Homo who? / Mechanisms Replace Organisms

Some who have read my posts on Homo erectus surely think I’m a “crank” – a poor deluded geologist with nothing better to do than to start swinging my rock hammer at delicately composed schemes built on decades, and more, of anthropologists and archaeologists wielding dental instruments and picking away at fossil bones and pot shards. Drawing, Categorizing. Boxing.

This visual thinker sees 19th C. museum workers in lab coats: obsessive compulsive types hired for their religious attention to minutiae, descendants of monks who copied and illuminated manuscripts, their perfect detail lending far more importance to the text that it actually deserves.

I know, I know! Archaeologists and anthropologists now consult the Apple oracle: computers programs that draft objects and maps from high tech scanners and laser surveys are miraculously spun into “conclusions” by graphics software – but I suspect that gizmos not only point out what was previously unseen, but also patterns and details that don’t exist except in the human eye which sees what it wants to see; once perceived and memorized, the brain is extremely reluctant to “let go.” Once a paper is written, submitted and read, it never goes away, which is fortunate: many overlooked or derided ideas find a foothold later or must wait for new technology and more complete data.

The “problem” of hominid evolution is that our approach is a mess: once again we see perfectly intelligent people trying to send astronauts to the moon in a horse and buggy.

LET GO of 19th C. structures and boundaries and get creative.

Creativity is not “buying” new technology and using it to “support” old entrenched ideas. It’s not hoarding your pet projects to use in academic snowball fights. It’s not grabbing a new field like genetics and using it to “destroy” all other ways of looking at living things.

One aspect of being human has always stumped me: obsession with moment to moment trivia between life and death: What are we going to eat for dinner? Should I park in this spot, or look for one that’s closer? Is it raining? Do I need a coat? That guy at the end of the bar is flirting with my wife: Blammo! Humans spend so much time and energy on this stuff! We worry, fuss, argue, gossip, go shopping, drive vehicles into bridge abutments, fall off ladders, get Ebola . It’s what we do. Suddenly, Blammo: you’re gone. It seems so… weird.

Animals live moment to moment, and so do we. I’m a deer; eat grass, look for predators, cross the road: Blammo! I’m a cow; I hang around a couple of years, get loaded in a truck: Blammo!

Evolution doesn’t stop and start at “species” boundaries. There are no species! Try removing that one manmade concept. It was a really good one, but science moves on.

When I say that we are all versions of Homo erectus, what I’m saying is, take away the conceptual barriers: When dealing with chaos, “choose” a place to stand and view the evidence. Resist the temptation to “fill in the blanks” or to resurrect archaic thought regimes. The details will fall into place when you have a sensible hypothesis.

As Oswald Spengler said about scientific psychology:

Every professed philosopher is forced to believe, without serious examination, in the existence of a Something that in his opinion is capable of being handled by reason, for his whole spiritual existence depends on the possibility of such a Something. […] The proposition “there is a soul, the structure of which is scientifically accessible; and that which I determine, by critical dissection of conscious existence-acts into the form of psychic elements, functions, and complexes, is my soul” is a proposition that no psychologist has doubted hitherto.

And yet it is just here that his strongest doubts should have arisen. Is an abstract science of the spiritual possible at all? Is that which one finds on this path identical with that which one is seeking? Why has psychology meant, not knowledge of men and experience of life, but has been the shallowest and most worthless of the disciplines of philosophy, a field so empty that it has been left entirely to mediocre minds and barren systematists?

The reason is not far to seek. It is the misfortune of “experimental” psychology that it does not even possess an object as the word is understood in any and every scientific technique. Its searches and solutions are fights with shadows and ghosts. What is it the Soul? If the mere reason could give an answer to that question, the science would be ab initio unnecessary.

The image of the soul is mythic and remains objective in the field of spiritual religion so long as the image of Nature is contemplated in the spirit of religion; and it transforms itself into a scientific notion and becomes objective in the field of scientific criticism as soon as “Nature” comes to be observed critically. As “time” is a counter-concept to space, so the soul is a counter world to “Nature” and therefore variable in dependence upon the notion of Nature as this stands from moment to moment.

I maintain, then, that scientific psychology has, in its inability to discover, or even approach the essence of the soul, simply added one more to the symbols that collectively make up the Macrocosm of culture-man. Like everything else that is no longer becoming but become, it has put a mere mechanism in place of an organism.

…For everything that our present-day psychologist has to tell us – and here we refer not only to systematic science but also in the wider sense to the physiognomic knowledge of men – relates to the present condition of the Western soul, and not as hitherto gratuitously assumed to the “human soul” at large.

In reality, every Culture possesses its own systematic psychology just as it possesses its own style of knowledge of men and experience of life…

2 thoughts on “Homo who? / Mechanisms Replace Organisms

  1. Paradigms are like religious movements. If a person speaks against accepted “wisdom and understanding” they are considered cranks (had to look it up).
    Having had parents who moved around I have gotten to see that there is no such thing as “the right way”. I used to want to believe in a soul. But now I don’t see how it is possible to do so. At least if a person takes a mental step back and looks at the evidence experimental psychology (the brain based kind) has come up with.


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