Tag: Psychology Cognition

Ancestors along the highway

June 30, 2007 | By | 10 Replies More
Ancestors along the highway

[This idea was born as a comment here, but I decided to create a separate post out of it].

What if your mother stood right behind you, and your mother’s mother stood right behind her? Then your great grandma and then your great great grandma. Imagine them all lined up, one foot apart, stretching out into the distance. If a generation is deemed to be 25 years, a line of your ancestors as long as a football field (300 feet) would stretch backwards 7,500 years. The woman at the end of that 300 foot line would have lived during the time when agriculture just began in ancient Egypt. You’d still recognize each of your ancestors in that 300 foot line to be fully modern humans, biologically speaking.

Isn’t it amazing to think that you could run along side that entire 300 foot line of your ancestors in only 15 seconds (I’m assuming you’re not an Olympic caliber sprinter) to end up standing next to one of your own ancestors who was alive 7,500 years ago?

Now think even further back. In An Ancestor’s Tale, Richard Dawkins calculated that 20,000,000 great-grandparents ago, our relatives were small shrew-like animals living at the end of the Cretaceous period. What if you spaced out your relatives one foot apart to extend all the way back to these shrew-like creatures? That line would be 3,787 miles long. That’s about the length of highway running from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to Anchorage Alaska. Imagine speeding alongside that line of your relatives at 60 mph, seeing the generations of your relatives whizzing by, more than 5,000 of them every minute.

It wouldn’t take long to reach the last of your relatives who looks like you. In fact, your trip would have barely begun. Biologically modern humans (those whose bodies are the functional equivalent of our own bodies) came onto the scene between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Driving at highway speed parallel to that line of your own relatives, you’d run out of your biologically modern human relatives less than one-minute after beginning your trip. That’s only 4,000 generations.

[More . . . ]

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Change in Self – Change in World

June 25, 2007 | By | 4 Replies More
Change in Self – Change in World

Erich just uploaded a short post noting that Americans feel sourly about nearly everything. With no sign of optimism, and marked lack of trust in virtually all institutions, does it come as a surprise that people often sigh hopelessly over the “good old days”? Many people cling to an image of past glory and happiness, […]

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The Vatican issues new Ten Commandments of Driving

June 23, 2007 | By | 3 Replies More
The Vatican issues new Ten Commandments of Driving

No punch line here.  It really happened. The Vatican has issued a set of “10 commandments” for motorists to promote safer driving. The “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road” call on drivers to respect speed limits, refrain from drinking before driving and avoid cursing. Roman Catholics are also urged to make the sign […]

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A delightful description of self

June 20, 2007 | By | 5 Replies More
A delightful description of self

In her review of Douglas Hofstadter’s new book (I Am a Strange Loop) in the May 3 edition of Nature, Susan Blackmore has this to say: At the age of 12 or so, it dawned on [Hofstadter] that consciousness is a peculiar kind of barrage that perceives itself and yet doesn’t believe it’s perceiving MRIs […]

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The Manichean worldview of George W. Bush

June 20, 2007 | By | 4 Replies More
The Manichean worldview of George W. Bush

Why has the Administration of George W. Bush made so many enemies?  It comes from an early intellectual decision to view the world in terms of Good versus Evil.  This article in by Glenn Greenwald sums it up nicely.  Efforts to impose limits on waging war against Evil will themselves be seen as impediments to Good, if not […]

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Paris Hilton goes to jail and other bites of word salad

June 19, 2007 | By | 5 Replies More
Paris Hilton goes to jail and other bites of word salad

If you Google “Paris Hilton Jail” you’ll get 15 million hits. If you Google “Downing Street Memo” you’ll get only 800,000 hits. A terrifying real-world topic, “Greenland ice sheet,” will only return 900,000 hits. I suppose it’s because there are no videos of memos or glaciers having sex. What brought me to the topic of […]

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Believers versus skeptics by the numbers

June 18, 2007 | By | 37 Replies More
Believers versus skeptics by the numbers

Ebonmuse looks closely at the religious trends at Daylight Atheism.  The recent rates of growth/decline are especially interesting.  It turns out that the fast growing “religion” is secularlism. I have to wonder how much more quickly attitudes would change (away from systems involving supernatural claims) if the mainstream media would stop walking on eggshells when it discussed religion.   […]

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Father’s Day versus fatherhood

June 16, 2007 | By | 3 Replies More
Father’s Day versus fatherhood

I am cynical about the day called Father’s Day.   For most of my life, I have seen it as yet another store-sponsored holiday.  America traditionally “celebrates” Father’s Day by buying trinkets from a store.   I can’t think of a better way to degrade any occasion. Father’s Day has become something much more meaningful to me […]

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Addiction versus Obsession: Common human traits and behaviors

June 15, 2007 | By | Reply More
Addiction versus Obsession: Common human traits and behaviors

Main Entry: ad•dic•tion  Pronunciation: &-‘dik-sh&n, a- Function: noun 1 : the quality or state of being addicted 2 : compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user […]

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