Every Anthropologist and Evolutionary Biologist would tell you that the Darwinian evolution of the opposable thumb was a tremendous leap forward in the development of human civilization. Homo Sapiens (and certain other primates) were thus enabled, developmentally, to make and use tools in the performance of tasks vital to survival. One can recall the cinematic images of intelligent apes busily using wooden twigs, as tools, to probe and extract nutritious termites from dead tree trunks (and eat them with a gusto and style, reminiscet of present day hockey fans, eating “fries.”)
The potential facility of the evolved thumb was virtually limitless and its subsequent uses, too varied to enumerate in any comprehensive list: employing tools, using weapons, writing and creating art, eating and drinking with utensils, handshakes, hugs, even hitchhiking (called “thumbing a ride”), as well as many communicative uses, wishing good luck or bon voyage, assurances of wellbeing, and much more. But some of the dexterous applications of our marvelous opposable thumb, are not salutary.
We have very often expressed our great concern and disappointment regarding the growing trend toward the substitution of personal conversation (face to face or by phone) by electronic messaging, the latter, resembling the impersonal transmission of data; the absence of the familiar voice, the limited ability to express emphasis or emotion, the lack of spontaneous and relevant response, the absentee nature of interaction making the exchange impersonal; all at an time in mankind’s history when closeness, empathy, and mutual identification are so urgently needed. It is to be recognized that the development of the human voice and the innate ability to construe interactive conversation, are also featured among the generous gifts of evolution. The facility of the opposable thumb in the transmission of electronic messages, has been universally exploited, and can be seen as a retrograde act of disrespect and ingratitude for our marvelous evolutionary inheritance, which, in the long run may prove harmful.
Many of us remember the Walt Disney animated extravaganza “Fantasia” of some years ago. Among the several episodes was an animated production of an old poem, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” set to the beautiful music of Paul Ducat, bearing the same title. The star of the tale was none other than the celebrated and talented movie star, Mickey Mouse.
Mickey, a mere apprentice to the Sorcerer, during a brief period of his master’s absence, foolishly attempts to try his inexperienced hand at sorcery, with great catastrophic and uncontrollable results. Fortunately, the Sorcerer soon returns and restores normalcy. Mickey is profoundly shaken but now wiser.
The animated, melodious and humorous presentation, delivers a clear message for man to consider in exercising his choices; some of which may foolishly tend to reverse man’s advancement,so generously facilitated by nature. One such instance is by the retrograde substitution of electronic messaging for our brain-larynx-voice capability of to socially communicate. The marvelous development of the opposable thumb, apparently useful in sending text messages, is being converted to such retrograde use. It, like all electronic conversation, is impersonal, insular, unsocial, mute ” message in a bottle” style interaction, with predictably future negative social and psychological implications.
We are certainly fortunate beneficiaries of progress, but need to be judicially selective; just ask Mickey!