January 26, 2004



We just received an email newsletter from the excellent Charles Keil. He calls these irregular messages "Moss," and here is today's:

"Echolocation and Evolution.

Over 930 species of bats are known. Bats have been around for about 50 million years. All bats have the capacity to echolocate, though it is much diminished in fruit bats and the 30% of bats that are not primarily catching insects on the fly. Each species makes unique echolocating sounds. Three species of bats echolocate and eat fish by bouncing sound off ripples of water or off little fins at the surface of the water.

There are over 300 species of shrews, more discovered all the time, and some of them may be echolocating food or obstacles in their paths.

Cetacea 78 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises some famous for echolocating in water.

Humans are a very recent invention, around as hominids for a few million years and as sapiens, with big brains relative to body size, for a few hundred thousand years. Civilization, social classes, urban living invented just a few thousand years ago.

Humans and bats probably both descended from a tree shrew creature. Bats took one path and are finding a 1000 ways to serve Gaia, while humans took a different path and recemtly found one way, our way, to harm Gaia. Bats are 930 times more successful than humans because they have co-evolved to fill 930 different ecological niches, evolved 930 strategies for survival and continuity, whereas we have devised just one strategy and it is failing. We are dragging 1000s of other species down with us.

By this sort of logic shrews are 300 times more successful than humans.

Cetacea are 78 times more successful.

Why are we opposing all these vastly more successful ontologies and echolocating strategies of mammal species on land, in the air, in the seas? Why are we betraying our fellow mammals so horribly?

Did humans take a wrong evolutionary turn when we abandoned echolocation for "culture?" Or when we gave up sound minds in sound bodies to look at books, TV and computer screens?

Could music-dance-ritual be our version of echolocation and the key to resuming our co-evolution with nature?

Could we branch into more species eventually if we resumed music-dance ritual-echolocation as our primary communication and mode of being?

Why weren't there any exciting or stick-in-our-minds findings from Bateson's research with dolphins on matters of communication? Is echolocation a kind of primary communication that makes our kind of language communication less necessary?"

Keil's Music Grooves is one of the five or two truly great books ever written about music. Buy 10 copies and give nine away, even if you don't like the word "groove." I'm looking at you, Albini.

Posted by Sasha at January 26, 2004 02:51 PM | TrackBack