It has been frequently pondered why humans have become the dominating animal species. Amongst the answers which have been punted are the human capacity to use hands, the “reasoning” which allow the use of instruments and the “superior intellectual capability”.
It is probably none of those.
An alternative explanation is the human capacity for mobility, in a fashion unequalled by most other animals. The mobility of most animals is usually contained and constrained by particular habitats. Humans, distinctly, have had the capacity to adapt to, and hence travel into (and through) multiple habitats. This capacity, like all biological qualities, demands multi-factorial capabilities and is the end result of a combination of capabilities, of which adaptability is probably predominant.
Why travel? A variety of social behaviour is associated with the capacity (or necessity) for travel. One of which is the tendency for large communities to break up into smaller communities which, like hiving bees, will spread into other territories and so correct the congestion and overcrowding of excessively large communities (and the potentials for conflict which will arise in crowded, disparate, and hence competitive communities ).
This capacity for and need to migrate has clearly played an important part in the domination of the Earth by humans.
Fragmenting of social groups into social strata appears have both beneficial and negative effect historically. However, factors such as avarice, jealousy and acquisitiveness produced tensions within a heterogeneous community. The resulting stress, caused by this “evolving” behaviour, prompts the need to “migrate”.
Needless to say the search for resources or acceptable climates also plays a part in prompting travel.
Bipedalism might play a part, making it possible to traverse “uneven territory”, (including the climbing of mountains and trees) more readily. The concentration of muscle bulk in the lower limbs made for a greater weight efficiency (and hence the greater energy efficiency). The grasping ability of the hands and relatively light weight of humans enabled climbing trees, of mountains and the transportation of acquisitions – including food, weapons and other humans – such as babies.
Vertical adaptation. This allows bipedalism. Adjunctive to the vertical behaviour became the necessity to protect against falling (failsafe falling) and complex protective mechanisms of energy dissipation necessitated by both running and jumping from heights. In particular, such mechanisms of energy dissipation protect the brain from jolting, direct impact, and other assaults (such as falls or striking the head). The vertical stance had other benefits, including the capacity to survey surrounding territory both for travel direction and the avoidance of hostile factors (including other humans). It enabled reaching for “higher fruit”
Energy acquisition and transportation. The human is (and during migration was) able to carry efficiently sufficient reserve energy, both in terms of fat distribution and gut content.
The gut as a reservoir. This reservoir capability allowed retention of excreta until disposed of by discreet selection of the site of deposition. This had the advantage of preventing the “trailing” of the human by smelling animals and also the benefit of reducing transmissible disease. Indeed, if it were only possible to ensure that disposal of excreta was prevented from contamination of utilisable water a number of diseases would be entirely eliminated – including schistosomiasis.
Adaptation to new terrain and differing contexts required the evolution of “conscious” sensors and commonly quoted are the “five conscious senses”. This allowed an incorporation into, and harmonizing with, new biological environments.
Sensory input. In order to adapt to new environments, the capacity to perceive the variations of environments required sophisticated sensory skills. A common belief is that humans have “all encompassing “skills of perception, which allow humans to have a “total view of their environment”, and stemming from that the assumption that humans (in concert) either “know all” or “will know all” (via “science”, exploration or “evolution”)
Sensory blindness. However there are a great number of sensors operative in the human which are not consciously perceived: For example, the sense of gravity, which is only partially perceived. It is possible for humans to perceive some of the effects of gravity, upon which balance is made possible. This is imperative, since the human is primarily a balancing machine – a human who cannot balance is totally incapacitated (and more impaired than a tetraplegic). However, much of the sense of gravity is not consciously perceivable, such as the atmospheric pressure. This is often explained as “we are so used to the crush of atmospheric pressure that we do not notice it”. However if the pressure is substantially reduced (by ascending altitude) to the point of anoxia, the human is incapable of perceiving that change. in much the same way the human is incapable of perceiving ( consciously) changes in blood pressure and heart rate, although these are actively and finely measured forms of sensory input, which are constantly operative (but without conscious perception).
Re-sampling of movement (both relative and absolute) is a highly developed capability of humans, whereby the inputs from “conscious senses” (notably visual) are reassessed repeatedly. That allows enhanced movement skills, such as catching or orientation in space. This capacity seems to be more developed in some individuals – such a successful racing drivers – and less so in others.
Pregnancy. Verticality necessitated adaptation of pregnancy and parturition to travel, primary expressed by changes in the pelvis. This allowed support of the fetus by a bony structure. Nevertheless, this bony structure was so adapted as to allow delivery of the mature infant through the pelvis.
Food. Adaptation to new environments, as is necessitated by travel, requires adaptation to new forms of nutrition. Humans have the capacity to adapt to a wide variety of foodstuffs, probably associated with changes in their metabolic pathways. It might be that many of these alterations to metabolic pathways occurred early in life, perhaps within the first year of feeding. It is also possible that these metabolic pathways are changed with ageing. This results in factors such as the redistribution of fat, allowing, amongst other reasons, the capacity to perceive the changes of ageing – so important in mate selection.
Language. Confluent with the ability to travel probably arose the ability to verbally distinguish “like kindred” from “aliens”. This took the form of divergent languages and dialects (which continue to play an important part in both the identification and the separation of humans.)
Assessing cause and effect. A factor assisting adaptation to new environments seems to have been the capacity to assess cause and effect. In the process of adapting to new environments and contexts, that capacity became important, along with its associate, memory. Memory enables the human animal to both recall and predict the cause-and-effect relationship discerned previously by the “conscious senses”.
This desire to “migrate” is now constrained by the shackles of “capitalist behaviour”. One result is accumulation of humans into restricted areas (such as cities).
However, those urges to migrate (said another way, to move from restrictive environments, caused by behavioural evolution) are now demonstrated by dissident groups forced to accumulate into city squares and other open spaces, as “protests”. Those groups represent (what should be) the “hiving” humans, who in times past would simply move away from the “mother group”. That is now impossible, because of “capitalist constraint”
What is “capitalist constraint”? This is the “lock-in” effect of capitalism (and for capitalism read “possessivisim”, the dependence on material possessions). Thus the “worker”, in order to accumulate “money” must be restricted to a work-place, and similarly the children are restricted to a “school-place”, and movement must be restricted to a “transport network”. An alternate term could be “commercial bondage”.
Such crowded communities will evolve local “clans” and the contestation between these factions.
Spontaneous migration is therefore near impossible. If it does occur (as demonstrated by “asylum seekers”,) reaction from the inhabitants of the “host area” is unlikely to be favourable. Expressing this is the historical defense of occupied areas, in the past by physical barriers, now by that and additional bureaucratic barriers.
What does the brain do, and why is it so big?
It creates emotions which are essential for the adaptation to novel environments.
Emotions can be considered the end result of all neurological sensory acquisition. Emotions calibrate the sensory inputs, provide an amplifying (and of course diminishing) process, which modifies, and enhances the (simple) binary input from each of the “five conscious senses”.
The complex assembly of interpretations, which are expressed as the “emotions”, arises from the integration of multiple sensory experiences, which (amongst other features) incorporates the “learning” contributed by memory. It also incorporates – and so includes – the “hard wired” intuitive, in order to produce a more emphatic response (from any assessments of the immediate context.) It appears that the entire complexity of the brain has as it goal the construction of “emotions”.
The memory component of “emotions” and various pattern recognising skills necessary for the construction of emotional interpretation can also be used to develop complex mathematic and other “creational” skills.
Language is an important contributor to “emotion”, because it can (also) be used as a tool for interpreting the environment. There are examples, which illustrate this, in comparative biology. One is demonstrated in the development of the new-born zebra. This neonate learns, almost immediately, to recognise (and never forget) its mother’s stripe pattern – with the obvious survival benefit.
So it is with humans, which develop complex language skills far earlier than other complex skills. Even the complex skill of walking independently is learned later than early language
See separate essays on the emotions as they pertain to sexuality and successful reproduction. This is associated with the fecundity necessary to compensate for the attrition associated with travel and adaptation to new environments and climates.
Copyright JP Driver-Jowitt 2017