Putting Life and Energy into perspective

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Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Here's an article I wrote up with the aim putting "Life" (as in life forms) and "Energy" into perspective:

http://sunson.livejournal.com/192980.html

Its a long read, so please do set aside some time :)

Thanks!

 

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

I just finished reading this. I found your thoughts to be very insightful and I agree with everything.

A couple points...

1) The link you provide to a previous article you wrote on Malthusian Catastrophes is broken. Can you provide the correct link?

2) I am a hard core atheist and have read many of the great thinkers in this area. Your comment that all religions guarantee at least one child per male was a new perspective that I am unfamiliar with. Can you elaborate or provide a link to more information?

 Thanks, Rob

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Hi cedar. I found the same trouble but if you cut out the first part of the link and just use the second http it works.

Hi sunson. excellent thinking and links. Looking forward to your next post on your blog. 

Thinking about selfish behaviour being innate while community behaviour is learnt by culture; May explain why older people hold out more hope for our future. Also makes our decimation irreversible?

Your link to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3386 is also excellent although I haven't read it all yet. Loved the stuff on Internet addiction. I'm off to do something real.

great post

Next Day: read the oildrum post and found it profound. One of the few works to place our present circumstances into a meaningful perspective for me.The brief mention of time interests me. Have had a few opportunities to spend months in wild places and have noticed time (temporal) slow very dramatically. Also noticed eyes not focusing quick enough after getting back to modern transport. Not only are we addicted but we are living shorter lives in our heads which is where it matters.

Now Another day: Am beginning to assimilate this learning with what I have already understood. 

I get a picture of voracious hedonism (addiction) held in check by a culture of community. Government(s) have spread the abandonment of this culture, perhaps were always going to, with the rise of individual wealth and in the name of individual 'freedom' (game theory).

So is real community (even family) now out of reach? Are there any ways, other than dire consequences, to break our addictions?

Thanks again

Don

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
cedar wrote:

1) The link you provide to a previous article you wrote on Malthusian Catastrophes is broken. Can you provide the correct link?

Ah, thanks for pointing out. Fixed now. The correct link is http://http//sunson.livejournal.com/171551.html

Quote:

2) I am a hard core atheist and have read many of the great thinkers in this area. Your comment that all religions guarantee at least one child per male was a new perspective that I am unfamiliar with. Can you elaborate or provide a link to more information?

Ah :) same here.To me, it was an understanding of evolution that made me a real atheist. What about you? :)

Okay... about religion's role in reproduction:

Let us first establish some basic facts about evolutionary reality first:

1. Mate selection is a very vital process that ensures every participant (whether male or female) 'combines' their genes with a person of the opposite sex who seem to exhibit certain characteristics that indicate how successful they have been with survival. In essence, its a 'filter' to ensure one doesn't invest their precious resources in making a child which will not survive. In other words, don't combine with folks who seem to be 'mutants'. Some mutants might be 'good' (ex: bigger brain or faster running) but they never become a selection criteria until they manage to 'prove' the point. For all practical purposes, it can be said, mate selection ensures status-quo. All this makes sense only when mutants are _really_ unfit for survival. This is not true for humans ever since we left the wild and freed ourselves a bit more from the clutches of Natural Selection.

2. Females are more selective about their mates because they 'invest' a lot more (in terims of body parts specially designed to give birth to, feed and nurture young ones _and_ a lot more of their own energy and time (see point#3 below) due to how things work)

3. Males exhibit an interesting dilemma that results in them trying to be more 'frivolous' and less focussed on upbringing a child than the females due to the fact that males can never be sure if the child on which they're spending their precious energy on is really their own child!.  (Read more about Extra Pair Copulation if you're interested in this behaviour - http://faculty.vassar.edu/suter/1websites/bejohns/mateselection/files/mo... - basically, the female is damn confident that its her child, while the male can never be so sure)

4. The world is competitive - more so when it comes to mating and doubly reinforced due to point#2 above. If you're not successful, you better be looking for opportunities elsewhere. As an example, let us say that  Arnold Schwarzenegger is the alpha male in a given region. What good will I be against him today? What good will I be against someone who _overthrows_ him tomorrow? (Overthrower must be more stronger than Arnold!). So there is a natural tendency for migration of males to look for mates. Who knows, maybe I'll land up in a place where the alpha isn't that strong? Simply due to this migration and risk-taking behaviour, most males go without mating... (they die on the way? they 'fight' with a new male and die)... some females also go without mating.. but that's very very low. Typically the ratio of male failures to female failures is higher because females have some inherent value (their 'equipment') while males contribute mostly only via their 'genes' and partially via baby-care (which, again, is uncertain as mentioned earlier in point#3). 

Whenever an alpha is overthrown, there is chaos and resulting loss of life (ex: typically an overthrowing male lion kills all the cubs born off the previous male, this is again because you want to spend _your_ energy in bringing up _your_ children and not someone else's - I'm not sure what humans in the wild used to do, but I'd expect that the so-called 'step motherly / step fatherly' treatment must have been very cruel, pre-religion).

 

Now, religions attack this at the root-cause in several places:

1. Prevent overthrowing by allowing every male to stay put by giving him a family. Only when a male has no family, he telnds to wander and cause chaos.

2. Subdue point#1 - ie.,take away the power to 'choose' the mate and instead make them focus on reproduction because we KNOW the kids will survive! we got the brains, we got surplus energy and we can _actually_ multiply inspite of the negligible mortality.

3. Additionally, Imbibe "ethics" to prevent aggression beyond the means. This of course is only partially true for some religions like Islam and Judaism where agression is very much advocated in the books.

If you think about it, Mate selection is really pointless for us humans in the modern day world. We have better hygiene, health care and much better disease control than ever before. But it is important for us to understand the role of energy in all of this. 

Think about it - the complex social structure in monkeys to groom each other stems from one basic need - hygiene. Today, we can afford to have machines and other chemicals that do these things for us. 

As man distanced himself from the 'wild', selection had a lesser role to play in killing the unfit ones. 

Distancing ourselves from the physical wilderness sure gave us room to multiply better. But mate selection, programmed into our instincts, still had to be supressed... The rules had to be rewritten and religion rewrote those rules.

My whole point is just this: Population growth will happen effectively when all chances of death is eliminated, allowing each individual to reproduce and help their offsprings survive effectively. Removal of predator is one prime factor. But there is a predator within - the animal nature that pointlessly focusses on 'choosing' the right mate, which when suppressed, ensures every (even unfit) individual can propel their genes into the future.

I'd ideally like to run a simulation (which is what I hope to do in my next blog post) to elucidate this better. Basically generate off-springs, some smaller fraction of whom are mutants (equally likely to be good mutants or bad mutants). Even if you keep 'killing' those bad muants, the resulting population, though might be more conformant and able to 'survive' better, will be smaller in size than when you don't kill mutants at all and allow them to combine and multiply further. The key being, 'ability to survive' and thats what changed with surplus energy (and religion sort 'understood' it).

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
pir8don wrote:

Hi cedar. I found the same trouble but if you cut out the first part of the link and just use the second http it works.

Hi sunson. excellent thinking and links. Looking forward to your next post on your blog. 

Thinking about selfish behaviour being innate while community behaviour is learnt by culture; May explain why older people hold out more hope for our future. Also makes our decimation irreversible?

What makes you think 'community behaviour' (altruism) is learnt only by culture and not pre-programmed?

Altruism is also evolutionary and Altruism has an ulterior selfish motive :)

http://www.livescience.com/animals/070625_chimp_altruism.html

There are a few books that enlightened me on this topic - all are written by Richard Dawkins:

1. Selfish Gene

2. The Blind Watchmaker

3. Climbing Mount Improbable

Quote:

 

Your link to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3386 is also excellent although I haven't read it all yet. Loved the stuff on Internet addiction. I'm off to do something real.

.

Haha! Don't bother... Internet is unsustainable and you'll have to quit it cold-turkey if not by choice now... ;)

pir8don wrote:

I get a picture of voracious hedonism (addiction) held in check by a culture of community. Government(s) have spread the abandonment of this culture, perhaps were always going to, with the rise of individual wealth and in the name of individual 'freedom' (game theory).

Sorry, I don't get you - what is the reference to game theory here for?

Secondly, I wouldn't put my blind faith into 'community'.

Thirdly, remember, Governments were also formed with well-meaning intentions.

The problem, as  I see it, is that communities are made up of individuals who are inherently selfish. Even if they aren't, a few bad decisions can have a big bad (unintended) outcome. I believe, there must be a mathematical critical limit to how big a community can get before it gets self-destructive.We once seemed sustainable for those conditions, now we are not. I'd just say what someone else said... "Assumptions are the mother of all f*ck ups!"

pir8don wrote:

Are there any ways, other than dire consequences, to break our addictions?

I've been sincerely trying to follow Actual Freedom - http://actualfreedom.com.au/ I should say, I'm a reasonably harmless being (if not super happy) since then and I'm hopeful, someday, my (self and otherwise) harmful animal instincts will be eliminated to allow me to be a truly happy and harmless being.

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Re: Corrected link

Cedar

The corrected link still has one too many http's

http://sunson.livejournal.com/171551.html 

should get it

Don

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

sunson,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have often wondered why religions exist since they are all so incredibly wacky. My main theory has been that religions are required for an intelligent brain that lacks scientific knowledge. In other words they provide answers to questions like origin and death. I had not considered your theory that for a civilization to exist you must suppress biological instincts. This might explain why every known civilization has invented some form of religion. Perhaps a civilization can't exist without a religion. Also helps to explain why the bible is so paranoid about sex.

cheers, Rob

 pir8don, thanks for the correction

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
sunson wrote:

What makes you think 'community behaviour' (altruism) is learnt only by culture and not pre-programmed?

Altruism is also evolutionary and Altruism has an ulterior selfish motive :)

http://www.livescience.com/animals/070625_chimp_altruism.html

There are a few books that enlightened me on this topic - all are written by Richard Dawkins:

1. Selfish Gene

2. The Blind Watchmaker

3. Climbing Mount Improbable

 

"self restraint ...empathy.... largely functions of the new human cortex....learned" from American Mania and quoted at the start of are we adicted to oil? 

Your description of altruism certainly got a smile. Personally I don't think it exists but think that behaviour that favours community (see below), self restraint and empathy, favours our long term best interests. Entirely rational and self serving.

I come from a philosophical perspective rather than science. But have read some of Richard Dawkins. 

sunson wrote:

Sorry, I don't get you - what is the reference to game theory here for?

Secondly, I wouldn't put my blind faith into 'community'.

Thirdly, remember, Governments were also formed with well-meaning intentions.

 

One and three go together. I see community as made redundant by government (laws) then itself abandonded by western Governments who adopted game theory (individuals are inherently selfish) as their sole understanding of behaviour (see BBC the trap). Leading to our present unchecked addictions. Only family survives and that is not very stable in our western society.

Second - it isn't blind (see below)

sunson wrote:

The problem, as  I see it, is that communities are made up of individuals who are inherently selfish. Even if they aren't, a few bad decisions can have a big bad (unintended) outcome. I believe, there must be a mathematical critical limit to how big a community can get before it gets self-destructive.We once seemed sustainable for those conditions, now we are not. I'd just say what someone else said... "Assumptions are the mother of all f*ck ups!"

Here we are in agreement. Our groups size is too big (not human scale) and that is why we are simply governed. The big picture comes from Daniel Quinn particualarly Beyond Civilisation. Monkeys in troups, whales in pods, humans in tribes. Civilisation is the anomoly in our very lengthy past. He suggest civilisations were previously abandoned voluntarily by participants. By community I mean 'real' community = human size group, at most a few hundred. I would choose to term bigger groups as societies but thats just semantics.

sunson wrote:

 I've been sincerely trying to follow Actual Freedom - http://actualfreedom.com.au/ I should say, I'm a reasonably harmless being (if not super happy) since then and I'm hopeful, someday, my (self and otherwise) harmful animal instincts will be eliminated to allow me to be a truly happy and harmless being.

I need to understand this more to comment. Will give it some attention.

Was delighted to learn that in having the patience to read 8000+ words I am apparently not addicted. Books must have us off the scale.

Don

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Definitely. Have you read the Selfish Gene by Dawkins? He argues, memes, just like genes, go through its own natural selection process. Ideas that can copy and propagate will do so. Given our brain is happy with 'good sounding' answers than realistic answers, even if that knowledge will help us with the future, some memes have more chances of spreading than others.

I guess notions like God and 'disbelief' in peak-oil theory or global warming, etc., tend to spread and stay around more than 'depressing' answers.

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

No haven't read the selfish gene but just got it out of the library today. His thesis seems very close to Robert Pirsig in Lila where he demonstrates that we are culturally and biologically analogous to the human body. Most of us in the arteries, many in the veins and a few in the capillaries. Each individual subsumed to the biological purpose of the species and expendable. Fooling ourselves that we control our destiny. Although, I am not up to the task of adequately representing his whole book. I think his take is more philosophical while Dawkins may be more science (again). Cultural memes are much discussed in Beyond Civilization

The book that has recently influenced me the most is Taleb's the black swan  which has called almost all my reasoning to account. Applying the learning is challenging after so many years of habit. 

You are right. We will argue for ever that technology will save us if it means we don't have to feed ourselves (yet).

Don

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
pir8don wrote:

"self restraint ...empathy.... largely functions of the new human cortex....learned" from American Mania and quoted at the start of are we adicted to oil? 

Your description of altruism certainly got a smile. Personally I don't think it exists but think that behaviour that favours community (see below), self restraint and empathy, favours our long term best interests. Entirely rational and self serving.

Well, Altruism can be easily observed (as seen in several other species without the neo-cortex). What you personally 'believe' here is probably not what science claims it to be. Our large neo-cortex and its devil counter-part - the Amygdala (center of emotions and 'instinctive' reactions) together are constantly in a tug-of-war and most of the time, the neo-cortex is a mere tool for the ultimate 'desires' in the Amygdala. Secondly we are talking Game theory here for species (and for that you need to think of several generations (iterations) to see complex altruistic effects appear). For instance, why does a defeated male lion instinctively help his cubs escape from the pride? Altruism is a well observed phenomenon in all life forms.

Just think about it - for every little invention / discovery that man uses in pursuit of science, there are gazillion other 'desire' satisfying applications. Look at the internet - its actually the result of a nations 'fear' of cold-war.But look how we've "turned it around" to satisfy our desires - which mostly revolves around establishing a status (buy a car, boat, mansion, private jet... the list is endless!) that has no virtual limits but what the environment has to offer. All this surplus energy fueled the amygdala's desires and here we are - run-away of desire?

So yeah... sorry about this hard fact: your neo-cortex isn't in much control over your actions. For starters, try not to eat for as long as you can (you can drink anything, though). You'll see how mind-blowingly powerful our instincts are... then come back and tell me if your neo-cortex can win a structure shaped over billions of years. Its just too damn difficult to break the rules. Even things like suicide are _impossible_ for someone who is not depressed to try. First off all, your brain will tell you its 'stupid' to suicide and shut you off. The. beast. is. in. control. Try plotting clever ways to work around it - for that's the only strength you (the neo-cortex) have.

pir8don wrote:

I come from a philosophical perspective rather than science. But have read some of Richard Dawkins. 

Science is philosophy too... just that the language of communicating the ideas are in a well defined structural form of mathematics.

pir8don wrote:

One and three go together. I see community as made redundant by government (laws) then itself abandonded by western Governments who adopted game theory (individuals are inherently selfish) as their sole understanding of behaviour (see BBC the trap). Leading to our present unchecked addictions. Only family survives and that is not very stable in our western society.

I'm in agreement. I guess we're both talking about the same thing but from slightly different view points. If I gather your intention right, are you saying that 'good change' is only possible when we let the neo-cortex take unbiased decisions?

If yes, then I guess my arguments above will convince you enough that this is not an easy task.

Interestingly, also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_systems

pir8don wrote:

Was delighted to learn that in having the patience to read 8000+ words I am apparently not addicted. Books must have us off the scale.

Absolutely. If religion is the opium of the masses, knowledge and thought are anti-dotes for rehabilitation :)

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
pir8don wrote:

The book that has recently influenced me the most is Taleb's the black swan  which has called almost all my reasoning to account. Applying the learning is challenging after so many years of habit. 

You are right. We will argue for ever that technology will save us if it means we don't have to feed ourselves (yet).

I violently agree :) Black Swan was a mind-altering book for me... but the biggest 'shock' to my self and what made me humble, atheist and get a sense of responsibility was a drug-induced near-death experience (Ketamine). In that sense, I feel, ancient mystical civilisations might have used such techniques and ended up becoming sustainable (lowered amygdala activity). For instance, if the hindu / buddhist  religions have anything to say, it seems even without surplus energy there was enough trouble due to our instincts. I guess even Jesus said the same except he said it in some weird lingua and lingua is always bound to get 'noised out' over a period of time. 

 

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Thanks for your full responses, most of which will need more attention from me before I respond.

But; I was integued by your experience of ketamine. I have a week in hospital with a slow infusion of ketamine (due to its NMDA receptor antagonist properties) the whole time about three years ago. In my case it was for chronic pain as a result of broken neck 15 years ago. I was on opiates for about 10 years (last one methadone) before coming off by myself after finding a weak opiate (tramol liquid) that worked to mitigate my pain experience. I've been off for about 6 months now, hardest thing I have ever done.

According to my loyal partner the ketamine infusion influenced my personality for more than a year afterwards. I fully comprehend its power although you may not have used it in the same way.

Don

Have you read McKennas book on mushrooms? forgotton the title but have it somewhere. It talked of receptors in our brain matched to mushrooms.

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
pir8don wrote:

Have you read McKennas book on mushrooms? forgotton the title but have it somewhere. It talked of receptors in our brain matched to mushrooms.

Nope. Haven't heard about that one. I've read this awesome pop-sci book called "Phantoms in the Brain" - a must read if you're interested in understanding human consciousness!

 

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

ALTRUISM IS IN THE RANGE OF SELFISHNESS. 

SELFISHNESS CAN NEVER BE IN THE RANGE OF AN ALTRUISISM DOMAIN.

SELFISHNESS IS THE FUNDAMENTAL CAUSE OF ALL OF OUR ACTIONS- IT MUST BE!  IT IS HOW WE WERE PROGRAMMED (by our genes of course).

FOR THOSE THAT DO NOT HAVE SELFISHNESS AS THEIR END TO THEIR MEANS WILL BE CAST OUT OF THE GENE POOL.  IF WE WERE MISSING OUR "SELFISH" GENE; WE WOULD'VE DIED AS A SPECIES A LONG TIME AGO.

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Caroline, I do get your message. CAPS OFF, please.

Yeah, yeah... Altruism IS selfishness. Life is pointless. So, what is your point?

 

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
sunson wrote:

Caroline, I do get your message. CAPS OFF, please.

Yeah, yeah... Altruism IS selfishness. Life is pointless. So, what is your point?

 

You're not getting it.  I thought, of all people on this thread, you would've been the only one to understand.  I guess I overestimated your reasoning skills.  I caps locked it to show others (not you) that it is VERY important to know about this so-called selfishness.  Selfishness is not necessarily bad.  It has actually kept the human species alive.  I wouldn't be here otherwise.  Many find that some things, such as altruism, is an end.  It is only the means to the end.  The end is selfishness.

Life is not pointless.  The point of life is to live within it.  That's it.  Survive and if you're so lucky- live.  I take it you've read Richard Dawkins', "The Selfish Gene".  The point of living, from his book, is to pass along genes best suitable for the survival of the gene vehicle to surive within its existing environment and reproduce accordingly (live- that's it).  Did you read it?

 

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

duplicate post

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

science is in the domain of philosophy (caps implied) and before you say it, philosophy is in the domain of life.

Caroline, you have much more of a science bent than I so I will leave you to battle it out with sunson on scientific evidence for altruism if that is what you both want.

I do have one point on that subject. Science sees the individual as an appropriate subject for study (within its domain) but has much less confidence in respect of the family or group. I see progeny as being less distinct from parents and tribal members as less distinct from each other than individuals in society. So self restraint and empathy are very likely to be found within families and (human scale) groups and less likely to be found within society. Irrespective of species.

The big picture is of greatest interest to me as it purports to make sense of our current circumstances; We seem to agree that family and community were/are the primary mechanisms of learnt self restraint and empathy and that, as our numbers have risen, government through laws and education has taken over this role at least from the community if not the family.

What has recently gone so very wrong is that western governments have pretty much abandoned this role and left a vacuum filled by unchecked addictions. Within this vacuum we also witness the rise of the controlling self interest group (Many politicians, corporations, bankers, lawyers etc..........).

Don

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
pir8don wrote:

science is in the domain of philosophy (caps implied) and before you say it, philosophy is in the domain of life.

Caroline, you have much more of a science bent than I so I will leave you to battle it out with sunson on scientific evidence for altruism if that is what you both want.

I do have one point on that subject. Science sees the individual as an appropriate subject for study (within its domain) but has much less confidence in respect of the family or group. I see progeny as being less distinct from parents and tribal members as less distinct from each other than individuals in society. So self restraint and empathy are very likely to be found within families and (human scale) groups and less likely to be found within society. Irrespective of species.

The big picture is of greatest interest to me as it purports to make sense of our current circumstances; We seem to agree that family and community were/are the primary mechanisms of learnt self restraint and empathy and that, as our numbers have risen, government through laws and education has taken over this role at least from the community if not the family.

What has recently gone so very wrong is that western governments have pretty much abandoned this role and left a vacuum filled by unchecked addictions. Within this vacuum we also witness the rise of the controlling self interest group (Many politicians, corporations, bankers, lawyers etc..........).

Don

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7 billion people can be wrong, very wrong

I agree with you, Don.  I have to run to work for a few hours but I will visit later.  I do not disagree with sunson.  He and I have read the same type of material.  I just think we disagree on the technicalities. 

The idea and study of this somewhat ficticious term is fascinating.  A lot of people think everything has an answer and only one answer.  A lot of people think that somethings are either black or white.  Some think that things are good or bad.  It's funny because I like answers too and, contradictingly, believe everything is a paradox- everything.

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
caroline_culbert wrote:
pir8don wrote:

It's funny because I like answers too and, contradictingly, believe everything is a paradox- everything.

Well everything pulses. And gravitates toward entropy. But I am unsure if that is saying anything of significance. Glad you agree. Look forward to anything more you might have to say on our present dilemma.

Don

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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
caroline_culbert wrote:

You're not getting it.  I thought, of all people on this thread, you would've been the only one to understand.  I guess I overestimated your reasoning skills.  I caps locked it to show others (not you) that it is VERY important to know about this so-called selfishness.

Whether it was me or others, CAPS LOCK ON is not a good Netiquette. Anyway, we can move on with some constructive debating.

Quote:

Selfishness is not necessarily bad.  It has actually kept the human species alive.  I wouldn't be here otherwise.  Many find that some things, such as altruism, is an end.  It is only the means to the end.  The end is selfishness.

Life is not pointless.  The point of life is to live within it.  That's
it.  Survive and if you're so lucky- live.  I take it you've read
Richard Dawkins', "The Selfish Gene".  The point of living, from his
book, is to pass along genes best suitable for the survival of the gene
vehicle to surive within its existing environment and reproduce
accordingly (live- that's it).  Did you read it?

Sure. But do you really want to set your 'end goal' to be 'survival of the human species'. For that, we need take no action - it will happen, whoever left will continue to propagate their genes and natural selection will shape us. 

Dawkins questions and points out one important thing that I take it you've not read and hence your view of what he is trying to say.

He says something to the effect of "Each individual is just a mere carrier of the genes. They are pawns in the whole game and it is not a system designed for the good of the pawn but instead for the good of the ultimate engine that shapes each pawn - the genes." Some pawns become horses, some pawns become knights - their struggle and battle is the ultimate thing that will decide who lives. Now that I know the meaningless pursuit of this mindless process of Natural Selection, why should we succumb to its rules?". Just look at those species that struggle to survive in the Kalahari. Nature hardly ever 'builds' things with a design in mind and its not for the 'happiness' of the individual. But man can. However, thus far man has been satisfying the desires above needs... 

My point is more philosophical - Isn't it worth applying this knowledge that we've gathered thus far in making a society that lives in harmony - living with a sense of appreciation of nature... for the small speck of dust that we are in this universe... and that the instincts are mere tools for survival. There is an alternate tool called knowledge and humility that will let us live in harmony for several generations.

 But I'm just fantasizing here :) Reality is: those that are unwilling to live this way, will continue to multiply (maybe even more so) and essentially natural selection will weed us 'wise ones' out ;)

 

caroline_culbert's picture
caroline_culbert
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
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Posts: 624
Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Probably so; or maybe the increase/decrease of "wise and intelligent" people is determined according to the need at the time which would fall in line with theory of Natural Selection.

 

Walden3's picture
Walden3
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Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

My 2 pennies worths - it is often useful to separate out biology from psychology - they are distinct sciences after all.

I think we are all on the same page when we say that alturistic acts are ultimately motivated by individual self interest. That is, it is in our interests to cooperate and act alturistically as individuals and systems that cooperate do better in the long run than those that don't. Dawkins popularised this evolutionary understanding of human cooperative behaviour in 'The Selfish Gene' ('Nice guys finish first' chapter), but it was based on Robert Axelrod's wider work as written up in the excellent book 'The Evolution of Cooperation'. Now the really interesting bit is that cooperation (and the apparent alturism that is observed) isn't a given, but needs specific environmental conditions to occur. There are circumstances in which noncooperation (i.e., selfishness) is more functional and hence predominates. For me, therefore, the challenge is to ensure we build and maintain environments that foster cooperation rather and selfishness. Axelrod lays out the basic parameters and we could do a lot worse than start there.

Re the term 'selfish', Dawkins recognised that it was misleading as it imputes a psychology to a biological phenomenon. It was a great title for a book though.

The other theme I've picked up is that old chestnut of the 'meaning of life' and human knowledge. It reminds me of a quote from Nietzsche - see below,

Once upon a
time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed
into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which
clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and
mendacious minute of "world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a
minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and
congealed, and the clever beasts had to die.
 
Now some see Nietsche as frigtheningly nihilisitic, but I see him as one of the first humanists.  He held that if there is any meaning then it has to come from ourselves and not some greater, other power. That means we are all alone and that is a bit scary, but it is also liberating. So even if our genes don't have any meaning at a conscious or cosmic level, we as human beings do. Life has meaning (love, beauty, hope, kindness etc) for me even if I am meaningless in a teleogical sense (i.e., there is no great purpose for which I was born). Now I am quite happy with that. Rather than undermining me, it empowers me to make the most of my time.  What was Gandhi's quote? 'Be the change you want to see'.
 
Cheers
 
Freddy
sunson's picture
sunson
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
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Posts: 42
Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Walden, I'm completely in agreement with what you say here.

There is no purpose to life other than what we create of it.

 

pir8don's picture
pir8don
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Posts: 456
Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Hi Walden3

No disagreement from me either. 

Perhaps we can all hold (virtual) hands and sing kumbaya.

Cooperation is the opposite of competition though. Selfish doesn't look good but competition gets a rather different press. Competition has got us here and here isn't looking too good from some perspectives. Or perhaps its forced cooperation that has got us here. Is money forced cooperation? Isn't there a bit of a paradox in there?

Just for the sake of lively debate if anyone feels like it.

Don

____________________________________________

7 billion people can be wrong, very wrong

sunson's picture
sunson
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Posts: 42
Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective
pir8don wrote:

Cooperation is the opposite of competition though. Selfish doesn't look good but competition gets a rather different press. Competition has got us here and here isn't looking too good from some perspectives. Or perhaps its forced cooperation that has got us here. Is money forced cooperation? Isn't there a bit of a paradox in there?

Agreed. Money is indeed co-operation. Not sure if you can call it 'forced co-operation' because we'd have done it anyway - through exchange of grains, or cows or green pieces of paper. We're designed to co-operate - much like how wild hunting dogs co-operate for their meal. That is their only way to survival because they aren't physically strong like other beasts. Keep co-operating, let the eco-system maintain the equillibirium.

Why, why...  Why did humanity discover fossil fuels before it discovered electricity?!

 

Croatoan's picture
Croatoan
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Posts: 42
Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

On NMDA receptor antagonists and spiritual experiences: NMDA receptor antagonists are known to mimic schizophrenia, just like PCP, andother antagonist. They inhibit the action of glutamate. It makes  the mind and nerves quiet.

Glutamate is a NMDA receptor agonist. It makes the mind and nerves noisy.

Do you know how much glutamate is in the American diet? 

 

pir8don's picture
pir8don
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 456
Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Hi Croatoan

I only learnt of the NMDA receptor antagonists from an excellent article

http://www.spineuniverse.com/displayarticle.php/article1614.html

I have no medical background so had to read the article many times before I got a glimmer of real understanding. I would not of had the ketamine infusion if I had known of its effects beforehand. Interesting what you say about Glutamate and I guess there is a heap of it in the US diet. I assume it is likely to be in processed food but perhaps it could also enter from anywhere in the food chain.

Don

______________________________________

7 billion people can be wrong, very wrong

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