The Economy, Lemurs And Us

By Sally Dugman

The underlying human horror and destruction from the nearly worldwide COVID-19 disease is truly daunting. Not to undercut the seriousness of the devastation, but this type of happening is hardly new. For example, consider the Black Plague that wiped out half of Europe and the fact that many British people are immune to Smallpox unlike many Native Americans whose ancestors were never exposed to the disease.

All the same, there are many other horrific events afflicting people and members of other species. Indeed, we all face floods, famines, pestilence, tornadoes, hurricanes, water shortages, tsunamis  and more. It seems that these sorts of events have existed since almost times immemorial for some dire happenings.

We also have another type of trouble and it involves decimation of the natural world. There is nothing new in that pattern either except that we have ever so many more people than in earlier times trying to eek out a living by dismantling the world’s forests, meadows, waterways and so on to have self-economic advances for oneself, family members and others.

In relation, it seems to me that desire for great self-gains indirectly accounts for greedy money mongers, people with giant homes filled with belongings and ditto for their vacation homes, vacation travel and other perks associated with having wealth.

Further there exist game shows in the USA wherein people compete for money. In some shows, the money to be potentially gained is a lot and in others — a little.  And some of the people in these programs act covertly or overtly savagely to get that moola for themselves. How nasty! … Civility can be quite far from the surface in these programs, and you can see the lack through body language, eyes, tone of voice, pretense, etc. (Such behaviors can sometimes be fascinating to watch as they show some degree of depravity in my opinion.)

All considered, it is not surprising one iota when a friend sent me this analysis titled “Your brain evolved to hoard supplies and shame others for doing the same.” It demonstrates in a way the desire to get ever more for oneself.

Two excerpts:

“The media is replete with COVID-19 stories about people clearing supermarket shelves – and the backlash against them. Have people gone mad? How can one individual be overfilling his own cart, while shaming others who are doing the same?

As a behavioral neuroscientist who has studied hoarding behavior for 25 years, I can tell you that this is all normal and expected. People are acting the way evolution has wired them.

“At the same time they’re organizing their own stockpiles, people get upset about those who are taking too much. That is a legitimate concern; it’s a version of the “tragedy of the commons,” wherein a public resource might be sustainable, but people’s tendency to take a little extra for themselves degrades the resource to the point where it can no longer help anyone.

“By shaming others on social media, for instance, people exert what little influence they have to ensure cooperation with the group. As a social species, human beings thrive when they work together, and have employed shaming – even punishment – for millennia to ensure that everyone acts in the best interest of the group.”

So let’s look at lemurs in this ravenous backdrop:

I saw in an environmental documentary that there are only around 20,000 left in the world with numbers dwindling (as their land is increasingly snapped up by humans) as compared to around 7.8 billion humans with the number of the latter kind growing. And blood samples were taken from them for study and possible drugs to be developed for humans.

Why? It is because they get many of the same ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as people do and how could that be so?

Look at your juxtaposed thumb. It came from natural selection based on a mutation and it is from lemur ancestors. In other words, the wild lemurs are your very distant cousins.

This has long been suspected as being the case. Yet it was only recently that two, yes — two, fossil samples prove it. After all, we are the only species with the opposed thumbs, which are very useful in myriad ways. And the fossilized evidence satisfactorily proves it since they have our thumbs.

Now, it is fine enough in my opinion that some people want to literally believe that humans derived from Adam and Eve. It is fine that they believe that life originated from some being standing on a turtle shell or aliens from outer space seeding our planet with life.

All power to them if such ideas bring comfort and joy. Good for them!

Meanwhile I like looking at my thumb while marveling at its origins. That view in light of empirically derived facts suffices for me.

Sally Dugman lives in MA, USA.

This piece was first published in

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