In Spite of Rationality

The existence of mankind, when looked upon from a Darwinian viewpoint, makes no rational sense.  Preston Harold ruminates that

Darwin considered natural selection to be the most important factor in organic evolution.  This is a natural process that tends to cause the survival of the fittest, of those forms of animals and plants best Imageadjusted to the conditions under which they live, and the extinction of poorly adapted forms…. If this be true, one is likely to assume offhand that rational interventions led man to the pinnacle of animal life.  But to the contrary, irrationality marks the course of his triumphant evolutionary trek. 

“How so?” you ask. “That isn’t a very rational statement to make because, hey, we’re rational and, well, here we are!”  Not so fast…

A rational evolutionary path led to creatures that grow clothing upon their bodies; only an irrational course could lead to nakedness and a body that cannot increase the density of hair covering according to climactic requirements.  A rational course would not lead to retention of certain embryonic features into adult life; only an irrational course would lead to such imbalance between the development of body versus brain as man displays… These and many other irrational turns mark the evolutionary course in man.

On the other hand, animal life is where we find rationality making its mark.  Harold observes:

All other animal life behaves rationally and thus animals are predictable, will serve to confirm elegant theories.  Man will not.  He bedamns his irrationality – and yet the power, the freedom, to behave irrationally for no good reason may be the secret of his dominion over the animal world.  Man’s irrationality may free him from bondage to conditioned responses; it may prevent his automatically reacting to immediate needs and obvious force, thus preventing in him the limiting biological overspecialization seen in all other species.  Aberration marks the turning points along his course.


In our next post we will reflect on the differences in animal and man in light of the understanding of ancient Egypt.  Until then, peace…