Alien zoology: would that legwarmer look good on me?
November 9, 2007, 2:27 pm by bottleman. Filed under: alien zoology, love those goofy b*st*rds.

I often wonder: Why do humans invent things? Why do we have culture?

Let’s face it, all we really need to do is eat and copulate. Why do we bother with so much more than that? To an outside observer, say an alien zoologist, what could possibly explain all the details in the following picture?

bike photo from Library of Congress Bain Collection

Who are these humans, he/she/it ponders? What are their machines? What, particularly, is the significance of the fuzzy ball on the cap of the human at the right? Is he, perhaps, a priest?

Experience suggests this event is not a life or death interaction, our zoologist reflects — nothing strictly necessary to survival or reproduction. So what is the purpose this contest? Are those ones in the front, with those distinctive mustaches, leading, or being chased? Are they destined for glory, or infamy? And most important, he/she/it muses, would one of these knitted legwarmers look good on my psuedopod?

from Library of Congress Bain Collection

Human culture is so ornate it beggars my imagination. Biological instinct meshes with learned traditions and technology to give us churches, french fries, bike races, oral sex, merry-go-rounds, death camps, astronomy, astrology, the family dinner, real estate, golf, John Coltrane, Scary Spice, and Christmas, to pick just a few grubs from the cultural stew. Culture, more than metabolic chemistry or the morphology of our reproductive organs (two factors biologists often employ to distinguish species), has got to be the #1 attribute of our species.

That makes humans flexible. Culture can be changed a lot faster than instinct. And that gives me hope. Perhaps the current fad for greening everything from toilets to trailer parks isn’t just a fad.

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Culture can change but controlling greed could be a bit harder. There is always a sociopathic minority. Have you noticed that the more clear the crisis becomes the more desperate those who are driving it (like coal companies) have become to get one last grab, so there are more mines and coal fired power stations being proposed than ever?

PS Glad to see you’re back. Does this mean the book is written?

Comment by Ian Milliss on 10.11.2007 um 5:31 pm

Hey Ian, thanks for checking in. Yes, the book is written and the construction is done. Both have been done for some months but it’s taken a while to wake up again.

Yeah, there does seem to be a certain aggressive countercurrent. Sometimes it can be refreshing — like when it bluntly confronts us with the fact that people use energy, a lot of it. Or if it forces you to make a choice. There is a lot of interesting division within intelligent, environmentally aware technocrats these days on the matter of nuclear power. I’m not in favor of it, but it is one ready solution to the carbon problem, right? I’m more scared these seductive succubi technologies than I am by strip miners, etc. The latter don’t pretty up so good.

Comment by bottleman on 12.11.2007 um 1:10 pm