10 Short Texts

14  QUESTIONS

In humans, what is the correlation between the color of hair, color of eyes,
and color of skin?

What were the first musical instruments? When and where did they evolve?

What is human perspective?

How fast are we traveling through space?

Why do European songs and dance accompaniments tend to change from major
to minor keys, when encountered globally from west to east, from Dublin to Kiev?

Electrons and quarks are the fundamental building blocks of matter. What is
their origin?

What is common sense?

When did the social concept of trust first appear?

What is the origin of consciousness?

What is the evolutionary origin of lucid dreaming? What purpose does it serve?

How are language and thinking related?

What is the origin of sex?

Not all biological organisms die. Is death necessary to the human species
as a strategy for survival?

What is free will?

 

THE PURPOSE OF ART

(Not too fast)

When and where did art originate?

What purpose does art serve
in the evolution of the species?
What survival value does it have?

Exploring art from the point of view
of Darwinian evolution may provide
perspective on the nature of art
and its effect on human culture.

Perhaps art resulted
from the evolution of a complex nervous system.
For example, the brain evolved symbolic language,
including analogy and metaphor, to represent
events in the surrounding world, which resulted in
improved communication and sociability.
This may have led to a natural disposition
to create and share art.

In addition, art and music may have
evolved as a bioevolutionary strategy
for modeling cultural patterns.

Art-making originated thirty to forty thousand years ago
with the creation of hand-held Goddess figurines,
musical instruments, and writing symbols.

Perhaps art and music
evolved as a representation
of the increasingly complex issues
facing the growth and spread
of hunter-gatherer society and culture.

As the population of a small community increases,
group activity becomes more complex.
Eventually, a population threshold is reached
where the activity of the group as a whole
is too complex or confusing for new ideas
to become easily integrated into the culture.

Due to the increased numbers in the population,
individuals find it more difficult
to assimilate new cultural patterns.

Members of the community tend to hold fast
to old customs and ideas. Adaptability and change
become increasingly difficult and are resisted.

Survival itself may be threatened.

An important role of artists in the culture
is to point toward new or hidden patterns of behavior
which are affecting an individual, society, or culture.

Artists make representational models
of those things with which they are most
deeply involved. In this way, they are able to
confront the difficulty of change, and to increase
communication within society. The artist
provides clarity and perspective where there is
confusion or fear.

As a result, culture is maintained,
the stability of society is strengthened,
and individuals have a better chance for survival.

 

TRUE  OR  FALSE  No. 9

Over 2 thousand years ago, plastic surgery was introduced in India as a means of reconstructing burn victims.
True or False?

The functional purpose of life is the survival of DNA.
True or False?

Damage to a particular part of the brain can result in failure to recognize a violin as a musical instrument.
True or False?

Humans are the only mammals who cannot breathe and swallow at the same time without choking.
True or False?

Bones began as a place where animals could store extra phosphorus. Only later were they used to support the body.
True or False?

* The survival or extinction of certain words in a language, or of entire languages, tend to follow the laws of natural selection.
True or False?

* DNA, which is contained within the nucleus of every cell in your body, if uncoiled and lined up end-to-end, would stretch to the moon and back 120 thousand times.
True or False?

At a point in time, a parrot in South America was the only living creature that could speak the language of an extinct tribe.
True or False?

 

A. I. MODEL No. 9

Morality

1.

 How do we know right from wrong? Is there a part of the brain which can distinguish between them?

Do animals know right from wrong?

How does the brain recognize when something works, or when it doesn’t. Or when something is good or bad?

Are moral principles instinctive? Is knowing right from wrong ‘hard-wired’ in the brain?

The brain must be able to quickly sort out qualitative experiences in order to make survival decisions.

The ability of the brain to detect what is right or wrong in a situation, what is normal or abnormal, what works or doesn’t, is the evolutionary origin of morality.

2.

Morality is a set of principles or codes which voluntarily govern the social behavior of humans and other animals.

From the view of Darwinian evolution, a community whose members are prepared to support one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, have a better chance for survival. In this way, the standard of morality would tend to increase over time.

Although knowing right from wrong may be instinctive, acting on moral instincts is probably learned, in the same way that we learn a spoken language, through imitation and practice.

Darwin has suggested that humans first learned from experience that benevolent actions could be returned. And that the habit of benevolence could be imitated, which may lead to sympathy.

As reasoning and foresight became improved, individuals perceived the more subtle consequences of their actions. Virtues such as temperance, fidelity, and courtesy, which were once completely disregarded, became elevated to a position of esteem.

Darwin cites other useful virtues including keeping promises, helping others, praise, blame, shame, obedience, guilt, remorse, encouragement, admiration, sympathy, courage, patriotism, mutual aid, the distribution of benevolent actions, and benign responses.

While a high standard of morality provides only a slight survival advantage to an individual, an increase in the standard of morality for all individuals provides a significant advantage to society as a whole.

As Darwin points out, selfish and contentious people do not form coherent communities.

3.

In general, the brain’s ability to perceive what is right and wrong in a particular situation is based on a set of rules which are ‘hard-wired’ in the brain. These rules underlie a sense of appropriateness, or cognitive proportionality, which is an emergent property of evolution.

We have evolved as a direct reflection of our environment. Our physical characteristics, including behavior, are responses to the laws and principles which define the physical world. Over time, these laws have shaped the various modalities of perception and cognition.

When we instinctively understand that something is amiss within the context of a particular situation, the brain is probably comparing what it sees or experiences against a set of cognitive maps based on our perceptions of the real world, and our context within it.

These brain maps may contain references to patterns in nature which are based on proportional relations such as symmetry, spatial and temporal proximity, and scale. And it is likely that these elements are related to the mental imaging of such things as opposites, contradiction, paradox, and ultimately morality.

The brain transfers this information into social behavior, molding and modifying our beliefs and values, spreading its influence within the culture.

 

AMUSIA

1.

 Aphasia is the loss or impairment of language abilities caused by brain damage.

Stroke or injury which affect the language areas of the brain can produce a variety of abnormal speech patterns.

One kind of aphasia results in patients speaking nonsense. Another involves patients who may not comprehend the speech around them.

Some patients may have difficulty naming objects. Others may not be able to repeat sentences.

In another kind of aphasia, patients may repeat what they hear without understanding it. Other patients may not be able to speak spontaneously.

In certain aphasics, the rules of grammar are affected, and speech becomes slow or labored. These patients omit verbs, inflections, and important function words. Others use the wrong ones.

Some stroke victims suffer from anomia, where they find it difficult or impossible to retrieve nouns. Different patients have trouble with different kinds of nouns. Some cannot name fruits and vegetables, while others lack the ability to name animals.

Patients who suffer from a syndrome known as Pure Word Deafness cannot recognize spoken words, but can read and speak, and can recognize other sounds around them.

2.

Stroke victims sometimes suffer from a rare condition known as amusia.

Amusia results from damage to the temporal lobes of the brain, where primary auditory circuits are located.

Amusia affects one’s ability to recognize familiar music or songs.

In a familiar song, the words and certain nonmusical associations are recognizable. Human voices, animal cries, traffic sounds and other common auditory patterns are easily recognized. While musical information is forgotten.

Damage to specialized brain circuits known as feature detectors, which are responsible for recognizing elements of musical texture such as pitch, dynamics, and rhythm, may account for only the music being affected.

 

A CONTRADICTION

It is our nature to want to share who we are and what we do.
Sharing is a basic instinct, a part of our human legacy.

The force of this drive is so enormous that it pervades our lives and shapes                    our society and culture.

Sharing probably evolved as a form of bonding in which social ties were              strengthened as a means of protecting the young.
It also served as a mutual benefit to the community.
The instinct to share our thoughts and desires with others perhaps led to
socialized attitudes of empathy, sympathy, and even altruism.

The instinct to share thoughts, feelings, and actions with others may produce
lifelong bonds, offspring, and a shared sense of community.

But it may also be the cause of deep division.

Today, we are no longer hunter-gatherers scattered in small communities. Six
billion people reside on the planet, many of whom are cramped into
densely populated areas.
As the population has increased, individuals have converged geographically who
are different enough from one another that sharing has not occurred
naturally.
People from different origins and different cultures have massed together to
form large and disparate communities.

The deep desire to share with others is frustrated by these differences, and often
results in provoked tensions based on fear, anger, or ignorance. And
when the divisions are wide and deep enough, they may lead to exclusion,
provocation, and war.
The same is true around the world for individuals, small groups, neighborhoods,
towns, cities, and nations.

As we celebrate the diversity of life, we seek a collective bond among people,
while at the same time bemoaning the artifacts of aggression, ignorance,
and divisiveness.

By our social nature, we support and define a deep contradiction of human
evolution.

 

TRUE  OR  FALSE  No. 10

Nalaxone is a chemical that when delivered to the brain can block the natural endorphins which are responsible for the ecstatic emotional responses experienced while listening to music.
True or False?

‘Monkey’s have a strong taste for coffee, tea, and liquor, and smoke tobacco with great pleasure.’**
True or False?

* Human speech perception relies primarily on the acoustic content of the sounds produced by the voice, and less on cognitive associations, such as expectation  and second-guessing.
True or False?

The human brain is the most complex system in the known universe.
True or False?

In the British Zoological Gardens, there was ‘a baboon who always got into a furious rage when his keeper took out a letter or book and read it aloud to him; and his rage was so violent that on one occasion he bit his own leg till the blood flowed.’**
True or False?

* Rules of every spoken language tend toward a compromise between brevity and redundancy in order to satisfy the conditions of both speaking and listening.
True or False?

Flowering plants, which are only 150 million years old, provide 80 per cent of the human food chain.
True or False?

Ants have enough of a memory that they recognize their fellow ants after a separation of 4 months.
True or False?

Henry David Thoreau was the first American field ecologist to be influenced by Darwin’s theory of natural selection and adaptation.
True or false?

99 per cent of all species that have ever existed are now extinct.
True or False?

** excerpt from The Descent of Man  by Charles Darwin

 

ACTION  AT  A  DISTANCE

(read slowly)

When we feel that we know somebody intimately
Who doesn’t know us,
Such as a famous person or celebrity,
The brain becomes confused.

We are unable to resolve the difference
Between the apparent ‘knowing’
Of the celebrated person,
And the fact that the person
Is a stranger.

This bizarre cognitive paradox
Produces an uncomfortable sensation
In both oneself,
And the celebrity,

And can lead to feelings
Of unresolved conflict,
And repeated states of dreaming.

 

SENESCENCE

1.

What is the natural cause of human death?

Is the death of an individual programmed genetically?

When did the process of death first occur in the evolution of life?

Is death a biological strategy evolved as a means of insuring the survival of the species at the expense of the individual?

Are all living systems mortal?

Did death evolve as a strategy for controlling the population of a species?

Was the process of death introduced through a genetic mutation?

Is there a relationship between death and sexual reproduction? For example, are the deaths of individuals within a population necessary for sexual reproduction to succeed?

How is the size of an organism, compared to its environment, related to death?

Did sexual reproduction and death coevolve?

Why is there old age?

2.

Many single-celled organisms are immortal. Barring accident or injury, these cells, as well as some cancerous cells, will divide indefinitely.

Ultimately, all coherent systems devolve into space.

All living systems, from bacteria to people, are the result of cell divisions dating back to the origin of life.

Cell division is the central process of life. There are genes which trigger cell division, and genes which inhibit it.

Cell death begins early in the development of an embryo. Many of the cells  die soon after they are formed, which helps to shape the body and the brain. In this way, certain body parts are sculpted by cell death. For example, in humans a pair of hands start out as spade-like structures. The fingers of each hand take shape only as the cells between them die.

In a mature organism, when normal cells die, they are immediately consumed by neighboring cells. And for every cell death, another cell divides to replace it. However when cells in the nervous system die, including the brain, they are generally not replaced.

Most normal cells activate an internal program for self-destruction which results in a form of cellular ‘suicide’. This form of programmed cell death helps to protect an organism against infection by killing itself before an invading virus can spread to other cells. Perhaps this is an example of altruism at the scale of microbiology, similar to a munificent act of courage on the human scale.

Normally, a cell divides only when it is signaled by other cells. As long as the cells reproduce and act according to local norms, they are allowed to live. In other cases, cells simply die when they are no longer needed.

There is a gene known as p53 which controls damage to the DNA of a cell by either limiting cell division until it can repair itself, or by inducing cell death.

Cell death continues throughout human life. People would probably die in the womb without cell death.

In the first single-celled organisms, death occurred as a result of failing to adapt to the environment. These organisms died when resources in their environment were depleted. In later-evolving bacteria, death, similar to metabolism, became internalized by means of direct programming of genes.

One of the ways death is programmed genetically in an organism is through the use of telomeres. Telomeres are the protective ends of the chromosomes which contain the organism’s genes.

Each time a cell divides, the tips of its chromosomes are shortened. After a certain number of cell divisions, when the telomeres are of shorter length, a signal is sent to the cell telling it to stop dividing, and it dies.

There is a limit to the number of times an average body cell will replicate before it dies. And different cells have different numbers of cell divisions at different ages of development. For example, a skin cell of an infant will divide about 100 times, while a 60 year-old skin cell won’t replicate more than 20 times.

Most cells in the human body are mortal. If there were no limits on cell division, we would die of cancer. This cellular senescence is in contrast to the immortality of early single-celled organisms, which survived by continuous replication.

It is likely that the process of telomere shortening evolved as a way of programming cell death, so that uncontrolled cell growth didn’t kill an organism before it could reproduce.

3.

The survival of a species depends on the size of the population, on the number of its members being controlled before it outstrips its resources.

Programmed death is an efficient means of population control. It eliminates extreme competition, and insures diversity.

The size of an organism in relation to its needs is also a factor for survival. On average, the larger the organism, the more resources are required. Large species of animals have small populations which make them vulnerable to extinction.

It is commonly observed that the lifetime of a small animal is shorter than that of a larger creature. Perhaps the reason that lifespan is correlated to size is simply that there are fewer cell divisions in smaller animals.

Asexual reproduction is the process of passing on an exact copy of the genetic code. Sexual reproduction is the process of transmitting two combined genetic codes to a single individual. Even though mutations occur in the process of asexual replication, providing some diversity, sexual reproduction leads to a much greater diversity, much faster.

Sexual reproduction and programmed death probably coevolved as a process of growth and diversity in concert with population control.

4.

The programmed death of an individual within a population is an involuntary sacrifice that has evolved as a means of insuring the overall survival of the species. Once we have reproduced, we are, in evolutionary terms, no longer useful. Why, then, do we live so long after reproducing at a comparatively young age? One likely explanation is that the wisdom of middle and old age offers a significant advantage to the survival of the young in a complex social and cultural labyrinth that can be hazardous to negotiate.

A corollary may be that human lifespan is increasing over evolutionary time as a result of the expanding complexity of society and culture.

If we were to overcome death, to become immortal, we must not only be able to control the amount and timing of cell division through genetic engineering, we must also be able to understand and control our relationship to Nature, and the complex evolutionary strategies that determine our survival.

 

A. I. MODEL No. 10

Transcendence

 1.

 It is the nature of the human spirit to seek the divine, the sublime.

As individuals, we tend to seek spiritual awareness and enlightenment.

We attempt to transcend daily activity by striking bold and noble gestures, by forging visionary goals or ideals, or by simply accepting the pleasures of everyday thoughts and acts.

There are even those who abandon family and career in pursuit of a deeper inner experience.

2.

Spirituality is an instinct, a human drive.

Spirituality is a heightened state of emotion caused by various stimuli, both real and imagined.

It is different from other emotional states such as joy, anger, fear, or anxiety. It tends to be characterized by an increase in transcendent pleasure, accompanied by a decrease in internal tensions.

Spirituality is not just a good feeling, or feeling good. It is a deep contentment resulting from simplicity and complexity which combine to form a powerful and integrated experience.

Spirituality may be triggered by a spontaneous event such as a religious experience, by long-term sensitivity to deep human concerns such as birth, death, morality, or war, and especially by our own mortality.

Artist Ron Wallace has suggested that the human drive toward spirituality is a response to our cognitive state of self-consciousness. He maintains that as a species, spirituality provides us with a survival advantage. Balancing hope and faith against the fears and anxieties caused by our awareness of self and our mortality provide a sense of long-term stability and social harmony.

Most of us have known moments of deep self-consciousness, when we experience ourselves as completely connected to the present.

We have had enlightened moments when events which appear to be disconnected are perceived as coherent or unified.

We have all known moments of discovery or creativity.

Or we have experienced resonant behavior within ourselves, while interacting with another person, or within a group. This is an example of behavior in which we experience the whole as greater than the sum of its parts, such as heightened love or sex, or even a great tennis match.

3.

After 5 million years of evolution, our species has advanced to higher forms of order, including art, science, social morality, and religion.

Since the beginning of recorded history, we have engaged in formal and informal religious practices and myths.

For thousands of years and in great numbers, humans have experienced the pleasures of spiritual conversion and self-surrender.

Sociobiologist E. O. Wilson suggests that the highest forms of religion provide an evolutionary advantage to the species as a whole. ‘Religions help to strengthen our identity, provide membership in a powerful group, and maintain a shared purpose in life compatible with self-interest.’

Wilson also maintains that human society as a whole does not share a singular purpose. Although we are all confronted with the evolutionary strategies of reproduction and survival, as individuals we must invent our own purpose in life. This not only results in differences among individuals, but leads to a culturally diverse society, for good or evil.

In a daring statement, the Dali Lama has proclaimed that the shared purpose of life is the simple desire for happiness.

The revolutionary social experiment that we know as American Democracy claims that the ‘pursuit of happiness’ is a given right awarded to all people under its protection. The substance of this remarkable statement is the first of its kind to be marked in recorded history.

4.

The enjoyment of fine art in its most expressive forms, the height of romantic love, the gift of birth and the personal tragedy of death are human experiences which have the power to overwhelm our emotions. As we experience these events for the first time, it is our nature to question their deep meaning.

Under this powerful influence we may call upon a form of spiritual guidance. We may embrace God, or religion.

I believe that we do this because it is difficult to understand or process powerful emotional events as they are unfolding. It is easier to assign our emotions to an all-knowing God-like figure who will assume the responsibility of their weight on a grand scale. It means that God can intermediate higher knowledge for us, while we focus on the necessities of everyday living.

As long as most of us do not have access to the information and knowledge associated with the deepest questions that humans ponder, this strategy works well, and has proved enduring throughout human history.

However, as we approach the next millennium, we have both the opportunity and the capacity to fully investigate the deepest concerns of humankind. Because of highly developed methods of technological and human advancement, we are able to map the human genome, to explore the functions of the brain including consciousness, emotions, intellect, sleep and dreaming. We are able to examine when and how cells behave in living organisms. We can observe the details of mass and energy at its most fundamental level. We are exploring the nature of space, time, light and sound, and we have mapped the large scale structure of the universe, as well as our place within it.

These are areas of human concern which, after many centuries, have become accessible to us as modern explorers of the deepest regions of knowledge and understanding.

I propose that God, broadly defined as the inclusive Nature of all things, the highest form of spirituality, is equivalent to all knowledge and understanding, which I shall call Integral Knowledge.

Further I suggest that as our ability to understand the whole of Nature increases, our spiritual awareness increases proportionally.

It follows that we embrace a spiritual guide which integrates us with knowledge and understanding. Nature has provided us with the Integral Knowledge needed to sustain a global culture, advance a strong moral society, and heighten our spiritual awareness as individuals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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