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Lots of things occurred in the past and all of them are useful tools to understand the present.

In this page I just want to guide you through some of the events in our history that, at the end, made possible for me to write these lines and for you to read them.

Universal Laws

Origins of Life

No mercy on the violent river of life

The Evolution of Our Mind

Lord, Liar or Lunatic?

The Titanic

Anti-Imperialist Struggles

Universal Laws:

"The Universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." Richard Dawkins

We are in the Universe and this means that we are conditioned, and our actions limited by universal laws. Astronomy and cosmology are branches of science entirely dedicated to understand and prove how those laws work.

Since mankind is able to question the world in which it lives, Universe characteristics have been one of the top ten matters to wonder about. Gods, myths and mystical powers have been used by people to satisfy their appetite of knowledge. All of them have gone with mankind during thousands of years because we had not the tool that tell us when we are heading wrong. Thanks to the scientific method, we can make hypothesis based in our believing and test if they are confirmed by empirical facts. Although proving theories that try to explain the movement of massive things as the stars, through distances of trillion of kilometres, during millions of years is not an easy thing, today we can do it.

And even though a lot of questions remain to be answered, each day that passes, we are closer to solve them. But meanwhile, the quotation that heads this chapter is utterly true.

Origins of Life:

It is estimated that 3.500.000.000 years ago something in the surface of the Earth started to evolve. Since that moment, life spread leading to all the species that nowadays share the planet. But, what do we call live and why biological evolution is a key piece of the puzzle?

To start with , we can say that there is life wherever there is something that makes copies of itself (Replication), those copies are almost identical to their progenitor/s (Variation) and some of the them are selected to make more copies than others (Selection).

No mercy on the violent river of life

cover CHARLES DARWIN lost his faith with the help of a wasp. "I cannot persuade myself," Darwin wrote, "that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars." Actually, Darwin's gradual loss of faith, which he downplayed for fear of upsetting his devout wife Emma, had more complex causes.

His reference to the Ichneumonidae was aphoristic. The macabre habits to which he referred are shared by their cousins the digger wasps. A female digger wasp not only lays her egg in a caterpillar (or grasshopper or bee) so that her larva can feed on it. According to Fabre she also carefully guides her sting into each ganglion of the prey's central nervous system so as to paralyse it but not kill it. This way, the meat keeps fresh.

It is not known whether the paralysis acts as a general anaesthetic, or if it is like curare in just freezing the victim's ability to move. If the latter, the prey might be aware of being eaten alive from inside, but unable to move a muscle to do anything about it. This sounds savagely cruel but nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.

The river of my new book's title is a river of DNA and it flows through time, not space. DNA is the hereditary chemical that characterises every living thing by carrying its genetic specifications. This is a river of information not of bones and tissues: a river of abstract instructions for building bodies, not a river of solid bodies themselves. The information passes through bodies, and affects them, but it is not affected by them on its way through.

To survive in the long run, a gene must be a good companion Instead of a river of genes, we could equally well speak of a band of good companions marching through geological time. All the genes of one breeding population are, in the long run, companions of each other. In the short run they sit in individual bodies and are temporarily more intimate companions of the other genes that share a body. Genes are the smallest unit of heredity and they survive down the ages only if they are good at building bodies that are good at living and reproducing in the particular way of life chosen by the species.

cover But there is more to it than this. To be good at surviving, a gene must be good at working together with the other genes in the same species - the same river. To survive in the long run, a gene must be a good companion. It must do well in the company of, or against the background of, the other genes in the same river. Genes of another species are in a different river. They do not have to get on well together: not in the same sense, anyway, for they do not have to share the same bodies.

The feature that defines a species is that all members of any one species have the same river of genes flowing through them, and all the genes in a species have to be prepared to be good companions of one another. A new species comes into existence when an existing species divides into two. The river of genes forks in time.

From a gene's point of view, speciation, the origin of new species, is the long goodbye. After a brief period of partial separation, the two rivers go their separate ways for ever, or until one or other dries extinct into the sand. Secure within the banks of either river, the water is mixed and remixed by sexual recombination. But water never leaps its banks to contaminate the other river.

After a species has divided, the two sets of genes are no longer companions. They no longer meet in the same bodies and they are no longer required to get on well together. There is no longer any intercourse between them - and intercourse here means literally sexual intercourse between their temporary vehicles, their bodies.

When we think of the divide that leads to all the mammals, as opposed to, say, the stream that led to the grey squirrel, it is tempting to imagine something on a grand Mississippi/Missouri scale. The mammal branch we are talking about is, after all, destined to branch and branch and branch again until it produces all the mammals from pigmy shrew to elephant, from moles underground to monkeys atop the canopy.

If nature were kind, she would at least make the minor concession of anaesthetising caterpillars before they are eaten alive from within The mammal branch of the river is destined to feed so many thousands of important trunk waterways, how could it be other than a massive, rolling torrent? But of course this feeling is wrong. When the ancestors of all the modern mammals broke away from those that are not mammals, the event would have seemed no more momentous than any other speciation. It would have gone unremarked by any naturalist who happened to be around at the time. The new branch of the river of genes would have been a trickle, inhabiting a species of little nocturnal creature no more different from its non-mammalian cousins than a red squirrel is different from a grey. It is only with hindsight that we see the ancestral mammal as a mammal at all. In those days it would have been just another species of mammal-like reptile, not markedly different from perhaps a dozen other small, snouty, insectivorous morsels of dinosaur-food.

Natural selection is concerned only with the narrow present - with the survival of DNA through millions of successive present moments, strung out along millions of branches of the river of DNA. Natural selection is as indifferent to the distant future of the race as it is indifferent to the suffering of the individuals being selected. For, to return to our pessimistic beginning, when the utility function - that which is being maximised - is DNA survival, this is not a recipe for happiness.

If nature were kind, she would at least make the minor concession of anaesthetising caterpillars before they are eaten alive from within. But nature is neither kind nor unkind. She is neither against suffering, nor for it. Nature is not interested in suffering one way or the other unless it affects the survival of DNA.

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation It is easy to imagine a gene that, say, tranquillises gazelles when they are about to suffer a killing bite. Would such a gene be favoured by natural selection? Not unless the act of tranquillising a gazelle improved that gene's chances of being propagated into future generations. It is hard to see why this should be so and we may therefore guess that gazelles suffer horrible pain and fear when they are pursued to the death - as most of them eventually are. The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so.

If there is ever a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. Theologians worry away at the "Problem of Evil" and a related Problem of Suffering. On the day that I originally wrote this paragraph, the newspapers were filled with one of those heartrending disasters, the tragic crash of a busload of children.

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt Not for the first time, clerics were in paroxysms over the theological question, in the words of The Sunday Telegraph, "How can you believe in a loving, all-powerful God who allows such a tragedy?" The paper went on to quote one priest: "The simple answer is that we do not know why there should be a God who lets these awful things happen. But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative. If the universe was just electrons, there would be no problem of evil or suffering."

On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind.

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A E Housman put it:

For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither know nor care.

DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

Adapted by Dr Dawkins from his book, River Out of Eden, published on May 18 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson at £9.99.

© 1995 by Richard Dawkins.

The Evolution of Our Mind:

The ideas that Iím going to explain here are based on the book : The Prehistory of the Mind. It is written by Steven Mithen, an archaeologist with a deep knowledge in psychology. Yes, it is strange to find those two sciences mixed in one professional but we all know that with the branches of science each day more specialised, ideas capable of integrate the accumulated knowledge are very welcome.

cover The peculiarity of this study is that it can be applied directly to your normal life. For first time since we begun to find fossils of our ancestors, we are able to deduce how they behave and why. You can read the history as a thriller book with different chapters where every little piece of information fits in our idea of what is the plot. And when it does not fit is because the plot we imagine that the history is about, is wrong. We have in our hands the latest chapter written by evolution, the one titled Homo sapiens sapiens. Knowing the problems that doctors, biologists and psychologist have to understand our body, try to imagine the difficulties that the study of the psychology of something dead thousands or millions of years ago has. In this case, you can not work with the same tools that a modern psychologist uses to understand what is happening on the mind of his patient. You can not study directly the behaviour of Homo habilis. Archaeologists need to rely on the consequences or the footprints that the behaviour of our ancestors left n the worlds where they lived.

We need to explain some few psychological concepts before travelling to the past. Psychologist have found that our mind can be divided into various types of intelligence. Depending on the author different divisions are used but we can simplify the whole thing to four main areas of intelligence (that are not located in any specific region of our brains) and it will be enough to understand what I want to explain.

Psychologist have named General Intelligence the main area in the animals. In here are located the tools to understand simple orders as "run (or be alert) if you see a pair of eyes looking at you", "it gave you pleasure, do it again" or "move always toward the light". Animals do not need complex brains to handle with these instructions.

The next intelligence we can find in animal minds is the Natural Intelligence. It embodies some more specific and complex rules that make possible to understand and survive in the world that surrounds you. For instance, an intelligence that allows to recognise a footprint in the snow, tells to the predator mind that a prey has been there (notice that a footprint does not resemble a prey in anyway). It requires some abstraction and this is an ability that few species have.

The third intelligence we have to deal with is the so called Social Intelligence. It is found in animals that live in complicated societies and it makes possible to remember what is the social status of an individual and what it means. Finally, we are going to find Technical Intelligence in animals able to build and use their own tools.

I am using those four kinds of intelligence (general, natural, social and technical) even though there is a lot of controversy between psychologist when trying to classify the different abilities of a mind. But most of them would agree that this is the right kind of division to explain the simple concept that this text is about.


Lord, Liar or Lunatic?

"Did Jesus exist? If not, then there's not much to talk about. If he did, he called himself Lord. This means that either:

He was Lord,

He was a liar, or

He was a lunatic.

It's unlikely he was a liar, given his morals as described in the Bible, and his behavior doesn't sound like that of a lunatic. So surely we must conclude that he was Lord?"

Firstly, note that this argument hinges on the assumption that Jesus did in fact exist. This is at least debatable.

Secondly, the argument attempts a logical fallacy which we might call "trifurcation", by analogy with "bifurcation" (see the "Constructing a Logical Argument" document). That is, the argument attempts to restrict us to three possibilities, when in fact there are many more.

Two of the more likely alternatives are:

He was misquoted in the Bible, and did not claim to be Lord. The stories about him were made up, or embroidered with fictitious material by the early Christians. Note that in the New Testament Jesus does not say that he is God, although John 10:30 claims that he said "I and my father are one". The claim that Jesus was God was first made after the death of Jesus and his twelve disciples.

Finally, note that the possibility that he was a "lunatic" is not easily discountable. Even today in the western world there are numerous people who have managed to convince hundreds or thousands of followers that they are the Lord or his One True Prophet. People like L. Ron Hubbard, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones and David Koresh continue to peddle their divinity. In more superstitious countries, there are literally hundreds of present-day messiahs.

Incidentally, the "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" argument was devised by C. S. Lewis, the well known author and committed Christian. He wrote many books containing similar apologia, and also a number of fantasy and SF novels influenced by Christian themes. His most famous books, the Narnia series of novels, are a fantasy retelling of many aspects of Christian faith, with Aslan taking the place of Jesus. Amusingly, some Christian fundamentalists in the USA have attempted to have Lewis's books banned from schools, alleging that they are "Satanic" in influence.

The Titanic

Exact figures vary from book to book, but from the report of the court of enquiry into the loss of the Titanic, around 63% of first class and 41% of second class passengers were saved.

Many of the third class passengers were Irish emigrants leaving a country bled white by hundreds of years of British imperialism in the hope of a better life in America. Of these only 23% survived.

For all its size, advanced engineering and luxury, the Titanic did not carry enough lifeboats for all its passengers. First and second class passengers were helped into the boats, but third class passengers had to fend for themselves. When all the boats had gone, the majority left on the ship were third class passengers and crew. Those who jumped into the sea were either overwhelmed by intense cold or were unable to get far enough away to avoid being sucked under as it went down.

At the moment the ship disappeared, the White Star Line stopped the pay of those crew members who perished, marking their papers "discharged at sea". Only 24% of the crew survived.

So the rich will always save themselves, leaving us to go on paying for their greed and inhumanity with our lives - and our planet.

When do we start fighting back?

Unknown author

Anti-Imperialist Struggles


Mikhail Bakunin, the founder of Anarcho-syndicalism, entered politics partly as an activist in East European anti-colonial struggles. As a result he was imprisonment and internally exiled within Russia. After escaping in 1861, he abandoned nationalism for Anarcho-syndicalism but maintained his anti-imperialism. For Bakunin Third World revolt was inevitable and desirable, but a successful struggle required an internationalist anti-authoritarian social revolution against the State and the class system.


The Anarchist/Syndicalist movement took up the challenge. In Cuba, the Anarcho-syndicalists, who had a massive working class base, took part in the struggle for independence from Spain. They were active in the Ten Year War (1868-78) and later aided famous anti-colonial fighter, Jose Marti, after assurances that independence would bring social reforms. But their politics remained those of social revolution, not nationalism. When the war of independence advocated by Marti exploded in 1895 Anarcho-syndicalists in Cuba and in exile were in the forefront of this struggle.

Although the war ended with Spain's defeat in 1898, Marti's promised reforms died with him in battle in 1895. Mass struggle thus continued under the independent government which, of course, did not meet the workers' demands. Instead, the local elite which hijacked the anti-colonial struggle regularly repressed the workers and Anarcho-syndicalists who had sacrificed themselves for independence.


Anarchists/Syndicalists were active in Central American struggles against USA imperialism. In Mexico, the Anarchist-led PLM, and the mass Anarcho-syndicalist trade unions, consistently challenged American imperialism and anti-Mexican discrimination in Mexico and the US, both before, during and after the Mexican Revolution (1910-22).

In 1909 the USA occupied Nicaragua. This led to a number of failed bourgeois-led revolts. The last of these revolts ended in 1926 when negotiations led to the installation of the liberal leader, Moncada, as president of this US semi-colony. This settlement was opposed by Augustino Sandino, another revolt leader, and an Anarcho-syndicalist. He launched a seven-year peasant guerrilla war against the US occupation in 1927.

Despite political weaknesses, Sandino's movement, the EDSNN, moved steadily leftwards as Sandino realised that "only the workers and the peasants will go all the way to the end" in the struggle. There was thus increasing emphasis on organising peasant co-operatives in the liberated territories. The US forces were withdrawn in 1933 and the EDSNN largely demobilised. But in 1934 Sandino was murdered and the collectives smashed on the orders of General Somoza, the new, pro-imperialist ruler of the State. Sandino is remembered today as a Nicaraguan national hero.


In East Europe, Anarchist/syndicalists were active in 1873 uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina against Austro-Hungarian imperialism. They also took part in the "National Revolutionary Movement" in Macedonia (against the Ottoman empire). At least 60 gave their lives in this struggle, particularly in the great 1903 revolt. in the Ukraine, the (Anarchist) Makhnovist movement organised a titanic peasant revolt (1918-21) that only smashed the German occupation but redistributed the land, established worker- peasant self-management in many areas, and created a Revolutionary Insurgent Army under worker-peasant control.

In Ireland, James Connolly is remembered as a martyr of the 1916 Easter Rebellion against British imperialism. Connolly was basically a Syndicalist who believed in class struggle and in building revolutionary trade unions to smash capitalism. This is true despite his illusions in nationalism's revolutionary potential and elections.


Anarchists played a key part in the Korean struggle against Japanese imperialism. They were active in the 1919 uprising, and in 1924 formed the Korean Anarchist Federation (KAF) on a militant anti- imperialist platform that argued for international social revolution. In 1928 the KAF organised an Eastern Anarchist Federation in 1928 with affiliates in China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and other countries. Inside Korea, the Anarchists organised a country- wide underground network that engaged in guerrilla activity, propaganda work and trade union organising. in 1929, the Anarchists established a two million-strong armed zone of voluntary farming co-operatives in Manchuria. Although this zone was defeated some years later, resistance continued throughout the 1930s and joint Chinese - Korean operations were organised after Japan's 1937 invasion of China. Anarcho-syndicalists were active after independence in the 1940s despite repressive governments and internal divisions.


Finally, we should point out that Anarcho- syndicalists in the imperialist countries also supported the anti-imperialist struggle. For example, the prominent Japanese Anarchist Kotoku Shusi was framed and executed in 1910 after campaigning against Japanese expansionism. In Italy, the movement opposed Italian expansionism into Eritrea and Ethiopia in the 1880s and 1890s, and organised a massive anti-war movement against the 1911 invasion of Libya. In 1909, the Spanish Anarchists organised a mass strike against intervention in Morocco.

Workers' Solidarity Federation (South Africa)