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Author Topic: Simian Habits  (Read 3618 times)
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Lopson
 

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« on: 2007-09-09, 16:37 »

The more the human race evolves, the farther it gets from its origins: Clubbing an animal with a rock, like our ancesters did, has now been substituted by firing a gun-powder powered projectile into an animal's vital point; gathering fruits and vegetables from the wild has been substituted by gathering them from farms; instead of reproducing, we can choose between doing so or not doing so; instead of suffering natural selection exclusively, we suffer from a specific kind of artificial selection, enabling us to live longer lives. All in all, our behaviour is far from similar to our ancestors'.
The truth is: if that hadn't happened, we wouldn't have gotten this far. However, I believe that this constant denial of our primitive past has led to serious social problems: sexual anxiety, sedentarization, etc.
My question is: should we deny our past just for the sake of evolution? Will the next evolutionary step require such denial? Or will it require a greater integration of our specie's past?
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Tabun
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« Reply #1 on: 2007-09-09, 17:38 »

Some parts of your post are unclear to me Kruz/Lops, so I'll just pose some questions/comments that pop up on reading it.

First, it might be a good idea to ask what it means to say that "we have come this far". How far is that, and why are you inclined to use an indication of distance (or progression, advancement) to describe human evolution*?

(* The etymological origins of "evolution" are tied in with expanse or unfolding. Even if you'd want to stay true to the semantics of this, it might very well be questionable to formulate such matters in ways that stress difference and distance rather than similarity and proximity.)

Second, in a gene-oriented view of evolution, it makes more sense to speak of the evolution of the phenotype or the survival of genes rather than of the "evolution of a race" -- it is by no means evident that a race or species has any kind of shared evolutionary bond (over and above the simple ability to mate). It is possible to ask questions that seem unanswerable on the semantic level of races or species, but find easy resolution on the level of the phenotype or the gene. Translating said changes (or "distance travelled/progress made", if you will) to the llanguage of a different level might well remove some confusion here. For instance, the difference between "natural" and "artificial" selection is null and void on a gene-level -- such a difference is in this respect as much part of emergence as the difference between a coconut and a cell phone.

Thirdly: what do you mean by "denial of our past"? Is all change (and on every level) a denial of one's past? If sedentarization is a social problem (is it?) there's only the hunter-gatherer part of human prehistory that is socially unproblematic. Perhaps because I do not understand -or misunderstand- your use of "denial", it is unclear to me why either wittingly or unwittingly straying from certain historical traits is of key importance.

Finally, I'm not quite sure what you understand by "greater integration of our species past". Are you suggesting the possibility of going back to a hunter-gatherer type of culture, wherein mankind goes back to a Rousseauesque pre-societal life of some sort? In any case, before asking the requirements of an evolutionary step (and I must admit that I don't quite see what an evolutionary step would or could be) or the direction of genetic or memetic manipulation, I think you'd need to know at least something about the step or the direction to be taken beforehand.
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Tabun ?Morituri Nolumus Mori?
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« Reply #2 on: 2007-09-09, 18:25 »

Tab, you know all that talk of phenotype and genes confuses the hell out of some of us, right?  I'm not sure Lopson was working from that technical a level.  I think he's just asking existential questions.

Lopson:  A very interesting thing to ponder, but I think the premise should be explored first.  How do you know man's path is simply that of Darwinian evolution?  How do you know man was not put in place to fulfill some divine purpose?  What of those who think man is simply an experiment of some other advanced civilization, much as man now is experimenting genetically on his fellow animals?  All of these viewpoints, and many more, are those belonging to mankind and none can be dismissed as all of them affect the actions of men.  While one point of view may seem superior to the others and more appealing to one's peers in one part of the world, I assure you that its opposite has equal weight elsewhere.  If there's anything humans have in common it's that they disagree on so many things, and questions on how and why man became what he is today is very near the top of that list.

On denying the past... I think that is something mankind has already done.  Ancestors are no longer respected, traditions that once had meaning have been forgotten, cultures have been lost in favor of the industrial-consumption society.  I look at the technology in the world and it has not made man more happy.  I see the rich as miserable as they were in the middle ages.  I see poor who are happy and content.  The character of man has not changed so much in 5,000 years.  His environment has changed, but man has not changed much.  Strip away the machinery, and are you really so different from your ancestors?  So what is important in life to you?  Is it what the politicians and figureheads and corporate spokesmen say - the economy, and taxes, and global warming - or is it having a warm place to sleep, food to eat, and that your family is safe from danger?

All worries about "larger" picture things really boil down to that question - how is it going to affect me and those I care about?  In this, you are not so different from us other animals on this world.  We worry about these same basic needs for we all have the same basic needs, but since there is no barrier of technology we are closer to them on a day to day basis.  It is more personal.  We don't worry about the larger things because we cannot control them.  If you could ask a sparrow what he thought of global warming, besides not having a clue what it is the sparrow would just tell you that warm weather is nice.  Man just has his eggs in a much larger basket, as it were.  It's a fairly cushy basket, but if it breaks...  Integrating your lives with technology means you have less personal worry of the baser concerns of survival, but should that technology ever fail and your infrastructure collapse, these concerns will become horrors overnight and what was distant will be instantly very personal.  That's the danger of dependence on technology.  Man's relationship with nature is diminishing, and with it man's potential to survive on an individual level without technology.  So you see, your past is not so far away as you think.  It could easily become your future, and all concerns of the present would become but dim memories overnight.  Who cares about global warming or civil rights in China if you and your children are starving and cold?

As for why man seems to have this technological dependence, why he seems almost perfectly suited to live in harmony with technology and not so well with nature... well that is something interesting to ponder.  Some believe it's Darwinian evolution, some believe it's because man was made this way purposely.  What do you think?  Maybe deciding what you believe there about where man came from is a good place to start before trying to decide where you think he should be going.
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Tabun
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« Reply #3 on: 2007-09-09, 20:38 »

It's kind of pointless, imo, to discuss aspects of (Darwinian) evolution without taking mainstream modern venues of it into consideration. The semantic/theoretical revolution that leads up to The Selfish Gene (f.i.) is one of the aspects of the discourse of evolution that is both important and underacknowledged. The varying theories surrounding the "Darwinian core theory" have evolved (pun intended) and new issues have become the forefront of evolutionary problematic.
Compare loosely used "evolution-talk" to be like re-issueing pre-medieval theological issues without taking the extensive discussion that came afterwards into account -- you'll end up facing a lot of difficult and confusing problems, hoping to reinvent the wheel or at least solve some hideously complex problems on your own.

It may be that the term "evolution" here only serves to add weight to primarily existential questions, but I'm not ruling out the possibility that a technical approach is the perfect solution to an (initially) non-technical problem. In particular, I'm always ready to indicate the availability of a 'technical'/scientific side to any issue that manages to entangle itself in the confusing web of folk-scientific-evolutionism.

One of the problems, as I see it, is that many seem to feel compelled to choose either for or against an outmoded, vague and problematic theory. Although it might seem at first that talk of genes makes matters more difficult/confusing, I've found that it helps a great deal to better classify everyday questions regarding belief/support for theories, ethical considerations and theoretical problems (such as the difference between the theoretical consequences of race- or goal-oriented evolution and moral questions about species going extinct). If "evolution" is a term that is half-heartedly nihilist, direction-giving as well as judgmental, then it doesn't sound attractive to use at all.
An example of a consideration that I've found fruitful is the consequence Darwinian considerations that lead up to the dissolution of the (by that view) apparently essential distinction between nature and artifice -- with that distinction out of the way, some things make a lot more sense. That is one of many possible roads to travel, but I don't mean to imply that it is either the only or the best one for Lopson/Kruzader.

Another path that is opened up, by a better understanding of the technical, is to forcefully drop the yoke of evolutionary connotations entirely and in so doing be more informed about what you deny and the many potentialities that this opens up. If you disconnect the human past from the strong blind-chance/struggle/survival connotations of Darwinian evolution, I think you can also drop much confusion of ethical considerations with theoretical problems. Man as a "rational animal" without Darwinian connotations is, for instance, much easier to treat as an unchanging kind of being having a human essence and having merely changed superficially. Reasoning so, there's less need to worry or be confused about the "Simian" side of our habits, as our likeness to apes becomes a more straightforward moral/metaphysical/theological question, rather than a confusing jumble of evolutionarily-technical problems. If the gap between man and ape is absolute, then it seems to me that there's no need to worry about "de-evolution" and a strict comparison with apes or monkeys might even be moot. So too with the notion of our origins in general, perhaps.

Hence my view that my point was relevant. If not, I assume Lopson is able to ignore my typing without difficulty.. :]

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« Reply #4 on: 2007-09-09, 22:27 »

I never said that your point of view is irrelevant, only that some of us may have trouble understanding just what that view is - myself being one of them.  You tend to use a lot of big words in short sentences when it comes to scientific or philosophical matters, and I'm afraid half the time I'm not sure I know exactly what you're talking about.  Perhaps I'm just simple in this respect, but I'm afraid that if I am missing the point many others might be as well.  I'm also not trying to imply that anyone reading your point of view is unintelligent, only that you're a "difficult read" at times.  Imparting understanding of a view and not losing your audience in the process is an important part of conversation, no?

Now, using myself as an example, when someone says "evolution" here's what springs to mind:

Man evolving from monkeys (or primates if someone's going to nitpick) and building his technological world.
Animals evolving into other animals over time.
Natural Selection as the mechanism for all of the above.
Life having spontaneously generated in some biochemical soup.

That's what I've always understood it to be, details not withstanding, and it's always the general picture when I've discussed it elsewhere.  Is that wrong?  Tab (without losing me), Lopson, what's your understanding so we can all be on the same page?
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Lopson
 

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« Reply #5 on: 2007-09-10, 12:47 »

Quote from: Tabun
sedentarization is a social problem (is it?)
Over-sedentarization causes health problems, does it not?
Quote from: Tabun
First, it might be a good idea to ask what it means to say that "we have come this far". How far is that, and why are you inclined to use an indication of distance (or progression, advancement) to describe human evolution?
You're just making things harder here. When a person talks about biological evolution (as in the evolution of a specie), it usually means a progression, an increase of differences between the past and the present, and never a regression.
Quote from: Tabun
Second, in a gene-oriented view of evolution...
I don't think that integrating our past has anything to do with our genes. Perhaps I used the word "evolution" way too loosely, and I apologize. Expressing myself about these topics has never been an easy task to me, and I don't think it will ever be.
So let me rephrase the question: Do you think that instead of denying our instincts, we Humans should try to pay more attention to them in order to become happier? Do you think that instead of building a society where humans are forced to retire themselves away from Nature and natural things, we should build a society based on Nature?
My oppinion is that we should live closer to Nature. However, how can we live closer to Nature? By going back to our ancestor's life style? By refusing to use technology?

So yeah, I'm really sorry for this big mix-up.
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« Reply #6 on: 2007-09-10, 15:42 »

I think for man to live in harmony with nature (or closer to a natural harmony anyway) it will require a severe external event and external government.  If you want to simplify it to its base factor, technology has always been an arms race for man.  It is always born out of competition and never through cooperation, except where such cooperation serves to outcompete other tribes, nations, what have you.  This tendency toward dominating and subjugating through superior technology is part of man's make up and won't go away in and of itself.  Even if a large segment of a population chooses to deny technology and shift to an agrarian lifestyle, they will be militarily defenseless against more technologically advanced aggressors who will seek to dominate them.  That's been the rule historically.  Voluntarily abandoning technology is not something the human race as a whole can do because there will always be groups of humans willing to use technology to enslave and control those who don't.  Even on an individual level it's impossible to completely escape technology.  The authorities won't let you just live off the land.  You will serve society and participate in the economic cycle.  Being born human has cursed you to this fate, and there is no escape but death.

I think for man to exist in such a state of natural balance, man's technology must be utterly and completely destroyed, his population dramatically reduced, and the ecological damage to the earth repaired.  In addition, man's physical infirmities must be eliminated or reduced to a tolerable degree for such a mode of living, natural hardships must be reduced in kind (the earth will need to be more abundant) and something or someone "other than man" must have dominion over man in order to suppress the human capacity for war and conquest.  Such a governor would have to be of a sufficiently invulnerable and unopposable nature that rebellion would be impossible, and must be genuinely benificent enough that rebellion would be equally undesirable.  In short, you will have to be willing to subjugate yourselves to a benign dictatorship and be happy with the arrangement.  You will need a king with absolute authority, absolute power, and perfect intent to rule over man, keeping him in line but also to keeping him happy and meeting all his needs.  Of course, changing human nature would also help the process along.  If man lost his desire to dominate and rule his fellow man it would go a long way toward streamlining this process and would actually reduce the requirement of a governing entity acting as a controlling and limiting factor and enabling it instead to act more in the helper role.  This would be more efficient for all parties concerned, and also a more desirable arrangement.

The alternative state, that of a rapid, complete, violent destruction of infrastructure, loss of life, and reduction in human numbers without any beneficial conditions being added would serve to reinforce the opposite of the desired effect.  Forcing humans into a "Road Warrior"-like, post holocaust survival mode would inflame warlike tendencies and rekindle the technological arms race into a raging inferno.  Man would become more warlike and tribal, not more peaceful.  Left to his own devices, and without an external control and limiting factor, man will just restart the process that led him to his current technological state to begin with, except man will be rising out of the poisoned nuclear ashes of the previous civilization, not to glory, but to a hell on earth of his own making.
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