Saturday, October 23, 2010


Walter Alan Mandell said:

George writes:" It bears repeating... evolutionary psychology has been the lens though which the world culture, from top to bottom, makes sense."

With which I partially agree. But I must also point out there there many human cultures, each of which plays out our common genetically inherited drives, and emotions, and talents in different ways. While the commonalities between all cultures may well be genetically selected for, and hence hardwired into our species, there is little or no evidence that the many differences between different cultures is genetically based. Evolutionarily selected genetic determinism goes just so far. There is also cultural determinism. And ecological determinism. And economic determinism. And perhaps even linguistic determinism ---- while all languages with some effort can be made to express any concept, each language forces its speakers to think in terms of certain categories --- for example highly gender typed gender languages such as Spanish or French force their speakers to associate a masculine or feminine gender to even inanimate objects. And languages with complex tenses force their speakers to automatically think of time in complex ways.

Or to put it more simply, yes, genes determine human culture(s), but so do memes.

To which George "the I of me" replied:


I agree with you 100% and your "meme" settings with their accompanying emotional valences in the brain's synaptic landscape are subsumed under the general heading of the "influences of... nurture" which I also allow for in a deterministic landscape. Even at the unconscious level, every sensory impression (with sufficient strength) that reaches the brain, is recorded and makes an impression on the electrochemical hardware of the synaptic pathways. Of course, the bigger influences are the impressions with the biggest emotional baggage. Thus our place of birth with all its accompanying impressions (language, geography, family home and faces, playgrounds and streets, familiar odors and sights, et cetera will have an enormous electrochemical influence on brain structure and predispose us to act and believe in certain ways.

One of the things I'd most like to accept is that all the debating in the world is not going to much change anything (it would allow me to relax and shut up) except a sliver of good feeling arises at the thought that every idea I put into the melting pot of global exchange might subconsciously influence the synaptic structure of other brains in the global debate. Then, of course, I realize that my faint hope that I might somehow disengage is foolish in light of my electrochemical settings which predispose me to equivocate and debate. Had it been different my whole life would have been lived differently.

It's very interesting to me that I speak of things that the I of me is and will be doing or hopes to be doing. As if "I" had a choice, but, as far as I can figure it out, I don't. I consider, hope and wish for many sorts of behavior but am not able to do anything that my emotions don't direct me to do. I'd like to imagine I'd make a good non-theistic Buddhist, but when I try to do it, my sense of it is inauthentic and is quickly abandoned. I tried meditation, but it didn't feel authentic. An atheist I am and until something basic changes an atheist I'll remain.

The meme authentic stirs up some interesting ideas in me about free will and consciousness and our sense of being who we are. Perhaps authenticity is the feeling (or sense) that arises when our acts and thoughts are balanced with each other in a synaptic harmony. And inauthenticity is the feeling that is generated when some synapses are in conflict with other synapses within us.

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