View Full Version : Active Darwinism at Barnes & Noble

James Brody
October 12th, 2005, 05:22 PM

Karl Popper, of many, remarked on life's manufacture of environments; Steven Rose is credited with a sarcastic "What's next, Active Darwinism?" Rose is the fool in this regard.

There were eight chairs, padded well and arranged in two sets of four, each set formed a rectangle around a small table: the chairs and their occupants gave lessons in evolutionary biology. An Oriental teenager chewed gum, played with her cellular telephone, and, when she wasn't looking around the room, reread the same page in her notebook. A middle-aged anorectic in very short shorts and a sleeveless blouse bitched to staff that the room was cold, "Please do something." The staff apologized and professed their lack of influence on the thermostat. (They also thought, "Eat something!") A few minutes later, a husky young male returned to the seat now occupied by the anorectic. He had tried to save it with a stack of workbooks but she removed them and next removed him: off he went. She cackled and he rumbled, both of them about moral indignation.

A 60-ish couple shared a chair, she parked her wrinkled thighs on his lap until a second chair emptied. They immediately pivoted the chairs 180 degrees to face the afternoon sun. They sat next to each other and between them held one copy of an introduction to living trusts!
Meanwhile, the guy to my left departed with a history book under his arm, the guy before him read motorcycle magazines. The girl next in that same chair read about clothes and lipsticks. A girl next to her read a school text and took notes while sitting very upright, her freckled legs perfectly together and held two inches off the floor by black platform sandals that complimented her knit shirt and short white and black skirt.

Hopper could have painted the lot of us instead of wasting his time on those diner customers and old houses!

My favorite quote from Gordon Allport applies once more:
"That the cultural approach yields valuable facts we cannot possibly deny, for culture is indeed a major condition in becoming. Yet personal integration is always the more basic fact. While we accept certain cultural values as propriate, as important for our own course of becoming, it is equally true that we are all rebels, deviants, and individualists. Some elements in our culture we reject altogether; many we adopt as mere opportunistic habits, and even those elements that we genuinely appropriate we refashion to fit our own personal style of life." (Allport, 1955, p. 82)

Sit in a bus station, back to a wall. Eyes open.
Then watch the chimps, gorillas, chimps, or dolphins that plan connections and move on.

Allport, G. (1955) Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Conway Morris, Simon (2003) Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. NY: Cambridge University Press.
de Waal, F. (2001) The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist. NY: Basic Books. (Very readable observations of our cultured relatives.)
Lewontin, R. (1998/2000) Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, Environment. Cambridge, MA, Harvard. Lewontin, as early as 1991 and probably before that, advocated environment as a creation of organisms and could have both anticipated and rationalized Thomas Bouchard's observations about twins-reared-apart. Too bad these guys fought...

Copyright 2005, James Brody, all rights reserved.