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Being aware of oneself as a separate being who can take independent decisions is the crucial breakthrough in the evolution of consciousness, both in a single life as one matures and also in the history of humanity. I call this stage self-reflective consciousness, and agree with the general view that it is the one essential ability that makes us human. Robin Cooper , Evolving Mind, Homo erectus fossils go back to before 1. All these hunted systematically, learnt to use fire cooking makes meat and starch more digestible , and refined the manufacture of stone tools; and they may have developed rituals.

By years ago, they were building shelters. Gradually, with no clear dividing line, their anatomy changed until, by years ago or earlier, they were sufficiently like us to be labelled homo sapiens, our own species. According to the best supported theory; one line of Homo sapiens, the stocky, powerful neanderthals, became extinct; but another line gave rise to people virtually indistinguishable from the modern races of mankind. These modern human beings had appeared by 40 years ago. Since then, we have hardly changed at all in appearance and structure. Evolution seems to have transferred its impetus to the increasingly sophistication of our cultures and the abilities of our minds.

Increasing complexity is reflected in an increasing amount of information that needs to be passed down the generations to bring an animal and its way of life to maturity. Until cultural traditions became possible, much of this information was encoded in the genes.

G Simpson defines the evolution of consciousness as 'an increased awareness and perception of the environment and increased ability to react accordingly. It is reflected in an increased individualization as animals, through the mental processing of their unique experiences, became more and more distinguishable from their fellows.

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It is not in fact human-centered in the sense of being arbitrarily chosen to give humans pre-eminence, yet it unequivocally places mankind at the summit of evolutionary progress. Developing mind or consciousness would seem to be the ideal unifying principle to seek in all parts of an evolutionary framework for existence. Natural selection leads to increasing adaptation to a specific environment, it tends to promote specialization.


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In the mind, specialization is served by very specific inborn habits and instincts, which evolve by natural selection. But mind has an element which works in the opposite direction, particularly if individual learning and cultural traditions are possible: minds can be flexible. It can adapt an animal by coming up with behaviours that suit unexpected circumstance. Whether its source is insight or accident, a novel behaviour has to overcome the time-honoured, habitual, and automatic response to the same situation. A space is needed, a postponement of habitual responses so that an animal just may, occasionally, choose a new response..

Even human beings are dominated by impulsive, unthinking actions. The first step in higher evolution is to open up a space of awareness between stimulus and response, a space for creative choice. Being flexible in behaviour enabled an animal to choose, in a non-self-aware way, to change its ecological niche. Behaviour-led selection, mental in origin, was thus added to the blind groping of chance mutations in guiding genetic evolution. Behaviour-led selection shows the mind at work in genetic evolution. But as minds developed, a quite different kind of evolution became possible: cultural evolution.

As long as an animal sometimes consorts with individuals from other generations and can learn new behaviours, it is capable of starting traditions, of maintaining culture. Behaviours are adopted because they are successful in promoting survival and reproduction The difference is that cultural evolution does not depend upon the genes. Animals evolve radically new traditions of behaviour without any change at all in their genetic make-up.

All the genes do in influencing cultural evolution is to constrain the repertoire of behaviours possible to an animal, and to affect the flexibilty of its behaviour. This means that cultural evolution can proceed at a much faster rate than genetically-based evolution; a new culture can be taken up by a whole group of animals within one generation. The speed of cultural evolution increases the plausibility of behaviour-led selection.

Major new behaviours could spread rapidly through a population as a part of cultural evolution, taking the population into a new niche. There, the slow process of natural selection could start to work on building a new structure appropriate to the new niche. With cultural evolution potentially proceeding much faster than gene-based evolution by natural selection, cultural innovations can become the dominant force in the evolution of intelligent species, through behaviour-led selection.

Cultural animals can survive environmental upheavals because so much of their environment is of their own making- they live in partly 'cultural' surroundings. A baboon's social group is a culture-made environment and thus is made by mind, the director of behaviour. With culture, an animal gains increasing independence from its physical environment. Natural selection working through the genes becomes of less and less importance because what might be an ill-adapted creature without its learnt traditions of behaviour may be well adapted in its clothing of culture.

Culture, rooted in fluid mental factors rather than in the intransigent crystals of the genes, has been the secret of the overwhelming biological success of the greatest generalist of all- mankind. We are highly adaptable largely because we can evolve cultural forms to cope with almost any environment. Antonio Damasio, Prof of Neurology in the Uni. The human capacity to make choices, from which both art and science spring, is thus biologically given. And further it is evident, that the two main mechanisms that have operated in the course of human evolution and history are the related mechanisms of natural selection and choice, for it is natural selection which has produced the brain in the frontal lobes of which the capacity to make choices is located.

Derek Freeman Yet the freedom that our ability to make choices confers on us, is, as Dostoevsky realized, radically amoral in that it may endanger evil as readily as virtue- evil as in Claudius's prompting of Laertes to 'choose a sword unbated' and Laertes's choosing to annoint its point with the deadly contagion of an unction he had bought of a mountebank, or, on an altogether vaster and more horrific scale, the Holocaust. We are truly the changelings of possibility.

Thus, for instance, the limitations and restraints of civil government, and a legal constitution, may be defended, either from reason, which reflecting on the great fraility and corruption of human nature, teaches, that no man can safely be trusted with unlimited authority; or from experience and history, which informs us of the enormous abuses, that ambition, in every age and country, has been found to make of so imprudent a confidence. The only immediate utility of all sciences, is to teach us, how to control and regulate future events by their causes.

David Hume. It is still open for me, as well as you, to regulate my behavior, by my experience of past events. Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular.

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Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature, by showing men in all varieties of circumstances and situations, and furnishing us with materials from which we may form our observations and become acquainted with the regular springs of human action and behaviour.

These records or wars, intrigues, factions, and revolutions, are so many collections of experiments, by which the politician or moral philosopher fixes the principles of his science, in the same manner as the physician or natural philosopher becomes acquainted with the nature of plants, minerals, and other external objects, by the experiments which he forms concerning them. We learn thence the great force of custom and education, which mould the human mind from its infancy and form it into a fixed and established character. Is the behaviour and conduct of the one sex very unlike that of the other?

Is it thence we become acquainted with the different characters which nature has impressed upon the sexes, and which she preserves with constancy and regularity? Are the actions of the same person much diversified in the different periods of his life, from infancy to old age? This affords room for many general observations concerning the gradual change of our sentiments and inclinations, and the different maxims which prevail in the different ages of human creatures.

Even the characters, which are peculiar to each individual, have a uniformity in their influence; otherwise our acquaintance with the persons and our observation of their conduct could never teach us their dispositions, or serve to direct our behaviour with regard to them. Reduce a person to solitude, and he loses all enjoyment, except either of the sensual or speculative kind; and that because the movements of his heart are not forwarded by correspondent movements in his fellow-creatures. It is evident, that one considerable source of beauty in all animals is the advantage which they reap from the particular manner of life, to which they are by nature destined.

Whoever has passed an evening with serious melancholy people, and has observed how suddenly the conversation was animated, and what sprightliness diffused itself over the countenance, discourse, and behavior of every one, on the accession of a good-humoured, lively companion; such a one will easily allow that cheerfulness carries great merit with it, and naturally conciliates the good-will of mankind. No quality, indeed, more readily communicates itself to all around; because no one has a greater propensity to display itself, in jovial talk and pleasant entertainment.

The flame spreads through the whole circle; and the most sullen and morose are often caught by it. In all polite nations and ages, a relish for pleasure, if accompanied with temperance and decency, is esteemed a considerable merit, even in the greatest men; and becomes still more requisite in those of inferior rank and character.

The first thing our artist must do - and it's not easy - is to take human society and human habits and wipe them clean out, to give himself a clean canvas. For our philosophic artist differs from all others in being unwilling to start work on an individual or a city, or draw out laws, until he is given, or has made himself, a clean canvas. Plato , Republic. Apart from that, they both can and should perform the same functions though men on a whole, perform them better and should receive the same education to enable them to do so; for in this way society will get the best value from both.

Plato, Republic. And once we have given our community a good start, the process will be cumulative. By maintaining a sound system of education you produce citizens of good character, and citizens of sound character, with the advantage of a good education, produce in turn children better than themselves and better able to produce still better children in their turn, as can be seen with animals.

Plato , BC. When the Cretans, and later the Spartans, first began to take exercise naked, wasn't there plenty of material for the wit of the comedians of the day? Which shows how idle it is to think anything ridiculous except what is wrong. We shall thus prevent our guardians being brought up among representations of what is evil, and so day by day and little by little, by feeding as it were in an unhealthy pasture, insensibly doing themselves grave psychological damage. Our artists and craftsmen must be capable of perceiving the real nature of what is beautiful, and then our young men, living as it were in a good climate, will benefit because all the works of art they see and hear influence them for good, like the breezes from some healthy country with what is rational and right.

For rhythm and harmony penetrate deeply into the mind and have a most powerful effect on it, and if education is good, bring balance and fairness, if it is bad, the reverse. Although most of the human race has left the hunter-gatherer stage of evolution several thousand years ago, our emotions and our bodies are still equipped for that former life style. The contrast with life styles in an industrialized society has brought problems for the human race. What are these problems and is there a way out? Our bodies have many physical capabilities but few of us make use of them. We no longer chase game, climb trees, ford rivers or dig in the earth to find food.

Instead we choose to become couch potatoes and buy our food at the super-markets. Our bodies pay a price for this life of leisure.


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We grow fat, our arteries clog up, and our feet hurt. Our stone-age minds are still equipped to carry out the seven deadly sins: greed, avarice, sloth, etc. Society makes laws and rules to prevent us from following our natural inclination of self-preservation and survival of the fittest. Most of us learn to behave ourselves but we develop unhappiness, neurotic tendencies, hypochondria, paranoia, lack of confidence and other ills that fatten the purses of psychiatrists.

It would seem logical that organizations or educational programs should have been developed, somewhere in recent history, to help us adapt to modern life despite possession of a stone-age heritage. At first thought, this ought to be a role of schools or perhaps churches. But no! What school or church program defines this problem and sets out to solve it? Parents should teach their children new ways of behavior but how many parents are knowledgeable of the problem? In stead the goal of most schools is to equip students to compete intellectually with each other.

Churches skirt around the edges; They are often organized to provide an income for the priesthood, and engage in self-preservation of their organization. Parents tend to repeat rules of thumb for survival that they learned themselves without hardly any thought of changing society. One reason that education for cultural adaptation has not occurred is that a deep understanding of the problem is needed. This requires a deep knowledge of ancient history of the human race during its formative evolutionary years.

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Such knowledge is hard to find in the face of the destruction of knowledge by the forces of age and the weather. Only during the past few decades has the necessary science, anthropology and sociology, begun to unravel the story of mankind's emotional and cultural evolution. The prizewinning book, 'Guns, Germs, and Steel' by Jared Diamond illustrates our lack of knowledge of our early development. Let's assume that an organization to teach cultural adaptation is to be created. What would it be?

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It seems logical that such an organization must: 1 compare anthropological history with industrialized society, 2 identify the emotional and physical problems of people, 3 seek out the available educational tools, 4 point out the values of solving the problems ,and 5 disseminate this knowledge to the public. Physical objects are not in space, but these objects are spatially extended. In this way the concept 'empty space' loses its meaning.

The particle can only appear as a limited region in space in which the field strength or the energy density are particularly high. The free, unhampered exchange of ideas and scientific conclusions is necessary for the sound development of science, as it is in all spheres of cultural life. We must not conceal from ourselves that no improvement in the present depressing situation is possible without a severe struggle; for the handful of those who are really determined to do something is minute in comparison with the mass of the lukewarm and the misguided.

Humanity is going to need a substantially new way of thinking if it is to survive! We can now deduce the most simple science theory of reality - the wave structure of matter in space. By understanding how we and everything around us are interconnected in Space we can then deduce solutions to the fundamental problems of human knowledge in physics , philosophy , metaphysics , theology , education , health , evolution and ecology , politics and society.


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This is the profound new way of thinking that Einstein realised , that we exist as spatially extended structures of the universe - the discrete and separate body an illusion. This simply confirms the intuitions of the ancient philosophers and mystics. But that depends on you, the people who care about science and society, realise the importance of truth and reality. Just click on the Social Network links below, or copy a nice image or quote you like and share it.

We have a wonderful collection of knowledge from the greatest minds in human history, so people will appreciate your contributions. In doing this you will help a new generation of scientists see that there is a simple sensible explanation of physical reality - the source of truth and wisdom, the only cure for the madness of man! Geoff Haselhurst Updated September, A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. It's only very recently that we've had people who style themselves as meme creators, as designers of memes.

Think about coined words. You have a vocabulary 50, 60, 70, words. Very few of them were deliberately coined by anybody, yet they're all useful and they are all robust enough to survive until they go extinct, words go extinct all the time. And so it is with culture much more generally. It's composed of elements which have histories. They have lineages. They can combine in ways that genes normally don't but can. And the result is this tremendous creative stew of differential replication, creating ideas that people latch onto and benefit from without having to understand why they're good or how they're good and they never would have invented them themselves.

That is a brilliant piece of engineering and nobody invented it. Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett explains the term, coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene , and its effects on our lives and history. How did we, as a species, become what we are — or more relevantly who we are? Natural selection and genetic evolution have made our physical bodies, but we are so much more than a collection of cells.

We are also a conscious community, with language, music, cooking, art, poetry, dance, rituals, and humor. Dennett explains how these behaviors are the product of our cultural evolution. Memes are cultural replicators that spread like viruses, and only the most advantageous — or "the fittest" — of them survive. Controversial map names CEOs of companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations led to a record high of Big Think Edge For You. Big Think Edge For Business. Preview an Edge video. Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies Why a great education means engaging with controversy.

Videos Lateral thinking: How to workshop innovative ideas. Memes How Cultural Evolution Works. We are what we are because of genes; we are who we are because of memes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett muses on an idea put forward by Richard Dawkins in Cambridge scientists create a successful "vaccine" against fake news A large new study uses an online game to inoculate people against fake news.

University of Cambridge. Researchers from the University of Cambridge use an online game to inoculate people against fake news. The study sample included 15, players. The scientists hope to use such tactics to protect whole societies against disinformation. Keep reading Show less. Are these people killing the planet? Just companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs. The climate crisis may be too complex for these people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.

Big think's weekly newsletter. Get smarter faster from the comfort of your inbox. See our newsletter privacy policy here. SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat. Surprising Science. Losing sleep over rude colleagues? Build a 'psychological buffer. New research sheds light on a possible cause of autism: processed foods. Cambridge scientists create a successful "vaccine" against fake news. Bernie Sanders' student debt plan bails out the rich. Young cannabis users worse at spotting changes in facial emotions.

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