Some Reflections On Violence

For years I’ve held the mindset that nature is cruel and needlessly puts us into combat with one another in a struggle over resources while only the fittest survive.  Upon learning some new things I’ve found out there’s more to learn about evolution.

Just recently I learned how life has evolved on various islands and was astonished at what I found.  Islands tend to be isolated communities, and unless they’re an original outgrowth of the Pangea super-continent, life on them didn’t evolve down the same “trunk” so to speak.

Some are formed from say volcanoes, magma slowly rising from the ocean floor until we have an island.  Eventually cocounuts and other seeds float to the island, and other seeds blow through the air landing on the soil.  From there it becomes wooded paradise out in the middle of nowhere.   Insects can travel the wind currents of the atmosphere and get blown there, then they begin to proliferate.  And birds find the island by accident as they make their migratory flights to and fro, and some make their home there.

Now there’s some interesting things to learn when it comes to evolution of species on islands.   Since none of their predators can make it to the island, the birds make their home there and begin to develop along their own evolutionary path.  The result is quite fascinating.

First off, they lose their ability to fly because they can just as easily live walking around the floor, eating seeds and insects.  Next they lose their fear of anything, because they’re never hunted.  They also lose their violent tendencies.

When mankind set sail and found these islands he was amazed at these strange species which had no fear and didn’t fight back.  Species such as the Dodo bird were walking around, which didn’t have a violent instinct in their body.  You could walk right up to them and club them in the head and they wouldn’t run.

Of course, as expected, mankind killed off these species and made them extinct.  “What dumb animals.  We can just run up to them and club them in the head!”  So birds such as the Dodo are no more.

Even so, there’s some interesting things to think about here.  Does evolution naturally produce cruel and violent species?  That doesn’t seem to be the case.  It seems it can go both ways; it simply favors survival.  If the environment no longer demands fear and violence in order to survive, those instincts disappear slowly over time.

Violence and fear have served our own species, and that of other primates, for a long time.  Our ancestors had to be territorial to defend their food sources, such as fruit trees.  There was only so much to go around.  Fear kept them alive and made them suspicious of both newcomers and foreign species, who may potentially be a danger to them (and often were).

Though those instincts used to keep us alive, in modern civilization they’re, for the most part, evolutionary baggage.  Even worse, the people in power have learned how these instincts operate, and through propaganda utilize them for their own selfish ends.  Our cultural evolution has progressed much more quickly than our biological evolution, and sadly a lot of our scientific knowledge is being used against us, not for us.  It’s unfortunate, but those old instincts seem to drag us back into barbarism and savagery time and time again.

I think there’s countless lessons like this to be discovered through careful analysis and study of various species in their natural habitat.  Unfortunately mankind has pretty much taken over the planet and has no regard for other species and their needs.  We kill them off, just like the Dodo, and have little regrets when doing so.

I received a comment on here the other day for one of my other posts:

“Suck it up, I’m tired of you Nature Boys crying all over the place about how “we’re destroying this” and “oh no save our wolves!”

Get over it.”

I love how he capitalized Nature Boys, like it’s a club of some sort.  I need t-shirt which says, “Nature Boyz” on it.  The back will say something like, “Yeah, that’s right.  I’m a trash picker-upping pacifist, hand-holding, kum-bay-yah singer who in his spare time tree hugs and saves owls.  I’m a Nature Boy!”

When people have this little respect for our evolutionary past, and other life on the planet, what hope is there for us as a species?  Sadly, this mindset is held by the vast majority of people out there.

Even our closest evolutionary cousins, chimpanzees and gorillas, struggle to survive and have to be protected artificially in conservation projects.

I want to grab people and shake them violently saying, “Look!  That’s your genetic cousin!  We’ve only just recently took our separate development paths.  Six million years ago we took our separate ways, but even still, we have almost identical DNA.  We’re bipedal and walk on two legs, using our other hands for tool use, and have a bit more brain power, but look!  Look at the anatomy of that chimp versus other life on the planet.  See how closely related we are?”

“Nah, that’s not me.  Evolution?  You’re telling me I came from monkeys?  How stupid!  From goo to you.  Hah!  How dumb are you man?”

Just oblivious to the hundreds of millions of years it took to create this biodiversity or how this planet works.

The more you learn the more all this stuff is so obvious.  When I study chimpanzees, it’s beyond doubt that they’re just like us, minus a little intelligence and anatomical differences.  They have complex social relationships similar to our own. They make use of tools not only when acquiring food, but also during various social rituals they perform.

I watched one chimpanzee picking up nuts off the forest floor.  He picked up a rock and carried it to a root sticking out of the ground.  He laid the nuts down and then smashed them one by one using the rock and ate the nut within.  He had ears and facial features just like a human.  He smiled.  He had his little kid with him.

Those who carefully study their species tell us all sorts of things.  They’re status conscious, can be insecure, sometimes manipulative and deceptive, and are capable of very complex planning.

They can learn language and numbers.   They even show empathy!

They are altruistic to members within their own tribes, though show indifference to outsiders, just like we do.   They mourn when loved ones die. There’s romantic love between males and females.  They appreciate natural beauty and will sit and stare at the sunset. They show curiosity and respect for wildlife if it’s not a threat to them.  Even their children pretend play, grabbing a stick and rocking it back and forth like a baby.

Most of their communication is of the sort we would call body language. According to body language books I’ve read, the vast majority of our communication is body language as well.  We speak words, but the vast majority of the meaning comes from emotional intonation and our bodily gestures as we’re speaking.   That’s also why it’s so easy to misunderstand someone through email, text messages, and chat, because most of the meaning and subtleties are not there.

Chimpanzees laugh at one another.  They wrestle, play tag, and tickle one another.  We’re also ticklish in the areas as they are – the armpits and the belly.

I’ve studied a lot of neuroscience over the past year, and comparing our brains to theirs, versus say that of a sea otter or an elephant, there’s no doubt – we’re near identical.

And before I leave the concepts of apes and chimps, I’ll share one last clip of David Attenborough’s “The Life Of Mammals”.  I’ve mentioned him many times in other posts, but you can see what his programs are like.

But I can see the guy who made that comment now,  “Yeah, but you don’t chimpanzees building rockets and landing on the moon, do you?”

It’s hard to be kind to such people.  The same scientific mindset, which they obviously lack, is what designed those rockets.  Those scientists who build that sort of thing, and I guess these days I consider myself one of those scientists too, are the same people telling us to save the planet.  Go figure!  So go study some books, learn a bit more about the origins of civilization, biology, anthropology, and all of that, and we’ll have a discussion later.

If we dropped that guy off in the wild, he’d be grabbing sticks and cracking open nuts, just like those chimps.  He’d be scavenging for fruits, and hunting smell prey for food.  You know, outside of our scientific advances, and civilization, we’d be just like that, wouldn’t we?  In fact, they survive out there, yet most of us probably wouldn’t.

There’s so much we still have to learn about all these species around us, yet within the next hundred years most all those habitats will be destroyed.  Not many are left even today.  Nearly half of all species will become extinct, and a lot of others will be confined to such unnatural habitats, the study of them will be far less fruitful.

I saw a clip of Stephen Hawking just recently.  He was talking about how we need to up funding in space research pronto.  Charlie Rose asked him why.  He said (paraphrased), “We’re going to annhilate ourselves soon.  We need to make sure we’ve spread to other planets, so when we destroy one planet, outstripping all its resources, or blowing ourselves up, we’ll at least survive on the other.”

How sad we’re even talking like that, but he’s right.  I better stop.  I had originally typed a up a huge rant about humanity in this post, but I removed it.  I don’t want to depress all of you guys.  When I do such things I just keep going and going, and then we’ll all have a terrible day.

Sad But True…

Bertrand Russell wrote this in 1949 in his book Authority And The Individual.  I thought it worth sharing:

In the modern world, and still more, so far as can be guessed, in the world of the near future, important achievement is and will be almost impossible to an individual if he cannot dominate some vast organization.  If he can make himself head of a state like Lenin, or a monopolist of a great industry like Rockefeller, or a controller of credit like the elder Pierepont Morgan, he can produce enormous effects in the world.  And so he can if, being a man of science, he persuades some government that his work may be useful in war.  But the man who works without the help of an organization, like a Hebrew prophet, a poet, or a solitary philosopher such as Spinoza, can no longer hope for the kind of importance which such men had in former days.  The change applies to the scientist as well as to other men.  The scientists of the past did their work very largely as individuals, but the scientist of our day needs enormously expensive equipment and a laboratory with many assistants.  All this he can obtain through the favor of the government, or, in America, of very rich men.  He is thus no longer an independent worker, but essentially part and parcel of some large organization.  This change is very unfortunate, for the things which a great man could do in solitude were apt to be more beneficial than those which he can only do with the help of the powers that be. A man who wishes to influence human affairs finds it difficult to be successful, except as a slave or a tyrant: as a politician he may make himself the head of a state, or as a scientist he may sell his labor to the government, but in that case he must serve its purposes and not his own.

The savage, in spite of his membership of a small community, lived a life in which his initiative was not too much hampered by the community.  The things that he wanted to do, usually hunting and war, were also the things that his neighbors wanted to do, and if he felt an inclination to become a medicine man he only had to ingratiate himself with some individual already eminent in that profession, and so, in due course, to succeed to his powers of magic.  If he was a man of exceptional talent, he might invent some improvements in weapons, or a new skill in hunting.  These would not put him into any opposition to the community, but on the contrary, would be welcomed.  The modern man lives a very different life.  If he sings in the street he will be thought to be drunk, and if he dances a policeman will reprove him for impeding the traffic.  His working day, unless he is exceptionally fortunate, is occupied in a completely monotonous manner in producing something which is valued, not, like the shield of Achilles, as a beautiful piece of work, but mainly for its utility. When his work is over, he cannot, like Milton’s Shepherd, “tell his tale under the hawthorn in the dale,” because there is often no dale anywhere near where he lives, or, if there is, it is full of tins.  And always, in our highly regularized way of life, he is obsessed by thoughts of the morrow. . . . . We know too much and feel too little.  At least we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs.  In regard to what is important we are passive; where we are active is its over trivialities.  If life is to be saved from boredom relieved only by disaster, means must be found of restoring individual initiative, not only in things that are trivial, but in the things that really matter.”

There really is so much I hate about the modern world.  I like to go for long walks around town and it’s sad that I’m mostly confined to sidewalks.  The world is completely roped off by personal property divisions.  If you start to walk through someone’s yard the police are there in no time.

The other day I cut through the soccer field of the middle school.  Within 10 minutes a police officer pulled up right beside me, stepped out of the car, and stared intently at me.   He lit up a cigarette and gave me the evil eye like I was up to something.  I walked right up to him and said, “Weather’s nice today.”  He said, “It’s a bit cold.”  And then I kept walking.  Paranoid society.

I walked along the side of the road in a neighborhood and when some kids saw me they said, “Stranger danger!  Stranger danger!”  Then they ran off.

There’s hardly any forests to walk around in anymore.  But one time I cut out of the forest and onto the sidewalk.  A young couple was walking down that sidewalk too and man oh man were they terrified.  I guess because I walked out of the woods, I dunno.  They got off the sidewalk and went way into the grass.  More paranoia.

I guess the woods is home to pot smoking druggies.  Who else spends time in them these days, other than me?

Bertrand Russell talked about visiting the hawthorn tree but nowadays there is no such thing.  And when you do go somewhere rural its all polluted.  I took a stroll down a country road and you wouldn’t believe what I found.  Some good ol’ country boys didn’t want to pay the dump fee, so they just discarded their old furniture roadside, including a now half-rotted bed mattress which just looked wonderful.  This was a perfect addition to all the Budweiser cans I found in the ditches and the Wal-Mart plastic bags hung in all the pine trees.

Even nice neighborhoods are getting polluted where I live, and it’s not intentional.  Our city has a recycling program where we’re given these blue bins to put plastic and other recyclable things in.  Well, those bins are way too small and they fill up to overflowing well before the next pickup.  Then a windy day comes and soda bottles and other trash is blown all over the place.   In the nicer neighborhoods they clean it up, but in other places they just leave it.  When I see that I can’t help but think, “Do the benefits of recycling outweigh all this pollution?  Probably not.”

Not too long ago I found this great country road.  It was beautiful scenery with these cliffs and trees.  I thought, “Wow, this is so nice, and you know, hardly anyone drives out there.  It’s peaceful.”  Then I looked over the edge of one cliff and found a surprise!

Apparently some small business found the area a convenient dumping ground for their truck-load of old CRT computer monitors.  There they were, like 40 of them.  I thought, “Oh, how nice!”   Man, what would that have cost to properly dispose of those?  $25?  $45?  Jethro yells to Cletus in the old pickup truck, “Hey guys, I just got an idea.  How about we save ourselves $45 and just dump these bastards over this here cliff side.  Nobody comes out here anyway.  Well, nobody but that philosopher guy who walks around town with his head down, thinking about who knows what.  He’s probably a terrorist Muslim extremist.”  No guys, sorry, I’m not religious at all and I’m just admiring these monitors you’ve dumped here.  Thanks though!

More and more people springing up everywhere.  Continual population increase.  You can’t take a stroll out in nature unless you want to walk 30 miles out of town.   There used to be a woods all over where I live but it’s all been bulldozed down now.  They put in a bunch of apartment buildings.  Everywhere you look they’re building something new, city limits slowly making their way outward.

It’s just like Bertrand Russell said.  I’m confined to this sidewalk walking around with cars driving by, having to breathe in their exhaust.  Half of them fat overweight people staring at me like, “What is that guy doing walking?”  It’s always funny when I walk by an intersection and someone will have their window down.  They roll up their window and won’t make eye contact with me.  I just laugh to myself and think, “No wonder people are manipulated by Fox News so easily.  God they’re paranoid.”  Not everyone is like that, but far too many people.

I’m not even rough looking.  I’m clean cut, wearing a nice button up shirt, clean pressed blue jeans, new shoes, my hair is cut short… There’s no reason to fear me.  But you just never know!  On Sundays half of them are on their way to Church, pastor giving a sermon about brotherly love.  What a joke.  If I was injured along the side of the road they’d be too scared to get out and help me.  They’d use their cell phone to call 911, but they themselves would drive off.

It might just be Missouri and the town where I live.  Not a whole lot of people use the sidewalks.

People are really homophobic here as well.  I went for a walk with my older brother the other day and some neighborhood kids around saw us.  The next day they rode up to me on their bikes and asked, “Are you gay?”  I said, “No, I’m not.  Why do you ask?”  “Just wondering.”

Imagine if I wanted to go skipping down the sidewalk, or burst out into song.  You can’t.  It’s impossible.  You’d have hordes of prudish people staring at you from within their cars thinking, “Oh my God, that guy’s a psycho.  Lock the doors.  Up the windows.”

Actually there is one guy who dares to do exactly that here in town.  Pretty hilarious actually.  He’s known as “walk-hard” because he’s all gangster and listens to his iPod, rapping and throwing up gang signs as he walks down the sidewalk.  Sometimes he’ll just throw his hands up in the air staring up to the sky as he crosses the street at a busy intersection.  He’s like Akon in a rap video.

Naturally he’s an object of ridicule, but I personally like the guy.  Unfortunately there’s this social construct that to do anything remotely fun in public is a no no.  You have to keep a solemn look on your face and just quietly walk from one destination to the next and hope the police don’t hassle you.  But honestly, just for the hell of it, I’d love to just start dancing in the grocery store.  Do some Michael Jackson moves down the isle, bust a little spin on the heels, grab my crotch, then tilt my hat toward some middle-aged woman.  Then grab the box of Corn Flakes and make my way to the check-out.  I admit though, that’s the very sort of thing I’d be complaining about if I had to deal with it every time I went to the store.  Be funny the first few times but it’d get annoying REAL fast.

I remember cutting through another area of town.  It’s not exactly the nicest area, so it might not have been a good idea.  Anyways, some guys started yelling out to me, “Hey man.”  I ignored them at first.  They kept yelling, “Hey man.”  I gave them a slight wave of my hand signaling “Hello” and continued walking.  Just four or five minutes later a black SUV pulled up RIGHT beside me and kept driving RIGHT beside me.  It was just a few feet away.  I looked in the window and for a brief moment made eye-contact with a very serious, scary looking guy in black-shades who wouldn’t take his eyes off me.  I thought, “Oh my God it’s Feds.”

Then all of the sudden three or four black SUVs and ten cop cars blazed into the area and surrounded those guys who were yelling at me.  They were arrested, apparently drug dealers.  I thought, “WOW… Good thing I kept walking.”

I’m just pacifist Jason, philosopher/scientist, trying to have a peaceful walk, and all this happens.  People wonder why I tend to stay up late at night and walk at 3 AM in the morning.  Outside of the beer cans reflecting moonlight, all the trash is hidden in the darkness.  There’s no stupid cars driving by with people staring at me.  No black SUVs tailing me, or drug dealers trying to sell me garbage.  No little homophobic kids pestering me.  It’s just me and the stars.  I’m finally left alone to my thoughts, but there isn’t much room for free-thought or time in this world.   I just want to relax and listen to the birds but there’s always a jackhammer or some kids making noise.

Life Is A Self-Realization

There’s been a certain set of thoughts running through my head over the past several months which I can’t seem to get out of my head.  I think the entire point of life is to discover our own potential and what we’re capable of doing.

In very strange sense every possibility already exists.  Say I pick up a guitar.  I don’t know how to play the instrument at all, but I can very easily imagine myself moving my fingers and hands in such a way that I would play the most amazing melody — a song nobody has ever heard before.   I know how to control my hands and fingers and that’s all I need.

Every song that can possibly be played already exists, it’s just a matter of a human stumbling upon it by moving his arms and hands in just the right way.   He strums the guitar, a sound is produced, he hears the sound and his brain in the form of memory records that experience; then we say we “discovered” or “wrote” a piece of music.

Every novel that could possibly be written already exists.  If I sat here on my computer and just happened to type words in that specific order, that novel would come into “existence”.

I’ve noticed that with every book I read the only thing the knowledge does for me is illuminate new possibilities to experience, and how to conduct myself to bring about different realities.   Even when I learn about the past it too changes how I conduct myself in the present.

This principle is strange to think about.  Every invention already exists.  If I just happened to move my body in just the right way, grabbing this component, then that component, and put it all together just like so, it would come into existence.

My friend Greg and I used to talk about mp3s and how every set of 1s and 0s already exists, and every song which exists, and even songs which haven’t yet been written, could be played through the computer speakers. If you had unlimited time, and you had the computer just randomly spit out 1s and 0s to a file and then play the audio, in time you’d hear every possible song.

Every computer game has already been written.  It’s just a matter of putting the 1s and 0s together.  Every image has already been drawn.  Every painting has already been painted.  Every food dish has already been prepared.

In this same fashion anything could theoretically be built and constructed – a device which cures cancer, a machine which can turn water directly into usable energy, a wormhole which could transport us to a parallel dimension.  It all could theoretically be built, if you only put the components together in the right way.

The thing is, I don’t understand what I’m capable of doing, and that’s the problem.  As I keep reading all these books in my study and learn new things, each new bit of knowledge reveals a new possibility path, all of which are sprouting from my current location, diverging from me like light-rays from a star.  But before I learned the things I read, those paths didn’t exist.  I had never thought of them.

One way of looking at it is we can choose who we want to be in life, for good of ill.  Another way to think on the same thing is we bring to consciousness a possibility which has always existed yet we just come to a sort of self-realization.  Maybe the distinction is just word-play and linguistic, but I think the latter interpretation is a much more positive outlook on life.

I think our studies in Physics are revealing that any reality is possible.  In a sense that’s just wordplay because we don’t know which realities should be brought into existence, and all the means to do so.  But in a weird way, all the equations point toward infinite variability, or at the very least, a general framework in which countless universes could be constructed.

But another key point to realize in this endeavor is that humans do not care much about experiencing new things.  We care about experiencing things which accord with our nature.  Our brains and limbic system are responsible for the emotional coloring and interpretation of the events we experience.

When you see a work of art and think, “Wow that’s amazing”, it’s your brain that thinks it’s amazing.  Somehow that painting resonates in your brain in such a way which brings about pleasure and joy.

Humans don’t care about infinite variety.  There’s an infinite number of trash dumps we could create, yet nobody cares to experience such places.  If the universe was a giant trash dump with a small paradise in the center, I’m not sure if mankind would care to venture beyond its borders.

Humans care about select realities.  The universe forms us into a physical existence, and certain experiences bring about joy and pleasure within us.   Our physical bodies were given to us by reality, and those determine in large degree what we like and don’t like.

A self realization is when one of these new paths are opened to us.

You may think that filtering out select paths from all possible paths limits our possibilities of who we can be and what realities we can construct, but it doesn’t.  Infinity is infinity.  There’s still an infinite number of paths available.  Infinity is unaffected by addition and subtraction.  Infinity isn’t really a number, but vaguely speaking, infinity minus 100,000,000,000 is still infinity.

I think when it comes to quantum mechanics and the collapse of the wave function, this set of ideas I’m talking about is not fully understood.   Our current thought framework comes from philosophers and long chains of thought dating back thousands of years in antiquity.  Even so, it will be replaced in time.   Future generations will view us as witchdoctors, just as we now view the ancients.  “How could they think something so primitive?”

They’ll read the history books and see people trying to leave behind “legacies.”  They’ll say amongst themselves, “How silly.  All realities have always existed.”  They’ll learn how consciousness and physical reality meld together, and how it becomes embodied.   They’ll think, “All those past realities could in theory all be brought back into existence.  It’s all just compressed energy, and see, we can do this and that and compress this energy into atoms of that form and state.”  They’ll know how parallel realities flow and meld together, and how we move from one moment to the next and what that really means.

Research going on in the Large Hadron particle-collider and in astrophysics is more than just science.  That stuff is self realization.  You start to see a deeper reality behind your everyday experiences.

Your Brain And Consciousness

I promised quite a while ago that I’d write about the brain and the nature of consciousness.  When I went to write this entry the first time it got so complicated I abandoned the attempt.  This time I’m not going to make the same mistake.  What I found is that if I write about this subject in depth I end up writing at least 100 pages worth of material, just scratching the surface.   But I’m going to give an attempt to quickly graze over the surface of consciousness and the brain and hopefully you all will find it a little bit informative.

Have you ever wondered if you’re truly free?  Sure people say we have a “free will” to choose this or that, but can we choose what we like and don’t like?  Can we choose who we fall in love with?  Can we choose what we find beautiful?  Can we choose what makes us happy?

Interesting questions, wouldn’t you say?

Have you ever felt like your body’s on auto-pilot doing its own thing?  Ever do something and think, “Why in the world did I do THAT.”

We feel we’re in control of what we say but where do the original ideas of words to speak come from in the first place?

Sometimes when I’m out with friends I like to step out of my body and listen to myself talk, even though I always end up losing my concentration when I do so.  People may find this strange, but I find myself thinking, “Are these my words?  Listen to this machine, my body, speak.  It just keeps talking.”  Like when you come up with a witty remark.  It just happens.  Even Sigmund Freud said that if you try to think about wit, it loses its humor.  Its something that just happens and you let it flow.

Isn’t it interesting to think about the question, “Am I being honest with myself?”  Sometimes I question whether it’s ok to give preference to a beautiful woman because of her looks.  But If I denied liking cute girls, and acted like all I cared about was intellect and other factors, is that being honest with myself?  Would I be in some sort of weird denial?

So many questions like these are answered when you study neuroscience.  You find out how the body sees things with the eyes, processes the forms, certain reproductive processes kick in, thoughts begin to flow, and then you see how you can inhibit certain thoughts in certain other areas of your brain based on your moral principles.   The whole “being honest” and “not being honest” with yourself stuff really doesn’t capture the full picture.  It’s more complicated than that.

I used to have a weird question related to “being myself.”  When I have to hold back what I really want to say, and have to keep myself from doing certain actions I really want to do, am I being myself, or is what I choose to inhibit myself from doing just as much a part of me as my desires?

What is pain and why do we experience it?  What is intelligence and how does the mind become aware of the world around us?   What are the emotions and how do they work?   Why do I wake up one day and feel down and out, then another day wake up in a giddy and full of life?

Years ago I spent many hours reading philosophy books, and in them they would speculate about the nature of free will, whether animals were also conscious, how the mind organized and categorized information, what beauty is, what happiness is, the emotions and passions, and all sorts of questions like these.   But most all of it was speculation and none of the arguments were conclusive.  There was always arguing and different opinions that all seemed to lead in circles.  But amazingly within our generation these questions are finally being answered!  The answers are found within the subject of neuroscience!

I can spend hours and hours reading neuroscience, and my degree of amazement and awe just never ceases.  It’s like I’ve been this little soul trapped in this robot yet I never knew that specifications as to how the robot worked.  Now I’ve been given this detailed manual telling all about every process of my body.  Oh man is it fascinating!

Stuff you would NEVER know about yourself.  Take the fact that we have to two halves to our brains.  We have a left half and a right half.  Generally speaking, one side processes information for one side of the body and the other side processes information for the other side.  I was reading a book written by a MIT professor on neuroscience and he started going into problems we have when we have brain tumors in various regions of the brain.   Here’s a MRI image of a patient who has a lesion in the left half of his brain.

Now what sort of effects would a lesion of this sort have on a person?  In this patient’s case he lost awareness of the entire right half of his body.  He was asked to draw a picture of himself and he drew this.

This man doesn’t know he has a right arm.  He doesn’t know about his right leg.  He’s completely lost consciousness of these parts of his body.

Now this man can talk with you.  He sees you and can interact with you.  But you can grab his right arm and ask him, “Whose arm is this?”  and he’ll say, “Well there’s only two people in this room, me and you, and it’s not my arm, so it must be yours.”

Women who get this sort of disorder have problems when they put on make-up.  They’ll apply make-up to one half of their face but not the other.   It really is strange.

You may go to the bookstore and buy some metaphysical book on “consciousness” and think that the subject is related to oneness with God and getting in touch with nature, or other such nonsense.  That’s not what “consciousness” is at all.  The real study of consciousness is this sort of thing.

Now think about the consequences of what we just discussed.  How can these people continue to see out of their eyes, yet not see something right in front of them?  Strange indeed, if you don’t know how the brain works!

This sort of disorder causes really strange things with memory as well.   For example, you tell them to draw a familiar street in their hometown.  They’ll remember everything on one side of the road, but can’t remember what was on the other.  Then you tell them, “Ok, I want you to imagine going down the road a ways to the end.  Now turn around.  Tell me what you see.”  Then they remember what’s on the other side of the road, but from a different angle.

You’re probably thinking, “Man, that’s crazy.”  I’m not 100% sure if I’m right on this, but I’m pretty sure that all of this has to do with our evolutionary origins.  You see, if you trace our evolutionary lineage back far enough you see that way way back our eyes were on opposite sides of our heads, like fish.  The two eyeballs saw totally different things, so naturally having one half of the brain process one half of the body, and the other half of the brain the other, makes perfect sense.

But primates evolved in such a way that our eyes came to face forward instead of at our sides, yet at the same time we carry the baggage of our evolutionary past.  This new evolutionary development was to help our monkey ancestors glide through the African trees and chase prey.  It gave us a new sense of depth perception that we never had before.  A creationist may have a lot of trouble accounting for this sort of thing, but if you believe in evolution it’s all very simple to understand.

So now we come to the question, “What is consciousness?”   We all know subjectively what consciousness is.  We hear, we taste, we smell, we can feel with our hands, we can feel when others touch us, we see with our eyes, and we’re aware of the objects and things around us.  We hear the music play, we have emotional experiences, we have feelings of guilt, of pleasure, of sadness, of joy, and everything else.  But what are these things?  Or maybe the better question to ask, “What causes these things?”

All of that stuff I just mentioned takes place within the outer 2 to 6 mm of the brain called the neocortex.  Cortex comes from the Latin word for “bark”.  Basically your brain is coated with a thin layer of neuron cells on the outermost surface, which is where all consciousness as you experience it takes place.

Now the brain has all kinds of other features and functions.  It processes information, calculates things, plans things, and so on.  But your subjective awareness takes place in that outer “bark” of the brain.  When electrical signals move through those neurons they seem to transmit information to your “conscious spirit” and you experience life.  The rest of your body seems to be dead matter simply responding to stimuli and following the laws of physics.

As for the cortex, we can apparently manipulate the signals within it in some way, which allows us what we call “free will”.   Studying this is part of what drove me to studying quantum mechanics.  I want to fully understand the nature of the atom and electricity, so I can see if I can model how these transmissions to the conscious spirit take place.

This explains a ton of things for me.   It explains why I can’t choose what I like.  It explains why I can move my arm using free will, but if someone hooks me up in a laboratory somewhere and starts sending signals down my brain, they too can control my limbs using electrical pulses.   In a very subtle way we can control ourselves by signal changes in the neocortex, yet we can easily lose control of ourselves at the same time.  The old free will debates of the philosophers were too simple.  Free will is a complicated merge with our physical bodies, not something ultimately simple.

Now let’s try to discuss the brain a little more.  I can’t discuss it in serious depth because that would take forever.  If you’re really interested in this stuff buy some neuroscience textbooks and read it all for yourself.  I will give you a basic rundown though.

If you took out your brain and started cutting it up (you’d have to use some chemicals on it first, because in its native state its like cottage cheese), and then looked at each of these sections under a microscope, you’d see that the brain is not uniform.  The cells that its made out of vary from one area to the next.

The famous German neurologist Korbinian Brodmann (1868-1918) did just this.  He cut up the brain into little thin slices, and then found where the cells changed from one area to the next.  Each “area” of the brain he gave a number.   These “areas” became known as Brodmann sections.  Later we found out that each Brodmann area corresponds to a different mental function.

Here’s a picture of one half of the brain with the Brodmann areas numbered.

Before we discuss what some of these areas do, let’s discuss what I mean when I say that the brain cells are different one area to the next.  Brain cells are called neurons, and neurons consist of central area with a nucleus, just like any other cell, but they also have these tentacle like arms which extend from them.  One of these arms has a sheath around it, which links it to other cells, and its called an axon.  The other arms are called dendrites.

Now when you look at these neurons from each section you find that some area’s neurons have long dendrite arms, whereas others have short arms.  Some have a ton of dendrites, whereas others have very few.   Instead of trying to describe it to you, just take a look at this picture.

Pretty cool huh?  Just think, neuron cells of the outer “bark” of your brain have a special property that when electricity flows through them you have conscious perceptions of things.  How cool is that!

Now that we’ve introduce the subject, let’s give a brief overview of what various Brodmann areas do.  Let’s start with vision, as that’s the most primary thing we use during our day to day lives.

After light is focused through your eyeballs it hits cells in the back of your eyes which then transmit an electrical signal through your brain which finally makes it to areas 17, 18, and 19  (refer to picture above).

Area 17 is raw sight perception.  When I think of area 17 I think of a computer monitor.  The computer, your body, processes and readies the signals and then finally the signal is sent to 17 and you “see”.  The physical world is finally made into a conscious output.

But area 17 alone is not all there is to sight.  We see yet we’re also aware of what we see.  Areas 18 and 19 process these same signals from the eyes and they analyze the contrast of color changes.  From this we form concepts of motion, space, and the conscious awareness of “objects” around “us”.

For example, if you get a brain tumor in areas 18 and 19, you’d still be able to see, but if I held an object up in front of you and asked you, “What am I holding?”, you wouldn’t be able to tell me.  You wouldn’t be able to identify that I was holding a pencil.  You’d see raw colors and nothing more.  Those colors would not be processed into objects.

How to explain areas 18 and 19.  Well, I was out for a walk a few months ago during the winter and it was snowing.  When I looked off into the distance I could see the snow coming down.  I saw white flakes falling relative to the backdrop of the dark trees.  But when I looked up into the sky the clouds and the snow flakes were the same color, so I could not see anything coming down.  It’s like they ceased to exist.  I just saw the clouds, which were just a whitish-gray mass of color.  But once I turned my head back down, I once again saw the flakes and that they were falling toward the ground.

My brain formed a conception of space and objects based on the changes and contrast of color.  Object processing and spatial orientation happened in 18 and 19.

Say you have brain damage to area 19.  Weird things begin to happen.  You may well lose your ability to notice motion.  People with tumors in this area have trouble seeing changes in motion and time.

One lady I read about had this problem.  When she went to pour a cup of coffee she started to pour and then all of the sudden the cup was full.  She had the hardest time knowing when the cup was full.  It was an instant change with her.  She didn’t see the liquid flow into the cup.  Area 19’s processing of motion and change, based on color contrasts, was no longer working for her.

She also couldn’t easily cross the street.  Cars would seem far off in the distance.  She’d go to cross the street and then all of the sudden the car would be right there about to smack her.   It’s obvious that she requires assistance in order to function in this world.

Otherwise she’s perfectly functional.  She can talk with you, eat, feel, has emotions.  She’s alive, but has lost consciousness of the motion of objects.

Another interesting thing about areas 17, 18, and 19 comes from blind people.  Say a person has a tumor which destroys area 17, but leaves everything else intact.  The person becomes blind, yet in some weird ways is still able to see.

These people do weird things.  They’ll be walking around the room with a seeing eye dog and be heading for an object, but then they will just seem to “know” that it’s there and properly avoid it.  Their brains are still aware of all the objects around them, but when they lose area 17 they seem to no longer “believe” that they can see or are aware of anything.

For example, you set up an experiment where you flash a light bulb by pressing a button.  You ask them to also press a button each time the light flashes.  They’ll say, “How in the world can I do that when I’m blind?”  Then you tell them, “Let’s just do it for kicks.  We’ll see what happens.”  They’ll correctly respond to the light flashes, pressing the button each time at the right moment 99.9% of the time.

I suspect that time as we know it is partly an illusion of area 19’s construction.  We have other association and processing areas as well, but I think time is somewhat of an illusion.  That whole debate of whether we exist in the eternal present, or how time flows, I think all is done by certain areas of the brain like 19.  Because it’s done by our brains, trying to use other areas of our brain which use language to describe the phenomena is completely useless.

One famous physicist said that time is simply a given.  Considering my neuroscience research, I think he’s right.  But time is not just “out there”, but also flowing inside our brains.  Time as we know it comes from our brains.  Its a change in these objects which our brain processes, and changes in their states.  Time and space “out there”, I’m not sure about.  It seems to be more complicated than what our brains are telling us.

If you have damage to any of the areas in your outer neocortex, whatever areas are damaged results in some loss of consciousness.

Brodmann areas 1, 2, and 3 are the “somatosensory” areas.  They control the sensations of touch, warmth, and other sensations of the body.  They give you awareness of your limbs and feelings such as tingles.

Brodmann area 4 is the primary motor cortex.  Somehow your conscious spirit can communicate with this area and allows you to control bodily movement.  It’s wired up in such a way that’s its connected to chain processes which when signals are fired here eventually give rise to bodily movements.

This sort of research is why I need my lab.  I need microscopes to look at brain cells.  I need electronics equipment to stimulate these cells in various ways, and sensors around them to see if any sort of signals are fired off or radiated.  I’m going to do research in quantum mechanics and study electrical flow in depth.

This study of consciousness is one of my biggest areas of interest.  Artificial intelligence and computer programming are all the same thing.  My love of programming 3D graphics engines is part of why I love Brodmann areas 18 and 19.  Those areas are what allow us to write computer games.  We can make the monitor output different colors and your brains will process them into a 3D environment.

I love this stuff.

What I want to do is create artificial “neurons” which when I pulsate signals through them I start to consciously have sensations.   They’d be modeled after Brodmann areas 1, 2, and 3.  Then I could tinker with everything and figure out how the brain works.  If I was successful, I’d run a pulse through this little bio-circuit I created, and I’d feel a little tingle.  I’m sure once I accomplished that I’d run out of the lab screaming, “By jove  I’ve done it!  I’ve done it!  I’ve discovered the link between physical matter and consciousness!”

Later I’d make artificial “neurons” like Brodmann area 4, and see if I could “mentally” and “telepathically” modify signals in those little circuits.  If that were possible, the next step would be robots I could control like my own body!

Mwhahahaha.  I could see some robotic arm in the lab swinging around and I’m screaming, “It’s alive!  It’s my 3rd arm!  Watch it swing left.  Now right.  I’m controlling this!”

What would be really weird is that if the artificial neurons I made slightly deviated from my own and someone else gained control of the arm instead.  A woman in Nevada all of the sudden has a new appendage.  She’s eating dinner with her husband and then all of the sudden has this perception of a 3rd arm.  She drops her fork, mouth gasping, staring at her husband.  “Honey,  I’m having some strange sensations all of the sudden.”  “What’s wrong?”  “I dunno.  I can control some appendage of some sort!  Am I going crazy?” “Just calm down honey.”  “YOU CALM DOWN.  THIS IS NUTS!  WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME!”

Or even creepier, somebody who has been dead for 20,000 years gains control of the arm…

We’ve only just scratched the surface, but as you can see, studying neuroscience is a lot of fun.   For now I’m going to have to end this entry as I’m getting pretty tired.  We’ll have to continue this at another time.

But before I go I’ll leave you with something very interesting.  Many animals such as dogs and cats have neocortical areas just like we do.  There’s good reason to believe that many animals are alive and conscious just as we are.   If I recall correctly, dogs and cats have Brodmann areas where they feel sensations, and can control their movements.  I think that’s very solid ground that they’re just as alive as we are, just not as smart.  Frogs on the other hand, do not have these areas.  They’re probably just lifeless matter hopping around.  There’s a subject called comparative neurology, where different species brains are compared and analyzed.  I haven’t had the chance to study that in any depth yet, but I certainly want to.

When I went to pet my cat just the other day I was extra kind to her.  Just as when someone grabs my arm I feel a sensation, she too feels it when you pet her back.  Makes you feel sorry for stray animals who wander around the city scrounging for something to eat.  Their conscious hunger is probably just as real as ours.

What’s In Your Inbox?

I love checking my email.  Why?  Because I have all kinds of fun things delivered to me everyday!  Things so imaginative I could never have thought of them on my own.  Seriously, it’s stuff like this that makes life worth living.

This next image cracks me up.

When did NASA say that discovering extraterrestrial civilizations is unlikely?  Even elementary astronomy textbooks talk about the Drake equation.  What about the giant dishes we have listening for radio signals emitted by other civilizations?  And how do we account for this strange plaque held here by Carl Sagan, who worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory?  Wasn’t this mounted on Pioneer 10?

But don’t look too much into the facts, you’ll spoil all the fun!  I’d love to attend one of these space camps.  It’d be totally epic to sleep in the mountains in a tent like this…

And while we’re up in the mountains, I’ll invite a cute conspiracy girl over to my tent and we’ll talk all night about the Catholic Nazis and Project Bluebeam!

But what is Project GLADDIO?  Normally I’m pretty up on my conspiracy knowledge as I’ve been getting emails like these for years, but Project GLADDIO is brand new to me.  What is it?  I’m not sure exactly, but maybe the text from the email will help shed a little light on it:

Who Controls the Vatican?
Philip discusses how money was funnelled from Vatican accounts to Bosnia – a place where children in trance were supposedly channeling the spirit of the virgin Mary – Philip explains how former President Clinton made US Military forces available for the bombing of mosques and homes owned by Muslims – and also reveals that Project Gladdio STAY-BEHIND networks were armed and funded by the British and American intelligence services after the end of World War II… Many of the caches of weapons, gold and cash were eventually used by ultra-right-wing Catholic factions who went on to stage many FALSE FLAG terrorist plots…

Philip and Chris discuss the MASONIC INFILTRATION of the Vatican Hierachy and the mysterious P2 “Propaganda Due” masonic lodge whose members are powerful industrialists – who have a covert agenda to usurp demoncracy in Italy and the world in general… Plus the strange case of the Belgian Detroux Affair – which seemingly involves high ranking members of the European noble houses with pedophilia.

Still confused?  Well apparently the Pope, after sexually abusing poor innocent children, slips them into a sort of trance where they summon the power of the virgin Mary, which is then channeled into a laser beam used by the U.S. government as a secret weapon against the Muslims.  Then they go and take all their gold and this money is used to covertly fund more evil terrorist activities.

Get all that?

I hope me and my new girlfriend aren’t interrupted by this guy, “What’s my face doing on your tent?”

But there wouldn’t be any need to worry, because we’ll be among friends.  The alien would have beamed down from his saucer to tell me about the space serpents, who entangle themselves in our brains, and coerce us into doing things we don’t want to do.  He’ll tell us that the only way to purify ourselves of them is to use L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics in conjunction with the Church of Scientology’s OT programs to lift our consciousness out of its current quagmire.

What is ORFEUS?
King of the Underworld? Not quite – the ORFEUS-SPAS II satellite is a free flying telescope which is taken up into space inside the payload bay of the Space Shuttle. ORFEUS is designed to analyze the gas signatures of stars outside our own galaxy. It uses Ultra-Violet telescopes to peer into the deepest depths of the universe – revealing very distant objects and showing details which are invisible to the naked eye…

When pointed at the earth’s atmosphere – to every Astronaut’s amazement onboard the Space Shuttle – ORFEUS reveals a cacophony of dozens of unknown objects – some flying at 18,000+ miles per hour – and some santering and wandering around in the upper atmosphere of Planet Earth – some of these objects are small – some are several hundred meters wide… They appear and disappear at will…

We also present the first HD high definition 3D model of the DARK SIDE OF THE MOON – that is, the side of the moon which we never see from Earth…

LITTLE GREEN MEN will continue with several TV specials in the coming weeks – including footage from around the world showing ‘space serpents’, the ‘crown of crowns’ UFOs, cigar shaped UFOs in Russia and Germany and a Special Report on the APOLLO 11 post-flight press conference, featuring Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin.

But there is a temporary way reach stages of higher consciousness — mushrooms!  But not just any mushroom…

ESP, The Sacred Mushroom and the Big Kahuna:
A film from the archives of Professor Andrija Puharich which recounts a 1960 research trip to Mexico with a Kahuna chief from Hawaii.  The Brujujo Mexican elder who gives hallucinogenic mushrooms to the party of scientists correctly diagnoses a heart problem experienced by one of the party and even correctly identifies an event in the childhood of one of the other explorers – information which he simply could not have known beforehand.  ESP and telepathy are enhanced by the ingestion of sacred mushrooms – and this research trip inspired Doctor Puharich to research the psychic abilities of many people around the world – most notably URI GELLER.  This fascinating piece of archive footage actually proves that ESP abilities are enhanced after eating certain strains of Mexican mushroom.  In fact, there has never been a programme broadcast since which so conclusively proves that ESP and psychic abilities are improved by hallucinogenic mushrooms.  The programme uses stroboscopic lights to enhance the internal ‘minds eye’ ability to perceive different levels of colour information.  One of the research subjects manages to identify a photograph of a desert cactus by just placing his hand on a photo whilst being blindfolded.  This film was broadcast 50 years ago and is still remarkable.

This space camp sounds totally awesome.  First we get stoned on mushrooms, then we have strobe-lights flashing in all sorts of colors and we start to see each other’s pasts.

And who would’ve thought that the pyramids were built by a race of giants!

GIANTS of the Ancient World:
The dinosaur era is still posing some perplexing and very amazing finds for archaeologists – new discoveries in south east India see a giant fossilised creature washed up following the recent asian tsunami. This report also includes photos from Baalbek in the Lebanon – did GIANTS create the ancient megalithic temples of the ancient world? View the slide show and make up your own mind.

Professor Puharich, The Philadelphia Experiment and Resonant Frequency of the Great Pyramid:
In this lecture from Professor Puharich’s archives, we see him discuss the TESLA technologies which saw an entire battleship disappear from sight… And the 7.82Hz resonant frequency of the Great Pyramid. Professor Puharich also discusses his tenure at Stanford University, where he researched the psychic abilities of URI GELLER.

And no conspiracy theory is complete without Satan worship and witches!

And yes, Hitler was a Crusty!  Don’t tell me you’re unaware of the Crusties?  You’re hopeless, I swear!