Animals Are Smarter Than We Are

Humans do not, in any fashion, have “dominion” over the Earth. Such a concept of humanity’s relationship with Earth’s biodiversity is full of arrogance and false identity. It’s pure propaganda. Mother Nature isn’t sweet, but she is certainly in charge. And the sooner we realize it, the better.

In my novel, Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure (Guernica World Editions 2019), the animal characters of the story, called the “forest-folk,” have a message for their readers: humanity has an identity crisis in the face of nature. Humans don’t know what they are.

We really don’t know what we are if we don’t understand, in a down deep and meaningful way, that we are a part of nature, that we are merely animals that exist in Earth’s biosphere along with our genetic kin within the family of life—all life including animals, plants, fungi and microbes that we have lived with and evolved with since the beginning of life some 3.8 billion years ago.

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Our lack of self-identity allows us to become disconnected from the natural world, and in doing so, we relegate nature (Earth’s biodiversity) to something separate and at a lower level from ourselves. This is dangerous because it turns nature into something remote and expendable, and consequently, easy to exploit and destroy. That is exactly what is happening today: the global destruction of species and ecosystems at an ever-increasing rate.

The forest-folk in Shadowshine are correct in recognizing that they, along with every single organism now living and those locked away far into the past, are indeed the kin of humans. We are all connected by the internal structure of the amazing molecule, DNA.

This should not be a very difficult concept to grasp because it is, after all, old science. It should be intuitive. Homo sapiens should “feel” connected with nature every waking moment. We should embrace the nature-human connectedness and kinship so well expressed and celebrated by the Native Americans. They get it.

Although I know the forest-folk are on target in pointing out humanity’s identity crisis as a cause of humans’ destruction of Earth’s family of life, to which humanity itself belongs, it cannot be the only reason. It’s obvious that tribalism, a direct cause of our war-like behavior, and greed are major contributors also. There is more than reasonable scientific evidence that these two traits are hardwired into our genome. How do we control our own genetically hardwired traits? We are not there yet, but if we were, would we change our own genome?

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All this brings me to another question, a bit frightening, regarding the future existence of Homo sapiens. Does our species really even have a truly stand-alone high intellectual capacity in the first place? Are we simply not properly forged by our evolutionary biology to control ourselves? In other words, did the evolution of the human brain fail to make us smart enough to be able to play safely with the gadgets in our room that we have created?

Presently, for the first time in Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, our planet is faced with a global mass extinction event caused by a single species. It’s literally all our fault. Will Homo sapiens be among the missing in the near future? Are we humans drawing close to our own expiration date, simply following what might be the usual course of events when evolutionary biology takes a species into the world of high technology?  

The world-renown biologist, E. O. Wilson, believes that it has taken around ten million years for Planet Earth to get back up to speed with its evolutionary biology and species diversity after each of its five mass extinction “hiccups” in the past. That’s really not that long considering the long life of Earth’s biological engine. I take no small amount of comfort in knowing that if our species cannot control itself enough to prevent a mass extinction event and its own demise in the process, at least Planet Earth and its amazing family of life will live on without us.

Johnny Armstrong is an author, conservationist and retired medical doctor (pathology). Johnny’s first novel, Shadowshine, with all the philosophical musings of its quirky yet remarkable characters, is a story of self-discovery and of perseverance, of the battle between good and wickedness, and of strong and lovable players who never give up.


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