Tuesday, February 24, 2015

No wonder Darwin liked them islands

I just found out that Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world, and on top of that the most among teenagers.  I then found out that the majority of  Greenland's existence has been simple - hunting, fishing, living from hand to mouth.  It wasn't until the end of the 20th century did the suicide rate increase.  Why? And why mostly among the youth?  It didn't take long for my brain to think about something else that also gained popularity near the end of the 20th century - the internet - before I had a working theory in my head.  Greenland was simple until Denmark tried to make it modern in the 50's.  Greenlanders at that time were ok with the change into modernization, all it probably meant was more conveniences so they could continue doing what they had been doing their entire life - hunting and fishing.  Even the children born during the 60's, 70's lived a life consistent to their parents because modernization didn't also include globalization as it does today.  Then comes generation X.  As they are growing up, a modern technology called the internet also grows up.  These children are the first of their kind to see what Mommy and Daddy do, see what their community is like, and thanks to the internet, be able to compare it to the rest of the world in a way that is much more powerful than simply looking at a magazine or watching a movie.  But it still isn't as bad as
generation Y.  Just look at any teenage counterpart in your immediate surroundings to understand the vice-like grip technology has on their attention and developing mind.  Imagine this similar engagement, but on a mind that lives in a village where the only hope for anyone is to continue to hunt and fish.

I read this article and found out I am not the only one who thinks this.

And then I thought about Charles Darwin.  He went to the Galapagos islands once.  He was so amazed at how monstrously different were all the physical characteristics of the animals there.  It intrigued him because on the continents the diversity of animals was not so flashy.  Birds varied in size and color but nothing as extreme as those found on the island.  In his effort to understand why it was this way he eventually developed his famous theory of evolution by natural selection (of course there was a lot more that went on prior to the theories development but this article is not evolution 101 is it).  While animals survival is dependant on many things, one very important thing is sex.  The more sex an animal had, the better chance it's genes had at surviving and making other animals like it.  On the continental world, there are many more opposing creatures to move into your spot and kill you before you have a chance to have sex, therefore characteristics that aren't immediately related to sex develop to aid in survival so the creature can live to have sex e.g. claws to attack, defend, escape, dig, among others.  As such, on the continents we see animals with less a degree of graphic change in their shape. On an island, with the lack of space there is also a lack of creatures and therefore a lack of chance that one will try to kill you in the form where claws will be on aid.  Therefore much more effort is made in having sex i.e. attracting the opposite sex, than on the continents and as such we see the crazily shaped birds of paradise etc.

Island life allows certain animal characteristics to go on unchecked until they reach crazy levels of complications that we don't see on the continents.  Island life allows us a glimpse into the biology of creatures that we would not be able to see on the continents as the creature would die before we could.  Darwin helped us see the benefit of seeing into this unique circumstance with the origin of species.

Humans might be the first species that does not have to rely on sex as their main form of propagation.  Humans like Beethoven and Murasaki Shikibu have shown us that one does not need to have lots a kids to survive.  One can survive through the production of something else - an idea.  With this new form of survival comes another form of natural selection.  This time the one thing that could cause a human to not survive is not physical only emotional.  Emotional instability is as deadly to a human as having no claws is to a lion.  The worst possible state a human can be in then would be in an emotional state that causes the human to commit suicide.  Any progress that leads us away from that state would be good.  The problem is that as humans we suck at understanding emotions, we suck at understanding the most important thing for our survival.  We need to study them better.  Just like Darwin studied bodies by seeing how extreme they get on islands, we can study emotions by seeing how extreme they get - on islands - like Greenland.  The unique situation in Greenland may be what humans need to better understand our emotional self.

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