posted on Dec, 14 2014 @ 05:57 PM
As someone who reads a lot, I often find myself amused, perplexed, disgruntled, and in agreement - different parts of myself feeling different things
- when I come by opposing perspectives of how the world is.
Just the other day I was reading Even Thompsons "Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self, Meditation and Consciousness in Neuroscience and Philosophy", in
which he cited the studies of the neuroscientist Thomas Metzinger on artificially inducing OBE's by stimulating an area in the brain called the
temporoparietal occipital junction. This particular area of our brain integrates and associates vision with spatial and vestibular awareness: in
short, where we are, subjectively, vis a vis our physical bodies.
What got me thinking in particular was Metzingers avid and sympathetic description of the experiencing subject who has an 'outer body experience';
he understood, he said, how plausible it can feel for them, that their consciousness literally exists "in another body". Of course, indeed, these
outer experiences depend on being physically embodied; and indeed, when the OBE's occur, something cooky starts happening in the temporoparietal
occiptal junction, as view with EEG as well as with an MRI scanner. Earlier in his discussion, Thompson quotes Metzingers view that the human mind is
an "ontology machine". Ok, I thought - that is definitely, undoubtedly true. But then a little bit later, Metzinger says that people who believe in
OBEs, although he sympathetizes greatly with the plausibility of the experience, are being led, unjustifiably, to an erroneous ontological conclusion.
Whether outer body experiences are real or not is not my concern with this thread. The question is circular and doesn't explain much. What interests
me in particular was how, despite noting that the human mind was an ontology machine, Metzinger succumbed to stating his own ontology by dismissing
the ontology of people who believe that OBEs are real.
The question of ontology is inevitable, as human beings are belief-makers. We can't interact with the world without positing and engaging. Everything
we do amounts to this. Some thing is thrown out there - becomes a metaphysic for us - and we rush toward it, energized by the belief that what we've
posited - or prefer not to notice the positing itself - is real. And deserving our conscious attention.
By saying this, I do not mean that everything is relative or that no objective world exists. I'm just pointing out the constructivist nature of
reality: Its US and a world; and in order to be effective agents in the world, we need a REASON to act. And, unlike animals, who have the freedom to
be without the "oppressive" awareness of knowing their own existence, human beings are forced by the nature of their own psychology to believe: to
posit an ontology, and in the process, energize their engagements with the world.
This brings me to the question of teleology. When I look at the history of our world and the history of our universe, I am always amazed and bedazzled
by the meaningful progression of evolutionary development.
Take these facts, and keep in mind, evolution created a species such as ourselves capable of reflecting in it's own ontological terms on the
development of the universe and ourselves within it.
The idea was prompted by an interesting documentary on CNN called Dinosaur 13, telling the tale of the most completely discovered tyranosaurus rex
skeleton back in 1990. As I watched this, I thought to myself "what a bizarre creature! No wonder people are amazed by this! What the hell IS this
creature!? And furthermore, look at us, human beings, living millions of years later, unearthing a skull of a creature with a 4 foot long head! and a
tiny, itty bitty sized brain!"
I then began to reflect on the evolution of life on Earth. I thought about the first creatures, single celled organisms. What would the ontology of
this creature be in terms of it's relationship with the world around it? Purely chemical. A taking in and keeping out of an adventitious 'good'
from an adventitious bad. And then for some reason, cells wanted to link up with other cells. Sort of like a proto-love. Cells could be more if they
simply worked together. What is this process? OR, is my asking not legitimate? But...then, as a creature born to ask why, why should I exclude my own
humanness from the phenomena nature created?
Eventually, after a bunch of weird sea creatures, the earth gave form to dinosaurs. What do dinosaurs represent? Firstly, they're reptiles. And as we
know from modern studies of reptilian brains and nervous systems, they are remarkably simplistic creatures. In fact, the whole idea of a 'reptilian
brain' is born of the observation that reptiles do not tend to their young. They simply find an 'opportune' place - one that will hopefully promote
survival; but once the eggs are hatched, dinos and alligators go off on their own and leave their yungin to the harsh rule of survival.
Dinosaurs, perhaps, are a fitting reification of the wanton physical urges that promote selfish behavior in human beings. If someone lives that way,
we tend to describe them as "big headed". Do we not? And, in fact, with dinosaurs, we see a HUGE Body, and a very, very tiny brain. Could this
metaphor be any less meaningful in light of our own ontological proclivities?
In continuing with my teleological theme, looking at dionsaurs, I am tempted to see a fractal representation of the human brain stem, that 'ancient
part of us' which the neuroscientist Paul Mcclain claimed was retained by all organisms which evolved from earlier organisms. In humans, as in
reptiles and dinosaurs, the brainstem mediates basic homeostatic processes: breathing, heart rate, and other metabolic processes: including the
regulation of mind and body relations.
With the advent of mammals (and birds) organisms changed, not just by becoming 'smaller' in size, but in developing more complex nervous systems and
social behaviors. In effect, the 'carelessness' and 'physicalism' of dinosaurs was supplanted by the mammalian nurture drive. Mammals, unlike
dinosaurs, developed was John Bowlby called "attachment", first to their mothers, and later on, with the groups they lived within.
The picture, of course, culminates with us, human beings. But first let me paint the processes simplistically delineated above in abstract ontological
terms. If I could place one principle at the center of this process, I would have to call it "love". But what is "love"? Lets define love as a
movement towards wholeness.
With the first organisms, the 'life principle' developed by first, wondrously, holding itself together as cell with a semi-permeable membrane that
made itself endongeously viable as a self-contained organism by exchanging chemical products within itself and its environment. At this point, life is
very small, and very one dimensional.
Later on, this process becomes more relational when cells came together to create multi-cellular organisms, a type of super-being that united the
interests of single cells into something more absract: an organism.
When dinosaurs came around, the 'physical' aspect - and right now I am applying a strong telos to the fact of dinosaurs - developed into its most
extreme. One of the mysteries that confounds us is what value dinosaurs could have had? For me, I wonder whether the existence of dinosaurs ties
directly to the human concept of 'pure self-interest': the survival