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May 21, 2008

Some Pertinent Questions about Cognition and Belief (Personal)

Although there’s now general agreement among scientists that the most recent of several Ice Ages ended about eleven thousand years ago, most of the thinking leading to that conclusion is less than five hundred years old and much of the now-abundant supporting data weren’t gathered until the second half of the Twentieth Century

What that short paragraph highlights is how quickly and profoundly empirical Science has altered our notions of time and how relatively briefly the scientific method has been employed in the study of our environment. An inescapable collateral conclusion is that until very recently, our human ancestors were relatively uninformed.

Nevertheless, we still to cling tenaciously to the contrary, but pervasisve, notion that humans who lived anywhere from centuries to millennia ago were, somehow wiser than ourselves; a notion long honored by the phrase "wisdom of the ancients." Just as pervasive, and equally unlikely, is belief that the scientifically derived information now being accumulated and utilized more rapidly with each passing week, represents “progress” of humanity toward a better life.

As pointed out in the last entry, daily television news reports are enough to challenge those assumptions and should also be raising questions our world leaders seem stubbornly unwilling to address. Will we (finally) come to grips with abundant evidence that as the only species capable of abstract thought, it’s precisely that capability, along with the competitive disagreement it generates, that has been responsible for our now-unsustainable global environment?

Until then, will we be able to even conceive of workable solutions; let alone move in the required direction? That the same national leaders we rely on for solutions to those existential problems continue to endorse a failing American drug policy as the preferred global model inspires neither confidence nor optimism.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 21, 2008 04:18 PM