on humanism and environmental crisis

Archive for the ‘Evolutionary Reality’ Category

Why humanistic worldview?

Why the humanistic worldview is the best stance to survive the environmental crisis.

Amsterdam Declaration, Humanist Manifesto 2022 is such a concise and thoughtful document that we should start by quoting it.

1. Humanists strive to be ethical

  • We accept that morality is inherent to the human condition, grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish, motivated by the benefits of helping and not harming, enabled by reason and compassion, and needing no source outside of humanity.
  • We affirm the worth and dignity of the individual and the right of every human to the greatest possible freedom and fullest possible development compatible with the rights of others. To these ends, we support peace, democracy, the rule of law, and universal legal human rights.
  • We reject all forms of racism and prejudice and the injustices that arise from them. We seek instead to promote the flourishing and fellowship of humanity in all its diversity and individuality.
  • We hold that personal liberty must be combined with a responsibility to society. A free person has duties to others, and we feel a duty of care to all of humanity, including future generations, and beyond this to all sentient beings.
  • We recognize that we are part of nature and accept our responsibility for the impact we have on the rest of the natural world.

2. Humanists strive to be rational

  • We are convinced that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human reason and action. We advocate the application of science and free inquiry to these problems, remembering that while science provides the means, human values must define the ends. We seek to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, and never callously or destructively.

3. Humanists strive for fulfillment in their lives

  • We value all sources of individual joy and fulfillment that harm no other, and we believe that personal development through the cultivation of creative and ethical living is a lifelong undertaking.
  • We, therefore, treasure artistic creativity and imagination and recognize the transforming power of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. We cherish the beauty of the natural world and its potential to bring wonder, awe, and tranquility. We appreciate individual and communal exertion in physical activity, and the scope it offers for comradeship and achievement. We esteem the quest for knowledge, and the humility, wisdom, and insight it bestows.

4. Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism

  • Though we believe that a commitment to human well-being is ageless, our particular opinions are not based on revelations fixed for all time. Humanists recognize that no one is infallible or omniscient and that knowledge of the world and of humankind can be won only through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking.
  • For these reasons, we seek neither to avoid scrutiny nor to impose our view on all humanity. On the contrary, we are committed to the unfettered expression and exchange of ideas, and seek to cooperate with people of different beliefs who share our values, all in the cause of building a better world.
  • We are confident that humanity has the potential to solve the problems that confront us, through free inquiry, science, sympathy, and imagination in the furtherance of peace and human flourishing.
  • We call upon all who share these convictions to join us in this inspiring endeavor.

Nice, huh?

For the first time, stringing the line of past manifestos, this one uses the term “worldview”. It is a relief: “I am not a humanist, or not only a humanist, I just have a humanistic worldview. I can be many things at once, including a disappointed Catholic boy, deep in my guts.”

I am a humanist, I have a humanistic worldview. It is a big difference, isn’t it? Unlikely “being a Catholic versus Catholic worldview”, no humanist objects. 

With religion it is not enough – you need to be it!

While this manifesto is the most rational, intellectual, and objective description of humanism, at the same time it brings its origins, and motivation to the primordial instinct, and is “grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish”. Our morality, instead of divine scriptures, comes straight from human nature, where else?

And religious people holler at this moment:” Aha*, Gotcha!” And: “ Which human nature? The morality of caveman? Or Marks’, or Lenin’s? God forbid!”

Really, can you sacrifice, and fight to defend “human nature”?

This is the crux (pardon the pun) of the matter. How can you base all your philosophy on something so elusive and controversial as human nature? No surprise that there are fewer humanists in the US than snake-handling and tongues-speaking fundamentalists.

So, first, make humanistic morality and purpose not so elusive:

It is actually much easier to have a humanistic worldview than the Declaration suggests: you just like humans more than corporations, more than the government, and more than the religious authority. The origins of human nature are not so elusive as neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and paleoanthropology converging over the last few decades. Cooperation and altruism was the hallmark of the evolutionary developmental success of our ancestors over the last 8 million of years (and then of Homo sapiens). New data on language and on hypersociality point out that we are more interdependent than we ever dreamt of. This gives meaning and purpose: you need to be a little bit like an anti-establishment hero- do great things for people, against the authorities, monsters, demons ( including those inside you), and even gods. Fun.

Second, think about environmental disasters.

These days “humanist” actually means “eco-humanist”. 

Humanists see the world literally made by humans, messed up by humans, and with humans as the only resource and responsibility to fix it. In “” Shared reality” and “Hybrid mind and where does it come from”**, I described the details of constructing the world (I wanted to say “our World” or “the World as we see it” but it would suggest that there is another World somewhere. It is not.)

It is how nature made us, we are curious, resourceful, cooperative, and funny. It is a gift, we need to use it and duck again in the last minute before extinction.

The world is divided: the religious people on one side, the science on the other, also individualistic, the Aristotelian West on one side, and The East of Confucius and Buddha on the other. 

Religions are older than humanity and they help to live for billions of people. But they were made to make people passive, resigned with their ignorance and powerlessness (except in smothering heathens), awaiting a better afterlife. We need to fix the world now, be joyful, and teach nature new tricks.

The same with science: it teaches misanthropy, “ look around and sulk!”, “insignificant speck in gazillions of galaxies”” maybe this or that colorful gadget makes you feel better, maybe this pill?” Determinism tells us that everything has already been decided, so what is the point? 

As humanists, we know that we are children of the past but have to think about the future globally and we do not worry about science and religion much- we invented both quite recently. 

To fix the world, the first couple of questions have to be: “what’s wrong?” and “how come?”

The Religion says: we lost love ( or we do not understand /know how it is done). 

The science says: ( as always – long on facts, short on whys)

”We are like overcrowded lab rats, exhausted our resources and fighting each other”

No exit. 

Well, remember we are Houdini -like humanists. We have this trick in our sleeve: consciousness ( which is thinking, free will, memory, hopping from paradigm to paradigm, etc).

We fearlessly examine our past and boldly design the solution.

We need utopian social engineering combined with knowledge of the ancient past and the wisdom of religion and science.

There are two distinct modes of happiness: the first is related to material possessions and power, (which is also dependent on material possessions). The new red tricycle you always wanted, the rise, the promotion in the company’s hierarchy. The other type of happiness is listening to your favorite music, watching a sunset with a friend, and learning how to do mosaics. The first type is like sharing a pie, the more I get, somebody will get less of it. The other type is the opposite, the more I get the more others can get. The first is regulated by money, and the other depends on the quality of experience, the quality of relationships, and skills. The first inevitably requires using material resources, and the other is much more sustainable.

If we can change the proportions of those two types of happiness in society we could be really happier, freer, living with less valiance and with less inequality.

The good thing is that we cannot force this type of change- no Orwellian “happiness”.

Old people are difficult to change, but if we teach our children well change is possible. 

Actually, this type of change is underway. The program devised by French philosopher Frederic Lenoir and his team teaches children to be mindful and think critically. It is called “savoir etre, vivre ensemble( SEVE)”- learning how to be and how to live with others. The courses are offered in 6 francophone countries, the French Canadian version is closest to the US.

I don’t think, these programs are labeled as “humanism” but it looks non-materialistic and non-dogmatic. Let’s start something similar in the rest of the world.

UNESCO and pope Francis promote education for global citizenship and peace. It is not very popular in the United States because of political or religious overtones. Would SEVE be better accepted or “too much philosophy”?

*Aha- American Humanist Association.

** in my blog: ecohumanistlab.com.

More reading:

Eco-humanism, African cosmology and ubuntu:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael-Eze-4/publication/321157259_Humanitati

Essays related to covid 19 and environmental crisis- opening for the new world?

Pope Francis’s “Laudato si” and the liberal agenda:

dium=store_panel&utm_campaign=moving_boldly

SEVE (savoir etre vivre ensemble)

https://www.helloasso.com/associations/seve-savoir-etre-et-vivre-ensemble

Shared Reality

Our environmental and social crisis has many unexpected repercussions and consequences, not all of them negative. As we are running out of the Earth’s resources, it made us think about and research nonmaterialistic societies, the origins of altruism, and human nature. Our collective unconsciousness, as whole humanity assumed more of the undertone; “what’s wrong with us?” And because the niche crisis obviously plays itself in the broad dimensions of time and space, these questions force us to be more aware of our deep past and (unfortunately) not-so-distant future.

The new data from neuroscience, prehistory, and linguistics allowed us to rethink human origins.

The discovery is simple and (like the notion that we come from monkeys) startling. Our reality is created by the human mind. Without the human mind, there is no reality. While the construction of this reality started recently, about 50,000 years ago by our human hybrid mind, it is based on our brain’s ancient algorithms and perception systems millions of years old. 

Since this new reality’s construction started, in the Upper Paleolithic period, every infant repeats this feat and builds reality simultaneously with building language, and selfhood in the first year of life. Every animal has its own world, only one, but we have two- an ancient, instinctual world of algorithms and the new one, shared with the rest of humans, symbolic, linguistic, attached to consciousness. As I will explain later, it started from sharing and naming simple things- like the baby does- but it is the only reality we know! And the only reality there is. ( “is”, the concept of existence, is the intrinsic part of this new system, and is related to  the concept of “self”)

What does it mean for the everyday person? How do these instinctual and new systems work together in our brains? The ancient, instinctual system works all the time-breathing, feelings, and moods- but when we talk to others, write, and use the language, this new system seamlessly piggybacks on the old one.

The things are real, the stone when kicked- hurts.  But: as everything is invented by the nervous system of our ancestors, so all kinds of extraterrestrials and supernaturals are also invented. And all cosmos to add. And everything that exists. Existence as a concept is probably a very recent invention. 

But, how about evolution. This new thing couldn’t have sprouted out of our brain suddenly, out of blue. 

 That’s right, it couldn’t. This is the hypothesis explaining the possible origins and the mechanism of the generation of this strange hybrid system. 

This is the new sequence of events:

 Some of them will appear in boldface, denoting my hypothetical thinking, the rest is well known. I do not need to defend my hypotheses, it will be written soon in detail by some super-professors from MIT or Oxford. ( I am going to be like Alfred Russell Wallace of shared reality).

8 million years ago: split from bonobos: both branches “worked” on the social niche, possibly our ancestors benefited from some minor mutation making it easier to communicate by sound.

Bonobos stayed with social communications via grooming, pheromones, and sex. Homo was improving a variety of sound production and/or discerning. It might have forced parietal hearing and memory centers to grow, made brains even bigger and childhood even longer. The sound system was perfect for prelinguistic algorithms improving cooperation, band organization, and defense. We can imagine that these improved signs and sound utterances are short outwardly but in the brain, they were part of algorithms growing longer and clumsier, part of million years of building, and very difficult to teach, especially without the concept of self.

4 million years ago: another split- “Robustus” branches worked more on using the big brains to defend themself against changes in the environment, mostly glaciation periods. They culminated in producing the Neardenthal, extremely strong, practical, “street-smart”. The “Gracilis “ branches continued with prosocial communications with homo Erectus sporting some evidence of the concept of the unknown, awe, burials, curiosity, and altruism. The benefits were slowly increasing but liabilities and dangers were enormous. Without the concept of self and of names of objects, the algorithms can do only so much in the material world.

Still, some of them managed to escape the climate deterioration- “first diffusion” 1, 7 million years ago. 

500 000 years ago, the last split into “Robustus”- Neanderthal and “Gracilis” -homo sapiens. The sapiens were eusocial, emotional, and emphatic, but still prelinguistic.

( I realize, that for many it will be impossible to imagine such a sophisticated and mature culture without symbolic language).

This gave us, our ancestors, some advantage over other groups but changes in climate eventually killed everybody except a few thousand sapiens remaining, somehow overlapping (Southern Europe or North Africa) with the dying remnants of Neanderthals. They kept improving proto-language, cooperation, altruism, and friendship, but the progression of the material culture was very slow.

My hypothesis suggests that the advances of social intelligence, with big brains without selfhood and language reached its limits– like many of the other intelligent and social species. At least 26 branches of hominids died and the Sapiens population was reduced to several thousand. The formidable social skills couldn’t protect against their environment, especially considering periodical glaciations and the eruptions of the mega-volcanoes during the last 100 000 years. 

50,000 or 40,000 years ago: This small group of brightest, most altruistic, and eloquent homo sapiens survived, they are our ancestors. I imagine a combination of three major factors and a lot of luck. 

  1. Close-knit family, they are on the move,(escaping cold or drought or other animals) trying to survive, and a lot of talking.
  2. Extended childhood, toddlers practicing talking, adults listening. 
  3. Possible elements of translation, desperate contact with other groups or Neanderthals with a different language, and utilization of a child’s learning process.

This is the imagined sequence of events: Proto language communication with sound being a part of a complex algorithm is understood by a child or foreigner as the name of the simple thing. Repeated back as such it creates a circle of people sharing a reality. The name and its meaning are attached to the person who used it. 

( the woman says: “ apples need to be picked up”,  the child cries pointing: “apples, apples”, and a foreigner says: “you called it apples?” and the woman repeats: ”yes, apples”)

Enormous social advantages are immediate. 

My hypothesis is that symbolic language, shared reality, selfhood and consciousness are the same thing, started together, as recently as 50,000 years ago, and are responsible for our survival and success.

50000 to 10000 years ago: The event described above ushered us into the next 40,000 years of the “Golden Age”.

The climate was excellent and shared reality and linguistic skills spread with trade, social life, art, and religion. It was the world before the Big Flood.

It took many generations for the concepts of ownership have become connected to power and pleasure. Humans were non-materialistic, so inequality was different than we can imagine. It could be appearance, being “close to higher powers”, personal skills, the rhetorical skills.  The “power”, still without material wealth, could be more fluid, societies changed from season to season. Huge monuments and mounds were built and destroyed without hierarchy, bureaucracy, and much of inequality. New archeological discoveries in Turkey, Stonehenge, and Meso-America suggest that.

10.000 years ago to the present. Domestication of people, plants, and animals. The “primordial sin’- materialism, eventually caught up with us. Shared reality allowed for agriculture, technology, and inequality. A thin layer of greed spread over our bran new world of things, relationships and gods. Empires and Religions rose and fell until the circle seems to be closing up and we are facing… each other again.

This timetable, based on the development of a hybrid brain changes the evolutionary view of human nature.

Homo sapiens emerged with an almost suicidal drive towards sociality, empathy, altruism, and emotionality. We used primates’ big brains, and rich sensory worlds fueling curiosity, especially the curiosity of others. Then we “bet” on sound-mediated communication, which turned out to be the “winner” bringing us off the brink of extinction.

The sound-mediated communication culminated in the invention of the language-selfhood-shared reality complex. 

This new toy combined with the relatively good climate gave us the abundance of the “Golden Age” with gods, art, and technology. Humans flourished spreading all over the planet.

And then, just recently,10, 000 years ago, let me repeat it: a thin slimy layer of greed appeared. 

How, why not earlier? It seems that the domestication process and concentration of the huge amount of people created the all-pervading illusion of happiness based on ownership.

Materialism, then capitalism and now we have to tame it or die. 

But, evil is not in our nature, we know that the happiness and satisfaction it gives are not real. Can we teach the new generation to get high on experiences?

What is a hybrid mind and where does it come from

We, humans, go through our lives using two completely different mental systems.​​ One is ancient, inherited from our animal ancestors, “algorithmic”, always active ( I will talk about it shortly), and the other system- which is very, very separate and new, just about 50,000 thousand years old.

To illustrate this shocking concept I will use a metaphor and a parable.

If you ask what is a hybrid car, the answer is very simple: it uses two engines, sometimes it is electric and sometimes an old-fashioned combustion engine.

  Many scientists think that a similar metaphor can be useful to understand our human mind.

It would be appropriate to leave this to science, but in the 21st century, the subject of human nature is very important for our survival as a species.

As we desperately try to avert the doom and gloom of the environmental disaster, this metaphor can unexpectedly bring a glimmer of hope, the way to work, and chances of survival. ( “Rome conference or die” talks a lot about our niche crisis).

Simple animals have brains full of evolutionary beneficial algorithms, like codes, and instructions of “if so it is good to do this”, but “if that, it is better to do something else”.

These algorithms are different from computer codes invented by a bunch of geeks- they were selected over literally billions of years by evolutionary mechanisms.

They include everything that we feel is right, good, and real.

They aim to help us to 1. Survive

                                2. Multiply

                                 3. Protect our genes

They aim at keeping the species’ niches as strong as possible.

So, these instructions are really, really smart.

Our brains are full of them, it is why our brains are so huge.  They direct all automatic functions, breathing, digesting, seeing, fighting covid, fearing covid, disliking covid vaccines, balancing these two, and many other instinctual functions.

But when you meet a friend, suddenly you are piggybacking on “great to see her” or “who is she?” a completely new system. You chat. The language. These ancient algorithms would not do.

Why? They are big and clumsy. And the more complex they are and the more branches these instructions branch themselves into, the clumsier they become. But the crucial difference between these two systems (Merlin Donald in ” A mind so rare“calls ours the first hybrid brain) is that: The algorithms create the world for the organism that is its own, it can not be shared- it is why animals learn poorly- and teach poorly. My hypothesis suggests that like animals, hominids with all their intelligence and culture did not have symbolic language. They were ready for it though.

So, they did not have “I” or” you” or “self”, they did not have” things” in their communications, no creativity, no imagination, no mathematics. It is actually extremely difficult for us to imagine and describe with words living in that pre-linguistic world, animal algorithms world.

About a hundred years ago Jacob von Uexkull ( A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans:1934), imagined and described the life of a tick, he called its world UMWELT.- perception and action, perception and action, etc, etc. Then in 1974, Thomas Nagel wrote: “What it is like to be a bat” saying basically-” we do not know, we need new concepts or theories”.

Thus a Parable: A dying Neanderthal is rescued by some women from the Sapiens band.

The time is about 50,000 years ago. The Neandertals were decimated by climate and by technologically advanced Sapiens.  The content of our DNA suggests that very few Sapiens (10 thousand or less) and no other hominids survived this period after Mount Tuba’s and Campi Flegrei’s eruptions.

But soon (after a few thousand years ) these survivors flourish, populating Africa, Europe, the Fertile Crescent, and then the rest of the globe.

What happened?

Pre-linguistic Sapiens -maybe helped by Neanderthals, maybe by extended childhood- (see below)- were inventing symbolic language, selfhood, and shared reality.

The Last Neanderthal

Hunger. Hunger and freezing.

The clouds are lower, bad, it is going to be more snow.

It’s getting dark but need to get to the bottom of the mountain, there can be a cave, or at least a rock overhanging. Can make a camp there. A camp?

What kind of camp? There is nobody here.

Again cold black despair. Damn, there was the son, a wonderful, strong boy.

Is gone, gone, gone, did not withstand the cold.

Hungry froze, died.

Burial in despair, crying digging the bloody snow. It was two or three days ago.

Earlier (the Moon was full), it was the Woman.

She was not eating so the son could have her food.

She died , frozen, still wonderful, incredible.

She explained, she showed where to go. She said, showed: “ go, go, need to go following the Sun”

But there could be Others. No strength, no people to fight, they will kill.”

She said again and again:

No worry, go, go , following the Sun, no worry, no fear about the Others, need to follow the Sun

She died, need to go, go further.

Tiredness, hunger, freezing.

The wind goes to the bones, everything hurts.

Step after step, step after step.

Rest… No.

No more food? Chewing my sheepskin, my leather belt, ate some rotten crumbs at the bottom of the sack.

Finished , and nothing was left. Only step after step, following the direction where there was the Sun.

Now it is getting dark, getting even colder, the wind.

Still walking… still walking?

The Woman and the Son are already here?

Darker and darker.

A tiny light.

Fire? Impossible.

There is a light, red light.

Fire. No, can not be, there was no storm or lighting since the last New Moon.

But there is, there is, something flickering like a fire. Our people? There are no our people there. Others!

Need to get there, fire means warmth.

Remember warm?

No, no.

They will kill, no strength to fight, barely walking.

What to do? Fear and hunger. The Woman says “go, go.

So, step after step, step after step, whatever…

 Maybe, possible to approach stealthily, steal food? Is this possible?

Fear, terrible fear.

Fire.

 Shadows of Others, now visible. Women?? A child??

Suddenly, Wrrump!

Falling in the ditch, thud. Terrible pain, in the leg.

Nothing.

Now warm, really warm. Difficult to breathe, cough, cough it out. Spit out the phlegm, better.

Warm.

Run!, need to run! No. The body doesn’t move, and this bad pain in the leg.

So, crawling, maybe? The cave. The Other. An old woman, showing something.

Don’t run”? Yes, that’s it “ Don’t run

Aha. “Lie down” and Leg, no good”.

Eat?” she gestures.

Cough, fever, everything hurts. “Drink, drink”.

She repeats the gesture ” Drink”,

And: “Yes, wait

Warm drinking! warm and good, salty?-Throat burning.

More”.

That’s it, thanks,

WHY?

What?

Sleep.

The night feels hot, the pain in the leg, can’t run. The Moon is full! so many days?

How come? Sleep.

The Others scream. What?

A young Other with the spear! Fear. He wants to kill. The old woman screams the child cries, and an old Other came, screams. Pushing young killer away.  An old woman gestures, “no fear, no worry, you are mine”.

Thanks.

More days.

The child, a little girl, laughs, and brings “sweet and tart” food. Very good.

Another woman. Beautiful. She gives warm meat, ah, so good, so beautiful, so good.

Walking slowly, with pain, but better.

There is nobody around, only Little Girl.

Hearing something terrible, oh, so well known, terrible killer on the four legs. Sensing it, smelling, feeling its ugly breath. Even if it tries to crawl quietly. The little girl. It is ready to pounce on her.

Need to be saved, need to live. A spear is here, pain, pain. Only slim chance, all my strength, NOW.

A huge shadow hit in the air. Now this sharp stone and break its eyes, its skull, HIT, HIT,

Its claws tear stomach, ouch, and it is dead. The little girl screaming, runs to me, blood everywhere.

The others running here, the terrible four-legged lying pierced with a spear, skull broken.

Old woman, the Beautiful, crying, screaming. Thanking??

Black., nothing…

The Moon is New, how many days??

The stomach wound is still terrible, oozing. Sleep.

The little girl gives “sweet and tart’. She laughs, and dances.

The Beautiful teaches Little Girl. It is good.

The Little Girl shows, pointing with her little finger: “this?”

The Beautiful responds “ apple”.

“Hmm?”

She turns and looks at me: “Call it apple

APPLE????

The Beautiful laughs, falling in love: “yes, apple”.

The end of the parable.

We met our “last Neanderthal”, he lives on instincts, the ancient and newer algorithms. The new science, “archaeogenetics” tells us that neanderthals split from homo ancestry about 500,000 years ago, just before symbolic language was developed. But in the last few lines of the parable, he discovers “me” and “you” and “apple” (a thing), and very soon, I am sure he will try to have as many apples as possible to impress The Beautiful (and the Old Woman).

It could have happened for the first time with the help of our Hero and the Beautiful, but it occurs in every human infant who learns shared reality, names, the language.

Every human baby is born with inherited instincts, similar to these of the primitive hominid.

But she is surrounded, she is “bathed” in human language, names, things, people, and actions.

As our Hero tries to understand the budding language of Sapiens, every human infant begins to understand some words (around 3 to 6 months of age) then the objects and names merge into Piaget’s “object permanence” (around 9 months), and then she starts to point and practice first words.

Back to the parable:  Where did the “apple” come from? It was still like a miracle or an extremely rare event. Unlikely modern infants, the Little Girl was not surrounded by human speech and names of objects. Instead, she was exposed to useful responses and skills she had to practice and imitate. The Beautiful could have used the word ”apple” before, as a part of an instinctual action-related expression, like “going to pick up apples”. Teaching the child was pretty normal, but teaching our hero and getting his understanding- was an incredible breakthrough. In the end, these three ancient people, the Neanderthal, Beautiful; and Little Girl shared the piece of the algorithm, the concept, the name, the thing- an apple.

It was the magic of translation- the magic of naming, and we could imagine that new words and concepts of self “I” and “You “ and other simple “things” followed and streamed like an avalanche.

The language with objects and people opened so far forbidden domains of ownership and calculating. And the hominids were (at last) ready for this critical jump, they were not only ultra-social but also “ultra” engaged with material culture (Colin Renfrew, Prehistory). This was the beginning of the world we now call “reality”. It was a different world than ticks or bats… and hominids’. It was a uniquely human reality shared in this social circle and soon shared by all humans.

When in 1769 Cook’s expedition encountered Haush people on Tierra Fuego they could use gestures, “play charades” and understand each other ( see “The Language Game” by Christiansen and Chater). Both groups had language, the “things”, the “I “and “you” concepts invented by their ancestors; the last Neanderthal, Little Girl, and Beautiful.

This concept challenges the belief deep-seated in our collective unconsciousness, an image of a human being as a smarter animal. When you open the skull you have the same brain as an animal but bigger. When scientists look into its function, again it is the same but smarter, more complex, with more memory, better thinking, etc.

Morals, spirituality, and understanding are all better and deeper than animals. When I and my cat are looking through the window we see the same world. When we err, we go back to “primitive” behavior and we act like “animals”.

The consequences of this unspoken myth are profound. It implies that we can’t change, can’t be blamed, and can’t be responsible. The forces that created this mess are beyond us, whether divine or “in our genes.” Or most likely: “whatever”. Even religious people who do not believe in the evolution of animals into humans see the human world as essentially the same as animals but more complex.

So, the new paradigm, the hybrid mind: the ancient and newer algorithms are working constantly, the instinctual world separated for each of us, but when we talk, write, think creatively, when we act consciously, we piggyback new reality, a new World built in the infancy shared by every human, and by humans only.

This is how interdependent we are and how vulnerable is this new part of our nature.

Rome conference or die

Part  1: The vision.

Part  2: The crisis of the human niche.

Part  3: The worldview and the crisis of the human niche.

Part  4: The role of evolution.

Part  5: The prehistory of mind and the crisis.

Part  6: The conference as a metaphor and the process.

Part  7: What we will teach – the vision of Experience Society.

Part 1: The Vision.

    When we observe the world, most events are circular in nature. The day and night, the seasons of the year, first marriage, second marriage, 

First coming, Second Coming, reincarnation.

     This is the natural source of popular and reassuring concepts;  “as it is worse, it will get better.. and worse again, after the drought there will be a flood, it is warmer, it will get cooler”.

Even in science, the cosmos is hugely circular and particle physics too. Glaciations, civilizations, and periods of war and peace come up and down. “ we are fine, we’ll be fine”.

    Not so fast, desafortunamente.

Evolution is one of the basic, and relatively newly discovered mechanisms in the universe that are not circular. 

Also thermodynamics II and expanding Universe.

Sure, Heraclitus pointed to the non-circular flow of the river, but then we’d found out about water circulating in the earth. Maybe you just need to find a bigger circle and “we’ll be fine”?.

What is “fine,” I ask, and I pick the smartest and best-informed people I can find. 

They would – uniformly, uniformly- say” I know it is bad, I do what I can locally, give money to charities, but it is going to be bad.” “ Not in our lifetime” they add sheepishly and walk away with just slightly bent shoulders, as if saying “I know, our children, hopefully, educated and with good jobs…”

There is a fierce battle to position ourselves to survive well forthcoming disasters, not unlike virtual reality video games. As in the game, the blood and corpses aren’t so disturbing if the people concerned were not even born yet, who will live ( and die) in far away countries (mostly imaginary) and even now dying in droves, poor and miserable and we learned to tolerate this fine.

The problem: the more we learn ( and we can not unlearn, and understanding is fun) the more realistic are these corpses. They soon acquire faces, maybe even names, and they start to stink, after they slowly die in front of our eyes. More charities? More steel bars in our windows?

I have a better solution and it comes from 50 years of working with children, studying worldviews, evolution, and the history of our minds.

   The only hope I see is creating a different type of people, actually, the type we use to be for the last 10 million years until the last 50 000 thousand years (0.5% or “December 31st “ of our species’ existence). 

The last surviving hominids, we almost got extinct before. We need again a Houdini trick, we need to shed the last 10 000 years of a thin slimy layer of greed and grabbing. We will retain symbolic thinking, and smart brains but avoid the destruction of the planet.

We are going to create Experience Society.

We are going to teach the new generation to live happily, peacefully, in partnership with other humans, other sentient beings, and the whole environment. 

How do teach them that?

It is what the Rome conference is all about.

We’ll start with infants, then expand to older and older children. 

Let me address some objections. 

  1. “You can not parent and teach something or some ways you are not. It is not what you say, but who you are.” Agree, it has to be bootstrapping and dealing with the chicken or egg ( literally) dilemma. But we can do, and all we can do is the best we can. Certainly, we can do better than we are doing now. And neuroscience and evolutionary anthropology have some good news for us.
  2. “How can you force others about such an intimate subject like parenting. Parents feel they know how to parent and will not listen to any ‘propaganda’”. Agree, that it will be difficult, but it is why we need a broad range of experts and authorities and wise men and women and maybe magicians. I am listening for solutions rather than for naysaying. But every year it became more and more clear that doing nothing will bring to our children unspeakable misery. We are talking about the happiness of your children, nothing less.
  3. “We’ll never agree on the curriculum”- different cultures and nations, different religions, different economies, different worldviews. Yes, I see it as an almost un-winning gambit, but, first, in the beginning, we are talking about parenting babies 0 to 12 months old! everybody wants babies to be happy. Second, psychologically, I see the possibility of some kind of “unity out of desperation”. ( covid-19 in Italy and the response to Putin’s aggression comes to mind.)

Immediately, I thought about Rome with: 

  1. Pope Francis being a good guy and the catholic church being, well, “catholic”, would be somewhere to start. Add Dalai Lama, some more religious leaders, spiritual leaders, maybe some presidents, and UN officials.
  2.  Media influencers, press, and activists for equality, global warming, for peace.
  3. Scientists: environmentalists of all kinds, philosophers, sociologists, economists, psychologists, developmental pediatricians, psychiatrists, anthropologists, and AI experts.
  4. Humanists: wise men and women from modern and ancient cultures, teachers, writers, poets, artists, and musicians.
  5. Pregnant mothers and their spouses, grandmothers, and grandfathers.
  6. Teenagers- possibly the primary target populations?

This is the vision, but there are still many elements we need to convince people about, not only convince, like “ ok, maybe, if you say so” but convince about urgency and gravity and famous “ so, what” or “so what, if no Rome conference?”

Parts 2-6. Convincing, before even starting. 

Part 2. We need to convince people that there is a crisis of the human niche. 

It is important to use the term niche instead of “environment”, “habitat” or, worse “ global warming” (a tiny part of the problem).  Modern and deep evolutionary understanding will be necessary. 

On a happier note, it will not be necessary to argue” whose fault”, is it “human-made” or “just a cycle”- because of the revolutionary and unusual nature of the solution.

Part 3. We need to convince people of a humanistic worldview. 

This has nothing to do with religious belief, spirituality is an important part of the conference. Neither is socialism in disguise (how we divide our material goods, according to capitalistic, socialistic, or communistic principles is still all about material goods). We need the humanistic worldview to know that we can die like died other hominids like Neanderthals died, and Sapiens almost died 50.000 years ago. We need to know that we made this civilization and on this base, on these shoulders, consciously, we can build a new one. And thrive and have fun.

Part 4. We need to convince people of the evolutionary mechanisms including strengthening niche, diversity, and complexity.

It is what species do to avoid extinction. Working to keep the niche strong and healthy. Examples are everywhere, even iconic Darwin’s finches. It is not circular! It is messed up because we messed it up, and until we won’t change our ways, it will get worse and worse. Remember what Einstein said about insanity? 

Part 5. We need to convince people about the hybrid nature of our minds. 

If we want to replicate the pre-linguistic value system with our modern, symbolic brains, we need to trust evolutionary realism and evolutionary neuroscience. The exciting research showing our brains mixing ancient algorithmic beings with language-powered symbolic thinking explained how we are the only hominid that survived. We manipulate this incredible system every day, more and more purposely, like with artificial intelligence, meditation, and psychopharmacology. So, we can stop killing the planet and ourselves.

Part 6. We need to convince people to embark on the project.

  Rome conference is perhaps just my armchair musing. It may be a metaphor for the project, a new conversation involving more people. Or it can end up being a real conference in Rome. 

This would involve an unheard amount of trust and goodwill, maybe desperation. We would need to trust developmental experts, parenting experts, our political leaders, holy men, trust people, and each other in general. ( Going to the moon was nothing compared to this request)

We would need to trust the process, the journey because we do not know the way it’d unfold, we’d have to learn from each other, and use imagination. 

We need to cross multiple barriers: east-west, religious-nonreligious, have-have not, truth -media.

Part  7: What we will teach – the vision of the Experience Society

This will be the subject of the conference. The whats and the hows.The curriculum for the starting but crucial segment- “parenting the infants” seems pretty easy to agree on. Lots of this is in Piaget, Spock, Montessori, and Waldorf programs. And a lot is common sense like the parents need to be present and mindful, the society needs to support the family. No media, no violence. The concept of blaming the materialism of the cavemen is new and startling. The conversation about the non-materialistic source of happiness is very new and very old at the same time.

***

The terrible and cruel truth is that if we fail to work on it now, we’ll be reduced to something similar, painful, fractured, 50 years from now. Possibly Neanderthals had a similar option: “change your lifestyle, your beliefs, your language, trust them”. And they are gone.  

Not all items of convincing are necessary to work for the conference, just this set of opinions makes everything fit together so well…

***

This is the overview of this concept. I am working on Parts 2-7 in the form of separate essays.

Origins of materialism (reading A.Hinton’s Understanding context)

Reading Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context. ( version 7.11.21)

  1. Introduction: animals’ language, human language, and computer language: three languages, same principles. 
  2. Part I: A case against relativism and homo translensis. 
  3. Part II: The origin of things
  4. Conclusions: three languages linked to three events.

Introduction:

  Eve is a very, very smart 5 year old. She sits in front of the basket of apples, the knife in her hand. Her sister, Fiona, barely 18 months old, walking, talking, and asking questions, noticed that one apple fell from the basket. “What’s that?” she asks and points to the apple.

 Miraculously, Eve answers: “apple!”.

I will try to explain why this answer was really a miracle. 

 Now we have to add that they sit in front of a cave, the knife is made of stone, and it is all happened 50 thousand years ago. It means that in Eve’s brain there are many, many neural networks, useful for homo sapiens, that include different fruits. These algorithms help Eve “ find apples”, “tell apples from pears”, “chop apples for sauce”, “eating an apple” and so on. But in her brain- and this is a part of this essay’s hypothesis-there is no “apple” as an object. But, somehow, miraculously, breaking the algorithm, separating a piece of her reality, her environment, from its function, she answers “apple”! 

    This essay is about the nature of our surroundings. It might also, while discussing surroundings, give us some glimpses at our nature. 

    The surroundings of an animal are, from the point of view of this animal (sic!), determined by the activity and sophistication of its nervous system. From our, human, point of view, we can only muse: “What is it like to be a bat” and agree that we’ll never be sure. 

It doesn’t stop science from working on the nature of experience. Ecology, ethology, and semiotics are all about it. And philosophy- like phenomenology and natural philosophy.

    The animal’s senses and its brain create the animal’s world which Jacob von Uexkull called Umwelt. Again, depending on the point of view, the same thing, we can call a “habitat”, “niche”, “environment” or just “what’s outside”.

Depending on the point of view… or “context” ( we are going to abuse this term mercilessly). When scientists are talking about an animal’s surroundings some more shifts occur( I mean shifts in the conversation’s perspectives we usually do not notice because it is so ”normal” for us). In biology, like in modern physics, the results of investigations change with the actions of the observer, his or her attitude, purpose, method, and prevailing scientific paradigm. Think about the interpretation of prehistoric fossils or ancient artifacts. And using the term “context” emphasizes the fluidity of the thing or even its arbitrariness.

I have been working on people’s personal worldviews for the last 10 years. What is the worldview if not a point of view ( or context) from which we see the world? And what is understanding context if not transforming the implicit, unconscious, gut felt, and acted worldview into an explicit, spelled out, clarified set of rules and structures that help us navigate our life? 

When a postmodernist like Derrida or Foucault talks about their beloved context it becomes something very abstract, like a cloud of meanings surrounding a concept or a story.

“This does not suppose that the mark is valid outside its context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center of absolute anchoring. This citationality, duplication, or duplicity, this iterability of the mark is not an accident or anomaly, but is that (normal/abnormal) without which a mark could no longer even have a so-called “normal” functioning”. (Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy)

Yes, the philosophers and scientists tried to handle the question of context/surroundings (see above), but it was not until computer people explained this to us that we got some traction.  Computers help us to solve the problems of the real physical world. We need them for health, economy, research, communication, basically for everything we do. 

The computer people squeeze all our problems into the screen.  Then, they have to translate or shift the domain of the physical world into language and symbols, then translate these semantic elements into a digital world. Then, after they crunched the numbers they proceed to reverse the process back to the screen jargon, and voila, they are done. 

When computer guys (like Hinton) talk about context, this cloud of meaning, even if stuck inside a computer screen, becomes much more physical, more like a place or a map. This concreteness, physicality even if strange in the virtual world, feels natural for them. They are living there, working there, creating and designing the content and the contexts itself around it. They interchangeably use the terms for context like “environment” and for working with it – “architecture”. It is why Hinton uses Gibsonian ecology as the model for understanding context in this novel, rich and useful way. Following his lead in this essay, we will blend discussion on the computer environment with the physical human environment and cultural-semantic environment.

Part One: A case against relativism – introducing homo translensis and “domain hopping”.

 This introduction might suggest that the nature of our surroundings- which is nothing else than our reality, our solid, real Universe is not so solid. This talk about shifting domains, of the point of view, of the role of the observer in modifying reality; it all smells like relativism. And, how properly for our times when relativity rules. Gone are our basics, our standards, and our rocks.  God is dead (Nietsche ), the President lies (everybody knows)  the corporations cheat (they mean to do it) and the media is full of fake news.  But humans know better. Relativism doesn’t help, doesn’t solve any conflict, it is the queen of the stalemate.

The trick of relativism failed us with religious wars, with religion versus science dilemma, even with biology vs humanities squabble. Where did Cartesian duality take philosophy? Well, pretty close to its demise.

 The insight for the better way comes to me from Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context. Hinton starts with a story- him, a computer geek, catching a plane. He leads the reader through a number of overlying contexts: his iPhone, with his calendar and schedule, his office computer, a colleague’s laptop, the airport’s computers-security, and the cashier’s – the main object of interest hops from screen to screen- his flight. He switches domains and environments- digital, physical, and linguistic – he walks (or runs) through the airport, the shuttle, and (at last) the plane. He has to understand and hop through all these meanings -symbols, icons, messages from outside and inside. Unlike Derrida’s contexts- his are very, very real.  I realized while reading his book that coping, conquering, and understanding different contexts and environments sits deep in human nature. Switching domains- actually holding them simultaneously in the mind for a moment- this what understanding is- it is like translating from language to language and comprehending- using them both. I also realized that these processes- these “domain hopping”- are everywhere.

Cartoon # 1

As a senior pediatrician, I talk to every new employee, a doctor, a nurse, or a front desk person. I always draw for them and explain these symbols: “The circle. This means empathy- we are one-we are equal- we embrace them with real or symbolic arms. The second is a square: we translate their square problems into something we can help him with, the third is “plugin” or action- or complete- do what you need to do and document it so you can have a clear mind ready for the next one”. 

Both, understanding and following these instructions – require constant shifting contexts or domains. The other examples are meditation and prayer- you shift between the transcendent and your mind.

So, the truth is there, real and important. It is not the truth that is relative, it is the context, the view, the way of looking, that shifts. I mentioned “domain hopping” and I will return to it, but I think it is how our curiosity and obsession with figuring things out, works. We are ” homo translensis”- we know one thing, then we stick the same thing in different domains or media, or modes. It is like translating from one language to another: for a precious moment, we have to hold both things or thoughts or truths in our minds. This is understanding and it is everywhere.

Our computerized world just made it so obvious.  

So, was it always like that?

Part II.  A hypothesis. “The origin of things”.

     No, it was not. In his recent book, Peter Godfrey-Smith explains how the mind works for very simple and very ancient animals- mollusks, cephalopods, or fish. Their simple brains connect perception with action and maybe “presence” in one experience of living. From “if”- perception, to “then”- action, like a procedure code in your desktop. 

It is extremely hard to imagine a world without things. In my hypothesis – this was the world until about 50,000 years ago. The forests were full of birds, monkeys, and hominids – full of life, intelligence, and communications, but none of these creatures had discrete objects in their worlds.

What was going on 50.000 years ago? 

This we know:

Like dinosaurs 260 million years ago, about the last 10 million years witnessed a phenomenal expansion of great apes. 

 These monkeys invented complexity unheard of before. They were, as great E.O Wilson tells us,  hypersocial or eusocial, rivaling only a few other genera like ants, bees, termites, etc. But unlike others they had huge brains, hands to manipulate objects, and communications based on vision and sound. Many bands and tribes evolved and were selected for cooperation, and altruism. They were spreading to more and more diverse habitats. They invented axes, spears, and fire. They developed cultures with burials, art, stories, and gods. And they were avid learners. We know of 27 major branches of hominids.

They all died out, except for one small group or tribe- 10,000 individuals or less- us.

 This part is pretty much accepted and non-controversial. 

But from now on- hold on to your seat.

Their communication or proto-language was based on procedure code. Just like very primitive animals’ communication.

The animal brain as we understand it contains only algorithms coding for evolutionary beneficial behaviors (traits), probably nothing more. Anything else would be energetically prohibited- impossible. And the more complex these neural networks are, the more “costly” they are and benefits have to be more striking for the new trait to survive and expand. It is the pressure to develop the brain versus the pressure to evolve muscles or fur. Example: the process of domestication of wolves to dogs-  dogs can “ handle” and “understand” humans better than wolves but they “pay” with weaker muscles and smaller teeth.

Over the eons of evolution, big brains become very costly- and still are.

The communication algorithms allow for social and cultural complexity-equivalent of our knowledge-were becoming more and more elaborate- say like bee dance or skill to become alpha male, or telling a story and false story and magic story. It is difficult to imagine that, but half of the algorithm, like in procedure code, has no sense. The algorithms have branches, maybe thousands of them but no modularity. So the learning slowed down, the evolutionary pressure and competition between muscle and intelligence became more fierce. !00 thousand years ago it might appear that robust, stronger hominids ( h. Neanderthalensis )prevail over “gracile” (sapiens). Over the last 6 million years the increase in complexity slowed down. Stone axes were still stone axes after millions of years!

Note: Everybody agrees with these simple biological facts… when we talk about bacteria, spiders, even fish. When we start to talk about more complex animals, magically they become more like us, especially pets or animals one spent all one’s life investigating ( chimpanzees, octopuses). Their behavior might look like ours, but their minds and learning work more like neural nets of modern AI than ours hybrid brains.

So, it is like the story of “primordial soup” to explain the creation of life with the abundance of all rare elements, warmth, sun, lightning storm, oxygen, and nucleotides swimming around and hoping for a stroke of luck…

Similarly, our ancestors, with super socially intelligent people, migrating under the pressure of stronger hominids had great language, and great parenting, and Eve and Fiona had a moment of genius.  Eve was in the “magic years” period, Fiona in the “joint attention” pointing phase, and humanity was in the “dream world” phase.

Thus, Eve, miraculously, shares the piece of the procedure code her sister pointed to. Preposterous! The pieces of codes have no meaning- well, they did not until now- from now on her and her sister share the concept and a piece of a new reality- an apple. This single event has to be combined with creating or just naming each other’s self (thanks for the close-knit family, talking constantly)- otherwise, it would have to be invented over and over-and this is impossible! The apple was Fiona’s and Eve’s first shared, independent from the procedure code, thing. I imagine that the next step was to share this with Mom and Dad.

     Animals do not do that, there are no objects in the Umwelten.*  With the object, like an apple, there is a cascade of benefits, there is no looking back. The things do not exist unless and until named. The name/thing duo can be easily shared with others, it has attributes, it has quantity. This brings abstract concepts floating around our apple. Most importantly with a thing, you can want it, own itand share it. Actually, the meaning of “apple” contains its origins. It is as if  Eve said, “I  call it apple”- pointing to the metaphoric and cultural nature of this thing. I imagine that for many, many generations the new world of things coexisted with an old world of procedure codes, of perception-action arc, where if is a primitive agent that does the action- then. Animals have in their brains plenty of procedure codes for actions, truly beneficial actions, but completely anonymous- benefiting the species which is- a concept- a nobody. The huge advantage of the you-me-object -attribute system was the gate for fast technological and social progress. And, to prove it, we survived.**

 Like in this essay: it is what we humans do: “hopping domains”. The existence of named objects enables shifting perspectives, it is like advancing from a two-dimensional world to three-dimensional space, when you get it, you’ll use it all the time.

Another Note: It is difficult to imagine life without things. It is, I guess, like all you know would be the type of knowing how to ride a bike, how to play piano, how to make out with other humans?

Part 3. Conclusions.

Look at these three parallel events. In each, the world of the procedure code breaks and develops into a different reality or domain or metaphor.

1.Rare or just a single event:

Ca 50,000 years ago, a small band of homo sapiens acquired modularity of language, the concept of objects which expanded to a shared reality.   All other brands and branches of hominids that did not get this died out.

 2. Very common:

 It happens to every baby 6  to 12 months old since event #1. Babies develop “object permanence”.  She now knows that the toy that is hidden will not disappear forever, it is still there!

Pre-linguistic communication shifts to language and shared reality. Now we can see that the term “acquiring object permanence” is an oxymoron- in our shared reality objects are permanent by definition, until then, in the infant’s world, there were no objects separated from functions.

3. Recently very common,

Computer programmers and object-oriented user experience people perform similar tricks. The anonymous, pre-linguistic concepts, tasks, and problems defined in the form of the procedure code are transformed and transferred into shared by users pseudo-reality or (nicer) computer reality.

   All three events describe the now-famous “domain hop”: from procedure language, shared object-oriented, user’s reality emerges. ( thank you, Fiona and Eve). The original event was so rare that it looks like a miracle. Then every human baby learned to repeat that. And recently humanity learned how to perform it, with computers, “on-demand”. 

Content creates context. The object creates an agent – self. Understanding, translating, domain shifting, domain hopping is at the core of our human nature. It is how we survived.                                    

                                                  * * *

                                              * * *

*  Wait, and how about Japanese monkeys who learned how to wash potatoes? It was not an object, it was socially sharing the behavior, an algorithm.  But without the object independent from function there is no breakthrough, another skill, that’s it. 

** This broad description of the hypothetical event skips linguistic jargon of “qualia” and “memes”, and skips evolutionary mechanism’s details of spreading of beneficial traits.

Tom Voychehovski

Invention of things

So many puzzles, one key.

Here are some examples of puzzles:

  1. The anthropic dilemma or fine-tuning. 
  2. What happened before the Big Bang? Or how Entropy 0 can change to non-0?
  3. Why did we not find any evidence of aliens?
  4. Where is the center of the Universe?
  5. Why are homo sapiens so much more complex than other animals?
  6. What was crucial in the human evolutionary leap?
  7. What was the evolutionary origin of human language?
  8. What was an evolutionary origin of materialism?
  9. What is the solution to our niche crisis?

The key: the event which occurred over a relatively short evolutionary time- probably several thousands of years, about 50,000 years ago in Africa or the Middle East. It involved one or at the most a couple of groups of ancient humans. 

     To continue the explanation or the description of the hypothesis- the key- we need to stop and insert an explanation. An explanation for the explanation? Yes, this sentence might need to be moved to the beginning of the essay, definitely can not be postponed. The explanation involves bootstrapping. ( A la Baron Munchausen) Explaining the working of the human brain with the human brain. Explaining the nature of reality using the language created by this reality. Explaining the complexity of the system using tools created within this system. It is why our explanation doesn’t explain what really happened, but how we continue to improve our explaining it. The best and the only thing we can do- is bootstrapping. It is obvious then that the nature of things reflects (or follows) the nature of our probing system. Mainly our brains but also other experimenting or probing machines. The results of probing depend and reflect the structure of the probe. 

       Another metaphor can be helpful: You look and you realize that the fur gloves you have worn for a long time are actually inside out. So, you flip it, put it on and it obviously works much better. The cold hand’s problem is solved. No repair, no surgery, no expense, just a fresh look- so simple, and the result is incredible.

     Now, back to the cavemen.  Well, the event I am going to describe carries similarities to several older events. We see these events as a cluster of extremely unlikely circumstances that occurred only once (an event can not be rarer than that). Like: Big Bang, creating solar/’planetary/earth system, creating life from no life systems, creating a nervous system to support nonrandom behavior, creating big brain social mammals in post dinosaurs niche. 

We also see our lives similarly- the nodes of unlike events and circumstances. I hypothesize that our brain creates in developing neural networks an important (nodal) but uncommon structure (few axons or dendrites) reflecting the structure of these outside- (niche) events. Or, if you reverse this concept, outside events reflect neural structures. ( the “glove hypothesis”- the glove corresponds to perceived reality, the brain is the hand inside the glove).

     Now, really back to cavemen. The unlikely cluster of events occurred circa 50,000 years ago. The horde which became our ancestors was migrating north under the pressure of bigger and stronger hominids. 

They had to outsmart them: by the level of cooperation and sophistication of communication. In migration, the children in the band were few and exceptionally precious. Many members took care of them, communication, talking back and forth was more intense, more social, and prolonged. Toddlers who started to talk were still being talked to and nolens volens listened to. Toddlers naturally: 1 ask questions, 2. ask for names of things. 

      Until then the communication had a lot of characteristics of animal communication.  When I read about the evolutionary origins of language, invariably linguists make it extremely complicated and jargon -saturated and missing evolutionary mechanisms. Communication is what the nervous system does, it was created to enable organisms to develop nonrandom behavior. So information from outside the system can benefit the system. This actually defines and creates “outside and inside”. The cells have their internal communication system, then when cells become “social” and create multicellular organisms- it opens new “outside”, and at last, when organisms become social- the concept of outside moves up to another level. The information which does not benefit the system- does not survive, the things it describes – do not exist. So the content of information is always the same: the descriptions of beneficial behaviors. You manage to remember it, you live, you manage to inherit it- your species niche expands. In archaic bacteria, it would be “move towards higher sugar concentration”, In bees- a dance directing other bees to flowers- in chimps- the details of organizing a rebellion against an alpha male. These descriptions might contain communications full of actions, places, objects, and animals but it is not language. They might contain stories, memories, emotions, and logical decisions but it is not language. Or, you may call it proto-language. Because of the crucial difference between that and human communication is really not linguistic. It’s ontological. These animals and early humans have the concept of reality described by Jacob Uexkull as Umwelt.  Their brains are full of beneficial behaviors. Nothing else. And beneficial behavior expands the species’ niche- usually but not always improving organisms’ survival and reproduction. It is impossible to manipulate this type of reality, the more complicated behaviors the more unwieldy it is to use them in different situations. The learning is painfully slow. Hominids hit the evolutionary wall, over the last 5 or 10 millions of years, they all died.

      Then, the miracle happened. The cluster of unlikely circumstances and events occurred. 

       The 15-month-old cave girl said: “daaaa’’ and pointed at the apple. ( She meant “ what is that, sis”?) It’s called “joined attention” . Her older sister answered: “an apple”. The older sister pulled the apple from the description of behavior- about how we find apples, which are good to eat, etc, etc. Then she stuck this apple into a brand new thing – reality. It was very small, beginning, just between the toddler and big sister, but they could manipulate it easier- “two apples, big apples, red apples” the endless uses of the THING. ( Notice that she mixed domains-or dimensions- the trick very often used with inventions, like a steam engine, gravity or double helix ) Paradoxically the reality which was starting to be socially shared opened the door for individuality. Budding modularity made recursive speech possible. In the Umwelt world, it was only me with my niche. 

      But now, or with a generation or two, with the invention of things, it was so easy, soon the whole family used more and more names, not as a part of the description of behaviors, but as building blocks of intergroup reality. Now the same story could be told in so many ways. How many fish do we need? Well, how many are coming for dinner?  You could talk about the quality of things and the quantity of things- the birth of abstraction and mathematics. And, after you talked about things- next big step- you could own them. And lack them.

     It probably took generations to populate the budding joint reality of the group with things. But modularity, later known as grammar, and recursiveness were the keys.

Now, an easy part, the puzzles.

  1. The anthropic dilemma or fine-tuning. It is true that many facts in the history of the cosmos, origins of Earth, and life on Earth are incredibly rare and improbable. The same can be said about evolutionary facts leading to modern humans. But if you examine the events leading to the creation of Saturn rings, or penguins, or squirrels, these are also incredibly rare and improbable. The measuring and exploring and assigning of probability occur within the same system. Chinese medicine does not see any brain- the probing and the result operate within the same system.

       2. What happened before Big Bang? Or how Entropy 0 can change to non-0?

Again, the time concept and Big Bang belong to the same system. The Universe began with Big Bang – they are all human-made concepts and if something was before we would not call it the beginning. Entropy occurs in time, and when there is time, there is non 0 Entropy. The time is defined by change, with change the order has to be imperfect -sooner or later.

       3. Why did we not find any evidence of aliens?

Aliens with gods and unicorns belong to human stories, as does the rest of the Universe. So, they do exist, inside our culture, like forest, fear, and Finland. And there is nothing outside, they are real inside this mind-boggling reality.

       4. Where is the center of the Universe?

The reality and the Universe were built during the evolutionary development of the nervous system. Every living organism has its center of reality inside the organism (well, how about ants or bees, do they share it??). Humans are an exception. They developed, starting about 50,000 years ago, shared reality. Their stories, which by and by become myths and then split into religions and science contained the notions of the center of the Universe, but ultimately these concepts and constructs are related to human intelligence. As long as we stay here on Earth, even if our science or religion points into a special part of heaven, I would assign the center to the person who points there, wouldn’t you?

       5. Why are homo sapiens so much more complex than other animals?

We invented things, language, and the Universe and it makes learning exponentially easier.

        6. What was crucial in the human evolutionary leap?

The invention of things and abstract thinking ca. 50,000 years ago.

        7. What was the evolutionary origin of human language?

Intragroup reality switch- from social and emotional sharing to language sharing to reality sharing to language modularity.

       8. What was an evolutionary origin of materialism?

The events described above, it is what made us modern humans and now it can kill us.

       9. What is the solution to our niche crisis?

Use an understanding of the evolutionary past to expand our niche by building a society based on experiential happiness. If we continue to try to be happy with material things we’ll run out of them and die out ( see details in the previous posts- esp. “niche crisis II”).

   

       

Same horde of cavemen 2

The same horde of cavemen 2

 

This essay describes the origin of materialism.

This is interesting but to talk about it we need to make two pretty bold assumptions.

  1. In the evolutionary past, our ancestors were not materialistic- otherwise, we couldn’t talk about “the origin”. Even with the notions that “there is a jungle out there” and “survival of the fittest” the animals do not have the concept of ownership or greed. Their world is the world of behaviors not the world of things. The deeper back we look, this becomes more and more obvious. But it is also true for higher animals and true for early humans and for hunter-gatherers. We shared what we’d got, “feast or famine”, there was nothing to keep.

  2. We have to think about what type of event or change, in which domain, can be a candidate for the ‘trigger”. The brain scientists and paleontologists agree that there must have been a huge leap in development. Many agree that the language made the crucial difference. Other candidates are better tools, extra rich food, and the time to rest and chat, and walking on two feet (bipedality). To me, the history of humanity shows that we usually progress by the change in the mind and then the environment changes accordingly.

         Now, I have no evidence that my hypothesis is true, but it agrees with everything I know about linguistics, child development, early human history, and evolution.

         So, the time is about 50,000 years ago.

In Africa, the hominid experiment continues, over the last 2- 3 million years there were several subspecies of homo- some branches died out in  Africa, some migrated all over the world but eventually all of them (neanderthal and Denisovan will go soon) died out.

       A small group of survivors, the smartest and more fiercely cooperating than other groups are facing more challenges, after Mnt. Tuba eruption  (~66,000 years ago) it is dark, people are hungry and cold. But at the same time, their tools are getting better and they communicate better and better. They slowly migrate north pushed out by bigger and stronger and multiplying faster more primitive hominids. Their number is dwindling, will they reach salmon-rich Mediterranean rivers in time?

       Their babies are few, migration takes a toll on mothers and babies. The whole group takes care of them, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, even brothers, and uncles. Prosocial babies get the best care, they smile, bubble, and play. It is so much to learn now, even in the second year of life they require a lot of care, they spend a lot (comparing to the past and to other groups), a lot of time with adults.

       Their language, even being more rich and sophisticated than other groups, still has a lot of characteristics of animal communications. Remember- the animal brain is created for one sole purpose: to communicate- between sensory and muscles first ( lizard brain), then we add the neurotransmitters and old nuclei ( mammals), then here and there the social systems evolve -and the communications “spillover” to the other organisms of the community. But the content of these communications ( thus the content of the brains) is still the same back to the bacteria: helping organisms make nonrandom choices- that’s it. The brains are the “libraries” of THE DESCRIPTIONS OF USEFUL BEHAVIORS. Other fluff will not get inherited, the competition is tough, the brain tissue is a very, very costly luxury.

In the higher, so-called “eusocial” societies these descriptions can be amazing- bee dance, birds’ astral navigation, chimps coalition forming, elephant’s memories, parrots discussing future menus. But their nature is still the same – all brains have the same functional structure- even if the content is hugely different.

       This creates a “perfect storm scenario”. Suddenly, a little 18-month-old cave-girl comes up to her father, points to the apple, and asks: “What’s that, Daddy?” She asked for the NAME!. The apple’s link to the description of the behavior has been severed, carved out. Better than any deity, from nothing she created something- the thing. As a pediatrician I know little kids well, they are smart, they know emotions, family, their likes, and their needs. They play, they vie for adult attention and they name things. And if an adult listened- suddenly the apple exists separately from eating. (Actually “eating” doesn’t exist per se?). There is no looking back!  The advantages of things! Unlike “eating”-you can have 2 or 4 apples, bigger and smaller, more or less ripe- they do exist. Suddenly your mind manipulates the things around you with ease- like new toys or juggling new skills. From now- on.

The materialism or “The Universe of Things” over the next millennia opened the door for technology, economy, power, and violence. I guess our horde of cavemen made it to the Mediterranean…

Post scriptum: Over the time their language acquired also other important elements ( named much, much later):

     – the concept of reality- the things- what you touch, smell and kick- are steady, unchangeable, real,  while the rest – not so.

      – the concept of “I, you”, and people versus the rest of the Universe, (hence the grammar- my nemesis.)- future “self” or ”soul” or “consciousness”.

      – the concept of Unknown- “figuring things out“ will remain the human’s hallmark of his modus operandi, his pride, joy, awe, and fear. This will be future Religion, Philosophy, and Science.

Post post scriptum : How about “story”? The story is all it is. Much older than things, as old as art, as joy and pain. (also in human development- it is “older-” 4-month-old does peek-a-boo!)

 

Niche crisis II

The initial version was published in December 2019, this is a new, expanded form.

Niche crisis or environmental crisis.

 Part 1. The Hypothesis and the chance.

I am convinced that the niche crisis is caused by a particular cognitive development at the dawn of our civilization. This early achievement turned out now to be our biggest problem. 

“Niche crisis“ is an unusual term so let me explain.

When we look at our world we see our environment. This term for me contains some cloaked feeling of entitlement, may even sound congratulatory. It doesn’t have a biology or cosmology sense. To me, it answers the question your good friend may ask over the beer: “how is life?” You tell him about our environment- not ideal, but our- loud music, stupid people, polluted air, etc, etc, And you wouldn’t answer: “Well, I am just becoming extinct”. 

If we want to talk about the crisis the ecologists would use the term “ecological niche” or simply “niche”. When we look at any species from outside the system, as an observer, that species has its niche – the resources, climate, food, other members of the species, predators, anything that influences its evolutionary fitness. Niche is species-specific- it describes the dynamic situation – niche’s strength- that any given species exists in at any given point in time. Not habitat, not ecology, not environment. It is why I prefer the term “niche crisis”. We will really need this “observer view” as we go along. Homo sapiens is the last surviving of twenty-six other hominids. The one that almost went extinct several times, the last only about 50 000 years ago ( if you forget the brink of the nuclear war in 1962). 

When the ship is sinking and there is water coming in we send a crew to pump the water out. The more the water is pouring in, the more bailing is needed, right? Obviously, no. We need to find the hole in the hull and repair it and it is how we save the ship and ourselves.

I believe that the ship is sinking and we are busy at the pumps.

And our niche, which pretty well fits geographically Planet Earth, is getting weaker again. Even if population growth is slowing down- “only” 9 billion by 2050, the number of people pulled out of poverty/subsistence life into the “consumer’s circle” is growing rapidly and I hope will continue to grow. So, the resources like clean air, diverse forests, clean water, good soil, fish, and plankton-rich oceans are dwindling, especially for these new, vulnerable consumers. And the just feeling of injustice and social conflicts fostered by our wonderful internet (people call it, I guess as a joke, – “global brain”) gets worse.

The ship is sinking, for sure, even if some of my gloomy images might be controversial, but not all of them, for goodness sake. And please don’t tell me “there is always a crisis” or about the Chinese-like “great wheel of history” or “nothing new under the sun” – or as Trump reacted to coronavirus: “ it’s nothing, just a virus, can’t see it”. I see millions and millions of good, smart, young people, who are “at the pumps”. Recycling, electric cars, solar panels, not eating meat, and planting trees, all these are heartwarming.

     Let’s keep bailing, as a compromise, to feel good and keep the troop morale high, but we have to find and repair the hole. Find the cause of the crisis while trying to slow down the disastrous results

           Every species survives by expanding its niche. More food sources, more diverse habitats that the organisms can adapt to means more sex and more babies. The survival of the fittest works on the individual organisms’ and it’s family’s level, but only the sum of these changes determines the strength of the species’ niche. 

The ecological niche is all about the flow of energy which ultimately comes from the Sun. The stronger the niche the more energy the species absorbs and utilizes. The complexity increases creating stronger bodies, brains, and stronger social life. You noticed very “broad strokes”, I’m not explaining those mechanisms, just sketching them, but the only difference when we talk about the human’s niche is that the complexity is called the culture or civilization and the animal’s urge to survive and to mate is called the pursuit of happiness.

      And this is our ticket. We have to strengthen our niche otherwise we’ll become extinct. Our ticket is our culture- we are conscious, thinking, and observing our own demise. 

So, what is this cognitive achievement turned out to be a problem? It happened gradually between 100,000 to 10,000 years ago. The primitive communication grew into language. The description of behaviors became the description of reality, including the distinct material world. I will discuss this evolutionary process in detail in part 2. The new reality opened the world of things, of technology. The worldviews and the meaning of life changed. Now we have more shopping malls, more hotels, more toys and gadget factories, more airports and bombers. The image is of emotional regression – a bully sucking his thumb. To understand the situation we need to keep shifting the dimensions: from society to personal and back. We need to see that our civilization is the sum of millions of lives, their successes and failures, their loves and hatreds. We keep trying to be satisfied or happy or just less anxious (whatever is the thing we want!) by consuming the planet’s dwindling resources. Imagine that within the next ten years flying electric taxis will become very popular. In the language of cultural evolution, this means complexity and ability to adapt.

Until recently, such an invention would increase the strength of the human niche. Not anymore: more passengers, airports, parkings, services, businesses, more technology, more rat race, violence, and poverty. We have to pivot and we can do it. The thing we get from technology, call it happiness, call it power or security we have to learn to get from sustainable experiences. We can learn and teach it to our children- this is a matter of a new curriculum and of a new generation.

How can we do it? 

In the book “About time” Adam Frank describes how the evolution of humanity’s relation to time changed the world. This sense of time changed slowly over millennia. We learned and followed how time-related technology changed people’s minds and people’s minds created technology. It is how this civilization works: we see progress outside,- the same “progress” sits inside everyone’s brain, what each person knows, different depending on education, experience, and interests- and this builds the third, elusive“progress” that exists as a conversation (Werner Erhard’s jargon),  as Carl Jung’s our “collective unconscious” or simply as “culture”. This third “progress” is the one that creates our language, metaphors, and our mythology. 

Now we can, paradoxically, use technology against the technology abusing the Planet. With the new global conversation, we can change the language and mythology almost on the dime.

People’s lives will improve. The improvement will involve more and more people but the resources will be spared. The economies will shrink materially, but the access to and the use of carbon-neutral experiences will expand exponentially. This is the only way, otherwise, the suffering of millions will ensue. In my work on worldviews, I see human potential. I read these personal worldviews, work with them and I am amazed: everybody writes about peace, meaningful relationships, and love of nature and beauty. We have to follow our idealistic worldviews. We want this, we just need to be taught how to get it. What for Teilhard de Chardin was a nebulous Omega Point (literally pie in the sky) for us might be a desperate survival maneuver.

There will be two complementary essays – the sequels to this one. 

Part 2: Materialists and idealists. I will attempt to find them, find them now, and find them in the past. I have already hinted at the origins of materialism- will talk more about that. Where did they come from and where did they go?

Part 3: I will look into the future, into a new curriculum to build a new society. This utopia is unlike well-known, worn and failed utopias of the past- one of spiritual and moral perfection. We will teach our children,( and grass-root movement sprouts already everywhere,) to be happy without abusing the planet. Their lives, in contrast to the prediction for the year 2050, will be more exciting and rich than ours. They will have more than we have, but no more gadgets or power. They will have more love and friendship. More creativity, fun, discovery, and beauty.

 They will be idealists.

Open letter to all humanists.

This is an open letter to all humanists and this is a great majority of all humans. Most of them do not realize that they are humanists. I want to bring this fact to the open : the King is Naked! The term and the meaning of humanism has been hijacked. Most of us are rational, educated and concerned with human problems( including personal, family and tribe problems). But many of us are still working on the childhood fears of the unknown. We think that if we stick to material, scientific or scriptural, “factual” Universe – we will be safe and if we manage to suppress and deny the unknown- we would win.

It is why in my town of Chattanooga, Tennessee,  a group of 20 or 30 ex-baptists or ex-catholics (like me) huddle every month for the Humanist Assembly meeting. It is how we try to handle the fear of the unknown. Next door in hundreds of churches, few synagogues and mosques hundreds of thousands faithfuls respond to this group by desperate or happy clinging to the religious way to handle the unknown.

The more we resist, the more they persist. But we are the species created by evolution! Like in every species, handling unknown is an essential part of survival. Every stupid animal knows it. Cavemen knew it, medieval men knew it-see all these cathedrals- the renaissance men knew it- read Shakespeare!  The imagination, the art, the poetry and the divine- they are all part of the unknown and of the beautiful and awesome human nature, human myth. Also the competition, arrogance, naivety and cruelty – you pick, literally.

The origin of species was described 250 years ago, but it is not in our bones yet, not in our deep, deep worldview.

Get it! Celebrate the unity of man, his creativity and achievements. Not a second too early. Stop fighting! Instead, try to understand and work together on our fears, on the fears of each of us. The ship is sinking (remember The Tempest?), we are the last hominids remaining. Our ancestors survived  several threats of extinction and almost extinction. The scientism like religions make us tiny, helpless, divided and..wrong. The evolutionary thinking shows clearly how over millions of years we created and named all we can see. We can, this time not by luck, but by reason, duck, sneak out and survive again.

Humanists of the world unite!

 

 

 

We are in the center of the Universe

 

         

          I think we, humans and other beings on Earth, are in the center of the Universe. We are in the center of our Universe and this is the only Universe that exists. It is important to ponder this as if it is really so, it brings a lot of the responsibility to us, humans, as the squirrels and dolphins , as pretty and smart they are, they won’t help much.

As a philosopher, I think that the solution for the present pickle will come from the maturing of the human mind rather than from more successes in the technology. As would Einstein put it -“no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

     An idea that we are in the center of the Universe seems like the fine place to start from! The argument usually involves astronomy and physics . The theologians, after the setbacks handed by Copernicus, Darwin and raging capitalism are trying to side with science to regain some respectability. They are conspicuously absent from the fry.

       But I am a pediatrician, for Goodness Sake!

Well, for the last 50 years I was playing with babies. I was watching them, talked to them and studied their development. I was studied the similarities and the differences in their thinking and feeling as compared to primates and other simpler animals. And the idea of us being the center of the Universe came straight from the evolutionary neuroscience and developmental pediatrics.

Every behavior that benefits an organism’s evolution has to be communicated and encoded.  The speed of the evolution is uneven. The traits/ behaviors which relay on body changes are slow, but the ones relaying on communication are fast.  The more complex, the  smarter you get, the faster  you get even smarter. Your brain is  better, your society is more complex, you communicate faster.  Your brain, your synapses evolving on the neck-break speed starting to get shortcuts. When you start communicating with shortcuts, these are words. So you start to relay  on them, there is more and more to teach an infant, which become smarter and smarter.  Soon they become speakers, for these exchanges you need  grammar and then language. So these communications which started with the simple descriptions of a beneficial behavior (swim towards warmth) now name actions, feelings, reasons and most amazing – THINGS. We teach infants these words and they see them as independant of communication , independent from language.

      Every animal’s brain evolved to fine tune this animal’s behavior in given environment. To perceive, to see, to understand, to adapt, this for an animal is the same thing. It is what an animal does, without splitting it into categories. The animal’s world  (Nagel’s “What it is like to be a bat” will not tell you much…) is very different that mine and yours. It is not subjective and it is not objective- there is no self to make this distinction. It is obviously dependent on the observer (the animal itself), made by the animal’s peculiar, primitive perception and memory, but it is out there. Birds’ migration shows that they can coordinate complex actions, but the sharing is automatic, not via intentional communications. So, the animal’s world is outside, around the each animal, built mostly over the eons of the evolutionary time, with just a little of it built during the life of the animal- to allow for diversity beneficial for the species survival, the world of behaviors. Even if the evolution created homo sapiens with the vastly improved brain, the communications ability, and thinking skills, each of us still builds his or hers personal world, with the Universe getting bigger and bigger around us. So, again, an young infant, with minimal activity of cortex, the human baby has the world out there, instinctual and emotional. But, unlike the animals, human infant rapidly activates upper limbic centers and prefrontal cortexes. The rich social communications add to the world of behaviors two new worlds: the world of language and the world of things. The world of behaviors enables the world of language, the world of language enables the world of things, but there is a huge difference between the first and the last two of them. The world of behaviors (shared with the animals) surrounds each baby, (each animal ) making, her own Universe (Umwelt) but the worlds of language and things are shared with other human beings, they feel like floating outside and independent of us! This transition happens around 6 to 9 month of age in infants, this make them cranky and confused, they can’t sleep, suddenly clinging to mom. Psychologists call this the development of the object permanence, I call it losing of the object impermanence, or even better – entering from My Universe into the strange Universe which is Nobody’s- it is just there.

 

     Now imagine 7 billion personal worlds all mingled, shared, interconnected. Then add 14 billions of the mom’s and dad’s worlds which were the base of the each of our personal worlds, add all the ancestors’ worlds, further and further back in time.  All sentient beings contributed to the process of building subsequent generations of personal worlds.

  Space, time and other dimensions are products of this complex masterpiece. The main function of the evolving animal’s nervous system is to create understanding, in other words -the cognition (the way for control). And this works through categorizing, naming, creating semantic shortcuts, the metaphors.

According to the Gaia hypothesis, kind of similar to my philosophy, the interconnected sentient beings create super intelligence, like interconnected neurons and dendrites, create the conscious brain. To me, these connections  between humans are mostly related to ancestors via genes and culture via instincts and the core of human nature. These connections make possible for each of us to become conscious and create a meaningful world.

During the last 80 years, science and philosophy are grappling with the explanation of the observed vs observer dilemma. From Bohr and Einstein to Maturana and Varela and Thompson , the concept of observer-built reality is gaining ground. See also Archibald John Wheeler’s Participatory Universe and Anthropic principle debates.

And, of course, about 100 000 years ago, the culture and the technology for the practical reasons developed “the agreement universe” so we could hunt the mastodon or build the bridge or a spaceship. The other names for this are “nobody’s universe” or “reality”.

 

My world which is interconnected with 7 billions of “you’s” and it was built by our ancestors and the ancestors of ancestors down to the beginning of life..

You are in the exactly same situation, these are all assets we have, and if we are not extremely careful, we are going to blow them out in the nuclear holocaust. Or starve slowly, take your pick.

After the last human dies, a computer in some deep bunker will still continue to churn out data revealing new “discovery” based on Cosmic Microwave Background measurements.

 But it will be no CMB, this term will become completely meaningless. And it will not matter whether the report is in English, Arabic or Chinese. If there is nobody to read it, there is no CMB, period.

Really, see- “micro” means nothing, “wave” means nothing, “back” means nothing – there is no front so can not be back, there is no “ground” and no “cosmic”.

OK, you say “ let’s continue this story, and in a million years, the aliens discover this planet and this computer printout”… Not so fast: you can not discover anything if there is no concept of “discovery”. There are no years if there is no spring and winter, and if nobody is born and dies , the time is meaningless and useless. Without the human, there is even no story.

Yes. We are the center of the Universe.

    We are the only observers of the world. Naturally the world is fine tuned for humans (the Anthropic Problem) if they invented the measurements accordingly. And while animals’ world of behaviors occurs in time and space, only the humans with their worlds of language and things named them and are aware of them. We also invented the science that tells us, that we live as a tiny, insignificant specs, on the small planet, on the periphery of the remote galaxy, with the huge, cold, unknown cosmos around us. Some scientists are trying to cheers us up, like Primack and Abrams in “The view from the center of the Universe” and Tom Yulsman in “Origins”. They made it worse, their wishy -washy argument and wishful thinking goes from reassurance that our size is just right (sic!) to the hope that future science will alleviate our wretchedness to stating that the Universe does not have the center, therefore we can not be off it.

But while the scientists still ( and will forever ) argue, this should not make us feel like the insignificant specs, excused to be helpless and small, waiting for the creator to help us, please!

We are at the center of human experience, as we are building personal and interconnected worlds, the Universe consists of. We are responsible for it and every of us 7 billion, matters.