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Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

For a society to be successful, it must be consonant with the nature and character of the individuals who must live in it. If those contriving social structures overlook who these individuals are, or sentimentalize their nature, or are incompetent social engineers, disaster can result.

(ref: Monkey Hill at the London Zoo)

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Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

What a disturbing concept of existence: Just when you’re most in harmony with your environment, that’s when the ice you’re skating on begins to thin. What you should have been emphasizing, had you been able, is early escape from optimum adaptation–a deliberate fall from grace contrived by the well-adjusted, the elective self-humbling of the mighty. The meaning of “overspecialized” becomes clear. But this is a strategy, we well know from everyday human experience, that privileged populations are almost never willing to embrace.

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Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

“In the ways of Nature,” said Marcus Aurelius, “there is no evil to be found.” Animals are aggressive not because they are savage, or bestial, or evil–those are words with very little explanatory power–but because such behavior provides food and defense against predators, because it spaces out the population and avoids overcrowding, because it has adaptive value. Aggression is a survival strategy, evolved to serve life. It coexists, especially in the primates, with compassion, altruism, heroism, and tender, self-sacrificing love for the young. These are also survival strategies. Eliminating aggression would be a foolish as well as an unachievable goal–it’s built too deeply into us.

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Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

We do not mean to be patronizing. The depth of understanding exhibited by our fellow creatures is of course limited. So is ours. We also are at the mercy of our feelings. We too are profoundly ignorant about what motivates us. Some of those beings have, as familiar aspects of their everyday lives, sensibilities wholly absent in humans. …

… Magnetotactic bacteria contain within them tiny crystals of magnetite–an iron mineral known to early sailing ship navigators as lodestone. The bacteria literally have internal compasses that align them along the Earth’s magnetic field. The great churning dynamo of molten iron in the Earth’s core–as far as we know, entirely unknown to uninstrumented humans–is a guiding reality for these microscopic beings. How does the Earth’s magnetism feel to them? All these creatures may be automatons, or nearly so, but what astounding special powers they have, never granted to humans, or even to comic book superheroes. How different their view of the world must be, perceiving so much that we miss.