i. “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” (Arnold Toynbee)

ii. Hobbes: “Whatcha doin’?”
Calvin: “Getting rich!”
Hobbes: “Really?”
Calvin: “Yep. I’m writing a self-help book! There’s a huge market for this stuff.”
Calvin: “First you convince people there’s something wrong with them. That’s easy because advertising has already conditioned people to feel insecure about their weight, looks, social status, sex appeal, and so on.”
Calvin: “Next, you convince them that the problem is not their fault and that they’re victims of larger forces. That’s easy, because it’s what people believe anyway. Nobody wants to be responsible for his own situation.”
Calvin: “Finally, you convince them that with your expert advice and encouragement, they can conquer their problem and be happy.”
Hobbes: “Ingenious. What problem will you help people solve?”
Calvin: “Their addiction to self-help books!”
Calvin: “My book is called, “Shut up and stop whining: How to do something with your life besides think about yourself.””
Hobbes: “You should probably wait for the advance before you buy anything.”
Calvin: “The trouble is… If my program works, I won’t be able to write a sequel.” (Calvin and Hobbes)

iii. “No one finds fault with defects which are the result of nature.” (Aristotle)

iv. “humans are a status-based social animal and higher-status individuals are given more deference when it comes to following social rules than lower-status individuals. People behave accordingly. When their status permits them to get away with things, they tend to take advantage of it, and the kicker is that they don’t even notice they’re doing it — brain imaging studies have shown THEY DON’T EVEN FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. Their status apparently subconsciously suppresses the guilt/shame response. But it’s wrong to see this as a stable personality trait. People have varying levels of status depending on the domain, and you can expect them to behave according to the level of status they feel they’re operating with.” (Slocum, here)

v. “Use thy youth so that thou mayest have comfort to remember it when it hath forsaken thee, and not sigh and grieve at the account thereof. Use it as the spring-time which soon departeth, and wherein thou oughtest to plant and sow all provisions for a long and happy life.” (Walter Raleigh)

vi. “The reason that educated religious people stay religious, I suspect, is that when they doubt, they are subconsciously very careful to attack their own beliefs only at the strongest points — places where they know they can defend. Moreover, places where rehearsing the standard defense will feel strengthening. […] More than anything, the grip of religion is sustained by people just-not-thinking-about the real weak points of their religion. I don’t think this is a matter of training, but a matter of instinct. People don’t think about the real weak points of their beliefs for the same reason they don’t touch an oven’s red-hot burners; it’s painful.” (Eliezer Yudkowsky. The same dynamics are at work when it comes to politics.)

vii. “the archaeological record associated with each lineage [Homo erectus, H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens] nowhere reveals a striking behavioral advance that might reflect abrupt brain enlargement. Instead, even between 500,000 and 250,000 years ago, when average brain size was everywhere within the modern range, humans in both Africa and Eurasia remained extraordinarily primitive in their behaviour. They produced a relatively small range of stone artifact types, their artifact assemblages varied remarkably little over long time spans and vast areas, they rarely, if ever, produced formal (standardized) artifacts from bone, ivory, antler, or similar organic materials, they left little or no evidence for art, and they failed to build structures that would leave an unambiguous archaeological trace. In all these respects, the people differed little from their immediate successors between 250,000 and 50,000 years ago […] Archaeologists agree that the pattern changed sharply after 50,000 years ago, when formal bone artifacts, art, housing remnants, and other items associated with historic hunter-gatherers appeared widely for the first time. It is thus only after 50,000 years ago that fully modern behaviour became firmly established.”

(The Human Past, p. 122. I find it fascinating to think about that behaviour lagged brain size, so to speak, for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years. Ancient humans were basically geniuses (just like modern humans are geniuses, compared to other species) walking around behaving like morons who had no clue how smart they were. I wonder how many times throughout the history of the Earth that species not too different from our own have evolved which never even knew how big a potential they had before they went extinct? It’s worth remembering that biology isn’t everything.)


March 1, 2012 - Posted by | Anthropology, Archaeology, Evolutionary biology, Quotes/aphorisms

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