Saturday, 16 August 2008

Darwin's dreamers

As a child, I was taught that science makes mankind stronger by creating a golden future that will be infinitely better than the primitive past. This was a modern myth, of course, a necessary illusion, a ‘Technicolor’ distraction from the Cold War for children of the age of Aquarius. Our awareness of the past is heavily coloured by such pre-conceptions.

Look at the picture of the two Neanderthal men.

They were drawn to look slow, dim-witted and incapable of sharing thought. Perhaps these are myths, too. Ideas that we need to believe. But are they true?

My children expect new technology to arrive every year like ripening fruit on a tree. Yet, theirs is the generation that is bombarded continuously with images of an uncertain, globally-warmed future built upon unsustainable growth. They respond to this double bind by retreating with their friends into a world of cyberspace, on-line messaging and electronic fun.

Perhaps these also are myths. Ideas that we need to believe. But are they true?

What would Neanderthal people think of contemporary life and what challenges would modern people face when encountering the powerful forces that shaped the Neanderthal world?

These are the premises of my novel ‘Echoland’. Whilst ‘Echoland’ partly treads a familiar landscape popularised by Jean Auel, it maintains a contemporary edge.

So, why use the title ‘Darwin’s dreamers’ to title this blog?

In a changing environment, evolution becomes the ruling principle shaping the future direction of life. We have never been able to escape the pressures of natural selection,and, with global warming accelerating, we never will. These, too, are modern myths.

We believe that our human ability to turn dreams into actions has made us the dominant species on this planet. This ability arose in the Neanderthal world, where its flickering power
was experienced for the first time. It was not enough to save the Neanderthals from extinction.

It was strengthened in the successors to the Neanderthals and is developing further in the minds of those who share their dreams in cyberspace.

Perhaps a new form of consciousness is evolving as humans extend their dreams into new dimensions.

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