Monday, June 13, 2005


Among our neurons are neurons which not only fire when we perform an action but, also, a set of neurons which fire when we watch someone else perform an action. Mimicry—is that the source our culture, consciousness and rapid evolution?

"Consider what's involved in judging somebody else's movements. Maybe you need to do a virtual reality internal simulation of what that person is doing, and that may involve the activity of these very same neurons, these mirror neurons. So mirror neurons, instead of being some kind of curiosity, have important implications for understanding many aspects of human nature, such as interpreting somebody else's actions and intentions. We think it is this system of neurons that is damaged in some patients who have anosognosia. The patient can therefore no longer construct an internal model of somebody else's actions in order to judge whether that person is accurately carrying out a command or not.

"I believe that these neurons may have played an important role in human evolution. One of the hallmarks of our species is what we call culture. Culture depends crucially on imitation of parents and teachers, and the imitation of complex skills may require the participation of mirror neurons. I think that, somewhere around 50,000 years ago, maybe the mirror neurons system became sufficiently sophisticated that there was an explosive evolution of this ability to mime complex actions, in turn leading to cultural transmission of information, which is what characterizes us humans." —Ramachandran in A BRIEF TOUR OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS, p. 38)

And from culture, we advanced into more sophisticated forms of warfare about which the next two entries in today's posting comment.


"Military officials say that insurgents seem to be getting only savvier. Improvised explosive devices, typically rigged on roads used by U.S. military convoys, are bigger and better placed than before. The fighters themselves are adapting changing tactics, becoming better organized and equipped. When marines launched Operation Matador last week near the Syrian border, they were surprised to find fighters in uniforms and body armor. As Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked to Pentagon reporters last week, 'This is a thinking and adapting adversary.' " (US News and World Report, May 23, 2005, p. 33)


Again, as I read the Stevenson biography by John Martin (ADLAI STEVENSON AND THE WORLD), I come across another passage in a speech by Stevenson that someone ought to be delivering today toward the Bush regime which is ten times more the aggressor and bully in and to the world's nations.

"Too often of late we have turned to the world a face of stern military power. Too often the sound they hear from Washington is the call to arms, the rattling of the saber.... Thus have we Americans, the most peaceful and generous people on earth, been made to appear hard, belligerent, and careless of those very qualities of humanity which, in fact, we value most. The picture of America—the kindly, generous, deeply pacific people who are really America—has been clouded in the world, to the comfort of the aggressors and dismay of our friends.... We will be welcome to the sensitive people of Asia, more as engineers and doctors and agricultural experts, coming to build, to help, to heal, than as soldiers..... So I say, let us present once more the true face of America—warm and modest and friendly, dedicated to the welfare of all mankind, and demanding nothing except a chance for all to live and let live, to grow and govern as they wish, free from interference, free from intimidation, free from fear. Let this be the American mission in the hydrogen age. Let us stop slandering ourselves and appear before the world once again as we really are—as friends, not as masters; as apostles of principle, not of power; in humility, not arrogance; as champions of peace, not as harbingers of war. For our strength lies, not alone in our proving grounds and our stockpiles, but in our ideals, our goals, and their universal appeal to all men who are struggling to breathe free." —Adlai Stevenson (from a radio address on April 11, 1955, might I add, just a couple of months before I graduated from Stivers High School in Dayton, Ohio and sped off ten days later to join the United States Navy)

"War is the unfolding of miscalculations." —Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989)

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