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November 24, 2007

How IT is Endangering Humanity (Personal, Logical, Historical)

“To err is human...yet we remain all too prone to hasty judgments requiring later correction, which then often stay uncorrected. In fact, that tendency, coupled with our equally obvious reluctance to admit past mistakes, can be seen to account for some of our bigger modern problems.

The evidence that Science has been dominating human thought for about 500 years is all around us. Yet, most humans stubbornly cling to older belief systems rooted in Religion.  it’s also evident that although several complex literate cultures evolved among the isolated groups of humans who survived the several emigrations our ancestors made out of Africa over several  thousand years, Homo sapiens is still a relatively new species and our “modern” brains are far more remarkable for their similarities than their differences.

The precise origins of empirical Science are debatable, but the names of several European polymaths stand out as major contributors. Copernicus, an ascetic Polish churchman was clearly not the first to propose that the Earth isn’t the center of the Universe, but did so within an organized hypothesis, and in a setting in which his ideas could be validated by near contemporaries. One such was Gutenberg, less ascetic but nevertheless a very talented inventor, who made a critical contribution to Science by inventing moveable type and thus facilitating both its dissemination and democratization; both of which acted as multipliers

It’s also clear that the ideas of Copernicus were known to Galileo, another polymath credited with being the father of Astronomy. Gallileo used his early version of the telescope to validate the heliocentric hypothesis of Copernicus, and was thus famously punished by the Church for what was the first transformation of an unwelcome (“inconvenient’) hypothesis into useful scientific theory.

An equally prodigious intellect, Isaac Newton, born in England about six decades after Gallileo, is accorded similar status as a giant of modern Science. Considered the father of modern Physics, Newton was the first to describe gravity and also also made original contributions to Optics,  Mechanics, and Mathematics. He is less well known for his later interests in alchemy and biblical scholarship.

My point here is that despite its importance, Science remains very poorly understood by the masses and its empirical methodology and findings are not nearly as integrated into policy decisions as they should be in an increasingly complex and overcrowded world. It is now possible to at least begin to understand why that rather ludicrous situation prevails: we are so distrustful of our emotions, as a species, that we have not been able to study them with the same degree of detachment we routinely bring to bear on more purely physical phenomena. As a consequence, as we are becoming ever more overwhelmed by information, thanks to modern IT, our collective responses are becoming ever more malleable and misdirected; and thus more dangerous.

The culprits are our emotions, in the form of modernized variants of the same basic conflicts that have always divided humans and have, with increasing efficiency, also been multiplying the wealth and technologic prowess of our species to a point where our Darwinian need to survive is, ironically, pushing us towards what could be our own extinction.

These seem to be possibilities very few want to consider; yet, that the primacy of human emotions in determining human behavior is perhaps, the most important lesson to be learned from a systematic study of chronic drug use, particularly the use of inhaled cannabis.

Note: Now that a population study of chronic pot smokers has been "officially" recognized, I intend to comment more freely here on what I consider to be its implications. Rather than engage in sterile arguments with those who disagree, I would challenge them to do their own studies.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at November 24, 2007 07:53 PM