"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." Psalm 137:9

I sometimes see this quote used by my fellow atheists to say, "See, how horrible religion is?" I agree that most of religion is horrible, but it is not the origin of such things as "bashing thy little ones." It has merely incorporated such things. The origins are far older than any religion... far older than humankind... probably far older than even the beginnings of the triune brain. Note the the verse is not talking about bashing your OWN little ones.

"Yanomamo men sneak up on a neighboring village and attack. If they are successful, they kill or chase away the me. They leave the sexually capable young women unharmed, but they move methodically through the lean-to-like homes, grabbing babies from the screaming captives. Like the langurs, the Yanomamo men beat these infants against the ground, bash their brains out on the rocks, and make the footpaths wet with babies' blood. They spear the older children with the sharp ends of their bows, pinning their bodies to the ground. Others they simply throw from the edge of a cliff. To the Yanomamo, this [sic] an exhilarating entertainment. They brag and boast as they smash newborns against the stones. When the winning warriors have finished, not a single suckling child remains. Then the triumphant Yanomamo men lead the captured woman back to a new life as secondary wives..." The Lucifer Principle, pp.38.

Perhaps the Yanomami do such things because they haven't had their Cheerios? Haven't read the Bible? Or they don't know Jesus? How about the langurs? Does anyone speak langur? Perhaps we should send missionaries to them as well? Or is it; same behavior, same reasons?
"Know thyself" is surely among the most sound advice available, for individuals, nations and our species. It has been around at least since the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Through the millennia and many generations of theologians and philosophers, how much real progress has been made toward accomplishing this? Finally science has grown enough to try its hand at it. But it has a handicap... a world full of people who who do not wish to know themselves, who don't think it's possible to know themselves, who cling to mystical notions and wail that thoughts and personalities "cannot be reduced to mere matter", though science clearly shows that is precisely what they are.

During the past couple of weeks I re-skimmed through The Selfish Gene, read
Howard Bloom's The Lucifer Principle and
Global Brain. If you truly wish to know yourself, to know "us", these are very good starting points. If you cling only to notions of gods and demons and spirits and things "supernatural", you will know only mythology, not truth.

I hope to soon read Steven Pinker's book, The Blank Slate, which debunks the notions of "the blank slate", "the noble savage", and deus ex machina or "ghost in the machine". Read here for further explanation of these. If you're up for a good talk you can watch...

Steven Pinker - The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature 1:52:25
(the first 10 minutes is introduction, the last 40 is Q&A)

Some people continue the "us vs. them" notion to technology, specifically, "What if the machines take over?" Can you see as well as an infrared camera or as far as a telescope? Can you fly as fast as an airplane or Mars-bound spacecraft? Can you carry as much weight as a freight train or ocean liner? We create machines because we ARE machines, and we have the capacity and need to build extensions of ourselves. We are sufficient unto ourselves as far as basic survival, but to get beyond human limitations, we build stronger, faster things than we. If there were to ever be a scenario in which humans were pitted in some battle against machines, is it not abundantly obvious that it would be "bye, bye humans"?

Thus far, we have mostly built things that are physically superior to us. But when we built "computers" we were entering the area of thinking and brain power. A computer can do more calculations in a second than you could do in your lifetime. Obviously far superior. The only way to avoid "us vs. them" and obvious oblivion for humans as we know them is to merge. If you can't beat 'em (and you don't have a snowball's chance in hell of that, the Terminator notwithstanding) join 'em. We will be them and they will be us. We will have our own hands on the throttle of our next evolutionary jump.

But maybe there will always be some percentage of humans who simply will not or cannot "evolve" in this way. Maybe this will lead to yet another species or subspecies of human. Cro-Magnon beats Neanderthal... enhanced beats un-enhanced human? We already incorporate parts into ourselves that are superior to the parts they replace. We need only perfect them and our ability to use them. We are creating a new kind of global brain. Our computers get faster and more powerful but our brains do not, at least nowhere near as fast as the computers do. At some point our original, un-enhanced brains will be simply insufficient to keep up. We cannot process nearly enough information or nearly fast enough to know what is going on. We must have enhancements here as well.

For more:
Steven Pinker - The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature(Google video).

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature(wiki - book).

The Lucifer Principle: Read the whole book here (pdf).

Howard Bloom's Global Brain.


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Tags: Bible, genetics, nature


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Comment by El Solo Lobo on July 1, 2009 at 5:49am
Thanks, Stranger. I don't know about every single one, but he does, in fact, have a very good track record. I don't know what it will entail, but some kind of technical singularity seems inevitable short of major catastrophe. Hope I get to see it.
Comment by El Solo Lobo on June 30, 2009 at 6:20pm
Thanks, Katie. I'm glad you enjoyed.
Comment by Katie the Ninja on June 30, 2009 at 3:53pm
oh my gosh, i was just reading about this in Godless, the book im currently reading, and Dan Barker, the author, was telling in the book how he was in a debate and he brought up this little..line or whatever and he asked the guy he was debating if it was "really moral" to throw babies against stones? And the guy answered yes, instantly. He then said if jesus says to do something it would be "immoral" not to do it. Great blog.
I think its horrible that they could believe in that.

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