Those of you who read my blog regularly (Hi Mum!) will know that one topic I return to regularly is intelligence, and what is it good for, if anything. I was reminded again of this topic when I read about a new human species recently identified from fossils found in Kenya, taking the number of concurrent species to at least three. As the following picture (taken from the BBC article above - thanks Auntie – who presumably took it from the original article in Nature) shows, our ancestors and relatives had several attempts at being us before they got it right.
But maybe we were just lucky. Maybe evolution didn't select us. It just hasn’t got round to getting rid of us yet. It has just dusted of its hands after disposing of H. floresiensis, and now its turning its attention to us. Not that we haven’t been standing in full view, hopping from one foot to the other, with our hand in the air shouting ‘My turn, my turn’. Certainly, the way we are screwing with our planet could only be construed as a challenge to the evolutionary process. “Come on then evolution, show us whadya got?”
Since I am not convinced that intelligence is a necessary outcome of evolution, I think it would be interesting to describe us slowly becoming extinct because we couldn't run fast enough, couldn't photosynthesize, couldn't breathe underwater or couldn't take to the air and soar without landing for weeks or months (as the albatross can do) while the ground beneath us is ravaged by one or more of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Becoming extinct because we couldn't agree on the problems with the environment, or couldn't suppress out aggression and our itchy fingers on the nuclear trigger is too mundane.)
To look at it from another angle, a story could describe why other traits are superior to intelligence, why man faded away because other animals or plants adapted better to the changing environment. The ultimate come-uppance tale would be mankind extinguished because he could not adapt to the environmental changes he had caused, while other animals could.