Snakes on the road
Recently on my commute to work, which is about a three mile ride by bicycle, I have observed a number of squashed snakes on the road. I saw enough of these road killed snakes not only along a lengthy stretch of the road, but day after day as well that I eventually fell into trying to reconstruct the structure of this phenomenon. The snakes are on the pavement close by the side of the road. Clearly having come out of the grass to warm themselves in the sun on the dark asphalt in the increasing cool autumn mornings. Even though they did not venture far out onto the road surface, this did not save them from getting run over. They are all juvenile snakes, as far as I can tell, none large enough to be an adult. Often appearing to be very young.
How should one interpret this, I thought? Is this giving us better snakes or worse snakes? That is, I considered, whether the more adventurous and capable snakes were exploring further from the nest and getting runned over for their trouble, leaving lesser snakes to carry on. Or are smarter stronger snakes monopolizing the best and safest sunning locations, closer to the nest leaving weaker snakes to ranger further and less securely from home. Stopping at the false warmth and security of the tarmacs edge. Of course, one also has to entertain the idea that human beings have subconsciously evolved the automobile for the real purpose of cutting down the best and brightest snakes again and again. That only this has prevented our take-over by an aggressive population of super intelligent warm and rested snakes.
Here, it seemed to me, I was a little thin on how exactly evolution works, but as a paid up member of the modern world I must know something. So off the top of my head and with no Wikipedia cheating I set out here my misestimation of evolution.
Evolution involves random variation in individuals of a species in the first place. This is due I believe to damage or alterations to the DNA in the reproductive cells. From radiation, from free radicals, that sort of thing. Or simply the effect of DNA (or is it RNA) strands not always zipping themselves back up exactly as they came apart. This leads to distinction, not exact copy, of the individual in the next generation that is essential random, but apparently occurs at a rate over time that is effectively constant. These collectively are mutations to the species and consist of variations of morphology and other traits. Here I suppose we need to differentiate between evolutionary adaptation and behavioral adaption, although the capacity for the latter is an example of the former.
The mechanism that drives this process is reproductive advantage. Whatever the details of the interchange between living things and the world, it is whether it confers a relative advantage in reproduction that determines whether a gene set is passed on through time and generations. I suppose this is where it gets tricky. To me it seems obvious that the environmental stressors through which this reproductive advantage are communicated must be considerable in both their extent and duration to have discernible effect on a plant or animal. That is, they must be persistent through years if not centuries and hold even across a given ecosystem. The stressors themselves matter little as long as they produce an effect. They can be organic or inorganic in nature. If organic, flora or fauna. They could be either climate or weather. Similarly a trait could impart a positive or negative engagement (or be part of a mixed chain of events) and this would matter little if the result is to move the gene set forward. If a trait is present in subsequent generations and if the genetics of that trait are amendable to further extension, this process of selection will produce an effect which from the outside will look like deliberate specialization, or in certain circumstances generalization. I believe that if conditions maintain, this specialization moves through differentiation to speciazation. Of course if things trend the other way the result is elimination and extinction. Survival of the fittest most assume means the most fitted with fang, claw and agro, but it really is a means test - a best fit to the environment.
Profound changes are possible in the animate substrate of this world. My instinctive question at this point is "How does this affect monkeys?" I wouldn't need an infinite number, I muse, merely a sufficient number of monkeys left to an environment of Olivettis to rearrange the world. Monkeys are tactile creatures, and don't do well with laptops. Or with texting, no opposable thumbs, but one thing at a time. I'd put them on nice island somewhere. Maybe organize them into tribes: give some of them blue pencils. These could evolve into an editing tribe. With these typewriters and three or four generations of the monkeys time, the proper reward system in place I could achieve, not Shakespeare exactly, or Puskin but maybe a manifesto for the Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) movement. Since it appears they will never write one themselves. Their post modern ambition is to be the undefined defining moment. I am old school and un-reconstuctivist, and warm to statements of purpose and suggestion. Somethings along the lines of:
Blast First this fortress walled street, barren of camels eye, a desert of needles. This carnival marriage of Dionysus and Pluto. Blast second these gimlet eyed tyros, and their politicians. Social Darwinists with their fraudulent game of private rules. Snakes edging out of the grass. Blast third this New England weather.
11:50:06 PM ;;