Evolutionary Thoughts

By now, you’ve probably read the digital news article describing how we’re all going to evolve into beings who resemble extraterrestrials (ETs) because of our preoccupation with digital technology.

The authors describe us as eventually developing another eyelid that’ll protect us from the blue light emanating from our gadgets. Our hands will become claw-like and permanently flexed because of the way we’re always gripping our smartphones.

You’ll also develop a third hand that protrudes from your butt so you can catch your cell phone as it slips out of the back pocket of your skinny jeans. Come to think of it, that’ll also give rise to a weird new meaning for the term “butt dialing.”

Of course, the article is a criticism of our preoccupation with our gadgets, but it’s still fascinating as speculation about how creatures, including humans, evolve in response to the pressures in our environment.

This kind of thing makes me wonder whatever happened to Neanderthal. The males were huge, especially their arms, which came from frequent arm wrestling with Sasquatch for the last shred of beef jerky. Neanderthal had a very prominent brow which developed to keep snow and pterodactyl droppings out of his eyes.

And this reminds me of the discovery of the fossil of a giant creature on the Greek island of Crete in 2003 (I think). The skull had a huge nasal opening in the center of the skull. That was probably for a trunk, as in elephant trunk. But paleontologists thought it might have been the explanation for why ancient Greeks came up with stories about the terrifying one-eyed cyclops.

And what about that carp with a human-like face on the top of its head? I saw that one a week ago on the show The Proof is Out There. I thought sure Michael Primeau, the forensic video analyst on the show, would dryly dismiss it (“This video is clearly faked.”). Instead, the other experts thought it was natural. Tony summarized it as an example of the “plastic” evolution, by which I think he meant phenotypic or evolutionary plasticity. These are changes in a creature’s appearance, morphology, or physiology in response to changes in its environment. Regarding the carp, one expert opined that the face would confuse its main predator, the eel, by confusing it.

I still don’t get that one. How would the carp species even begin the evolutionary process? Does the carp just think, “Huh, I think that eel might get confused if I had a face like a human”? I get it that the changes occur at the genetic level, but how exactly does it get started?

Could you google the answer? I couldn’t find anything specific, like x plus y equals human-like face on a fish that many humans would not care to eat.

And how about writing? I wrote this blog post longhand using pen and paper, something I gave up doing years ago but which I am sort of rediscovering gradually. I had an old typewriter for a while, which gave way to something called a word processor, which was a stand-alone device made writing and editing text, and eventually I got a computer—which really messed things up.

The thing is, I can remember getting something called writer’s cramp. If you remember that, then you probably recall how painful it was. Back then, did anyone ever wonder whether that would lead to the evolution of a claw like hand?

Could evolution have consequences pertinent to people who are always looking up at the sky looking for UFOs? Some of them, for some unexplained reason, never seem to have a smartphone with them. Anyway, could their eyes migrate, carp-like, to the top of their foreheads to counter neck strain? And could this lead to the evolution of a third eye in the center of the forehead? It would prevent falling into manholes. There are other consequences from evolving into a cyclops.

We would be adept at forging thunderbolts. We would be very talented at cultivating vineyards and herding sheep and goats. But our tempers would still be pretty bad, even worse. We would abandon courts of law and ignore justice. We would be violent giants, feasting on the flesh of ordinary humans. All this because we kept searching the sky, hoping to see UFOs and see ETs, which we would eventually resemble anyway because of our preoccupation with our devices.

I have a pretty good supply of pens and paper.

Sena Grows Peonies!

Sena has a peony shrub growing dazzling red blossoms. The red ones are said to symbolize love, respect, and honor. The peony genus classification is Paeonia, which is taken from the Greek word Paean. At least a couple of flower web sites say the origin of the name peony comes from a Greek myth involving a deity called Paean (pronounced “Bud”).

According to the flower web sites version of the myth, Paean was the physician of the gods. He was a student of Aesculapius or Asclepius, whose friends just called him “Bud.”

Paean used a peony root to heal Pluto, which was the Roman name of the deity Hades. I don’t know what was ailing Pluto. Maybe it was the gout. Anyway, Aesculapius got wind of Paean’s treatment, and became really jealous. He tried to kill him, but Zeus wasn’t having any of that baloney, intervened and turned Paean into a peony.

I couldn’t find this version in any scholarly source of Greek mythology. In fact, Edith Hamilton, a Greek scholar who wrote a book entitled simply, Mythology, says Paean was just another name for Apollo or Aesculapius, also known as Asclepius—or “Bud.”

In fact, a paean is a song of thanksgiving or triumph addressed to Apollo.

Hamilton’s version is kind of a soap opera. Greek gods always seemed to be having torrid affairs with humans, often leading to drama involving the transformation of humans into various plants, animals and whatnot—and maybe even destroying them.

This is what happened to a human female named Coronis, who had a fling with Apollo who got her pregnant. She snubbed him for a human guy, which annoyed Apollo so he killed her. However, he saved his baby by tearing Coronis open and plucking him out right out of the womb—really extreme.

Apollo than adopts the kid out to an old fart of a Centaur named Chiron. Apollo ordered Chiron to name the child Aesculapius, or Asclepius, “Bud” for short. He was never named Paean, according to Hamilton.

Chiron was pretty slick with healing arts and taught Bud everything he knew. Then Bud got too big for his britches and brought a guy back from the dead. I can’t recall exactly who got resurrected; it was either Hippolytus or Elvis. Gods got mad about it because making zombies is their business, not Bud’s.

Consequently, Zeus killed Bud by slinging a thunderbolt at him. Contrary to flower shop lore, Zeus never even considered turning him into a peony. In his opinion, you had to teach these pups a lesson.

How do you think Apollo felt about this? How would you feel? What would you do? Apollo got on the phone with his lawyer, and before you could say “peony,” he got a court order authorizing Apollo to kill the Cyclops who were manufacturing all of Zeus’s thunderbolts.

If you think it ended there, you’re wrong. Zeus, not to be outdone, sued Apollo, who lost big time and was sentenced to slavery to King Admetus for one to nine years in solitary confinement.

Bud, on the other hand, even though he was slain, was honored by thousands for hundreds of years. Those who came to his temples were invariably healed of various ailments including but not limited to the gout. Snakes were involved in the treatments, though, and some preferred to live with the gout, so declined to sign the informed consent forms.

Hamilton and other scholars don’t ever mention Bud getting turned into a peony. But Sena’s peonies are still beautiful.

Reference: Edith Hamilton, Mythology, Little, Brown and Company, 1942.

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