More story ideas. These could be used for either a tabletop rpg, a mush, written stories, or a combination of things.
Different areas to consider for world-building:
Talked to M some more about worlds I might like to create. We talked about evolution some more, and how a mutation might affect an existing society while it’s in the process of spreading through the population.
As I noted before, a single mutation is probably not enough to differentiate a new species. If a mutation really does make someone into a new species (and therefore unable to breed with others in the population) then he is a new species of one and about to become extinct. So it must take more than one mutation to make a new species. Since mutations occur far apart in time, they are likely to either fixate the entire population or die out before another one comes along. This is probably why isolation is necessary to form a new species.
However, biologists note that the two populations don’t have to be geographically isolated – they could instead isolate themselves by behavior. For example, insects that switch to a different host plant might not have an opportunity to mate with individuals from the same species who are still feeding from (and looking for mates on) the original host plant. Even though they may live in overlapping geographical areas, they are each unavailable to the other for breeding purposes, so any future mutations would fixate one population and not the other.
Being “mostly” isolated from the other population probably doesn’t count, so this would probably not apply to two populations of humans trying to segregate themselves. Humans are quite promiscuous, and all it takes is one inter-breeding in hundreds of generations to mix up the blood lines again. This would seem to conflict with the idea that humans lived alongside some other group of near-humans for any length of time. However according to encyclopedia.com: Cro-Magnon man was anatomically identical to modern humans, but differed significantly from Neanderthals, who disappear in the fossil about 10,000 years after the appearance of [Cro-Magnon man]. The abrupt disappearance of Neanderthal populations and associated technologies, the sudden appearance of modern Homo sapiens and upper Paleolithic technologies, and the absence of transitional anatomical or technological forms have led most researchers to conclude that Neanderthals were driven to extinction through competition with Cro-Magnon or related populations. Perhaps this means that the population leading to Cro-Magnon and the population leading to Neanderthals were isolated well before this, and came into contact and competition with one another well after the species had become reproductively isolated. Hmm.
Anyway, I think I will not worry too much about how a new species might be formed… there are enough opportunities for mayhem just tracking one particular mutation. M points out that usually mutations occur very far apart in time in our world, but if there were outside influences, then mutations might occur more often (think D. Brin’s Uplift War and related stories)
We also shifted gears to talk about theology. I don’t have a very good idea about how pantheistic theologies work, meaning any belief system that consists of multiple gods, and people might worship one or the other depending on their station, their needs, special occasions, etc. There aren’t really any modern examples of this; the ancient Greeks and the Romans are the only examples I can think of.
But, what if there really were multiple gods, and each of them were trying to gain influence by winning over more worshippers/followers. There might be alliances between the gods made and later broken. I don’t think I would want the gods in the story to be too powerful or too present, because we want the characters to believe that they are in charge of their own destinies. But, what if the gods had some minute level of control, and were using their tiny influences here and there to screw with each other and gain power? If they were only able to influence the mortal world in subtle ways, then the competition for followers could be a huge chess game played out in hundreds of tiny moves, each of which takes hundreds of years to fully play out. For example, one god might plant a seed that grows up to be a huge benefit to one culture or region a hundred years later, but in the time it takes that to happen, maybe the region or culture he is trying to help switches to following some other god, so the move backfires.
Another thought, what if the various gods compete with each other by causing mutations, among other rascally things? Hmmm.