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May 08, 2010

Empiricism & Belief; Emotions & Dishonesty: the evolitionary flaws that drive our behavior.

Although still disputed, one of the more reliable estimates of how long humans have been a separate species is about two hundred thousand years. In that connection, we now have some long-awaited evidence that humans share DNA with Neanderthals, their older relatives on the evolutionary tree foreshadowed by Darwin's prescient leap of intuition. Although one of the more useful scientific theories ever developed, the very idea of Evolution is still hotly disputed by creationists. Likewise empirical Science, which only dates back to events surrounding Galileo's questioning of Papal authority in the Seventeenth Century.

All of which allows consideration of a critical point: the same intellectual battle between empiricism (science) and dogmatism (religious faith) that began with Galileo and Urban VIII remains unresolved. In one guise or another, it lurks within most of the intractable disputes now dividing our planet. Furthermore, although top-down religious thinking has been far less productive in terms of reliable results, it remains the default for policy makers the world over

That's because authoritarian dogmatists have managed to control the trajectory of human culture, with the ultimate result that we now face a cascade of serious problems, many of which are unprecedented. The Industrial Revolution, rooted in technology, has been a cornucopia of new products for which humans quickly developed insatiable appetites, even as their largely "faith-based" national governments remained unequal to the tasks of regulating commerce equitably or settling international disputes amicably. Indeed; arms production for "defense" is now an important branch of global commerce.

Meanwhile, technology was also facilitating an enormous increase in the human population which may already be beyond the planet's capacity to sustain. However as the current Climate Change debate demonstrates, global response to such crises is variable, signaling that we can expect even more debate before a mitigation strategy is adopted. Finally, Climate Change may be merely one of several crises in our intermediate future.

Many readers may already be put off by this sobering assessment; yet, my interpretation of both human nature and current events has been shaped by the unique opportunity I've had to study the human use cannabis as it's been evolving over the past 40 years.

The first thing I learned was that cannabinoids are safe and very effective against several common emotional disorders. The second is that nearly all of pot's considerable medical benefits have been obscured by drug war propaganda. Finally, that the failure of the US (and world's) drug policy is now so obvious that the prolonged refusal of those who enforce it to accept even minor criticism brings both their intellectual honesty and the legitimacy of their policy into serious question. In fact, the progressive cognitive dissonance of the drug war makes it a superb metaphor for a disaster that can be neither admitted, nor "controlled."

The current oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico and the erratic eruptions of an Icelandic volcano, are examples. Once one becomes cognizant of the extreme reluctance of governments and corporations to admit past mistakes, the basically irrational nature of typical partisanship becomes more apparent.

Given the modern panoply of (predominantly) human disasters, it would behoove us to recognize how dangerous the split between scientific and religious thinking has become; also the degree to which the religious variety has become society's default. Just imagine how unlikely it would be for a declared atheist to be nominated for the Presidency by either major party.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 8, 2010 05:55 PM