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Cervantes: What our past tells us about change

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | MARCH 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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A recent archaeological find in Oregon may very well rewrite the history books. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced the unearthing on March 5. According to experts, the discovered artifact, a stone hand-held scraper, is dated to be roughly 15,000 years old.

This predates the Clovis culture, whose people are believed to be the first humans to occupy North America around 13,000 years ago. University of Oregon archaeologist Patrick O’Grady calls the breakthrough “tantalizing,” yet there are others who remain skeptical over the validity of the of the artifact’s date.

This discovery (and the undoubtedly lengthy discussion over legitimacy) proves that no matter how much we seem know about any given subject, nothing is ever truly set in stone.

Take, for example, the lengthy history and fascination of paleontology. When the world first began to contemplate and imagine what a dinosaur might have looked like, the unanimously decided biological design was that of an everyday lizard but to a more gargantuan size. The common understanding of evolution (at the time) was that creatures evolved from a lesser species to a better one. The world of science was so certain of its knowledge then, just as we are so certain now of our current understanding.

That’s just one of the countless ways in which our understanding of the world has been altered. We are a species that once thought the world is flat and that those who were left-handed wrote with the Devil’s hand. The fact that we are able to alter our worldview because of newly discovered knowledge is something amazing.

However, that’s not saying that change is an easily accepted experience. One unfavorable trait of humanity is our aversive attitude toward change. In fact, more often than not, the dutifully administered change will try to work its way into a culture, only to be socially rejected and abandoned.

Think back to the 1980s and how the United States tried to incorporate the metric system into our everyday culture. On paper, the action made sense. More than 95 percent of the world uses the metric system, and we are the only “superpower” not in the majority. Today though, in 2015, we still use feet and inches in our measurements.

Logically, we should have pushed for this adaptation. However, it was a change that threatened to alter what was always a constant. Because it threatened to alter a constant, it was eventually dismissed. That is the challenge that every new discovery and notion must face, especially in today’s modern world. With the progress we’ve made, it’s easy to hold our collective intelligence in high regard, believing it to be infallible. This heightened bravado of ours makes it more difficult to accept something new.

This is why I am cautiously worried for whatever groundbreaking happenings arise. Because we grow more scientifically adept with each passing year, there are surely more findings out there, dormant yet able to change life as we know it.  There will surely be a challenge to whatever the change may be. The only true questions are how much we will fight it and whether the discovery will prevail.


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