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October 30, 2005

Blame it on the Brain

Our species, Homo sapiens, may have just reached a critical watershed moment in our tenure on planet Earth: the biggest current threat to our collective survival seems our inability, as a species, to control our destructive behavior. Although 500 years might not seem very long compared to the time required for Evolution to produce the human brain; that organ- when coupled with Science- has greatly accelerated our impact on both own species, and our planetary environment as well. Not everyone agrees, however. Despite an abundance of evidence that global warming is a viable hypothesis, it is perhaps the most striking example of human disagreement about a contentious issue with significant existential implications. If the hypothesis is "true" (accurate) failure to act could have huge consequences down the road; and in not very much time. certainly as early as 2050; which is the main reason I now regard the doctrinaire Republican position on that issue as the height of political irresponsibility.

Today's greatest irony may be that Republicans generally see global warming as political, a Democratic notion- almost certainly not true and one that must be opposed in any event.

Our brains have allowed our species to dominate its global environment like no other, but they also may be seriously flawed. The even greater irony is that although recognition of that flaw should now be possible via to the same cognitive processes that produced quantum theory, space exploration, genetic engineering and organ transplantation, both the historical record and the events being reported by our daily news media show us headed in the wrong direction: directly away from the critical understanding that an effective solution would require.

It would seem self-evident that in order to solve a problem, one must first understand it and to do that, one must be able to discuss it freely and honestly.

In that context, humanity's "drug problem," became a dominant issue right after Richard Nixon's Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970, a law still enforced as the law of the land and as UN policy. 'solution' as ever, becomes an excellent example of- and a metaphor for understanding- the cognitive frailty I'm referring to.

Our species doesn't yet seem capable of even realizing its long term survival is now in the balance; thus it will require some critical changes in both thinking and collective  behavior to avert looming catastrophes. Indeed; I can be reasonably certain that the majority of humans with enough interest to read these words would probably disagree; some violently- even to the point of wanting to punish me for having said them them. That reality simply makes my point: the tragic flaw we have yet to deal with is the impact pur feelings ("emotions") on our beilefs. It's so profound that we have yet to be able to even study our own emotions objectively. Quite the opposite; all the nations in the "civilized" world are now bound by a UN treaty to arrest and punish anyone found transporting certain designated agents (drugs) with the ability to modify human emotions directly. Even worse, the same signatory nations have erected barriers against any unbiased evaluation of either the policy itself or its impact on society.

A final irony is that the nation most responsible for demanding-  and later promulgating and enforcing- that policy has done so on patently spurious grounds; the policy itself has been responsible for an unparalleled corruption of scientific thought- and yet it has received the tacit endorsement of most of the very scientific institutions which should be leading the charge against it.

The above "heresy"- expressed in about 500 words- was enabled by a relatively simple ad-hoc clinical study of admitted drug users that began in November 2001 and is still ongoing (although reduced by my health problems). The overall purpose of this blog has been to connect the dots between the heresy (with modifications as required) and the findings which that rise to it. It is only fair to acknowledge that the study has yet to be well received by many- save for the applicants whose pot use was explored by the interview developed to study it- and, of necessity, only those examined after a certain stage in its development. Indeed; understanding the resistance manifested by avowed supporters of "medical marijuana" to the realities disclosed by pot applicants has been as important to my own understanding as the data itself.

It appears that both the need (desire) of certain humans to use drugs- and of others to repress and/or punish that use- are not only closely related phenomena, but also important manifestations of an intrinsic human cognitive weakness.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 30, 2005 08:52 PM