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Arts and Culture

Culture or Neurons?

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Posted on Mar 8, 2012

By Susan Okie

“Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind”
A book by Mark Pagel

“Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are”
A book by Sebastian Seung

What makes human beings unique? What accounts for our species’ planetary dominance, for our self-consciousness and awareness of our mortality, for our impulses to create art, to help others, to cling to our memories of childhood, to believe in a deity, to seek riches or fame?

Two new books view modern humans through very different lenses and suggest distinct approaches to such elemental questions. In “Wired for Culture,” British evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel contends that we owe both our diverse talents as individuals and our success as a species to our ability to form cultures—tight social groups that have accelerated our acquisition of knowledge, skills and technology. In “Connectome,” neuroscientist Sebastian Seung argues that the software defining each of us as a unique person is coded in the myriad connections among the brain’s 100 billion nerve cells, and that until we can map and study each of those connections in a human brain, we will not begin to fully understand ourselves.

The culture we live in and the inconceivably complex neural network inside our skulls are both essential to our identities. These books are speculative, drawing on current knowledge about the brain, evolution, genetics and social behavior to expound researchers’ current theories about such conundrums as why humans have engaged in genocide, whether we possess free will, why we go through life with the sense of a consistent self, and whether the software for that self might someday be uploaded onto a server, allowing a person’s consciousness to “live” on after the body dies. In many cases, the evidence for the theories being presented is still indirect, scant or nonexistent. For example, Seung predicts that proving how the connections among our nerve cells store memories will require the use of technologies that haven’t even been invented yet, while some of the theories about human social behavior described by Pagel may never be provable. Nonetheless, both of these books challenge our assumptions about what makes us who we are, and offer provocative new insights.


About 45,000 years ago, members of our species, Homo sapiens, reached Europe after earlier migrations out of Africa via the Middle East. The newcomers’ arrival must have come as a shock to the Neanderthals, a separate human species who had inhabited Europe for some 300,000 years. As Pagel notes, the new arrivals “would have carried a baffling and frightening array of technologies”—not only new kinds of weapons and tools, but also perhaps sewn clothes, musical instruments and carved figures. “It would have been like a scene from a science fiction story of a people confronted by a superior alien race.” The aliens likely didn’t owe their advantages to dramatically superior genes, but to a development, some 40,000 years prior to their arrival in Europe. Something happened that had immensely speeded up their ability to learn, adapt and acquire new strategies for taking over the planet: Homo sapiens had acquired culture.

book cover

 

Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind

 

By Mark Pagel

 

W. W. Norton & Company, 416 pages

 

Buy the book

book cover

 

Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are

 

By Sebastian Seung

 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 384 pages

 

Buy the book

 

Although today’s humans may harbor mixed feelings about our species’ recent track record in settling Earth’s land masses, wiping out numerous other life forms, turning forests into farmland and achieving exponential population growth, our success viewed in biological terms has been spectacular. And our remarkable longevity and reproductive success stem from our ability—absent in other animals—to form close-knit tribal groups made up of unrelated individuals who speak a common language and can acquire new knowledge through social learning. The innate capacity to acquire culture unites us: Any newborn infant, born or adopted into any culture on the planet, will absorb the language, beliefs, values and norms of that society. Yet our distinct cultures so powerfully influence our behavior that it can be argued that each culture makes use of its members as a strategy for propagating itself, rather than vice-versa.

As Pagel writes, our cultures are “responsible for our art, music, and religion, our unmatched acts of charity ... our sense of justice, fairness, altruism, and even self-sacrifice;” but also for our self-interest, our ethnic and racial prejudices, our distrust of strangers, our wars—even for our willingness, at times, to kill our children or ourselves for a religious, ethnic or national cause. Moreover, he writes, there’s no evidence that our cultures’ hold on us is weakening. Despite living in increasingly dense, interconnected populations, we continue to speak as many as 7,000 separate languages and to cling tenaciously to loyalties and customs that differentiate us from our neighbors. Just think about teenage gangs, football and soccer rivalries, antipathies between Democrats and Republicans, or the deep-seated distrust among the nations belonging to the European Union.

To see long excerpts from “Wired for Culture” at Google Books, click here.

To see long excerpts from “Connectome” at Google Books, click here.

 


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By Ed Romano, March 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

Truth Digger, Glad you agree, but Shenonymous has said it was not her intention to denigrate the Swedish model and I think we should respect that.

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By Shenonymous, March 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment

Well I try to respond in an intelligent way with backup references
and I get criticized.  I can only judge the source of your belittling
of my observations as defensively egotistical.  The references by
the way truedigger3 are not think tank offerings but statistics.  I
gave the website and you can check them out yourself if you aren’t
too lazy.  I haven’t at all criticized Sweden, I’ve just pointed out that
as exemplary as they are they have problems too.  It looks as though
some sort of dogmatic thinking prevents that from being integrated
into your thinking.  You don’t have to exaggerate my position on that
score.  Hmmmm, again, not too civlized in my book! 

Let’s be clear…I am a liberal and a liberal more than a Democrat.  I
do not see any party other than the Democratic Party where I have
some hope to legislate for the liberal ideals.  If you have another
party that would do that, please, you and truedigger3, say what that
is.  Otherwise I have no reason to change my trajectory…or believe
you.  As a professional educator and have been for 30 years, all the
way from pre-K to the university level and post-graduates, where I’ve
now resided for over ten years, I’ve seen the entire spectrum of what
one political party has desired to do to education and what have been
its effects at the state level to decimate the public education system. 
The is the Right-Wing Conservative Republican Party.  But their efforts
to privatize everything is a disastrous plan for the American people. 
Privatizing is just a euphemism for supplying the pockets of the
corporatocrats with the public’s money and gouging them at the
same time. There is nothing you can say about the medical industry
that would astound me!  It is about as evil an institution as there can
be. 

But you do not make a rational case for any other party and I can only
assume you would rather see the truly debauched Republicans take over. 
Well they won’t if I have anything to contribute to stopping them, not
while I have an ounce of energy I can spend on these matters and I would
surmise the majority of the people will feel that way too come November!

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By truedigger3, March 14, 2012 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

Re: By Ed Romano, March 14 at 8:21 am

Ed Romano wrote:
“Where we part company is in the belief that the situation as it now stands can be changed or even alleviated to a decent degree, by the democrats. Both parties are in the employ of the monied class. Given the evidence I don’t see how a reasonable argument can be made otherwise “
——————————————————-
Ed Romano,
That is exactly what I wanted to write. I agree with you 100%.
Also, although the Swedish Model might not be perfect,
the people there are much happier and healthier than in the US.
I look with deep suspicion to all these so called “studies” and “research” that is published by those so called “think tanks” and foundations that want to discredit Sweden. As they say: follow the money and know who is sponsoring and paying for all these “studies” and “research”.

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By Ed Romano, March 14, 2012 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

Shen, Wow ! You bring out enough ammo for a discussion that could take a lot more time and space than we have available here.I’m aware that Sweden’s GDP is smaller than the U.S. My comment about the multi trillion dollar debt was predicated on the possibility that your earlier post was taking a position opposed to the Swedish model. If that was the case I was trying to show that we have no room to criticize their debt, because our own is astonom ical…. Of course, there are no perfect social constructions and given human nature as it is there never will be. I don’t need to be told that….. I agree completely with your take on the Republican Party. It is a disastrous organization for the vast majority and completely devious in its approach. ( I won’t go into details here ).....Where we part company is in the belief that the situation as it now stands can be changed or even alleviated to a decent degree, by the democrats. Both parties are in the employ of the monied class. Given the evidence I don’t see how a reasonable argument can be made otherwise and, until that situation is changed, any changes in the way we are proceeding will amount to no more than a tinkering with the system at a time when substantial change is desperately needed….You said it is “fallacious to romanticize into perfection what in reality is not”. I imagine you might reply that you are not saying the Democratic Party is perfect. But, if I may be so bold, in your attempts to combat some of the attacks you have recieved on this site, at times it certainly seems that way ....In an exploitative society the government cannot serve all the citizens equally because the needs and aims of the people and the exploioters are diametrically opposed. The people want to use the government and its resources to benefit themselves and the exploiters want to use those resources for their own benefit.This is the battleground we walk on in this country. There are numerous historical examples of this struggle. I can’t get into them much here. But if you think about it I’m sure you will find some. The monied class, (and its agents in governement) is currently attacking the educational system. Why ? Because it wants education to be a market driven enterprise. Even the prison system is being privatized. The interstate highway sytem, built with tax payer money, is in the process of being auctioned off and “privatized”.Republicans, notably under George Bush ( I accidently typed George Bugs Hmmm ! ), want to do away with the current Social
Security system because they are itching to get their hands on money that is now beyond their reach. But if they can have it deposited into Wall St….Voila ! It’s no longer a detested “government program.” Medical programs that are outside the profit making medical industry are another hated government benefit and is under constant attack. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. If you think the situation can be changed by sending Democrats to Washington I respectfully disagree, The change that is needed, I believe, goes much deeper than changing a few heads. The system we are living with needs to be changed. If I believed the Democratic Party could lead that struggle ( as I once strongly did ) I would have a lot more hope than I do now.

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By Shenonymous, March 14, 2012 at 8:09 am Link to this comment

Ed Romano – “the national debt in Sweden is NOT 10 or 12 TRILLION
dollars.”  Nor is its GDP anywhere near that of the US.  It was not my
intention to “disuade Americans from looking to Sweden as a possible
model.”  Make that $15 ½ trillion US national debt as of March 2012
(it is insane to think it is not necessary to increase revenue,
http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/). 

You are definitely right in giving the righteousness of Swedish national
pride and the Swedes satisfaction with their government.  Demographics
are quite different between the two countries, however, and that has to
be taken into account as well. Nor am I saying that the United States
does not need ‘fixing.’  It is in dire and desperate need of reforms of
all kinds. 

I was showing that even the most paragon of paradigms has its
migraines.  There is no question Sweden has achieved an admirable
standard of living under a mixed economy (which by the way is the
United States’ economic system as well).  While historically it has not
been as bad for Sweden as it is now, the extraordinarily favorable
economic picture has been plagued in recent history by budgetary
difficulties, inflation, high unemployment, and a gradual loss of
competitiveness in international markets. Its budget debt is
approximately $100 billion (in US dollars) and is mostly owed to
outside creditors.  This leaves Sweden in about the same economical
category as Greece and Turkey. Sweden also operates with a huge
budget deficit (55% of GDP).  Revenue for the US 2012 is ~$5.1
trillion, debt is ~$19.2 trillion 2012, for reference click here.
I am just saying that it is fallacious to romanticize into perfection
what in reality is not. 

If we Americans want to mimic Sweden with no hungry children, etc.,
it is strongly suggested that Republicans be defeated and let the liberal
Democrats legislate hunger out of the national character.  It will not
happen with a Republican administration and Congress.  They are the
main reason why “we are doing a lot worse” than Sweden, but the
corporate world is swimming almost drowning in extremely rich gravy. 
Sweden is heavily socialistic, every single American social programs is
being short circuited by extreme Republican conservatism.

There is an argument beckoning to be made about to what extent do
humans “owe” one another?  What exactly are our rights and obligations
when we choose to live within any particular society?  And would that not
be a most enlightening path towards resolution?

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By Ed Romano, March 14, 2012 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

Sweden. It’s taken me awhile to get around to this topic, but it is an interesting one. I’m not sure if the post outlining some of that nation’s economic and social problems was meant to disuade Americans from looking to Sweden as a possible model. If it was perhaps we can look at it from another angle. Painful as it may be, that nation will have to address its
economic and societal problems in the near future. As for other european nations looking at Sweden with a jaundiced eye…any country that holds that the well being of its citizens is more important than the well being of capitalist enterprises is always severely critized by capitalist nations. And no one does this better than the U.S.  This, of course, is not meant to say that some of the fears of the European Union are not warranted. But, if I may, I’d like to look at Swedish society from a different perspective.
  Sweden does not have 900 military bases spread around the globe to control the economies and mineral resources of hundreds of nations.
  Sweden is not pushing the sale of armaments around the globe. It’s GNP is not reliant on such sales.
  There are no hungry children in Sweden.
  Elderly people do not have to forego needed medicines because they can’t afford them.
  Swedish people do not have to sleep on sidewalks and in alleys at night.
  Just as it would not try to stop the tide from coming in twice a day, Sweden is not spending a large portion of its national budget trying to keep illegal drugs from entering the country.
  The Swedish educational system needs reforming, but young people in Sweden do not have to assume a massive debt, in many cases for their rest of their lives, in order to be trained for life in a capitalist industry.
    And, not to be overlooked, the people are SATISFIED with their society.
    Sweden is near the top of the human development index which ranks nations according to life expectancy, education and standard of living. The Swedes pay high taxes to maintain this life style, but they are not the highest taxed people in the world and more than half the collected taxes are NOT spent on the military.
    We could do a hell of a lot worse, and as a matter of fact….we are.
    Let me add a little P.S. here…. The national debt in Sweden is NOT 10 or 12 TRILLION dollars

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By Shenonymous, March 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

Clash, March 13 6:12pm

Connections moved, changed? I do know, it is far
more important to remain connected to life than to adhere
to the dogma off death. I think the chimpanzee’s, mountain
gorillas, and some large brained sea mammals seem to just
already know this. Were does that put us on the evolutionary
scale?

I think all animals more than seem to know it.  They innately know it
even domesticated ones.  They are on the raft of life not death, which
can be seen if one pays attention to what non-human animals do. On
the other hand, humans had to have Freuds to learn how to get through
a lot of misery other animals just don’t go through.

Surfboy – Ouch!...LOL You have made my head hurt too!

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By Clash, March 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous;

The question, was the conscious experience, that of knowing what happened, or the experiencing of the perceptions one thinks they remember that change how one perceives one’s self and the other? 17 years and still working on it.

Concepts seem to be easier, details some what harder to master since then, but memory of life experiences seem to be somewhat magnified.

Connections moved, changed? I do know, it is far more important to remain connected to life than to adhere to the dogma off death. I think the chimpanzee’s, mountain gorillas, and some large brained sea mammals seem to just already know this. Were does that put us on the evolutionary scale?

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By Shenonymous, March 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment

Clash, March 13 4:24 pm -

Shenonymous; So as to be less cryptic, no pulse in the
extremities, no carotid pulse, eyes fully dilated, no respiration,
and flat line on ekg monitor for 11 + minutes, 4 in the ambulance
and 7 in the emergency room, disconnected, dead what ever.
Scared the nurses and attendants some when I began coughing.
Others have experienced this state also.

I’m glad it was not a non-hypothetical death experience!  Yes I’ve heard
this does happen more often than is thought.

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By Clash, March 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous;

So as to be less cryptic, no pulse in the extremities, no carotid pulse, eyes fully dilated, no respiration, and flat line on ekg monitor for 11 + minutes,4 in the ambulance and 7 in the emergency room, disconnected, dead what ever . Scared the the nurses and attendants some when I began coughing. Others have experienced this state also.

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By Shenonymous, March 13, 2012 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

Lafayette – No doubt we band together into collective societies
rather than a nomadic existence for a number of self-evident
reasons. One is that there is protection in numbers. The other
is the economic principle of Division of Labor that enhances our
productivity, thus assuring also economic gain for all who
participate.

Yes, it goes without saying there is protection in numbers, but that
is the original state of existence for every species, none are born as
single entities, so it is populations in the plural as the first condition
for life.  Evolution knew that before any human mind did.  Economics,
or the means of survival, developed along with living things.  Squirrels
know this “naturally,” as I watch my resident rodent renters pack their
homes with as many acorns as they can store, and et al.

For a collective sense of Social Justice to take hold in our
nation, a great pedagogical exercise is necessary. One of
learning and belief in the virtues of Social Investments to
sustain a general level of well-being. We cannot all be equal
economically… But our society can be more equitable.

Right again, but society needs to be careful not to be propagandized
into the delusion that a communistic power structure is what becomes
established.  Education is the keystone and as you note Sweden is a
model of socialism, but it has its niggling problems. The sense of
fairness is the challenge and one that needs to be more discussed than
mere mention.  What is fair to one set of citizens is not fair to others. 
Like morality, there has to be a conceptual agreement of what is
acceptable or at least what tolerance means.

For all of its virtues, Sweden is not as perfect a paradigm as might
prima facie be thought.  To put a spin of reality on the facts of Sweden,
the following is offered (in two parts as I’ve tried to show that even the
most exemplary of examples has its share of warts too), all verified at
http://www.mkeever.com/sweden.html

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By Shenonymous, March 13, 2012 at 7:28 am Link to this comment

2. The Swedish Police Force has become one of the least effective
in the world. Crimes are simply not solved.  The completely free
education system starts out with a 9-year elementary school,
followed by an optional high school. But since a high school student
receives almost $100 per month for attending high school, and also
the need of a higher education, basically everyone continues to high
school. After high school, however, the extensive unemployment
subsidies offered by the government has become an incentive, and are
financially more attractive for individuals to stay home (uneducated)
and receive unemployment benefits. As the population has grown in
Sweden, (and the need for education has increased), in combination
with under paid teachers, have resulted in the quality and standard of
education dramatically decreasing. High school students are teaching
elementary school and the quality of the college education is not far
behind the level high school taught just 15 years ago. Colleges are
transferred into universities in order to increase its status, and classes
are dismissed due to lack of teachers. The Swedish educational system
has transferred into a place where unemployment is hidden. Unemployed
people are forced to attend pointless courses in order to change their
status from unemployed to student, once again showing the incompetent
actions of the Swedish government.

Since its entrance into the Union, Sweden has been put under regula-
tions by the European Union. Accounting numbers that previously could
be hidden through manipulation suddenly became visible to the public.
Overnight, Sweden was proved as not having as good an economy as
government officials always claimed, but rather an enormous national
debt.

The Swedish government and businesses are losing billions of
dollars annually primary on loss of taxes and incomes from alcohol
and cigarettes due to the weakened border control.  Foreigners in
Sweden are free to practice their cultural customs as long as they
do not interfere with the constitution.  All citizens in Sweden have,
according to the constitution, the same rights as natives. Unfortunately,
the immigrants are not very well treated. Immigrants are forced to
change names in order to even get to an interview, and most of the
foreign physicians, engineers and lawyers work as postal workers.

Even though relatively speaking in comparison with some other
countries, in Sweden corruption is considered non-existent, it is not
corruption free.  The government appears to be honest, but indirect
corruption and bribery does exist even if on a small scale. Political
leaders are highly privileged, as they are in many other countries,
and also employ their children as consultants for the government.

In spite of being considered a rich country, Sweden’s domestic budget
management is a catastrophe.  It has achieved an enviable standard of
living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive
welfare benefits, but the rosy picture is spoiled by budgetary difficulties,
inflation, high unemployment, and a gradual loss of competitiveness in
international markets.  Having the highest tax based government in the
world leaves Sweden as one of the lowest paid countries in Western
Europe.  Still, Swedes have a relatively comfortable life (food, clothes,
and consumer goods) frequently based on subsidies (social welfare
programs).

Regarding foreign trade, Sweden is a country highly dependent on
other countries, thereby leaving it very vulnerable to outside forces. 
From being a country, in which almost all areas were strongly influenced
by a socialist government, most of the Swedish government-regulated
companies now are parts of the free market.

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By Lafayette, March 12, 2012 at 11:37 pm Link to this comment

COLLECTIVE SOCIETIES

She: We only have principles of morality also called altruism because we live in societies. We wouldn’t need to care about others were we singularly sealed in our own bubbles.

No doubt we band together into collective societies rather than a nomadic existence for a number of self-evident reasons. One is that there is protection in numbers. The other is the economic principle of Division of Labor that enhances our productivity, thus assuring also economic gain for all who participate.

But the attitude “we are all in the same boat” is more or less well developed around this globe. If this phrase means a sense of Social Justice, then it is highly apparent that Europe has far more Social Justice than does America. Since America was, since its inception, developed by European cultures (colonists, immigrants) its collective notions should be of the same kind. But they are not.

So, the question remains, “How is it that America’s primacy of the individual over the collective came to be?” Why do we believe that what is best for the Individual is best for the Collective, rather than the reverse?

Some may want to point the finger of blame at Ayn Rand, but she actually arrived (an escapee from Communist Russia in 1926) long after the primacy of the Individual over the Collective was a key sociological attribute of our country.

One could think it was the “pioneer spirit” that produced this wide-spread notion. Yes, perhaps, but Americans as self-centerer individuals, with great adulation for those who “get rich” (in the manner we worship wealth), must have deeper psychological roots at its origins.

MY POINT?

For a collective sense of Social Justice to take hold in our nation, a great pedagogical exercise is necessary. One of learning and belief in the virtues of Social Investments to sustain a general level of well-being. We cannot all be equal economically.

But our society can be more equitable. Our economic system by which income is distributed can be and should be much more fair. High taxes have been a cornerstone of Sweden for more than half a century. Its Tax & Spend economic policy has done nonetheless wonders for giving a relatively small nation, with significant economic constraints, a high standard of living.

And yet, Sweden has its share of millionaires and wannabee billionaires. It is by no means a communist nation, though it has been run largely by Social Democrats. (See Forbes’ List of Billionaires.)

So, if the above list proves that America has the means of generating enormous incomes, it does not in the least prove it can do so fairly. And yet, fairness can be achieved, but a nation’s people must want that it be accomplished.

That is our challenge in America - and as a nation we are very, very far from the goal.

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By Shenonymous, March 12, 2012 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

How odd, Truthdig was down for a couple of hours!  Well I’m glad
it’s back.  Your post was on the cryptic side, Clash. 

You are welcome truedigger3.  WIth your well-developed speculative
skills, I look forward to your adding some enriching thoughts to the
discussion as well.

The question of nature or nurture regarding the occurrence of morality
in humans is long-standing in social psychology and philosophy.  To
add a bit more to think about to the conversation:  We only have
principles of morality also called altruism because we live in societies. 
We wouldn’t need to care about others were we singularly sealed in our
own bubbles.

It appears that when acts of generosity or cooperation among human is
observed, the tendency is to interpret them through the lens of self-
interest. I’d say it was habit or indoctrination that frequently forces
erroneous beliefs and those lead to interpretive ways of thinking about
human nature which come to be thought of as evidential and these
become entrenched in a dogmatic view.  If there are any new insights,
they need to overcome towering barriers before they can become
accepted.  That 2% difference between humans and bonobos makes all
the difference in the world of morality.  Not that there is no evidence of
some acts of altruism among other species.  There is.  And if that is true,
then I think that gives some credence that nature has some responsibility
for altruism.

Adaptability, creativity, and innovativeness appear to be preconditions
for both populations and individuals to flourish.  Here’s the way it has
come to be seen as working: nearly two generations of human beings
have been educated and socialized to think in terms of universal
selfishness and to think they have a need to “get the incentives right”
which has been the password for anyone engaged in designing human
interaction, creating organizations, or coming to agree about laws.
“What’s in it for us?  How will I benefit?” are the questions modern
human consciousness has been trained to ask first. Here is the
problem:  once the habit of thinking about humanity in a particular
way germinates, the tendency is to interpret any evidence encountered
or discovered and to reshape it to fit preconceptions and assumptions. 
Recently a study in Sweden gathered data about a purely voluntary blood
donation system.  Reviewing the dynamics of the study, it showed that
women’s contributions decreased when they were offered money.  But
when the e donors were permitted to give the money they would have
received to a charitable foundation that focuses on children’s health
issues, the women’s contributions increased.  One study does not
prove anything conclusively but it the results are have some implica-
tions nonetheless.

The conclusions of many thinkers of this topic such as Steven Pinker,
Franz de Waal, Robert Wright, and Nigel Barber do think it is a
combination of genetic need for altruism as well as postnatal teachings. 
I think there is a persistent myth of unfettered selfishness for the human
animal (being part of the animal kingdom) that perseveres because it
really is not entirely wrong.  Most humans have experienced moments
of reactive self-interest and it could be genetic or it could be learned.  A
problem exists, however, when a partial truth is taken as though it were
the absolute truth and treated dogmatically so.

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By Clash, March 12, 2012 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous;

Some, do not need to think of hypothetical death, as experience has already taken care of that mystery. Just maybe there is way to much disconnection?

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By Ed Romano, March 12, 2012 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

Not proof by any means…but worth considering. This morning’s newspaper carries these stories”
  US Soldier Executes 16 Afghans, inclusing 9 children that he set on fire. Violent backlash is feared.
  Deadly Cross-Border Fighting Bewteen Gaza and Israel Continues.
  Some 100 Victims Of An Arms Depot Blast Laid To Rest In The Congo.
  United Nation’s Envoy Kofi Annan Leaves Damascus With A Cease Fire
  Anti-Taliban Politician survives Deadly Bombing
  Russian Activists Fear Reprisals.
  Iran’s Nuclear Program Takes Center Stage In Talks.
  Lamoine Maine: Shooting Leaves Man Daed, 3 Wounded
  .... and finally this on the last page….an American woman doctor is volunteering to go to the Dominican Republic to donate her services for the poor saying, ” It has always been my ambition to help others”.
  This last item is spiritually uplifting and offers proof that humans are capable of altruism. But why is it cynical to note that the pendulum hanging between the light side and the dark side historically seems to favor the dark ? Can any decent or sane person relish this observation? Certainly not. But rose colored glasses are not what is needed in the modern world. This is , of course, my personal belief. I think it is best to support those ideals and movements that lead toward the light. In order for that to happen we have to first realize which way the wind is blowing.

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By Lafayette, March 11, 2012 at 10:36 pm Link to this comment

The Nurture or Nature alternative has been at the heart of sociological debate for years. And well it should be.

It is quite likely that mankind’s development can be attributed to both. Nurture for the means by which we procreate and families sustain the nurturing process out of childhood. And nature for the means by which humans have selected and developed the technologies that have continuously enhanced our lifestyles and thus our longevity.

If bonobo monkeys share as much as 98% of our genetic make-up, the question remains “so, how did mankind get started?” Was it all evolution or was there some elemental “spark”?

I’m for the former as a correct answer, but the latter leaves “creationists” some miraculous wiggle-room ...

Does it really matter? It shouldn’t ...

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By truedigger3, March 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous,
Thank you very much for your valuable contribution to this thread.

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By Ed Romano, March 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

Shen, I’m going to read your post a few times in the morning. In the meantime I want to apologize for some of the mean spirited things I said. There is no excuse for it and it only brings a little more darkness into the world. I’m sorry.

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By Shenonymous, March 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm Link to this comment

Do you need attention, Ed Romano?  There is nothing in my posts
that suggests that I think humans are the cream of creation.  Nor
anything that could even mildly be called glorification of the human
being.  But no animal could be writing on TD other than humans.

I completely agree that all that is in the universe, whether organic
or not can be attributed at their inception to randomness or accident. 
Once bonding happens, then physical laws controls further survival. 
Some physical things develop brains and minds. When there is natural
selection it is always made from the pool that survives. There have
been and are individuals full of grace and beneficence.  You must
have not been treated well in your existence to renounce natural
goodness. 

By the way, my name is not Shemp.  It is an act of sloppy disrespect
to call me that.  Absolute personal regard might cross your mind.

The popular cynicism you seem to advocate does not impress me. 
Richard Dawkins theorized the selfish gene, and while I have the
greatest respect for and am impressed by Dawkins, there are other
equally notable scientists who theorize that altruism is genetically
explainable. I think they may be onto something there.  Biologist Lee
Alan Dugatkin in his study, Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees:
The Nature of Cooperation in Animals and Humans
narrates the
progression of the scientific account of the history of altruism in
support of the genetic thesis through the lives of seven scientists
including T.H. Huxley, also Richard Dawkins and E. O. Wilson.  Huxley
believed altruism was rare, and that blood kinship provided the key to
an evolutionary understanding of altruism. Russian anarchist Kropotkin
believed altruism was widespread and had no relationship to kinship. 
Que sera and the concept of the kinship connection won out, and in the
1960s, William Hamilton developed a cost-benefit analysis to explain the
genetic basis of altruism: If a gene for altruism is to evolve, then the
cost of altruism must somehow be balanced by compensating benefits
to the altruist.
  Cornell scientist, Stephen Emlen found phenomenal
evidence of Hamilton’s Rule in his studies of bee eaters in Kenya. The
effect of Hamilton’s Rule on evolutionary biology has been as great as
the command Newton’s laws of motion had on physics.  You might also
check out Dugatkin’s other book, “The Altruism Equation: Seven
Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness.”  While a tendency to
kindness may well be genetic, I find preposterous, however, mathe-
matical biologist, Martin Nowak’s thesis that the virtues as preached by
Jesus is encoded in human genes.

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By Ed Romano, March 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

Touche, Shemp. I see I finally got your attention.

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By Shenonymous, March 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

You have a penchant, Ed Romano, like a few others on Truthdig, to
demean others.  That is not very civilized in my book.  But I’m glad
you had a good laugh.  Reciprocally, you strike me as someone who
overintellectuallizes beyond their education.

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By Ed Romano, March 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

Dear Shemp, I got a huge kick out of your lecture especially that part in the beginning that read ‘......humans think about why things happen….and deduce logically etc. etc.” The part about humans deducing logically I found to be just short of hilarious. True, Humans are capable of thin king logically , but only a relatively small number of us are so gifted. 
  Your exposition betrays a bias often encountered in ( no offense here ) people educated beyond their intellectual ability and that is ...a tendency to speak and write as though this biological experiment called human is the cream of creation…..that we have a history that is steadily improving. But as the antropoligist Robert Ardrey said, “The natural sciences may properly regard the individual as a biological entity, a genetically random accident shaped and sorted by enviroment”. Why is it necessary to place this observation in a proper light ? Because the history of humans is not one of grace and benificence. Those who would cover the species with glory speak of the the inventiveness, the creation of art and literature as indications that we are near to angelic. But our actions in the world do not indicate that we, for all practical purposes,  have the slighest interest in the well being of other humans ouitside our own clans. Someone once figured that in the last 2500 years total peace has reigned on the planet for less than 200 years.We have gleefully torn each other to pieces in wars,raped the enviroment and abused our fellows in a manner that would make army ants and crocodiles envious.Harsh indictments aren’t they? Pessimistic many will say ( and have). Unfortunatly, realism often is.

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By balkas, March 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm Link to this comment

strange, but nature is not making our cortex or brain bigger.
why did she stop evolving our brain and areas of our brain
that control rage, hatred, intolerance, etc?
you’d think she’d do that and thus make us more peaceful,
tolerant, calmer, deeper thinking, etc.
alas, no! but what if nature is making our brains smaller?
well, listening to obama, romney, netanyahoo, a mullah, or a
priest makes me wonder!
now if researchers would study their brains, that would be
fine with me!!!

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By balkas, March 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

regarding thinking about thinking [that’s essentially what we do], we
cannot prove that, say, a dog, does not think about her/his own
thinking.
so once again if that is true—and i aver that is true—we are not unique
in yet another of many brain activities/functions.
maybe we could think of our thinking as of higher grade than that of an
animal.
so, essentially, what differentiates us from animals is the fact that we
use language and all other animals do not.

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By balkas, March 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment

to me, the label mind stands as a symbol for our thinking.
however, animals think also, but we do not call such thinking “mind”; nor do we say that they also have a
mind. but, of course, not existing separate from body and or body/brain!!!
i wonder why scientists have not noticed this fact? or have at least some?
we are certain that animals think. we know they posses memory and memory is a special kind of thinking.
i’ve long ago dropped the word “mind” from my language and from my thinking. as far as i know i do have not
have a mind! and even when minding my own business!
all i know that i think and that i have a right to it. and i use language as well and i have a right to the way i use
it and my strivings to improve my usage of languages i use.
the problem arises that with aging i am forgetting some of my language, proper syntax, grammar, spelling,
etc.

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By Shenonymous, March 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

In two parts one of my favorite matters to think about. The major
difference between humans and their sibling simians are that humans
think about why things happen, causes, to reason and deduce logically
about what is not present in physical form. From my memory of college
classes combined with some information from MIT Artificial Intelligence
scientist, Randall Davis, the following is how I understand the develop-
ment of the human mind.  There is a profusion of theories about why
intelligence and how the mind might have arisen in humans.  It is safe
to say, presumably the mind evolved.

As a rule, evolution is conservative: It adds new layers of solutions to
old ones rather than redesigning. This in part accounts for and produces
vestigial organs and systems, and the result is not necessarily pretty,
at least from an engineering viewpoint.  As biologist, Derek Bickerton
in Language and Human Behavior put it, “The human brain is wall-
to-wall add-ons, a maze of widgets and gizmos patched into the original
pattern of a primitive ?sh brain. And we wonder why it isn’t so easy to
understand how it works!”

Natural intelligence is unlikely to have an overall vision and unlikely
to be limited by principles of parsimony; like our bodies, it is likely to
be overdetermined, unnecessarily complex, and inefficiently designed.

Crudely put, the human mind is a 400,000-year-old legacy applica-
tion!  You didn’t expect to find structured programming, did you? LOL

According to J. C. Eccles, (Evolution of the Brain) the human brain
has very few anatomical asymmetries; the observed asymmetries are
almost entirely functional. It is striking because the asymmetry arose
in humans and appears to be unique to them; the brains of our closest
living relatives—apes and monkeys—are symmetrical both anatomically
and functionally.

Zooming in on the last 200,000 years, a few crucial events of developed.
Speech arrived only recently, about 200,000 to 400,000 years ago; we
don’t tame fire until around 100,000 years ago, which is also when the
more advanced tools began to appear. Conversion from hunter-
gatherers to settled societies depended on the happenstance of
agriculture, roughly 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.  About the same
time our artistic ancestors painted in the cave at Lascaux.

We could ask what changed between four million years ago and now? 
But that would take this post into a long cogitation.  So to cut a long
story short a few theories are about that want to account for it:  Making
tools for hunting and surviving the winter; or now popular, getting along
with one another, called the Machiavellian intelligence where the primary
function of intelligence is the maintenance of social relationships. 
Evidence comes from several studies, and anyone interested could do
a private google search.  Essentially as early groups grew in size, along
with the obvious advantages of larger groups came increasing demands
to be able to understand, predict, and often control of the behavior of
others was perceived.  Prediction became a key component of intelligent
behavior.  What more complex, arousing, and useful thing could there be
to predict than the behavior of than other humans?  Oh yeah…and we are
still suchly beguiled.

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By Shenonymous, March 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment

2.  Language is also highly likely a crucial driving force behind the
evolution of our brains, ergo, our minds. The interesting observation
was that if a review of the historical time line, it is apparent that
although brain size grows roughly steadily for about three million
years, progress in the development of modern culture was not nearly
so gradual. In fact, instead of a steady ascent…about 95% of that
period, a monotonous, almost ?atline graph, nearly nothing occurred.
Long after the appearance of Homo sapiens (uh….er…us), and well
after the steadying growth of brain size, the appearance of language
is “heard,” as well as all the other elements of what has come to be
called civilization.

Interestingly enough, it appears that humans showed their most obvious
evidence of intelligence only after the human brain stopped growing.

Bickerton suggested that the crucial event of mind was some sort
of reorganization within the brain which made possible two essential
things: a generative syntax, i.e., a true language, and thought, that is,
the ability to think.

Now is when a crucial distinction between animal intelligence, uh…our
simian relatives in particular, and human intelligence can begin to be
seen.  Animal intelligence has an immediacy (here and now) character,
for instance, with animal calls there is an immediate link from the
perception to the mind state to the action. E.g., if a monkey sees a
leopard, a certain mind state happens, and a certain behavior such
as giving the its unique call follows sequentially.

Human thought, on the other hand, has an unlimited spatiotemporal
reference, by virtue of several important disconnections. Human thought
involves the ability to imagine, the ability to think about something in the
absence of perceptual input, and the ability to imagine without reacting. 
In human thought there is the ability, rather the luxury, of “representa-
tion,” which is why it is called representation.  In the absence of a thing,
it can be thought about, not just have a reaction to it.

Enormous things change when we have both thought and language.
Thought and its useful disconnection from immediate stimuli and
immediate action is clearly a great advantage—it’s the origin of human
ability to have a hypothetical death within one’s head instead of dying
in fact. The interesting thing about language is that it makes knowledge
immortal and makes society, not the individual, the accumulator and
repository of knowledge. No longer is an individual’s knowledge limited
to what can be experienced and learned in a lifetime. Language not only
allowed humans to think, it allows them to share and accumulate the
products of that thought.

The main point is that human intelligence is a natural phenomenon, born
of evolution.

The usual view of thinking is that it is a form of internal verbalization.
Humans seem to be able to visualize internally and do some of our
thinking visually; we seem to “see” things internally. A classic example
is to ask if an adult elephant could fit through a bedroom door, most
likely there would be an attempt to answer it by reference to some
mental image of the doorway and an elephant.  Mental imaging is
closely related to perception; It is using the mind’s eye to “see.” Another
explanation is that thinking is a form of reliving.  A re-acting out what
would be experienced in the physical world. Thought processes mimic
real life.

Some researchers theorize that a significant part of human thinking
may be the reuse, or simulation, of experiences in the environment. 
Therefore, vision and language are not simply input/output channels
into a mind where the thinking gets done; they are instead a major
part of the thought process itself.

There is some scientific evidence that humans are genetically disposed
to altruism that needs to be advanced as humans grow in order to
flourish.

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By Big B, March 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

Many animals seem to be able to be altruistic. It seems, however, that humans are the only species who demand credit for it.

Can there be “mind” without a brain? Well of course not.

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By Clash, March 10, 2012 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Alien Earthling;

A well written response, actually most excellent. If I understand correctly you posit that, no matter how or why homo sapiens brain is “wired” in one way or another, experience, and circumstance may keep the species incapable of being totally of one mind, or in fact of understanding completely our own motivations and those of the other.
What do you think of the idea that reason as it is defined generally, is intertwined with stupidity? Is it that experience and or circumstance provide the gateway to stupidity, or is it just an after effect of subjective selfishness? That is are we all infected because we are some what self absorbed, or do we act stupidly because we are wired to react opposed to the other, or is stupidity a learned response taught by those who would have those they confuse act against their own survival? I ask only because reason seems to be in short supply, and stupidity seems to win the day, when it it comes to survival of our species.

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By balkas, March 10, 2012 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

ed romano,
yes, we are related to chimps, but since our cortex is much thicker than that of a dog or an ape, we
have language, mathematics, music, writing, arts, etc., and they do not.
we may not ever know why-when-how we acquired thicker cortex. so, we can delay researching our
nervous structure and use the monies apportioned for that study for finding causes or cures for
obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.
what is the use of studying our brains, if we cannot ever find [or maybe in millennia] even why, let
alone how and when, we were equipped with a thicker cortex than any other specie. 
==
aside of this, most scientists now behave like the worst possible criminals. remember, they invented
nuclear energy and wmd. so, were they that stupid or much evil?
stupid to believe american or world 1% or criminal, hateful [just visualize edward teller, and you’d
know what i mean], intolerant of working people, ‘aliens’, etc.
==
btw, do you know why god did not give dogs the faith? because he couldn’t stand another specie
hating him! he thought one was enough!

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By Ed Romano, March 10, 2012 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

Balkas, We are also closely related genetically to chimpanzees, baboons and gorillas as can be seen by reading many of the political postings on Truth Dig.

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By Ed Romano, March 10, 2012 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

Michael., Are you saying….No matter, never mind ?

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By balkas, March 10, 2012 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

i do welcome looking [via microscope, or otherwise] at the structure of our brains.
my sole concern is whether it is the 1% which would choose, control, finance the
researchers or the 100%.
am i wrong in concluding that the [by now proverbial] 99% would never be allowed to have
a say in this research?
but then, does the proverbial 1% ever asks our permission for anything it does?
from this, i conclude, that researching/investigating our brains would only benefit the 1%. it
would just be another nail in the coffin of our freedoms or what’s left of it—which is not
much.
we all are now just meat for wars, mindless wasters, indigenes of america, palestina, syria,
libya, pashtunstan, cuba, iran, korea, vietnam, et al.
so, please, leave our brains alone. take the rest [and you want to and you might] but not my
brain!!!
or else off i go to terrorism! thanks, bozhidar b, planet moon

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By vector56, March 10, 2012 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

“We cannot think without our brains but we don’t think with them, that’s the job of the mind. “

Michael’s above statement and this great post caused me to “think”.

Michael implies the brain and the mind are somehow separate?

Consider your computer; it has what is called a “GUI” (Graphic User Interface). The GUI is what you interact with (windows) when you use your machine; in a way the GUI is akin to your mind and the actual “Hardware” (RAM, CPU) is like your physical “wet-ware” (brain).

Understand that the GUI (windows, and all you do in computer land) is nothing more than a “projection” that the hardware creates. If I smash your hardware, the GUI (projection) stops! Logically, it would seem that the “mind” is nothing more than a “projection” of our “wet-ware” (the brain).  Many might feel that this would somehow diminish the status of humanity, but in my opinion it does the opposite.

Imagine an organic “machine” that can “project” consciousness!

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By AnAlienEarthling, March 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm Link to this comment

The arguments of Pagel and Seung are not new. William James referred to the views these two share as ‘medical materialism,’ the view that everything that we typically characterize as ‘subjective’ can, in principle, be explained purely “physicalistically,” i.e., in terms that refer only to entities that are ultimately some architectonic of “connected” mindless particles - going further back, Hobbes and even Descartes’ critics argued for such a view. Currently, there is a plethora of such views in the Philosophy of Mind/Consciousness, the Philosophy of AI/Robotics, the Philosophy of Language, Neurophilosophy, etc. (cf Chalmers, Parfit, Churchland, Brian O’Shaughnessy, Dennett, just to begin).
  Before we embrace such a view, one that will undoubtedly encourage more of the currently rampant, specious “psycho-pharmaceutical treatments” (chemicals to “fix” the brain) of addictive behavior (cf. Gabor Mate) of human suffering, or of what Thomas Szasz characterized generally as our “problems of living,” let’s ask whether such a Pagel/Seung account really would answer the questions that each of us wants answered, that each of us thinks MUST be answered in order for us ever to be in a position to genuinely, truthfully claim that we understand who we are, what we are, and the puzzles of human existence generally.
  Suppose, eg., that we have completely mapped out Joe Blogs’ connectome (JBC), and stored it on some Tera-Tera-TeraByte HDD in some super-hyper computer. So, presumably, everything that Blogs thinks he must understand about himself in order to really understand himself is available in his JBC. However, some of the “facts” that his JBC does not - CAN not - include are the facts that tell us the textures, if you will, of the feelings and visual, auditory, palatial experiences that Blogs has. Eg., however much we inspect JBC, we will never learn how love, anger, heartbreak, a Kandinsky composition, a Beethoven symphony, a Sandburg poem, etc., are experienced by Blogs - what these experiences are actually like for him, in short, what Thomas Nagel would call “the subjectivity” of Blogs’ lived world. JBC might answer the question what “being Blogs” is like; however, JBC will never answer the question what “being Blogs” is like FOR Blogs himself, i.e., WHY having this JBC should “result in”/“effect” the subjectivity of Blogs’ lived world rather than the subjectivity of, say, John Smith’s lived world. Putting the same issue differently: What each of us wants to understand is why it could not be possible for two human beings of widely divergent personalities to have “isomorphic” connectomes, i.e., connectomes that are structurally identical. What makes me who I am, makes it the case that “this connectome” IS me and not you? Or will Pagel/Seung arbitrarily claim that no two connectomes COULD EVER be identical? What would ground this claim? That each of us is unique - which is putting ‘de’ cart before the horse! Surely, it’s possible that a neuronal circuit housing Blogs’ belief that certain individuals are war criminals COULD be identical to some neuronal circuit in some ancient Greek’s brain! However, in the latter’s brain the circuit COULD NOT house the very same belief!

  At a time when we are just beginning to recognize not only the intrinsic value of the extra-human world, but also the overwhelming significance of “that world” to WHO and WHAT we are, the Pagle/Seung view strikes me as just so much more human, “arrogance”: that we CAN answer human, existential puzzles without making “indispensable references” to the extra-human world (but wouldn’t an account of our survival seem to require understanding the “force” of animism in our collective history, the ‘moral value’ that animism imputes to Nature?).
  Certainly, Pagel’s/Seung’s arguments should be read and pondered, but not without a critical diet of the opposing arguments.

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By balkas, March 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment

a bit more about socalled questions; which in fact are often conclusions or even averments of the questioner, but
appear grammatically as questions.
and the biggest offenders in such a sneaky behavior are MSM columnists; and not because they are more of,
with, and for the one percent than pols, teachers, clergy, army echelons, cia, fbi, judges, police, but because they
do most of the talking.
take the question, Doesn’t US have the right to defend its interest?
such a questioner has already included a mass of conclusions into that ‘question’. one of them is that these
‘interests’ are of all americans. it also posits the conclusion that these interests are seen by others as true and
valid and if they don’t, it means they hate US or are stupid or else they would not put up any resistance to US
quest for justice, fairness, etc.
and where US interests lie, no one else’s could possibly lie.
it also tacitly posits that ALL americans know the truth about american interests. or that US govt had properly
and truthfully disclosed them to all americans. and so on.
this is just one example how vast number of people are being led down the garden path.
“are you an atheist”? is another of those questions that hold so many [hidden for most people] assumptions.
for one thing, if there is no god [and there indeed is no god as far we know], how can one deny s’mthing that
does not exist? that which cannot be seen, smelled, touched, heard, and tasted?
so how in hell can one be atheists? one night as well say, I am a-unicornist. and i would say, Good for you, so am
i!, i also haven’t seen one yet!
and then they cry in despair, Answer the damn question! correct would be, I’ll posit many questions and you give
me many answers! in short, avoid like plague any question and answer session. it is a sham. thanks

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By Oceanna, March 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

“Through most of our history, our cultural groups have remained relatively
small and cohesive, competing with other groups and typically fostering
distrust or exclusion of outsiders.”

The partisan divide and two party system encourages just that.  The general
behavior of group cohesion pitted against those who contrast with yours
actually runs counter to survival in the present day world.  Maybe it will
extinguish with time, like other obsolete traits of species. 

“Yet, he concedes, there’s no guarantee it would yield such practical payoffs.
Even more remote is the science-fiction fantasy that, one day, a human being’s
connectome could be simulated and “uploaded” onto a computer, conferring a
kind of electronic immortality.”

It’s far from an original scenario.  Arthur C Clark penned and developed it fifty
years ago with his Monoliths, computers with human like thoughts and
perceptions who are out to usurp the human race.  That meme of a computer
having a human-like or thinking brain probably predated Clark’s Monoliths.

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By balkas, March 9, 2012 at 10:59 am Link to this comment

correction,
i meant to say being obedient/helpful to others
and being obeyed/helped by others. and, i may
add, in about equal measure. thanks

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By balkas, March 9, 2012 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

we all come from one genetic pool. so, this fact alone proves that we are
related to every human that ever lived and lives now.
however, ca 10 k yrs ago, priestly class taught our ancestors that we are not
inter-related and thus also not interdependent.
living interdependently means one gives and takes; one listens to,
obeys/helps others and is being listened to, obedient/helpful to others.
has this knowledge now ben wired into brains of most people?
and is this the cause we now live in virtual hell? but i have a feeling that
seung is avoiding to study what i said.
and his writings appearing in washington post, makes me much suspicious
of what he is trying to say! i think he’s deceiving us! thanks

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By Michael, March 9, 2012 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We cannot think without our brains but we don’t think with them, that’s the job of the mind.

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By balkas, March 9, 2012 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

“what makes us help others”??? structurally, the statement is both a question
and answer.
the notion that we help others, does not, in my evaluational skills, fit reality.
i think we are wired by god or nature [take your pick as who’s the actor here] to
help others and be helped by others.
if that is deactivated, we have hate for women [or anyone appearing weaker],
wars, lying, deceiving, torture.
nobody in her/his mind wants to be helped, get this or that, receive
charity. thanks

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By Merry Prankster, March 9, 2012 at 9:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My fear is that when they come back to check on their experiment and see that we have not advanced beyond our proclivities for war, genocide and enslavement of the weak they will decide to cancel the experiment. Maybe they will just pick another species like the whales and maybe they will cleanse the planet and start over. Either way we’re, well we know what we are.

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By gregorylkruse, March 9, 2012 at 8:33 am Link to this comment

Yeah. What exactly is wrong with me?

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By Solon, March 9, 2012 at 7:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

These are all very well, but have these guys ever spent
time in a lab? The growing of bacteria cultures and the
watching of how they evolve may be instructive?

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By Shenonymous, March 9, 2012 at 6:03 am Link to this comment

Since individuals are born as part of populations large or small,
never as single entities, Pagel’s conclusions are not surprising. 
His book is welcome and on my list to buy.  It will be interesting
to read whether he notes that the food any species must have to
survive also evolves along with the species.

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