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July 14, 2006

Cognition, Science, and the Emotions

Through modern Archeology and Antropology, we have accumulated detailed knowledge of several hitherto unknown 'civilizations' that flourished for sigificant periods of time, only to eventually fail for a variety of reasons such as climate change, deforestation and political implosion.

In the last entry, I suggested that the emergence of scientific thought in the middle of the last millennium radically changed the world.  That's because Western Europe, was soon encouraged by its superior weapons and deep water navigation capabilities to 'explore' (and pillage) a world previously inaccessible to them. That quickly led to an orgy of exploitative colonization which is still going on and has often been justified by notions of  cultural, 'racial'  or religious superiority.

The process of forced cultural diffusion gradually 'opened up' not only the Americas, but the entire world; it was soon accompanied by sustained growth of the human population despite two 'world wars' during the Twentieth Century. Significantly; the only war with the potential to arrest population growth–– a nuclear World War Three–– was narrowly averted in 1962. Nevertheless, the detonation of a third nuclear weapon in anger now seems more likely than at any time since then.

  In fact, all modern wars, including those now either in progress, threatened, or smoldering around the world, are clearly related to colonial and post-colonial resentments, a judgement still not acknowledged by 'world' leaders, who can't seem to admit that the  intensity of those resentments and the manifest impossibility of ever addressing them within the context of the global economy has never been more apparent.

We can also see in retrospect that the  avarice and cruelty of European colonizers toward those they exploited was nearly universal; yet, the same behavior  quickly  became the norm for the leaders of former colonies who came to power after World War Two. Like earlier imperial expansions, the pivotal one enabled by European science also delivered a measure of economic 'progress' to those it exploited; however, unlike them, the economic expansion launched from Europe in the the Fifteenth century never collapsed of its own weight;  probably because it also marked the beginning of today's  competitive global economy.   Human population growth has been sustained through the plethora of scientific advances (many of them unexpected) generated by economic and military competition. That a global economy can thrive on greed, fear, and dishonesty has remained evident despite the nearly constant background of wasteful open warfare somewhere on the planet.

Unfortunately, the rigorous intellectual honesty required for success in science and technology has not spilled over into the political domain. World leaders have continued, to retain enough tacit approval from the people they govern to cling to the same time-honored political rhetoric employed throughout history.
As noted earlier, the consequences of such intellectual schizophrenia can be seen all around us. Cognitive dissonance is openly embraced as national policy with no sense of shame; Indeed, it's brandished; with little evidence that those doing so are even aware of the ignorance they are admitting to; nor do 'responsible' scientists who should certainly know better ever speak out.

American drug policy, is simply one of the world's oldest, most irrational, cruel, and counter-productive policies. it survives only because it has become too politically correct to challenge; however, it's not the only such example.

Also, because a unique study of recalcitrant cannabis users was  (unexpectedly) enabled by passage of a fiercely resisted state initiative, it is both distressing  and revealing that those with the most reason to be curious about the phenomenon of pot use have solidly committed themselves  to embracing many of the same irrational assumptions of their political opponents.

Doctror Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 14, 2006 08:38 AM