Our bodies, like our minds, appear to us to be separate individuals, distinct from the bodies of other people. From an evolutionary perspective, however, this is not true. Considering our bodies from the perspective of deep evolutionary time, it is clear that they are not distinct from, but are rather continuous with, the bodies of other people and indeed of all other organisms. Our cell membranes and the cytoplasm they enclose are continuous with the membranes and cytoplasm of the very first cells. We and all of the organisms we see around us are appendages, organs, and sensory surfaces of a single, planetary-scale, almost 4 billion year-old organism that is exploring and altering the physical environment of Earth. What we call “evolution” is the developmental process of this organism from one to trillions of cells. We have only the most minimal understanding of this developmental process. However, rethinking our bodies from this deep-time perspective is perhaps useful for rethinking our minds and self-identities.
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