The Wonder of Evolution
Posted by MyLaowai on Sunday, September 5, 2010
Evolution is a wonderful thing. Truly wonderful.
Of course, when I refer to ‘evolution’, I don’t mean the kind of evolution that Americans can’t understand and will kill you for teaching to their children, but then what else should one expect from a sexually repressed and educationally backward nation of religious extremists and anyway they don’t really enjoy a nice cup of tea in the way that normal people do and all-in-all it’s probably a good thing we kicked them out of the Empire when we did, wouldn’t you agree? No, I’m talking about how habits and technologies evolve over time, how simple and primitive solutions to fundamental problems gather complexity and variety and sophistication. Think about it for a moment, and I’m sure you’ll be amazed too. If you have thought about it for a moment and you are not amazed, then you are probably not thinking about it with the use of your brain, in which case you really need to stop, back up a little, and have another go.
Take the way we eat, for instance. Primitive man pretty much just used to bung whatever he could find into his mouth and have a bit of a chew for a while, until such time as he was able to swallow it. And that was fine, if you’re into that sort of thing. Fortunately, at least one of our primitive ancestors, whose name is now lost to history but which is rumoured to be Dave, decided to cut his food into manageable bite-sized portions before eating it, and thus both the knife and the McNugget were born. This was a Big Step, make no mistake about it.
The next Big Step was the invention of cooking. The precise origins of cooking are not known, though the latest thinking on the subject suggests it was a driving factor behind our success as a species. The exact timing for the invention of cooking is also not known, though it is clear that it was slightly prior to dinner and slightly after the invention of fire (fire was invented, according to Chinese school text books, during the Xia Dynasty, though some foreign anti-China forces have claimed that fire occurs naturally). The thing about fire and cooking, is that it made the food hot. Now, that’s lovely during the cold months and it does certainly add something to the taste, but it also makes the food a bit tricky to hold onto, particularly during the actual cooking phase of the operation. One of our primitive boffin ancestors soon had that problem licked, though: he invented the fork.
By now you can see that we had the basics all worked out: something to cook the food on, and a knife and fork to eat it with. The logical chain made perfect sense, and evolution proceeded smoothly and as you would expect – knives got better handles and finer edges and specialised shapes, while forks grew multiple tines and became better at holding the food. In fact, not only was that the logical way for things to progress, if you were to invent a new system from scratch with all the advantages of hindsight and modern technology, chances are you would do exactly the same thing, and it would be only a matter of time before you had plates and soup tureens and a candelabra laid out on the table with which to impress the ladies.
The Chinese, of course, thought that balancing small and slippery bits of food between two round sticks held between just three fingers of just one hand was a more efficient system. And that, fundamentally, is the difference between them and the rest of the species. Evolution didn’t do anything to improve on their system, neither did hindsight nor modern technology. Not even exposure to the more culturally and scientifically sophisticated concept of ‘knife and fork’ could change things for the better.
Some people have always wanted to improve our lot in life, whereas certain other people have always liked to make things more complicated than they need to be. Take for instance what our ancestors did when they had cold hands – it wasn’t like they could put them in their pockets like a kangaroo. Someone had to go out and invent hand-clothes. Which also meant inventing needle and thread and a whole heap of other stuff involving skinning animals and what-have-you. These hand-clothes changed the world, they really did. For the first time in history, you didn’t have to worry about cold hands when you went out, and therefore people went out more often, leading directly to the invention of pubs and modern nightlife.
The first hand-clothes were simple affairs, little more than fur-lined bags you could put your hands in. But evolution took over, and soon these bags had become form-fitting so that you could have the full use of your hand and fingers – nowadays we call these ‘gloves’. I’m a big fan of gloves, because I like riding motorcycles. And this brings us to an interesting observation, because there are one and a half billion Chinese people who also like riding motorcycles (if not very skilfully), and yet they don’t use gloves. They use little bags for their hands. Even worse than the fact that evolution never had the slightest effect on the concept of hand-clothes here in the Middle Kingdom, is the fact that it might actually have gone in reverse: instead of the bags becoming better and more flexible, the Chinese came up with a system whereby the bags are tied to the handlebars of the motorcycle and you thread your arms into them, thus precluding the possibility of your getting off the motorcycle with your arms still attached to your body in the event of an emergency, like a truck and a blind corner, for instance.
One sees this in every single aspect of life here in China. When you want entertaining, you probably pay to go to a concert, or the theatre, or a comedy club. Here in China, we get a first-class comedy show every day on every street, for free! How good is that?
In fact, I have given the subject of evolution some serious thought of late, and I have come to the staggering but frankly only possible conclusion, which is that evolution does not exist in China, except perhaps in a negative sense.
Perhaps that’s why the national motto is : 5,000 years and still developing.