Caveman

I’m a cave man. Cro-magnon, or maybe one of the others; whatever they’ll call me in a few thousand years. Doesn’t matter much to this simple cave man, cause my brain is not too developed. Like my ape predecessors and the assorted small furry things before them, it’s all I can do to find food and keep warm and reproduce. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do all of the above pretty well. And because of that – and nothing else – me and the folks thrive.

Call me biased, but this ‘natural selection’ thing… it’s a pretty sweet deal. I mean, you start with some tiny cell and then that becomes a few tiny cells. And those become something bacteria-ish, which after a few million years is a lizardy critter. Some of the lizards get a switch bumped that gives them fur, more randomness pumps up the brain a bit, eyes that were once light-sensitive spots end up seeing detailed colors. The stuff that’s good, stays; the stuff that’s bad — ends up eaten or stepped on. Mix in a mass extinction once in awhile, and voila: cave-man!

It seems a little unfair that I know how to make spears and fire and slings to launch rocks. My ancestors don’t stand much of a chance, which is ironic since their better chances are what eventually gave me chances that are better still. But then, random is random so who cares about philosophy as long as I can figure out which lizards taste good and what colors I should avoid. See, even now, I suppose evolution is still doing its thing. If I eat a few too many rotten Dodo eggs I will be evolutioned right out of the system. Those who had a ‘bad taste means poison, poison means no eat’ mutation will evolve onwards to become Frenchie wine makers… all I’ll get is the honor of being lizard food.

And that is all I need know about ‘fair.’ Instincts provide a basic government system where if an inpidual gets out of control, the rest of us know to whack him before he kills us all. Health care is not a biggie as long as we stay away from anybody who looks like they might die. After all, that’s just common sense. I don’t know exactly how disease travels but I don’t want to be close. I mentioned spears and slings and, yeah, I wish I could say that was all my idea. But one thing leads to another and the sketches on the local diner wall gave us a starting point. Just like nature, we learn to keep the things that work and pitch the things that don’t. Nature is always watching.

This is another reason I don’t need fairness or feelings. Aside from taking extra room in a brain with precious little useful space, non-survival instincts or “emotions” can be downright harmful. What if for some unintellible reason I become “friends” with someone and they get contagiously sick? My care for them will grind against my knowledge that I ought to get away. If the caring wins, I’m that much more likely to die. And so, even if mutation sticks me with a ‘friendly’ gene, a nasty dose of Monkey Fever(?) will keep that from being passed very far. Even disregarding disease, a cave-male spending time with “friends” when he could be stocking up on mammoth or making babies is a male whose genes will not leave very big ripples in the pool. Finding enough to eat, keeping myself from freezing, avoiding cliffs and making babies: that’s what it’s all about.

Or, might it be beneficial for me to “care” about the females I breed with? If I decide to care too much about the first one, perfectly suitable partners will go mate-less. So, you see, if I waste my energy on fidelity, my silliness will be selected away in a generation or so: my “love” gene will be spread to a considerably lesser degree than the free-sexin’ genes of my neighbors. Popular opinion would take care of any chance that my new idea of “something more important than reproduction” might catch on. Because if love didn’t come from my mind, it would just have to come from someone else’s… after all, brains pre-programmed with anything other than survival would not be passed on to something as advanced as cave-man. Unless monogamy was somehow favorable, any inpidual who cooked up such a concept would have no more chance of affecting the population than would a lizard who decided he should teach his friends to line dance.

Natural selection doesn’t care about cozy, happy families. The very best I can do is stockpile food, figure out how to survive harsh winters, and reproduce every chance I get. If I do this, the babies I help make will be as well-equipped as possible for survival. Like me, they will have food and shelter. Like me, they will see the importance of gathering and staying warm and making babies. I need not read them bedtime stories, or give them piggyback rides, or take them to watch sabretooth tiger races. Unless emotions already exist, personal relationships don’t matter… and didn’t I just prove emotions would be lucky to make the recessive gene list? No, meat and warmth and new cave-men who know how to get both are the only evolutionarily important things.

Maybe in a few dozen generations there will be “games,” and “art,” and other time-wasting stuff. These will only last if, as I expect, their conception results from spare cave-man time on account of us having worked together to master getting food, keeping warm, and reproducing. If the sons of my grandsons’ sons are so efficient that they get bored and must find new things to keep them entertained, more power to ‘em. And if countries form, and cultures, these will be well and good so long as staying alive to pass on helpful genes is their focus. Plague will wipe out cave-men too sentimental to abandon their friends: only cave-materialists will thrive. Bad mutations combined with too much monogamy would spell disaster: in a matter of centuries, we’ll have learned to mate with no fewer than five different cave-persons.

Turn back on the “TV.” Impress yourself with the number of “songs” you have memorized and how much you can do with that new “computer.” But don’t forget the lizard who would have never passed us his genes unless his insticts focused on survival. Don’t confuse inventiveness with importance, and don’t assume emotions evolved same as knees and toes. Nature favors not the nicest or the most creative or the best dressed, but the sharpest at survival. I may be just a cave-man, but at least I know my place. You may be a smarter cave-man, but deep down a cave-man is all you are. I’m gonna go light something on fire, and maybe line dance.

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