on humanism and environmental crisis

Posts tagged ‘evolution mechanism’

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.

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!)

 

Same horde of cavemen

 Listen, friends,

I do not want to spoil your afternoon but if we don’t do something dramatic soon, our grandchildren will live in misery and many of them will die. We have 40 years or so to do it.

The ecological catastrophe is like a Monster with 100 heads and we are not even cutting these heads. We are nibbling on the tail and this is no good. 

I believe there is the chink in the Monster’s armor. A vulnerable place awaiting the arrow of the hero. 

         The trick is simple. We are almost 8 billion strong hurtling towards a disaster, but each of us is the same human. Same genes, instincts, pleasures, and pains. Same brain structures, same neurotransmitters, and hormones. Just 50, 000 years ago we were an almost extinct horde of cavemen. And now we KNOW THIS, we SEE THAT. we can imagine and understand that the proper action can save us again. It is just the same horde (or community)- so what if it looks like 8 billion strong mad crowds that are high on power, violent, reckless, and…stupid. The solution is inside each of us. Each of us wants to be happy. No exceptions. The way we try to get this happiness has been changing with cultures and civilizations but it seems that until quite recently it was stable, and lo and behold, safe for the planet. We were happy, embarrassingly, in the similar way the animals are, just a little bit fancier. It was all about a good experience- satiety, relationships, safety, awe, beauty, and art. Only just about 20 or 40 thousand years ago we slowly developed “the kingdom of things”. We dig out coal and oil and ore, we got energy, technology, and gadgets. Things are seemingly irresistible, they please all senses, they are reliable( your car will be there and ready tomorrow – your woman might not be)- easy, easy, so easy to get happy and powerful and safe, especially after all these thousands of years of fear, uncertainty, relying for happiness on OTHERS! Oh, the misery of relying on these tiny, fleeting moments of understanding, awe, and fun. 

         But we can make this pivot, we can make this second Renaissance smarter, more robust, the experiences with technology can be more “things-like”.

There is no other way anyway. 

And if we do it later when the resources are gone, we are overcrowded and fearful, then this “old happiness” practiced with the blade on our throats might look more like a caricature of the good stuff.

I think we need to create a broad coalition across professions, nations, and many other “huge” differences, and smarter people than me need to lead and design the details and actions.

I welcome brainstorming on my blog ecohumanistlab.com  and I will post more practical elements. of how to call it- a dream? plan? movement?  I think that the parenting of infants and toddlers would be easiest to address.

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.

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.

 

My worldview

As I am embarking on the task of teaching how to write your worldview, I thought I need to publish my own. The answers to the unanswerable questions are short, like at the Philozophy.com. In that way they can serve as a brief note to yourself, a reminder. It is also easier to compare them with others and to discuss them.  Here you are:

 

1.How did the Universe begin?

 

My Universe began with my conception. As I am learning from others and my experiences, my world shifts, gets bigger and more complex.  Where my understanding ends, on that edge, reversing the arrow of time, there and then the Universe begins

 

  1. What is the Universe made of?

 

My Universe is built from my birth with my instincts, my experiences and the experiences of other people I learned from. It is also solid and real. Maybe there is a Nobody’s Universe, independent of our personal worlds, but I doubt it.

 

  1. What is the origin of good?

 

Eusocial hominids, using mirror neurons, created and genetically encoded altruism and friendship. Surviving evolved into the drive to cooperate and to understand. The wisdom -understanding- translates socially into good, true and beautiful

 

4.What is the origin of evil?

 

Survival instincts and natural selection. We supposed to grow up and transform fear and greed of the caveman into the understanding and wisdom. I guess, we need to work harder on that. Tempus fugit.

 

  1. Is there free will?

 

As I have built my world, I am responsible for it and for my actions, even if sometimes I don’t know what I am doing. I feel that I have many freedoms, but in the same time I realize that I am a part of the cosmic interdependent web of causality.

 

  1. What is the nature of the mind?

 

The Mind is a cluster of functions of the brain. Thinking and feeling create my experience while consciousness, memory, attention make possible of me being aware of the performing these very functions. It is a concept, like a joy or pain.

 

  1. How do you find happiness?

 

With effort and intention of love, curiosity and gratitude, the results exceed expectations. It is transient, subjective and trainable. Practice to become happiable- ready for happiness.

 

  1. How do you find truth?

 

Truth is relative and mythic. It is what has been working for long time and for many people as a human nature and it is civilization dependent. So, I am trying to find wise books and wise friends to trust and then to ask.

 

  1. What is the meaning of life?

 

Being curious, doing good and having fun. It is how I am trying to do projects bigger than me. Working with people makes it meaningful and significant and beautiful.

 

  1. What is the role of evolution?

 

The evolution is probably the most important algorithm human invented to understand the world. It tries to explain how simple organisms evolved in Time and how the level of entropy and complexity can be so uneven across all dimensions.

 

  1. What happens after death?

 

I will live in others. If one does good for the reward after death, one will not be rewarded, if one does good to avoid punishment, that is one’s punishment. The judgement? It occurs inside our heads. Immortality? Sure, what you sow, you reap.

 

  1. Who or What is God?

 

The animal and then human intelligences were built through the process of the evolution. It is an awesome system, which we are trying to understand, often heroic and Divine. Gods are the parts of human mythology, therefore a part of human nature.

 

  1. What is going to happen to humankind?

 

Miraculously we will understand our unity, stop fighting, stop overpopulating, stop wasting resources. We will see our relatedness as Love and Friendship between us. Only then we will build a better world. A piece of cake but we need to hurry.

 

  1. What Question is missing?

 

What is the human nature?

Subjective, objective – which is which?

I am interested in human intelligence as it evolved from the animal intelligence. What are our abilities and our constraints? Looking into the past, into the nature of our world, who did what?  Which part is done by animals: colors, for sure?  Fear and pleasure, certainly? But reality??

The brain of mammals, our ancestors, is huge, compared with other animals, and is mostly consisting of neurons handling sensory perceptions and the interpretation of the perceptions in the view of survival/ adaptation benefits.  Attached to this behemoth are the ganglia ( we call them “old brain” but for the mammal, they are actually new), the neural centers responsible for the emotions. The animal “tries” to figure out constantly what is going on and if so, what to do. When a lion attacks, the sensory data combine with behavior menu and emotional impulses like fear and hunger.  We associate these actions, like emotions or feelings with the events going on inside us, in the head, in the chest, or heart, but with the animals, they are obviously ” out there”, as a part of the animal’s environment.

So, animal brain creates real world  with the brain which works on instincts and emotions? This does not make any sense. How that type of the brain can create solid objects, trees, antelopes etc.  Also, to confuse things even more, we think about the emotions and feelings as subjective, but subjective is related to reflective thinking and the robust self, while the animals just do not have the necessary brain structures (or minimal).

It looks like the split between subjective and objective is the part of the development of the human mind, and therefore is artificial. What’s worse that the new, invented part is an objective part.

Well, let’s put some order into this mess, an upside down order that is. When we build, as infants, our world around us we do not develop the “permanence of the objects”. We develop the world of impermanence. It is the world which we call the subjectivity, the one which changes, it resides in our “mind” or even “heart”, it is related to the development of self and reflective thinking. The brain we use to develop this new human quality is the newest part of the brain- prefrontal areas, verbal areas, the empathic brain. Animals do not have it, or have very little of it.

On the other hand, young human infant’s brain is like animal’s:  literal, permanent and real. It has no good feel for time- this comes much later. Her world occurs outside, feels objective and real and its complexity depends on the complexity of the animal (or the age- level of the development of the infant.) For the low complexity organisms even if feels real- the only world they have- it is very different than our reality.

The concept of dimensions, for example, develops one by one ( a simple bacteria detecting ony concentration of the chemical, i.e. distance, i.e. one dimension, E.coli can orient itself and has buding of tri-dimensional sensory). These realities, “Umwelts” (Uexküll) consist of gradually increasing number of elements and interactions and are built for survival, that is the organism’s niche. ( the idea that the world and the niche is the same deserves separate attention, no?- not I and thou but I and my niche!)

It seems that the objective world is just the evolutionary construct of the subjective experiences of our ancestors. As their ability to socialize and communicate increased they built something more sophisticated than bee’s beehive: the whole virtual shared world, our objectivity. How far back this construct reaches?  It reaches further and further back, as our understanding broadens, our science reaches deeper into cosmos and time and consciousness.

Our objective world is shared with the member of the species. Our sharing is vastly superior than animal’s world because of social connections via language and culture. Animals sharing is limited to social adaptive traits. So the lion and antelope do not see the same tree, even two antelopes see only as much of a “tree” as evolutionary minimally necessary.

This, when you think about it, puts all reality concepts upside-down and the consequences are mindblowing.

Lunch with Derrida ( Human Nature Grilled)

It seems that philosophy has been obsessed with human nature since the beginning of time. And, as times and philosophy change, so does the concept of human nature.
From Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) “Nichomachean Ethics” to Hume’s “A Treatise of Human Nature” (1738) human nature means just the way we understand and know the World, which includes all- ontology, axiology, praxeology, and epistemology. For Darwin (The Descent of Man- 1871) human nature is mostly about how we differ from the monkey, and how we came to have common ancestors. By the way, it looks that, the humanity is getting over this offensive detail of our nature. For E.O.Wilson ( On Human Nature-1971) it is about humans with their qualities to form the pinnacle of the evolutionary and the sociobiological process. For Chomsky, human nature represents an innate neurobiological structure responsible for the development of language. For me, human nature is all the above, but most importantly I see a human being as the evolutionary marvel, able to reflect on him- or herself, and to consciously build a personal world around and with the free will – own life.
This concept was discussed in the domains of biology, history, evolution, theology, and sociology and now the postmodernists want to take it away from us? Derrida in “Differance” denies the importance of humans interest in their history or biology. Absurdly, he preaches the absolute supremacy of text which, he thinks, means everything- but as there is no meaning- so ultimately- it means nothing. He says: “Differance is neither a word nor a concept. In it , however, we shall see the juncture-rather than summation-of what has been most decisively inscribed in the thought of what is conveniently call our “epoch”: the difference of forces in Nietzsche, Saussure’s principle of semiological difference, etc, etc”. (p130, I could not find a better quote). Of course, postmodernists question human nature but also the subject, truth, and moral standards. It is difficult to argue if the person you want to argue with, questions the argument itself, the process of arguing and the existence of the opponent.
Michel Foucault as the social historian and phenomenologist is less radical:
“It was not by studying human nature that linguists discovered the laws of consonant mutation, or Freud the principles of the analysis of dreams, or cultural anthropologists the structure of myths. In the history of knowledge, the notion of human nature seems to me mainly to have played the role of an epistemological indicator to designate certain types of discourse in relation to or in opposition to theology or biology or history. I would find it difficult to see in this a scientific concept.” (1971 debate, excerpts). And, actually, I agree with him about human nature being “an intellectual tool” rather than a biological or moral entity. During their famous debate, Noam Chomsky tried to defend the notion of human nature and pointed to the quality of creativity as the basic, innate human faculty responsible for the creation of the language, which made the culture and civilization possible.
For Foucault the forces behind human civilization are not personal, he sees discoveries and the changes as the inevitable result of societal progress. According to him human nature is just a “shopping list of science.”; humans can not not create anything, until the mechanism of the economy, politics, and psychological development of masses made it possible.
In my opinion, we should keep exploring the concept of human nature. With the progress in global education, improved critical thinking, people have become more and more individualistic, making their own decisions. The awareness of our cultural and sociobiological heritage, of our qualities and capacities for good and evil is very important in this age of the planetary crisis.
Human nature might be not a real thing, but as with the crisis in religious dogmas we are searching for origins of good, it would be useful to recognize the common origins of our character and values, pan-human brotherhood. And postmodernism is of not much of help, may be only by giving us the list of values one can question and telling us what humanity is not.

For myself, I would like to know that I can figure out my place in the world and my plan for action, conscious, deliberate and passionate action. This will be my human nature. And I wish that the people around me would do the same.
Or, would they rather go to lunch with Derrida???