Posts Tagged ‘nature’

The Very Nature of Things

Neurologist Robert A. Burton has recognized through scientific discovery that brain stimulation/mapping of the temporal lobe has uncovered all kinds of new information about motor movement, emotions, and decision making.  Burton has determined that some of what we “think we know” comes from the “voices” within our own limbic system.

I’m sure you’ve spoken with people who truly believe the stories about space aliens abducting humans, and perhaps insist it has happened to them.  Even though they seem to be so certain in their beliefs, a little bit of knowledge about our real universe and some common sense tells you they are probably delusional.

“Despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process.  Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason.”

~ from the preface of:

“On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not”

 by Robert A. Burton, MD (Neurology)

We’ve all experienced opinions that, when placed in juxtaposition with a changing background, will take on textures and flavors not recognized earlier.  And for that reason, we need to continue to look.  The alternative is to accept some presupposition, and not even an original one, as if it were fact.  And that, of course, is not a wise thing to do. All of us know that, but people by-pass that logic every day, even when they know better.  Then, sometimes, they don’t know better, and listen for some explanation that satisfies them, and calms their anxieties about the unknown.

My father was born in a world that, for the most part, believed The Milky Way Galaxy was the entire Universe.  Science, through the process of moving ever closer to understanding, soon proved that conclusion to be wrong.  In fact, there are billions of galaxies, and The Milky Way is neither at the center of things, nor the biggest of them by any stretch of the imagination.

“Maggots from meat” was a misconception born of the erroneous theory of spontaneous generation, similar to the way it was thought that grapes became wine due to some magic trick performed by Bacchus or Dionysus.  The idea of spontaneous generation offered an explanation, but it was not scientific; it was not even presumed to be natural, and it was not true.  Prior to Leeuwenhoek’s discoveries of the world of microbiology, almost every theory or explanation about life was at best, born of ignorance.  And please don’t presume I mean stupid, for ignorance is something else entirely.

Disease and pain were presumed to be caused by demons and witches, and to this very day, some people still believe it.  Since they “feel” safe accepting what they’ve been taught, they investigate nothing on their own without prejudice, without knowledge, and without understanding.  Although that is a sad thing, it’s quite common.

The purpose of science is to move closer to understanding.  And that often challenges older explanations that were derived without understanding.  People believe all kinds of things, and they will kill you because of what they believe.  But for what people believe to be true to in fact be true, is not now, nor has it ever at any point in human history been required.

To argue in defense of what is accepted as true even though it isn’t, was the reason Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Spanish Inquisition for noticing Venus orbited the sun and not the earth.  As we all (hopefully) know now, the Inquisition was in error, but Galileo, even though he told the truth, was forced to deny it in public, or face execution.

To acknowledge discovery takes nothing away from lessons about ethical behavior.  It does, however, often challenge preconceived notions about the details of stories used to make the point.  We live in a most amazing universe, and the more we learn about it, the more we understand about nature.

Copernicus theorized the sun was the center of our planetary system back in the 15th century.  In the next century, Galileo proved the heliocentric idea was true, and went even further to note the sun itself rotated.  This was quite a leap from everything believed to be true before, and consequently, by insisting his findings to be factual got him into hot water with the College of Cardinals and the Pope.  While this information is considered common knowledge today, there are still those who find it to be heretical.  But don’t you think it would be silly to throw out the scientific findings, and declare it okay to just accept whatever belief a person chooses to have on the matter?  Of course you would.

If a thing appears phenomenal to me, and quite a few things do, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t natural.  It just means that I might not understand the nature of it.  But at no time does nature cease to be nature just because I misunderstand it.  All the evidence we have about “creation” exists in nature.  So, without any brilliant leap required, it would make sense that what we can discover and understand about “creation” would involve studying and and learning more about nature itself.

And for those who wish to connect with the mind of “God”, they might try looking at the nature of things “created”, and to understand what can be discovered about the process itself.  After all, that would have to be exactly the truest revelations, if there be any at all.  The alternative would be to be entirely dependent on explanations offered by people who knew very little about the nature of anything, but made up explanations about everything.

There are many wonderful lessons that can direct us towards ethical treatment of others found in books, many of them religious books.  To attempt to deny that would be silly.  There are also good lessons to be learned from parables and fables told for that purpose without the presupposition that the story itself depicts something that really happened.  For example, I can get several lessons on several intellectual levels from a story by Aesop, without even once believing there was a talking fox that liked grapes.

I can also learn from some of the lessons in the Old Testament (most of which was written down for the first time during the Babylonian Captivity) without presuming there is a way for a man to sell his daughter into slavery that would please the Deity.  Or, for that matter, slaughter innocent men, women, and children, enslave some of them, steal their land and property, authorize some sovereign or monarch to take for himself far more than he could possibly need while others around him suffer.  It’s rather interesting when you read old scriptures from most of our modern religions (and I have) that one of the saddest delusions man has ever conceived of is that oppression of other people is authorized and approved of by the Deity.

One conclusion, if there be one, is that Charles Darwin opened some windows that can help us understand the nature of things, and was brave enough to publish his findings.  So it seems to me, as we move closer to understanding, we should embrace discovery rather than to deny it just because it doesn’t fit well within the confines of preconceived notions that occurred in the minds of ancients who didn’t have the benefit of knowing.

Think if you will about all the all the ancient theories of how the sun provided seemingly perpetual light and heat without any understanding of nuclear physics.  Isn’t it possible that some of those old theories, regardless of how noble or moral the person who came up with them happened to be, were not quite…the truth?  Although most of us give lip-service to the idea of growth, development and learning, sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to let go of an idea that makes us comfortable, even in light of empirical evidence that points out the error of its logic.

I embrace science as an ongoing process, not stagnated or trapped wherever it lands on any given day.  There is a peacefulness to be found by wanting to move closer to understanding rather an run away from it.  And when we do that, the benefits that can be had from being open to new ideas, thus willing to cooperate, can lead us to marvelous solutions to problems, where the prospects of hope are almost boundless, hampered only by the limits of our imagination.

The complexity of it, I suppose, may well be lodged somewhere inside wanting to know the importance of understanding what our imagination is made of.  Neurologists, such as Dr. Burton, are beginning to show us how to do that.  Yet with all the accomplishments made thus far, what we don’t know is still bigger than what we do.  So if we consider it even in the simplest of linear terms, I don’t reckon we’ve reached the end point, no, not yet, not yet at all.


Where are the Independently Dominants?

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“A man who is not afraid is not aggressive, a man who has no sense of fear of any kind is really a free, a peaceful man…What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”   ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

“…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”                     ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt


(The following commentary has resulted from a series of exchanges, both through some LinkedIn groups, and personal email with Chris Aristides Pappas.   You can find him on the internet, and read some of his thoughts if you wish.  You can also see the footnotes at the bottom of this post that includes some of the things he’d told me.  

Our correspondence was prompted by a keen interest I began to have for his views about biological social archetypes–specifically Dominants, Dominators and Phobics.  For those of you who have read some of my other posts about motivation, know I have taken a considerable interest in the psychology behind what prompts decision making.  

With that, however, we cannot overlook some anthropological and biological facts and theories that lead up to the development of a social order in the first place.  I owe a great deal to Chris, who is a scientist with quite a broad spectrum of interests, including nanotechnology.  That he has chosen to share some thoughts with me is absolutely amazing.)


Hominids have been hard-wired for fear for millions of years.  From the early beginnings in Africa, it was not only the predation of other mammals that might eat them, but that some of this predation occurred in the darkness of night, leaving the hominids at some disadvantage.  There were many predators in Africa back then, and still are*.

Besides direct predation that included other primates such as chimpanzees and baboons, our early ancestors also had to deal with quite an array of venomous creatures that are ubiquitous in their environment: primarily spiders and snakes.

In North America, there are a few species of venomous snakes, and a small enough number for most people to be able to know what they are, and quickly recognize them as rattlesnakes, copperheads, coral snakes, and the cottonmouth water moccasin.  Early hominids faced a much larger threat**.

In nature, the independently dominant can take care of itself and its own; can adapt, can cooperate, and can stand in the face of much adversity.  It can take care of business, so to speak.  This is seen in all species, both plant and animal.  In nature, the phobics die off.  In nature, there are the independently dominants and the phobics, but the gene pool favors the dominants since the phobics cannot take care of business, and often cannot figure out how to cooperate or adapt.  The topic thus far is around natural conditions, and not the contrivances of processes such as systemic linkage, institutionalization, socialization and social control, or the domestication of other species.

As homo sapiens sapiens evolved, some clever phobics began to bully other phobics, often not recognized as bullying, and became dominators over them.  It’s important at this point to not confuse dominators with true predators, as predation is a part of the natural order of things.  Dominant predators tend to survive; phobic predators do not.  And in the natural world, dominators as are described here, don’t exist.  Among human beings, dominators that prey on their own kind are best described as cannibals***. 

Dominators do not survive very well on their own, and need to have slaves and armies do their work for them.  Dominators share a bit of the produce of the slaves back with the slaves in amounts sufficient to keep enough of them alive, and able to to the dominator’s work.  Dominators exist in hierarchies, and are often dominated over by other bullies.

This arrangement allows the phobics, who would otherwise die off, to over populate and create potentially unsustainable ecological situations.  It is also the structure that, backed by ideologies created by dominators, even allows for the possibility, as well as the probability of all out war.  Whichever dominator rises to the top at the end of the war is allowed to authorize the writing of the history of it, claiming themselves to be the good guys. Of course two motivations surface whenever you are dealing with what is behind revisionist history: the potential capability to shape and control ideological influence, as well as political influence.  These behaviors are always proprietary to dominators.  The phobics won’t know how, and the independently dominants will have no need of it.

It is worthy to note that dominators do not like independently dominants, because among other reasons, they don’t make good slaves.  When independently dominants, who are often respected by other independently dominants and some of the phobics, begin to gain a following, it is common for the dominators to gang up on them to either discredit them, or to destroy them–kill them if necessary, as history says was what happened to Socrates, The Christ, and many others.  And it is for that reason, though often well respected and trusted at local levels, they never rise to significant power in either state or national hierarchies.

In the meantime, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurky will always believe Foxy Loxy is showing the best short cut to take to safety.  And to follow Foxy openly makes them feel worthy, and to stand right behind him urging the others to follow as well makes them feel significant.  That they are significant, worthy or safe from anything they have been made fearful of, are all illusions.  And all their thinking on the matter, always passive and never self-reliant, becomes a system of belief disorders that always allow others (such as Foxy Loxy) to make up mind laws, and convince the phobics they are real.

The important thing to realize is that dominators do not want the phobics to be well educated.  They do not wish them moving closer to any understanding of things other than what they’ve been told to accept.  The dominators want compliance; demand compliance, and when their own authority to insist upon it is insufficient, they present their mind laws to be from a higher, even supernatural power.

Dominators prefer their illusions over those of the dominated.  And, they do not care to allow the teaching of what they wish to remain unlearned.  This is the root of hierarchies, and the prejudicial development of attitudes of moral superiority by station.  It is also the fundamental reason behind all oppressive behaviors of one person, or groups of persons, over other individuals and groups of people.

And while it is presumed by many to be revelations of the supernatural, fully understood only by designated dominators, no proof of it is ever required.  The phobics are kept fearful of what they themselves cannot explain, so it is easy for them to accept the explanations given to them by their “betters”.  Because of this, most folks never come to the realization that one of the saddest delusions man has ever conceived of is that oppression of other people is authorized and approved of by the Deity.

The reason it works is, a few of the phobics often don’t recognize they are being oppressed, but instead, see themselves as being kept safe.  Others know quite well they are being oppressed, but other fears, such as not knowing what to do about it, cause them to at least try to project the appearance of being compliant–especially when they suspect they’re being monitored.

 The character, “Huckleberry Finn”, was based on a real-life boyhood friend of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.  As I’m sure many of you recall, Huck was neither a phobic nor a dominator.  And because of that, his general resistance to conformity was presumed to be problematic by those that would have his submission.  He knew how to catch a fish, build a lean-to, build a raft, and generally find ways to fill his personal needs.  Yet he was not a bully dominating over other people in the story.  And he would regularly remove himself from the presence of those who would want power over his choice of actions and personal behaviors.

The real life boy grew up to be a man others could trust and depend upon, and became somewhat of a pillar of the community back home, but never rose in any power beyond that.   Over the years, some have had the pleasure of knowing a few, though probably only a very few, “Huckleberry Finn”s.

So, where are the independently dominants?  Perhaps not where you’d think they would be.  Though not in every case, they are often independent scientists, scholars, doctors, artisans, and those who have mastered various art forms, crafts and skills.  You might traditionally look for leadership in high places, but find them missing.  Many of those in high places hold office at the pleasure of other dominators.  Yet as they themselves are dominated, due to the corrupt nature of sponsored politics itself, they often take on the same role as would effect the public at large.

Folks often refer to the game of life.  But if it’s your life, you have to consider who’s allowed to keep score.


“Evidence offers that the other apes and primates had well established themselves in niches prior to the appearance of the earliest hominids. Upon inception, the earliest hominids were the odd man out. Chimp and baboon groups defend their territories against other groups of their own kind and other primates. Clearly, the smaller weaker hominids could neither challenge these nor tarry overlong in their territories. They certainly could not compete with these nor even with the monkeys in the trees. This allows that they may have had to pursue a nomadic existence. Our feet offer some consideration of this. I do not recall any discoveries of hominids sans these. Of course, what early evidence we have found has been very incomplete. A skull cap here, a knee joint there.

But Chimps and baboons offered an even greater risk; predation.  Certainly, the leopard was the greatest risk to Hominids as it was to all large primates. Even young gorillas were on the menu. The leopard has a wide appetite, but primates are easy. Of these, hominids were the easiest. Predators are not trophy hunters and the weakest are always a target.  Leopards are disproportionally strong. A good sized leopard can easily kill an eland. These are horse sized antelope. They have two long sabre-like horns with serrated edges. They weigh 1500 lbs, 682 kgs. A leopard can then haul it over 30 feet, 9.2 meters, up a tree so that lions can’t take their kill, or them.  Primates, even groups, are entirely at risk from leopard predation. Another serious risk is an ancient cousin of the modern cats, the hyena. Both are effective predators, day or night.

However, chimp and baboon harassment and predation of Hominids would have left hominids little respite. Vigilance could not be relaxed and anxiety would be relatively continuous. Most prey species enjoy periods of relaxation when the predators are sated. Hominids may have been under greater pressure. A chimp or baboon is a serious and even lethal threat to a fit modern man. Until the Heidelberg-Rhodesian man varieties, most earlier Hominids were much smaller.

Bonobos eat a variety of foods, including fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts, vegetation, and mushrooms. They eat various parts of plants, including the leaves, flowers, bark, stems, pith, and roots. They also eat small mammals, insect larvae, earthworms, honey, eggs, and soil.  Unlike chimpanzees who form hunting parties to capture monkeys, bonobos do not aggressively hunt mammals, but they have been observed to capture duikers (small antelope) and flying squirrels.  Chimps eat every part of a monkey, including the brain.  Chimps also kidnap and eat young baboons.  Baboons eat seeds, fruits, meats, birds, small mammals and even antelopes.

I am quite sure that early hominids, young and adult, were at serious risk of predation by chimps and baboons.  Interestingly, this may have fueled a fear of others that appear like us beyond that from normal territorial competition between groups of the same species.  This all allows that hominids were under multiple pressures that suppressed their numbers for almost four million years. It is notable that early hominid remains are rare. Even many extinct mammals have left far more evidence of their existence.” ~ Chris Aristides Pappas


** “Immediately following is a list of venomous snakes from Africa, where Hominids spent most of their existence. Some of these are also found in surrounding “out of Africa” areas. Recall that H. sap was only the latest of the Hominids to trek “out of Africa”.

Boomslang Dispholidus typus.  Distribution: Found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Bush viper Atheris squamiger.  Distribution: Most of Africa, Angola, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, and Zaire.

Egyptian cobra Naja haje.  Distribution: Africa, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

Gaboon viper Bitis gabonica.  Distribution: Most of Africa.

Green mamba Dendraspis angusticeps.  Distribution: Most of Africa.

Horned desert viper Cerastes cerastes.  Distribution: Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Iran, and Iraq.

Mole viper or burrowing viper Atracaspis microlepidota.  Distribution: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Cameroon, Niger, Congo, and Urundi.

Puff adder Bitis arietans.  Distribution: Most of Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

Rhinoceros viper or river jack Bitis nasicornis.  Distribution: Equatorial Africa.

Sand viper Cerastes vipera.  Distribution: Northern Sahara, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia, and central Africa.

Saw-scaled viper Echis carinatus.  Distribution: Asia, Syria, India, Africa, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Egypt, and Israel.

Following is a list of venomous snakes that were waiting for any Hominids that managed to trek “out of Africa” at any time.

Levant viper Vipera lebetina.  Distribution: Greece, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, lower portion of the former USSR, and Saudi Arabia.

Palestinian viper Vipera palaestinae.  Distribution: Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Common Adder or European Adder (Vipera berus).  Distribution: very common throughout much of Europe. It is also the only poisonous snake occurring in the United Kingdom.

The Aspic Viper, Asp Viper or Asp, European Asp, European Viper, Jura viper (Vipera aspis).  Distribution: Europe: northeastern Spain, Andorra, most of France- inckuding in the Ile de Re and Oleron islands -, Monaco, Italy, the islands of Elba, Montecristo and Sicily, San Marino, Switzerland; northwestern Slovenia and extreme southwestern Germany – southern Black Forest.

Long-nosed Adder or Nose-horned Viper (vipera ammodytes).  Distribution: Occurs in south-eastern Europe, from Hungary and Austria to Italy, Romania, former Yugoslavia, and northern Albania.

Pallas’ Viper (Akistrodon halys).  Distribution: throughout southeastern Europe

Ursini’s Viper, or Orsini’s Viper, or Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii).  Distribution: This snake can be found in south-eastern France, central Italy, west Balkans (former Yugoslavia), northern Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Germany.  

Lataste’s Viper or Snub-nosed Viper, Snub-nosed Adder (Vipera latastei).  Distribution: This viper occurs in the extreme southwestern Europe – France, Portugal and Spain- and northwestern Africa – the Mediterranean region of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Seoane’s Viper or Baskian Viper, Iberian Cross Adder, Portuguese Viper (Vipera seoanei).  Distribution: extreme southwestern France and the northern regions of Spain and Portugal (Basque country, mountains of Galicia and Cantabrici).

Ottoman viper, Turkish Viper, Rock Viper, Coastal Viper, Near East Viper, Mountain Viper (Vipera xanthina).  Distribution: a widely distributed species which occurs in northeastern Greece and European Turkey, as well as in some Aegean Sea islands (Simi, Kos, Kalimnos, Leros, Lipsos, Patmos, Samos, Chios and Lesbos). Its population is presumed to be quite large.

Nikolsky’s Adder or Forest-steppe Adder (Vipera nikolskii).  Distribution: endemic to central Ukraine.

Milos viper (Macrovipera schweizeri).  Distribution: Greek viper, limited to the islands of Milos, Kimolos, Polyaigos, and Sifnos.

McMahon’s viper Eristicophis macmahonii.  Distribution: West Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Common cobra Naja naja.  Distribution: All of Asia.

Green tree pit viper Trimeresurus gramineus.  Distribution: India, Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and Formosa.

King cobra Ophiophagus hannah.  Distribution: Thailand, southern China, Malaysia Peninsula, and Philippines.

Krait Bungarus caeruleus.  Distribution: India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Malayan pit viper Callaselasma rhodostoma.  Distribution: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, and China.

Russell’s viper Vipera russellii.  Distribution: Sri Lanka, south China, India, Malaysian Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and surrounding islands.

Wagler’s pit viper or temple viper Trimeresurus wagleri.  Distribution: Malaysian Peninsula and Archipelago, Indonesia, Borneo, the Philippines, and Ryuku Islands.

Habu pit viper Trimeresurus flavoviridis.  Distribution: Okinawa and neighboring islands and Kyushu

Hominid diet is also a factor here. Many primates eat eggs, regardless of type and including snake eggs.

Further, eating snakes cannot be precluded. Mistakes here would be fatal. Many snakes, including many of the above, are attracted to areas of human habitation. Clearly, these all are factors in risk and fear.” ~ Chris Aristides Pappas


*** “I do not consider dominators as true predators. Those individual creatures who “prey” upon their own are better characterized as Cannibals.” ~ Chris Aristides Pappas