Wednesday, March 22, 2006


"When I give public lectures I always try to answer questions at the end. The commonest question by far is, 'What might humans evolve into next?' My interlocutor always seems touchingly to imagine it is a fresh and original question, and my heart sinks every time. For it is a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade. You cannot, in detail, forecast the future evolution of any species, except to say that statistically the great majority of species have gone extinct. But although we cannot forecast the future of any species, say, 20 million years hence, we can forecast the general range of ecological types that will be around. There will be herbivores and carnivores, grazers and browsers, meat eaters, fish eaters and insect eaters. These dietary forecasts themselves presuppose that in 20 million years there will still be foods corresponding to the definitions. Browsers presuppose the continued existence of trees. Insectivores presuppose insects, or anyway small, leggy invertebrates—doodoos, to employ that useful technical term from Africa. Within each category, herbivores, carnivores and so on, there will be a range of sizes. There will be runners, fliers, swimmers, climbers and burrowers. The species won't be exactly the same as the ones we see today, or the parallel ones that evolved in Australia or South America, or the dinosaur equivalents, or the mammal-like reptile equivalents. But there will be a similar range of types, making their livings in a similar range of ways." —Richard Dawkins, THE ANCESTOR'S TALE, p. 586


I remember a long time ago, in the thick of the revolution, when an ad exec (I don't recall his name or who he worked for) said that the hippies could never win because they (advertisers) would always be there to turn everything into a commercial. I think that's what Albert Brooks is trying to get at in the following two paragraphs. Albert Brooks is the actor director who made the films, "Mothers", "Broadcast News", and "Defending Your Life", among many others:

"It's not that we didn't try. We did. We actually had the system by the throat for a whole minute. But the system won. The system doesn't get tired, or get arrested, or have screaming children who need things. The system is patient. It held up houses and cars and boats and we said, 'We don't need that!' And the system said, 'I'll wait. And while I'm waiting I might even get bigger, just for the fun of it.' And damn it, when the drugs wore off and the love wasn't free anymore, those houses and cars started to look good.

"I was feeling OK about us, I really was, that is until Madison Avenue stepped in and told me the truth. Aging is like going through a funnel. You start out with so much room, spinning so fast, wondering just how far you can go, but in the end you wind up going through that hole. That little hole. And since you can't take it with you, Kaiser Permanente wants it. I just wish Bob Dylan had held out a bit longer. I don't think Kaiser deserved that song. I think he should have saved 'The Times They Are A-Changin' for Depends.' " —Albert Brooks in a NEWSWEEK article, p. 60

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