Monthly Archives: May 2015

Me, Myself and I

My last ten blogs or so have one focus: can a psychoanalyst contribute to understanding the deep structure of The Krugman Problem?

“The modern American Right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there.”

After I finish presenting the relevant blogs, including this one, I’ll gather them together and link them to the the deep structure.

Consider tribalism. 200 nations have joined the Olympics. Some countries send one or two athletes, some hundreds. All share one emotion: the thrill of parochialism. “My country!”
Or consider the Super Bowl. “My city!” Or March Madness. “My school!”

Every group across the globe, whether in sports or the arcane esoterica of Nobel prizes, competes fiercely. The sublime
invention of the Olympics sublimated the madness of “Winners Take All, Losers Lose Everything” to “We learned a lot. We’ll get ’em next time.” Charles Sanders Peirce called this a shift from Secondness – gladiatorial mano-a-mano – to Thirdness, “Let the games begin!”

When there’s a behavior universally shared by every race, by every human group, it evolved through natural selection. It offered the fittest adaptation for survival under the conditions at the time of its selection. As hunter-gatherers, we were “fanatic” defenders of our territory. How do we know? Jared Diamond reports a thousand languages are spoken in New Guinea. “They show what the world used to be like, each isolated tribe having its own language.” He also reports, “Isolated tribes were able to live out social experiments that others would find utterly unacceptable” Tribes in adjoining valleys, next-door neighbors for uncounted millenia, spoke their own language, not an etymological hint of any contact with “those dangerous foreigners over the hill.” The over-riding issue for survival was the limited carrying capacity of a tribe’s territory. We know the physics hasn’t changed.

Today we’re sports FAN-atics. How is it that a team of millionairs, not one athlete from the area, half the squad newly purchased, loses a World Series or a Super Bowl and sends millions into the “agony of defeat?” Our behavior today provides us a window on history, as reliable as any document, long before there were any documents to do so.

We don’t know when we transitioned to top banana among the hominids. For example, at Chauvet, evidence presented in this week’s issue of Science is that around 40,000 years ago, Homo sapiens sapiens drove the Neandertals living there to extinction. The cave paintings go back 32,000 years, at most, 35,000. That’s 50 centuries! obviously creations by our direct ancestors, so plenty of time to finish the Neandertal genocide and develop paleolithic art.

What do we kmow beyond doubt? We always lived in groups. We didn’t have speed, canines, camouflage, Paul Bunyan size.

We know beyond doubt that we lived in SMALL groups, numbering no more than 500 members, probably half that many. Without agriculture and animal husbandry, wholly dependent on indifferent Nature, walking the only means of transportation, every group had to “Follow the energy.”

We know beyond doubt that no individual emerged until the middle Holocene. And we know that Paleolithic art was remarkably the same the world over through thousands of years. Beyond a doubt, cave paintings were not the vision of a Michaelangelo, an individual with a name. Only when agriculture and animal husbandry boosted Energy, ultimately by several magnitudes, could the individual begin the 10,000 year journey to his/her glorious emancipation,

“I celebrate myself.”

John Nash

John Nash got killed in a car wreck yesterday. He was the subject of the first-rate movie, A Beautiful Mind. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1994.

His story, from a psychiatric perspective, is remarkable. He descended into paranoid schizophrenia at age 30, somewhat early for that illness. Paranoids usually break down in their later thirties. The other schizophrenias manifest themselves in the late teens or early 20s. With paranoids, the thinking disturbance pre-dominates, leaving other ego functions more or less intact. What I found so baffling is that Nash’s thinking, at some point, achieved the power of genius.

In the New York Times today, there is a brilliant obituary. It provides two critical pieces of information: Nash did most of his great work by age 21! Just a few papers, but paradigm altering. And second, he was a mathematician, who often blossom early. Also amazing is that after two decades of madness, when in his 50s, the fires from hell went out.

Undoubtedly he suffered paranoid schizophrenia, but, like genius, he barely fits in the box. He underwent Shock Therapy. I was working at Charity Hospital as a resident in psychiatry during the years Nash was a raving psychotic. I administered ECT to ten or twelve schizophrenics three timees a week. Psychiatry hadn’t figured out yet that that treatment modality was useless for schizophrenia, a thinking disorder, and wonderful with bi-polars and psychotic depressions, mood dosorders. One of my patients, a 38 year old paranoid schizophrenic, went into cardiac arrest after being shocked. Blue Code mobilized the full resources of a 3000 bed hospital. The medical staff and I worked for many hours. Our resuscitation efforts failed.

The Times gives a 38 second video of Nash receiving the Nobel Prize. Unforgettable.

It’s a Mystery!

Question: What do Copernicus and Galileo have in common?

Answer: Each has a name.

Thomas Kuhn claimed that doing Science has a “Normal” phase and a “Revolutionary” phase. For example, from Ptolemy around 150 A.D. to Copernicus, 1400 years later, astronomers were Ptolemians. Through the centuries these dedicated scientists, now nameless, spent countless days at the office, perhaps jawing around the water cooler. They showed up for work on week-ends. Sometimes you’d hear them arguing in dingy taverns, talking a language nobody understood. They were happy to give seminars at sun-splashed villas sponsored by wealthy patrons, but really, they were not that much interested in fame and fortune. They wanted to understand the nature of the universe and man’s place in it. They were scientists, many of them astonishingly brilliant, trained at the highest centers of learning. As astronomers, they tweaked and tinkered with equants and epicycles, whatever they were, in a relentless effort to understand the orbits of the planets.

The work didn’t go well. The geocentric assumptions of Ptolemy resulted in anomalies that drove them to despair; paradoxes defied resolution. Over long centuries, there was no accounting for the maddening inconsistencies negating their best efforts to make sense of the nightly, planetary traffic above them. Yet unfailingly, with the patience of Job, the workers trudged back to Square One, trying once again to spell out the details of the Ptolemaic paradigm. They were the best and the brightest, yet not one had the vision, the creative powers, to think out of the box.

Then, in the 16th century, a genius appeared. In 1543, from his deathbed, Copernicus published his revolutionary heliocentric theory. By 1600, every astronomer was a Copernican, including Galileo Galilei, a genius who turned the world upside down. Science is indifferent to whatever disturbance its commitment to understand reality may provoke, even if its findings topple entire belief systems as to the nature and destiny of man. The work goes on. Copernicus published De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres) while on his death bed. Revolutions are dangerous. He played it safe. Not so, Galileo. He sent out a blockbuster, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, not in Latin but plain Italian. What in fact he had loosed on the world was an irreversible discontinuity between the medieval and the modern age. Genius does that – putting worlds in collision. The heliocentric revolution aroused the full fury of the Inquisition against Galileo, threatening him with torture and placing him under permanent house arrest. It took 400 years before the Catholic church exonerated him.

Only genius can ignite a scientific revolution. And genius exists only in the singular. Kuhn’s deepest insight is that a paradigm change can only be launched by the unfathomable powers of a single mind. Only when a genius proposes a new paradigm comes a revolution. A group has no powers of originality. We know Copernicus by his name. We know Galileo by his name. Each had the powers of genius.

One of the great insights of the 20th century is that Science doesn’t work by the logic of induction. No group, however large, making however many observations, inducts a new paradigm. A discontinuity results by the creative leap of a single mind. It’s a mystery.

Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm leads to unanticipated and uncovenanted revelations. Great fun! as we’ll discover.

Fact-Resistant Humans

The May 12th issue of the New Yorker personifies what I have called The Krugman Problem. Paul Krugman wrote, “The modern American Right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there.” Herewith the problem presented in the spirit of Jonathan Swift:

“MINNEAPOLIS – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.”

Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! “…fact-resistant HUMANS…immune to any form of verifiable knowledge” threaten the ability of the earth to sustain life – not viruses, not killer bugs, not locusts, not asteroids, but The Fifth Rider of the Apocalypse, man’s inability to learn and adapt.

We all arrive on the planet helpless and dependent, naked as jay birds, terrified. However, Freud discovered, we also arrive with great powers of fantasy, allowing us to believe we can take over and run the show. All we need do is couple Helpless with Omnipotence, so what we merely fantasize – we make it up out of whole cloth – enables us to “abandon the idea that there is an objective reality out there.” For some, it’s habit-forming and lasts a lifetime. Currently, the Republican Congress denies Climate Change. It disregards the findings of thousands of scientists and believes what it wants to believe, thus assuming omnipotent, god-like powers. Of course, keep out a sharp eye for ordinary rogues and rascals who weasled their way into the Washington power structure. When Republican senators and representatives deny any knowledge of science, also in the mix is willfull ignorance. They lie. Shakespeare got the picture:

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.

Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, Science, up to that point in time, had claimed its growth and development came about by “the addition of new truths to the stock of old truths, or the increasing approximation of theories to the truth, and in the odd case, the correction of past errors.” Kuhn shattered this “Every day, in every way, getting better and better!” Sunday School bromide. Kuhn saw discontinuities – “a set of alternating ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ phases in which communities of specialists in particular fields are plunged into periods of turmoil, uncertainty and angst.”

Hidden in Kuhn’s “normal and revolutionary phases” is a profound truth that shines a great light on human history. It’s one of the reasons we went spelunking in those Paleolithic caves.

Madness Maddened!

Last week, the day after the rail disaster, the Republican Congress voted to cut Amtrak funds by one-fifth – monies for
desperately needed safety improvements – again vandalizing our country by letting its infrastructure go to rot and ruin.
That vote screams Madness Maddened – Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling – a terrifying thinking disorder in action. Paul Krugman states, “The modern American Right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there.” My blogs have one focus: explicate the Madness of the American Right

No one knows what purpose the cave paintings served. Or who painted them. Anyone’s guess. So why bother spelunking at Chauvet and Lascaux? you might reasonably ask.

THESE CAVES ARE THE SISTINE CHAPELS OF THE PALEOLITHIC, THE PALEOLITHIC BOOK OF REVELATION!

35,000 years ago, we see a Michaelangelo at work on the ceilings at Chauvet.

20,000 years ago, we see the same genius at Lascaux.

The paintings are remarkably similar. In fact, in 2014, paleontologists found “his” work in Indonesia. What has been known for many years is that cave art around the world, to the opposite ends of the globe, belongs to the same tradition, the same “school.”

15,000 years separate Lascaux and Chauvet. That’s 150 centuries! (Speaking of same-o same-o, the Acheulian Hand Ax,
the most important stone tool for a million years, – ten thousand centuries! – evolved only minor changes during that unfathomable length of time.)

Suppose we inventory recent centuries, let’s say, just the last seven, and compare the rate of change now as compared with the Paleolithic. These “new things under the sun,” mere samplings, (no Google) come to my mind. In 1440, Gutenberg invented the printing press. That printed 3,600 pages a day, compared to the few pages copyers cranked out.

In 1609, less than two centuries later, Galileo invented the telescope. In 1698, the first steam machine came along. Let’s skip to the 19th. The first automobile was invented in 1885. Some 50 years later, my dad drove the family from Brooklyn to Chicago in a Ford. In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew 212 feet. In 1959, the first commercial jet roared down the runway. Here’s the truly staggering inventiveness of Homo sapiens sapiens. Alan Turing wrote “On Computable Numbers” in 1936. He spelled out the mathematical basis of all computers, including smart phones. One of my grandkids drives for the taxi service called Lyft. A goddess in the sky, disguised as a GPS, leads him better than a Sherpa on Everest. 60 years ago, I drove a cab in Indianapolis. No goddess. No Sherpa. Just piles of city maps and dim or burnt out map lights and…well, you get the picture.

On our way to the caves in the last blog, a “thought experiment,” I talked about the work of Thomas Kuhn. In our next conversation, I’ll suggest his Structure of Scientific Revolutions throws a great light in the darkness of cave art. The Kuhnian paradigm decodes the Paleozoic Book of Revelation, thus explicating the pell-mell centuries of Gutenberg and Galileo and…and…and…Alan Turing.

Not 20 Stony Centuries – 350!

Spelunkers! All present and accounted for?…Good. Time to put on our Thinking Caps. At the end of this blog, we’ll be at the caves….

Scientists take great pains to defend the assumption that they know what the world is like. In my freudian-friendly neighborhood, a psychoanalyst was someone who pretended he didn’t know everything. That was a big Ha!Ha! until the Kleinians blew into town. Suddenly, everyone rushed to the barricades!

When the assumptions of an established paradigm are challenged and subverted, it portends revolution. That’s what I had learned from Kuhn. Nonetheless, I was stunned at the take-no-prisoner violence directed at yesterday’s colleagues. Psychoanalysts, no less. The battle went on with escalating ferocity over years. I consulted William Butler Yeats.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

Surely some revelation is at hand…
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare.

At Chauvet, spunky spelunkers, we’ll vex to nightmare 350 centuries of stony sleep; at Lascaux, 200 centuries.

Normal science suppresses what Kuhn calls anomalies, cracks in the system, data that elude one’s preconceptions. The joy of problem solving gives way to confusion. No wonder! The paradigm that informs one’s work is not only embraced in the third person. It makes a first person statement, “This is who I am!” Normal science makes one feel, well, normal, secure, with a sense of future. Overthrow a paradigm and anarchy is loosed upon the world. Who wants to march off to war? I kept taking down the red flags flying at my work bench and shoved them under The Couch. However, by the time the Kleinians came from England, the anomalies within my “normal” paradigm had left me utterly exhausted. I remembered the mantra of the physicists, “Follow the energy!” I joined the Kleinians at the barricades.

Someone described research in my disintegrating state of mind as “a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into conceptual boxes of one’s scientific group.” I had exhausted myself “forcing nature.” Doing science is always strenuous, but, paradoxically, its yoke should be easy and its burden light. When the work becomes too big a mountain to climb, the jig is up.

A new paradigm initiates a scientific revolution which “subverts the existing tradition of scientific practice.” Science sees nature in a different way. One can’t restore pre-conceptual innocence….

Spelunkers, We’ve arrived at the Caves! Yes, indeed!

While we gear up, we’ll talk heuristics. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, you won’t see it. When I started my rotation through radiology as an intern, what in God’s name were those docs looking at? They’re making it up! After a month with those seeing-eye experts, how could I have been so blind!

Here at Chauvet, this very lucky day, from across 350 centuries, we will see The Four Horses of a Paleolithic Michaelangelo gallup in stony silence. This same lucky day, from across 200 centuries, we will catch a glimpse of them once more, galloping, in all their majesty, in stony silence at Lascaux.

What are the caves telling us? What are we looking for?

Spelunking!

Everyone! Listen up! First order of business – make sure your headlamps are fully charged. Bring all the batteries you can carry… I’m just tickled so many members of The Melting Pot have showed up this morning….

“Wha-a-a-t!” you ask. “Spelunking in the caves of Chauvet, Lascaux and Altamira????” Sounds crazy, I know, but here we are! Tackling a problem as profound as Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling isn’t easy. Understanding Thomas Kuhn definitely isn’t! So, our expedition won’t be a walk in the park. If you stay the course, however, I guarantee it will change your view of the world… or I’ll buy you a dozan new batteries! Kuhn’s work throws light on that great mystery: why do we see a Michaelangelo 40,000 years before we see a Galileo? If we solve that, we may better understand Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling, which is destroying the Republican Party. On our way to the caves, we’ll talk about Kuhn….

Thomas Kuhn was a Harvard-trained physicist. He obtained his Ph.D, however, in Philosophy of Science. In 1962, at the age of 40, he published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This work, a seminal achievement of the 20th century, stood the scientific world on its head. It showed Science had a deeply flawed understanding of how science works. It created a sensation. Kuhn’s masterpiece sold well over a million copies. By comparison, The Origin of Species sold in the low thousands.

Science is made up of work groups, in many fields, defined by their specialty and held together by the centrifugal force of a shared vision.

Let’s mull that a moment. A “shared vision” Kuhn called a “paradigm,” a fundamental concept in his work. Science claimed its growth and development came about from the “scientific method.” That was its paradigm, described by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy as “the addition of new truths to the stock of old truths, or the increasing approximation of theories to the truth, and in the odd case, the correction of past errors.”

Here’s where the fun begins. Kuhn’s version of how Science develops differed dramatically from that Stanford heuristic. “Where the standard account saw steady, cumulative ‘progress,’ he saw discontinuities – a set of alternating ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ phases in which communities of specialists in particular fields are plunged into periods of turmoil, uncertainty and angst.”

When I applied for membership to The Los Angeles Institute for Psychoanalysis, the Admissions Office went to surprising length to make sure I understood it subscribed to the Freudian paradigm. Life rolled merrily along for a number of years, until a formidable contingent of British psychoanalysts infiltrated Beverly Hills with a series of seminars, featuring a new paradigm based on the work of Melanie Klein. Kleinians, one-time Freudians themselves, no longer shared the same vision as their American counterparts. A discontinuity had become unmistakable. Predictably, the Institute got “plunged into turmoil, uncertainty and angst.”

That the Institute took such pain to make sure I would subscribe to its paradigm is SOP, Standard Operating Procedure. A scientific community cannot practice its trade without some set of received beliefs. These beliefs form the foundation of the “educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice. Rigorous and rigid preparation helps ensure that the received beliefs exert a ‘deep hold’ on the student’s mind.”

Competing paradigms, Kuhn recognized, bring about incompatible modes of community life. Paradigmatic differences cannot be reconciled. Again, I learned this first hand. Myself now a Kleinian, I worked with a Freudian, a long-time colleague. We looked at the same clinical data, some on tape from our own work (with an analysand’s permission). We got nowhere. It was shocking. We didn’t live in the same universe of discourse. No wormhole enabled us to re-establish living in one place.

So, dear spelunkers, here’s the skinny to this point:

One, fundamental paradigmatic assumptions are philosophically incompatible.

Two, a new scientific theory brings a new paradigm, displacing the previous paradigm. However, this change is experienced as an act of violence, one which destroys the old paradigm.

Describing the work of science as the cumulative acquisition of new data is only true for normal science. Normal research is cumulative, a scientific revolution isn’t. New paradigms arise with destructive change in beliefs about nature. Differences would not occur if the two were logically compatible. The second must displace the first.

Max Plank said famously, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Time for coffee break!

Before we enter the caves, we need to talk about what Kuhn means by “revolutionary science.”

Brief Report

This blog is not about The Caves and Thomas Kuhn. That’s later. I just sighted The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, Republicans whipping the dreaded steed in their mad fury.

This morning, The Los Angeles Times reports Congress will vote any day on repealing Obamacare. It also reports that 17 million Americans, with no medical insurance before ACA became the law of the land in 2010, now are protected. “…new evidence was published Wednesday about the dramatic expansion of insurance coverage made possible by the law.” Nobel laureate economist, Paul Krugman, has trotted out fact after fact over the past months, showing the ACA is an unqualified boon for our country.

Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling hears none of this. Without medical insurance, I’d have long ago been living in the street. How anyone is supposed to survive without coverage beats me. 17 million! Gives me the willies!

Last night I listened to a Republican muck-a-muck explain why Governor Scott Walker got 17% of the voters polled in Iowa over the week-end, five points ahead of his nearest rival.

“They are fiscal conservatives. Want a balanced budget. No regulations. Slash goverment spending.” To which the reporter responded, “Under Walker, Wisconsin has slashed billions from education, dismembered unions, unemployment among highest in the nation, six of the Governor’s aides indicted and one on the way to prison, the state’s debt increased, on and on.”

Facts. Reality. Iowan Republican are not looking at our country’s problems in a forever changing world . The Good Ol’ USA may as well be spinning in a Magellanic Cloud.
A key concept: Omnipotence is outside of Time and Space. How can anything in the Here and Now register without a sensory apparatus?

One more observation. Hillary said the other day, “Their only platform is to attack me,” drawing attention to an aspect of delusion I haven’t talked about: unextinguishable hatred! an invariant of delusions.

The Interpretation of Fred’s Dream

In my recent blogs, I claimed that Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling caused measureless suffering throughout history. A delusion, “The Led, Helpless/The Leaders, Omnipotent,” comes forever riding, riding across the globe, The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Be afraid!”

Any relationship based on differences, ruler/subject, man/woman, parents/children, teacher/student, enployer/employed, doctor/patient, and so forth, is vulnerable to Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling. (Only friends are linked by similarities. When differences multiply, the friendship ends.) If relational differences collapse, folks feel hopelessly entangled, trapped, claustrophobic, ready to scream, persecuted by scary thoughts, murder being one of them. It is, arguably, the chief reason people seek counseling.

The other day, out of the blue, a thought hit me, bouncing around for no more than 30 seconds. Had I dreamt it? I will assume so. In order to interpret my dream, I followed Freud’s rule of free association, saying (to myself) whatever came to mind. My dream divided into two parts, the first visual, about cave paintings, the second, a thought dream.

I began by asking myself, What comes to mind about cave paintings? Well, these works of art go back some 40,000 years. Those at Chauvet, 32,000 to 35,000 years. All told, 340 caves have been discovered in Europe. I had read the day before cave paintings rivaling those in France and Spain, were discovered recently on Salawesi, an island of Indonesia. A bit older, they are dated at 35,000 to 40,000 years. Aha! There’s the “Day’s Residue” for my dream. I read that cave stuff somewhere – probably in The Times. I continued my free association, whatever came unbidden to mind…

…”Day’s Residue for my dream”…Freud’s masterpiece, The Interpretation of Dreams, first published in 1900, showed that dreams start with somrthing recent, like on the previous day….

…all cave sites reflect the same artistic mastery, express the same vision, celebrate a shared Weltanschauung. For example, at Lascaux and Altamira, 20,000 years later than Chauvet, same artistic vision! Separated by tens of thousands of years – two hundred centuries! – the paintings, the technique, are remarkably similar. The caves, supreme masterpieces hidden in total darkness on their stone ceilings and walls, have been described as The Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art…

Masterpieces brought to mind Thomas Kuhn’s work, his iconic contribution, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions…. I read that a long time ago..also his work on The Copernican Revolution…

…I experienced a sudden rush of excitement…. The manifest content of my dream – all that stuff on cave paintings – hid the latent content, my wish to find unanticipated evidence for the ubiquity of Freud’s Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling! Kuhn was one of my heroes…what’s the problem with finding evidence to validate Freud?…makes me an echt Freudian! a loyal and hard-working disciple…

…but that’s not what Freud discovered, that we dream to parade our good deeds. We dream to defend against what is disturbing, to hide wishes that are forbidden, that stir up anxiety, keep us up all night. Very simply, Freud said we dream to protect our sleep. No boogie-boogie. No prophecies. No gods speaking to us…

…so what was I wishing for that would wreck my night’s sleep if I didn’t disguise it by putting it into the zama-zama of a dream?

It’s painful, really embarassing to admit, but the correct Freudian interpretation is that I presume, grandly, I can write a masterpiece, just like Freud and Kuhn. Fred will get famous….zama-zama….

Shhh! Fred’s sleeping.

The next time we converse, I will present unexpected data that may help us understand why Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling rides through human history as The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. I will suggest the work of Thomas Kuhn throws light on that great mystery: why do we see a Michaelangelo 40,000 years before we see a Galileo?

John the Baptist

This missive is sent in the spirit of John the Baptist. It prepares for the next blog.

Descended from group animals as far back as the Eocene, some 50 million years ago, we survived primarily by banding together. At some point in time, presumably in the Pleistocene, the story became exponentially more complex. We evolved into Homo sapiens sapiens, powered by the acquisition of symbolic language and, utter mystery, consciousness of self. In short, we evolved Mind, requiring a new order in the world, a new politics.

So began the long, brutal saga of the individual pitted against the authority of the group. No surprise, the level of brutalness. Absolute submission to the group was a given for millions and millions of years. Darwin relates the delightful story of baboons slapping a juvenile getting out of line on a group hunt. Now, a qualitative emergent, Mind, challenged the hegemony of the group, refusing to submit – despite the burning stake, the rack, the gibbet, exile, horrors not to be imagined. Maddened beyond telling, the Group saddled The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.

Finally, after uncounted centuries, suddenly racing at warp speed from Runnymede to Philadelphia, emerged a Novus Ordo Seclorum – a Bill of Rights protecting the individual.
On the scale of Darwinian evolution, we sapients are a blip in Deep Time. On a human scale, our history extends at least 40,000 years, as demonstrated beyond doubt by the Cave Paintings at Chauvet. 20,000 years later, the Cave Paintings at Lascaux reveal the same Mind at work, both “Sistine Chapels of the Paleolithic.” I’m not relying on pottery shards to date FULL human status. Michaelangelo can be seen working at Chauvet

It had taken us at least 40,000 years of being fully human to get to Runnymede.

It had taken 40,000 years, at least, for us to mature politically.

It has taken 40,000 years for us to recognize a Copernicus, a Galileo, a Kepler, a Newton.

In the next blog, I will link Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions with Helpless/Omnipotent Coupling.

C