The Lost World (失落的世界), Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, 1995. 啊, 我非常非常喜歡這本書, 就跟它的前集 (Jurassic Park) 一樣好. 可惜電影 就不同了. 如果把原著小說當做 1, 那麼侏儸紀公園那部電影可以得到 0.75 分吧; 而失落的世界這部電影應該只配 0.45 分. (順便想到, 我覺得電影相對小說可以得到 0.85 以上的, 記憶中只有獵殺紅色十月號.) 在前集小說裡, 我們的數學家 Malcolm 死了 (電影裡面沒叫他死). 這一本小說中 又硬是叫他復活了, 在療養院中休養了半年. 可能這個角色太討好了. Malcolm 該 不會成了近十年來在大眾社會中最著名的數學家吧? 在這兩本小說裡面, 他都傷得 蠻慘的 (他被一個女動物學家, Harding, 背著逃命的時候, 不忘幽默說: "it's so nice to have a man around the house"). 他也總是理論派的冠軍, 即使在最危難 的時候仍不忘記發表他的理論. 真的很像數學家給人的一般印象. 我先節錄幾段我很喜歡的片段: 【Malcolm 剛剛結束一場有關動態系統在生物絕種上的理論演講. 他的觀點是 物種本身的行為帶動絕種, 而非外在因素. 絕種是正常, 延續才是特例. 在答疑時間, 有人說了下面這一段話, 然後 Malcolm 發了這一段牢騷】 ... As one questioner had pompously phrased it, "The Cretaceous allowed our own sentient awareness to arise on the planet." Malcolm's reply was immediate: "What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There's no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they hind it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told---and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their `beliefs.' The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. 【這裡在介紹一位重要人物, 史丹佛的應用工程學教授 Thorne. 他提早退休, 離開學校, 開了工廠招收學徒去實現他的理想.】 ... He used to say, "How can you design for people if you don't know history and psychology? You can't. Because your mathematical formulas may be perfect, but the people will screw it up. And if that happens, it means you screwed it up." He peppered his lectures with quotations from Plato, Chaka Zulu, Emerson, and Chang-tzu. But as a professor who was popular with his students---and who advocated general education---Thorne found himself swimming against the tide. The academic world was marching toward ever more specialized knowledge, expressed in ever more dense jargon. In this climate, being liked by your students was a sign of shallowness; and interest in real-world problems was proof of intellectual poverty and a distressing indifference to theory. 【這裡, 故事中的天才古生物學家 Levine 對一個聰明的黑人小男孩 Arby 說一段 生物進化的故事, 有關植物的自衛. 有些植物為了避免被吃掉, 改變了它們的 化學成分, 使自己變得難吃, 或甚至有毒. 他說了非洲一種相思樹, 像長頸鹿 和羚羊之類的動物喜歡吃它們的葉子. 於是它們演化出大約三吋長的刺來阻擋那些 嘴巴. 後來那些食客就演化了長長的舌頭來避過這些刺. 相思樹的反擊就是演化 出毒性. 但這種毒性並不能隨時都有, 而是在自衛的時候才產生. 當一株樹被 咬的時候, 它就會散發出一種乙烯, 同林中的樹感受到這種警告訊息之後, 就趕快 製造毒性, 大約十分鐘後這種毒就足以致命. 這種相思樹的新演化導至了食客們 衍生出新的行為. 羚羊的辦法是吃一下就停, 等久一點再吃; 長頸鹿的辦法就是從 下風處吃葉子, 使得乙烯訊息傳不到上風處的其他相思樹. 我不知道那些非洲 相思樹的下一步演化棋要怎麼走.】 "In evolutionary theory, this is called the Red Queen phenomenon," Malcolm said. "Because in `Alice in Wonderland' the Red Queen tells Alice she has to run as fast as she can just to stay where she is. That's the way evolutionary spirals seem. All the organisms are evolving at a furious pace just to stay in the same balance. To stay where they are." 【下面是 Malcolm 對 Arby 解釋達爾文的自然天擇理論的漏洞. 我很喜歡這一段, 這是通常一個數學家對自然科學的看法. 至少我自己就是這樣看的. 這個故事的 作者不知從哪裡學來這些理念, 他一定和很多科學家和數學家談過.】 "... So gradually his 【達爾文的】 idea of evolution was accepted by scientists, and by the world at large. But the question remained: how does evolution happen? For that, Darwin didn't have a good answer." "Natural selection," Arby said. "Yes, that was Darwin's explanation. The environment exerts pressure which favors certain animals, and they breed more often in subsequent generations, and that's how evolution occurs. But as many people realized, natural selection isn't really an explanation. It's just a definition: if an animal succeeds, it must have been selected for. But what in the animal is favored? And how does natural selection actually operate? Darwin had no idea. And neither did anybody else for another fifty years." "But it's genes," Kelly said. "Okay," Malcolm said. "Fine. We come to the twentieth century. Mendel's work with plants is rediscovered. Fischer and Wright do population studies. Pretty soon we know genes control heredity---whatever genes are. Remember, through the first half of the century, all during World War I and World War II, nobody had any idea what a gene was. After Watson and Crick in 1953, we knew that genes were nucleotides arranged in a double helix. Great. And we knew about mutation. So by the late twentieth century, we have a theory of natural selection which says that mutations arise spontaneously in genes, that the environment favors the mutations that are beneficial, and out of this selection process evolution occurs. It's simple and straightforward. God is not at work. No higher organizing principle involved. In the end, evolution is just the result of a bunch of mutations that either survive or die. Right?" "Right," Arby said. "But there are problems with that idea," Malcolm said. "First of all, there's a time problem. A single bacterium---the earliest form of life--- has two thousand enzymes. Scientists have estimated how long it would take to randomly assemble those enzymes from a primordial soup. Estimates run from forty billion years to one hundred billion years. But the earth is only four billion years old. So, chance alone seems too slow. Particularly since we know bacteria actually appeared only four hundred million years after the earth began. Life appeared very fast---which is why some scientists have decided life on earth must be of extraterrestrial origin. Although I think that's just evading the issue." "Second, there's the coordination problem. If you believe the current theory, then all the wonderful complexity of life is nothing but the accumulation of chance events---a bunch of genetic accidents strung together. Yet when we look closely at animals, it appears as if many elements must have evolved simultaneously. Take bats, which have echolocation---they navigate by sound. To do that, many things must evolve. Bats need a specialized apparatus to make sounds, they need specialized ears to hear echoes, they need specialized brains to interpret the sounds, and they need specialized bodies to dive and swoop and catch insects. If all these things don't evolve simultaneously, there's no advantage. And to imagen all these things happen purely by chance is like imagining that a tornado can hit a junkyard and assemble the parts into a working 747 airplane. It's very hard to believe." "Next problem. Evolution doesn't always act like a blind force should. Certain environmental niches don't get filled. Certain plants don't get eaten. And certain animals don't evolve much. Sharks haven't changed for a hundred and sixty million years. Opossums haven't changed since dinosaurs become extinct, sixty-five million years ago. The environments for these animals have changed dramatically, but the animals have remained almost the same. ..." "... I am saying that natural selection acting on genes is probably not the whole story. It's too simple. Other forces are also at work. The hemoglobin molecule is a protein that is folded like a sandwich around a central iron atom that binds oxygen. Hemoglobin expands and contracts when it takes on and gives up oxygen---like a tiny molecular lung. Now, we know the sequence of amino acids that make up hemoglobin. But we don't know how to fold it. Fortunately, we don't need to know that, because if you make the molecule, it folds all by itself. It organizes itself. And it turns out, again and again, that living things seem to have a self-organizing quality. Proteins fold. Enzymes interact. Cells arrange themselves to form organs and the organs arrange themselves to form a coherent individual. Individuals organize themselves to make a population. And populations organize themselves to make a coherent biosphere. From complexity theory, we're starting to have a sense of how this self-organization may happen, and what it means. And it implies a major change in how we view evolution." 【小說裡面就不能說得再清楚了. 如果要比較嚴肅地讀這方面的想法, 或許該去選一本 相關題材的天下文化叢書.】 【這裡在說低智慧的動物, 在生命中所須的能力, 大半可以放在基因中遺傳, 或稱本能, 也可以說是 built-in functions 吧. 越高等的動物, 腦部的結構 就越複雜而且能夠放在基因中成為本能的資訊也就越少. 他們用這個理論解釋 為什麼迅猛龍那麼聰明, 但是它們的社會結構卻最差: 原因是它們比較聰明, 所以本能部分較少, 不在本能的那一部分就要靠教育. 但是這些迅猛龍是實驗室 裡的產品, 它們沒有父母親來教育它們.】 "... It began a spiral: more complex tools provoked more complex brains which provoked more complex tools. And our brains literally exploded, in evolutionary terms. Our brains more than doubled in size in about a million years. And that caused problems for us." "Like getting born, for one thing. Big brains can't pass through the birth canal---which means that both mother and child die in childbirth. That's no good. What's the evolutionary response? To make human infants born very early in development, when their brains are still small enough to pass through the pelvis. It's the marsupial solution---most of the growth occurs outside the mother's body. A human child's brain doubles during the first year of life. That's a good solution to the problem of birth, but it creates other problems. It means that human children will be helpless long after birth. The infants of many mammals can walk minutes after they're born. Others walk in a few days, or weeks. But human infants can't walk for a full year. They can't feed themselves for even longer. So one price of big brains was that out ancestors had to evolve new, stable social organizations to permit long-term child care, lasting many years. These big-brained, totally helpless children changed society. But that's not the most important consequence." "Being born in an immature state means that human infants have unformed brains. They don't arrive with a lot of built-in instinctive behavior. Instinctively, a newborn infant can such and grasp, but that's about all. Complex human behavior is not instinctive at all. So human societies had to develop education to train the brains of their children. To teach them how to act. Every human society expends tremendous time and energy teaching its children the right way to behave. ... Because raising children is, in a sense, the reason the society exists in the first place. It's the most important thing that happens, and it's the culmination of all the tools and language and social structure that has evolved. And eventually, a few million years later, we have kids using computers." 【這裡我們又看到 Malcolm 發表他獨特的謬論. 他認為全球資訊網不但不代表 資訊的發達和知識的流通, 反而可能導至我們的自我毀滅.】 "... Although personally, I think cyberspace means the end of our species." "Yes? Why is that?" "Because it means the end of innovation," Malcolm said. "This idea that the whole world is wired together is mass death. Every biologist knows that small groups in isolation evolve fastest. You put a thousand birds on an ocean island and they'll evolve very fast. You put ten thousand on a big continent, and their evolution slow down. Now, for our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior. We innovate new behavior to adapt. And everybody on earth knows that innovation only occurs in small groups. Put three people on a committee and they may get something done. Ten people, and it gets harder. Thirty people, and nothing happens. 【讓人想起三個和尚沒水喝的故事】 Thirty million, it becomes impossible. That's the effect of mass media---it keeps anything from happening. Mass media swamps diversity. It makes every place the same. ... Regional differences vanish. All differences vanish. In a mass-media world, there's less of everything except the top ten books, records, movies, ideas. People worry about losing species diversity in the rain forest. But what about intellectual deversity--- our most necessary resource? That's disappearing faster than trees. But we haven't figured that out, so now we're planning to put five billion people together in cyberspace. And it'll freeze the entire species. Everything will stop dead in its tracks. Everyone will think the same thing at the same time. Global uniformity. Oh, that hurts." 我自己, 還有大部分讀到這篇文字的讀者們, 可能都算是 cyberspace 的一員. 我們的想法是什麼呢? 有這麼嚴重嗎? 網路上的訊息的確增加了我們的同質性, 但是無政府狀態的網際網路, 造成一個非常熱鬧, 非常自由的溝通環境. 所有人 的意見都可以出現, 都可以被閱讀, 被辯論, 被思考, 被人選擇接受或不接受. 這難道不是健康的嗎? 事實上, 我常覺得資訊的快速, 使我失落, 使我覺得沒有資訊, 使我寂寞. 所以, 我感覺 (沒有仔細想過), 網路的普遍不是個大問題, 資訊的迅速才是嚴重的問題. 它使我們處在一個 era of no information. 前面還說了, 人類的演化大部分表現在行為模式上面. 如果我們跟隨他的說法, 認為社會行為主要是為了教育下一代的, 那麼, 今天的社會模式會帶給我們的 行為模式什麼樣的演化呢? 對同性戀的包容, 甚至同性婚姻, 還有獨身以及無育 的婚姻, 是否都反應著現代人類社會行為的演化呢? 當教育下一代的負擔不再 是致命的社會需求, 當人類可以選擇放下或減輕這千年的負荷, 是否演化出新的 社會結構以及婚姻模式? 在故事中, 狂牛病也軋了一腳, 成為整個故事的迷團之中的一個解. 不知道口啼疫 會不會在某個暢銷小說中軋一腳呢? 九七年七月底在 San Jose 的 Jenny 家中讀完.
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