Listen to a reading of this article:

Really, when it comes right down to it, things are a mess because humans are in a very awkward and confusing stage in our development as a species.

Our giant brains evolved faster than we could adjust to, and now we’re these scared little apex predators stumbling around the earth with massive prefrontal cortices overlaying a bunch of deep primordial conditioning. A rapidly developed capacity for language and abstract thought strapped on top of a fear response that our distant evolutionary ancestors developed to help them run away from long-extinct monsters with big sharp teeth.

This sudden change has left us in a transition stage where we haven’t yet gotten the hang of the immense power which now erupts from within our skulls and gives us the ability to shape our world to our will. Like how the ancient mammalian ancestors of whales probably looked awkward when they first began reentering the sea, before they got the hang of swimming and their nostrils moved to a location more conducive to breathing in the water.

It’s left us at this weird, uncomfortable stage where we have the intelligence to do amazing things, but haven’t yet developed the wisdom to use this newfound capacity in a harmonious way.

We now have the ability to conquer our own ecosystems using technology, but we lack the wisdom not to do so.

We have the intelligence to invent nuclear weapons, but we lack the wisdom not to build them.

We have the ability to plan for our individual futures, but we lack the wisdom to make sure our species as a whole has a future.

We have the ability to think abstract thoughts, but lack the wisdom to refrain from building identities out of them.

We have the ability to ask questions, but lack the wisdom to deeply question our own true nature and whether the world is really as it seems.

The ability to write vast tomes of philosophy that contain not one line telling us how to be content on the planet we were born on.

The ability to construct entire belief systems that are completely useless for learning to live in harmony with what is.

The ability to discover spirituality only to use it for vapid escapism and tyrannical psychological domination.

The ability to research human psychology only to use it to convince people to buy junk they don’t need and support wars they don’t want and vote for politicians they don’t like.

The ability to invent mass media only to use use it to promote and normalize a status quo that is killing us all.

The ability to invent something as transcendental as music only to popularize songs about owning stuff and getting money.

The ability to technologically link billions of minds on the internet only to spend all our time arguing about nonsense.

The ability to tell stories only to spend our energy using storytelling to manipulate and control each other.

The ability to intimately appreciate beauty and mystery with a profound depth and complexity only to spend our entire lives frantically doing anything but that.

We have the ability to do all these things skillfully and harmoniously; we just haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet.

It’s like when you got your first bike for your birthday and you knew it could make you go a lot faster than you normally can, but it took a lot of practice before you went from training wheels and painful falls to swiftly breezing through the neighborhood. These giant prefrontal cortices we got on our birthday give us so much potential, and we’ve been bumbling around on training wheels and taking nasty spills when we try to take them off.

I’m sure the early evolutionary ancestors of birds were awkward as hell too before they finally got the hang of flying. They would have looked ridiculous, and it wouldn’t have been immediately clear from an outsider’s perspective exactly what nature was going for there. Like biological baby scribbles.

The only difference is that the awkward evolutionary transition phases of birds and whales did not involve giant neural networks which make childbirth painful and could easily lead to the death of all terrestrial life.

The birth of a human baby is difficult due to the size of our enormous, rapidly evolved brains relative to our more slowly evolved pelvic bones. The birth of a sane humanity will be difficult for similar reasons.

I do believe we have the ability to make the jump from this awkward transition phase to become a truly conscious species. But it looks like if we do make it, it’s going to be by the skin of our omnivore teeth.


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57 responses to “We’re Just A Confused Species In An Awkward Transition Phase”

  1. With love and respect for each other, anything is possible.

    With love and respect for the world we all share, anything is possible.

    With love and respect for that one, singular source of all life in these physical and non-physical creations, that which many have named ‘God’, anything is possible.

    With love and respect, anything is possible.

    One would prefer not to wait another 2022 years for this incredibly simple message to finally sink in.

  2. You’re definitely on to something. You might enjoy the thinking/writings of Dr. Iain McGilchrist. He believes that our many problems, mainly in the West, are the result of an imbalance between the left and right brain hemispheres, in which we have become too left-brain dominant and lost our connection with all things right-brain. In essence, we have lost our sense of “oneness” with our fellow man as well as the natural world. Here is a link to a short video he did explaining the essence of his thinking (he’s also written a number of books on the topic):

  3. Brilliant article and spot on. I’ve pondered this for years and many others have touched on it, but Caitlin addresses is so poetically here. We are an advanced species. We’ve made rapid intellectual and scientific advances in the past two centuries. We now have systems to protect us from most historical threats and disruptions, which in turn has given us a comfortable place from which to further expand our minds and consider beyond the possible. Problem is we have two tragic flaws. Fear and denial. When fear is triggered within us, even as we sit comfortably in climate controlled homes, we fall into some primal irrational state where logic and reason fall apart and we will accept any intervention that removes the threat. This is then made worse by our denial. Once the threat is neutralized, we return to our normal thinking state, and attempt to analyze the cost benefit of our response, our pride always prevents us from acknowledging that we ran around like!e Pollyannas and our ‘solutions’ only created as least as many problems as they prevented. After all we were in no danger sitting comfortably on our couches. We just got duped. And nobody wants to be the first person to admit that. It took almost NINE YEARS for a court to determine that Edward Snowden was right.that the NSA was spying on everybody. That it was illegal, unconstitutional and despicable. The dude had to live in exile in Russia. But you, with all your love for your cell phone and fake Social Media alternate personality let the single biggest violation of right in history continue unchallenged. You got spied on, profiled, mapped, traced etc because you were afraid to admit it was happening. Which thing do you think was actually worse in the end? And you had the nerve to object to being locked down in your homes? Made to take a vaccine? To shut your business over health orders? You gave away your rights. Because you were weak and afraid. Because you fell for the same cookie cutter trick for the 100,000th time and still wont admit it. You might literally be stupid enough to think a cow went into the water and became a whale. Like literally that fucking gullible. Because you were afraid. You might have shot up your kids with an unverified RNA sequence that permanently altered their immune system. Over a virus that 48 FOIa requests produced no evidence of. When will you admit it? When will you stop. When will you hear the first 2 notes of a song you’ve heard a million times and recognize it as that song? And admit it’s that song? That’s when we advance as a species. Assuming we live long enough.

  4. thorsjackhammer Avatar

    Stress makes us and stress can break us. Life feeds on other life to propagate new life….

  5. Shout out from Jimmy Dore, two in fact. One is from 2020, a tweet about how a prospective US Secretary of War type was putting forth the idea that we must be able to sink the Chinese Navy in 72 hours.
    Sheeet, 72 hours? A quarter of a salvo from one of our boomers can sink the Chinese Navy in 10 seconds. They should make me the Secetary of War, at least I know the kindergarten basics of how to sink the largest Navy on the planet in its own home waters. You must nuke it while you also nuke everything else that can fire back on the mainland, because if you don’t go for the whole enchilada , the upper two thirds of North America will be bracketed by hundreds of airburst EMPs and all the nuclear power plants in both the US and Canada will be vaporized.
    That will probably happen anyway but you have no chance of achieving sweet victory if you go at China half-assed.
    Shame to wipe them out though if you are a human interested in beating the Great Filter, because China is showing the world the way. The China Synthesis. That’s what I’m calling it after spending nearly 100 hours since this Ukraine proxy war began studying China under my virtual micospcope.
    China for all it’s concrete pouring, steel bending, tunnel digging, bridge building, road and rail networking and financial wizardy based on a debt free currency for the commons, is trying it’s damnest to hold on to the best of our hunter-gatherer past.
    Not my favorite park I’ve been in, the local chapter of the Army of Topariary Artists must be on strike in Chengdu, some of the bushes do need a trimming, but tell me this doesn’t remind one of say, various Souix tribes meeting up on the Cheyanne to hang out together for a couple of weeks, because its1790 and times are good and allow for 10,000 people to hang out and enjoy not doing a goddamn thing for a fortnight, other than to walk around and take in the nature.
    And everyone is responsible for monitoring the children, mostly by not paying attention to them as they run around and have fun.
    Note: Jimmy Dore, these are some things you don’t see in China. Potholes, haven’t seen one yet. Homelessness, there is no such thing. Poverty, there are still “poor” people in China but they are no way impovershed, and cops.
    That’s right, almost 100 hours in now, 80% in walks in every sector of Chinese society, 10% in drives, from superhighways to backstreets, and 10% in drone flyovers, just to take in the various Master Plans from above.
    I have seen 7 cops on foot, they were all standing around doing nothing or talking to someone. 3 or 4 squad cars, all in the cities, none on the highways, small squad cars, no shotguns, no cages, all sitting still. Also, I have seen roughly 10 police vehicles that might be described as souped up golf carts. Those are usually at the edges of the parks, what their role is precisely I don’t know, but I suspect it is to drive down one of the park’s bike lanes to admonish anyone who litters, because littering in China has been forbidden by Emperor Xi.
    Seeing a piece of paper on the ground in China is almost as rare as seeing a child being scolded.
    Or hearing a siren. I’ve heard but two.

    1. Pity. There will be no one to fix the incipient pot holes, keep the hedges pruned, keep the commons free of litter or suffer the little children if that secretary of war infected with a terminal case of American Hubristic Fever, or perhaps Xi Derangement Syndrome, ever gets his wish fulfilled about the Chinese navy and all that follows Besides, I would so miss Chinese Szechaun cooking. Probably any kind of cooking. That and uncontaminated water and air, a roof over my head, and some way to keep from freezing to death.
      As many seem to be saying here, this tendency to think of people far removed from themselves either genetically or geographically as problems to be solved or obstacles to be removed is definitely part of the American Matrix, with every possible combination of racist and ethnic iterations, not just white on black. In fact, it’s close to universal around the globe. The problem is dysfunctional enough to bring it to prominence in the arena of societal debate just about everywhere, even in wickedly apartheid countries like Israel and Ukraine, yet we cling to its practice as though it were hard wired into our brains. Even religion and its endless homilies and platitudes fails to dislodge it, but rather actually reinforces it in many cases.
      I have no solution. Even my highly educated, socially ordered and presumably enlightened Prussian stock (before coming to America circa 1850), about as efficient and advanced as the present-day Chinese, brought forth Hitler and followed him to perdition. To confound matters even more, the present Chinese society was founded by the alleged worst mass murderer of the 20th century (Mao). Surely the take-home lesson cannot be that to overcome this flaw in human design a society has to suffer through it. If it were, the US would have gotten it out of its system after the Civil War… or the subsequent Indian Wars. All I see are repeated examples of Einstein’s supposed definition of insanity.

      1. ” … or suffer the little children … ”
        Lmao … I have to admit, my Western brain wants to tether these wild munchkins to their parents, if for no other reason than my main tour guide Max has to constantly dodge em while trying to maintain a steady dolly cam.
        “Surely the take-home lesson cannot be that to overcome this flaw in human design a society has to suffer through” … a Mao period.
        Yup, that is one of my main takeaways. Mao is the father of all this, for better or worse. I do feel his presence everywhere, despite rarely encountering his once ubiquitous and iconic visage, which only seems to be on display now, in small villages that have been turned into tourist traps.
        Can a China Synthesis occur in a parliametary structured government that has theoretically rid itself of both the local monied interests and the global neo-liberal menace, and has a – recent – history free of mass internal genocides?
        I do not know. The Dutch have centrally planned bikable and walkable neighborhoods that work harmoniously with multiple mass public transport options ( a plan which Chinese stole of course). So a small European patch of planet Earth is no longer solely dependent on the automobile. That’s a start.
        Of course the Netherlands are a part of Nato, so presumably they too will be in favor of burning this world to crisp should things not go their way in the proxy wars.
        Note: Dutch children seem to run around in a similar fashion to Chinese kids. I find that interesting. They are also expected to hop on bikes and take them to school from the moment they learn how to ride.
        Sort of remind me of the Commanche, circa 1720 to 1870, the Dutch do. By the age of 10, if a prospective Commanche brave couldn’t – accurately – fire an arrow from underneath a horse a full gallop, he was immediatley sent to remedial school, where he would be given one last chance by his Uncles and older cousins to learn the ways … or else.
        What the Dutch do with their version of such young failures, again, I do not know.

    2. Apologies. I must take back what I said about the Chengdu chapter of the Chinese Army of Topiary Artists (ATA). This is some of the ATA’s finest work I’ve seen anywhere in China.
      Maybe the Chengdu Wetlands Park was supposed to look a little scruffy, The au naturale look being the whole point.
      What is interesting about China, and it is quite evident in this video. every city tree seems to be given loving support of some kind. This is either because the Communist Party demands of its trees that they all must grow straight and tall, or simply because China likes trees.
      Or both.

    “Genius” future-trends advisor to WEF’s Klaus Schwab, Yuval Noah Harari​ was recently interviewed. He explained himself clearly and well. Here are A-V clips and transcribed excerpts, which are worthy of a few minutes of deep our comprehension. (Do “useless people” have to go to the back of the food line?) Thanks Red:

    “Again, I think the biggest question in maybe in economics and politics of the coming decades will be what to do with all these useless people?
    The problem is more boredom and how what to do with them and how will they find some sense of meaning in life, when they are basically meaningless, worthless?
    My best guess, at present is a combination of drugs and computer games as a solution for [most]. It’s already happening.”

    1. BB Benderhaus Avatar
      BB Benderhaus

      Had to go AFK to read your reply. What drugs? My oxycotin for my back pain and Marijuana for my PTSD works great but I am always open to something better.

    2. Useless people – royal families, private equity managers, …?
      Drugs: ricin, cortinarin, …?
      Computer games: to remind future generations why we got rid of them?

  7. Evolution is not an optimizing machine. It does not produce better and better humans. It tends to produce humans better adapted to their physical and (I would argue) social environments than their distant forebears were.
    Human brains are 5% smaller than they were 30,000 years ago. Why? Some say better efficiency, which would make a fine argument, if it came with a side serving of evidence. Even so, I would not trust it for the whole answer.
    In fact, the evidence says this process of brain diminution has recently accelerated. I think we must consider the possibility that civilization as currently organized imposes negative selection pressures on brain mass and cognition.
    Bear in mind, I’m not an anthropologist, I’m just interested.
    Hominins (our ancestors) split genetically from the hominids (great apes) about 14 million years ago. Somewhere along the line, social requirements became a highly important selective pressure for hominins. I submit that cooperative social strategies requiring mutual trust and understanding were highly adaptative, and the better an individual’s cognition, the better the individual’s chances of propagating successfully.
    The appearance of ceramic technology about 9500 years ago coincided with the emergence and quick prevalence of patrilineal social organizations. Patrilineal inheritance (determining family through the father) is only possible by restricting female copulation choices through coercion. Having been raised in a patrilineal cultural milieu, most of us arrive at that conclusion with difficulty, but coercion by the male (or male-focused social power structures) is prerequisite to a monogamist or harem-style clamp-down on female sexuality.
    It is my opinion that this shift away from egalitarian social and sexual arrangements radically restructured human social groupings existing at the time, and began rewarding an atavistic hominid strategy of male power coupled to coercive violence. So why would patrilineal social structuring reemerge, 14 million years after our genetic break with the other great apes?
    The pat answer is that ceramic storage of agricultural surplus gave the anti-collaborative throwbacks among us something to steal, and with their control of the food supply came a way to subjugate females and restrict their copulation choices. I don’t trust pat answers, especially my own, even when my awareness of my ignorance fails to overpower my willingness to launch a gob of guesswork about it. But there’s a strong theory in there somewhere.

    A male-focused top-down power structure that funnels the productivity of the many into the hoards of the few tends to produce what most of us would judge to be distinctly negative adaptive pressures: conformity, compliance, and submission prominent among them. In my exasperatingly un-humble but much aggrieved opinion, this does not bode well for the awakening of the population.

    1. When it comes to brain size, sperm whales’d beat us hands down, if they had hands.

  8. Yep, our consciousness hasn’t caught up to our power

  9. Abstract thought? Primordial conditioning? Fear response? Intelligence? Wisdom? True nature? Content(ment)? Spirituality? Vapid escapism? Tyrannical psychological domination? What do all of these have to do with the minutiae of day-to-day human behavior in the year 2022? Let’s use a bit of human imagination time-traveling to try to find out.
    In central Europe, 10,000 years ago, two human animals give birth to two offspring. In 1946, in the same place, two human animals give birth to two offspring. Without anyone’s knowledge, one infant from 1946 is swapped with one infant from 10,000 years ago.
    All four children grow up and live their lives in their separate times. Despite the 10,000-year difference in their birth dates, throughout their lives, the day to day behavior of the two children living 10,000 years ago is remarkably similar. Likewise, despite the 10,000-year difference in their birth dates, throughout their lives, the day to day behavior of the two children living in 1946 is also remarkably similar. But the day to day “environment” (The Matrix) in which the two humans living 10,000 years ago lived their lives was very different than the environment in which the two humans living in 1946 lived their lives.
    The humans living 10,000 years ago and the humans living in 1946 had to eat, cover themselves, sleep, urinate and defecate. To accomplish the latter three “tasks” required little parental instruction. However, to obtain the food, water and material to cover themselves every day of their lives required a great deal of training and fine-tuning throughout all four’s lives. That is, the behavior required of the two humans living 10,000 years ago to obtain food, water and material to cover themselves day-to-day was astronomically different than the behavior required of the two humans born in 1946.
    What the two humans living 10,000 years ago heard, saw, spoke about and thought about, day-to-day, was also astronomically different than that of the two humans living in 1946 onward.
    Finally to the point of this exercise of human imagination. Just exactly WHAT accounted for the difference in the day-to-day minutiae of behavior, throughout their lives, of the two humans that were swapped on the day that they were born, and just exactly WHY is the correct, accurate, precise answer to that question of utmost importance for solving the existential crisis that the human species of animal faces today? More specifically, did the overriding, most important “cause” of the day-to-day human behavior prevalent 10,000 years ago, and the cause of human behavior prevalent in 1946 reside inside human heads or outside human heads and why is the correct answer to that question so important for today?
    The correct, accurate, precise answer is vitally important because if the cause resides inside human heads, the focus of attention to solve existentially threatening behavior must be to repair what is wrong inside human heads – something wrong (primordial conditioning; fear response) or deficient (not enough intelligence, not enough wisdom or not enough spirituality) in the list of “items” I mentioned at the beginning of this long comment.
    If the cause resides outside human heads – in the environment (The Matrix of 10,000 years ago versus The Matrix of 1946) into which human animals just happened to be born – the focus of attention to solve the existentially threatening human behavior must be placed on the flaws in the environments into which human animals live their lives – the flaws in the “systems” in which human animals just happen to be born and live their lives TODAY, for example – in particular, the so-called “economic” systems of today that require perpetual war and perpetual growth in order to maintain those systems unchanged (the microscipic percentage of the human population that benefits the most from these ancient, fatally-flawed systems will do absolutely anything to make sure that these systems never change); because either one of those poisons by itself is going to soon cause the extinction-by-suicide of the earth+sun-created species of animal called “human”.
    Fortunately, the reasons why people behave the way they do were described not that long ago, along with the details of a better Matrix into which all humans should be born — a Matrix that does NOT require either perpetual war or perpetual growth. What some great number of human imaginations have to do now is convice others of the certain fatality of the present Matrix and describe exactly how to politically bring the better one into being on a large scale.

  10. And now this is what they talk about at the WEF while we’re having drinks with friends:

    1. Thanks for the link!

  11. “I do believe we have the ability to make the jump from this awkward transition phase to become a truly conscious species. But it looks like if we do make it, it’s going to be by the skin of our omnivore teeth.

    There have been truly conscious men and women for several thousand years. A minority of men and women who like deep water flow silent through life. Mostly men are shallow babbling brooks who flow with much noise. Shallow water and empty vessels make the loudest sounds.

    We live in a cargo cult. People want stuff not substance. And they can’t imagine another way.

    A hundred years ago the war to end all wars laid the foundation for a war which would dwarf the war to end all wars. That war laid the foundation for others. So it goes without end.

    Now our rich and powerful who are never satisfied with what they have, who CAN’T be satisfied with what they have, want a new war. Another war where the dying will stay far away from them. A war where much money will be made.

    It can’t be any other way without new economic relations. Rich and powerful people don’t want new economic relations. Unless it means more money for them. Which it does not.

    Civilizations come and go. Lessons are learned, but not by those who matter.

    ” But it looks like if we do make it, it’s going to be by the skin of our omnivore teeth.

    No, the only way we are going to make it if serious carnivores unite to fight for the tribe. Omnivores are eaten alive by carnivores who fight against the tribe.

  12. Thomas Prentice Avatar
    Thomas Prentice

    A fine book is Chris Knight’s “Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture.”

    1. Thanks for the reco, will chk it out

  13. Thomas Prentice Avatar
    Thomas Prentice

    Interesting how the prefrontal cortex is congruent with Freudian Superego and the Limbic system is congruent with Freudian Id.

  14. Traditional indigenous people have been saying for decades that modernist humans have de-volved, not e-volved due to a condition they call “wetiko sickness”. This is why modernists have no wisdom for dealing with tech–we have no guidance from wise ancestor spirits, no effective relationship with the spirit world (that underlies material reality). We no longer think this is a thing–in spite of quantum physics. Most scientists think quantum physics has nothing at all to do with spirituality even though “spirituality” refers to nonmaterial aspects of reality, and quantum science is trying to fathom the non-material aspects of reality. Our wetiko illness is that severe!

    1. Quantum science is trying to fathom the non-material aspects of reality?
      It underpins things like flash memory. It’s all about experimental observations. It’s about as material as you can get.
      Of course, you can speculate about its ‘deeper meaning’ – is spirit matter, wave, or both and neither simultaneously, and so on? But I think few quantum scientists, even those who engage in such speculation, would call that quantum science.

  15. It is a question of are we here on our own or have we been placed here for some Supreme design and purpose? Millions have searched but few have found out for themselves throughout history that life on earth somehow did not originate by chance or for nothing. If we happen to think that we are here on our own as a result of some Darwinist evolutionary chance, then the whole existence is meaningless and without purpose and hence the uselessness or danger of faculties. But if we are here by some Divine Will, then life will be meaningful, sensible and fulfilling. What is difficult is that it is up to us as individuals to take life the way we are inclined to choose as free agents by nature but the consequences of our mindset/view shape our character (Spirituality) and of those we give birth to for generations.

    1. Looking out between the galaxies that surround our own, we see galaxy beyond galaxy like a sprinkling of glittering dust fading into the infinite; more galaxies in every direction than there are stars in our own Milky Way.
      What if our little human minds are the only consciousness in all this vastness?
      For all we know, our tiny human selves are the universe’s only means of being aware of itself. Your human heart and mine may harbor all the kindness there is, in all of space and time.
      That is meaning enough for tiny critters crawling the surface of a dust-mote planet in the midst of this ineffable splendor. Far more meaning than a life of mental and emotional servitude in hopes of a life to come.

      Imagine being an immortal all-knowing consciousness capable of creating this world and choosing, to dream up death and all the attendant miseries we know.
      Brother, if our brevity, misery, and loss are the conscious design of some omniscient being, this universe and everything in it is a nightmare.
      But if this brief life with all its joy and terror is the random accidental gift of an unconscious universe, then it is heartbreaking, certainly, and yet breathtaking and unspeakably beautiful for this one awestruck, sparkling moment. All goodwill in the bond of peace.

  16. Eugene Marner Avatar
    Eugene Marner

    Thank you, Caitlin for this great piece.

    Evolution, I would argue, is a tragic process as it leads inevitably (it did, anyway) to the emergence of a very clever and adaptable (not necessarily very perceptive or intelligent) creature who discovers—and aggressively uses—leverage to his immediate advantage and that leads to the depletion of the earth and its substance. Isn’t the impulse to consume and grow without restraint the driving force behind evolution? Don’t first cells and then individual creatures join forces to acquire more of earth’s substance and make as many copies of themselves as they can? Isn’t the calamity that looms before us the consequence of our cellular biology and thus a huge challenge for a tool so far removed from our biological nature as “policy?”

    But, perhaps not. Perhaps it’s the domain of culture rather than policy. Twenty-seven years ago, my late wife and I were making a film on an Anishanaabe Reservation in Wisconsin and interviewing some elders. One woman, after angrily denouncing the Bureau of Indian Affairs policy that had forced them into the notorious schools where they were beaten if they spoke their own language and forcibly converted to Christianity, then said, “They said that we worship the trees, the water, and the rocks.” And then with fierce emphasis, “We don’t. We honor them.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I think I’ve remembered that moment almost every day since.

    1. Ted Christian Avatar
      Ted Christian

      I had my “wisdom of the native people” moment hiking in a swamp in Queensland. Reasoning that the aborigines hadn’t needed compasses I left mine at the hotel, and then eventually figured out that the bit on the map I couldn’t decipher was the symbol for crocodiles. Actually, I didn’t decipher it so much as I looked at the legend. Anyway, “fight or flight” is not a poser with crocodiles but you need to know which direction to flee, and it was at this point I realized with a flash of insight that the aborigines had in fact gotten the shit kicked out of them by white people carrying, among other things, compasses. I also realized why there were so many three legged dogs in Douglas, and further reasoned that if I lost a leg I would be down to one, which would render me essentially helpless, and it was at this point that I turned my analytical skills, such as they may be, to the task of getting the fuck out of crocville, which I obviously managed to do, but have ever since hiked with a compass. Which was invented by the Chinese, actually. But that’s another story.

  17. You should read A Hunter Gather’s Guide to the 21st Century if you have not read it yet. Evolutionary biologists posit that we’ve advanced faster than our ability to adapt, BUT they offer tools to help cope.

  18. Ted Christian Avatar
    Ted Christian

    There’s no contest between the evolution of the brain and the evolution of technology. Technology advances beyond the imagination in a few generations. It seems like hominids, which is what we are, simply can’t collectively deal with things like nuclear weapons and whatever comes next. It may be that our only chance for survival is to dispense with evolution and genetically engineer our brains into being able to deal with technology. Maybe this will happen with an off world population that will return after a planet wide extinction of the original species.

  19. BB Benderhaus Avatar
    BB Benderhaus

    You are so right. I have been in a transition phase myself. It began at birth and I am sure it will conclude with my death.

  20. I blame it all on The Enlightenment.
    What did Isaac Newton and Rene Descartes ever do for us?

    1. The first invented a new measuring weight (the new ton) and the second the playing cards. Besides, it can be successfully argued that Descartes largely pre-dated the Enlightenment. So it’s all Newton’s fault really – and possibly also Tucker Carlson’s to an extent…

  21. I have great difficulty believing that we have evolved such a huge complex brain without an actual existential need for it. You want to run away from a sabre-toothed tiger? Fine. Here’s a flight or fight system that’s evolved specifically for that need now present in your limbic brain. But how & why do you evolve a large & highly complex brain or indeed anything at all without there being a need for it? Even epigenetics cannot answer that one for me. Maybe one day in the distant future we might need three legs so lets start evolving the third now, eh?

    1. I don’t think evolution works that way. It’s not needs based, rather what mutation can reproduce and survive over time.

      1. It does kind of work that way in the case of our relatively huge brains. They use large amounts of energy – about 20% of our body’s total energy – meaning there must, so the logic goes, be some equally huge advantage to having them.

      2. There is a most interesting thing called epigenetics. I was introduced to this via a documentary on the folk who once lived on the remote archipelago of St Kilda off the coast of Scotland.,_Scotland The last residents left in 1930. Theirs was a hard lot struggling to survive in such a remote location. A diet of barley, potatoes, a dead sheep or two, and plenty of seagull eggs. For the eggs of course, they had to climb the cliffs up to the bird nests. This is where it became very interesting in that the toes of the St Kilda folk were much longer than say mainland Scottish or English toes. They were well suited to barefoot cliff climbing. What got my attention was that the babies born there were actually born with long toes. This is epigenetics at work. Contemporary environmental forces were shown to have an effect on the genes. Mutation nothing! There was correspondence between environmental factors and gene evolution with incremental adjustments being made each generation. I suggest this is also at work in, for example, India where there is a caste system. This has led to well fed Indians and not so well fed Indians with a corresponding genetic disposition to bring about large framed well fed people and small framed not so well fed people. I conclude that environmental factors are powerful shapers of genetic information that is handed down to offspring. The odd mutation might give a helpful hand from time to time to help the species along but I do think epigenetics has a large part to play in everyday, common or garden, evolution.

        1. Adaptability to actual conditions or environment and selective breeding from any cause of course will influence the outcome. Reading back into history, not the ‘officially sanctioned one we are taught in schools’ but the scraps of all too often misinterpreted and or misunderstood but still meaningful evidence, suggest loudly that a long period of decline has occurred with a sharp acceleration in knowledge and ability occurring in just the last few hundred years.
          The very ancients appear to have had knowledge way beyond any civilization until just the last even one hundred years.

  22. One the best pieces of writing, if not your best. many thanks. tom golden, ph.d.

  23. You just keep getting better and better Caitlin. Bravo ! Much gratitude and respect for your forthright and inspirational gifts

  24. As Yin Paradies says, it is MODERN humans who are the problem. We are perfectly evolved for a certain ecology — which, unfortunately changed for us, when the climate changed about 10,000 years ago, as we entered the Holocene. Adaptation led to the Neolithic revolution, the invention of agriculture, animal husbandry, sedentism, and larger, multilevel societies. For 30, 000 years before that we were small-band egalitarian, reverse dominance hunters and gatherers — what Marshall Sahlins called “the original affluent society. We differ from other primates, not in the size of our brains, which are actually smaller than, say, Neanderthals, but in the thickness and density of the cerebellum at the base of the brain, which is the “bios” for everything that happens above. The human cerebellum is more than 3 times as neurodense as the cortex, and while it used to be thought to just control motor functions, it controls new human functions, principally empathy and altruism, which promote sociality and co-ordinated cooperative at the small group level. The famous “Dunbar number” is the result. We bond first to a small group of 5 to 15 people’ then less intensely to a larger group up to around 30. The upper limit is about 150. But modern human societies are much larger than 150. They are, in essence, “hive cultures” (as EO Wilson says). As “dominance” cultures, they control through violence (as in Pinker’s theories). I wrote a book on this. An important concept here, which is also explored on my site, is neoteny. We are one of the most neotenous species known. Neoteny is extended juvenescence – which accounts for our long lifespans and also for our extreme sociality, which all “civilizations” try to control.

    1. Thomas Prentice Avatar
      Thomas Prentice

      It seems more accurate to say gathering/fishing/hunting peoples.

  25. Quote:
    “We have the ability to ask questions, but lack the wisdom to deeply question our own true nature and whether the world is really as it seems.”
    Well, most people don’t know what it takes to produce your own food, starting at zero. I do and i have tried it, and if you do that, there isn’t much else you do because it takes up almost all of your time.
    The reason why people got the ability to spend their time pondering, is because at some point we started accumulating and storing food (and other resources). But that is also where the fight for control over those started.
    The luxury of being a thinker is enabled by specialization. Specialization without individuality is a concept i cannot grasp.
    “The ability to tell stories only to spend our energy using storytelling to manipulate and control each other.”
    So you are not trying to influence other peoples thoughts? (spoiler alert: the others believe they are the good ones too.)

  26. Great stuff Caitlin, thankyou. Tragic we stopped eating magic mushrooms.

    1. Planet medicines for ALL !
      The WAR on drugs was/is/has been the great disaster of human kind and our ability to evolve. Pure Love is All that matters.

  27. Caitlin,
    I often think this. So much spiritual teaching around awareness, internal dialogue, etc. Even once attained, non-dual consciousness is commonly shaken in very good practitioners by nearly getting hit in traffic, returning to family of origin, or other unusually pressuring experiences. (Center for the study of non-dual consciousness has some data on this)
    It seems like the “neo-cortex” being so new means it’s like a great Car with a nice V8, whereas we can feel its potential to one-day be a jet that flies to space.
    If evolution brings us to a point where neo-cortex is an inch and a half thick, all the downsides wouldn’t show up, even in the least disciplined and evolved among us. Maybe it’s our gift to the super-species in the future.
    It’s hard going through growth phases when you aren’t good at them. You couldn’t pay me to go back and be 13 again.

  28. Will leopards ever lose their spots ?
    Gross hubris to think that somehow we will “come to our senses” before we kill one another, and yet. Is the progression of the growth of the forebrain really as claimed by the anthropologists or again just some powerful wanker’s theory ? All is suspect in this brief interlude of communication and exposes. Jeremy Griffith comes close, tho the monster in the cortex has been whipped into a frenzy by those who would prevail.
    Large understanding could prevail if it weren’t destroyed by the socio-psychos who control the media.

    1. A leopard doesn’t change his shorts.
      — Terry Pratchett

  29. People have been taught in a culture that allowed for no alternative except probable or certain death that exploitation was the fundamental condition of our existence. We each exploit to survive, as to some extent we must to drink, eat and ensure shelter. Though we extend this practice as a principle into all of our life.
    Beyond the basic, water, food and shelter, the necessity of life, we have been taught to believe that all other activity in life must follow the same principle of exploitation for self ahead of all other opportunity to live otherwise..
    We ignore for example, the ethical principles of, Country is always first, Take only what is yours, When in surplus, share, as life choices we hold before all. These are ethical choices we men and women COULD make if the environment put such principles above that of serving our own needs beyond the basic water, food and shelter, as above all others including the exploitation of all that we choose to take to ourselves.

  30. The reptilian Long Tail Lizard living under my tin can in the Sonoran Desert has better survival skills than humans

  31. Humans is not confused or awkward. We were wise, content, skilful, harmonious, balanced and embracing of mystery for about 95% of our 200,000 year history as a species. It’s Western colonial-patriarchial-capitailst culture that’s the problem, not people per se.

    1. I think humans ARE the problem.
      The gods worst mistake.

      1. Nope, its modern humans who are the problem. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have lasted 200,000 years as a species.

      2. Agree! We are Gods worst mistake. The sooner we check out the better.

        1. I’ve come to similar conclusions. Human development is at it’s most dangerous stage; adolescence. Full of piss and vinegar, unable to see the dangers of our folly, believing nothing can harm us, yet deep inside, scared of our own shadows.

    2. Yin, you are correct.
      I wonder if you’ve read Graeber & Wengrove’s wonderful book, The Dawn of Everything, which lays out exactly how we’ve been fed a mountain of sociological bullshit.

      1. You might be interested in Matt Christman’s podcasts on the book, a fascinating commentary, not always in agreement, but an expanded conversation.

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