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Ancient creatures, new tools, same old talk patterns

November 23rd, 2009 Kevin No comments

This week, 150 years ago, Darwin dropped his monumental book, On The Origin Of Species, into the world’s library system. From then till now, its not always been clear how evolution works. On that note, I am struck by how we humans came to be over these many, many thousands of years.

Unlike Galapogos finches and flightless cormorants, we humans have been mostly constant for the last 30,000 years. That means what Socrates, Plato and others said at the dawn of Greek’s golden era in the 400s B.C., what the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said around 200 A.D., and what our friends and colleagues said last week is sort of all the same when it comes to the human condition.

What’s different? One clear difference is all the new tools we use to flex those anciently wrought muscles and excite those evolutionarily sound neural pathways. Tools for scheduling our days, meeting up with folks, talking to them fast and accurately across wide expanses of time and space. Lots of tools that can help us get along better with people. Here’s the question. Do the new tools, most invented since Darwin’s work, make us talk any better?

Probably not much and the jury’s still out on that one. As sophisticated as our broadcasts of “big talk” are, the kind of stuff we hear at the national and international level, we still like our small, tribe-like whispers. We revel in the complaints and gossips of our mini-conversations. We hold secrets close and share them sparingly, coveting what we know and keeping quiet when a speaking opportunity arises.

This is our condition: we are creatures of beliefs supported by wonderfully extravagant assumptions and superstitions. Our rules and principles might change and always underlying them are the beliefs that move our traits, behaviors and habits. A true evolutionary leap might occur of us all when rules and principles align with our beliefs to form one complete message.

Let’s get right to it: who or what evolves how we improve our talk so we can do it better? Any hunches? My thinking: you and me, that’s who. Evolution gave us language that, combined with gestures, dominates our natural landscape. Vocal cord development, along with a mysterious coordination of left and right brains, propelled us as masters of our universal domain.

The gift of language affords us incredibly inquisitive natures. We conquer lions and tigers and bears with language and cooperation. Talk is our distinct competitive advantage among all animals– as far as we know.

Lately, how well have we evolved our talk tools and devices to leverage even better survival and sustainability of the species? How well do we talk and what improvements have we made in that area over the last 5,000 years?

These are some thoughts to ponder during this week of celebrating Darwin’s insightful masterpiece. In sum, what role might we play in the evolution of our own species when it comes to talking well with others?

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