In nature, mothers will eat their young. Species will eat their own kind. Parasitism and its brighter, happier twin, predation, occur in varied and numerous ways. Sexual rivalry, competition for food and other resources, and even simple opportunistic cruelty can lead organisms to murder each other. This is just the animal versus animal condition, the world of tooth and nail. Beyond that, just the heat of midday or the cold of midnight or a slip and fall can cut short the process of a life. It’s not a pretty picture, and from this bleak circumstance, evolution gave forth mankind, a species apparently able to understand its own plight.
Well, what’s so great about understanding?
Snakes have venom. Fish can breathe under water. Frogs can be frozen solid. Cheetahs can run as fast as a car on the freeway, and birds can fly!
In comparison to those abilities, humans are gifted with the superpower of . . . understanding? That is not sexy, not like a chameleon changing color or an elephant’s trunk. It is our own signature adaptation, though, and many of the ways we use it make us just as much participants in the game of survival as a shark using its jaws or a spider using its web. We are not enlightened merely because we are intelligent. We are enlightened because we use our adaptation, be it wings, a prehensile tail, or a Ph.D., for something other than survival and biological dominance.