Initial mystery replicator – bacteria – sponges – worms – things with backbones – fish – mammals – beavers – primates – monkeys – hominids.
The inference here is that humans are simply animals, yet a resounding majority of humans prefer to think that humans must be much more than just animals and cite as evidence special human features like opposable thumbs, the ability to brew beer, self-consciousness, oral and written language skills, culture, and eternal souls.
Nobel laureate Francis Crick, in his book the Astonishing Hypothesis almost apologetically tries to explain that, “… “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” Mr. Crick knew he would have an uphill battle to fight in trying to share his ideas for a scientific search for what is often called ‘the soul.'
While researching chimpanzee social and family life, Jane Goodall has done much to cause a re-evaluation of what it means to be human. Unfortunately, there are not many wild chimpanzees in Portland to study, so I have had to make do with beavers.
The rise of the first big human civilizations seems to be concurrent with the human capacity to communicate through the use of abstract symbols.
While not as refined as cuneiform script, this example of ‘incisor-scription’ (proto-beaver text) shows some similarity to Hebrew script (below).
Indeed, the beaver script is often found carved into long logs which very much resemble scrolls.
So far, I have had little success in deciphering the beaver artifacts available to me. This may be due to a possibly erroneous assumption that the 'incisor-scriptions' are an alphabet based system. Many examples of early human writing include systems based on pictograms.
When considered in this way, 'incisor-scriptions' provide tantalizing evidence that humanity may soon be sharing the earth with another conscious species.
Who can examine the central character in this phrase and not recognize the sensitive portrayal of ‘coyote’?
Skeptics may argue that finding meaning in the tooth-marks left by beavers is about as plausible as finding the face of Jesus in the patterns on a grilled cheese sandwich. We are after-all, pattern-seeking animals, often able to read meaning into situations that are bereft of meaning.
Still, the likelihood that other forms of consciousness may be hard for us to recognize doesn’t necessarily mean that other forms of consciousness are impossible. Would we recognize the evidence for alien consciousness if we saw it?
Beaver Totem at Smith & Bybee Lakes