I had a conversation at lunchtime today with some random old lady at the tram stop near my work. The conversation started off about how there was some guy next to me that looked like Kyle Saunders but then trailed off to what “good” shows are airing on tv. There was only so much that I wanted to continue on with this conversation and I ended up disappointing her and saying, I generally don’t watch a great deal of tv because there’s a whole heap of garbage out there. She responded by being alarmed and saying at least watch Sea Patrol. The conversation with her just accentuated the notion that there is a lot of garbage out there. I was watching old episodes of South Park the other day. Some find South Park extremely vulgar and I can see why it wouldn’t be some people’s cup of tea, it can be disturbingly warped, grotesque and excessively crude. All this aside, South Park is actually very clever and is a brilliant social satire. Surprisingly it would probably provoke more meaningful thought than some of the rubbish that is aired on tv.

I watched South Park’s ImaginationLand, Cartoon Wars and Go God Go. All episodes are exceptionally smart and inventive. ImaginationLand is quite gruesome and bizarre, for example you have all the Good ImaginationLand characters being blasted with bombs, severed body parts are flung around, manbearpig ravages everyone on site and then you have the woodland critters and their disturbing exploits. Underneath the grotesqueness of ImaginationLand there is an underlying valuable message. What the episode is trying to convey is that terrorist attacks in the Western World have invoked a climate of fear and have let our imaginations run wild. This message brought me back to the movie "Zeitgeist" and the idea of fear being used as a controlling mechanism. I started thinking where it stems from and whether we have socially conditioned ourselves through various means such as religion, or perhaps it is a human trait. We are species competing for survival and have developed this attribute of fear induced by our competing nature.

Cartoon Wars also shares a similar message. It makes inferences on the incident which I remember reading in “The God Delusion”. The incident involves a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad which lead to demonstrators burning Danish flags, embassies and consulates being trashed, Danish goods being boycotted, Danish citizens physically threatened. Nine people were killed when Libyan rioters attacked and burned the Italian consulate in Benghazi. Demonstrators carried banners with the messages, “Slay those who insult Islam,” “Butcher those who mock Islam,” “Europe will pay; demolition is on its way.” The episode is about freedom of speech and how freedom of speech is in jeopardy when we let terrorism and fear dominate and control us.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy

Go God Go satires the evolution and creationism debate. It pokes fun at both views. I think this episode is brilliant and think it has a very significant message. Richard Dawkins is a brilliant intelligent man (I’ve probably seen every documentary made by him, have read his works and generally share his ideas) however, with all he’s efforts to educate, to enlighten us, he is at the same time inciting attacks on differing points of views. Atheism, polytheism, monotheism, secularism, agnostism and religious-isms on top of that.... all this categorisation, this separateness is the cause of the great divide, the cause of great turmoil in the world. Dawkins is just creating another party to be at war with, as Tray Parker and Matt Stone put it in Go God Go, a militant brand of Atheism. We need to eliminate this idea of separateness, respect other beliefs, think rationally, and we need to educate ourselves, question everything and be open to alternative ideas.




Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:South_Park.png


Recently I read a facebook status which sparked a bit of a religious debate. Religious debates always seem to be a touchy subject. Some people find it too deep of a topic that they don’t want to delve into it because it forces them to re-evaluate their lives, their beliefs or possibly because it requires a great deal of thinking. Awhile back I watched the movie “Religulous” and what I remember so much from it was the aggressive, dominating, unintelligent, unsubstantiated answers towards questions about religion. Some reactions were so aggressive and frightening; it was so disturbing to see how religion can ignite so much fear, aggression and hatred towards other individuals. Some people are fixed into believing what they have been indoctrinated into believing. Aggression, denial, refusal to understand alternative reasoning becomes a defensive mechanism when beliefs are come into question.

I remember Richard Dawkins interviewing a priest and was asking him valid questions about religion. The priest answered ambiguously, poetically, just plain airy fairy. He just answered with some poetic jargon which he himself admitted to not understanding his own answer. Believing in answers that are fanciful, irrational, superstitious and unsubstantiated is dangerous; it hinders the growth of our intellect, it hinders our quest for true knowledge. It’s our intellect; our thirst for knowledge, the reason why human species have prospered.

This brought me back to thoughts on Eamonn Healy’s talk in the movie “Waking Life” (which is a brilliant movie and by far one of my favourite movies of all time), the future of human evolution and which direction would it take. Eamonn Healy is a chemistry professor predicts the evolution of a neo-human manifesting traits of truth, loyalty, justice and freedom. He talks about when we look at the evolution of the human organism and the development of its interaction with the environment we begin to see the further telescopic evolutionary time.

EVOLUTION AS WE KNOW IT

For example we have 2 billion years of life, 6 million years of the hominid, 100 thousand years for mankind as we know it, then further on we get agriculture, scientific revolution and industrial revolution, hence you are looking at 10 thousand years, 400 years and then 150 years. Evolutionary time becomes shorter and shorter. What this means is as we go to the new evolution, it’s going to telescope to the point where it is going to manifest itself within our lifetime, within a generation.

NEW EVOLUTION

Healy talks about the new evolution stems from new information, 2 types of information which are digital and analogue. Digital is artificial intelligence and analogue results from molecular biology organisms and this is then combined with neurobiology.

In the old evolutionary paradigm the other (other species) will die and the other will grow and dominate (survival of the fittest). However, in the new paradigm they will exist as a mutually supportive, non competitive grouping independent of the external. Evolution becomes an individually central process, emanating the needs and desires of the individual and not an external process, as passive process where the individual is at the whim of the collective. The result is a neo-human with a new individuality, a new consciousness and so the new cycle of evolution proceeds where the new input is this new intelligence. So as intelligence piles on intelligence, ability piles on ability the speed changes (similar like an exponential function) until a crescendo is reached in a way could be an enormous, instantaneous fulfilment of human and neo-human potential, it could be the amplification of the individual, the multiplication of individual existences, the parallel existences the individual is no longer restricted by time and space (what quantum mechanics is currently exploring). The manifestations can be dramatically counter intuitive but in contrast the old evolution is cold, it’s sterile, it’s efficient, it’s manifestations are those social adaptations such as parasitism, dominance, morality, war, predation, these would be subject to de-emphasis, these would be subject to de-evolution. In the new evolutionary paradigm, it will give us human traits of truth, loyalty, justice and freedom....Healy's concept is interesting, positive and something I would like to see in the future.



I was listening to hack on the train in the morning on the way to work. Hack had a segment focused on a study conducted by Paul Kenny a neurobiologist who researched on the effects of high fatty foods on lab rats. Kenny found that the effects parallels on how humans can be addicted to drugs. Drugs over stimulate the rewards pathways, the reward pathways become hypo functional causing it to not function as well, which in turn drives us further and further to drug use. Our behavior becomes compulsive to the point it’s beyond our control. In the study they found that the high fatty foods send a similar feedback loop in the brain as drug addiction. The question was raised “whether junk food is as addictive as drugs or smoking?”

To this, I think absolutely but of course it varies under certain cases and differentiates between individuals. Some individuals may have more self control and can refrain from gorging on fatty foods and others less and this could be due to numerous factors such as perhaps being brought up to see fatty foods as a rewards system, being conditioned at a young age, being rewarded with candy or maccas for finishing your homework hence, the act of this is ingrained into your psyche. Also, it could be purely because of ignorance, not knowing what foods are good for us. There could also be psychological factors involved.

Well, I don’t think it’s such a terribly far-fetched idea to see addiction to fatty foods in the same league as drug addiction. The nutritionist made a great comment about how it may seem innocuous to walk down the road and grab a burger however the effects on your health can be severe and long term. Since eating is such a habitual act, we can be blind and not see addiction to fatty foods as serious.

This segment really made me think back to the article I read in one of my neuroscience magazines, “The Puzzle of Pleasure” by Gary Marcus. “The human mind, a quirky yet magnificent product of the entirely blind process of evolution.” I’m going to add a statement made by a prominent evolutionary psychologist Randolph Nesse,

"Our brains could have been wired so that [eating] good food, [having] sex, being the object of admiration, and observing the success of one’s children were all aversive experiences, [but] any ancestor whose brain was so wired would probably not have contributed much to the gene pool that makes human nature what it is now. Pleasure is our guide and without it, the species wouldn’t propagate."

Marcus makes a valid point, “only few species seem to spend much time having nonprocreative sex, and none watch television, go to rock concerts, or play organized sports. Which raises the question is pleasure really an ideal adaptation, or – with apologies to Shakespeare – is there something klugey in the state of Denmark?” We have pleasure centers that consist of mechanisms that are tuned to promote the survival of the species however, we also have crude mechanisms that are easily outwitted, we lack the wisdom to consistently outwit our animalistic parts.

Awhile back I was listening to the scientist Joseph Dispenza (author of “Evolving your brain and The Science of Creating Personal Reality.”) Dispenza talks about rewiring the brain and to be aware intellectually that we don’t have to make the same choices, those biological tendencies, biological responses concerned with the preservation of the body. It’s almost like we need to break the habit of being human, to gain control and override the physiology. Every moment we are overriding those physiological responses, we are changing brain chemistry, breaking the addiction to the stimulus and response that so many people live by everyday. Response back to Nesse’s statement above, perhaps if we can do this we can make a more progressive evolutionary contribution to the gene pool.

More information on Kluge by Gary Marcus

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/


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