A strange thought just struck me as I was reading Douglas Adams’ novel “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” Not that the novel was the catalyst of this strange thought, although it could have been.
For the most part, science fiction usually assumes, and many times even states implicitly that the world as we know it came about by billions of years of evolution which only recently produced us. Notable exceptions are Stephen Lawhaid’s science fiction works, those of C.S. Lewis in his greatly overlooked “Space Trilogy,” and, much less notably, my own struggle-laden beginnings.
But even if one holds to the unpopular beliefs of Creation Science — and many do, albeit in widely differing forms — almost all of us believe, take for granted, and even admit that some forms of “evolution” actually happen. The fact that the Earth has changed since written history began, both by erosion and by man’s efforts, shows that things evolve. Certain types of insects have adapted themselves to survive our onslaught of chemical warfare against them — true, we kill billions every month, but flies, roaches, mosquitoes and ants are still with us.
Even changes in our own race are apparent. The average human male in the Western Hemisphere now stands roughly twelve inches taller than his predecessors, only five or ten centuries ago. Besides that, we have adapted — evolved if you will — into a much more complicated race. We have begun to control many powerful technologies — Fire, Destruction of Atoms, all kinds of Electromagnetic Radiation, the movement of electrons (electricity), just to name a few.
We have even engineered the genetic evolution of plants and animals by selective, controlled breeding and genetic alterations to the point where these species can never revert to their original state. Where will these casual, usually unnoticed changes take us in the future? What will happen when we begin to alter our own DNA, if indeed it is not already occurring in secret?
When (not if!) Mankind begins to make his journeys to the stars, to colonize and exploit other planetary or artificial habitats, will this common evolution take new turns? Imagine if you will, a human so genetically altered that he/she can be sustained by breathing the atmospheres of Mars or Venus. Go further, and imagine humans developing apparatus with which to breath underwater — not SCUBA equipment, but actual gills! (see “Waterworld”, with Kevin Costner).
Shall being stronger, smarter, larger, more adaptable, or other things cause us to develop new “species” or to use a term other than Homo Sapiens in reference to these new, perhaps better creatures?
But the odd thought that struck me as I read the novel mentioned above was in reference to a chain of events that could ostensibly occur on lines to those mentioned above. What about other forms of Earthling life experiencing their own lines of future evolution?
What qualities supposedly have enabled Homo sapiens to conquer the Earth? Intelligence? Organization? Speech? Survivability? Consider with me four members of our everyday environment each of which possess some of these qualities: Dolphins, ants, flies, and cockroaches. Dolphins have long been considered the most intelligent of the beasts, even more so than chimpanzees. Some scientists have gone as far as to say that dolphins have a greater capacity for intelligence than human beings, and these same men have credited the dolphins with having a working language. Ants, since the ancient times have been noticed to have great organizational skills and physical strength, although they have no language or intellect to speak of — that we know of. Flies and Roaches have been successful mainly because of their breeding habits, but also for great mobility and, on the part of the roaches, an ability to survive wherever they are.
What is to keep them from developing further than their present state? Say, for instance that dolphins begin using their fins to hold things in, to build for themselves shelters from the predators of the sea. And then, many generations behind them, a mutant strain of dolphin which has separated bones in its fins gains supremacy, using the fin to grip things, such as food, or primitive tools. And the story continues. What is to keep ants from accidentally discovering that small twigs and leaves can be used to disguise or even hide their hills? And then later realize that these same twigs can be used to fortify their homes, even replace them when used right. With the bigger, stronger, faster flies we see every year, what is to keep them from continuing the trend? Surely, the larger ones have larger brains, and can instinctively avoid those areas where many flies die, thus increasing their life span. This will lead to even further mutations, and adaptations, perhaps even a new organization. And the cockroaches, God forgive them, could also, in similar ways, evolve into a more horrifying prospect.
When this thought first hit me, I said, “No, it would never happen while man still roams the Earth.” Which caused me to imagine a time when mankind didn’t roam the Earth. Maybe, thousands of years from now, or even longer, when humans have colonized the stars, perhaps Earth will become a distant memory, or even a legend to most men. And eventually, it will be used up, for our purposes, so we will leave it, and continue on, letting the Great Mother Earth Rest In Peace. But what if, unknown to these interstellar colonists, back on Earth, they have left an interesting scene. While man has taken with him many examples of Terran life, some on purpose, some on accident, and these samples of life remain the same, those left on Earth can finally be free of man’s involvement.
It will be then that these previously abused species can erupt into a full-scaled evolutionary revolution. This gave me a wonderful idea for a sci-fi novel. It will be told from the viewpoint of a historian, millennia from now. He relates the exodus of mankind from the Mother Planet, and how their civilizations developed. Then he describes the evolution — or rather the result of the evolution — of one or more of the above species, and how they came into contact with mankind again. Thus, the first interstellar war between humans and an alien race, except that it will be humans from alien worlds fighting against greatly evolved pests from the Home World, perhaps with the dolphins acting as intermediaries.
The humans will fight, because they are afraid, and deep down they have always been afraid of these “nasty” creatures, and because they feel that the Earth has been stolen from under their noses by inferior beings.
The New Species Alliance will fight because they soon learn that it was the Human Race which so long held them in subjection, and did not allow them to rise to their full potential.
Will the NSA win? If so, will they wipe out mankind? Or will the humans be victorious, and reclaim their home planet? The third possible ending is that they come to an uneasy truce, and try to coexist peacefully.
Maybe I’ll actually try to write that novel one day.