(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Monkey Trial

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble”*…

 

Lion-man-angles-Vergleich-drei-Ganzkörper-Ansichten

 

Like all other animals, our species evolved by gradual processes of natural selection that equipped us to survive and reproduce within a certain environmental niche. Unlike other animals, however, our species managed to escape its inherited biological role and take control of its own destiny. It began to innovate, actively reshaping its way of life, its environment and, eventually, the planet itself. How did we do it? What set our species, Homo sapiens, apart from the rest?

Searching for just one event, a decisive change in culture or brain structure, would probably be a mistake. For more than 1.5 million years, archaic humans (earlier Homo species, such as Homo erectus) had been slowly diverging from the other great apes, developing a way of life marked by increased collaboration. They made simple stone tools, hunted together, might have cooked their food, and probably engaged in communal parenting.

Still, their lifestyle remained largely static over vast periods of time, with few, if any, signs of artistic activity or technical innovation. Things started to change only in the past 300,000 years, with the emergence of our own species and our cousins the Neanderthals, and even then the pace of change didn’t quicken much until 40-60,000 years ago.

What caused our species to break out of the pattern set by archaic humans? Again, there were probably many factors. But from my perspective as someone who studies the human mind, one development stands out as of special importance. There is a mental ability we possess today that must have emerged at some point in our history, and whose emergence would have vastly enhanced our ancestors’ creative powers.

The ability I mean is that of hypothetical thinking – the ability to detach one’s mind from the here and now, and consciously think about other possibilities. This is the key to sustained innovation and creativity, and to the development of art, science and technology. Archaic humans, in all probability, didn’t possess it. The static nature of their lifestyle suggests that they lived in the present, their attention locked on to the world, and their behaviour driven by habit and environmental stimuli. In the course of their daily activities, they might accidentally hit on a better way of doing something, and so gradually acquire new habits and skills, but they didn’t actively think up innovations for themselves…

The story at “Our greatest invention was the invention of invention itself.”

* Agatha Christie (who would surely have agreed that invention is also, sometimes, aimed at explaining ourselves to our selves… and sometimes simply at delivering delight)

###

As we contemplate creativity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1925 that the trial of John T. Scopes in Scopes vs. The State of Tennessee (aka “the Scopes Monkey Trial”) began.

The State of Tennessee had responded to the urging of William Bell Riley, head of the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, by passing a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution– the Butler Act.  In response, The American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone accused of violating the Act.  George Rappleyea, who managed several local mines, convinced a group of businessmen in Dayton, Tennessee, a town of 1,756, that the controversy of such a trial would give Dayton some much needed publicity.  With their agreement, he called in his friend, the 24-year-old Scopes, who taught High School biology in the local school– and who agreed to be the test case.

The rest is celebrity-filled history, and star-studded drama.

Scopes in 1925

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 10, 2020 at 1:01 am

“This is the first age that’s ever paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one”*…

 

Starting tomorrow, the U.S. National Weather Service will discontinue its historical practice of issuing all of its weather bulletins in ALL CAPS.  The agency has been sending out its forecasts with caps lock on for more than 150 years, since the advent of the telegraph. Successive generations of teleprinters used only capital letters; but with the advent of the internet, all caps came to have the affect of a siren.

From tomorrow, all caps will be reserved for actual weather emergencies warranting them.

More at “National Weather Service Takes Off Caps Lock, Will Begin Forecasting Using Inside Voice.”

* Arthur C. Clarke

###

As we reach for our umbrellas, we might recall that it was on this date in 1925 that John T. Scopes was given a preliminary hearing before three judges. He had been arrested and charged under a new Tennessee state law, the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution in public schools.  The judicial panel greenlit what became Scopes vs. The State of Tennessee (aka “the Scopes Monkey Trial”).

Tennessee legislators had responded to the urgings of William Bell Riley, head of the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, and passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution (the Butler Act); in response, The American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone accused of violating the Act.  George Rappleyea, who managed several local mines, convinced a group of businessmen in Dayton, Tennessee, a town of 1,756, that the controversy of such a trial would give Dayton some much needed publicity. With their agreement, he called in his friend, the 24-year-old Scopes, who taught biology in the local high school– and who agreed to be the test case.

The rest is celebrity-filled history, and star-studded drama.

Scopes in 1925

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

Darkness, fallen…

On the heels of North Korea’s unsuccessful “satellite launch,” a look at “the land of the morning calm” (AKA The Hermit Kingdom) from the altitude their rocket failed to achieve…

 source

The bright dot halfway up the Western coast is the capital, Pyongyang… one of the (very) few spots in North Korea with access to appreciable amounts of electricity.

Other photos from above here and here.

As we spend a day in fear of trembling, we might send locquatious birthday greetings to lawyer and civil libertarian Clarence Darrow; he was born on this date in 1857.  Darrow’s most famous court appearances were probably his defenses of Leopold and Loeb (the “thrill killers” who murdered Bobby Franks in 1924) and of John T. Scopes (where Darrow argued Scopes’ right to teach evolution against William Jennings Bryant in what came to be known as “the Monkey Trial”); he was an early leader of the ACLU.

 You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free. (source)

%d bloggers like this: