Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Next Great Adventure?

As I wander through blog posts on a Saturday Morning ...
So the question remains: Why are we afraid of, so concerned with death. The answer is connected to how the human mind emerged, from the perspective of natural selection.

Natural Selection is the 'law-of-evolution'.  That is if you can persist and pass along your gene sequences to coming generations then you (your gene sequences) are 'Selected In Favor'.  If you do not persist and thus do not pass along your gene sequences to coming generations then you (your gene sequences) are 'Selected Against'. Organisms evolve because they persist.

This seems very simplistic, and it is.  There is no grand design, other than the wonder we all feel when considering our surroundings whether immediate or cosmic.  That wonder is confined to the inside of our heads.  That wonder, by the extension of our ability to communicate with others, is also inside the heads of our fellow creatures.

It comes back to the mind, or consciousness the thing that seems to distinguish between motile and non motile organisms.  If an organism is motile at a level that is higher than chemical like a plant responding to nutrients in the soil or light from the sun or a virus or bacterium then there exist a sensory feedback mechanism that allows the motile organism to move around its environment.

This sensory feedback mechanism is what allows motile organisms to keep from falling off cliffs or banging into trees or even avoid being eaten prematurely by its predators.

The sensory feedback mechanism has evolved in organisms that do the most moving around to be the conscious mind.  This mind is at its very least a mechanism that takes in the sensory inputs of the organism and then does a short term prediction of the future in order to react to its environment.  The success of its ability to predict the future determines if it can persist.  If the mind makes a mistake then failure cause it to be 'Selected Against' since it does not persist.  This means that the avoidance of 'fatal-mistakes' is hard wired into the minds of motile organisms.

At least one motile organism, humans, have a mind that seems to be able to 'talk-to-itself' or 'think-about-itself' or 'model itself'.  And further, this ability has been 'Selected In Favor Of'.  This ability to contemplate itself combined with the emergence of very nuanced communication methods between humans resulted in the emergence of what humans call, intelligence.

Getting back to death:  The avoidance death which is necessarily hard wired into our minds combined with another very important attribute of the mind (the no-crash-attribute) explain why death is such a big deal for humans.

The no crash attribute of the mind of a motile organism is what keeps it from seizing up when confronted with two conflicting models of the future.  If an organism with a mind, in doing it's short term prediction of the future has a choice, "fight or flight" as an example must make the choice that has the highest probability of resulting in a 'false-negative'.

In other words if the organism senses a rustle in the grass and decides on flight and it turns out to be the wind then no problem, but if it decides to not flee and the rustle is not the wind and results in the organism being lunch for another then that is 'Selected Against'.

In either case the mind can not freeze up or sieze. It has to 'do-something'.  This feature of the mind is hard wired. This combined with the hard wired attribute to avoid death combines to make death one of the most complex, for a human mind, events that can be contemplated.

Such a concept, one with a built in paradox, still must be dealt with by the mind.  This hard wired ability to deal with paradox allows the human mind to come up with ideas that completely and totally fly in the face of the scientific method.  Such ideas, because they arise at such basic levels of the mind are clung to with a tenaciousness that defies reason.

The statement that an idea (or belief) defies reason is used as a pejorative.  If reason, or the scientific method itself is examined it is seen to be at least a deliberative process. A deliberative (slow) process violates the hard wired behavior of the mind that demands snap judgments based on bad data.

Another way to say this is that reason and the scientific method are luxuries that an organism can not enjoy unless it finds itself in a state of easy living.  Human civilization has provided just such an environment and allowed these mental processes to emerge.

These mental processes emerge because they work.  The one thing that organisms do at the expense of all others is engage in behaviors that, work!  Where, work, is synonymous with increase the ability to persist.

The emergence of such high level processes does not give an organism the ability to override, at will, the hard wired processes that evolved as basic artifacts of its mind.

For this reason the human mind: Invents religion, fears death, believes in Gods, and rejects out of hand scientific evidence for things it finds uncomfortable (or paradoxical), and generally clings to ideas and concepts that have nothing to do with reason and the scientific method.

That humans can do an analysis of their own minds is an accomplishment that is totally coupled with intelligence which is in turn totally coupled with the ability of one human to communicate with another.  This behavior is a very satisfying one whether or not it us used to contemplate itself or the universe as perceived by its senses.  This contemplation can be accomplished using the scientific method or any other belief system that emerges from the inner workings of the mind.