The Eye of the Fly

In a study published in Journal Science, researchers found that flies have the fastest visual responses in the animal kingdom.  The study suggests that this rapid vision may be as a result of a mechanical force that generates electrical responses that are sent to the brain much faster than, for example, our own eyes, where responses are generated using traditional chemical messengers.  The fly’s vision is so fast that it is capable of tracking movements up to five times faster than our own eyes.

FruitFly460I realize that the fly would trade this one strength for even twenty-five percent of ours, but one has to wonder why the fly was given such an incredible tool compared to our relatively weak one.  Why would we be granted the most complex brain in the animal kingdom, and not have the physical advantages inherent in the eye of the fly, the ears of the owl, the various sensory receptors of the snake, or the nose of the bloodhound?  Wouldn’t we be able to better use those gifts better than those mindless animals, and insects, that don’t know enough to appreciate it.

The obvious answer, from the Darwin perspective, is that humans have don’t need these extra senses for survival, or to avoid predators.  The more interesting perspective, I believe, is that having an extra sense would prove too great a distraction in the process of developing the complex human brain.

In every young human child’s development, there is a constant push and pull.  Parents and teachers push children to develop routines that they hope will eventually develop that brain as it matures.  They know that if that child is going to find any measure of success within the species, he will need to be pushed to develop that brain to capacity in a manner that can be painstakingly, gradual.  Some would argue that no human ever reaches the maximum capacity of the brain, but it’s not much of a reach to suggest that if we were distracted by a super sense we wouldn’t come as close as we currently do.

It could be argued that there have never been more distractions, pulling children away from the painstakingly, gradual process with promises of instant gratification and the subsequent definitions that result in the child’s peer group.  It could also be argued that while there are more distractions now, there have always been distractions, and coaching or teaching children how to avoid distractions has remained constant.

Although there are numerous benefits to a young child engaging in athletics, it is an impediment to the optimal development of the brain.  We’ve all known exceptionally gifted athletes.  We’ve all seen them receive preferential treatment in classrooms, and we’ve all seen this impede academic achievement.  The exceptionally gifted athlete is usually recognized early on, and while there are some attempts at developing a well-rounded character, everyone –especially the child— knows where the focus is.

“Keep your grades up if you want to maintain eligibility,” the adults surrounding the gifted athlete will say, but they rarely coach them to achieve academic excellence, and this is eventually displayed in the post-game interviews of those few elite athletes that have achieved the professional level.

imagesThe same distractions can be found among the beautiful.  Both genders learn that beauty is power, but most would acknowledge that the beautiful female has far more power in any given room than the beautiful male.  Most beautiful females learn, at one point in their lives, that no matter what they do in the classroom, their mental prowess will always be considered secondary to their physical attributes, and that they would be probably be better off if they just sat there and looked beautiful.  They subsequently learn to speak less often, so as to silently soak up the power their beauty wields on a room?

Both of these superficial exaggerations could be called distractions in human development, and those that have these physical characteristics learn to employ their own distractions to keep people from focusing on their lack of intellectual development by criticizing those that wasted their time devoting precious resources to developing the brain.

“Did you read Lord of the Rings when you were a kid?”  “No,” the one blessed with beauty, or exaggerated athletic ability responds, “I out was getting laid.”  “At fifteen?” the nerdy brainiac asks, “because I read those books at fifteen.”  “Yes,” the beautiful person responds.  “You were getting laid so often that you didn’t have time to read?”  “YES!”

That exchange is not a direct quote from the TV show Friends, but it’s close.  It gives credence to the idea that we never truly escape high school.  We all want to be the cool kids in high school, and no amount of rationale will ever defeat this.  Even when we reach our forties, and beyond, and we begin to appreciate our nerdy, reading youth for what it was, we still find it difficult to defeat the superficial, hyper-sexual Friends mentality.

On the flip side, no one would say that reading the Lord of the Rings series is an optimal component of a child’s development, it does put that child on the road to every parent’s holy grail: The love of reading.  A goal made all the more difficult by the instant gratification philosophy put forth by the Friends show.

For most of us, the opportunities to be sexually active at a young age were there, but some of us were too busy being kids, doing kid’s stuff, and to be frank we were simply too scared.  When this Friends joke came along and told us that if we were truly cool, we would’ve been doing that all along, we regretted being that nerd that was too scared, enjoyed reading fantasy books, and mindlessly enjoyed our youth.  We thought we missed out on something fundamental that made them better than us.  In truth, such a philosophy will eventually catch up to them when the one thing that separated them from the pack, sexual activity, becomes more and more meaningless to them, as they try to have more and more of it for more meaning, and more separation, and they realize that their life has amounted to nothing more than a series of superficial indulgences that have amounted to nothing more than a superficial life

It is for all these reasons that some of us find it difficult to sit quietly through those sci-fi movies that depict an exceptionally gifted, physical specimen that is also an exceptionally gifted intellect.  There is just no way, some of us want to shout.  Some of them might be smart, for there are always exceptions to the rule, but not that smart, not exceptionally gifted smart.  There’s always a trade-off, especially if they’ve been an exceptionally gifted, physical specimen since birth.  They wouldn’t need to go through the painstakingly gradual process of developing an exceptional gift that separated them from the pack.  They’re already exceptionally gifted physically, and they have been since birth, and we all know there is always a trade-off in this sense.

This trade-off would eventually rear its ugly head if we had the brains of a human, and the eye of the fly, or the hearing of the owl, or the nose of the bloodhound.  Something wouldn’t be honed to capacity, for any of these super senses would likely prove to be too much of a distraction to those easily distracted for those young minds undergoing the painstakingly boring, gradual, and humiliating process of human development, and our place atop the animal kingdom would surely be a little more tentative.

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