Clinically, we understand death to mean the state that takes hold after our hearts stop beating. Blood circulation comes to a halt, we don’t breathe, our brains shut down—and that’s what divides the states we occupy from one moment (alive) to the next (dead). Philosophically, though, our definition of death hinges on something else: the point past which we’re no longer able to return. Those two were more or less the same until about 50 years ago, when we saw the advent of CPR. Today, someone’s heart can stop and they can be dead, and then they can come back.
Modern resuscitation was a game-changer for emergency care, but it also blew apart our understanding of what it means to be dead. Without many people returning from the dead to show us otherwise, it was natural to assume, from a scientific perspective, that our consciousness dies at the same time as our bodies. Over the last few years, though, scientists have seen repeated evidence that once you die, your brain cells take days, potentially longer, to reach the point past which they’ve degraded too far to ever be viable again. This does not mean you’re not dead; you are dead. Your brain cells, however, may not be.
“What’s fascinating is that there is a time, only after you and I die, that the cells inside our bodies start to gradually go toward their own process of death,” Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Newsweek. “I’m not saying the brain still works, or any part of you still works once you’ve died. But the cells don’t instantly switch from alive to dead. Actually, the cells are much more resilient to the heart stopping—to the person dying—than we used to understand.”
Evolutionary theory is universally accepted among the mainstream science community. And yet, when the evolutionary perspective is applied to human behaviour, the approach continues to meet with resistance, and in some cases outright disdain.
A team led by Benjamin Winegard thinks part of the reason is because of the misrepresentation of evolutionary psychology in textbooks, especially social science textbooks on the topics of sex and gender. Based on their analysis of eight types of error in 12 widely used books in this genre, the researchers conclude that the treatment of their subject is “shoddy”.
And because anthropology tuned into these other aspects of their lives, the idea of “primitive affluence” fell out of favour. Some branded it a romantic myth. Others raised questions about the accuracy of the some of the original data pointing out that hunter-gatherers suffered from occasional hardships, that the 15 hour work week didn’t apply equally to all hunter-gatherer groups and that the likes of Lee ignored time and effort domestic tasks like preparing food and fires.
But in focusing argument on these particular details they conveniently ignored the central cultural pillar of the argument which was that regardless of many hours the likes of the Ju/’hoansi worked they only worked to satisfy their immediate needs.
The early work on primitive affluence has recently been given new impetus by recent advances in genomics that have enabled us to map in increasingly greater detail the 200,000 year history of our species. These indicate that the northern Kalahari, rather than east Africa, may well have been cradle of modern Homo Sapiens. The data also suggests that this core group of Homo sapiens split into two around 150,000 years ago and while one branch restlessly expanded northwards gradually colonising the rest of the planet, the ancestors of the Bushmen remained where they were, so that by the time modern humans first set foot in South America eleven thousand years ago the Bushmen had remained in the Kalahari for 140 thousand years or more.
Taken in tandem with a series of new archaeological finds it also suggested that for at least 70,000 years- and possibly considerably more, the ancestors of modern Bushmen lived in the same places and in a very similar manner to those that were still hunting and gathering midway through the twentieth century. Perhaps most importantly, the data also reveals that if we measure the success of a civilization by its longevity, then the Bushmen were by far the most successful civilization in all of human history. Given that a society’s ability to reproduce over time depends on its ability to feed itself then the key to the Bushmen’s success lay in their economic approach.
The transition to agriculture is one of the most important points of human evolution. This process has been the subject of intense debate over the last hundred years, but recent results from early DNA have shown the predominant role of migration of populations from Anatolia to Europe. These migrations followed two main roads, one along the Mediterranean coast and the other towards Central Europe and Northern Europe. These dispersions have been accompanied by genetic mixtures with local hunter-gatherer populations to varying degrees. The Neolithic transition in Britain begins only a millennium after its arrival in the North-West of the European continent.
Selina Brace and her colleagues have just published a paper entitled:Population Replacement in Early Neolithic Britain . They sequenced the genome of six Mesolithic individuals and sixteen Neolithic individuals from Britain. These results were merged with the genome of 51 previously published British Neolithic individuals :
The proportion of Anatolian ancestry among British farmers is equivalent to that of the first farmers of the Iberian Peninsula or farmers of the Middle Neolithic of Central Europe. In the interior of Great Britain, farmers in Wales have the least hunter-gatherer ancestry, while the South-East English and Scots have the most. These proportions remain stable throughout the British Neolithic. In addition, the British Neolithic people share more genetic affinity with the farmers of the Iberian Peninsula than with those of Central Europe. There does not seem to have been (or very little) genetic mixing between farmers who arrived in Britain and British hunter-gatherers.
Cross-Modality Information Transfer: A Hypothesis about the Relationship among Prehistoric Cave Paintings, Symbolic Thinking, and the Emergence of Language
There are no such things as “wild” horses anymore.
Research published in Science today overturns a long-held assumption that Przewalski’s horses, native to the Eurasian steppes, are the last wild horse species on Earth. Instead, phylogenetic analysis shows Przewalski’s horses are feral, descended from the earliest-known instance of horse domestication by the Botai people of northern Kazakhstan some 5,500 years ago.
Further, the new paper finds that modern domesticated horses didn’t descend from the Botai horses, an assumption previously held by many scientists.
“This was a big surprise,” said co-author Sandra Olsen, curator-in-charge of the archaeology division of the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas, who led archaeological work at known Botai villages. “I was confident soon after we started excavating Botai sites in 1993 that we had found the earliest domesticated horses. We went about trying to prove it, but based on DNA results Botai horses didn’t give rise to today’s modern domesticated horses—they gave rise to the Przewalski’s horse.”
The findings signify there are no longer true “wild” horses left, only feral horses that descend from horses once domesticated by humans, including Przewalski’s horses and mustangs that descend from horses brought to North America by the Spanish.
“This means there are no living wild horses on Earth—that’s the sad part,” said Olsen. “There are a lot of equine biologists who have been studying Przewalskis, and this will be a big shock to them. They thought they were studying the last wild horses. It’s not a real loss of biodiversity—but in our minds, it is. We thought there was one last wild species, and we’re only just now aware that all wild horses went extinct.”
“To take something on faith means to believe it without good reason, so by definition a faith in the existence of supernatural entities clashes with reason.”
Well, it’s good to have that settled once and for all. There is no need to trouble yourself with the arguments of historians, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists, who treat religion as a highly complex phenomenon, serving a variety of human needs. All you need do is consult a dictionary, and you will find that religion is – by definition – irrational.
— Quillette Magazine (@QuilletteM) February 23, 2018
Jung’s point exactly… https://t.co/YLv7QQlbrf
— Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) February 25, 2018
A younger Jordan Peterson:
- Maps of Meaning 1 (Harvard Lectures)
It’s that time again, when I need to write something here to keep this blog alive.
It has become an increasingly difficult task, because my head, my whole being, is messed up because of the stroke, and also because of the handful of pills the doctors say I must take every day.
Nonetheless, I think it is important for me to persevere and to stay with it. Nobody compels me to do this. It’s entirely my own volition. But it’s become a central focal point of my existing, which is quite interesting, because, without it, how would I be ?
My little perch here on my sofa, in my living room, at the keyboard and screen, is, for me, the Centre of the Universe, a more-or-less fixed point around which to circulate.
It’s rather like driving a car on a long journey, except that, geographically speaking, I remain static. But the imagery and information on the screen moves and changes, and me, the viewer and pilot, I move and change too, from hour to hour, day to day.
But it’s a lot like meditation in a meditation hall. I break to eat, sleep, visit the bathroom, but mostly I have this precious luxury of continuity and stability, where as many aspects of existence as possible are stabilised and kept fairly tranquil and static.
This is in marked contrast to the lives that most people I’ve known live, where the constant is continual challenges, distractions and interruptions. You know, customers, children, colleagues, schedules, myriad urgent demands and constant changes, which prevent the establishment of a coherent stabilised inner state.
I think that a person has the right, indeed the obligation, to change their mind if they receive new evidence, information, facts, insights. I used to find myself agreeing with people on the Left, (such as Ian Welsh, George Monbiot, Vinay Gupta, Yves Smith, Kevin Carson, etc, etc ) whose thoughts I used to read regularly. But I believe that our socio-political circumstances, the landscape, has changed, much like the turning of the tide. I see those people’s positions as ridiculous, they are stranded on the dry beach yet still insist on pointlessly paddling, waving their oars in the air, flailing about like dying lobsters.
It is the hardest, thinnest, time of the year in this part of the world. The abundant growth of last summer has all shrivelled and died off, and the Spring has yet to arrive, but it is getting closer. There are a few birds practising their songs early in the morning and soon the daffodils will be blooming. Will I reach my three score plus ten ? Who knows ? I am rather weak and decrepit, personally I wouldn’t bet money on it. I’m actually quite surprised that I am still here. Very surprised 🙂
Still here ? Where is ‘here’ precisely ? Most people seem to be rather shallow and never give it much thought or serious attention. I mean, being alive in the world, or on a flat or round planet, etc.
But that is a sort of physical or partly physical location. We are much more than that. We are mentally, emotionally, spiritually located. A good illustration is, for example, if a man or woman whose been married for, say, twenty years or so, who discovers that all that time their partner had been cheating and having sex with someone else. Suddenly they realise that all their assumptions about the decades before have been wrong. They never really knew or understood the other person whom they had trusted.
Which means, that at that sort of psychological, emotional and intellectual level, ‘the past’ is not some definite fixed thing at all, it can be overthrown and disrupted, devastating a person’s sense of identity and place in the world.
Vinay Gupta, whose thinking I used to find entertaining at one time, once wrote that he based his life work on a vision that he’d once had, where the gods had asked him to try and avoid having the whole human species, (presumably the seven and a half billion and rising), all arriving in Eternity (or wherever) at the same time. That’s what would happen, supposedly, in the event that we all annihilate ourselves with our weapons of mass destruction.
But I do not buy that. For one thing, I’ve had many, many such visions, and they have been contradictory. The domain of visions does not follow the rules of ordinary rational discourse, as anybody experienced with psychedelics will know. I don’t mean to disparage the value or worth of visionary experiences, only to point out that they can be, indeed usually are, bewildering, inconsistent, contradictory, open to multiple interpretations.
For every one example, like when God speaks to Noah and tells him to build an Ark, where there seems to be some wise divine guidance, there’s zillions of cases of lunacy, like those folk in Syria who felt that Christ’s teaching required them to go around naked and live by eating grass.
I mean, we do have the modern Tower of Babel, everybody talking in different languages and mutually incomprehensible. There are almost countless voices out there, plugging their own particular theme, trying to exert influence and gain support. So which are you going to choose ? How are you going to select and decide ?
You can grab onto one, in the attempt to give your existence meaning, or you can reject them all, and try meaningless nihilism.
For life to be tolerable, you need something that makes you want to wake up and get out of bed. If you are so lost in defeat and despair that you don’t want to wake up and live, then try giving up and exploring the pain and agony that you are submerged in, and see if you can find the strength to begin to rebuild and make something of yourself. You can begin, as Jordan Peterson recommends, by cleaning and tidying your room. Because, essentially, your room is not some abstract space equivalent to all and any other spaces. It IS you. Like the clothes you choose to wear, an extension and expression of what YOU are.
But then, there are homeless people who don’t even have that as an option. It’s not hard to take wrong turns and end up in a mess. At the moment I am so weak and ill that I can hardly do anything much. I absolutely love my room, it’s full of stuff that I love, but it’s not very clean or tidy, mostly because I can hardly hobble about anymore. But I do have my wonderful perch on this sofa, gazing at this screen, which, in my personal estimation, is far superior to anything Elon Musk has come up with, or ever will come up with.
Perhaps I will recover and get stronger again. But even if so, there will still eventually be a limit and the inevitable ending. That above is ME now, my external photographic appearance, amidst all my splendour, perched at the Centre of the Universe 🙂
Despite my affection for quirky thinkers, like Jay Dyer, Brien Foerster, the New Earth Lady and others, I still subscribe more or less, to the mainstream view of history and prehistory, which, despite the many gaps and anomalies, disputation and constant updates, makes most sense to me personally.
You know, there’s a lot of people who cannot clearly recall what happened yesterday or last week, let alone have any joined up memory of their own life back to childhood, even to birth and before, as a few exceptional individuals do. So they have no real individual identity across time. It’s just a mush, a fuzzy blur.
Perhaps that’s the case with this person who seems inappropriately and callously amused by Jordan Peterson’s condition here.
Lmao this is hilarious: https://t.co/1jg5sUCr1B
— Sturgeon’s Law (@Sturgeons_Law) February 9, 2018
That occurred before Peterson’s rapid rise to fame and popularity, at the time when he was very seriously ill. It tells us something about the character, insight and values of his opponents on the Left. (I gather that the comment comes from a socialist, although I don’t know much about that person.)
As a sort of zen buddhist, but also merely as a fairly decent and honourable civilised man, I’m rather disgusted by that individual finding amusement in someone’s agony and distress. Still, this world is full of ignorant, insensitive, immoral, depraved barbarians, and that is not going to change just because I do not like it, is it.
I’ve probably loved some animals and birds I’ve been privileged to share my life with, at least as much, if not more, than humans, which is one reason why I loathe and despise the teaching of Mohammed. I’m somewhat disgusted by much of Islam, but I can sort of accept that if those people in those countries, like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, really want to live like that, then it’s their problem, not mine. But when Mohammed instructs that all dogs are ‘unclean’ and should be killed because ‘they are of the Devil’, that’s too much for me. I’d be willing to die to keep that appalling doctrine far faraway from where I live.