By Nate Hagens: Blindspots and Superheroes

Here is this year’s Earth Day talk by Nate Hagens.

I used to preface Nate’s talks by saying he provides the best big picture view of our predicament available anywhere.

While still true, I think Nate may now be the only person discussing these issues in public forums.

Everyone else seems to have retired to their bunkers and gone quiet.

If you only have an hour this year to devote to understanding the human predicament and what needs to be done, this may be the best way to spend it.

On Free Will and the Great Barrier Reef

By Dahr Jamail – Great Barrier Reef Reaches “Terminal Stage” as CO2 Levels Rise at Record Rate

Dahr Jamail reports on the dying Great Barrier Reef and other recent casualties of climate change.

He concludes the article by blaming the denial of Trump and other leaders.

Jamail does not mention his own denial demonstrated by flying long distances to report on climate change.

Everyone, myself included, has a justification for their lifestyle.

Genes have evolved over billions of years to compete for finite energy so they can survive to replicate.

There are 7.5 billion humans in severe overshoot because their genes out-competed the genes of all other life by learning to dig up and burn ancient solar energy.

Having genes that make us smart enough to understand our mortality and the implications of our genes’ ability to exploit fossil energy requires genes that cause us to deny reality to avoid depression and a consequent decrease in reproductive fitness.

Our genes are in charge.

Free will is an illusion.

Enabled by denial of reality.

How could it be otherwise?

Varki’s MOR vs. Jaynes’ Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

I am reading Julian Jaynes‘ “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” and am trying to understand how it relates to Varki’s Mind Over Reality (aka Denial of Reality) theory.

Specifically:

  1. Is Varki a prerequisite for Jaynes, or does Jaynes stand on its own?
  2. Does Jaynes answer questions not answered by Varki?
  3. Does Jaynes conflict with Varki?
  4. Do the two theories offer different explanations for:
    1. the singular emergence of a brain with an extended theory of mind;
    2. the singular emergence of a brain capable of advanced physics;
    3. the singular emergence and universality of religion in the cultures of behaviorally modern humans;
    4. the reason that belief in life after death is the only common denominator between thousands of human religions;
    5. the reason that otherwise intelligent humans deny all aspects of their overshoot and the severe damage they are doing to the ecology that sustains them.

If there are any readers that have pondered these questions I would love to hear your thoughts.

I intend to write a summary and offer answers to the above questions after I finish the book.

Jaynes is quite a dense and unintuitive book so it may require several readings before I have the confidence to tackle a summary.

Tribes Trump Reality: War is Probable

About 100,000 years ago a small tribe of hominids experienced a rare double mutation for an extended theory of mind plus denial of reality, which switched having a more powerful brain from being a reproductive fitness disadvantage into a strong advantage, thus enabling the mutations to fix in the gene pool. That species then used its unique brain to take over the planet and to grow itself into a severe state of overshoot.

This first and only extended theory of mind to emerge in a brain increased the effectiveness of social cooperation through improved morality, communication, planning, and the invention and transmission of new technologies.

The denial of reality mutation was required to mute the awareness of mortality and its negative impact on reproductive fitness that the extended theory of mind enabled. The inherited denial of mortality caused each tribe to create a life after death story. Over time these stories were elaborated into what we now call religions (and political parties) which serve to define, unite, govern, and entertain tribes.

The tribe with its story was and is central to the success of the species. For most of history it mattered not whether the story was true. Today the survival of the species has bumped up against the laws of physics and truth does matter. This is a wicked predicament because tribes can’t easily change their stories, and inherited denial of reality tends to block unpleasant truths from being added to the stories.

Today we have two angry bickering tribes within the most powerful country on earth. Each tribe comprises about 50% of the population. Neither tribe has a story grounded in reality or truth. Each thinks the other is the cause of the very real thermodynamically based pain it is experiencing. Neither understands what is going on. Inherited denial of reality blocks each from learning what is going on.

The best and perhaps only method for uniting and distracting these two tribes would be to identify a third tribe as a threat. Fighting that third tribe will unfortunately accelerate the depletion of low-cost oil which caused the pain in the first place. So it may be necessary to identify a fourth tribe as a threat. And so on.

This will probably not end well.

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer: Mass Extinction and Mass Insanity

mass-extinction-denial

This essay by Ilargi will break your heart, if you have the courage to read it.

He calls it insanity. I call it evolved denial. Same thing.

https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2016/12/mass-extinction-and-mass-insanity/

 

We killed 58% of all vertebrate wildlife just between 1970 and 2012, and at a rate of 2% per year we will have massacred close to 70% of it by 2020, just 4 years from now. So what does it matter who’s president of just one of the many countries we invented on this planet? Why don’t we address what’s really crucial to our very survival instead?

 

Two thirds of our world is gone, and it’s we who have murdered it, and what’s worse – judging from our lifestyles- we seem to have hardly noticed at all. If we don’t stop what we’ve been doing, this can lead to one outcome only: we will murder ourselves too. Our perhaps biggest problem (even if we have quite a few) in this regard is our ability and propensity to deny this, as we deny any and all -serious, consequential- wrongdoing.

 

We treat this entire extinction episode as if it’s something we’re watching from the outside in, as if it’s something we’re not really a part of. I’ve seen various undoubtedly very well-intentioned ‘green people’, ‘sustainable people’, react to the WWF report by pointing to signs that there is still hope, pointing to projects that reverse some of the decline, chinook salmon on the North American Pacific coast, Malawi farmers that no longer use chemical fertilizers, a giant sanctuary in the Antarctic etc.

That, too, is a form of insanity. Because it serves to lull people into a state of complacency that is entirely unwarranted. And that can therefore only serve to make things worse. There is no reversal, there is no turnaround. It’s like saying if a body doesn’t fall straight down in a continuous line, it doesn’t fall down at all.

The role that green, sustainability, conservationist groups play in our societies has shifted dramatically, and we have failed completely to see this change (as have they). These groups have become integral parts of our societies, instead of a force on the outside warning about what happens within.

Conservationist groups today serve as apologists for the havoc mankind unleashes on its world: all people have to do is donate money at Christmas, and conservation will be taken care of. Recycle a few bottles and plastic wrappings and you’re doing your part to save the planet. It is utterly insane. It’s as insane as the destruction itself. It’s denial writ large, and in the flesh.

 

Every species that finds a large amount of free energy reacts the same way: proliferation. The unconscious drive is to use up the energy as fast as possible. If only we could understand that. But understanding it would get in the way of the principle itself. The only thing we can do to stop the extinction is for all of us to use a lot less energy. But because energy consumption provides wealth and -more importantly- political power, we will not do that. We instead tell ourselves all we need to do is use different forms of energy.

 

Our inbuilt talent for denying and lying (to ourselves and others) makes it impossible for us to see that we have an inbuilt talent for denying and lying in the first place. Or, put another way, seeing that we haven’t been able to stop ourselves from putting the planet into the dismal shape it is in now, why should we keep on believing that we will be able to stop ourselves in the future?

 

After all, if destroying 70% of wildlife is not enough for a call to action, what would be? 80%? 90? 99%? I bet you that would be too late. And no, relying on conservationist groups to take care of it for us is not a viable route. Because that same 70% number spells out loud and clear what miserable failures these groups have turned out to be.

 

We ‘assume’ we’re intelligent, because that makes us feel good. Well, it doesn’t make the planet feel good. What drives us is not reason. What drives us is the part of our brains that we share in common with amoeba and bacteria and all other more ‘primitive forms of life, that gobbles up excess energy as fast as possible, in order to restore a balance. Our ‘rational’, human, brain serves one function, and one only: to find ‘rational’ excuses for what our primitive brain has just made us do.

On Religion and Denial

Let’s pretend an alien came to earth to study the evolution and behavior of humans. What would it observe and conclude?

The alien observed that every human group, in every location of the planet, throughout all of human history, has had some form of religion. The alien logically concluded that religions must be associated with a reproductive fitness advantage.

The alien observed that the human species succeeds in large part due to social cooperation, and that religions serve to define, unite, govern, motivate, and entertain groups, and (especially in times of scarcity) define outside groups as enemies. The alien then understood that the reproductive fitness advantage of religions is to increase the probability of survival through enhanced social cooperation.

The alien observed that there are thousands of different religions, each with a unique story, and that each religion thinks it is the only (or most) true religion. The alien logically concluded that all religions are human imagined stories.

The alien then noticed something very odd.

The one and only thing common to the thousands of religions is that they each have some form of life after death story. Religions can and do tell every conceivable story, but religions do not need a life after death story to define, unite, govern, motivate, and entertain a group. It might be reasonable for a few random religions to include life after death in their stories, but it is not reasonable that every religion has a life after death story.

Unless, observed the wise alien, the need for a life after death story has an important genetic foundation.

The historical record suggests that religions with their life after death stories emerged at the same time that humans with enhanced intelligence and an extended theory of mind emerged. The alien concluded that the two must be linked. The alien reconfirmed this conclusion by observing that no other species has an extended theory mind, and no other species has a religion.

The alien was stumped to explain the link but knew that there were a few good human scientists so it went to the library and found a book on human evolution by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower. The alien learned that a mutation for an extended theory of mind, which enables an individual to understand the mind of another, would be advantageous to a social species, and would have enabled an individual through normal daily observations to understand her own mortality. All mammals have a useful inherited fear of injury and therefore mortality awareness would have caused the individual to become depressed and less likely to take the risks necessary for survival and reproduction. The mutation for an extended theory of mind would therefore not fix in the gene pool.

Varki went on to explain that if a mutation for an extended theory of mind occurred simultaneously with a mutation for denial of reality, then what was a reproductive fitness disadvantage would become a powerful fitness advantage, and the two mutations would fix in the gene pool.

The probably of two rare mutations occurring simultaneously is small and the alien now understood why other social species like dolphins, elephants, crows, and chimpanzees, which would also benefit from an extended theory of mind, had not evolved one.

The alien saw that inherited denial of mortality reality would have caused each human group to believe a life after death story, which over time through transmission errors, became a unique religion.

The alien observed that denial of mortality reality is a very strong inherited behavior. Groups frequently devote all of their surplus wealth to constructing structures to please and communicate with gods in the after life. Pyramids and cathedrals being two of many examples. The alien also observed that the behavior remains strong in modern times because new religions, like Scientology, continue to have life after death stories.

Varki went on to explain that the mechanism within the brain for denying reality would be relatively simple to create by mutating the fear suppression module used by mammals when they need to fight, but by necessity of how it works, is quite broad in scope. This means that humans not only deny their own mortality, but also tend to deny anything they find unpleasant which creates an optimism bias that is useful when not facing limits to growth, but harmful with limits to growth, and harmful with lifestyle choices like insufficient exercise and nicotine.

Ah, said the alien, now I understand why almost no humans acknowledge or discuss or act on their severe state of overshoot. And why climate scientists frequently fly long distances to conferences where they criticize fossil energy use, promote green growth, and never mention population reduction.

The alien was finally able to tie up the loose ends that had been troubling it.

The alien saw, on the one hand, an intelligent species capable of impressive intellectual feats such as visiting the moon, and on the other hand, a species in a severe state of overshoot dependent on rapidly depleting non-renewable resources that was destroying the habitat it needed for survival.

The alien had been perplexed at how such an intelligent species could be in such peril without acknowledging, discussing, or acting on its predicament.

The alien now understood and concluded its report with “Denial created humans, and denial will destroy humans.”

As it boarded its ship for home, the alien reflected on how lucky it was to have come from a planet where life had evolved without the need for death and therefore was able to evolve intelligence without denial.

The human brain, the God it believes in, and the overshoot it enabled and denies, all resulted from the same improbable genetic mutation that occurred about 100,000 years ago.