Archives for category: evolution

‘Self awareness’ is how we call our ability to observe ourselves while observing others.
Humberto Maturana

First and foremost, existence is a concept.
Something our forefathers had coined. A mental construct built by talking about it.

Nothing existed before we saw it AND talked about it!

Think about the stars nobody knew about until we used Hubble to peek into the history of the Universe.

Think about the stars which ‘sit’ there and no man will ever see. Or otherwise perceive.
Do they, the stars, actually exist?

In the sense that has their being been ‘measured’ into existence by a self aware observer?
Has that observation been communicated by the observer to anybody else? Who had confirmed that that observation was anything more than a mere illusion?

You see, both actually – my rantings on your monitor – and figuratively, I don’t need to be told about the existence of the steps I have to climb up and down when I leave my bed each morning. On the other hand, I know that the Amazon exists because I’ve been told about it. Further more, I see for my self the steps in my house but I have a name for them – and I can write about them – because our forefathers had learned to speak. About the world they were discovering around themselves.

My point? We speak things into existence, not into being.

‘How about the things we talk about before we’ve ‘seen’ them? Neptune, the planet, had been ‘calculated’ before ‘seen’ and all mass manufactured things are first discussed and only then launched into production.
Which was the exact moment when each of them had started to exist?’

Good question!
I’m afraid I have no valid answer. This is a matter which will remain open for further debate!
After all, how else to justify our existence?
How else to find our own meaning? Other than by talking about it?


All people, men and women alike, are born, nursed and initially educated by their mothers.
By their mothers, inexorably women!

Some of the feminists, mostly women, act as if they want to exact revenge over their former ‘masters’.
Over men. Whom they perceive as oppressors.
Most of the feminists, from both genders, believe that women should be equal to men. That they are not yet so and that this is the most important problem which has to be solved in order for mankind (?!?) to go forward.

Being raised under communist rule – where women had been put to work, hence granted a lot of ‘equal rights’ – by a very ‘progressive’ pair of women – mom and grandmother – I grew up having the impression that men and women considered themselves partners. That being how my father and mother treated each-other.

I used scare-marks around progressive because neither my mother nor my maternal grand-mother considered themselves as such. Only behaved in that manner. Which I grew up considering to be normal.

Illusions, like always, end up being shredded.
Very soon I learned that not all people had been born equal.

And that I had been dealt ‘the better hand’…
So I didn’t waste any more time/energy to consider the matter!
For 40 or so years…

This is not the good moment to delve into details.
Enough for me to say that my quest – to understand as many as possible of the consequences ‘inflicted’ by the limited nature of our consciousness – led me to feminism. To ‘feminism’ seen as a social phenomenon.

Already convinced – since early childhood, conviction beefed up by the relation built in concert with my wife, that men and women are equal partners in the adventure called life, I was confronted by a huge dilemma:

Why on Earth so many women raise their children – both future men and future women – in the conviction that men are entitled to be served and women are meant to indulge their wishes?!?

Is it an attitude imposed by the overbearing men?
Hence easy to unlearn?

Or is it an evolutionary thing?
Hence harder to leave behind…

I continue to be under the impression that my most important break-trough to-date is that each individual conscience is primordially concerned with its own survival. Not as much with its ‘physical’ survival as with the conservation of the good impression it has about itself. With maintaining its self-esteem!
For instance, this is the reason for so many of us having such a hard time when trying to ditch a bad habit! Because we have to admit first, before ourselves, that we’ve been wrong for so long! That we’ve been acting foolishly since adopting that habit.

Coming back to the main subject, who would like to be?
The proud mother of a highly successful man or the mother of a below average Joe?
Small wonder then that in the current cultural environment we continue to raise highly assertive men. And, sometimes, women.
On the other hand, if you’ve been a submissive woman all your life, how do you feel in the presence of assertive women? Uncomfortably? Even more so if the assertive woman happens to be your daughter?

So, could it be possible that we are stuck in the present situation because we’ve conditioned ourselves to over-value the glitzy part of what we call ‘success’?
And because we’ve not yet learned to forgive ourselves for past mistakes?

Ernst Mayr, an evolutionist, put it this way:
‘Evolution is no way about the survival of the fittest.
“Fittest” to what ?!? since evolution is about being able to cope with change…
In reality, evolution is about the demise of the unfit!’

Same here.

We can fight ourselves into the ground, chasing ‘success’.

Or we can thrive together.
As equal partners, complementing each = other.

“Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos.”
The true version of the Chinese ‘curse’
too many times translated in English as
“May you live in interesting times”

Not so long ago, a presidential candidate told his audience “People… my people are so smart!….And loyal! you know, I could shoot someone on the 5th Avenue and not loose votes!”

As things happened, he was right. His people did vote for him.
He, a guy who had previously bragged about ‘grabbing women by the pu$$y’.

Four years later, the People changed their mind. And voted to send him back to Mar-a-lago…
He told ‘his’ people the vote had been rigged.
The ‘smart ones’ believed Trump to the tune of eventually chasing Vice-president Pence all over the Capitol in an attempt to convince him to ditch the result of the vote. Against all evidence, as certified by all pertinent authorities.

Currently, there is an increasing number of people floating the idea that ‘democracy’ isn’t for everybody.
The notion isn’t exactly new – see the ‘debate’ pitting ‘republic’ against ‘democracy’ – but lately its promoters have become even more brazen. They posit that since people are not equally endowed – intellectually, mostly – they should be tested before being allowed to vote.
Nothing new under the sun? The whole thing is nothing more than a rehash of the notion put forward by Robert Heinlein in Starship Troopers?

Not exactly!
Heinlein proposed that full citizenship – including the right to vote – should be extended exclusively to those willing to put their life on the line. ‘If you want to decide the future, you need to commit yourself to defending the present. With your life, if necessary’.
Quite a difference from ‘I’m not OK with how you may vote so I’m going to look for ways to disenfranchise you, under various pretenses.’

The way I see this, we’re confronted by two things.
An increasing lack of trust amongst us. And an burgeoning amount of intellectual dishonesty.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As per the United States Constitution, Arms are supposed to be kept and borne with the main goal of protecting the free State. Which State was supposed to be governed by a government “of the people, by the people, for the people“.
Nowadays, under the pretext that ‘the government is more often the problem than the solution’, the defenders of the Second Amendment “as it was written” maintain that Arms are necessary so that the people may defend itself against an overbearing government.

Otherwise put, whenever I don’t like the outcome of an election, I need to be able to start a(n) (un)civil war. An attitude born out of a complete distrust in our fellow citizens’ ability to vote ‘right’.

And a simpler version.
I don’t trust all my fellow citizens’ ability to vote reasonably but I trust all my fellow citizens enough to let them walk around armed to their teeth. Unconditionally, in some states.

Coming back to Marcus Aurelius’ pronouncement, who is the one smart enough to determine whether those 10 000 actually have no idea about the subject at hand?
Not to mention the fact that Marcus Aurelius never actually said it…. Wrote it, more precisely.

And why do I choose to believe this guy Sadler instead of trusting the bloke who had created the meme? Because Sadler makes sense. And because Sadler had put his name forward – remember Heinlein? – instead of cloaking himself in the shadows of the internet.

I’m not sure what ‘timid’ meant in those times.

I would have used ‘coward’.

On the other hand, it would have been politically incorrect…

And ‘somewhat’ inefficient! Being blunt, often scares your audience.

And makes them impervious to what you need to share with them.

People act as if the world is as each of them sees it.

The briefest glance into our evolutionary past is enough to see that the more ‘sophisticated’ an animal is, the more it depends on its visual ability. On its ability to see things in a manner which is consistent with its ‘way of life’.
Herbivore mammals, for example, have a very wide vision field while the carnivores feeding on them have a narrower field but a binocular vision. Which makes perfect sense. The ‘defenseless’ herbivores need to see everything around them – so they might be able to flee, while the predators need binocular vision in order to hunt efficiently.

Our evolutionary ancestors, who lived in trees, needed binocular vision in order to travel in their 3D world. They also needed better hand-eye coordination for picking the fruit they were eating. Hence their, and ours, very tight connection between our eyes and our brains. And the big portion of our brain allocated to processing visual information.

At some point in our evolution – we were still animals at that point, we have learned to use sound in order to warn/grab the attention of our ‘correspondents’. Why? Because sound can go around obstacles while in order to notice visual cues the potential recipient needs to… you got it, I’m sure!

Fast forward to when our direct ancestors, already homo sapiens, have started to actually speak. To consciously use sound to convey meaning. Not only to warn but to transmit actual information. Information which could be acted upon. Acted upon as different from reacted to…

And now I wonder. How much time had passed between learning to speak and uttering the first lie?
Lie as in intentionally misrepresenting reality, as opposed to unintentionally failing to convey the entire reality…

Hard to even imagine an answer to that question.

But since I’ve already mentioned the subject, let me make two observations.
It’s a lot easier to lie using language than in any other way.
And it’s a lot easier to be fooled by what you see – and sometimes hear, than by information gathered through the rest of the senses. Unless, of course, that information was a ‘message’ sent/meant to/for us. A perfume versus a naturally occurring smell, for instance. Or an artificial sweetener/flavoring…

I’ll wrap this thing up pointing your attention to the fact that since learning to read we, individual human beings, have shared more information using the ‘visual channel’ than ever before.
Which has produced momentous consequences.

Verba volant, scripta manent!
A written culture is more resilient than a spoken one.
A written lie reaches more people, potentially, than a told one.

For two reasons.

A ‘verbal’ lie needs to be retold in order to survive. It has not only to impress strongly enough the target as to transform it into a relay but also to be reinterpreted convincingly enough by the former victim as to reignite the process.
Meanwhile, a written lie just lies in waiting. Waiting to be read… Not to mention what happened after we had invented the printing press…
The second reason is less obvious. I’ve already mentioned the fact that a spoken lie depends on the teller. On the ability of the ‘interpreter’ to convey it in a convincing enough manner. The problem being here that if the target has the slightest doubt, the lie flops. The liar has lost an opportunity. On the other hand, a written lie can be honed at will before hand. Under no pressure.

Now that I have finished the theoretical part of my post, let’s interpret the following message.

“Dishonesty and intellectual chaos…”

According to some of those with whom we share the planet, it’s OK for a human individual to choose their name but not their gender. Choosing your own name – as in changing the name you have been given at birth, is acceptable while changing/widening the gender you had been assigned to – by others, before you had any opportunity to contribute to the process – is considered to be dishonest and liable to cause intellectual chaos.

On the other hand, we – all of us – should be fully aware of the fact that those who – since always – have ‘found joy’ in ‘exposing’ themselves will use every opportunity available to them.

The way I see it, the situation is ‘chaotic’ enough.
No need for any of us, from any ‘camp’ and belonging to any ‘persuasion’, to further weaponize an already volatile situation.

Do you remember what happened when our not so distant ancestors had ‘determined’ that witches were meant be burned?

People act as if the world is as each of them sees it.

The world is as it is.
Only nobody knows how…
And, probably, never will.

What we act upon, and interfere with, is the world as we see it.
Here being the interesting part.

All other living things mostly react to the world.
Even our brain uses much – some say ‘most – of its processing power to react rather than act.
Our body is able to survive even when our frontal cortex – the portion of the brain where thinking takes place, has been knocked out of action. When we’re fast asleep, drunk, ‘high’, low, in a coma…
In fact, an organism doesn’t need to ‘see’, in order to react. To breathe, to eat, to perform bodily functions, to reproduce…

Things become more and more complicated, indeed, as we climb the evolutionary ladder.
Complicated for us… who attempt to understand what’s going… not for those living on each of the steps… Things are complicated only for those trying to ‘see’!

It’s easy, for us, to consider that a dung beetle which carries food for its future offspring is acting instinctively.
It’s a little bit more complicated when we observe a troop of chimpanzee and notice how deliberately the alpha male leads his ‘subjects’ and the complex social life of the community …

But the difference between how the chimpanzee and the humans interact with reality is wide enough for us, humans, to consider ourselves as having risen ‘above the fray’. As being special enough to deserve a special status!

And what is it which makes us so special?
Our ability to speak? To walk on two legs? To write?
None of the above!

It’s our ability to ‘see’ the difference between us and the rest of the world!

All other living organisms behave as if they belong to nature. To the reality surrounding them.
We humans, behave as if we own reality.

While the rest of the living things react to what’s happening to them – even when they plan ahead – we, humans, deliberately – and presumably in a conscious manner – transform the reality according to what we consider to be our needs.

According to what we ‘see’ as being our needs…

Not even on paper!

If you read carefully Marx’s communist manifesto, you’ll realize that it doesn’t. Work. Not even on paper!
According to Marx, communism will come to be when enough people formerly belonging to the middle class will have become poor. As a consequence of their wealth having been siphoned away from them.
Becoming poor will make those former middle class people open to communist ideas. And will convince them to follow the already ‘enlightened communists’ into revolution.
For a while – again, according to Marx, the society will be led by the successful revolutionaries. In a dictatorial manner, because not all people will have been risen to the communists’ level of understanding.
So. ‘Communism’ will be instated by some disgruntled people using dictatorial methods.
How auspicious is this?
Let me go even further.
Why were those people disgruntled in the first place?
Because capitalism!
Not so fast. The Adam Smith kind of capitalism worked just fine. Only after it had been warped by greed it had started to sputter. Specially after Milton Freedman had enshrined greed… This being the moment when I need to remind you that Adam Smith’s first book on this subject was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”…
Those people had become disgruntled after too many in that society had been convinced, at least for a while, that ‘greed was good’. And what was Marx’s proposed solution for that disgruntlement?
That all ‘means of production’ – meaning all property/wealth, be taken away from individual people. And entrusted to ‘the people’.
Since ‘the people’ were going to be led by the “communists”, in practice the communist revolution meant that all wealth was going to be confiscated from those who happened to own it and entrusted to a very small number of people. Who happened to own the secular power in that moment. As the main consequence of the communist revolution. Apud Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto…
Let me revisit now Milton Friedman’s words. ‘Greed is good’. According to this line of thinking, wealth becoming as concentrated as possible is a good thing. Since greed is already good, concentrated wealth is but a logical consequence…

Then Marx’s Communist Manifesto was nothing but an avant-la-lettre short-cut for an easier implementation of Milton Friedman’s greed hailing ideology!

See what I mean?

Karl Marx communism did not and cannot work.
Because it leads into a vicious circle.
It creates a monopolistic situation which cannot be avoided. Time and time again, history has proven that ‘this time is different’ is nothing but wishful thinking. Whenever too much decision power is concentrated in too few hands, the situation becomes untenable. The more concentrated the decision power, the sooner – and more dramatic, the eventual collapse.

How about a different kind of communism?
The only sustainable kind of anything – ‘social arrangements’ included, had been ‘natural’. Had appeared in an evolutionary manner.
In contrast, all revolutionary developments have produced counter-revolutions. In many instances even more destructive than the revolutions themselves.
What will come after democratic capitalism? I don’t know!
But it better be better than what we have now.

And come in quietly!


Holidays are very good opportunities to reconsider,
And to learn new things.

These days I learned that while having nothing makes you feel ‘uncomfortable’, having too much can be very limiting.

If you have just enough, you can go forward. Explore new venues. Learn new things.
Enjoy life!

If you have too much, you spend too much time and energy protecting what you already have. Trying to get more…
The venues open for you to explore are suddenly reduced to one! Only one… You become the guardian of your fortune!
Can you enjoy such a life?
Are you sure? Have you examined the alternatives? In earnest?

‘Are you implying that all wealthy people are unhappy?
Unable to enjoy their lives?!?’

On the contrary, my dear Watson!
I’m only saying that being wealthy is complicated.
“Just enough” is a matter of individual ability to cope.
That enjoying wealth needs a lot of skill.
And that being wealthy comes with a lot of responsibility!
Towards yourself in the first place!

And towards your kids, family and the rest of the gang…

The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments
than with thinking straight
Elizabeth Kolbert, Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

I love that. Just love it.
“The … human capacity to reason”!

Other thinkers hail reason as the thing which sets us apart from the rest of the animals…

The way I see it, reason is nothing but just another tool.

The thing which sets us apart from the rest of the animals being our ability to observe ourselves while interacting with the rest of the universe. Otherwise known as consciousness.

Basically, reasoning is nothing more than a ‘dialogue with myself’.
When I ‘consider a thing’ in my mind, consciously, I practically put my brain to work.
I order my memory to summon up all the data it has on the subject and I ask my frontal lobe to process that data and to reach a conclusion. In theory…
In the real world, my amygdala – the piece of the brain where emotions are processed – already has an opinion about everything which crosses my mind. The more familiar the thing, the stronger the opinion. The more often my mind – meaning I, had expressed itself regarding a subject, and the more recently, the stronger the opinion my amygdala already has about the matter.
If the matter is considered for the first time, and has no connection with anything else I had already ‘conclusioned’ about, only then my amygdala might keep its opinion for itself. The key word here being ‘might’…

Since this is nothing more than a blog post, I’m not going to prove my opinion. To discuss the importance of the fight-flight mechanism and to mention that this mechanism had done more – evolutionary wise, than reason for our survival. For us having the opportunity to develop this vaunted capacity for reason…

I’ll just end it abruptly.
Mentioning that our individual consciousnesses use reason as a tool. To arrange facts in such a manner as to confirm the already reached conclusionary opinions put forward by our amydalae. “To win arguments”, if you will, including when debating with ourselves.
Only when the facts – the harsh reality, contradict in a flagrant manner the already held convictions we might change our minds.
The more immediate the danger we put ourselves into by sticking to our convictions, the more likely we are to cave in to the facts.

To the facts as we perceive them… Which is yet another story!

Tough times create tough men. Tough men create easy times.
Easy times create weak men. Weak men create tough times.

American proverb
Wealth lasts only for three generations: one to make it, one to keep it, one to squander it
Chinese proverb
If you raise your children, you get to spoil your grandchildren.
If you spoil your children, you get to raise your grandchildren.

Popular word of mouth

There’s no denying that, on average, each generation fares better than its predecessor.

Then why some people end up worse than their parents?
Is it a social thing?
Is it in their upbringing?
Is it the consequence of bad personal choices?

The easy way out would be to consider that legislation, material status, the culture one was born into and even the upbringing offered by the parents are nothing but circumstances. And, ultimately, it’s the individual who makes the call. And bears the consequences…
But the above mentioned individual doesn’t rise from and into a complete void… so I need to go deeper!

An equally true but somewhat more useful observation would be that we’re dealing here with something more important than mere wealth.

‘There’s no such thing! Nothing is more important than Wealth!’

Yeah, right… Individual people keep squandering the personal wealth accumulated by their forefathers, the humankind keeps going forward and you tell me personal wealth is the most important thing here…

But you do make a good point. Your insistence, obsessive even, about wealth being the crux of everything is very relevant.
Since I agree with you that wealth is important, indeed, then maybe it’s the ‘insistence’ which is causing the problem…

First of all, allow me to make a simple distinction.

There is wealth – structured opportunity, I’ll discuss this notion in another post, and there is personal wealth. Opportunity which belongs to somebody.
When an individual squanders the wealth inherited from their parents – or even that which they had managed to put together themselves, the wealth itself – the accrued opportunity – doesn’t disappear from the face of the earth. It just passes from one hand to another. Most of it, anyway. For the simple reason that most of today’s wealth is expressed in money. Which is fungible.

‘OK. So individual people squandering their inherited wealth do not represent such a big problem. The total wealth already present ‘on the face of the Earth’ remains (more or less) the same, no matter who owns it. And since new wealth is created everyday, the humankind, on aggregate, goes forward.’

That’s how things used to be. That’s how things had evolved for the last ten millennia or so. Ever since our forefathers had invented agriculture. Agriculture and money… Land and money cannot be destroyed. Buildings and almost everything else which carries value can. Be destroyed. Land and money also, actually, but it’s a lot harder to do it.

But there’s a catch here.

For wealth to do its trick – to function as an opportunity, people have to have access to it.
That’s why, for example, people do not keep their money under the mattress. When deposited in a bank, money will end up being used. The bank will lend them to somebody who needs it and that somebody will put that money to work, In no matter what shape or form. Kept under a mattress, money becomes mostly useless. At least for the time being…
And this is where ‘insistence’ – our obsessive insistence – that money is the only worthwhile goal for any respectable person becomes counterproductive.

‘Are you a communist?!?’

On the contrary, my dear Watson!

In fact, Marx had been just as infatuated with money as Milton Friedman was going to be a century later. With more or less similar results…
Friedman taught us that greed is good. Profit uber alles. That getting money trumps everything else. That getting money is not only good for the individual itself but also commendable. That everybody should make it their goal to become rich!
Marx, on the other hand – please remember that the ‘other’ hand is nothing but similar to its twin – advocated for all wealth to be stripped from its rightful owners.
See what I mean? Both Marx and Friedman had been thinking only about ownership. Who owns that wealth!

On average, we deal with the same situation.
According to Friedman – pushing his advice to the very limit, there’s no problem if someone owns all the money in the world. If it so happened, so be it.
According to Marx, nobody should own anything.
On average, the wealth corresponding to each living human in both situations would be the same.

We already know the consequences of Marx’s teachings. When all the wealth present in one country is managed by a very small number of people, the whole situation goes south. Fast. Very fast!
We also know what happens when the market is cornered. Becomes suffocated by a monopoly. The whole situation goes south. That’s why we cherish the freedom of the market!

Doesn’t make much sense?
To insist that the market must be free and simultaneously maintain that ‘greed is good’?

Yep! My point exactly…

The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments than with thinking straight.
Illustration by Gérard DuBois
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds
New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.
By Elizabeth Kolbert February 19, 2017
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