I'm puzzled by something in nieken
's last paragraph; namely:
"The real problem being, for these to be allegories of psychological evolution, they would represent institutional knowledge spanning millions of years, and show perception of the creeping process of biological evolution. Nearly impossible, for either case. However, the near ubiquity of the stability from chaos creation myth should, at least, raise some eyebrows.
My questions are:
- What are the nature and/or limits of so-called "institutional" knowledge here? Would some sort of "knowledge" encoded at the level of DNA, perhaps, qualify?
- Why is some sort of organic "awareness" or "perception" of this sort nearly impossible?
Mind you, I'm not saying we should assume it is present, if simpler causes can be found to explain phenomena that seem to beg for this sort of "perception." On the other hand, one of the seemingly distinguishing features of the human species seems to be a marked degree of self-awareness and the ability to "hack consciousness" as it were.
- What, specifically, makes this a "real problem" if we are as self-aware (collectively, at least) as we seem to have shown ourselves to be?
I do see a possibly tangled question of whether this is something readily testable... perhaps it is the mathematical falsifiability of the proposition that is the "real problem"? It's been a long time since my philosophy of language and philosophy of knowledge days, so I'm not entirely up on where current thinking has taken us, aside from reading popularizers like Douglas Hofstadter or Daniel Dennett, and even those I haven't been reading a lot lately.
My sense of scientific orthodoxy
on these questions is that there's been a marked shift over the last 30 years or more in terms of how logicians, neuroscientists and others have come to see consciousness
and the workings of the human nervous system
(and other systems that may interact with it). I know the orthodoxy of the 1950s or 1960s would probably have endorsed the notion that "species memories" or whatever one might call this sort of knowledge was a "crank" idea. My sense, though, is that science has become a lot less sure of itself (on these questions, at least) over the intervening 40 or so years.
Background: Where is my line of questioning coming from?
One source (there may be many others) for me has been a recent detour into the writings and life of Giordano Bruno
. How did he intuit
so many features of (at least) the Newtonian worldview
without benefit of the sort of empirical observations and tools that enabled so many of his notions to be "proven" as largely valid, even if the underlying method he used to arrive at them appears to have been largely grounded in mysticism
? So much that today we consider ultrarational
was, mystical, magical
in the late Renaissance
, when Bruno was writing the material that would later provide cause for his execution as a heretic
. Will we one day be able to understand how those particular ideas surfaced? Pure luck? Or is something else operating here as well?