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May 18, 2008

Emotions, Cognition, Belief and Denial (Personal)

Although, strictly speaking, we late-arriving humans may not be the only cognitive species, our thinking and language capabilities evolved so rapidly that even before we could write, we were probably exerting a significant impact on the survival of other species.

Learning to write (about six thousand years ago) was the first preqequisite for today’s instantaneous global communication capability. Meanwhile, the subsequent pace of cultural evolution and distribution of the wealth it creates have become important determinants of both the planet’s human population and its role as habitat for other life forms. Because time isn’t reversible and our  cultural evolution can only be understood in retrospect, it seems more important than ever for us to study our knowledge and belief systems as quickly, accurately, and impartially as possible.

Unfortunately, it appears that denial is still our preferred mode for thinking about the world; while the extent to which that may have already exposed us to danger can’t be known, there are several indicators it could be worse than we think.

One is how quickly perceptions of looming oil, water, and food shortages are dampening enthusiasm for the future in the still-young Twenty-First Century. Paradoxically, there’s also little evidence of an effective global response to the threat posed by rapid climate change.

In addition, two recent disasters in a vlunerable and densely populated part of the world have exposed, once again, how repressive governments can exploit captive populations while “civilized’ nations wring their hands on the sidelines. A short video clip is all it takes to see the callous disregard of the Burmese military government;  although the exploitative mechanisms
in China have been more subtle, predictable outrage over building standards is already being voiced and a moment’s thought is all Americans should require to realize that Burma and Sichuan both have much in common with New Orleans.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 18, 2008 08:02 PM