The central idea behind Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition theory (MORT) is that awareness of death creates a barrier to evolving a more powerful brain, and humans are the only species so far to have broken through this barrier, about 100,000 years ago, by simultaneously evolving denial of reality. Two maladaptive behaviors, awareness of death enabled by an extended theory of mind and denial of reality, when improbably combined, become highly adaptive, and in a geologic blink, humans dominated all other life.
This elegant theory fits all known data, and no known data slays it. For curious students of odd human behaviors that conflict with rational intelligence, like denial of overshoot and religion, and other hard to explain human evolutionary singularities, the MORT theory is deeply satisfying. I listed my reasons for MORT enthusiasm here.
In March 2017 the Center for Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) held a symposium on awareness of death at which Dr. Varki presented his theory. Included in the symposium documents was a compilation of quotations on awareness of death which I found interesting and therefore present here.
What we have here are observations by some smart people on the profundity of human awareness of death, yet none of them were able to devise a scientific theory to explain their observations.
Just as with evolution by natural selection, which in hindsight seems obvious but required Darwin to explain it, someday Mind Over Reality Transition will seem obvious and Varki will be recognized for a great leap forward in science.
Unless of course the implications of the theory prevent the theory from being understood. 🙂