Human Nature

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Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

OK Chris,

If "thou are that" didn't do it, then let me try again. :wink: I think the story of the prodigal son explains the difference between humans and animals. We have free will. Thus we can choose to discover that "we are that." (through surrender mind you). I see animals as following their instincts all the time; they have no choice but to be themselves perfectly. On the other hand very few humans live a life that is 100% congruent with who they are, due to fear and ego illusions. Sometimes one has to cement the "waking up part" by "getting out of bed." Few wake up, even less get out of bed. The ones that do we call heroes.

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Post by Poncho » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Good point cliff.

One thing that occurs to me is what about dolphins? There are occasional stories of dolphins helping humans who are stranded in water either by nudging them to keep them awake as they swim to shore or by keeping sharks at bay until rescuers arrive. Presumably they are exercising their free will in choosing whether or not to protect those swimmers.

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Post by CarmelaBear » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

After teaching a female gorilla sign language, a number of pictures of male gorillas were presented to her for mate selection. Utilizing her free will, she used sign language to indicate her judgments of each one. After looking at one particular picture of a male gorilla, she made the sign for "toilet".

Animals make choices the same way we do, using what we know.

Identical twins who were separated at birth made "choices" that were not only very unusual but absolutely identical to each other. The uncanny "choices" demonstrate that we use what we are to choose what we choose.

If you walk into a toy store, you won't find car parts. You can't "choose" what's not in the store.

In hot climates, the body experiences an entirely different set of hungers than one would experience in arctic regions. Short people "choose" different things than tall ones. African Americans thought O.J. might be innocent and that so many of their kind had been strung up for no good reason that letting O.J. go free was a just result. The O.J. jury was the culmination of historical factors that had nothing to do with "choice". They had no real choice.

Though the factors that lead to our choices are extremely complex, they aren't unique to the human species. What we call "instinct" is just our way of dismissing animal's choices, because they seem so simple to us.

Actually, when an understanding of our "choices" is too well understood, there's a tendency to think in terms of determinism, a concept that has lured many a social scientist.

The condescending false superiority of the human species is exacerbated by the insecurities and illusions of being in charge of our own conduct. Campbell told us that we think the brain-mind is in charge. It's not. The body and the environment, and all the other bodies and environments that surround us will always win out.

That's why Cliff W is not a Harvard grad, and I am. Poor paternalistic helper-Cliff. When he gets a taste of his own "help", he feels attacked and can't see any connection between that experience and his own belief in his "superior" choices.

You need a vacation, Cliff. Go somewhere that does not require getting up in the morning. Stop long enough to hear silence and feel what it's like to be still.

There is no virtue in being human. We are what we are, we choose what we choose. Remember the James Joyce reference that Campbell pointed out to us: St. Paul's letter to the Romans, Chapter 11, Verse 32. "God has consigned men to disobedience that he may show his mercy to all."

"Consigned", Cliff. The good St. Paul knew what the determinists would eventually put into reams and reams of books.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Divine inspiration in, divine inspiration out.


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Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

There is a large misconception in the popular consciousness about the way in which genes work. The metaphor of genes being blueprints for the construction of a life-form is a misleading one, there isn't a layout of a human being mapped out in the twists and turns of the double helix, it's far more fundamental than that.

A better image would be to think of genes like building materials rather than the plans for the buildings themselves. One type of gene (say that of an ape) has the properties of a brick. It's "shaped" like a brick, is dense and porous, and relies on being stacked one on top of another; and therefore gives rise to structures that are largely shaped in brick-like dimensions with thick load bearing walls and are useful as dwellings and shelters, while another gene (say that of a human) has the properties of a cinder block. It is brick-like being rectangular, dense and porous, but it is also slightly larger and lighter allowing buildings that tower much higher and can be built to extreme dimensions like high rise offices.

The building materials then determine the shape and function of the final structure, but don't contain little plans of what the structure is to look like. So, despite the fact that a brick and a cinder block share a 95% similarity, their uses are far different. And while you could conceivably build a simulation of a high rise with bricks, you wouldn't use them to build a rope bridge for example, the materials needed being far too different.

Another good example of this in nature are snowflakes. As we all know all snowflakes are different, but they have enough similarities that we are able to recognise one when we see it. Did you know for instance that all snowflakes have six sides? This is because each snowflake begins as a single molecule of H2O which attaches to other H2O molecules to form a crystal. Because of the physical shape of the H2O molecule the crystal forms with six sides and so no matter what intricate forms or unique branches the crystal may take during the rest of it's formation the final result will always be a six sided polygon.
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Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

A flurry of posts got in there before mine, with some good points to discuss.
On 2004-12-16 10:37, cliff w wrote:
OK Chris,

If "thou are that" didn't do it, then let me try again. :wink: I think the story of the prodigal son explains the difference between humans and animals. We have free will. Thus we can choose to discover that "we are that." (through surrender mind you). I see animals as following their instincts all the time; they have no choice but to be themselves perfectly. On the other hand very few humans live a life that is 100% congruent with who they are, due to fear and ego illusions. Sometimes one has to cement the "waking up part" by "getting out of bed." Few wake up, even less get out of bed. The ones that do we call heroes.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: cliff w on 2004-12-16 10:47 ]</font>
Do we really have free will, or do we just have a more complex set of choices to allow ourselves the illusion of free will? Personally I think it's a game in which you have one main choice, to accept the limitations of choice or to exercise free will and opt out of the game entirely. The ultimate expression of free will would surely be the shedding of the necessity of choice in the first place. For my line of thinking this qualifies only the omniscient/omnipresent as being truly possessed of free will being able to do everything without having to choose.

So, the discussion in relation to whether or not the ability to exercise free will is a determining factor in being human should be instead, at what level of complexity do our choices make us human. I'm inclined to find this an invalid argument to defining humanity, but an interesting topic none the less.

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BTW: we touched on this topic in the thread Playing Devil's advocate to the power of myth

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Post by CarmelaBear » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Our genes allow for hands that can do things no ape ever could.

Our genes allowed us to walk on two feet thousands of years before the apes.

Our genes leave us mostly naked of fur, requiring that we clothe our bodies for protection.

Our genes create a body that really is 95% similar to that of a great ape, though the 5% of dissimilarity is so important to our sense of self and our behavior that we recognize the difference and judge it as better. All living things upon this fair earth pay the ultimate price and bear the greatest burdens to support the difference between animals and humans.

It's time we give back.
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Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

JR,

That's one of the best explanations I have heard about how genes determine in part who we are.

I guess we disagree on this part
For my line of thinking this qualifies only the omniscient/omnipresent as being truly possessed of free will being able to do everything without having to choose.
I believe that "thou art that" well actually "that you are a part of that" but ultimately that "thou art that" :wink: I see each person as being a part of God, not all of God, and all this from an organic perspective and not mechanistic. From my perspective it makes no sense to say that for example humans are a collective of individual organs, same applies to God.

If I and the omnipresent God are truly one of the same "whole" then I reason that I too can become free of choice as you said.



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Post by chris333 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Cliff,
"Thou Art That" does it for me every time in any situation. "He who sees this inturn becomes in this creation, a creator". Perhaps I was presumtuos in thinking I knew what I meant when I origanlly proposed the problem of Human Nature. Your points have helped me understand there is no archetype for human nature.

"But biological facts can never take the place of ethical choices. Once we understand our human nature, we must choose how "human" in the fullest, biological sense, we wish to remain. We cannot make this choice with the aid of external guides or absolute ethical principles because our very concept of right and wrong is wholly rooted in our own biological past. This paradox is fundamental to the evolution of consciousness in any species; there is no formula for escaping it. To understand its essence is to grasp the full predicament of the human condition".

Edward O. Wison




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Post by sladeb » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Okay, I feel a need to pipe in my thoughts here. Descartes, in facing similar questions decided that the only absolute was that he was and he thought - "cogito ergo sum". Could I for a moment turn this around slightly and suggest that to claim that we are the only species that thinks was a european - and more specificically a christian based arrogant assumption as man was put here in the christian view to subdue and dominate. However, I think that - and again I am prepared to consider the possibility that this is arrogant assumption - that what sets us apart is not that we can think - but that we can sit and think about the fact that we think. We can actually sit and analyse the processes of thought and ponder where it is that this ability to think comes from - not that we just think in response to stimuli. And here let me further elucidate that I think that Locke was wrong in his theory of knowledge. Locke posited that we can only think and learn in response to stimuli and experience. He did not consider the body of unconscious information we are born with.

However - and here we enter the world of mythology - we also think in relation to the huge body of hidden information that is part of the collective unconscious that we are all born with. And - therefore expanding on my thoughts above, we can think about the existence of that collective unconscious and ponder what impact that unconscious has on on our ways of thinking.

Therefore cogitation about cogito becomes the thing that sets us apart as humans. But then again - I could be wrong in my thinking :wink: .

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Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Cliff said:
I believe that "thou art that" well actually "that you are a part of that" but ultimately that "thou art that" I see each person as being a part of God, not all of God, and all this from an organic perspective and not mechanistic. From my perspective it makes no sense to say that for example humans are a collective of individual organs, same applies to God.

If I and the omnipresent God are truly one of the same "whole" then I reason that I too can become free of choice as you said
Ji ri mugai my friend. Ji ji mugai.

There is a strain of thought amongst those who accept the idea of shared consciousness and creator energy that before we (individuals) were "born" we were part of the amalgamous omniscient energy of "God" (this by the way is my ridiculously simplified explanation), and in choosing to experience limitation we moved away from the creator and separated ourselves from omniscience in order to manifest as a physical body. This (and the decision to return to the creator) is the fundamental choice I was referring to. Material experience is born of limitation, it is limitation. Therefore, to say it simply, we have free will, but we choose not to exercise it.

Chris - that's a great quote, it encapsulates the idea that humanity is transcendent of thought but lies instead (as so much of existence does) in the experience of being. I'm not familiar with Edward o. Wilson though. Do you have any information I could use to read more?

I mentioned above the Vedic concept of creation, Brahma, and atman. But as with all religions, the symbols and myths are metaphors for that which can't be fully explained, but instead relies on relating to previous experience as a way to giving a small look at the concept it is trying to describe. These metaphors also come from the psyche and are therefore descriptive in a symbolic way. The modern, scientific equivalent to these metaphoric concepts of atman and Brahma are infact the psychological definitions described by Jung, Adler, et al. While modern physics is describing more and more similarities between the ancient concepts.
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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

we also think in relation to the huge body of hidden information that is part of the collective unconscious that we are all born with
The more I study, the less I think that there is such a thing as a collective unconscious that we are born with. I am moved more and more towards the idea of a cultural unconscious, that these ideas are picked up from our environment, not from our biology. Is anyone aware of any modern research that supports the idea of a biological unconscious?

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Post by sladeb » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The more I study, the less I think that there is such a thing as a collective unconscious that we are born with. I am moved more and more towards the idea of a cultural unconscious, that these ideas are picked up from our environment, not from our biology.
I am interested in why you think this is the case. And in putting forward your thinking, I am interested in how you deal with the unconscious that was noted and researched so heavily by Jung and which he felt was the source of so much of our mythological heritage. I guess one last question - how "modern" are you referring to?

One last question - how do you differentiate between the collective unconscious of Jung and the biological unconscious that you refer to.
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Post by CarmelaBear » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I always thought of consciousness, whether collective or individual, as biological.

What else could it be?
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Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Spiritual? I guess we're really talking semantics again but to me "biological" implies something that can be measured with the five senses, while the collective unconscious is transcendent of exactly that.

Two days ago I was walking to work and saw a homeless guy with a disc-man or something like that listening to what must be one of his favorite songs and subtly dancing to the music. It made me think that music, art and dance are what make us human. The fact that we have a choice between following or not following our bliss!




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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I always thought of consciousness, whether collective or individual, as biological.

What else could it be?
It could be social, or learned. Especially when speaking of the ego or individuated consciousness, this seems to be the case. George Herbert Mead saw not only the ego but the whole human mind as a social product, and that is essentially the sociological approach ever since. And they have produced some good data to support their position, while I'm not aware of any that really supports the concept of a collective unconscious.

Jung said, regarding the archetypes of the unconscious, that
they are not determined as regards to their content, but only in regards to their form, and then only to a very limited degree ..... The archetype in itself is empty and purely formal ... nothing but ... a possibility of representation which is given a priori. The representations themselves are not inherited, only the forms, and in that respect they correspond in every way to the instincts, which are also determined in form only.
The comparison to instinct is what gives me the clue here. Most if not all of those behaviors that were thought to be instinctive in Jung's time have been shown to be the result of social conditioning. Although there are universal human activities, humans have no biological imperative that results in one particular form of behavior (instinct). So I would say that what Jung thought of as this very abstract "form" that is the archetype, existing as part of our biological inheritance, has no independent existence outside of the specific representations, which actually exist in the culture and are learned by the individual, not inherited.

Of course, I have been studying sociology lately, and neuropsychology, so I am prone to see things in this light. It does seem that modern psychology has largely left this idea of the collective unconscious behind though. That is why I asked if anyone knew of any modern proponents of the idea (with supporting research).

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