Can Altruism Save Humans From Becoming Extinct?

In every human society, altruism, a selfless concern for the welfare of others, is considered a noble virtue. Being altruistic and helping others has great implications for the human race. As in the past, altruism will affect the very survival of the human race. As a species, can we choose to go the selfish Neanderthal way or the more altruistic Cro-Magnon way?
In every human society, altruism, a selfless concern for the welfare of others is considered a noble virtue. There are people who go out of their ways, disregarding any expectation of reward and even at great risks to themselves to help others in need. Some of these people are noticed and considered heroes, while many of these unsung heroes are never noticed. Sacrificing oneself for the greater good of many is considered the ultimate act of self-negation and celebrated as the true mark of a hero.

Love, especially romantic love is typically seen to be the privilege of the higher primates, humans. When animals are fiercely attached to another one of their species, doting, grooming, and engaged in passionate lovemaking, they are said to be in heat, instinctually reacting to a rush of hormones.

What would animals reckon if we told them that only the higher primates of the family Hominidae could practice altruism? Probably they would have a good giggle. Altruism is not uncommon in the animal world. Even bacteria exhibit altruism.

Salmonella bacteria sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the other members of their species. Entering the digestive tract of humans, they discover a hostile world as other bacteria have dug themselves into strategic positions. Then the salmonella “select” one in six microbes during cell division as a reconnaissance party. By digging into the human intestinal tissues, they cause the human defence system to flood the tract with repellents. They die as a result of this, but this clears away all the other bacteria, when massive colonization by other salmonella can begin.

Does love require self-sacrifice?

Ask any mother and she will tell how motherly love involves self-sacrifice. Research by Felix Warneken and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology show that Chimpanzees often help other species, also humans without any expectation of reward. Dogs often adopt orphaned human babies, squirrels, cats, and even tiger cubs. Dolphins habitually support sick or injured animals by swimming under them and pushing them to the surface to help them breathe. One extreme example of altruism is the Stegodyphus spider, with a unique system of matriphagy. When the Stegodyphus spider offspring is mature enough, it actually eats the mother.

The great evolutionist Charles Darwin in his Theory of Natural Selection, claimed that each species survives by being selfish and fiercely competitive. But, he also wrote in The Descent of Man (1871) “I have myself seen a dog, who never passed a cat who lay sick in a basket without giving her a few licks with his tongue. “ As a true scientist, he even considered these observations “insuperable, and actually fatal to my whole theory.”

Have you ever considered why Neanderthal Man became extinct, while the physically weaker Cro-Magnon man survived and evolved?

James Shreeve, in The Neanderthal Enigma: Solving the Mystery of Modern Human Origins. New York: William Morrow & Co, 1995, tries to answer this question. He says that Neanderthal man was a prehistoric egomaniac. The inability to behave in an altruistic and cooperative manner towards other Neanderthals, especially the females and children of their own clans turned into a gigantic disadvantage.

The poignant cave paintings at Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain show a distinct deviance from the “Ugh! I’ll kill you”, approach of the Neanderthal Man. Women are venerated; animals are not seen as food alone, but as mythological being with a celestial connection.

Human culture arose from the Cro-Magnon man’s (and woman’s) ability to share experience, artefacts and values with others. Innovations and synergy developed in the Cro-Magnon man and helped them survive and evolve.

Being altruistic and helping others has great implications for the human race. As in the past, altruism will affect the very survival of the human race. We fare well, if we care.

As a species, can we choose to go the Neanderthal way or the Cro-Magnon way? Yes, but the choice is always individual.

Do Cobras Carry Gems on Their Hoods?

The Judeo-Christian traditions see snakes as evil and cunning that seek to corrupt our souls – a result of a well-known antediluvian incident at Eden. I have also read something fascinating: the meaning of the Hebrew word for “serpent” matches the word “messiah”.

Hindus worship the snakes, and snakes are an integral part of Indian culture. There are festivals during which snakes are worshipped, and there are temples for snakes too. Many Hindu gods wear the snakes around their necks or waists, or make a bed out of it.

Shiva and Vishnu with reptilian adornments

You will find many trees on the countryside where snakes are sculpted on stone slabs. Probably, you would find an ant hill nearby. The worship of the snake is closely associated with fertility rituals. Women throng here on certain days; feed milk to snakes and offer worship.

Narasimha Snake Temple in India.

Often when a child is born; it is named after the snake deity – Nagappa, Nagamma, etc. Killing of a cobra is considered to be a sin; thus, people don’t kill it when they chance upon it at homes or in open fields, despite the fear that it is poisonous.

The Cobra Gem or the Nagamani

There are several myths connected with snakes, especially the cobra. People believe the hood of an old cobra carries a Pearl that radiates light even in the dark, and bestows luck and great fortune on whoever possesses them.

How does the pearl get developed in the cobra? It is said that if a snake lives up to 100 years or probably longer and hasn’t exhausted its venom, the venom hardens into an iridescent pearl, and the snake uses this pearl to hunt the prey.

The Newyork Times, March 9, 1890 talks about an article published in Harper’s monthly magazine by Prof. Hensoldt PhD, who had personally seen the cobra pearl in Sri Lanka under natural conditions and researched on a few pieces he owned. He found the stone to be made of a mineral called chlorophane, a rare variety of fluorspar.

Some varieties of chlorophane phosphoresce for hours in the dark even when slightly warmed by holding it in the  hands for a few moments.

Why and how do the snakes carry and make use of them, and from where do these chlorophane pebbles come from?

Cobras are perhaps the only serpents which eat insects and have preference for fire-flies because they can be easily caught at night. The female fire-flies are much larger than males, and cannot fly. They sit quietly in grass, emit a greenish light that fades and glows rhythmically, and this light attracts male fire-flies.

The chlorophane pebble also emits in the dark a dark green light not unlike the female fire-flies, and cobras use them as decoys to attract the fire-flies with it.

The cobra finds one these shining pebble in the gravel of the dry river beds, and goes for it assuming it to be the larvae of some glow worm. Through experience, it would notice that the fire-flies could be caught much more easily using the phosphorescent pebble. The cobra carries it about and soon learns to treasure it as a means to easy food during its old age. Prof. Hensoldt believes even a young cobra learns the tricks of the trade and it becomes an instinct for it, because the inherited race memory among the lower animals is often far stronger than the memory gathered during the short lifetime of the individual.

Where Are The Cholophane Pebbles Found?

The water worn chlorophane pebbles are normally found in dry bed rivers and especially in area where gem mines are around, i.e. places like Sri Lanka, Burma and Ural (Siberia). In Sri-Lanka the chlorophane is also called serpent stone.

A chlorophane from Siberia glows white from hand heat, green in boiling water and emerald on burning coal. And Chlorophane from Amelia Court House, Virginia, long recognized as remarkably thermo luminescent, became, after exposure to UV rays, so sensitive it would glow green from the heat of one’s hand.

With all this background, one can say that Cobra Pearl is not formed inside the body of a snake.