Out of South Africa

Researchers from the University of Huddersfield, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Minho in Braga have found genetic evidence that a small group of Homo sapiens left South Africa and migrated to East Africa between 100,000 and 70,000 years ago. We know from other evidence that 60-70,000 years ago the large migrations of humans that spread around the world began from East Africa.

We know from various lines of evidence that modern humans seemed to be linked to South Africa. I reviewed some of this more extensively in a post over six years ago, but missing at the time was the connection to East Africa which has appeared to be source of the main migrations that spread around the world. The researchers believe that perhaps this relatively small group of humans might have transmitted biological and cultural traits to the humans of East Africa.

Quoting from the article:

The identification of this signal opens up the possibility that a migration of a small group of people from South Africa towards the east around 65,000 years ago transmitted aspects of their sophisticated modern human culture to people in East Africa. Those East African people were biologically little different from the South Africans—they were all modern Homo sapiens, their brains were just as advanced and they were undoubtedly cognitively ready to receive the benefits of the new ideas and upgrade. But the way it happened might not have been so very different from a modern isolated stone-age culture encountering and embracing western civilization today.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-03-modern-humans.html#jCp



Posted in Human Evolution | 4 Comments

What Will it Take for Humanity to Survive?

Vic Grout has post at Turing’s Radiator on What Will it Take for Humanity to Survive? (And Why is Trump Such a Complete Bellend?). The four pillars he comes up with are:

  1. No Non-Renewable Energy
  2. No Nuclear Weapons
  3. No Countries
  4. No Capitalism

It is hard to argue against the first two, although some might say we will still need some non-renewable energy for some time (how much TBD).  The next two are considerably more radical and almost unimaginable for most people even if some might agree with them in theory.

If there was ever a time to begin imagining a world without countries or capitalism, it might be now. My imagination is sometimes lacking so let me reuse a Henry Miller quote I used in another post:

“The cultural era is past. The new civilization, which may take centuries or a few thousand years to usher in, will not be another civilization. It will be the open stretch of realization which all the past civilizations have pointed to. The city, which was the birthplace of civilization, such as we know it to be, will exist no more. There will be nuclei, of course, but they will be mobile and fluid. The peoples of the earth will no longer be shut off from one another within states but will flow freely over the surface of the earth and intermingle. There will be no fixed constellations of human aggregates. Governments will give way to management, using the word in a broad sense. The politician will become as superannuated as the dodo bird. The machine will never be dominated, as some imagine; it will be scrapped, eventually, but not before men have understood the nature of the mystery which binds them to their creation. The worship, investigation and subjugation of the machine will give way to the lure of all that is truly occult. This problem is bound up with the larger one of power—and of possession. Man will be forced to realize that power must be kept open, fluid and free. His aim will be not to possess power but to radiate it.”

Quote | Posted on by | 3 Comments

Question Marks and Hard Problems

Steve Ruis in a post at Class Warfare Blog has brought to my attention an article, Will Science Ever Solve the Mysteries of Consciousness, Free Will and God? by Michael Shermer in Scientific American.  The answer to the questions from Shermer in short is “no”. Ruis seems to think we will understand all three and that we already have good starts on them. Much depends on exactly what we mean when we say we understand or explain something.

Shermer begins with the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness, the problem of whether we can we ever really explain qualia of the internal experience we have as conscious beings. The free will paradox is that we think of ourselves as autonomous beings, able to make decisions and choices, yet we know from science that in the classical, non-quantum world, we live in a deterministic universe. Do we really have free will? God, as supernatural creator of the universe, can never be proven to exist since by definition [S]He lies outside the bounds of nature and outside the province of science.

Shermer aligns himself with the Mysterians, a term originally used by Owen Flanagan inspired by the sixties rock group Question Mark and the Mysterians. While mysterianism is most closely associated with the hard problem of consciousness, more generally applied, it asserts we can never really understand the working of nature. Colin McGinn of this school has suggested, “It may be that nothing in nature is fully intelligible to us.”

Ruis’ approach to the questions is more pragmatic and scientific. He asks what does it take to prove something or say we understand it. The answer is different for different audiences. “The problem is not the issues themselves completely (labeled as “final mysteries” by Shermer), but involves the attitudes of the audiences receiving the conclusions,” he writes.

What proof would compel an atheist to accept the existence of God? What proof would cause  a non-atheist to stop believing in God’s existence?

What would constitute an explanation for the hard-problem of consciousness? If we could trace the “red of a rose” from the color sensitive cones of the eye through the neural pathways to the visual and cerebral context, have we explained the red? I think perhaps the “hard-problemers” would still argue we haven’t explained the red. Perhaps we haven’t, but in the sense they want proof, we never have explained anything. Has physics really explained gravity? Physics can measure gravity and predict things about it but has it ever explained intrinsically what it is or why it exists?

Shermer’s three questions are really closely related. God is an answer the question of why is there something rather than nothing. Consciousness is what allows us to recognize there is something. Free will is either an illusion or fact produced by consciousness. The three may be less meaningful as philosophical questions than as pointers, like Zen koans,  to some underlying reality we might never explain or understand.

Posted in Consciousness, Intelligence, Mysteries | 1 Comment