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Brendan Maloney


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The Crown of Creation/Crown of Evolution just doesn’t seem to fit our heads. Are we human or are we apes?

Carl Linnaeus, Father of Taxonomy, freely admitted that his creation of the genus Homo, with us as its only member, was a fraud in this 1747 letter to his colleague Johann Georg Gmelin:

“I seek from you and from the whole world a generic difference between man and simian that [follows] from the principles of Natural History. I absolutely know of none. If only someone might tell me a single one! If I would have called man a simian or vice versa, I would have brought together all the theologians against me. Perhaps I ought to have by virtue of the law of the discipline.”

Forty years of study have convinced me that our brains are maladaptive. They are too big for us to handle and too susceptible to destructive epigenetic/environmental influences that can radically alter the physiology of our brain and our behavior as a result. The great Spaghetti Western philosopher Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I suggest that we learn our limits pronto, because the Doomsday Clock is ticking faster and faster because of our self-flattering folly that makes us imagine we are actually masters of our planet.

The tried and true Systems Theory posits that the only thing that defines anything is that thing’s interactions with other things. Our egos alone ripped us away from our ape family so we stand alone, morally naked and shivering amid the wreckage our egos and greed have wrought upon our Beautiful Blue Planet. I believe that if we admit to and fully embrace our “apeness,” resuming our place in the animal kingdom, rather than hovering above it philosophically, we may stand a chance of survival.

Homo sapiens or Pan sui fallenda – Self deceiving ape. Which are we, my dear TEDsters?

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    Jan 29 2014: The problem with biological evolution is that it is more testable backward than forward. So crowning achievement in evolution does not make sense to me. Biological Evolution does not work to achieve anything, it simply works under selection. Human is a fancy name given to an animal.
    We are homo evolutis now, cyborgs with complex brains and waylaid in social journey. When and if we start to migrate to extraterrestrial colonies,we may as well become homo spatium.
    We are apes too, for now at least. We have this quality of aping :)
    I shall miss it in 1000 years from now.
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      Jan 30 2014: I have a nephew who did an internship with NASA. As we were touring the incredible National USAF Museum a mile from my door (my father was chief functional engineer for developing engines and power for F-15 and F-16), I told him that octopi are much more suitable for space travel than we are.

      They have no skeleton, no legs that are useless in space, and each of their eight arms contains a brain (severed octo arms have been known to crawl across deck of a fishing boat, climb rail and fall back into the sea- I kid you not). Don't astronaut mechanics working on Space Station in EVAs wish they had eight arms with individual brains?

      Here is the scary thing: I have read rumors of genetic manipulations being done on humans at a super-secret base near Denver. Reports of boneless semi-humanoid creatures with large brains are filtering out.

      Before you quickly dismiss that possibility, my dear Tedsters, contemplate the horrors of unethical experiments on humans in the US in this Wiki link. Too vast and depressing to read in full, but a scan of headings should do the trick. And yes, this has everything to do with this debate's topic.

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        Jan 30 2014: I feel amused by our infatuation for space conquest. Loads of unfinished jobs at home planet.
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          Jan 30 2014: Indeed, Pabitra!

          But beyond that, would we be doing the universe any favors by sending Pan sui fallenda out into the cosmos? Have you checked your avatar lately? Philosophically speaking, we aren't even potty trained yet. Until we get our act together, sending "humans" to other planets would be the equivalent of sending a Plague Ship into a bustling harbor town full of unsuspecting citizens.
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          Feb 5 2014: Unfinished jobs on Earth like cleaning up this mess, Pabitra?

          This is why I believe man created god(s). For me to think otherwise would require a frontal lobotomy, not just a bottle in front of me! With about 809 million humans killed in religious conflicts, whose bodies lined head-to-toe would circle the Equator 34.6 times, I would suggest that, "Ah... Houston? We have a problem here..." "Beam me up, Scotty... there is no intelligent life here!"

          “A” listing of gods from A Guide to the Gods: An Essential Guide to World Mythology:

          Aah, Abathur, Abere, Abyss, Acat, Achamoth, Addad, Addu, Aditi, Adon, Adonai, Adonis, Adrasteia, Aegir, Aeolus, Aesir, Agassou, Agastia, Agoolik, Agni, Agunua, Agwe, Ahriman, Ahti, Ahto, Ahura Mazda, Aidoneus, Aipaloovik, Aji-Suki-Taka-Hi-Kone, Akka, Akna, Akongo, Akuvodoun, Akuj, Alaisiagae, Alcis, Aleyin, Alfheim, Alilat, Allah, Alphito, Aluluei, Amahraspands, Ama-No-Kagaseo, Ama-No-Minakanushi-No-Kami, Ama-No-Uzumi, Amaterasu, Ama-Tsu-Kami, Amatsu Mikaboshi, Ambat, Amen, Amenhotep, Ame-No-Hohi, Ame-No-Oshido-Mimi, Ame-No-Wakahiko, Ament, Amenti, Amma, Ammon, Ammut, Amon, Amun, Amurru, Anaitas, Anahita, Anansi, Ananta, Anat, Andvari, Angerona, Angiris, Angrboda, Angus of the Brugh, Anhert, Anhur, Annunaki, Anpu, Anqet, Anshar, Anta, Antero Vipunen, Anu, Anubis, Anuket, Anukis, Anulap, Ao, Apep, Aphrodite, Apis, Apollo, Apophis, Apsu, Apu Punchau, Arawn, Archons, Aedhanarisvara, Ares, Arethusa, Argetlam, Argos, Arianrhod, Aricont, Artemis, Artemis of Ephesus, Arthur, Artio, Aruru, Asclepius, Aset, Asherat of the Sea, Ashtoroth, Ashtart, Ashtoreth, Ashur, Asparas, Astarte, Asuras, Asvins, Atawentsic, Ataokoloinona, Atar, Atea, Atea Rangi, Aten, Athene, Atlas, Atri, Atropos, Attis, Atum, Auchimalgen, Auf, Aulanerk, Aumanil, Aurora, Ayida, Awonawilona, Azacca.
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          Feb 8 2014: We have to find another place to live when we kill this one...so it makes perfect sense.
  • Feb 16 2014: I think the biosphere as a whole should be looked at as the crown of evolution, but crowns never sit easily or for long. As life progresses and ecosystems change and adapt, there will be a new biosphere to carry the heavy burden of the crown.
  • Feb 16 2014: this is the problem when they dicovered the apes the nephelims were discovered later and were taller than the apes.
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    Feb 9 2014: Pan sui fallenda suits us perfectly.

    We believe we are an intelligent species, although the slightest fraction of people could ever actually recreate the technologies that we use as proof of such intelligence.
    The most brilliant human mind in a dolphin's body would be unable to manipulate fire and electricity, two key principle that are fundamental to the progression of human intelligence.

    We believe we are superior to all other life-forms and even organise culls. If we could see ourselves as a distinct species there would soon be a call for a cull on humans. Besides this, as heterotrophic animals, we rely upon countless life forms for our sustenance.

    Self-indulgence, greed and manipulation are common traits of humans. They detrimentally forms illusions of progress.

    We're a species that decided we somehow rule or own the globe, yet this self-appraisal has led us to greatly inflict our environment. Even now when we are just beginning to understand it, we continue in our habitual ways.

    Humans as individuals are often very inspiring, rational and well-intended people. However, as a society, where there is no individual focus, we tend to display illogical backwards behaviour.
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      Feb 9 2014: Hi, David-

      Obviously we could have a "Vulcan Mind Meld" and survive the experience easily, going out for a pitcher of good beer afterwards!

      You know how smart crows and ravens are, right? Crows in NYC drop walnuts in pedestrian crosswalks then wait at a safe distance while cars open the nuts by rolling over them and only return to pick them up when WALK signal lights up and stops traffic! Young crows learn this from older crows. Wild crows not only use tools like straight pieces of wires or paper clips to get at food rewards stashed by scientists, they bend straight wire into a hook shape or straighten paper clips to make a better tool!

      Here is an experiment re crows I would like to see performed:

      Historians and chroniclers throughout history noted that huge flocks of crows and smaller birds like starlings that often follow their lead always formed over large masses of marching Pan sui fallenda males and followed their progress, often for days, knowing that these marching men would eventually meet another large group of marching men in battle, or slaughter the inhabitants of a village or castle, providing a huge feast for birds and varmints for weeks after. Actually, groups of crows are called "murders" of crows... perhaps because some couldn't wait for their Pan sui fallenda lunch to stop breathing?

      I wonder if they would do the same for large marching groups of women and children?

      Quick note: The weekend before I visited a friend on Lake Norris, Tennessee, two male Pan sui fallenda idiots died in a church on the lake, believing their faith would protect them from rattlesnake bites!

      Peace Out!
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        Feb 9 2014: Birds are brilliant. Whilst observing humans killing each other over irrelevant issues they must have been wondering how we haven't driven ourselves to extinction already. But then in the meantime humans were ironically coming up with terms like 'bird-brained' as derogatory statements of dim-wittedness and stupidity.
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    Feb 9 2014: Hi, Greg-

    I gotta give you some major points for being right out there "on the edge," my friend! No, I'm not advocating a return to the jungle for all of us, though some of us hardier types are often more content in such places. I lived alone in the mountains of West Virginia for a year, interacting at closer range with wildlife, like a half-grown bear 30 feet away while I was sleeping (weaponless) on a trail 3 miles from my ramshackle cabin, that made me ponder my place in the food chain. That airy cabin also had smaller wildlife in it that came and went at will, like a spider half the size of my huge hand on the wall a foot from my face upon awakening that made a "thump" on the floor when I took him out with the heel of a running shoe. Looked him up at a library a month later - his kind often eat baby mice.

    With no TV, comps, phone, and only one radio station making it through the mountains (this was in 1977), my holistic right brain was freed up and really put on a show for me by generating very vivid and easy-to-remember dreams. After about two months I was able to color the moods of and steer the course of most dreams. I woke in the mornings, put on a pot of coffee and sat at my typewriter, cranking out hundreds of pages of dream-generated philosophies and deep personal life lessons that have stood the test of time to this day.

    My purpose here is basically to rein in our egos so that we gain a much more realistic view of our place in Nature. My advice to all intrepid thinkers, young and old, is to go forth into the wilderness alone for a while and discover the cosmos within!

    Peace Out, Brother Greg!
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    Feb 8 2014: from where I stand...I do not sense the finite end,nor did I adopt an ego that competes.Nor did you,I suspect.So within our culture resides options for us to self destruct...and yes,many will attempt to join this option.....but millions resist...Today,everywhere are individuals not submitting to a top down philosophy.....I do not disagree with seeing myself as from apes...but I also enjoy seeing myself as a one celled being...or made from interstellar dust.....Im already converted,but goodluck to convincing those who suffer from entitlement to step down.
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      Feb 8 2014: Thanks for your astute input and good wishes Carolyn!

      As you well know, we are all part of the microcosm/macroscosm warmly embraced by the holistic Systems Theory that posits that we, and all other things, are only defined by our interactions with other things. Thus we should remain humble in contemplation of our individual insignificance in this vast web. But knowing that we are intimately interconnected with all of life, we can take heart and gain courage from knowing that we are also as great as the Universe itself.

      We should have no fear whatever of death or the void. No ending can ever erase the fact of our existence or its impact on life, even if it is only for a "brief, shining moment" in time/space. Every book has one thing in common: The End. Has that ever subtracted anything from the value of a book? Never, ever fear the Reaper, my dear TEDsters!

      I don't think people consciously choose to self-destruct very often. Most just don't know what life is and can be. It is up to folks like you and I and so many others to teach them, don't you think, dear?

      Very, very best in all your life endeavors! Once again, here is the link to Jill Taylor's incomparable "My Powerful Stroke of Insight" talk on TED:

  • Feb 8 2014: Are we human or are we apes?

    We are both, but man is the only animal who can be highly active while sitting still.
    Man is a thinking animal, and we have no escape from thinking and we shouldn't seek escape.
    What i am trying to say is that you are right we should think about ourselves less, but not think less about ourselves :)
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      Feb 8 2014: Thanks for joining my first TED chat, Natasha! I enjoyed our earlier repartee in other chats, and I'm loving this as well.

      You are right in that we have no escape from thinking. Our massive brain consumes something like 25% of the food calories we take in. The literal burning of those calories generates quite a bit of heat that radiates into the air above our heads, since the brain emits about the same heat energy a 15-watt old-fashioned incandescent light bulb does.

      So when some TEDster says, "Wow! This 'Crown of Creation/Crown of Evolution' chat really set my brain on fire!" They aren't kidding in the least, ha, ha! Also, when we say we have "brainstorms," that is exactly what is physically taking place inside our skulls: Clouds of chemicals and hormones wafting back and forth across most of our brain, with millions of glial cell-driven and directed neurons flashing like lightning all over our brains. Don't visualize a local thunder storm. Rather, recall videos of vast storm systems filmed from the International Space Station... Welcome to the microcosm/macrocosm of our astonishing brain!

      But please keep in mind, Natasha, that many "higher" animals have brains that think. Monkey and ape diets include foods that provide many more concentrated food calories than diets of other mammals because they have larger brains that consume and radiate more energy. Pan paniscus bonobos vocalize 3 times as often and 3 times faster, thus conveying 27 times more information than Pan troglodytes chimpanzees. They are obviously saying a lot and thinking a lot! And have been doing so for 5 million years.

      Isn't it nice to know that we are not alone in contemplating our Beautiful Blue Planet? What have dolphins been chatting about for millions of years? My main point: We are by no means unique. A little different in being tragically flawed, perhaps. I think we agree that our ego needs a haircut, but we should trim it carefully so as not to injure our deeper essence.
      • Feb 8 2014: Hey sir, have you watched/what do you think about the TEDtalk by
        Suzana Herculano-Houzel

        What is so special about the human brain?
        Some interesting ideas.
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          Feb 9 2014: Great stuff, Jacob!

          As soon as I booted up Suzana's TEDtalk I remembered I had seen it before, but watched it intently again, taking notes. I heartily recommend it to all interested parties.

          Her main premise is that cooking food pre-digests it some for us, so we get more calories in a shorter period of time than it takes other primates, so we moderns spend less time/energy foraging for and eating hard to chew food. But for several decades anthropologists have been proposing that cooked food aided our evolution; so while Suzana's work has merit, especially with the new forensics available today, it is not a new theory, nor does she claim that it is in her talk. She merely confirmed what others before her suspected, which she should be applauded for, since confirmation is the goal of science.

          What was most interesting to me is that she produced a graph that showed how pre-Pan sui fallenda brains took off like a rocket in increased size about 1.5 million years ago, coinciding with the use of fire for cooking, she claims. I would ask her, "What about Aboriginal Tasmanians (now extinct from genocide/disease) who never used fire?" This indicates that the use of fire was not universal, in the same way that widely-separated chimpanzee populations often have significant cultural differences: Some use tools and some do not. Some use different tools, have different vocal calls and patterns, etc., and all of these behaviors have physical epigenetic effects on their brains.

          I agree that cooking helped increase neurons (and more important glial cells) in brains. But I feel that our brains got bigger first, then cooking perhaps sent them into overdrive. Please watch PBS NOVA: What Darwin Never Knew here to see what I mean. Fast forward to 1 hour and 30 minutes, and see the significance for our brain of the two genes that Hansell Stedman and Chris Walsh discovered/are studying. It doesn't get any better than this, TEDsters!

      • Feb 9 2014: Yes sir it makes sense that our brains would have needed to have already been increasing in size, to make the "taming" of fire possible. We would've had to been "intelligent"(not sure if thats the proper word here) enough to over come the natural fear of fire that most animals exhibit. We would've also nneeded to have advanced our cognitive abilities enough to be able to think abstractly to connect whatever the first (maybe accidentally) cooked meal to the possibilities of future cooked meals. The use of fire as a tool has interested me for a long time, it seems like one of the most important advances in human history. I've never been able to clearly imagine how it came about.
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          Feb 9 2014: Jacob-

          Thanks for your help in getting this debate (more of a friendly discussion, really, not a lot of opposition - a comment that may rile up some interesting opposition, I'm hoping) back on track.

          A main point that I would like to reinforce is that it was an evolutionary accident, a muscular degenerative disease, that weakened strong ape jaw muscles and allowed our craniums to expand, making room for a bigger brain.

          If that accident did not occur, we would be still be small-brained and living our lives in harmony with the flora and fauna around us. Granted, we would be a bit lower on the food chain, but at least there still would be a food chain in the year 3000. Ever see the movie, "Soylent Green," in which everyone in a vastly overpopulated world except the super rich eat a super-mega-corporation- produced substance made from, well, I'll let good old Charlton Heston finish that sentence for me here...

      • Feb 9 2014: I wonder if the muscular degenerative disease you're talking about also had a role to play in our jawbones getting smaller, which apparently is why we don't have room for our third molar (wisdom teeth) and have to have them removed.

        Edit: if opposition to these ideas do show up, make sure and reenforce Nadnerb's chains ha ha .
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          Feb 9 2014: Thanks for opening the door for a huge opportunity, Jacob:

          Yes, jaw size must be connected to reduction in jaw muscles.

          Now here's the kicker: "Is the gradual vanishing of our wisdom teeth connected to the vanishing of our wisdom?"

          Man - look at that football fly... 40, 50, 60, 70 yards through the uprights for a new NFL record!

          And it couldn't have happened without you setting up that pigskin just right, my man!

          Reminds me of Hank Williams Jr.'s song that has the line, "Won't you drop-kick me Jesus, through the goal posts of life? End over end, neither left nor to right!" I was driving down a twisting country road when I first hear that song, laughing so hard I nearly drove off into a ditch, pulling over ASAP coz I was convulsing!

          Gold... pure gold, Jacob!
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          Feb 11 2014: Don't know if you could see Youtube Soylent Green clip about food the poor masses ate. Charleton Heston's character, with his dying breath, tells his cop-friend: "Soylent Green is.... People!"
      • Feb 10 2014: Hi, Brendan,
        you see, we are so obsessed with our human model which is ' thinking' that extrapolate it to animals and plants. Probably they don't think, but do it differently , get information not bit by bit like us but holistically as a whole, environmentally. I guess , plants would be the best in holistic perception among what we mark as 'alive' matter. ' Thinking' is a poor tool, but it's what we have. Probably we, humans have emerged from Nature to improve this tool, we are it. We are here to evolve. I entertain this idea not only because it makes me feel better (and it does :) ) but because it seems to be true enough.
        So, i would suggest to do the best we can with what we have and stay in peace :)
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    Feb 8 2014: Actually we have de-evolved. The Apes are smarter. They don't pay taxes and are not worried how much they save by not using geico.
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      Feb 8 2014: Right On, Wade!

      And bonobo (Pan paniscus) societies are ruled by committees of far wiser females who nip male homicidal tendencies in the bud by ganging up on and beating the stuffing out of overly-violent male teens. Pregnant alpha females get maternity leave and then can return to leadership roles. Female alphas do let big males lead/protect small food foraging groups that join up with larger group of 50 -60 at night.

      They are completely bisexual and radically reduce social tensions by having 6-8 sexual encounters per day, so they are way too tired to fight among themselves. Females often trade sex for food, making "the world's oldest profession" of prostitution a hell of a lot older than previously thought! Young primatologists studying them often use 'bonobo' as a verb, as in, "We're really gonna bonobo tonight, baby!"... As they head in a group towards a large tent with a big plastic tarp and a gallon of Mazola corn oil, ha, ha!

      Most scholars think bonobos are a far better examples of early human societies than male-dominant Pan troglodytes chimps. I met "Bonobo Jo" Thompson at a Rolex Awards for Scientific Achievement dinner in her honor at the Columbus Zoo (Ohio). Jane Goodall told Jo that she was jealous of her because bonobos are much more fun and interesting to study than Pan troglodytes.

      Jo was kind enough to chat with me and my Right Brain Trust colleagues for a few months before pressing duties - editing a definitive book on primate behavior and trying to save her darling bonobos in the war-torn Congo - called her away.

      Thanks for adding levity (and a teaching/sharing opportunity) to this chat, Wade! I couldn't enlarge your photo with any real clarity, but may I assume that your "better half" is with you? If so, amigo, keep in mind that we male Pan sui fallenda usually do best when we take the advice of the female of the species. My wife Cindy (part Cherokee) is half my size but twice as tough... what's up wid dat?

  • Dan F 50+

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    Feb 5 2014: During our early human natural history did being APART and OVER nature help enable survival value of our species and significantly distance us from our closely related simians? Seems apparent. In the first place it provided us a competitive advantage to develop mentally. It's reasonable to assume that the ability to expand one's mental capacity was selectively favored both biologically and culturally to foster and expand our human niche and productivity by partially controlling our environment through modifying our behavior and working together to complete useful and increasingly protective complicated tasks, in make tools, clothing, constructing shelters, improving communications, etc.

    Obviously, along with our biological evolution concurrent cultural reliance and evolutionary memes developed independently via these continued achievements in leadership, etc. The mystery and misery of primitive life generated the need to placate suffering by developing creative answers to the unknown hows and whys of our short and often difficult existence. So now enters the mystics in the form of medicine men, the seers, etc, to offer help relief, comfort, give direction, etc.

    We inherit our biology as does the rest of the biosphere, but uniquely we are plague and/or blessed by our traditional elaborate belief systems and consequent commitments in our social make up, that has set us apart from the nonhuman world and bonds many to what has been handed down. Is it any wonder that especially these mystical ways of life sacredly documented accounts of supernatural deities had and have staying power? Cultural evolution has survival power akin to biological evolution.

    Special made Crowns can be made to fit by personal faith, the rest of us must look elsewhere for how we prefer to face and live life not from what is established by our fellow holy man, but the appeal of the realities reflected in Modern Era discoveries through empirical knowledge and need for deducted sanity.
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      Feb 5 2014: Hi, Dan!

      My brain studies have resulted in these findings- One: The defective human gene myosin-variant MYH-16 radically reduced jaw muscle constriction of the cranium and allowed early hominin brains to rapidly expand after small brains proved to be successful in upright, tool-using primates for four million years. Two: Transitory hemispheric suppression studies show that the male-dominant left brain accepts false propositions because the internal structure of the proposition is valid, when the right brain knows from experience that they are false. Since the great majority of leaders are men, this is a huge problem. Three: The non-verbal right brain is the seat of perceptions of oneness with our universe, but cannot express them. The verbal left brain often misinterprets right brain phenomena, reducing universal truths to egocentric, localized myths. Over 1200 gods are listed in A Guide to the Gods, and this “My god is better than your god” brain catastrophe has resulted in the deaths of about 809 million humans, whose bodies lined head-to-toe would circle the equator 34.6 times! Four: Goddess cultures show that both our brain hemispheres and our societies were largely in balance at the dawn of agriculture. However, agriculture increased populations, wealth and power so that any added brain catastrophe might be as devastating as a lit match tossed into a gunpowder magazine. Five: The invention of linear alphabets ignited that gunpowder. The abstract letters of l-i-n-e-a-r a-l-p-h-a-b-e-t-s only acquire meaning when perceived in a sequential manner, so reading strongly stimulates the abstract, linear, and sequential left brain. The alphabetic worm – a faulty virus-riddled software program – re-wires the hard drive in the Apple computers of our brains via epigenetics by creating millions of new cells and pathways in the troublesome left brain. The resulting glitches spread throughout our cultures and then cascade from one generation to the next, at great cost!
      • Dan F 50+

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        Feb 6 2014: Hi Brendan,

        Admittedly, I'm seeking a perspective as to the unique nature of our species by tying in how our physical inheritance (genes) enabled another independent expanding cultural capacity (memes) which has brought forth mind boggling behavioral and environmental changes including our ability to remotely debate this subject.

        It could well be that our cultural evolution may well prove to be what ends up making us more accountable to future generations on how we use and misuse spaceship earth.

        Perhaps this world wide open communication service provided by TED will play a hand to that end, despite human world history.
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          Feb 6 2014: Hi, Dan-

          Well said! We are both seeking perspective as to our unique species, and these chats are a great way of gradually coming closer together, though the notion of a singularity of mind/thought is both an impossibility in nature and a scary thought, because we would lose the stereoscopic vision that allows us to perceive depth and triangulate an object/topic and fix it somewhat in time and space.

          Addressing the very problematic medium we are sharing our perceptions in, the l-i-n-e-a-r a-l-p-h-b-e-t, my late friend, mentor, and Right Brain Trust colleague Leonard Shlain, M. D., author of my favorite book, "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image," had this to say:

          " Of all the sacred cows allowed to roam unimpeded in our culture, few are as revered as literacy. Its benefits have been so incontestable that in the five millennia since the advent of the written word numerous poets and writers have extolled its virtues. Few paused to consider its costs. Sophocles once warned, “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” The invention of writing was vast; this book will investigate the curse. "

          He based much of his work on Marshall McLuhan's much earlier thesis and books, "The Media is the Message" and "The Media is the Massage." Shlain, however, focused more on how and why world-wide female-affirmative (right brain) goddess cultures vanished, often just a few generations after (left brain) linear alphabets were introduced to, or invented by, those goddess-centric cultures. Suddenly male gods, most of them warlike, usurped female deities.

          Most folks just don't realize what a huge "elephant in the room" this problem is, and do their very best to ignore it. Here is Leonard's wonderful Alphabet vs. Goddess lecture, 1.25 hours of intellectual delight for fearless thinkers:

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          Feb 6 2014: An addendum to my last re the linear alphabet, Dan-

          Aristotle, Confucius, Prince Siddhartha/Lord Buddha, Jesus, and the Prophet Mohammad never wrote any of their teachings down. In fact, all of them specifically instructed their acolytes not to write down their words!

          They all knew, intuitively or by astute observation, that writing oral, balanced -brain teachings down alters their meaning. When we watch and listen to someone, we are observing many things beyond their words: Subtle facial clues can alert us to a speaker's insincerity or assure us of their truthfulness. Tenor and tone of voice imparts volumes to us, and self-assurance and solidity as well as nervousness and self-doubt are all communicated by a vast array of body language signals. Great teachers not only pass on their words to their acolytes, but their deep personal sincerity and truthfulness, too. Thus the best acolytes acquire their teacher's mannerisms and sincerity, which they carefully pass on to their acolytes after they become the new teacher, in body and mind, words and actions.

          Alphabets are linear, abstract and sequential, with few, if any of the above qualities of truly holistic communication listed above. So like Mickey Mouse using his stolen Sorcerer's wand and casting spells he cannot control, many readers and writers, clueless about all the subtle meanings imparted by the original teacher/master are casting spells of power that they/we cannot control!

          Also, students in ancient times had to memorize lessons, and that required constructing a "memory palace" of strongly visual icons in their brain/mind so they could accurately access those memories much later. These visual cues are right brain in nature, and if any of you hasn't seen Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's hyper-viral (14.7 million views and counting) right brain TED Talk, below, please do so at your earliest convenience!

      • Dan F 50+

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        Feb 8 2014: Hi Bendan,

        Empirical science is most reliable the fewer and more confining any added assumptions are which can be necessary to inject into what is being explained as confirming a particular phenomena as deserving specific attention.

        Social science has an edge over the empirical evidence of the physical sciences because the rules of validation are more open to opinion and past experience to promote alternative views to established explanations about the hows and whys of human behavior. I personnaly have considerable trouble with Freud's model of the ego superego and id in explaining human behavior. Obviously this model of human behavior is and was more acceptable to the religious communities than looking at our heritage via basic biology.

        Mixing these approaches is not totally off limits, but can appear as justification for a philosophical view that cannot be floated by either, at least so far.

        We may have a connection, my gandmother came to this country from Sweden and married my grandfather who disappeared on the San Fransico waterfront. He was good at poker.
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          Feb 11 2014: Wonderful stuff, Dan!

          I have noticed in recent years, though, that the social sciences are having to make far stronger ties to the hard sciences in order to validate themselves. I think 100 years from now many fields will merge into just a few. Modern psychology has no hope at all unless it becomes at least 80% psychiatry. Without a deep working knowledge of the physical brain and its inter-related physical senses, it quickly becomes an irrelevant intellectual cul-de-sac, right? Chemistry, with all its many new facets/branches, is quickly replacing physics as the "King of applied sciences," I feel. There are many such examples.

          I scan the EurekAlert! website below often, and you will find the same new papers listed in 3-4 categories. This is why I sometimes cut and paste my stuff from one TED chat to another, too. This trend has increased in the 8 years I have been scanning the site, so it is clearly a mega-trend. Being an interdisciplinary scholar for some 40 years has allowed this old woodworker to chat with dozens of M.D.s and Ph. Ds who are often appreciative of "gems" I bring them from far afield while they are deep in their individual fields... unless that "gem" blows their pet thesis out of the water, of course! I'm too right-brained to dig deeply for years into one field - I have to have an eagle's eye view to be happy. Thing about digging too deep is that it exposes your butt while your head is in the sand, so any well-read interdisciplinarian, with or without a diploma, can come along and give it a swift kick!


          Cheers, Dan!
  • Feb 4 2014: Is the entire field of taxonomy an oversimplification based on the materialistic philosophy and self grandiosity of modern thinking. Apes may be our closest relatives but we are not too far removed from earthworms and potatoes.
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      Feb 4 2014: Jacob and our fellow TEDsters-

      Please watch Wade Davis' TED Talk, "Dreams from Endangered Cultures," ASAP.Graham Hancock (censored TEDX talk I refer to below) was obviously inspired by Harvard Ph. D ethnobotanist and National Geographic explorer Davis... Best talk on TED in my oh, so humble opinion!

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      • Feb 4 2014: Hellfire brother those are both powerful talks. What a bland world neoglobalization and capitalism is creating. I hope to live long enough to see the death of this purely materialistic paradigm. I've got a lot to think about. These two talks have stirred me up a bit and need to soak in these thoughts for awhile.
      • Feb 4 2014: We have stretched our lifespans to double what they were only to fill them with what...convenience, novelty, and cheap entertainment. With the other edge of that sword giving us disconnectedness, disparity, and a loss of identity. Goodness, what havewe gained and what have we given up?
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          Feb 6 2014: Yeah, Jacob-

          If we would only meet the often-wise Amish half way, while we still can! Here is my thinking about them and us "English" - the Amish term for all outsiders. Their rather insular faith was forged in the literal fires of persecution, when as many as 3000 of their Anabaptist fore-bearers were burned at the stake , hanged, or drawn and quartered... merely for believing that members of their faith should not be baptized until they reach adulthood and thus can freely choose to fully enter their faith or not. How many of us only remain in a faith because it is the faith of our parents that we were baptized into as babies? Should all freethinkers be burned at the stake?

          Like all other socio-religious belief systems, their's can vary widely from community to community, which are often only a few long bow shots away from each other. Embracing those differences, what keeps them together as a larger body is their strong sense of group identity, reflected in their common and subdued apparel and mannerisms. They are famous for treading on dear Mother Earth as lightly as possible, accepting her gifts humbly and with thanks, and giving back to her by re-fertilizing without toxic pesticides, not polluting our air and water, and not straining mineral and other resources through uncontrollable greed.

          Here is the kicker: Like it or not, when - not if - our finite fossil-fuel cultures collapse in upon themselves when these fuels largely vanish, the vast majority of those who survive will discover after a few generations that they have become very much like the Amish they once thought so strange and foreign in beliefs and practices!

          So why not take heed of their practices now so we can proceed much more smoothly into a future that will of necessity entail a huge reduction in fuels and resources... Unless we reduce our population to a much more sustainable figure within the next generation or so.
  • Feb 4 2014: What are the implications to our sense of being individuals in light of facts like there are 10-1 more bacteria cells in and on the human body than human cells and a hundred times more bacterial genes than human genes and these all are a necessary part of our survival. What does this mean to our sense of ego. Instead of considering ourselves multi-celled organisms, maybe we should see ourselves as mult-organism collectives. More and more Ifeel that our grip on the ego and our misguided worship of of the myth of independence as self destructive. Is there anything in the known universe that is so isolated as to be independent? Existence is by it s nature is interdepenent. As to the crown of evolution, it seems that the crown itself would be a death sentence, the only lifeforms that wore this crown of whatever branch they were on are lifeforms that are extinct.
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  • Feb 2 2014: I have intentionally avoided addressing the main point of the opening post. A man needs to know his limitations, and neuroscience is far, far outside my area of expertise.

    Any assertions are "I heard" and "it seems" and "I think I remember".

    Abstract thought comes from the temporal lobe, and that exists on both sides of the brain. While one side of the brain processes data and the other language, we are able to think abstractly about either.

    I suspect our lack of wisdom is less about hemisphere and more about how the brain processes everything.

    We simply can not consciously examine every bit of data our brain receives. Instead, the various sub-conscious specialized centers grind the data, look for known patterns, then chooses to/or not to, pass he paradigm to the brain.

    We walk down a tree-lined street, and at most the visual processor sends "tree-lined street" to the conscious.

    Inherent in this processing is the assumption of normality. We tend to think things that have existed for our entire lifetime, have always been that way, and always will.

    From traditions around Christmas (we think they are hundreds of years old, but in reality, many are only a couple generations old) to things like retirement (a fairly new concept) we assume the past is similar to the now.

    For this same reason, we find it hard to believe that the future will be very different from the now.

    We in the USA cannot comprehend a time that we won't be able to pull up to a petrol station and fill the tank for less than a day's income.
  • Jan 29 2014: Both. We are humans, AND we are apes. Apes is a more comprehensive category. Humans is the generic name for our species. No biggie.

    As per species naming. What geneticists and others have discovered, indeed, is that maybe we belong in the same genus as the other chimps, but the winner, because of first appearance, would be Homo, not Pan. So the chimps, for example, would be reclassified as Homo troglodytes, rather than us being reclassified as Pan sapiens. But I doubt that such thing is going to happen all too soon. Maybe they will discover that the divide is larger and keep things the way they are, or they will keep things the way they are just out of tradition.

    See ya.
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      Jan 29 2014: Entropy-

      You are right about the unlikelyhood of a de-throning of us uppity taxonomic usurpers anytime soon. Way too much wasted money, time and effort in search for "first Homo" for that. Ever notice that Pan sui fallenda hates admitting errors, especially institutionalized ones? Big lies fly so much easier than little ones, Niccolo Machiavelli told us all.

      While the US astronauts were playing golf on the Moon, Soviet cosmonauts, in their long space trips, learned the most crucial thing about space travel... skeletons dissolve in space and critters with skeletons are utterly unsuited for long distance space travel. It took NASA far too long to acknowledge that and radically reduce its budget, right?

      In 2002 R. Douglass Fields discovered that glial cells/astrocytes that were previously regarded as mere support cells for brain neurons actually design and lay out neural pathways and nets... and then direct their actions once the neurons in place. They were promoted from orchestra pit sweepers to Symphony Conductor in one swell foop, yet we still call it neuroscience, right?

      See ya, indeed, Wildman - thanks for dropping in!
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      Jan 29 2014: You are right on, my dear! Pan sui fallenda (self-deceiving ape) is the only species with false alphas/leaders, and that is certainly nothing to brag about. Since a picture is worth at least a thousand words, here are three real eye-openers of our "fearless leaders" hard at work:

      1909 photo of US intelligentsia/ultra-rich males hanging a black teenager at the infamous yearly gathering of "alphas" at the Bohemian Grove amid the redwoods in California. President Teddy Roosevelt attended the festivities that year, and I think that may be him in dark suit and roadster hat at very end of hangman's
      rope. Methinks the man with smokey bear hat and cigarette holder in his face at bottom of scaffold may be Teddy's nephew, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


      The hanged teenager's body laid out on table/altar on which his body was later burned in Opening Night ceremony. Grim faces of murderers - our nation's Best and Brightest - show no signs of this being a farce. San Francisco male thespians in drag below table are symbolic "weeping mothers" of sacrificial victim.


      And finally, Bohemian "Grovers" enacting a satirical funeral for "Poor Gus, the Sucker Born Every Minute," which is We the People, right? They simply do not care about the people who generate their wealth or die in their wars.

  • Feb 23 2014: We are Homo Sapiens. It is boring at the top of the food chain. Boredom is the root cause of the Wreckage of our Beautiful Blue Planet. We should use our spare time to fix It.
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    Feb 9 2014: Am I more of an optimist than you, Brendan? I see a pretty good planet, some problems, definitely, but lots of good. And people are working on the problems, as the problems emerge they become publicized, talked about, scientists and artists take them up, and things get better. Just as a specific example, when I was a kid in Southern California, the smog was really bad. For example, when you ran track in gym class, your lungs would ache afterward. Then the government + scientists + the community went to work on the problem, emissions controls were established, and now the air is breathable. Problem solved, quality of life heightened. I would imagine it will work that way with other problems? But as I wrote below, I think it can inspire your creativity to get more in touch with your animal side. One thing that bothers me is "indecent exposure" laws, for example on a hot summer day, why can't I go naked in my apartment where people can see through the windows, who the hell would be hurt by that? And if I wash a shirt in the sink and want to walk outside nude to hang it on the clothesline to dry, why can't I?
    • Feb 9 2014: Your response makes me think of the warning label I would find on the lacquer stain and polyurethane top coat I used at my old job. Its been a while since I've done any finish work so you'll have to forgive me for not remembering it word for word, but it was something to the effect of"This product is known to the state of California to cause birth defects..." and other problems I cant recall right now. So I guess since I was using it in Texas I was safe ha ha. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that while there is undoubtably a part of our society (relatively small, but hopefully growing) that recognizes our responsibilty for our actions and our responsibilty to the rest of the people on this planet and the environment we are sharing, the majority seem to be so dazed with celebrity worship and dreams of vast fortunes that they dont even cinsider the conquences of their choices. I should probably start every post with the disclaimer that Im not one of the good guys, I'm part of more problems than solutions so I don't want to sound like I preaching, but our society and all the societies around the world that resemble it more andmore everyday are self destructive and unsustainable.
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        Feb 10 2014: here's an encouraging viewpoint from Bill Gates: by any measure, the world is better than it's ever been before: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mcmanus-column-gates-better-20140209,0,2706535.column#axzz2suWHr3vp
        • Feb 10 2014: Seemed like a reasonably balanced article, thanks for posting the link. From what I've heard about gates, he seems to be setting a pretty good example by trying to make a positive difference in the world. I would have to agree that a fatalistic and pessimistic world view is probably unhealthyand unproductive, I have to fight my tendency of ffalling into those moods. I read somewhere that hope is as much a weakness as despair, that the best choice is looking clearly at the situation you find yourself in and come up with practical options to act on. There definitely seems to be a trend towards responsibilty but sometimes it feels like its not growing fast enough, maybe we'll see an increase as the world becomes smaller with better communication. Maybe as it becomes easier to see how our actions affect everyone around the world we will as a society make wiser choices.
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        Feb 13 2014: Hey, Jacob and Greg-

        It is an interesting fact that in many "lower" primates it is the young gammas that do most of the exploring and testing of things - pushing the envelope much more than adult betas and alphas who spend time/energy maintaining or trying to "improve" their social status.Thus knowledge/wisdom often moves upward from gammas, either as a discovery spreads among them and then is adopted by a few observant betas and alphas, or when the gammas grow up and become betas and alphas.

        Problem: Because of our accidentally enlarged brain (see abstract in my profile) that was then filled with so much left-brain idiocy, many Pan sui fallenda alphas are false alphas and therefore they sucketh. This is why whenever my mother saw the famous smirks on the faces of Georgie W Bush, Dickie Cheney and Donny Rumsfeld on TV as they were excitedly laying out the post 9/11 New World Order first proposed by Georgie the First, she would say, "They just make me want to slap the spit out of them!"

        See photos in links below, please, and know that Mom was a former women's tennis champ in Duluth Minnesota and had a hell of a backhand as well as a forehand (my butt remembers that!) and if she would have gotten within three feet of any of these spoiled brats she would have left a cherry red hand-print on their cute little faces, I assure you! It would be huge fun to see "before and after" photos of that, eh? Mom would have been a great bonobo alpha female, since they never let big agressive teen males grow into murderous adults, precisely by slapping the spit out of them at an early age when they need it.


        • Feb 13 2014: I watched the TEDtalk "Nicolas Perony: Puppies! Now that I’ve got your attention, complexity theory" a few days ago. Part of it discusses how and why meerkats choose who crosses roads. The dominant hangs back while the ones lower on the heirarchy run head first into dangerous situations. He suggested that this is because the leadership of the dominant meerkat makes it more valuable to the group, therefore less expendable.
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        Feb 13 2014: Too sleepy to deal with "Puppies" comment- no idea. No response to Georgie Porgie and Company /bonobo alpha female comment I just made? No thumbs up?

        Re Meerkat alphas crossing roads, they remind me of the way the Soviet Army cleared vast German mine fields in WW II: Using lines of machine guns aimed at their own men, they forced Punishment Battalions composed of rebellious types that they had better use for alive than dead, to march en masse across minefields in wide swaths, sacrificing themselves so vastly more valuable tanks and armored vehicles could follow safely.

        We Merkins spent a lot of money on fancy mine-clearing accessories for tanks like flailing chains, heavy rollers 30' in front of tanks, etc. But Soviets didn't have that kind of money.
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        Feb 13 2014: Jacob-

        You gotta see the movie "Enemy at the Gates" about huge, horrific WW II Battle of Stalingrad that was just one of several Eastern Front battles that made most Western Front battles seem like a walk in the park on a sunny day... Soviet Army destroyed 80% of German Army divisions in WW II.

        Big Alpha Ego Problem: Stalingrad had the very unfortunate name of 'Stalingrad,' so Germans were utterly determined to erase it from the face of the Earth and Joe Stalin was equally determined to defeat the Germans there. Big Losers, of course, were soldiers and citizens on both sides.

        Interestingly, Stalin, through his main enforcer Nikita Khrushchev, had several Soviet commanding generals/alphas in Stalingrad battle shot or allowed them to shoot themselves... a bit more extreme than Abe Lincoln saving the Union by firing 7 commanding generals before finding U.S. Grant in the Civil War, eh? I will paraphrase a discussion between Khrushchev and a political propaganda minister in that movie here:

        Nikita: "How can we stop the Germans here?"
        Minister: "Shoot incompetent generals?"
        Nikita: "Did that."
        Minister: "Kill their families to make them fight harder?"
        Nikita: "Did that, too... So what, what, what can we do?!!?"
        Minister: "We need a Hero, Comrade Khrushchev... a hero from within the common ranks (gammas) who will inspire the citizens of Mother Russia to unite behind our Great Cause!"

        Enter: Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev, sniper who took out many German officers in Stalingrad- link below. Interestingly, I seem to recall that a woman Soviet sniper may have exceeded his number of kills, but we all know about male dominance issues, right?

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    Feb 9 2014: My Dear TEDsters -

    I wonder if we could learn a lot - and I really mean a lot- of deep life lessons from dolphins/porpoises that are such wonderfully talented conversationalists. It was recently discovered that they have individual names that they address each other with. Think about the vast implications of that for a long moment, please.

    Okay, so they are obviously individuals in very dynamic and changeable societies, perceiving the world from individual viewpoints and sharing those viewpoints among themselves and other related species like pilot whales and Orcas, it has been shown. Just imagine the holistic "hologram" of the world these multiple species can form in their brains and share among themselves. Let us pause again and let it soak in that they are far better at inter-species communication than we are, and thus far better holistic thinkers than we are!

    The kicker: Since our Pan sui fallenda brains evolved under the very strong epigenetic influence of our finger-opposing thumbs, the only things that allow us to really physically manipulate and shape our physical surroundings for good or ill, could we not learn a lot from brains that evolved utterly free of such environmental manipulations?

    To head off some opposition at the pass: The argument that our brain would have overcome the limitations of chimp-like hands is invalid because opposing thumbs evolved long before big brains, and thus the brain centers that think in deep physically manipulative terms are the products of those thumbs, not the other way around.

    Are we having fun yet?

    Looking forward to your replies, my dear TEDsters!
    • Feb 9 2014: I've seen a handful of documentaries lately about hiw we define intelligence and how intelligent some animals are. Powerful stuff. From problem solving crows and squid, to elephants and dolphins. "The gentle genius of bonobos" and many others. I think as our understanding of the different forms that intelligence can take grows we will be more inclined to step down from our self imposed "dominion" over this planet.
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    Feb 9 2014: curious what you're looking for here, Brendan. You're not literally saying we should live more like apes, are you, live without clothing, sleep outdoors with no roof or blankets, eat bugs and leaves? So if you're not saying that, what are you saying?

    I like to enjoy both the comforts our brains have brought us but also learn from the other animals. For example, after I watched my cat clean himself by licking his paw and running it over his body, I realized I could do the same, put my saliva on my fingers and run it over my body, for cleaning and massaging purposes. Here is my YouTube on it, I have tried to start a convo on this idea but so far TED has disallowed it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb1Ml4KR9z0 TED has been kind of vague about why they rejected it, I think they're afraid many will find it offensive, I impress that many find saliva sort of gross and the idea of wiping it on yourself really gross? But I think saliva is a wonderful substance that inspires my creativity.

    I actually ran a now-closed convo called what have you learned from animals: http://www.ted.com/conversations/19591/what_have_you_learned_from_ani.html It was pretty fun and interesting. I saw that people do learn from animals, although nobody seemed quite as radical as I.
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    Feb 7 2014: HEY THERE BRENDEN!
    not to defame this debate in anyway....
    but I strongly feel that the whole DARWIN thing has gone a bit to far....
    humans evolving into apes COME OFF IT
    if we really are descendants of apes how come modern day apes aren't evolving?
    you knw ever time I see a comment, debate, or question on this topic I feel like watching an episode of ALI-G INNIT
    If there is any solid evidence which anyone would like to provide I'm more than interested...........
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      Feb 7 2014: Great reply, Harun!

      Actually, you are right that we did not evolve from chimpanzees. We co-evolved alongside of them. You do believe in evolution? Or are you saying that you do not? You are aware that human and chimp genomes are a 98% + match, right? Yes, that match is the result of a common ancestor that split into two branches that compose us and chimps... but I still insist that both of those branches are of the genus Pan, not Homo, that the great Linnaeus who named us that, admitted was a fraud forced upon him by threat of persecution from religious theologians.

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      Feb 7 2014: Humans did not evolve from apes. Humans and apes evolved from common ancestors millions of years ago.

    • Feb 8 2014: Of course humans did not evolve into apes. We are also apes in the first place. The other apes and us evolved from common ancestors who also were apes, obviously.

      Who said that apes today are not evolving? We and them are all evolving. Maybe you've got the wrong idea about what evolution is and how it happens.

      Evidence? For one, well, we are all apes. How would we explain that there's several species of apes if not by thinking that we inherited our apeness from a common ancestor? Think of languages, romance languages have a common origin in some version of latin. That's what makes them so similar, yet they are different enough.

      More? Well, Darwin proposed that, if we share common ancestry with other apes, and the apes more similar to humans are in Africa, we should find primitive hominid fossils in Africa. For a long time scientists were trying other places, but then, when they tried Africa, we started discovering more and more primitive hominids in Africa.

      More? The fossils themselves. There's a rich collection of hominids showing differences and intermediary characteristics between what we see in other apes and what we see among ourselves. For example, hominids that have anatomical structures to walk more upright, but chimp-like brain sizes,other fossils with bigger brains, not as big as human, but bigger than any other ape's, etc, etc. really, all kinds of anatomical clues in those fossils.

      There's much more in the analyses of our DNA and that of the other apes, but I leave it there for now. Too long a explanation for a little forum. There's web sites describing such things. Google around for serious places, and you'll find fascinating stuff. Lawren's link is a good start.

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      Feb 11 2014: Hi again, Harun!

      Please watch PBS NOVA: What Darwin Never Knew in the link below to see what I mean. Fast forward to 1 hour and 30 minutes, and see the significance for our brain of the two genes that Hansell Stedman and Chris Walsh discovered/are studying.

      P.S.- I would like to acknowledge here the great contribution to the sciences the Muslim World has made. The European Dark Ages would probably have lasted 300 years longer if largely illiterate European Crusaders had not encountered the incredibly sophisticated culture of the largely Islamic Middle East. They brought some of that knowledge and wisdom back from the East to Europe and the sacred geometry that The Old Man of the Mountain taught the Templar Knights allowed Europeans to build the many great towering cathedrals of Europe.

      One further question, Harun- have you visited the wondrous ancient African city of Great Zimbabwe? I would truly love to see it someday! I, too, have played the flute for 44 years now, through high school, 5 years University of Dayton and many years after in bands. Had a dream the other night of hearing the great Jean Pierre Rampal playing!

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    Feb 6 2014: Here are some wonderful quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and polymath who some modern scholars believe probably had an Intelligence Quotient of an astonishing 210. Like any great scholar, he believed that the search for knowledge itself was the most important thing, freely admitting that, "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer among wise colleagues:

    Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.

    Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing.

    Doubt grows with knowledge.

    Science arose from poetry... When times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends.

    Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

    The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.

    Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men.

    Few people have the imagination for reality.

    All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again.
    • Feb 6 2014: Hey, hey , hey! Science IS poetry my friend. Science is art. :)

      Carry on.
  • Feb 6 2014: Maybe its my tendency to be a bit of a misanthrope, but it seems our self imposed elevation is hubris tied to (lily lily will attest to this) men's need to dominate and build up their egos in the face of insecurity. I'm not too greatly impressed with the "gifts" technology that the industrial revolution has brought us as they did not come alone, we were also given so many negatives. We have become a plague kn this earth and I fear the main the we're gonna get from our advancing technology is our extinction.
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      Feb 6 2014: Hey, Amigo-

      10-4 on your 'misanthrope,' and here is a brief film clip from the classic film, "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

      George C. Scott masterfully portrays the fictional Secretary of the Air Force, General Buck Turgidson (break that name down), intended to be a farce of the real General Curtis "Nuke 'em to Hell" Lemay, who was even crazier than Buck Turgidson here... Great Goddess save us all!

      A US B-52 has passed the nuclear attack Failsafe point of no return and is deep in Soviet territory, heading for its target with a hydrogen bomb. Actually, old Buck here kind of reminds me of my late Dad, who was chief engineer for developing engines and power systems for the F-15 and F-16 fighters at the height of the Cold War...

    • Feb 6 2014: Lack of appreciation for modern technology is due to being born with it in full effect. A bit of an insight into historical standards of living quickly changes that view point.

      Without it, you have no electric power and all that comes with it (air conditioning, food refrigeration, movies, practically every single consumer good we make nowadays...).

      No modern medicine, which means things we take for granted nowadays like infected cuts and scrapes, dysentery, and preventable diseases like polio killed and crippled people left and right. Pre-industrial life expectancy the world over used to be around 30, or about 40 if you don't count all the people that didn't make it to their second birthday (infant mortality was very, very high--this is why many cultures encouraged parents to avoid naming their children until it was clear they were going to stick around).

      No easy transportation or communication. Going somewhere a plane can take you to in twelve hours nowadays used to take months of travel by ship (pre-industrial ships are also a kind of hell, but the list is already bloated enough without that), or even longer by land, assuming a route was available at all. Communication technology at the time meant months of delay--in the war of 1812 for example, the largest battle was fought after the peace treaty was signed, because news takes time to cross the Atlantic.

      The list goes on...
      Industrialization and modern technology have caused no small share of problems, but given the alternative, its worth all kinds of sacrifice.
      • Feb 6 2014: I appreciate your points and I think better communication can only help the human race, but a lot of the conveniences are only available to us lucky few and I don't know how valuable they are in the first place. Preventable diseases continue to claim millions every year all across the globe. Apparently, the Amish have had a lifr expectancy of about 72 for the better part of 300 years now and they do without most of the things the industrial revolution brought us. My feeling is that the advances are not as wide spread or as worthwhile as I used to find them and the road we are on is heading towards a dead end. Not just "1st world" countries, but the entire human race seems unsustainable the way we are going. Maybe this is just adoom and.gloom day for me so as always you should probably take what I say with a grain of salt, but as I think many people feel, our achievements ring a little hollow. I wish you well and appreciate your feedback, you strike me as a pretty sharp person and I don't mean any of this as an attack on you or your thoughts on this subject. Dialogue is healthy for all of us.
        • Feb 6 2014: I have my doubts the life expectancy of anyone who shuns modern medicine is that high (perhaps they defer to doctors in matters of life and death despite religious differences?). Also, even if they don't vaccinate themselves, they benefit from enough of the rest of the populace being vaccinated and certain diseases eradicated that there's no-one to catch plague from. Herd immunity, they call it.

          Though yes, the benefits of technology and industrialization aren't spread homogeneously, far from it. However, as time passes, more and more places around the globe are catching up to the former "first world", and more people enjoying more benefits. Today, even in the poorest nations (except for the more war torn ones), a common man's standards of living are higher then they were in western Europe a hundred years ago.

          Unsustainable the current model may be in its existing form, but hopefully problems will be fixed along the way before they can bring the whole system down. Its either that or a new dark age, which is something of a problem, largely because without modern farming technology (pesticides and artificial fertilizer mostly) we can't even feed the entire world population, for quite a few decades now. Its also the primary reason organic farming is a really bad idea.
      • Feb 6 2014: There werr a few sites about the life expectancy and also how the Amish avoided obesity despite relatively large caloric intake, but of course not everything on the internet is true. Lets hope you're right about the problems being solved along the way. My last negative thought for the day (I'm tired of being sour), the more countries develop into "1st world" classification the quicker we come to a tipping point. Great talking to you, always appreciate your input.
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        Feb 7 2014: Some good points, Nadav, but...

        My Dad had minor cases of both tuberculosis (which is making a comeback with a super-strain of it) and polio as a kid. The thing that really worries me now in medicine is that while we are indeed winning many battles against infection, we are also creating "super infections" by our use and in many cases overuse of antibiotics and disinfectants in our homes. In the long run, we cannot win an arms race with bacteria/viruses that evolve thousands of times faster that we can... insane to imagine otherwise. Some hospitals closed because of MRSA 3 infections.

        I humbly submit, my friend, that technology has generated the great majority of Game Over problems. Super viruses. CO2 and methane off the charts. Mercury, PCBs, radiation everywhere. 80% of world's fisheries gone. "North Pacific Gyre" - a slowly-swirling whirlpool of plastic garbage the size of the continental US. Glaciers everywhere melting like ice cubes on a griddle, and the ones in the Himalayas between China and India supply most of the drinking water in those nations, so Water Wars are inevitable between those two nuclear nations. 90% of the worlds coral reefs, which sustain vast eco-systems, are dead or dying I could go on and on.

        My main point, Nadav, is that these are not merely "inconveniences resulting from technology." These are all Game Over tipping points.

        Re increase in our lifespans: I submit that Pan sui fallenda/Self-deceiving ape will never be content with his span of years, always wanting more, as we do with everything else, right? If we had a lifespan of 200 years, we would do everything possible to increase it to 2000, right? We are never satisfied!

        My question to you is this: Were people living in the past, as a whole, less happy and contented than we are? Slavery is still with us Nadav- in fact there are more people enslaved now than there ever has been. There are more people in prison than ever. 1 in 4 children in US goes hungry sometimes. Happiness?
        • Feb 7 2014: Why should I be content with my lifespan? There's nothing wrong with wanting more, so long as births will be more carefully regulated accordingly. Ambition is not bad in of itself, its only dangerous when mixed with recklessness.

          There are less slaves today then ever before, not the other way around. Some ancient states reached 1 in 5, or much, much more if you count feudal serfs as slaves. A low wage worker living and working in squalor may be miserable, but he's not a slave; he has other options and can leave anytime he wants (they may not be good options, mind, but they're still there).
          If anything, even this "sweat shop" type abuse is likely to become less and less frequent as jobs are automated--all it has to be is cheaper then uneducated hands. This of course creates a new problem of mass unemployment, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it; can't have everything.

          As for tipping points, one would have eventually came along either way as result of some plague or natural disaster. Better we face it with a technological advantage then with nothing at all. Ancient civilizations and even hunter gatherer groups used to collapse because of simple things like droughts, whose threat today is greatly diminished.
          Causing your own disaster and fixing it is better then facing a natural disaster and being helpless.

          Either way, we're long pas the point of no return. Any attempt to reverse the progress of the system nowadays would result in a Western Roman Empire style collapse--a long gradual mess which ultimately results a dramatic increase in violence and reduced standards of living for the lot of the populace.
          Better to plow on ahead at full speed, and hope that the new technology advances faster then the problems it causes. Seeing as technological development rate is only accelerating, we may do fine in the long run.
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        Feb 7 2014: My dear Nadav-

        May I ask if you have children, and how many if you do? In my experience, folks who have children express far more optimism re enviro tipping points than childless adults, which is entirely understandable, since they have a powerful biological/psychological investment the future.

        Fine if you choose not to answer that question, but you might want to re-examine your optimism in that light... and prepare for the future accordingly.

        Best, my friend, and Peace Out!
        • Feb 7 2014: No children, and while I may be many things, optimistic isn't one of them.

          I expect civil unrest to pick up in earnest in the developed world in a few decades as oil starts running low, and perhaps more importantly, more and more jobs become automated.

          Has nothing to do with the environment though--to be honest, that particular subject is usually pretty low on people's priority list. They may be self declared environmentalists, they may even care, but when it comes to make meaningful sacrifice for the environment at the cost of their own standards of living, they don't show up. I'm just less of a hypocrite about it. Preservation is a priority, sure, but its not a top priority, and for good reason.
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        • Feb 7 2014: Former soldier, yes, and currently an aeronautics engineering student. It made me a lot more aware of all sorts of threats, but environmental catastrophe wasn't one of them--we were more worried about people deliberately trying to kill us, and there's no shortage of those.
          As a general rule, something intelligent with hostile intent is a much greater threat then any natural process that couldn't care less whether you live or die.

          As for the EMP, I know plenty of fighting systems have have non-electronic backups, though you usually can't operate in full capacity if you find yourself relying on them. There is a reason those electronics are there, after all, they out preform everything else by a wide margin when they work.
          However, seeing as EMP is currently only practical to generate via a high altitude nuclear explosions, chances are that if you find yourself in a situation where EMP is a realistic concern, you're pretty much screwed anyway. There may be ways to shield yourself (partially) from EMP, but once the tactical nukes start flying, there really isn't much you can do but find some rock to crawl under, and maybe have a religious moment (probably won't help, but it may make you feel better).

          The extra wiring on that F-15 probably wasn't for nuclear warfare though. Its common knowledge that Israel has a world class military grade electronics industry; its not uncommon for the first thing we do when we get a new weapon system is to rip out all the old electronics and replace it with our own. Even when its not superior (and it often is), it helps cross system compatibility--its a real pain to get computers from different defense contractors to talk to each other, and seeing how vital good communication is to warfare, its worth the effort.
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        Feb 11 2014: Hi, Nadav-

        Quick note about modern slavery. Yes, percentages of slaves in populations are lower today, but numbers are higher, as I stated. In order to make Pan sui fallebnda look better, most charts/graphs/maps of modern slavery do not take into account world prison populations. Here in the US, most prisoners work for perhaps 50 cents an hour, like I did for 18 months in a federal minimum-security prison camp (marijuana possession). I think I'm safe in guessing most other countries force prisoners to work as well. The great majority of the hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of "missing children" worldwide are very likely sex slaves, too, or put to work if they are no longer attractive... or killed.

        Modern Pan sui fallenda can be a very, very ugly and viscious creature, indeed.

        Prison population worldwide
  • Feb 4 2014: I'm afraid we may have strayed from your original topic. Maybe you can start a discussion about the dangers of ethnicide. Towards that subject, I saw a documentary not too long ago about the pharmaceutical potential of endophytes, the microorganisms that have a symbiotuc relationship with the plants that thwy inhabit. Researchers are now going to indigenous tribes all over the world questioning shamans, medicine men and women, etc about "healing plants" thinking that the medicinal power may not be in theplant itself but in the chemical s creates by the endophytes. It amazes me how much profound and practical knowledge is lost by discounting anything not discovered with the scientific method.
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      Feb 7 2014: Yeah- I loved it when Amazonian Indians asked Harvard Ph. D ethnobotanist Wade Davis, "Don't you know anything about plants?" Davis said he had to examine the stamens of a certain plant under a microscope to tell it apart from other nearly-identical plants, when Indians just went out during a full moon and the plants sang to them, identifying themselves clearly. Davis confirmed Indians' selections under his microscope, of course.
      • Feb 7 2014: Absolutely! I can t argue with te fact that the repeatability of the scientific method can lead to faster progression of knowledge, what I can argue with is whether scientific knowledge is the only form of knowledge that has any value. Besides that, we have proven, at least in my opinion, that we cant responsibly handle the power that this unchecked growth of knowledge gives us.
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    Feb 3 2014: One less difference between Homo and Pan here, folks.

    Darrell, I do indeed realize we are of the broader ape family, but I will continue to nit-pick about our egos being the sole motivator behind the fraudulent creation of the genus Homo. Why? because it is the only thing that allows "scientists" who believe in God and "human" souls to practice evolutionary science. To me, they are the very best examples of Pan sui fallenda! If early biologists/taxonomists had stuck to their guns and insisted that we are of the genus Pan, there would be no philosophical wiggle room for a "soul" unique us alone... Capisce?

    From a Huffington Post book review:

    "... author and neuroscientist David Linden, ... says that wild animals will "voluntarily and repeatedly consume psychoactive plants and fungi," much like humans.
    In his new book, The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good, Linden discusses an array of wild creatures getting stoned on pretty much whatever they can get their claws on.

    "The list includes birds, elephants and monkeys that scavenge for naturally fermented berries as well as African boars, porcupines and gorillas that ingest the hallucinogenic iboga plant. There are also goats getting a jump by munching on wild coffee berries and, of course, the infamous magic mushroom-loving flying reindeer."

    An excerpt from the book explains:

    "But do we really know whether these animals like the psychoactive effects of the drug, or are they just willing to put up with them as a side effect of consuming a valuable food source? After all, fermented fruit is a tasty and nutritious meal. While it’s hard to dissociate these motivations in animals, many cases suggest that the psychoactive effect is the primary motivator for consumption. Often, only a tiny amount of plant or fungus is consumed, so while its nutritional effect is minuscule its psychoactive effect is large."
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    Feb 3 2014: Great stuff Darrell- thanks for taking the time!

    I just found this censored TED Talk by Graham Hancock that may shift this debate/discussion into overdrive, giving us a lot to contemplate and speculate about, as well as providing some substantial hope, I believe. Now, I will state my position here that I am an atheist and have serious doubts about a "life hereafter." Having said that, I do believe in and have personally experienced ancestral/genetic memory that can be accessed under certain conditions and under the stimulation of various chemical compounds that excite our brain's neurotransmitters that evolved to process them.

    I feel that the "infinite timeline" that many shamans and initiates experience may not run forward into an unknowable future, but rather may run backward in time to the dawn of animal consciousness many millions of years ago, creating an understandable feeling of being overwhelmed by space/time, and thus possibly confusing "future" experiences with past ones encoded in our genes, DNA, RNA and their partial "snippets" that are the epigenetic switches that active and deactivate our genes. The 40,000 year-old Australian aborigine "Dreamtime" philosophy/culture being perhaps the best and longest-lived exponent of this.

    More on my personal gen mem experience later. But here is the link to Graham Hancock's very stimulating censored TEDX Talk.


    Link to my Right Brain Trust friend Darold Treffert's take on genetic memory. Darold is a retired clinical psychiatrist who has studied autistic savants for 50 years. He was consultant for the movie, "Rainman," very loosely based on the life of Darold's friend and patient, the late mega-savant Kim Peek, a genius in 15 fields.Darold is a past president of the Wisconsin Medical Society:

  • Feb 3 2014: I can tell that you are very passionate about this, and unfortunately, I do not have the time to devote to it right now. I am going to be very busy with work today.

    The conversation is a bit all over the place.

    Are we apes or humans? We are both.

    We are destroying the planet! Yes, because we are smart enough to do it, but not wise enough to not do it.

    If we just accepted that we are apes, then we would stop destroying the planet.

    Great, but how to you propose getting the 90% of people that believe in God to stop?

    We can't get people to accept B. So you decide that we should get them to accept A, and then B will follow. But, what if A is even harder to convince people than B?

    Heck, I'm an atheist that accepts we apes, and I'm still not convinced that accepting that we are apes will magically make people care more about a distant future than their own lifetimes.

    I cannot imagine how you are going to convince Bible thumpers that humans are just apes, and we then use that to convince them we should return to living like our caveman roots for the good of the planet.

    I'd be content with a 90% decline in human population, but it seem you would prefer something even more drastic than that.

    Heck, come to think of it, I'm not even really sure what your vision of a distant future is. We accept that we are just smarter than average apes and then.....
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    Feb 3 2014: Text of study re altruistic behavior in monkeys by Frans de Waal (see his TED talk in this debate's heading.)