The Exciting Adventures Of Man Versus Woodlouse

Survival of the fittest is not necessarily determined by that which is conquered; a failure of insight on part of the person who assumes this position. In determining who wins, let us consider two references of time and evolution as a yardstick by which to measure the almost incomprehensible longevity of the humble woodlouse, a descendent of the trilobite which goes back to the Cambrian Era ; a mere chit of a crustacean that likes nothing more than to eat organic leftovers. And the comparatively miniscule amount of time we have been here spreading ourselves around with ever increasing impetus and determination.

We like to assume that because we can find solutions to problems, and we can manifest our imagination into tangible structures and utilities we are on a grander scale than any other species. But, our place in the evolutionary time line is dwarfed by many far more successful species of which the woodlouse is one.

We shall return to our friend, the woodlouse later, but in the meantime let’s highlight some of our crowning achievements as a species. If we focus on our contribution from the evolutionary scale we would find a history of unfulfilled but highly motivated individuals hungry for power who have conquered, subjugated, enslaved, maimed, raped, tortured, killed, and generally exploited the rest. Only a human being could think up ways of systematically implementing the most horrifying tortures on its own species; a form of self aggrandisement of grotesque proportions. Unfortunately, many of the aforementioned atrocities still go on in uncivilised non-Western countries often sponsored by civilised Western countries. Inhumane acts are something we are really good at, and we are good at it because we’ve had lots of practise.

This for me is the fundamental paradox, because while we have been busy engaging in all those time consuming activities, we have also found time to create beauty in various forms, whether in art, painting, poetry, music or whatever. What kind of celestial being would have created all this? What bizarre combination of events happened to create a human being in the first place? I’m being rhetorical of course as I understand the evolutionary explanation. But, I often marvel at the amazing results of our presence from the highest achievements that uplift the human spirit to the lowest most degrading acts thinkable. We are most definitely an interesting species, but I’m not so sure if we are the best suited to our natural environment as we have a self destructive tendency, self destruction in terms of knowingly engaging in behaviour that is detrimental to the survival of our species. We are at once intelligent and stupid.

Maybe the self destructive element is in our genes born from the self destructive giver of all life, the Sun. It is not unreasonable to think that because our star blew into existence diffusing remnant material from its core of which the earth and all the other planets became by-products of, that we are connected to it by our inherent tendency for self destruction. Every natural element on our planet originated in the Sun, the incredibly volatile process of nuclear fusion in the sun enabled life to evolve here. It might stand to reason that we as human beings are inherently volatile and destructive too because of the Sun stuff that makes us what we are physically. One might argue against this position and labour hard at stating that the natural order of things should be peace and understanding, not war and destruction for instance, but the word ‘should’ already implies that it is not necessarily so. If you look at the historical facts you’ll find that there is more conflict and destruction in human history than peace and understanding, therefore one could deduce that this is the natural order of things. Peace and understanding are ideals that are just too impractical to put in place, especially on a world wide scale.

In conclusion, as introduced from the outset, we might ponder the humble woodlouse, a descendent of the Trilobite from about 500 million years ago, this little bugger is still in operation today and eats tiny morsels! Furthermore, to anthropomorphise for a moment, I think the Earth is rather thankful for the woodlouse as it increases the decomposition process and adds nutrients to the soil, kind of a grateful species, takes but gives back, not really the pest that some of us make it out to be. Speaking of pests, how about a measly 200,000 years of history!