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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11 - High Cost of the Human Brain

From another of my favorite bloggers --DEMOGRAPHIC ZERO-- by Catana-- comes this very thoughtful post -

(My comment & Catana's comment follow):

High Cost of the Human Brain

Humans have many things in common with other mammals, and particularly with the primates, but there is one thing that animals would be grateful for if they had the capacity for gratitude, that they do not and can not share with us. That is the ability to kill, not for food, for mates, or for territory, the necessities of sheer physical survival, but for ideals and ideas: for honor, religious belief, political belief, ethnic superiority, and a multitude of other abstractions which have no existence except in the human mind.

Humans congratulate themselves on our species’ accomplishments, in which very few have had any part, but manage to overlook the centuries and generations of violence which pervade our history, from one-on-one torture and murder, to wars that devastate whole nations. Historians know that periods of peace have been comparatively rare, but each generation lives as if what is now only history to them can not happen again, and certainly not to them.

Unless we can somehow learn to look past the proximate causes: this dictator or that group of religious or political fanatics, to the ultimate cause, the human brain, we will never find peace, never be able to live without the threat hanging over us of our eventual self-destruction as a species.

In The Tangled Wing, anthropologist Melvin Konner tells of his encounter with a professor at the American Museum of Natural History. The professor showed him an Archaeopteryx skeleton embedded in a Mesozoic rock and said that the Archaeopteryx, a feathered descendent of the dinosaurs, was very much like humans. When Konner asked him why he replied, “Well, you know it’s such a transitional creature. It’s a piss-poor reptile, and it’s not very much of a bird.” Like the Archaeopteryx, we are a transitional creature, not yet really deserving the name homo sapiens sapiens.

Posted by Catana Mind, Evolution
Hello Catana,

Thanks for your very thoughtful post. My comments…

From Wikipedia

‘Humans, or human beings, are bipedal primates belonging to the mammalian species Homo sapiens (Latin for “wise man” or “knowing man”) under the family Hominidae (the great apes). Humans have a highly developed brain capable of abstract reasoning, language and introspection. This, combined with an erect body carriage that frees their upper limbs for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make greater use of tools than any other species.’

Yes, homo sapiens is definitely a “piss-poor great ape”, and not very much of a “wise/knowing mammal”. My own view is that our putative “intelligence” is really a biological dead end. Our ability to fashion tools has been turned upon ourselves in the form of devastatingly destructive weapons.

The day is fast approaching when an Adolf Hitler, George W. Bush or Osama Bin Laden (who recently received clerical approval for an attack against the U.S. with casualties capped at 10 million!) engulfs the world in Armageddon. And that will be the end of a race of very ill-tempered apes.

Then the REALLY successful species of animal-the insects-will be completely triumphant…

My own favorite insect is the cockroach…what adaptation!–

1) The earliest cockroach-like fossils are from the Carboniferous period between 354–295 million years ago.
2) The cockroach has the ability to withstand radiation better than human beings.
3) The cockroach can live for about a month without its head.

Cheers, Ken

Comment by Ken September 12, 2006

Ken, I try to be optimistic, but it usually winds up feeling like self-induced delusion. The cockroaches may succeed us, but in a way we’ve done better.

Humans have survived for their entire history without a head.

Comment by Catana September 12, 2006


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