Games of Unknowledging – Part II

Robert Browning

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In Part I the various forms of ignorance raised five studied categories with applicable questions. For example, when does knowledge create ignorance? Ignorance for whom? Against whom? Selection and suppression are key factors influencing rise, stagnation, or fall among civilizations, organizations, or families. Recognizing how certain tactics impact you and those people goes a long way toward composing, testing, and restructuring the best available actions and reactions benefitting, as best as possible, the greater good. As A.B. Hill elaborates:

“All scientific work is incomplete — whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone actions that it appears to demand at a given time.

Who knows, asked Robert Browning… [truthfully], but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8:30 next day.”

These are the wonderful rewards of living and working within a free open-system of inquiry, probabilities, plausibilities, and collective consensus! There is typically more — more accuracy in knowledge, more progress, and more accountability. As a slight apology, I realize this Part II post reached over 5,100 words. On the contrary, its content is so critical, so vastly unknown today by the general American public that I just could not reduce its word-count anymore than I have. I hope you’ll understand why when finished reading.

As I mentioned in Part I, in this post I am stepping extensively into manufactured uncertainty and ignorance, as well as into some women’s social and political issues, their implied status now and treatment throughout history with regard to learned forms of ignorance. However, I will do my best to allow women like Dr. Nancy Tuana and other highly credible female experts to do the talking as much as possible. Experience has taught me in the arena of Feminism, as a bumbling male at times, this is a wise and healthier approach. 😀

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Manufacturing Uncertainty

In the world of athletic sporting events such as the Olympics, or the FIFA World Cup — both held only every four years — during the ensuing three years between, excitement and anticipation build to a fever pitch. In American sports in 2016 the three major pro leagues of football, baseball, and basketball raked in a mind-boggling $27.3-billion in revenues. Viewing the HowMuch.net infographic below it is easy to see just how much in dollars and socioeconomic values professional sports and their fans impact the entire globe.

sports-leagues-by-revenue-July2016

In those stadiums and arenas of competition, both in the front and back offices, locker rooms, television broadcasting and sponsorships, in sports pubs and bars, and family homes, with that much annual revenues and profits flowing, how well do you think it would go over (to everyone in sports concerned) if none of these leagues, franchises, owners, players, and administrative offices had any sort of referees, umpires, or league policies and procedures? Zero. Would it upset some fans? To remain successful and winning, how would players and owners react to no enforcement of any league or game rules? Would parity exist? For how long might it exist?

Whether on the field of competitive sports or in the daily market-place, unchecked, all the worst human faults and ugly behaviors would run wild. Dog-eat-dog and survival of the fittest as they say… or rather the smartest, quickest, and most cunning would soon dominate. Those born disadvantaged would have dreadful, bleak, survival odds. Like it or not, the world and each of us NEED referees and umpires of integrity to keep the playing field equal and fair not just for survival, but for the innate right of livelihood for all.

Consequences of Deregulation or No Regulation
The effects and impact of regulation, deregulation, or no regulation are never more central than in protecting the domains of public health and its environment where our health resides. This is more crucial for those who are disadvantaged and gullible, for unique reasons, and therefore are susceptible to acts of diversion and deceit. Following are five historical cases Dr. David Michaels, PhD, published concerning manufactured uncertainty and sustained ignorance.

Tobacco, Disease, and Doubt — in the early 1950’s as health researchers were discovering and publishing the negative effects of smoking, the tobacco industry launched major campaigns of counter-measures. “Doubt is our product” was one primary rallying cry directed to The Tobacco Institute, the industry’s voice or bullhorn defense against medical science as instructed via memorandum from Hill & Knowlton, Inc., one of the industry’s major public relations firms. With millions of dollars invested from large and small tobacco companies into these doubt campaigns, the success set the precedent for future successes against other scientific communities and their protection of public health and the environment, such as the effects of climate change.

VIOXX — and Merck. Before the FDA could approve Merck’s blockbuster pain-relief rofecoxib hit drugstore shelves, health professionals were finding and reporting in 1999, 2000, and 2004 the drug increased the risks of heart disease. With 88,000 – 139,000 heart attacks (30% – 40% fatal) attributed to rofecoxib, over four years later the drug was finally banned in November 2004. “On Friday, a Texas jury found Merck liable for the death of Robert C. Ernst, who died in May 2001 after taking Vioxx” reported the New York Times journalist. During the case it was found that Merck executives knew of the increased cardiac risks, but intentionally mislead physicians and the FDA in numerous documented company communications.

Beryllium — is a rare element in our universe produced by cosmic ray collisions. It increases the yield of nuclear explosions and thus has been highly valued in the U.S. production of weapons systems throughout the Cold War. As is corroborated by InvestorIntel.com, U.S. weapons manufacturers today dominate the beryllium market at more than 87% share of the world output. The revenues and profits are naturally a guiding economic force and investor’s criteria. The downside to beryllium manufacturing is exposure and lung disease, known as Chronic Beryllium Disease. Once again because of precedents set, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the DOE (Department of Energy) were constantly misinformed by the Department of Defense and funding-PR work by Brush-Wellman (now Materion Corp) the leading U.S. producer of beryllium products, that CBD-exposure was below hazard-standards and sporadic. Floor supervisors at Brush-Wellman were told by executives that when asked about CBD-exposure answer news reporters with more questions and uncertainty. This tactic leads us to another well-funded doubt campaign: PPA.

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) — this particular case with PPA manufacturers and the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is a glaring use of well-funded misdirection and selling doubt. In the early 1970’s young females began suffering from hemorrhagic strokes when taking PPA. When these strokes were reported to the Mayo Clinic, only 20-years later did the FDA begin looking into the safety of the drug. Why 20-years? The manufacturers of PPA — organized together as the NDMA — were denying it was their drug causing the hemorrhagic strokes. They had hired and funded Yale University School of Medicine to study the effects of PPA. They also constructed the study to be approved by the FDA. In October 1999 when the results were finalized, the Yale study confirmed the link between PPA and hemorrhagic strokes. Did the NDMA remove the drug from pharmacy shelves? No. Instead they hired the Weinberg Group to attack the Yale study and science. The annual sales of PPA were well over $500-million despite over 200-500 men and women suffering strokes between ages 18 and 49 using the drug. These tactics stalled the removal of PPA from the market long enough (in 2000) to redesign them for a ready-made replacement that kept the flow of profits going — at the expense of crippled or deceased consumers. On their company website the Weinberg Group gloated* about their success for the NDMA.

The Funding Effect that $500-million in sales for an industry can elicit against protective science is a modern corporate tactic never to be ignored or taken lightly.

Funding Effect & BPA — When there is a close correlation between the desired results of a study by a study’s funders and the reported results of that study, it is called the funding effect. Dr. Richard Smith, M.D., a member of CBE and former editor of the British Medical Journal explains:

“Why are pharmaceutical companies getting the results they want? … The companies seem to get the results they want not by fiddling the results, which would be far too crude and possibly detectable by peer review, but rather by asking the “right” questions — and there are many ways to do this [see list below] … There are many ways to hugely increase the chance of producing favourable results, and there are many hired guns who will think up new ways and stay one jump ahead of peer reviewers.”
— Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies, by Dr. Richard Smith, May 2005

With regard to BPA, an environmental estrogen used in polycarbonate plastic found in canned foods and dental sealants, exposure to low doses of the poly-plastic was found to alter human endocrine functions. At the time there were many conflicting reports. In response to the negative reports, the American Plastics Council employed the services of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis to dispute the reports and found that the effects of BPA exposure were inconclusive. A separate group of scientists felt the HCRA study was too small given the number of studies already done. When reexamining the some 115 separate assessments of BPA exposure conducted in addition to the much smaller samples by the HCRA, the conclusions were drastically different! What was found to be more disturbing was…

“90% (94 of 104) of the studies paid for with government funds reported an effect associated with BPA exposure; not a single one of the 11 corporate funded studies found an effect.”
— Protecting Public Health in the Age of Contested Science and Product Defense, David Michaels, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, pp. 156-157

A New Regulatory Paradigm
The debates, controversies surrounding corporate funding-effects versus independent science, the millions-to-billions of dollars involved, and the risks posed to public health and our environment has created another industry niche that could be termed as Product Manufacturing Defense. In recent years these law and consulting firms have popped up to oppose independent science panels they label as “Private Surgeon Generals.” Here is one such lucrative strategy the firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP in New York, NY advertises and utilizes:

“Private Surgeons General seek to force manufacturers and retailers of food, consumer and household products to post Surgeon General-like warnings, change package labels and advertising and refund hundreds of millions of dollars to unharmed and otherwise perfectly happy consumers who purchased perfectly healthful and untainted products. Why? Because a substance shown in the ingredient list is claimed to be dangerous or a statement in the product advertising or label is claimed to be misleading.”

In the fight to return and maintain the scientific integrity in federal policymaking, the Union of Concerned Scientists published their January 2017 report detailing why more transparency is needed due to past conduct between manufacturers, agencies, science, and their possible bias. No records of gross misconduct are greater, writes the UCS, than what took place during George W. Bush’s administration:

“Bush administration officials manipulated, misrepresented, and suppressed inconvenient data and censored experts. They systematically chose science advisors based on ideology rather than scientific credentials, they prevented federal scientists from sharing their research and expertise, and they rewrote scientific reports to help justify predetermined policy decisions.

The evidence is clear: when policymakers undermine science, the public is left with laws and regulations that leave them exposed to unnecessary danger.”

It is very apparent that some/many industry-related research is not published, or distorted, or delayed until financially-covering alternatives are in place at the expense of health and/or environmental risks and consequences, some irreversible. Government laws and regulations — our referees and umpires of the highest integrity — must be in place for pure independent research and results to be readily accessible. More importantly, to offer the public and our environment parity-protection from well-funded Congressional lobbyists and biased product defense firms, our federal agencies such as OSHA and the EPA must have the best impartial, scientific information available! A two-way street of the funding for the science and possible conflicts of interest encourages transparency and integrity for these agencies to make informed regulatory policy-decisions.

*  If their website no longer has the page up, their exact verbage can be read here: “Adverse event linked to OTC product” pp. 155-156.

Women’s Issues and Rights

In many ways Western civilization has only just departed the Dark Ages concerning women’s necessary place in all of society. The lethargy belongs squarely on two agents: Men and ignorance. For over a millenia, going back to ancient Greece, any mental or emotional “peculiarities” of a woman’s behavior would be diagnosed as hysteria by doctors; and all doctors were male. It was believed the hysteria was caused by a disorderly wandering uterus. This irregular behavior, as the story goes, led to the invention of the vaginal vibrators as treatment! Until the 21st century some of Emily Dickinson’s passionate works were little known, suppressed by men in positions of power:

Female-PMS_Steve-Hanks

Steve Hanks watercolor

“Wild nights — Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!”

Her publisher was horrified and distraught over whether to publish those first four lines due to “social norms” of 1860’s patriarchal puritan America.

By the 1800’s male doctors noticed the time-correlation between “hysteria” and PMS. By the 1900’s male doctors and medical societies were linking menstrual insanity with tuberculosis and sexual molestation. Fortunately, modern medical science has greatly dispelled the myths concerning women’s bodies, but there is a long bumpy road still ahead with respect to eliminating all the ignorance.

Dr. Nancy Tuana reasons that what a group or person knows cannot fully be appreciated unless the unknowns are equally appreciated and who the knowledge or ignorance benefits or handicaps. It is an area that Dr. Tuana says:

“Female sexuality is a particularly fertile area for tracking the intersections of power/knowledge-ignorance. Scientific and commonsense knowledge of female orgasm has a history that provides a rich lens for understanding the importance of explicitly including epistemologies of ignorance alongside our theories of knowledge.”

Dr. Tuana closely examines seven subjects concerning women’s bodies and pleasures for a contemporary understanding:  Epistemologies of Orgasms, Unveiling the Clitoris, Fingering Truth, The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and finally Bodies and Pleasures. As mentioned before, I will let Dr. Tuana do most of the speaking and attempt to single out her key points within the first three areas.

Epistemologies of Orgasms
The 19th century constructed and taught that sex, and women’s bodies and pleasures were a “problem of truth.” Dr. Tuana goes on…

“Can my investigations of the power dimensions of ignorance concerning women’s orgasms not fall prey to a constructed desire for the “truth of sex”?

…The bodies of my attention are those of women; the pleasures those of orgasm. But bodies and pleasures are not outside the history and deployment of sex-desire. Bodies and pleasures will not remove me, the epistemic subject, from the practice of desiring truth. Bodies and pleasures, as [Michel] Foucault well knew, have histories. Indeed the bodies that I trace are material-semiotic interactions of organisms/environments/cultures. Bodies and their pleasures are not natural givens, not even deep down. Nor do I believe in a true female sexuality hidden deep beneath the layers of oppressive socialization. But women’s bodies and pleasures provide a fertile lens for understanding the workings of power/knowledge-ignorance in which we can trace who desires what knowledge; that is, we can glimpse the construction of desire (or lack thereof) for knowledge of women’s sexuality. I also believe that women’s bodies and pleasures can, at this historical moment, be a wellspring for resisting sexual normalization.”

Hence, Dr. Tuana begins with the clitoris.

Unveiling the Clitoris
Remarkably most adults in America, including university campuses, know more about the penis than they do about women’s genitalia and pleasures. In her many years of teaching at Penn State University, when Dr. Tuana has asked her students to sketch a drawing (from memory) of a woman’s internal and external sexual organs they are vague and typically exclude the clitoris.

“This pattern of knowledge-ignorance mirrors a similar pattern in scientific representations of female and male genitalia. Although the role of the clitoris in female sexual satisfaction is scientifically acknowledged, and well-known by most of us, the anatomy and physiology of the clitoris, particularly its beginnings and ends, is still a contested terrain. A brief history of representations of the clitoris provides an interesting initial entry into the epistemology of ignorance.

As I and many other theorists have argued, until the nineteenth century, men’s bodies were believed to be the true form of human biology and the standard against which female structures — bones, brains, and genitalia alike — were to be compared. The clitoris fared no differently. Medical science held the male genitals to be the true form, of which women’s genitals were a colder, interior version.

Even after the “two-sex” model became dominant in the nineteenth century, with its view of the female not as an underdeveloped male but as a second gender with distinctive gender differences, the clitoris got short shrift. It was often rendered a simple nub, which though carefully labeled, was seldom fleshed out or made a focus of attention.”

Not until the 1980’s did women’s health take another grand step forward in medical science. “…the clitoris expanded in size and configuration to include three structures:  the shaft, the glans, and the crura.” Yet, this new expansion still fell short.

“But none of these [medical] texts focuses attention on coming to understand the sexual response patterns of these and other bits. Feminist imagery diverges significantly from nonfeminist in providing us far more detailed views of the impact of sexual stimulation on the glans and crura of the clitoris, as well as the labia majora and the bulbs of the vestibule, the latter of which possess a very extensive blood vessel system that becomes very engorged during arousal, doubling, even tripling in size, we are told, during sexual arousal… The always-found illustrations of male erections… are now accompanied by an illustration of female erections, …something absent in nonfeminist texts. Feminist texts also lovingly detail the other bits that are part of our seat of delight. Reminding us that the clitoris, impressive though it be, is not our only sensitive bit, feminists also provide us with images of the urethral sponge that lies between the front wall of the vagina and the urethra, which expands with blood during sexual arousal… It was this structure that was allegedly “discovered” with Columbus-like gusto (Christopher, this time, not Renaldus) by Ernst Graffenburg and popularized as the “G-spot.” Although a few nonfeminist anatomical illustrations, post-Graffenburg, provide us glimpses of this pleasurable sponge, apparently neither they nor Graffenburg have gotten the hang of the feminist speculum, for they continue to overlook feminist presentations of the other sponge, the perineal sponge located between the vagina and the rectum, which also engorged when a woman is sexually aroused… Pressure on any of these engorged structures can result in pleasure and orgasm.”

Thus, clearly the clitoris and her compliments are far more than a simple nub.

Fingering Truth
How has the clitoris historically and socially remained as a mere nub? Dr. Tuana explains:

“Despite fifteen years of clear illustrations of this [modern] view of clitoral structures, our impact has been surprisingly minimal, at least so far. A review of anatomical illustrations in standard college human sexuality textbooks reveals a surprising lack of attention to the functions and structures of the clitoris. No surprise, then, that my students have, at best, a passing knowledge of the depths and complexity of its structures.

There is a politics of ignorance at work here, one that is linked to the politics of sex and reproduction… There has been little dispute from the Greeks to the present of the importance of male pleasure and ejaculation for conception. In contrast, the question of female seed and the link between it and female pleasure was always a point of controversy… Women’s sexual pleasure came to be seen as inessential to reproduction, although many scholars admitted that it might be useful in promoting the desire for intercourse.

Female2_Steve-Hanks

by Steve Hanks

Now to this view of the functions (or lack thereof) of female erotic pleasure add the politics of sex, namely the view that the only or at least the main function of sex is reproduction. To this view add the politics of female sexuality, namely the tenet common in scientific and popular accounts well into the nineteenth century that women were more lustful than men and that their sexuality was a danger to men, and a path is cleared to an understanding of why clitoral structures get lost in the process. The logic becomes quite clear:  (a) There is not good reason to pay attention to the clitoris, given that it allegedly plays no role in reproduction and that sex is to be studied (only) in order to understand reproduction. (b) Worse, there is good reason to not pay attention to the clitoris lest we stir up a hornet’s nest of stinging desire. From Pandora on, and well into the nineteenth century, women’s stinging desire and limb-gnawing passion had been branded the cause of the fall of mankind. What better reason to construct and maintain an epistemology of ignorance? What better way to disqualify and perhaps even control women’s sexual satisfaction? 

Leaving Sigmund Freud aside for the moment, genitals came under scrutiny during the end of the nineteenth century as science constructed the category of the “invert,” namely, those who mixed with members of their own sex. Evolutionary theory linked the newly “uncovered” sexual identity of the homosexual to degeneracy, and widespread societal fears of the degeneration of the race (that is, the white race) led to broadened support for eugenics movements… Belief in the degeneration of the race led many to believe that so-called inverts were proliferating. Anxiety led to a desire to be able to track such undesirables and an equally strong desire to believe their perversity and devolution would be clearly marked on their bodies… Although through images to be kept only for the eyes of professionals, whose objectivity and dispassionate nature would protect them from corruption, science began to turn its gaze on the structures of the clitoris to seek out and control deviancy.”

From 1935 — 1941 sexual deviancy outside the accepted binary norms was conducted to ‘learn the physical marks‘ of such behavior in order to stop contamination of the white race by other races (see p. 211 here).

“The point here is that this epistemology is not about truth. …What is missing or only sketchily attended to in nonfeminist anatomies, at least when the focus is on the “normal” rather than the “deviant,” is the desire to map the geographies and functions of the clitoris and our other pleasurable bits.

…What I am arguing is that the history of our knowledge-ignorances of the clitoris — indeed, our lived experiences of its beginnings and ends — is part of an embodied discourse and history of bodies and pleasures.”

For the sake of length and my time-constraints, and probably yours too, I am leaving out the next four sections — The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and Bodies and Pleasures — all four of which are well worth the read! If you are interested, here’s the complete version: Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance.

Abortifacients and the Making of More Ignorance

It is as easy as sipping a cup of Pride of Barbados herbal tea and washing herself with the same herb/flower in a morning bath. Doing this shortly after intercourse, according to secret ancient medicine in the Caribbean islands, prevents conception safely and comfortably. In fact, a woman could do this repeatedly two or three days after intercourse accomplishing more assured results. Why has this profound medical knowledge NOT been circulated around the world, especially in European civilizations? That is literally the million-dollar question.

Age of Discovery? 1500 — 1899 
Advances in European maritime navigation and ship-building saw an unprecedented extent of exploration far beyond the continent’s seas between the 1500’s and 1900’s. Empires such as Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain were economic competitors and often bitter enemies when the riches of the New Worlds were discovered and calculated. The magnitude of historical influence on the world by just these four maritime empires cannot be overstated — three of the world’s most widely spoken languages today are Spanish, English, and Portuguese. During the Age of Discovery and Exploration humanity witnessed and experienced at the time what might be described as the biggest economic boom in recorded history, for European nobility particularly, followed by a new age of scientific breakthroughs. But not all breakthroughs found in the New Worlds made it back to European headlines. Why?

Women in the Age of Discovery and After

Pride of Barbados flower

Pride of Barbados

Dr. Londa Schiebinger pinpoints a few different reasons:

“…in the eighteenth century, both European science and societies were structured to cultivate certain types of knowledge over others. Funding priorities, global strategies, national policies, structures of scientific institutions, trade patterns, configuration of technologies all pushed investigation toward certain parts of nature and away from others.”

Centuries of European gender politics and mercantile profits were the undercurrents of this knowledge-ignorance. Following were two basic distortions in 18th century botany. Taxonomists like John Ray asked:  What is the uniformity of plants and flora across various continents? It was postulated that Caribbean flowers and plants were brought to the islands by the Tainos of South America and afterwards by the Dutch, Spanish, and English. What botanists failed to observe was crates and sacks of produce awaiting transport in harbors inadvertently collected soil and seeds of other weedy species. Thus, trade routes/winds, their imports/exports, and human mixing/influence caused taxonomists to wrongly conclude that “uniformity” in tropical flora was global rather than diverse according to regions and climates.

Two centuries later famed English botanist, William T. Stearn, along with earlier recorded scientific excursions from several other renown 18th century European botanists corrected this faulty science. Where 17th century science was in favor of profitable trade and commerce, Stearn also noticed European taxonomists then were not as interested or invested in the notion of boring, all the same, un-lucrative uniformity. Highly novel filled the pockets of East and West Indies shipping and commerce.

The second distortion in 18th century botany which fueled cultural ignorance was technology and transcontinental movements. Not until the early 1800’s did European botany more accurately know and understand taxonomies of the New World’s resources as opposed to their own. Voyagers crossing the oceans preferred succulents and bulbs over heavy stones and minerals simply because they’d survive the journey back to Europe; they weighed much less and cost less to transport. These trade conditions didn’t change until ships became larger and faster. However, New World abortifacients like the Pride of Barbados or the peacock flower, was not embraced in Europe even though the knowledge of its use had been known for centuries in indeginous cultures and in select scientific disciplines.

woman-in-bath

Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century German-born Naturalist and botany-entymologist illustrator, documented that both Amerindians and African slave-women used the abortifacient flower almost exclusively because they did not want their child born into the slave-trade for life. There are several possibilities of the origin of the Pride of Barbados (peacock flower) and its use, but Dr. Schiebinger feels the more likely origin-knowledge is South America:

“The historical record of the peacock flower used as an abortive from Surinam up through the French Antilles to Jamaica suggests that the plant was known to the forebears of the Tainos, the Saladoid peoples, and followed their migration out of South America into the [Caribbean] islands. …While it is possible that displaced Africans taught the Tainos the use of the peacock flower, I find it more likely that the Tainos and Arawaks taught its uses to the newly arrived Africans.”

Despite the fact that so much Amerindian, African, and Caribbean resources and knowledge entered Europe during the Age of Discovery, their knowledge of abortifacients like the peacock flower did not. Again, why? What induced this European ignorance? Dr. Schiebinger explains pre-19th century social-moral legalities:

“Throughout the early modern period, the general consensus was that for legal purposes a woman was not pregnant — not truly with child — until “quickening” or “ensoulment” took place, usually considered to occur near the midpoint of gestation, late in the fourth or early in the fifth month of pregnancy (or according to Aristotle, forty days after conception for a male child and ninety days for a female child). …Even though abortion was legal in this period, it was never undertaken lightly:  moral trepidation and physical danger argued against it.

Cultivating knowledge of West Indian abortifacients in Europe was discouraged by the fact that European colonial enterprises were largely male. The majority of Caribbean planters and slaves were men, as were colonial administrators, naturalists, and physicians. Colonial governors, such as Hendrick van Reede and Philippe de Lonvilliers, chevalier de Poincy (for whom the Poinciana pulcherrima was named), were most interested in medicines to protect traders, planters, and trading company troops, among whom few women were found.

Developing abortifacients or any drugs used predominantly to control fertility also worked directly against the interests of mercantilist states. Mercantilist governments sought to augment the wealth of nations by PRODUCING growing and healthy populations.”

There is simply no other more pleasant way of putting it. Women, in the Age of Discovery, were breeders, meant to bolster the wealth and resources of male nations. For European states and their foreign colonies, abundant population — both slave and citizen — was to increase production of crops and goods. Domestically large populations filled the armies and navies. It generated workers who would pay substantial taxes and rents. In the empire’s colonies it grew negroes that would push and pad the empire’s wealth. The moral issues surrounding abortifacients were just as centered around a company’s and nation’s wealth-accumulation as it was (or less so) seen in God’s eyes and prosperity for “true believers.”

And so the simple, safe, and comfortable remedy for a possible (objectionable? shameful?) conception — drinking an herbal tea of peacock flower and bathing in a warm “peacock floral” bath — went disinterested and/or suppressed throughout an apparently ‘advanced’ European people. How much has changed today in our knowledge-ignorance of safe, simple, ancient and Renaissance abortifacients?

For further information about women’s bodies and pleasure:
OMGYes.com — “See What Science Says About Women’s Pleasure”

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In Part III of Games of Unknowledging, I want to cover the art of Fabricating Facts, the Revelations of Indigenous Fossils and their knowledge-ignorance, as well as gaining a better understanding of the benefits and advantages of thorough Historical-Interdisplinary Hindsight. I hope you’ll join me there with your thoughts and comments.

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Stay or Go?

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Nothing is so dangerous to the progress of the human mind than to assume that our views of science are ultimate, that there are no mysteries in nature, that our triumphs are complete and that there are no new worlds to conquer.
Humphry Davy

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My youth soccer head coach obviously didn’t want me to leave our U-17 team or the south Dallas league in which I had played the last eight seasons accumulating notoriety, awards, and trophies both for myself, him, and the team. But the fact remained:  in 1980 the OCSA paled compared to the NDCCCL of north Dallas-Plano. In south Dallas I was only a semi big fish in a small pond. I knew too well that if I were to have a chance to play at the highest levels possible, I had to travel over 20-miles there and back, 2-3 times a week and every weekend where the top flight players, teams, and coaches were competing; it had to be done.

If my parents and I had listened to many of the naysayers, I wouldn’t have achieved a sizable college soccer scholarship, been mentored and coached by two world-class former pro goalkeepers, started all four collegiate years, awarded MVP and All-Tournament Team in the 1982-83 NAIA National Championship tournament, awarded one NAIA Honorable Mention All-American (sophomore year), one NAIA second-team All-American (junior year), and two first-team All-American awards by the NSCAA and NAIA my final year, then I likely could not have gone on to a rewarding pro and semi-pro career the next 11-years on three foreign continents then back to the U.S., retiring in 1996.

I can gratefully and humbly say through firsthand experience that sometimes (many times?) the rewards are so worth the risks.

In the course of human endeavors of progress, better understanding, advancement, and evolving and promoting our species, we have reached another crossroads:  interplanetary exploration and colonization. Mars. Should we do it? Should we stay put or should we go?

Because of the upcoming 6-part National Geographic Channel  series Mars premiering Nov. 14, 2016, I stumbled into an intriguing discussion with a good friend of mine about colonizing the nearby distant planet. Though he is a big Star Trek fan and all for space exploration, my friend had some valid points. Here’s how the banter went:

Friend:
A crappy Earth with problems would be better than Mars, Moon Colonies, etc. The only viable solution is a nearby habitable planet very similar to Earth. If we had the technology to colonize & terraform, we certainly would be advanced enough to heal our own planet. There are too many things we are interdependent on to leave Earth behind just yet. Besides distance, even an Earth-like twin planet would have many hidden obstacles to colonization.

mars-by-the-numbersProfessor T:
Similar warnings were also given to Magellan, Dias, Drake, Vespucci, Pizarro, Erik-the-Red, Ulfsson, Herjólfsson, Zheng He, and several others. Why did they not listen? (wink)

Friend:
LOL! That’s nowhere close to being equitable. Not apples and oranges! Apples and iPhones! It’s not a warning, it’s simply thinking ahead. I am by no means well versed but I know enough that Space is even less hospitable than Mother Nature here on Earth. If you saw The Martian, read the book, then listen to the author as he explains in interviews what he had to extrapolate technology wise and fudge(!) just to make that story work.

Professor T:
Not really arguing your very valid points. But like the Serengeti wildebeests, gazelles, zebras, buffalos, etc, that annually cross the Grumeti River which they all know is FULL of hungry happy crocodiles and almost certain DEATH… yet they cross it, and many/most of those migrating animals cross multiple times in their lifetimes! Now explain to me why it is human nature and animal nature to constantly take risks, including paramount life-threatening risks!? (wink)

Friend:
You are definitely from the Berenstain Bears timeline.

Professor T:
Bwahaha! Are you implying that I enjoy children’s storybooks and such pleasure might reflect a similar intellectual capacity!!!!? Then if so, you’d be correct Sir. (wink)

Friend:
Ha, ha! No, it’s a “thing”. Google Berenstain/Berenstein Bears, Mandela phenomenon, etc. I’m just joking though.

Professor T:
By the way, as you know, I loved The Martian! Haven’t read the book yet, but the film was excellent!

Friend:
If you lived closer, I’d let you borrow my copy.

atmosphere-mars-facts

from NASA’s website http://mars.nasa.gov/

The history of human exploration is indeed littered with many failed expeditions, fatalities and disasters. Perhaps the more notable ones just on Earth were The Narváez Expedition (1527), Hudson-NW Passage Expedition (1610), The Reed-Donner Party (1846), The Franklin Expedition (1845), and the 1996 Mount Everest Party to name just five. Moving out from Earth we have the doomed space disasters of several Russian Soyuz flights, NASA’s Apollo 1 (1967) and near disasters of Apollo 13 (1970) and Gemini 8 (1966), the 2003 Colombia Space Shuttle, and of course the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle. Why haven’t we learned that stepping outside of our cozy, known (safe?) comfort zones could turn into a debacle or fatal tragedy? What is our malfunction? (laughing)

Is there really a need for further space exploration and interplanetary colonization at the risk of more deaths? Why or why not?

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Untapped Worlds – Retooling

This is the fifth-part of the series continuing from Untapped Worlds — Reside and its previous four posts.
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The prude is in fact the libertine,
without the courage to face their naked soul.
—- A. S. Neill

 

Exclusion makes us suffer. Inclusion makes us thrive.
—- E. O. Wilson

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performing-artsWhat does it mean to be more human? Looking back from where humans come can help. Comparing that past to where we are now helps. What would it mean to be more than human? Less than human?

If our history has shown us anything, the great and the horrid, humans must keep up, must be proficient learners, empathizers, and adapters, to best act and react, to fail better and succeed better in a world and Multiverse which perpetually challenges us every minute of every day. This inevitably means breaking old conventions and forming new healthier refined ones…even if it means our initial discomfort and ridicule, and in extraordinary cases, our imprisonment or death. To me personally, this is what it means to be human and more human.

How might we gauge our natural humanity?

Humans and Animals: The Near and Far

Perhaps a first observation can be differentiating humans from other animals starting with body structure. Even the rest of Earth’s other primates have noticeable differences to ours. But delve deeper beyond outer features and there is an overwhelming amount of continuity, until you reach the brains. At the University of Queensland in Australia, Professor of Psychology in Cognition and Evolutionary Psychology-Cognition, Dr. Thomas Suddendorf finds…

The physical similarities between humans and other mammals are quite plain. We are made of the same flesh and blood; we go through the same basic life stages. Yet reminders of our shared inheritance with other animals have become the subject of cultural taboos: sex, menstruation, pregnancy, birth, feeding, defecation, urination, bleeding, illness, and dying. Messy stuff. However, even if we try to throw a veil over it, the evidence for evolutionary continuity between human and animal bodies is overwhelming. After all, we can use mammalian organs and tissues, such as a pig’s heart valve, to replace our own malfunctioning body parts. A vast industry conducts research on animals to test drugs and procedures intended for humans because human and animal bodies are so profoundly alike. The physical continuity of humans and animals is incontestable. But the mind is another matter.

social dolphinsMany would guess our brains to be “another matter” because they are the largest on the planet. Incorrect. The human brain comes in at fourth, technically fifth place. Sperm whales have the largest at 17.5 pounds followed by blue whales at 12.5 pounds, then elephants at 10.5 pounds. In fourth place are dolphins at 4 pounds. Our brain is a distant fifth place at 2.8 average pounds. At a close sixth is the walrus at 2.4 pounds, followed by all remaining animals. Yet it isn’t size that sets us apart, but intelligence. Bertrand Russell asserted that “speech, fire, agriculture, writing, tools, and large-scale cooperation” significantly widens the gap between us and animals.

While those abilities may seem to us and our brains as “higher intelligence”– brains which are prone to deception, memory-errors, superstition, and ambiguity — closer comparisons find Russell’s claims inconclusive. I argue along with Suddendorf that moving the intelligence-bar lower, and maybe less arrogantly, we can find “parrots can speak, ants have agriculture, crows make tools, and bees [as well as ants] cooperate on a large-scale.” Nevertheless, Suddendorf also points out that in those six advanced-intelligence domains:

I’ve repeatedly found two major features that set us apart: our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect on different situations, and our deep-seated drive to link our scenario-building minds together. It seems to be primarily these two attributes that carried our ancestors across the gap, turning animal communication into open-ended human language, memory into mental time travel, social cognition into theory of mind, problem solving into abstract reasoning, social traditions into cumulative culture, and empathy into morality.

Humans are avid scenario builders. We can tell stories, picture future situations, imagine others’ experiences, contemplate potential explanations, plan how to teach, and reflect on moral dilemmas. Nested scenario building refers not to a single ability but to a complex faculty, itself built on a variety of sophisticated components that allow us to simulate and to reflect.

Though we may be the only creatures on the planet with the capacity to time-travel with our imaginations, simulate possible outcomes, and carry out mid-term and long-term plans based upon those imagined scenarios, how much of a contrast does that really create when we still know so little about aquatic mammals (not to mention those oceanic invertebrates and their languages), while the neurobiology and neurocognition of our own brains aren’t fully known? Despite his 2011 scientific misconduct in other areas, former Harvard University professor and evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser expounds on our higher-evolved cognitive abilities and notes four distinguishing abilities…

  1. Generative computation
    Humans can generate a practically limitless variety of words and concepts. We do so through two modes of operation recursive and combinatorial. The recursive operation allows us to apply a learned rule to create new expressions. In combinatorial operations, we mix different learned elements to create a new concept.
  2. Promiscuous combination of ideas
    Promiscuous combination of ideas allows the mingling of different domains of knowledge such as art, sex, space, causality and friendship thereby generating new laws, social relationships and technologies.
  3. Mental symbols
    Mental symbols are our way of encoding sensory experiences. They form the basis of our complex systems of language and communication. We may choose to keep our mental symbols to ourselves, or represent them to others using words or pictures.
  4. Abstract thought
    Abstract thought is the contemplation of things beyond what we can sense. This is not to say that our mental faculties sprang fully formed out of nowhere. Researchers have found some of the building blocks of human cognition in other species. But these building blocks make up only the cement foot print of the skyscraper that is the human mind. The evolutionary origins of our cognitive abilities thus remain rather hazy. Clarity is emerging from novel insights and experimental technologies, however.

I’d draw into further question Suddendorf’s assertion that humans have fully “moved social traditions into cumulative culture” or “moved empathy into morality” or more disconcerting, on a planet of abundant food sources, have we moved jealousy into civil negotiation and altruism, especially toward compersion and less famine? I will explore later what is meant by compersion. Hauser’s four points however, particularly #2 and #4, help us recognize the “haziness” of supreme beings without discrediting the reasons why we may never be able to claim total planetary supremacy for the foreseeable future. Maybe the smarter question is “Why seek supremacy?” Or supremacy in any context. What responsibilities come with supremacy and are human brains capable of such a lofty position? I’d also ask Why not promote more lateral mobility instead of vertical mobility? Certainly less bodies and cadavers under heavy foot with the former than the latter.

Alexander Neill meets Ed Wilson

In the previous post I introduced A.S. Neill and his unconventional approach to parenting and education. I wish to return to him and the impact of external stimuli and nourishment (and malnourishment) for the human heart and mind.

asneill_cottage-storyWhen a child is born do you consider them at that instant to be inherently good, bad, or indifferent? Immediately after an average healthy normal 9-months in the womb, is a newborn significantly altered or influenced toward goodness, evil, or apathy? Do moral and ethical measurements begin during gestation, minutes after birth, or weeks and months after birth?

Believe it or not this is a very controversial topic in parts of the human world. A. S. Neill believed the only source of humanity’s worst behaviours start with parents, then socio-familial groups (their parents), and eventually nation-state ideologies. Neill therefore began a radical form of education by opening a new type of school.  “The merits [of Summerhill School] will be the merits” he explains “of healthy free children whose lives are unspoiled by fear and hate.” Students at Summerhill are not required, forced, or coerced to attend classes. They go of their own accord because they are genuinely interested and want to learn; or they can stay away from classrooms, for years if they choose.

When I first read Neill’s school policies I was stunned. As a teacher of five years in traditional public schools, I could only relate to my students, my campuses, and my childhood as a student with other students. My boyhood schools and the schools I would later teach in classrooms would have been zoos had the students had that much freedom! When I was a school boy I probably would’ve been just as deviant. I soon recognized I now had a serious conflict — I do not believe children are inherently evil at birth, nor into their toddler years. This caused me to seriously re-evaluate major and minor aspects of my life; aspects as a father, former teacher, and active U.S. citizen! Change was again in my front door.

In an October 2011 article by The Independent (U.K.), correspondent Sarah Cassidy interviews several alumni of Summerhill School.

It is one of the most famous schools in the world; a place where every lesson is voluntary and where youngsters can vote to suspend all the rules. Founded by the liberal thinker AS Neill, Summerhill turns 90 years old this year.

Famous alumni of the democratic or “free” school include actress Rebecca de Mornay, children’s author John Burningham and Storm Thorgerson, the rock album cover designer.

Other graduates include Michael Bernal, PhD in Mathematical Physics, Hylda Sims, novelist, poet, songwriter, event organizer in greater London, and Freer Speckley, International Development consultant for online facilitation and training. Author Hussein Lucas in his book After Summerhill interviews twelve other graduates and concludes:

The key feature that sums up the distinctive nature of the Summerhill experience is the virtual absence of fear: fear of failure; fear of authority; fear of social ostracism; fear of life and the consequent failure to engage with it with a feeling of optimism and a positive outlook.

If Lucas, Summerhill School, and its graduates, as well as founder A.S. Neill don’t sum up the enormous impact of human influence and interaction on a child’s and teenager’s formative educational years, then it certainly highlights social coping mechanisms during the adult years; years rot with fears of failure, authority, ostracism, life (suicides?), agoraphobia, and pessimism. I’ve watched several of these toxins develop in my sister for 40+ years and in a span of 7-days my father’s suicide. Personally, it took about four years of therapy for me to conquer my unhealthy codependency; as opposed to much healthier forms of human connection and love. I will explore several of these forms later. Meanwhile, where do these fears originate? Are they hardwired into us prenatally or do we contract them like air pollutants when we encounter other fear-bearers? How is fear justified or unjustified?

a.s.-neill

Alexander S. Neill

The question of fear’s origins is as much a question of timing as purpose. For an adult or a person capable of self-evaluation and adequate self-reliance, fear in its most basic form is a matter of life or death. We know or have been conditioned and/or educated that running red traffic-lights at intersections is taking your life into your hands, other driver’s hands, and others inside the vehicles and of nearby innocent bystanders. We know that fire and extreme heat along with smoke inhalation will kill us. We know that various weapons will terminate life (immediately?) when put to and/or fired at the head. We know that massive brain aneurysms or coronaries usually end in quick death. We know approaching certain wild animals who are in fear for their own lives or their offspring’s, or are merely very hungry, is chancing a violent death. The “timing” of this recognition comes much later in age after conditioning or retained educated fear. They are healthy fears or respect to those specific dangerous situations learned over time, i.e. realized fears. Infants, toddlers, or adolescents have not had the luxury of time or experience to learn necessary life-or-death fears. For better or for worse, the teaching and protection for life-safety and avoiding death, or realized fears, are in the parent’s or guardian’s hands. However, there can be the improper mixing of unrealized fears with life-or-death ones. This is where A.S. Neill diverges from traditional child-rearing and education. His postures can easily traverse our age groups.

It may be no exaggeration to say that all children in our civilization are born in a life-disapproving atmosphere. The time-table feeding [the mother’s breast milk or later] advocates are basically anti-pleasure. They want the child to be disciplined in feeding because non-timetable feeding suggests orgastic pleasure at the breast. The nutriment argument is usually a rationalization; the deep motive is to mold the child into a disciplined creature who will put duty before pleasure.

Neill goes on to give specific child-student scenarios denouncing repressive conditioning to fit-in, be acceptable, and fulfill duties of the state while being ashamed of individual passions and emotions, even self-awareness. Furthermore, these “unfree” conditions repress imagination and ingenuity, the very building blocks of refinement, progressiveness, adaptation, and pragmatism.

To sum up, my contention is that unfree education results in life that cannot be lived fully. Such an education almost entirely ignores the emotions of life; and because these emotions are dynamic, their lack of opportunity for expression must and does result in cheapness and ugliness and hatefulness. Only the head is educated. If the emotions are permitted to be really free, the intellect will look after itself.

The tragedy of man is that, like the dog, his character can be molded. You cannot mold the character of a cat, an animal superior to the dog. You can give a dog a bad conscience, but you cannot give a conscience to a cat. Yet most people prefer dogs because their obedience and their flattering tail wagging afford visible proof of the master’s superiority and worth.

Much of this Western social-political thinking and lifestyle stems from Antiquity between 300 CE until, in various subtle forms, the modern 1960’s and 70’s. The mentality is known as total depravation indoctrination as taught to the world by extreme Abrahamic religions upon the uneducated illiterate subjects of the empire. Neill writes…

The problem child [and adult?] is the child who is pressured into [holiness and piety] and sexual repression. Adults take it for granted that a child should be taught to behave in such a way that the adults will have as quiet a life as possible. Hence the importance attached to obedience, to manners, to docility.

If the condition of depravity isn’t taught outright by Abrahamic clergy and churches, it is certainly perpetuated by the obsessive perfectionists or tyrants of the world intolerant of responsible and total human freedom.

“The prude is in fact the libertine, without the courage to face their naked soul.”

Indeed. And there is another renown scientist and Naturalist that would echo much of what A.S. Neill claims. He advocates a return, if not at least a constant remembrance, to who we really are and where we actually come from. His name is Harvard graduate, social-biologist, and naturalist Edward O. Wilson. In 1979 his book called On Human Nature won the Pulitzer Prize. He has since authored other acclaimed books such as The Diversity of Life, Naturalist his biography, Concilience: The Unity of Knowledge, and in 1990 co-authored and published with German behavioral and evolutionary biologist Bert Hölldobler the book The Ants that won his second Pulitzer Prize.

Advanced Social Behavior and Who Has It

Sociobiology has only recently become a scientific field of study: the mid-1970’s. E. O. Wilson defines sociobiology as “the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior” whether human or non-human. Because many human intellectuals and human groups regard Homo sapiens as highly advanced, Wilson’s theories and definition of sociobiology flew in the face of old “supremacy” traditions, particularly of the divine persuasion. But as I reflect back on human history, the brilliant and the atrocious, and how Homo sapiens behave toward and treat each other despite social labels and imaginative beliefs, I want to hear-out everything Wilson has to say. In fact, it might be intellectual suicide or quicker extinction not to.

eo.wilson.ants_.men

Edward O. Wilson

Earlier I compared differences between humans and animals. Bertrand Russell asserted that what sets us apart from other species was intelligence; speech, fire, agriculture, writing, tools, and large-scale cooperation or social behavior. Thomas Suddendorf further expounds that humans are avid scenario-builders and time-travellers, being able to bring into existence what our minds created in the past. And Marc Hauser asserted that with our highly cognitive brains we are able to generate complex computations, promiscuous combinations of ideas, mental symbols, and construct and contemplate abstract thoughts. Along with these advanced abilities and skills we seek to share them with our own kind in order to survive better, easier, and advance our species, especially those we love and cherish. This is called eusociality. From the field of biology, Wilson asked “Why did any animal, whether human or insect, evolve complex societies and behavior?” and from his research he defines eusociality as exhibiting three characteristics:

  1. Groups of individuals within that species living together for more than two generations.
  2. Adults caring for the young; usually intimately caring for them.
  3. They have to have a reproductive division of labor, i.e. some of those individuals in that society have to be giving up part of their longevity, perhaps, or at least reproductive capacity to serve the others; in other words, real altruism inside the group.

Out of the 10-million estimated living species on Earth, we only know about, study and understand 2-million; and of those 2-million living species, only 19 of them are truly of eusocial evolutionary lines. Sixteen of them are insects. Another aspect of eusociality in insects, like ants or bees, is that an individual serves the survival of the whole and act in almost perfect syncronization with other individuals in the entire colony, called the superorganism. This same behavior is called altruism in human contexts.

The only eusocial primates are Homo sapiens, us. Therefore, being the only primates with the advanced social behavior of eusociality coupled with highly developed cognitive skills Suddendorf and Hauser point out, can we learn anything more from the species who have been eusocial the longest, over 120-million years? Wilson thinks so. He has spent his entire life studying insects like ants. In fact, Wilson asserted in the 70’s that human social behavior, origins of human emotional mechanisms and instincts, evolved in the same ways as those other 18 eusocial species: in nature. This caused a firestorm not only among biologists, but social scientists and activists as well.

The Sociobiology Wars

In 1975 Ed Wilson suggested that social behaviors like human bonding and morality must have a biological neurological basis. They must have evolved. “The time has come” said Wilson, “for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologicized.” Social scientists and activists of that time did not take too kindly to his “regressive” claims. Back in the 1970’s the fields of psychology, sociology, and philosophy had fought long hard battles against late 19th century, early 20th century ideals of racism and sexism, and won or at least made progressive strides toward winning. Ed Wilson was seen as regressing backwards to those barbaric racial hierarchies and patriarchal ideologies. His naysayers at that time imagined he was attempting to revive those old discredited social systems and that human nature could only be understood through biology and genetic manipulation benefitting a race or gender.

Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist at New York University and Yale University/University Pennsylvania alumnus, explains the heated controversy Wilson found himself:

“The most sacred value of anti-racism and also related, anti-sexism was anything that remotely threatened those values would trigger a nerve and those groups would go haywire! And that’s what happened [in 1975-76]. Ed was simply saying ‘Well, maybe human nature is innate, maybe we evolved with a division of labor between men and women.’ Woah! You’re saying that there could be genetic differences between men and women!? But that could justify sexism. That could justify paying men and women differently! Therefore, it must be wrong!”

There was even a manifesto entitled Against Sociobiology written by several of Wilson’s colleagues at Harvard from their biology department denouncing Wilson’s sociobiology and that it could license racism, sexism, slavery, and genocide. Some demonstrations and picket-lines on the campus turned verbally abusive. After a class lecture Wilson gave he required a police escort out the back doors. But Wilson withstood the storm and stood his ground.

As more studies, research, and data poured in over the 1990’s and into the 21st century in the fields of psychology, genetics, anthropology, neurology, and other related fields, it seems to be increasingly plausible, Wilson says there are indeed “general properties of the way the human mind develops and children acquire culture, preferences, and biases adopted by people that have a biological nature.” If there is one benefit afforded the modern fields of psychology, genetics, anthropology, and neurology by E. O. Wilson’s battle scars, it is the free-range deeper exploration and study of human nature against the backdrop of biodiversity.

Being and Becoming More Human

A. S. Neill and E. O. Wilson have opened the roof on human nature by examining human sexuality, human aggression, human dominance, human collaboration and learning, and human emotions like fear, anger, jealousy, pride, guilt, sympathy and empathy through a biological lens.

“It is one thing to observe that we must have a human nature, quite another to discover what it is and how we came by it.

Exalted we are, written to be the mind of the biosphere without a doubt, our spirits uniquely capable of awe, and evermore breathtaking leaps of imagination. But we are still part of Earth’s fauna and flora, bound to it by emotion, physiology, and not least, deep history.”

Neill and Wilson show we are inexplicably part of the natural world. Our minds and emotions evolved in and from nature and with each other. Understanding nature and biology means understanding that evolution. That evolution began between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago on the continent of Africa.

Just as our biosphere supports us and is supported by some 10-million estimated species today in various ecosystems all over the world, paleoanthropologists have revealed we humans also come from a diverse background of at least 13 different bipedal hominids to-date: Homo sapiens likely from Homo naledi, less likely Homo neanderthalensis or Homo floresiensis, then from Homo heidelbergensis or Homo erectus, then from Homo rudolfensis or more likely Homo habilis, then Australopithecus sediba, a yet unknown or unspecified but likely Homo species now being studied, then less likely the Australopithecus garhi or A. africanus, then Kenyanthropus platyops, then Australopithecus afarensis, to finally Australopithecus anamensis from 4-million years ago and at least four more species (Ardipethicus) dating back to around 6 to 7-million years ago. Every single one of these above listed species have similar body traits to modern humans; less so further back in time, increasingly so nearing our 100,000 – 60,000 year genetic markers.

It wasn’t just the physical human form that originated in Africa. It was also our human nature; our biological-neurological natures. Today, paleoanthropologists have a much clearer picture of how our human brain developed. How the frontal lobes expanded over millions of years into the 2.8 pound mass and shape we have today. But what has been lacking in science the last several centuries has been the meaning of humanity…the origin of our social behavior. When and how did humans go from being social, like primates today, to being intensely cooperative building astounding civilizations together?

Tomasello-chimps-childrenDr. Michael Tomasello is the co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany. A Duke and University of Georgia alumnus and comparative psychologist, since the 1990’s he has studied “the unique cognitive and cultural processes that distinguish humans from their nearest primate relatives, the other great apes.” Tomasello’s work has earned him many awards, the latest being the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award by the American Psychological Association in 2015. In his developmental research he has focused on how human children become cooperating members of cultural groups, focusing in recent years on uniquely human skills and motivations for shared intentionality: joint intentions, joint attention, collaboration, prosocial motives, and social norms. Tomasello:

“If the last common ancestor of humans and apes was like modern-day great apes, it was a pretty competitive individual. Fighting for food every day and maybe cooperating a little bit. And what had to happen in human evolution is that humans had to become more cooperative to live in the kind of societies that we live in today.”

The transition from being somewhat social and cooperative within not just familial ties, but in a small group, to being ultra social and cooperative beyond family and small groups was indeed our species greatest moment. It is exactly what removed us from the majority of all primates and other animals, and into that unique distinctive group of 19 advanced eusocial species, and arguably above those other eighteen. Ants did it about 150-million years ago. Humans followed about 1-million years ago when our ancient ancestors developed advanced cooperation defending their campsites and young. Dr. Haidt adds…

“…that transition from being like chimpanzees, that are highly social, to being eusocial, being able to work in very large groups, even with strangers, as we are doing here today. None of us are siblings, but we’re all working together really well because we got all these moral emotions. We are built for this stuff.”

Comparing today’s chimpanzees — the closest genetic relative to humans at about 0.1% difference! — with young children age 1 to 6 years in controlled experiments, time after time shows one singular significant difference in social behavior. Dr. Tomasello determined through cooperation tests one innate feature which sets us apart, as children, from chimpanzees and other apes.

“There is food on a board, and a rope is strung through [carabiners] in the board, so that if one [child or chimp] pulls, it just comes out [disconnected]…you have to pull at the same time to get the board to come inward. If you split the food, one part of the food on one side of the board and one part on the other side, both children and chimps pull it in and are quite successful. But when you pile the food in the middle, the children are still quite good at [cooperating and sharing], they take around half each, and they keep cooperating trial after trial, but with the chimpanzees, everything falls apart because the dominant takes all the food, the subordinate says, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and that’s the end of it.”

Another experiment Tomasello and the Max Planck Institute uses to demonstrate innate eusociality and altruism in human child behavior versus chimps is this fascinating 5-minute video:

A. S. Neill would be extremely pleased with these experiments, with Tomasello, and the Max Planck Institute because they show how toddlers and young children have been wired for altruism, cooperation, and fairness over hundreds of thousands of years. When the opposite behavior is exhibited — e.g. bullying, greed, debasement, psychological egoism, rational egoism — suffering ensues and it begs the question, has that person or group devolved or succumbed to very ancient primate behavior due to choice, genetics, or environment, or all three? Neill and Wilson say humans from birth cooperate instinctively. Whether we stop or continue is a question of teaching, parenting, and community. And sadly to some extent, the available (and shared) wealth and resources and ecosystems Earth abundantly provides. Here we learn what it means to be more human, or less human.

Pushing Beyond “Advanced” Homo Sapien

The term Homo sapien is derived from the Latin homo, meaning man + sapien, meaning wise or rationale. I would like for us to soon become a new species, Humana participatio. This is already happening in certain pockets of the world.

What does it mean to be the Latin Humana participatio? Well, humana is Latin for human being, and participatio means simply sharing. But the act of sharing isn’t just giving what we are or have, it is also about connecting, or in Latin connectens. Thus, I also need to state Humana connectens-participatio! What I mean by that is a sharing of our entire being and a receiving of another’s. It is a flowing two-way connection. And since all humans have the innate want to “distribute knowledge” and experience (more sharing via strong, weak, or absent interpersonal ties) as well as receive knowledge and experience from others and our world, it isn’t or shouldn’t be limited to just two-way connections, but multiple connections. After all, that is how Homo sapiens took the giant leap ahead…over all other primates! Can it be done again? More fully? Personally, I think so; much of the genetic wiring is already present.

Where can we start?

There are a number of human areas to tackle and a number of biological-ecological areas too. The biological-ecological domains are already being addressed, several with fierce opposition, like global climate change and social inequality, but the noble efforts have been recognized, awareness and education has risen, and there are changes in progress. But by comparison and contrast, those advancements seem to be the easiest of the two. They are external changes and progression, not intimate internal ones. Why are outward external issues typically addressed more quickly compared to internal intimate ones?

There seems to be at least two hurdles that give us, advanced homo sapiens, progressive problems:  1) those unrealized fears mentioned earlier, and 2) the Path of Least Resistance; in other words, simply because we are such eusocial beings, it is important that we FEEL included and not excluded by our peers…so we are greatly tempted to take or remain on the Path of Least Resistance. This sometimes (often? always?) does not bode well for progress, for needed evolution, or for dire adaptation.

On the other hand, there are many primus Humana connectens-participatis around the world without or little unrealized fears or lounging in/on the PLR. Their prominence and times around the world might surprise you…

  1. Abolitionists, or opponents to any type of human slavery; at least 70 groups worldwide and well over 260 individual leaders, historically and contemporary. Some 200 of those 260 individuals were/are not of African decent.
  2. Chinese Dissidents, or intellectuals who push the boundaries of society or criticize their governments; currently 36 individuals detained or jailed, 17 to be arrested upon return to China, 13 to be refused reentry into China, and 29to be dealt with” by the Chinese authorities and leadership.
  3. Civil Rights Leaders and their organizations; at least 126 individuals throughout history and today.
  4. Activists for Disability Rights, fighting for equal treatment for those with physical and mental disabilities; some 59 individuals.
  5. Feminists, or the advocacy of women’s political, social, and economic rights to equality with men; at least 772 advocates (male and female) from the 13th century up to today.
  6. LGBT Advocacy Groups, or social-support groups or organizations advocating equal rights for sexually non-traditional, non-binary, non-hetero relational people, couples, and groups; 13 international groups, and well over 1,000+ groups in various nations around the world and on most continents, along with twice as many individuals, and growing annually.
  7. Anti-war and Peace Groups, with over 200 anti-war organizations worldwide, past and present, and well over 300 prominent individual activists.
  8. Women’s Suffragists and Rights expands even further the Feminists list above, past and present.

As you can well see, there have been plenty of primus Humana connectens-participatis among us and there are many around us today who ignore those hurdles of unrealized fears and the temptation of the PLR. They have helped humanity push beyond our walls of 200,000 years as Homo sapien and they invite the rest of us to leap forward with them.

A Further Proposal

I mentioned earlier that there are two domains in which modern humans can influence change and progress:  A) the external and outward biological-ecological systems which truly need our utmost steadfast attention and care, and then B) the internal emotional and cognitive systems. It is the latter domain that is much less known and understood, as a group and species, and therefore by default too often falls by the wayside. If this “default” does not change in time, then it is my personal opinion that we are doing a great disservice to ourselves, our loved ones, our species, and our planet…and as a consequence we will continue to struggle or stagnate in near-primate social conundrums incapable or crippled to keep up as proficient learners, empathizers, and adapters; to best act and react, to fail better and succeed better in this beautiful daunting world and Multiverse we live on, in, and amongst. Diversity gives us the strength and higher virtues to become more human. Singularity, strict conformity, judgement, individualism makes us weaker, less human.

“Exclusion makes us suffer. Inclusion makes us thrive.”

I propose two assignments, two goals to achieve. First, learn and live compersion or higher levels of compersion. If you are a parent, you have experienced or are likely already familiar with compersion. It is the feeling of joy one has experiencing another’s joy, such as in witnessing your toddler’s joy or another’s toddler and feeling joy in response. There have been many wise axioms that expand the essence of compersion. One such adage is if you love someone/something, let it go. If it returns, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was. But that’s not all. It is also the feeling of joy associated with seeing and feeling a loved one love another, including your intimate partner(s) or spouse. This is perhaps one of the ultimate forms of compersion in an age-old society of restrictions and repression. What those confining social dynamics cause are unrealized potential, even brilliance and/or unknown euphoric levels of happiness, joy, and connection. Clearly what is NOT present during compersion are its opposites:  jealousy, greed, anger, verbal or physical abuse/threats, selfish-hoarding, and even hints of solipsism. Learning to better manage our “darker” emotional traits (in controlled structured environs; BDSM?) is a means to rule over them rather than they rule over us and others — when and how to switch them on and off. In some respects, those darker behaviors are used to benefit individuals and groups, much the same way an athlete and athletic teams painfully push physical and mental limits to become better.

The second assignment or goal is therefore to redefine, or retool, or liberate our lifestyle, our personality, relationships, affecting our world and environment, and our conventions, then doing the same to our deathstyle. These are the six areas I will explore in the next post of the series Untapped Worlds — Maior Liberatio. I hope that I have not encumbered your reading brains and eyes too much here, and you will join me for the next installment, the last one… I think. 😉  Meanwhile, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments on this series and post below!

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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