Manipulation -- Eric R. Pianka


© Eric R. Pianka

This is the simplest and most direct way in which we modify things to our own ends. We pick up a rock and throw it at an animal. Early humans learned to sharpen flint and to make spears and bows and arrows, which greatly enhanced their ability to kill (as well as defend themselves).

Soon you would be touching that bright shiny car. When it didn't bite back, you'd start messing around with it. You might find the door handle and with your extreme cleverness, discover how to depress the latch and open the door. You would be pleased with yourself and continue exploration. Now you'd enter the car and sit on the driver's seat looking out the windshield. You'd wonder what the circular steering wheel was and might even try turning it. Sooner or later, you'd notice the bright shiny key in the ignition -- it might take a while, but eventually, you'd fiddle with the key and might actually turn it. When the starter began to turn over, you'd be startled, stop, jump out of the car, and run for cover. But, given your innate curiosity, you'd soon be back, testing, turning that key once again. Finally the engine would start. It's even louder noise would send you running back into the bushes, but not for long. Soon, you'd be sitting in the car again, but this time with its engine running. You'd fiddle with the gear shift lever and move it from park to drive. The car would lurch and maybe die. But you'd try again until you prevailed. You'd still have to discover the accelerator and brake pedals, but with a little luck and perseverance, you'd be driving around. And, you would be so very pleased with yourself for showing such ingenuity. Manipulation is the lowest form of human cleverness but one of the things we do best. Knowledge and understanding require more than curiosity and mere fiddling around, they require training and learning and must be passed on from person to person.

Last updated 12 September 2014 by Eric R. Pianka