Apes. Scientific American, vol. 289, no. 2, pp. 74-83. Also, Tattersol, Sept. 2014. “It seems likely that tools and other technologies allowed early hominins to launch themselves into new environments, although when conditions periodically deteriorated, those aids could no longer guarantee survival. As a result, many populations splintered, allowing genetic and cultural novelties to take root much faster than could have happened in larger groups, leading to rapid evolution.” —p. 56. I think what we are actually seeing here is a two-stage evolutionary stimulus from climate instability. First of all, new environments become available, and these would naturally favour opportunistic behaviour (like tool modification); then, as conditions deteriorate further, geographic isolation would favour genetic diversification to consolidate these behaviours.

3. deMenocal, Peter. B. Sept. 2014. Climate Shocks. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 48-53.See also, Tattersol, Sept. 2014, p. 55-59.

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