Struggling with Meaninglessness

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Archive for the ‘Evolution’ Category

Feminism Is Chauvinism

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Note: I pondered for some time before publishing this post because I think it is a little biased towards feminism in general. But I think it is worth reading at the same time. So, a little disclaimer here, when I mention feminist, I’m actually referring to radical or extreme feminist.


There was an essay I’ve written over a year ago – The Perceived Value – my little discovery on why comparing and critiquing intelligence between races and genders is such a sensitive issue. If only my English writing was better back then, the essay would have been perfect – it was one of my all time favourite observations I’d made. (I write better these days and I’m still trying to improve on my writing). And I’ve never hide the fact that I dislike radical feminists. A year ago, I mildly dismissed the ideology of feminism. But today, I will take one step harsher and explain in length on why modern radical feminists are bunch of confused people.

I think feminist are exactly the opposite of male chauvinist pig … that’s right … female chauvinist pig. Feminism over the years have evolved away from its noble purpose of creating awareness and defending women rights to creating new ridiculous ‘belief systems’. I feel today feminism has become more like a medium for angry women to vent their hatred and frustration towards man. Few typical examples of feminist irrationality:

  • Feminists complain when a TV show make fun/joke about women
  • Feminists are upset when a movie portray the actress as weak
  • Feminists complain when a research put “He” instead of “She” as example
  • Feminists always deny any research which shows men are better in certain things than women

My personal ‘favourite” irrational belief from the feminist is -“Men and Women are innately equal. It is the culture which created different roles in gender.”  Every time I hear this statement, I feel like crying out loud to the lady – “Bullshit”! Well, actually I’ve never done it before and never intended to but you get the picture of how silly the statement is to me. Here’s my take on this issue.

We have to look back at the history to investigate the origin of humanity – The evolutionary root. Many thousands years ago, humanity were living in a hunter-gatherer society – The Men were the Hunters while the Women were the Gatherers. These roles were shaped by natural selection to ensure the survival of human species. You see, human’s survival actually wasn’t really easy back then. Due to the complexity of human being, it takes plenty of effort from a human to develop a child properly (typically need to spend 15-20 years to grow up a child). At the same time, due to our higher intelligence, our brain consumes massive amount of energy, hence our ancestors needed plenty of food. This is how through natural selection, the nature has discover a perfect method for human species to survive properly – distributing roles between male and female. The men will hunt for meat while women will take care of the young and gather food which is easier to get such as fruits. This method worked well, and it is also the same reason why we still exist today. Even our species’ cousin chimpanzees are living in a similar societal structure.

And here, we have feminists who believe that men and women are born blank slate with nothing attached, just like a piece of pure blank white paper. Bam! There goes evolutionary psychology and genetics down the drain. These deluded feminists believe they could overwrite the millions of years of evolutionary history by imposing a fantasy-ideology to people, totally in disregard with our biological history.

There’s a reason why men could develop muscle easier compared to women. You see, our genes do not understand what is a fast food restaurant. Our genes today is still similar with our cavemen ancestor who have to wrestle and carry animal meat back home. That’s why muscular men still exist today. But thinking logically, we do not need so much muscle today as compared to thousand years ago. Why didn’t the culture make big muscle extinct? See, by just substituting intelligence with muscle, we could already clearly see how ridiculous the statement by the feminist! Is there really a difference between brain power and muscle power when both are the subject of Evolution? If brain power between gender are equal, why is muscle power not equal? Again, it all boils down to my early observation of The Perceived Value. Of course, I’m sure we will gradually evolve away from our ancestor, but the majority of our basic instinct is still pretty primitive as of today…just like most ladies still enjoy chivalry from the gentlemen, no?

Let’s look at another example of irrationality from feminism. Look at prostitutions, one of feminist’s favourite topic. Feminism consistently urge to abolish prostitution as they like to call it a sex ‘exploitation’ by men on women. But think about it, on the flip side, men actually paid women for sex and this is a fact often conveniently ignored and disregarded by the feminist – So, the million dollar question here – Who is Exploiting Who? Just as men and exploited women for sex, could it also mean that women are exploiting men for money? Is this not a fair trade in accordance to the law of Supply and Demand?

Perhaps, I sound like a MCP who is desperate to put women down. But I totally respect women. Having grown up living in a single parent family, I do not need anyone to tell me how capable a woman is. And I totally believe in equal rights and equal opportunities should be given to all genders. But the truth is still truth. Men and Women are biologically not the same. Men play a bigger role in leading and shaping the world while women supported and complemented men. In any case, just check the history if you have doubts. That’s why I call feminist confused – they are confused between the differences of equality and sameness.

I do not believe in extremes not matter what the circumstances are. I believe extremism distort our view in perceiving the reality. I believe when feminism first started out, their intention was noble and right. But slowly, feminists got obsessed with it and turn it into a political power. And they got even more obsessed with it and start creating delusional reality to fit it into their belief systems. Feminism has now generally become the blame-the-men movement, taking a holier than thou stance as if all women are victims and there are no evil and malicious females out there.

I’m pretty glad that feminism is not a big thing in Asian countries. To see women as ‘same’ with men is a big mistake because I believe it will only condition genders to compete with each and to see each other as a ‘threat’- Just like US and China aggressively competing with each other because they believe they are the ‘same’ when it comes to power. Men and women are not supposed to compete with each other – We should work together. To work together harmoniously, there need to be an acceptance in our innate abilities and nature and to know who we are and what we can do.

Written by elan85

March 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Evolution’s Four Noble of Truths

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This is a tribute essay to Charles Darwin, who was born exactly 200 years ago… minus 3 weeks … (yes, I left this essay in my draft for 3 weeks)

The Role of Evolution

What is the role of Evolution? Putting it simply, Evolution is a natural system organized by the nature to keep life going and survive in this ever changing environment. In other words, we will not exist without Evolution’s presence.

For instance, billion years ago, there was an ice age where the earth was literally freezing cold. Hence, every animal lived during that period must have resistant against cold or else they will die of freezing and frostbite. However, over time , the earth became warmer and species have to adapt to survive the warmer environment or else they will die of heat.

Hence, a simple formula – (The ever-changing environment on Earth) * X = (Continuity in Life)

And X is Evolution.

What will happen if Evolution do not exist? Simple, continuity in life will not happen. The Earth’s environment is dynamic – it keeps on changing and fluctuates up and down. So, for a species to survive, they need to cope with this ups and downs over generations. And this is exactly the role of Evolution and genetics – a game of trial and error to ensure the survival of life – A system where it makes life automatically adapt to the environment.  A system which bring the existence of new species and the extinction of weak species (in terms of adaptability).

If we bother to look around the nature, we will see Evolution is everywhere. Why do we find camels in the desert but not horse when they are both mammals? Because only animals which can withstand a long period without water can survive in the desert. Why is there no crocodiles in the urban area but plenty of house lizards around? Because only domestic animals which can cope with human activities can survive in the urban area.

Or perhaps we could ask something more detailed – why is our teeth not 100% symmetrical but rather few of them are shorter or longer than the rest of the teeth? If indeed human were designed by a perfect divine power, shouldn’t our teeth also be perfectly even? How about our hand and legs? As a person who play football and wear tight boots often, I notice that my left foot is slightly bigger than my right. Why such variation exist?

When it comes to variations, some of them do not matter. Like the imbalance length between my teeth. Or the difference of length between my left index finger and my right index finger. Or the difference of my brain size with the smartest guy in the world. All these variations, caused by Evolution, make little difference to our survival because in our environment, we do not depend on this variations to survive. But there are some animals which need these variations to survive.

One good example was the discovery by Charles Darwin when he came across finches with different shape of beak when he was on voyage around the world to study plants and animals.

 finches

Darwin discovered that the same species of finches actually had different shape of beak, depending on the environment where they live in. Finches which live in an environment with the primary source of food consist of nuts, will have a broad beak function to crack the nut. Finches which live in an environment with plenty of fruits will have a sharp beak to pierce the fruit.

Finches which have the wrong beak in the wrong environment will simply die because of difficulty in getting food. Hence, finches with the right beak in the right environment will keep multiply as the resources are abundant.

Hence, allow me to present the four truths of Evolution –

Evolution’s Four Noble of Truths

1. Evolution is natural.  We treat gravity as something natural through our everyday experience. Same goes for melting ice. And water droplets falling from the sky.  And the ‘small box’ invented by human being to communicate with each other wirelessly across the world. These are no miracles. They are just some natural law.

If all these phenomena which obey the law of nature and science are natural, why not Evolution? Just like the law of physics and the law of chemistry, biology also has a natural law and every life spawned in the face of earth will have to obey it. That’s the same reason why there’s no human being with 10 pairs of eyes – it is impossible to evolve to such extent because Evolution works by having small amount of incremental steps.

2. Evolution is not intelligent. Perhaps it sounds outrageous to even mildly suggest Evolution is stupid. But really, Evolution is not something ‘Intelligent’ at all. Evolution can’t ‘design’ organisms out. Evolution is just a game of probability. A game of trial and error. Like a dumb version of Thomas Edison who have to use billion of years to come out with a mildly intelligent being called human. Yes, it is ‘billion’ of years. Isn’t it great that human being took only like ten thousand of years and became civilized from living in the cave to having Internet? Human mind is much more capable in designing things than Evolution, apparently.

At the end, the environment will be the benchmark. Evolve well and the species survive. Evolve wrongly and it will extinct.

3. Evolution is unfair. There’s a form of unfairness in Evolution due to the element of randomness … just like babies who were born to a poverty-stricken family or a soul born to a cockroach which will have a high chance to be exterminated by human.

Evolution is also cruel in the sense only the fittest will survive. As I have said many times, Evolution is a game of trial and error – A game of genetics calculation and probability.

If let’s say for some weird reason, bamboo mysteriously vanish from the face of the earth tomorrow, then it also means the end for the pandas.

Too bad, that’s life, Panda. Evolve or vanish.

4. Evolution works. Yes, it works. That’s what allows me to type these out.

The Wisdom

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.Buddha

When you throw something up, it will eventually come down – this is the law of gravity, the law of physics. The law of sciences are neutral – it simply lay down the rules to turn cause into effect. I pour water to the fire – that’s the cause. The fire is put down and that’s the effect – The law of chemistry has made this event possible.

Just like other law of science, Evolution is also neutral. No love, no hate, no mercy, no sympathy, no reward, no punishment. What it does is just to lay down the rules and laws and let the cause and effect to take place.

Hence, once we grasp this idea in our head, we will start to see the link and realize human being is kinda selfish when it comes to things like which is apparently noble … like saving endangered species.

Just observe the type of endangered animals which human are spending heavily on saving … they are all mammals! What about the endangered insects? What about some endangered frogs? The bees? Will human being splash million of dollars just to save some endangered insects? No, we only  save ‘cute’ mammals, or animals which could interact with us. That’s how, unconsciously, selfish human being is. We are playing ‘God’ here.

So, why not just let the endangered species go since they are having hard time adapting?

I won’t elaborate much on this but will just let a video to do the talking. I have, literally, watched this video hundreds of times.  This is one of the few videos out there with really deep insight and wisdom about the nature  I would say George Carlin is more evolved than most people out there because he see things from universal point of view instead from Earth’s point of view. He is ‘conscious’.

I have said this quite frequently – human being’s existence is insignificant. Only the emotion of self-importance make us think we are. Life will continue even without human’s existence.


Emptiness is impermanence, it is change.
We should not complain about impermanence,
because without impermanence, nothing is possible.

Zen Buddhism Master, Thich Nhat Hanh

Written by elan85

March 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm

The Structure of Life

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It was 8.30 PM and while I was waiting for the bus to take me home from my workplace, I saw a huge cockroach on the wall near the bus stop. And then, I saw a lizard moved near the bug and just stared at the gigantic cockroach not doing anything as if knowing the cockroach is too huge to be taken down. Then another lizard did the same – just stared and moved around the cockroach and left. The cockroach is obviously too huge for both of the lizards.

Hence, I was wondering – Why didn’t both of the lizards cooperate and work together to take down the cockroach?

Immediately I imagined, what would lions do if there is a big fat bull standing right in front of them? The lions would have gangbanged and take down the bull together. What would chimpanzees do when they spot a threat? Either they would run away together or would attack the threat together. What would human being do when we face a global crisis? All nations would come together to create a solution for the problem. And this element of cooperation is obviously missing in lizards, and generally reptiles. Why? Why can’t lizards understand the idea of working together?

Because they are not evolved enough … eureka ~

Therefore, this brought me a realization that Evolution works by having a sort of hierarchy in Life, which the rule of thumb is – Life Evolve from Simplicity to Complexity

Origin of Life

I believe Life is a natural force, as natural as the force of gravity and electromagnetism which happens all around the universe. In other words, life is everywhere, governed by the force of Evolution, just like how gravity and light are governed by the law of physics. The degree of how complex life can be is heavily depending on how conducive the environment is. For instance, we can only find microorganism in Mars, perhaps some fishes/sea creatures in Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons (though just a hypothesis) and human being on Earth.

The more essential elements available in a planet such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon (and others that can be found in periodic table), the more conducive the environment will be. The more conducive the environment is, the more capacity it allows life to evolve. And Earth seems like a nice little place for complex life to flourish.

All life started out being equal … first we have several microorganism around, then over a short period of time, microorganism multiply exponentially. And keep on multiply and multiply. Since resources are scarce, microorganism will thrive on evolving to gain upper hand advantage when competing with other microorganism. Therefore, Evolution is basically a natural way of the nature in maintaining a balance world where resources are scarce. Over time, some microorganism will evolve to be bigger, hence giving itself advantage over other microorganism which did not evolve and remain small. And this struggle will go on and on where microorganism will keep evolving to gain advantage over one another. When the Evolution reaches a complex stage, the microorganism will evolve to have legs. When organism have legs and could walk around, it will create an upper hand advantage over other life form which could not move. Hence, that’s what we categorize as Insect today. Basically, the hierarchy as I see it:

Microorganism –> Insect –> Fish –> Reptiles/Amphibians –> Mammal –> Humanity –> A.I. (Singularity)

To acquire certain trait, a creature need to climb the Evolution ladder, which is totally out of their control because Evolution is a game of probability. It’s a fate. It is out of the creatures hand. In other words, human being is not special. Individuals are not unique. We are all just a bunch of creatures trapped in the game of Evolution ruled by the law of probabilities. In the realm of probabilities, luck and chances play a prominent role in our life. Which means – Life is never Fair. You cannot argue how the cockroach lurking in my room, which will eventually be exterminated by my mum is born luckier than I do. You cannot argue how people born in rural Africa, a place of poverty-stricken, starvation and plagued by disease are luckier than people who are born in the western country where they get to eat hamburgers everyday. You cannot argue how a person with retarded mind living in the mental hospital all life long is luckier than Albert Einstein who is acknowledged as a genius and will be remembered forever by history for his mental ability.

I believe there is a reason why Nature allow imbalance to exist. I have not give much thought on this yet but I think perhaps it is something like the concept of man and woman – Both genders are very different from each other, yet bringing balance to the nature at the same time.

Is Imbalance important to bring balance to the nature?

Psychology of the Creatures

Let’s use back the cockroach vs. lizards as example. Let’s examine the differences between these two creatures’ psychology in the way how they react to potential danger. When I was young, I have this thought that cockroach is afraid of people because it seems that whenever I chase a cockroach, it will run away frantically just like how birds and cats do. Only recently I realized that cockroach actually do not react to human being rather, they react to movements and light. (I was sitting still on the chair and saw a cockroach moving towards me, oblivious of my existence. When I flashed a bright light, it ran away and hid at a dark spot.)

Hence, it brought me a realization that insects do not have the emotion of fear – just like a mosquito biting me without having the awareness that I have the capability to kill it by just a single move. So, it is pretty obvious that insects were evolved and programmed in the mind with simple instructions to explore the environment and survive based on their own inert function without having any emotions.

How about lizards on the other hand? I would say they have emotions because lizards react to people. They run away and hide when human is nearby. Lizards recognize human as threat.  Unlike insects, lizards (and reptiles) have bones and organs which is essential in having a higher level of mind and body. Therefore, lizards is one notch higher than insect. Yes, just one notch because apparently mammals are more complex than reptiles.

Reptile are solitary animals who live and hunt alone. Once reptiles lay the eggs, they leave them alone. Compared that to mammals which generally take care of their youngs and live in groups. A group of zebra staying and running together to confuse the tiger. A pack of dogs using wind and body odor to hunt for prey. Birds using flocking technique to be more efficient in foraging. Monkeys living in a social lifestyle where reciprocity plays a huge role in the relationship between the ‘tribe’. Living in group or socially definitely has an upper hand over solitary lifestyle.

But above all these, we have human being, which is on top of the pyramid, taking charge of the world. This imbalance which I mentioned earlier is what creates diversity. And this diversity is what creates the ecology and food chain. True, it is so much more miserable to be born as a cockroach but it will serve the purpose from ecology point of view – get eaten by bigger animals.

By analyzing the pattern of animal’s behaviours, I hypothesized there’s a correlation between traits of animal behaviours and the level of how evolved the creature is. The more evolved the creature is, the more complex it becomes. The more complex it becomes, the more sophisticated survival techniques it will deploy. And this variety of survival techniques is what created the existing diversity of life that we can find on Earth.

Future of Humanity

At the moment, the pinnacle of Evolution would certainly be human being as we are the only species which have deep consciousness and intelligence. But if you think human being has reach the very peak, then you’re wrong – human’s mind is still rapidly evolving. I truly believe there will come a day when humanity will evolve out of our tribal instincts in the future and become more cohesive in our thoughts and ideas. Among the list:

1. Extreme thoughts such as sectarianism, fundamentalism, and racism will slowly fade away from humanity. (The acceptance of Barack Obama as president)

2. Global scale war among nations will cease. (It has been 65 years since a major war erupted). Human being is starting to value peace more.

3. Humanity will become more and more secular and will slowly disassociate ourselves with God, religion and irrational beliefs. (The rise of secular and free thinking movements)

4. This is a controversial belief of mine – Backward nations, like countries in Africa, will become more and more of a laggard because generally, the mind of the people there is slightly less evolved (in micro scale) compared to people in advanced countries. (The stagnancy of Africa countries)

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By the way, I got this from my all time favourite philosophical movie – The Matrix. Pretty insightful.

I like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species (human being) and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammals on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease. A cancer of this planet. You are a plague. And we … are the cure – Agent Smith to Morpheus.

I like the thoughts on natural equilibrium. How did human being destroy the equilibrium? Deforestation, overhunting of animals to extinction, garbage, constructions and development which pollute the world, wastage of resources, etc.

Written by elan85

December 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Psychological Glitch

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There was a bird, a Common Myna (picture), which used to sleep on the awning outside my room window. Common_MynaEvery morning, the bird punctually wakes up around 6.45 AM and then will start ‘singing’… very loudly. Well I suppose it’s pretty nice to have a morning call by the little bird before going to classes but when it comes to weekends, its pretty nightmarish and downright annoying. 

Common Myna are pretty smart and aggressive. It’s the only breed of birds in the urban areas which dare to stand up and fight against the ‘big bully’ crows. There was once I witnessed a little battle between a crow and common myna over a piece of food on the dustbin (while I was in the bus-stop waiting for bus) and the myna won. Even crows are not comfortable with human but this myna have the guts to sleep just outside my room (on the awning of my window). But these days, I rarely see it around my house anymore.

(BTW, I actually like reading a Singaporean bird-watching blog).

I noticed that Common Myna always make a high pitched noise and fly away every time I chased it away, something which goes like “Prvvvee-eeeet”. And I wondered why do they make such a habit of making this ‘Prvvee-eeet’ noise while flying away?

The more I think of it, the more I realized it must have something to do with alerting danger to other birds around it. Just like when crows hear the sound of gunfire, they will immediately caw and make the ‘ahhkkk ahhkkk’ noise and fly away in groups. I suppose many breeds of birds have this same habit of alerting danger to their own brethren.

But I just can’t get this out of my mind – The bird was always alone every time I chased it away, so who was there for it to alert to? I didn’t had any answer. And so, I pended my curiosity.

Few weeks ago, while sitting comfortably in front of my computer and doing some reading, I heard a loud and sharp shriek from my neighbour. And I right away speculated the reason – “Haha, she must have been frightened by a flying cockroach!”. Then the next question came to my mind – “ Why do girls usually shriek whenever they are frightened?  Guys usually do not usually shriek but nevertheless make some noise when frightened too.

Few seconds later, it’s as if someone magically knocked some answers to my head and I went “Aha! Psychological Glitch!”. And then I thought of the Myna bird and repeated “Aha! Psychological Glitch!”.

Understanding Evolutionary Psychology.

Before I can go on to explain Psychological Glitch, we first need to know some basic about Evolutionary Psychology first. Genes are responsible of playing the Evolution game in creating who we are today. Similarly, the genes play a major role in constructing our brain so that we, the human and the animals, will have a sense of coherency between our psychology and our body ability. For instance, the bull will know how to use its horn to attack foes and enemies. If the bull has horn but do not have the motivation to use it, then what’s the purpose of the horn then? Something needs to tell the bull to utilize its horn when fighting – And the psychology will basically play the major role in triggering such actions.

One of the false presupposed view we have regarding the nature is that survival of life is pretty straight forward. Well, this delusion is not surprising as most of us do not get our hands dirty to hunt or search for food anymore. Thanks to our intelligence and advanced civilization, many of us have the luxury to just sit around and get our food by literally, without lifting a finger. All we need is money – I pay, I eat, and I’m satisfied.

Similarly, we often apply this similar presuppose view to the animal kingdom – that survival is something very straight forward. The spider eats the ant, the frog eats the spider, the snake eats the frog and the mongoose eats the snake and then the cycle repeats again. Well in some sense, this view is correct but nevertheless pretty one dimensional. We often overlook the idea of ‘Struggle’ when it comes to the survival in the animal kingdom. It’s a struggle which not many of us could perceive with clarity.

Eliezer made a very interesting point over here:

Foxes seem well-designed to catch rabbits.  Rabbits seem well-designed to evade foxes.  Was the Creator having trouble making up Its mind? ….

… By now we all know the punchline:  You just say "evolution". -  Eliezer Yudkowsky from the article The Alien God.

 

Rehearse the quote over and over again and you will see the idea of struggling in a much better view. I will give you an example of a struggle in the animal kingdom.

The Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa Mandarinia) has extremely strong resistant to bee stings. This creature is beyond Rambo when it comes to killing bees – A single Giant Hornet alone is capable of wiping out an entire European Honeybee’s colony (which consist of around 10,000-30,000 bees).. And not many other animals could withstand the strength of this bug and it is as if Vespa Mandarinia is the king of the insect world. However, there’s only one species in the animal kingdom which could subdue Vespa Mandarinia, obviously besides human being – The Japanese Honeybees. Watch this fascinating 3 minutes video below.

 

I really do felt awe after watching this. So, I was thinking, if the Giant Hornet could evolved and gain a little ability to withstand higher temperature, then the Japanese Honeybees are pretty much screwed. But maybe the honeybee would have also evolved to counter the counter-evolved ability. A beautiful struggle.

Both European Honeybees and Japanese Honeybees shared the same ancestors. But why does one whole colony get slaughtered by a Rambo-bug and another have such sophisticated idea to take the giant warrior? To be honest, I do not know in detail how the Japanese Honeybees could gain such unique ability or idea. But I think its a safe assumption that both European and Japanese Honeybees started out being defenseless against hornets until one day, the Japanese Honeybee discovered that they could deploy such tactic to take down the hornet, just like how the first human being initially discovering on how to write.

The ultimate point of me talking about birds, foxes, rabbits, and bees is that Evolution and Psychology works hand in hand. Our brain, together with animals’ brain is NOT something which was born empty and its up to us to fill things in it. Rather, our brain and our psychology is entirely evolved and built up by our genes. There is a structure that determine the psychology of every species. This is what divides the psychology of, for example, a lizard which will leave the eggs alone once laying them and a bird which will remain taking care of the young after hatching.

The Imperfectness Of Human’s Psyche.

Human being lived in a hunter-gatherer society, presumably around 10,000 years ago in which human lived within a social group and inherently, placed certain priority towards ensuring the prosperity of the social group. Therefore, when certain situation arise which might bring danger or threat to the group, these people will make loud noise to alert everyone within the social group so that they would take notice and prepare to defend themselves. Human mind has already been programmed to instinctively react accordingly depending on situations, just like the Japanese honeybees moving their wings and body for coordination to take down the Giant Hornet.

So, how did the hunter-gatherer people judge when or not to make loud noise and alert the social group? Actually, they do not have a rational judgment at all on making the decision to make loud noise – it’s all instinctive reactions triggered by the emotion of fright and fear.

Fast forward to 10,000 years later, human being no longer lives in a hunter-gatherer society but in a little more complicated civilization. Nevertheless, we still do carry our basic instinct with us – same instincts, different environment. Therefore girls who have Blattodephobia (phobia of cockroach), will shriek and scream when seeing a cockroach flying around as triggered by the emotion of freight and fear. But its not like the cockroach will kill anyone physically (in an immediate sense), so why do some human, even some men scream when seeing them? Not only that, perhaps the intention of screaming is to alert the family members (to help getting rid of the cockroach) but don’t forget, we also do scream while being alone when nobody could help us.

Therefore, all these already prove that there’s certain glitch in our psyche. If you think screaming when being frightened and fearful is something universal which applies to all living creature, try chasing down a cat and tell me whether will they go shriek and go ‘”Miaaaaaaaaaowwwwwwwwwwww !!~” or not. I’ve personally experiment frightening cats when I was a kid and they don’t make any noise at all … it’s obvious since cats are solitary animal who do not live socially – there’s no purpose of making noise while running away, unlike human being and birds which live in groups.

Shrieking due to phobia of cockroaches is just one of the many psychological glitches that we have.

In my post Subconscious Survival, I’ve already highlighted 2 everyday psychological glitches that we frequently experienced but do not really pay much attention to – girls beautify themselves with cosmetic and our obsession with food which delights our taste bud such as chocolate, ice-cream and candy.

Another good example would be sex. I wanted to put it in my own words, but I thought R. Dawkins put it really well, so I will just quote him here –

An intelligent couple can read their Darwin and know that the ultimate reason for their sexual urges is procreation. They know that the woman cannot conceive because she is on the pill. Yet they find that their sexual desire is in no way diminished by the knowledge. Sexual desire is sexual desire and its force, in an individual’s psychology, is independent of the ultimate Darwinian pressure that drove it. It is a strong urge which exists independently of its ultimate rationale. Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion.

Several posts ago, I’ve written how human being are so altruistic towards animals. The reason is simple – we have a soft spot for innocence and helplessness. The root of this emotion is purposely to make human being to like and take care of children and the young ones within the social group. Imagine if a husband and wife thinking rationally rather than emotionally when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of having a baby – how can they justify their time and resources on a baby that they could be spent on other more constructive things? Heck, they wouldn’t even have gone into a marriage in the first place as having a spouse is kind of a ‘burden’ too. Therefore, with this programmed emotion of having altruism towards innocence and helplessness, human being inherently love and care for the young ones. Only with emotional-thinking, human being will have the motivation to spend more than 20 years of dedication to raise up and parenting the children and doing it without expecting any reward or return.

When it comes to animals especially domestic animals, we also do view them as ‘innocent’ and ‘helpless’ because subconsciously we know that these are submissive animals which will not hurt us human being. Hence, when it comes to a situation when we encounter helplessness for example hungry puppies or an injured bird or a pack of dogs chasing down a cat, then this emotion is triggered and we will have the urge to save or protect them.

The word glitch may sound as if all these are critical issues and needed to be ‘fixed’. But actually I’m only interested in finding the origin of human emotions and behaviors and not at all critiquing the scenarios above. I’m not ever going to hold on to the belief that we should live a literal life, for instance, believing girls should not beautify themselves with cosmetic because its a delusion. That’s equivalent of saying music is just a wave of sound with different frequency – in some sense its true, but life would be void of any artistic purpose if we choose to live that way. And the word glitch may sound as if it’s something bad, but actually it’s not. The word glitch merely implies a lack of consistency between the purposes and functions of certain cognitive area within our psyche.

(Out of topic : I just saw a documentary of Koko the gorilla which was trained to learn human sign language many years ago. But several years later, the project was defunded and then they placed Koko in a habitat at California. 14 years later, one of Koko’s former trainers visited the habitat for some project, and Koko went over to the trainer and in sign language asked – ‘Where did you go’?

Another ape with similar intelligence is the Orangutan Chantek – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chantek (worth reading)

The Great Apes – Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Gorillas, Orangutans and Human Being.)

Written by elan85

October 14, 2008 at 6:16 am

Posted in Evolution, Psychology

Male Supremacy? Of The Differences Between Men and Women.

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Feminist often argued that men and women are equal in every sense. Some people used the idea of Tabula Rasa, better known as The Blank Slate to justify the idea that every person is born without any innate abilities and everything is learnt from the environment including the differences between men and women – Everything is “Nurtured”. This is certainly a very politically correct and pleasing answer to listen and accept. But is a ‘correct’ answer which gives comfort and some sense of security equates to truth?

The answer, to me at least, is pretty straight forward – accepting the idea of Blank Slate means dismissing Evolution because everyone, to a certain extent, is born with certain innate abilities. I will illustrate my point by using chimpanzees as a comparison.

In one of my previous posts, I highlighted the fact that chimpanzees are our closest relatives from Evolution’s standpoint. Richard Wrangham, a researcher from Harvard said …

“Very few animals live in patrilineal, male-bonded communities wherein females routinely reduce the risks of inbreeding by moving to neighboring group to mate. And only two animal species are known to do so with a system of intense, male-initiated territorial aggression, including lethal raiding into neighboring communities in search of vulnerable enemies to attack and kill. Out of four thousand mammals and ten million or more other animal species, this suite of behaviors is know only among chimpanzees and human.” – Richard Wrangham.

If you are holding the idea that chimpanzees are just some cute little friendly creatures, think again. Chimpanzees, one of the more intelligent animals, are capable of using ‘tools’ to fight. They use wood branch and stone and practically, beat and stone other chimpanzees to death. Chimpanzee community raid enemy’s territory and ‘capture’ the area to assert their dominance and gain the spoils (food). However, it is only the male chimpanzees which do all the fighting, warfare and killing. The female, on the other hand, do all the foraging  work and taking care of the young within the community. As mentioned, chimps practice patrilineal lifestyle, which means, the territory is often passed down from father to son. Perhaps another remarkable thing about chimpanzees – they can go all the way to exterminate other chimpanzee communities via systematic massacre.

Do chimps reminds you anything about human being? Briefly scanning through our humanity history, there’s nothing short of surprises for us to know that our past is full of bloodshed. In some sense, this sophisticatedly violent behaviour is shared by our common ancestor of human being with our cousin chimps and is passed down generation over generation.

(I have once contemplated on why do cows are so content to just graze grass day and night for their whole entire life while human get bored even if we have just 2 similar meals on the same day.  I was pretty clueless until I read the book Human by M. Gazzaniga. In the second chapter of the book, he described that one of the reasons why chimpanzees engage in warfare in capturing territories is due to food. Chimps by nature, are driven by luxurious, high-quality and difficult-to find food. In ecology-economics, it is called as cost-of-grouping theory which states that the size of the chimpanzee community depends on the resources around it. The more variety and abundant of food they have, the bigger the size of the community it will be, which means a more dominating and stronger group within the territory. Hence, this form of ‘desire’ is an inherited behaviour from our common ancestor as a way to establish a powerful community/clan/group)

Back to the gender differences, it’s clear we share many basic instincts with the chimps and that’s including the role between men and women. As i have very clearly argued here 6 months ago – The Perceived Value – it is extremely important to recognize that due to Evolution, men and women are not exactly equal in every sense – we are different. A little abstract of what i’ve written:

I always believe men, generally, are more intelligent than women in conceiving big-world-changing-complex-ideas. Just refer to the history and notice that 99% of the great scientists, inventors, and philosophers are male. But does that means the ladies are inferior to men? Absolutely not. Empathy is one of the many traits which men generally severely lack off while it is innate to most female.

Again, it is all down to the ‘Perceived Value’. Empathy is perceived more as a manners or morality while conceiving big ideas is an ability. The society rate Intelligence as more valuable, hence creating an impression that the male species are superior.

I believe men and women are equal. But I don’t believe men and women are equal in the sense of “corresponding-equality”. It is more of ‘total-equality’. Clueless? I invented these crappy terms, so i will explain the meanings,.

1. Corresponding-equality : What men can do, women can too. There’s no gap between men and women and we are 100% precisely equal in every sense.

2. Total-equality : Men & Women have different sets of strengths & weaknesses. But when you sum up these plus and minus together, men and women are actually equal.

Most feminist movements are championing the corresponding-equality ideology. I do not agree with their philosophy because i think it will take away the uniqueness of difference between men and women. Relationships are interesting because there are different ‘roles’ involved from both sides.

The reason why the disparity between gender exist in the first place is because we are hardwired to function in such a way to fulfil certain roles which Evolution wants us to be (hence, it seems we do not have much free will at macro-level). The female is evolved to be more concerned on issues pertaining to human – children, family, household matters, food, emotional aspects, etc. Hence, it explains why female are more interested in academics which are more people-oriented such as medical, pharmacy, biology, psychology, and also business area (which deals with network of people such as management and marketing). The male on the other hand is evolved to be more concerned with things which is beyond human being. That’s why men are more interested in abstract matter such as science, technology, engineering, music & arts, mathematics and entrepreneurship (which in some way boost our pride).

But you might say, there now exist a sense of equality between men and women. And it seems that we ‘learned’ and ‘nurtured’ the sense equality in humanity over these many years. If so, how could we evolved to have separate roles in the first place? My answer would be, if we could ‘evolved in’ to have roles, then we could also ‘evolved out’ of the roles. Discrimination has lessen over the years in the sense of sexism, racism, etc. and I believe we are evolving towards a Type 1 civilization (as described by Michio Kaku) where we will move to skin-colour-blind society and think from humanity point of view (instead from race or nation point of view). All i can tell you – free will is not as straightforward as you think if you link it with Evolution, genetics, and neuroscience. I will leave it to another time to explain it in more details.

The males are certainly the more dominant gender in human and chimpanzee. But it’s not right to think that the males are the universal dominant gender in every single  species in this animal kingdom. There are certain species of insects and birds where the females are the more dominant ones. Just like the mantis which practice sexual cannibalism where the female kill and eat the male after mating. All these diversities are the product of Evolution.

Written by elan85

September 3, 2008 at 3:00 am

Understanding Evolution, part II

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Evolution of Optimus Prime.

 

  1. optimus_prime                         2.  csoptimusprime                    16optimus_prime_(powermaster)                      optimus-prime

                           3.                                                                                             4.

 

The pictures above depict the process of ‘Evolution’ of Optimus Prime (1 being the earliest and 4 the latest) over the past …20 years? Optimus Prime 1. is the original model since Generation 1 and as we could see, the graphic design of Optimus Prime evolves over the years, to eventually Optimus Prime 4. which we got to watch in the cinema recently.

Why? Why does the design of Optimus Prime need to ‘Evolve’ over these years? Why can’t the original design remain permanent and still do well?

The reason is simple – in this commercial world, innovation is essential due to the ever-changing demand from the ‘Environment’ around it.  You have to innovate in order to stay up with this Competitive world, doing well and Survive. If you do not innovate, and refuse to adapt to this competitive world, you and your business will not flourish or worse, go Extinct.

Remember the eternal truth – nothing is absolute and remain permanent.

So, imagine if transformers did not change the design of its Autobots and Decepticons robots of the 80’s, and remain sticking with the retro graphics for its latest movie, what will happen? Such animation will surely be steamrolled by more sophisticated advanced 3D-animation, such as Final Fantasy 7 : Advent Children.  Why would people still want to watch a childish-old-school graphic animation when we already capable of producing realistically gorgeous 3D graphics in this new era?

        Transformersgroup1984               finalfantasyviiadventchildrenpic_2

Hence, there’s a form of Selection taking place all the time – a mutual interaction between the producer of the movie with the Environment, mainly the viewers. Optimus Prime simply Evolved because the movie producers will make more money that way as it is appealing to the environment.  If they stick with the old graphics, nobody will be interested to watch, and they will not make any money. Basically, the Fittest idea and execution wins.

In this case, the Generation 1 Optimus Prime has already gone Extinct. Whenever, the name Optimus Prime is mentioned, we will only think of the new uber-cool-design of Optimus Prime because this ‘Mutation’ has already rendered the old Optimus Prime obsolete and outdated.

Many times the producers do not exactly know what the viewers want and can only be hopeful that the viewers will like and accept the movie. I suppose it makes sense that no producer will produce a movie which he already knows will be a massive failure. Yet, as we know, there is no shortage of bad movies out there. And due to this, producers can’t avoid the element of luck and Chances – you never know how things will turn out to be.

I think I have given a pretty good analogy. It is up to you to connect the dots.

Written by elan85

August 27, 2008 at 7:17 am

Posted in Evolution

Understanding Evolution

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Just came back from Bangkok (5 days trip) few days ago. Well, actually it was already almost a week ago, but i was too exhausted by the too-much-non-stop-walking-around-Bangkok-streets, so i gave myself a little permission to rest and be a little lazy inactive in blogging .

I bought a book from Bangkok’s Kinokuniya – The Making Of The Fittest by Sean B. Carroll .  I was weighing my options on buying between this book and another book on physics, but for some reasons, i chose this.

On the very same night, my friend saw this newly brought book of mine and read the first few chapters of it. He then promptly asked me a question which nobody has asked me before – “Ronn, what is Natural Selection?”

I was blank for several seconds not knowing how to answer the question. It’s not because I do not know what it is about. But rather, I was thinking how should I explain such complex scientific process using layman words while effectively conveying the idea of Natural Selection to him.

I’m a pretty perfectionist when it comes to conveying my thoughts – I always try my best to make sure people fully understand my words and ideas. So, I’m sure I will only confuse people who knows nothing about Evolution if I use terms and sentences like ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘species keep diverge and descend’ in order to ‘adapt to the environment’.

And so I went on to explain Natural Selections to him by illustrating examples of Darwin’s discovery of finches’ different type of beak due to different type of diet, the shorten elephant’s tusk due to illegal poaching, and also Artificial Selection of domesticated pet like dog, cat, and pigeon. (how human breed colorful patterned fur in these animals).

While on the plane flying back to Malaysia, i recalled back this little experience of mine again, and I was thinking – What’s the best way or method to convey the idea of Evolution to people who knows zero about Evolution? (Just in case if anyone asks me this question in the future, I will not need to go mind-blank for several seconds again).

I realized that giving descriptions and examples (or perhaps analogies) of Evolution alone is never good enough as it is pretty prone to misconception and misinterpretation. It was just like … Survival of the Fittest was innocently linked with Adolf Hitler for no apparent good reasons (genocide is not by any means … natural). Besides that, there’s also reason why not everyone accepts the truth of Evolution – their presuppose thoughts resist any ideas which seem contradictory to their beliefs. They simply can’t see ‘how it could happen’. Hence, the best way to explain Evolution is to ‘awaken’ the mind-set of the people or eliminating certain presupposition pertaining to the reality.

One of the presuppose idea everyone has by default is recognizing things as permanent. I highly suspect this instinctive thought has something to do with Evolutionary Psychology for the sake of humanity survival but I do not know exactly why. (perhaps there is something to do with certainties?) But its true, we always tend to see many things as permanent.

For instance, if I’m born with this look, then I know I will remain with this look for the rest of my life. If this tree produces green leaves, then I know it will only produce green leaves throughout the tree life span. If Shelly passes away, we know she will be gone forever. Most of us are born with 5 fingers, and we know we will not grow another finger without any reasons.

But notice that these ‘permanence’ is just something we could witness in our everyday life. What about things which the duration could stretch beyond our lifetime? Something which takes hundreds, thousands or millions of years to happen?

The truth is, in a bigger scale, impermanence is the reality of life. (Don’t worry if you are confused at this point because Evolution is a pretty counter-intuitive idea to begin with. I will explain why.)

There’s always a reason for any circumstances to take place. Let’s ask a simple question – Why is there such diversity in the Equidae family where we have horse, donkey, zebras and kiangs? Why not the Nature just create one species and fit all? Why does diversity in animal exist?

Same goes for the primates family. There is such a diversity in primates where we have monkey, chimpanzee, baboon, gorilla, orang utan, and *gasp* human, etc. Despite the differences of our looks and features, we do share similar core traits and characteristics. One obvious core trait – we are the only existing animal family which could walk upright.

We always have the tendency to only believe things which go accordance to our ‘common sense’ and perception. Therefore, we tend to think that the mentioned diversity has already exist since the beginning of time because at the back of our head, we always mistakenly think – if indeed the diversity of species was caused by Evolution, then how come I couldn’t see it? If Evolution is true, why couldn’t the crows which lives around my neighbourhood produce non-black colour baby crows? Or perhaps a patterned feathers instead of plain black?

And that’s exactly the mistake of permanence-perception which I’m trying to say. We always believe in permanence by default. To convince ourselves to believe otherwise, we always try to look for drastic changes or mutation in order to believe in Evolution. The subconscious reasoning of us is always – “Evolution says a fish transformed to a land creature many years ago. But the fish in my pond never drastically evolved before! So how could it had happened?”

But the fact is, Evolution works in small and tiny incremental steps which we could hardly notice even if we try to meticulously observe with our eyes.

It is equivalent to yourself spending 15 years standing in front of the mirror 24/7 watching yourself grow. The incremental changes is so tiny that you will barely notice anything. You won’t notice when you grew taller or  when your face structure changed a little.  You can’t observe how your hair grew. You know it happened, but you simply can’t observe it.

However, if you take a picture of yourself when you are 6 years old, another when you are 12 and another when you are 21, compare these pictures and you will then be able to clearly see the differences of your growth stage.

And this is exactly how scientist tries to decode Evolution – by gathering evidence and creating hypothesis.

So why do I say life is impermanent? It is simply because the most fundamental block of our life, our genes, which makes us the way we are, always mutate and changes over time. Mutation does not happen overnight to an individual but only during the process of creating offspring hence the term – diverge and descent.

Another presupposition we have is thinking that we know the reality and environment around us well. But the truth is we know very little about it, at least from historical point of view.

Borrowing Richard Dawkins’ piano analogy, imagine if the piano’s 52 white-note keys, from left to right, is the age of the earth. Human only started to exist right at the last key. And no, it does not occupy the whole key – just half of the last key.

Hence, human being’s existence has only occupied roughly around 0.25% of the entire earth’s history. Which means we do not have a great deal of knowledge knowing what has happened during the earlier 99.75% of the earth history. Thus, scientist could only create hypothesis based on geology and fossils to understand Earth’s history. Perhaps occasionally, there would be an Einsteinien-like scientist proposing outrageous ideas of how the reality works. And this is exactly the function of science.

Once these presupposition and rigid mind-set is replaced with a more precise view of reality, then it would be much easier for people to understand Evolution and comprehend the role of natural selection, mutation, genetic drift and genetic flow in driving the force of Evolution of Life. We would then understand why we are so different from a chimpanzee but yet closely related to each other.

Written by elan85

August 23, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Evolution, Philosophy