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Essays on various subjects
Thursday, September 29, 2005
A couple of scientists are claiming that the evolution of the human brain has not stopped, but is ongoing. Two brain gene mutations were found in certain groups of people. "We think each gene conveys some sort of fitness advantage in brain biology. It could be an improved cognitive function or a personality trait. We're not sure. But we know whatever consequence they render is highly favored by selection."
Of course, science fiction writers have often speculated about future human evolution, but the problem is that how do you extrapolate a new kind of mind? It’s like a color spectrum, you can’t add a new color you have never seen to it.
But there is some extrapolation one can do regarding consciousness. We all know we began life without any consciousness and gradually acquired it and improved on it. The speculation that many deny is that after a certain point any consciousness can be increased or gained beyond what a mature adult possesses.
To put it simply, most people believe you can get so smart and no smarter. This is a self-deception, though. It equates consciousness with IQ in effect. Another more convincing truth is that you can’t put a limit on wisdom, which is a whole other perception of reality and being.
If we assume for a moment that wisdom (insight, understanding) and its increase is also a function of the brain’s cognitive intelligence, we might think that evolutionary improvement of the human brain may lead to a general increase in human wisdom.
Given that, it is not unreasonable to wonder if humanity may not achieve a social condition and individual understanding that more readily overcomes our more animal instincts and indulgences.
That is, that Man becomes more rational/spiritual more easily in his individual development.
Every man must feel insulted if he is told that his consciousness is not as great or fine as another’s. Yet, it is something we know must be true if we have any humility. Clearly a child has a superior consciousness than an infant; an adolescent superior to a small child, an adult to a teenager, and sometimes an old man is wiser than a young man.
We symbolize a gulf between a man of passion and appetite against that of a man who is selfless with the appellation of a “saint”. We think saints are better than normal men. They have a faith or understanding which surpasses ordinary people, and a commitment to virtue which is deemed heroic.
Maybe better brains can make us better people. And more than that, more like God in that we have more reason than emotion to rule us.
For the religious, the brain is merely the matrix which holds Mind. Make the matrix better, than Mind will also improve. Evolution has done that. We have more consciousness than dogs. There is no reason to believe that a future human won’t be capable of more consciousness than us as we ordinarily are today.
God is able to transcend time and space. If he improves us through time and genetic development, there is no reason to not also believe that his capabilities may increase within us. Matter and energy may become more elastic dimensions to us just as they are for God.
People who are devoted to acquiring great sums of money, many hours of physical pleasure, and perceive the world as merely matter, money, and politics will have no trouble dismissing the notion above as silly and “hey, man, like cosmic, wow.”
The miraculous is real for most people, though, for god reason. It is often experienced. The idea that humans might come to learn how to do the miraculous as a function of evolution and the brain seems impossible, but there is no particular reason why it can’t be.
Most religions, if not all, operate from a paradigm that accepts human “being” as static, complete, finished, and as high as it can go. Dogma insists that humans are complete as we are.
Christianity, for example, must insist that since Jesus incarnated as a man, he would not have done so in a lesser creature than the future would bring. There is no actual argument for that anywhere in scripture or experience, but the assumption rests on the belief that nature (God) is done with Man.
Again, there is no compelling reason to believe that.
Theologically, we may well say that Jesus appeared as Man at the very point when Man both culturally and brain-wise was able to understand what he had to say and do for us; and to point the way and perhaps accelerate our evolution in some regard.
That argument can easily be attacked. It’s just a “what if” thought, but it opens the door to an entirely different understanding of God, Jesus, and Man.
The challenges that reason force upon religion are absolute and insistent. We cannot dismiss the knowledge of life we get from good science. Any reasonable man devoted to truth and natural history has to come to the conclusion after serious examination that Adam and Eve were not where human life began. Nor did they bring death into the world. It was here on Earth long before any mammal arrived.
Our stories about creation, about everything in any scripture is subject to rigorous scrutiny. Not the kind that idiotic atheists or those who believe in scientism impose who haven’t the sense to recognize simple logic that no premise about consciousness and life can hold without God as the starting place and person.
We are compelled by reason, which we have from God -- it is his reason we use, to reconsider everything we have traditionally thought about Jesus (or Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc.).
Religion, though, is resistant to change. It has great staying power. Tradition lasts because it works, and nothing works for humanity better than Christianity. Yet is has changed over time, and is now becoming a much more simplified evangelism of American conception.
I believe that this evangelism will increase in simplifying its message even further over time while maintaining a missionary zeal which will drive all of Christianity.
Yes, the Catholic and Orthodox churches among others will maintain themselves through their rich and impressive traditions, but intellectually, they are dead. All they will have are the same old tired apologetics to hold them together. They have no real answer to so many dilemmas, paradoxes, and conflicts in their theology; anymore than Islam has an answer as to how Mohammed could be a real prophet of God when he was a murderous, adulterous, sexually incontinent pedophile.
American evangelism reduces things to Paul’s simplest message, and shines dynamically. Open theology will triumph because it rings truer than the old concepts about omniscience. It is perfectly logical to assert that God can’t know all about the future anymore than we can because he can’t know what doesn’t yet exist or is. That God can’t know the next sentence I’ll write anymore than I necessarily do.
A church which says that what we know is all that’s needed to know about divine reality will not be home for the curious and rational, the dynamic and driven.
If Mind is something that can expand more easily as a brain improves through evolution, then mankind is on a heck of a ride to the future of eternity and mortality.
Brainman, a TV show n Discovery-Science channel illustrated a whole new way of looking at the brain. Daniel is a savant who does not suffer the extreme effects of autism although he clearly has many of the symptoms of that condition.
The man who was the model for the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Rainman also was illustrated and demonstrates a most prodigious memory and mental agility that seems inhuman.
In fact, Daniel and Rainman help to prove my point about the brain as matrix of Mind, and that the brain id capable of prodigiously incredible feats of calculation, synaesthesia, and global perception.
Let me quote myself from an essay on the nature of being:
Dreams. I have had dreams of an encyclopedic nature which contain far too much original, creative work that would be impossible for any mind as we presently understand creativity and time to account for. For example, imagine having a dream which may only take a few minutes (in the waking world time) in which you compose a dozen complete, coherent, and breathtakingly beautiful symphonies.
According to what any neuroscientist will tell you, it is not possible for any human brain to perform such creative work in a matter of moments awake or asleep. But such dreams do I have now and then. Never the same in terms of the creative acts. One time it was a series of fully formed Shakespearean-like plays in which I was the author. Another time it was a catalogue like biggest yellow pages book in which every page I turned or leafed through offered detailed (rococo in abundance) graphics and text all of which made perfect sense. Another time, I came to a wall with a large bookshelf of novels, each with it’s own design, cover, and story. I could pick up any book, open it and read a coherent story in a particular genre, style, masculine or female quality, and each author’s voice unique as was every story.
The last such dream I had was as an actor in a Shakespeare play rehearsing it from a book that held a great number of his other plays, all of which were entirely original with invented words as he might have done, with plots and characters all to his manner, and with stories from comedy to tragedy. There was no place in opening the book at random in which I did not encounter a fully formed work of art. And it was as Blake expressed when he talked about the unity of art even in a fragment. In reading one page of dialogue, I could see the story as it had had to happen before, and where it was tending towards as it went. I couldn’t know the endings until I came to them, but they were perfect as expected in fitting the action.
These are not my usual dreams which are quite the same as most other people’s. Unfortunately, when I ask others if they have such dreams, thus far I have only received negatives. It is as if these type of dreams access a huge mainframe computer of memory and invention, whereas only a small PC is usually at work.
This comports with the experience of these savants (idiot or mostly rational) who experience functions in their brains, abilities to cross various components of consciousness in such a way as to visualize life, text, or numbers in a way as to be incredible.
Clearly the human brain is capable of things which are vastly superior in organization of knowledge, in recall of memory, in seeing calculations in a whole new way simple with the equipment we have, but jiggered differently. Imagine then if the brain can improve itself in a way that makes such synaesthesia or computation of numbers, music, drawing, and memory of text as completely normal and ordinary for everyone.
We are looking at capabilities that are amazing, but even then don’t scratch the surface of what we might be capable of in the interface of Mind and Body.
It seems to me that the current lack of interest in such phenomena (no major TV network stories and follow up in academia) results from an inability of many pseudo-intellectuals and cognoscenti from actually wanting to examine the nature of intelligence, perception, and the brain. It is simply too humbling for your self-satisfied climber.