Surely as gravity is no longer considered a theory but a fact, so too now, goes evolution. If you’ve taken the time to watch, Life of Mammals, Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Life in the Undergrowth, Life of Birds, Life in Cold Blood, Walking With Prehistoric Beasts, Walking With Dinosaurs, Life, Frozen Planet and other such scientific series, you’ve realized the holes in evolution have long ago been plugged. [See, Breaking the Spell, D Dennett; Darwinism Evolving, D Depew and B Weber; Origins of Life, J M Smith & E Szathmáry; The Theory of Evolution, C Mills; The Third Chimpanzee, J Diamond; A Universe from Nothing, L M Krauss; Why Evolution is True, J A Coyne; Wonderful Life, S J Gould; The Blind Watchmaker, R Dawkins; and The Origin of the Species, C Darwin.] Only the idiot winds and religious fundamentalists would take exception and respond with an irrational theory of history which no longer any real scientist can believe without a polite whimsical smile of disbelief. This time a century ago, you were not realistically compelled 100 percent to believe, ‘tis true I’m afraid. Many renowned people had their doubts! There was room for some runner-up theories. Now? Darwin’s doctrine has been delivered up by the rational class, cleaned-up, dried and neatly elucidated by thousands of PhDs: microbiologists, sociologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, geologists, historians, mathematicians, psychologists and biologists.
Chaos isn’t just a pretty adventure, but indeed stunningly awesome in its variety and subtlety. And we’ve had the good luck to be invented by the powers of its serendipity to be the single species, par excellent, with big brains and big genitals. While life without a creator frightens the lame of heart, it should not bother reasonable women and men at all. I say, good for us realizing the earth rotates around the sun, that gravity keeps it all afloat, that evolution can lead to sentient life, that Big Bang kicked it all off, that it has an end, as all things must, and that the micro world is as unpredictable as any given person’s next thought. And here’s the other thing that’s becoming irrefutable: neuroplasticity. It’s the brain's capability to readjust neural connections throughout the life of a person to respond to a changing environment. It allows the brain’s nerve cells to reorganize for injury, wear & tear, disease, drug abuse, (provided it stops), and novel & challenging situations. [See, The Brain That Changes Itself, N Doidge; Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, D G Amen; The Marshmallow Test, W Mischel; Predictably Irrational, D Arielly; Smarter, D Hurley; all of Oliver Sacks books, especially, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; Big Brain, G Lynch; Mind in the Making; E Galinsky, The Future of Mind; M Kaku; Mindsight, D J Siegel; and Brain Maker, D Perimutter.]
We define the human mind as a faculty of consciousness with self-aware abilities (including perception, creating ideas, conception, focused thinking, judgement, language and memory) and while the human brain controls most of the physical activities, meting out and coordinating the information it’s given from the senses, much is done automatically by the body’s many autonomous systems. Thirty or forty years ago, your mental station was a given; the brain was set in genetic cement and the mind in an environmental paste. Indeed racism and eugenics dovetailed nicely into a view that smart was smart by genetic fiat and dumb ran both the race and the poor into a relentless unyielding hopelessly futile struggle to increase your awareness—your mindfulness. Those on the bottom were there for their life-time and their offspring as well, in the stagnant “hell” of their own grey matter where one was found at birth; deaf, dumb, blind included. Oh how all of that has changed, the geniuses shown to be a product of their special cultural niche and the dumb-downs getting quicker by the generation—like me, born dull grown sharp.
Meanwhile, millions of yeas ago, a strange thing happened in the animal world, a species came along who would in time dominate the planet, for good or ill. Naked and swift on the warm lush plains of Africa, Homo erectus strove for millions of years in the brutal system of survival of the fittest. They stumbled into the future walking upright. As funny as it sounds grass is as responsible as anything else for this. Many think grass came before fern and forest, but indeed this is not true. Ferns came first, and then trees—forests—evolved, only afterwards, grass evolved, (wheat, rice and corn among them). Grass after a fire recovers much quicker than its rivals. With this edge, and a changing environment, grasslands appeared in Africa. We got down from the trees and ran like hell to the next woodlands through the grasslands for more food, (in a manner of speaking). This upright adaption allowed bigger babies to be born, and big brains came along largely because of this, and we took advantage of it, eating meat copiously by using bigger brains, hunting & gathering food in tribes of twenty to fifty members given the season, using tools more and more frequently, grunting perhaps their names as they became incrementally more important for the mastery of a harsh environment. This was a slow steady ascent of the mind.
Thirty, maybe at the outside, 40,000 years ago, a tall, smooth-skinned, flash-of-a-runner with a bone density to rival their genetic cousins, the chimpanzees, became self-aware. And when that happened, this slowly ended the three billion years of mindless biological evolution. Now the conscious mind of humans created over time, cultural evolution. However what biological evolution had given homo sapiens was a big brain which was flexible, elastic and subject, for the sake of its survival, to the ability to adjust in an upward awareness if the opportunities arose—to learn from feedback—to re-wire its circuits. And with speech and self-awareness, we were to become the top predator, likely killing and/or absorbing all of our competitors.
Some of our ancestors were taller and had bigger brains. In fact our brains have shrunk considerably since we became self-aware, and some nutritionists and scientists think this is due to farming on the one hand and civilization on the other—see also, People and Plagues. These theories are yet to be proven conclusively. In fact, we could say nothing at all has ever been proved for an absolute certainty, but some things have positively been ruled out, such as Intelligent Design.
But what is consciousness? “Others have given up trying to define it, and try simply to describe it. Psychiatrist Giulio Tononi has said, Everybody knows what consciousness is: it is what abandons you every night when you fall into dreamless sleep and returns the next morning when you wake up . . . Consciousness is the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time, and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food, shelter) –The Future of Mind.
We see that there’s a method of increasing “mindfulness” as there is a method of improving physical health, and oh how they are so similar and in so many ways. The root of all our understanding is knowledge. What we eat, the education we receive and/or give ourselves, the purity of our purpose, our vision & goals, our sleep, our moral relationships with the world and our physical exercise regime: this is our life as we know it. There are rules to the modern world, rules not given by illiterate prophets of centuries gone, such as Jesus Christ or Mohammed, but now in our own time formulated with the backdrop of scientific facts. They are difficult rules. Far harder than any religious commandments from a burning bush! I didn’t jump for joy today to do my exercises. But I did do them. I do everyday with very few exceptions. Some days it’s a breeze, and some not. On a number of them you have a cold and a few you want to forget about them and go back to bed. So why do them? I’ll tell you plainly. It’s the same reason why you make decisions to keep aware, alert and focused—to problem solve. It’s the law of life: the way of being in the modern world. It’s hard, but it is as good as it gets. Indeed, the soft life, the one that makes you as appalling as bad breath, as pious as a pedophile priest and as plump as a couch potato, has the counterintuitive result of producing misery, laziness, regrets and endless anxiety.
If you want to be smart, healthy, happy and live long & prosper, then here are some more of the books you need to read: The Conquest of Happiness, B Russell; The Power of Habit, C Duhigg; Stumbling on Happiness, D Gilbert; Authentic Happiness, M Seligman; Finding Flow, M Csikszentmihalyi; The Rational Optimist, M Ridley; The Primal Blueprint, M Sisson; Wheat Belly, W Davis; Grain Brain, D Perimutter; The Paleo Diet, L Cordain; Salt Sugar Fat, M Moss; Warrior Diet, O Hofmekler; Why We Get Fat, G Taubes; Fat Chance, R H Lustig; Omnivore's Dilemma, M Pollan; Fast Food Nation, E Schlosser; The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, S D Phinney, J S Volek; Death By Food Pyramid, D Minger; Wahl's Protocol, T Wahl’; Big Fat Surprise, N Teicholz; and 15 Health Benefits of the Paleo Diets, According to Science.
We see that there are methods of increasing our intelligence, and no, not necessarily Luminosity or other online brain challenges offered to the public for profit. But real-life focus learning events, like getting your PhD, MBA, college and university degrees, or other difficult mental challenges like learning a new language, playing a new musical instrument and such ordeals, which to accomplish take dedication, commitment and follow-through.
So why is neuroplasticity so important? Well, firstly because it can get us from here to there, here being a place of consciousness that might be okay but which at any rate likely could be improved. People involved already at maximum “mindfulness” will not get from dim-witted to focused, they are already there, but there is no downside. Even online games can’t hurt; it’s just that there’s no research to show that they have much of a long term effect on the cognitive ability other than to do better doing the games themselves. That said, in general, transfer from down to up in mind is not only possible for the individual, but in a sort of cultural transference, is also possible for communities, societies and even nations, see, Culture and Carnage, V Hanson; The Red Queen, M Ridley; A History of Warfare, J Keegan; Knowledge and Decisions, T Sowell; Why the West Rules, I Morris; Why the West is Best, I Warraq; and Black Mass, J Gray.
You argue, “Eighty f—king books, I don’t have the time to read those!”
Yes, and still, there’s this conundrum; true, you not only have a big brain, you have big genitals. I love reading books and won’t stand in judgment. I’m just giving you the facts. If you could read so many books to increase the size and working function of your genitals, I’m sure you’d find the time, but you also have a big brain, and if you use it, your genitals and every other part of your body will work pretty well right into your late eighties without a “smart pill” or “a sex drug”. So, you have to work at your own individual solution, but check this out: 20,000 years ago you only had the word of maybe five of your tribal elders, 10,000 years ago, the wisdom of a few dozen of your religion leaders, 5,000 years ago, the knowledge of a hundred or so world adventurers—idea guys with Longboats and small armies. Now, online, you have the facts of all the thousands of living and dead scientists of the last two centuries, I mean, damn, what a great time to be alive. Start reading, you have to for the love of your future.
Some geneticists have taken exception to Gladwell’s depiction of the 10,000 hour rule, in regards to mastering a skill, and I suppose that there have been times in the course of human history where all the stars have aligned: your genetic disposition to a certain endeavor is also your loving parents’. They see it at once and act upon it when you are still very young; while training, you come across a brilliant and loving teacher, professor, mentor, etcetera, who recognizes your talent and helps you climb Everest. So without anything near 10,000 hours of practice, you become a virtuoso.
I stood beside an associate one night who had bought a lottery ticket—a scratch & win—he put it under the ticket scanner, and said to me, “I think I just won a million dollars” and passed me his ticket. I checked to be certain and passed it back, responding, “Congrats, you’re a millionaire.” That’s the thing, circumstance plays an important role in life, but for most of us slugs struggling day to day to achieve our goals, luck is made by the old, almost, ancient rule: ‘Practice makes perfect’.
Imagine if the spiritually crippled inside have got it all wrong, as it appears they do, and there’s absolutely no afterlife—no supernaturalism whatsoever to mop up their sorrow and hatred of sensual life. Wow, what a whopper, like walking out onto the 401 at rush hour unable to hear, scream or see. And they have the nerve to speak at weddings, funerals and other solemn and important occasions like they have a monopoly on truth; totally unacceptable. Whenever I see them coming I put on earplugs. I don’t want to hear that the bible is “Shakespearean” and the Koran is “Gabriel’s Alphabet”. They’re brain-deadening works of hate completely unworthy of the human mind’s attention, they should read to crocodiles. Now, speaking of which, the lizard brain, it is there inside our heads, yes, ‘tis also true I’m afraid, not as hardware but what we might call a building block of evolution. Perhaps some day when we build a self-aware robot, their conscious minds will have been built, like ours, one layer on top of the other, and they too will have their quirks. No one is saying that there aren’t eccentricities of the human brain and people everywhere feel the temptation to give into the base animal urges that happen in all of us. But, this is easily controlled with worthwhile goals. The more important question is: can the brain be kept in good repair by certain behaviors?
The answer is a definitive yes! Remember the story in the papers some while ago of the deaf patients and non-cochles filtering-device they received? [See above, Smarter.] They were attached directly to the auditory nerve. Soon the deaf patients heard unintelligible noise, but as the weeks went by, patients who had previously had hearing and had consequently lost it, learned once more to hear with some distinction: that’s neuroplasticity at work. The implants allowed the brain’s circuits receiving the signals (the noise) to change. It was a classic learning process with feedback and readjustment. They regained their hearing.
There is growing evidence that the gut and brain cannot survive a modern divorce between processed foods and whole foods. Three deadly forces exist in the modern world to harm you, (from, Brain Maker, above):“Force #1: Exposure to substances that kill or otherwise adversely change the composition of the bacterial colonies. These include everything from environmental chemicals to certain ingredients in food (e.g., sugar, gluten), water (e.g., chlorine), and drugs like antibiotics. Force #2: Lack of nutrients that support healthy, diverse tribes of bacteria and instead favor bad bacteria. . . . Force: #3: Stress. While it may sound like a cliché to say that stress is bad for your health, I’ll explain why it’s even worse than we previously thought.”
So we need to feed the gut to support the brain. Foremostly, we need to eat a whole-food, low-carb diet with lots of greens, and fruits too, especially berries, plus unpasteurized fermented foods as well, with a regiment of healthy fat: extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, grass-fed tallow and organic or pasture-fed butter, ghee, almond milk, avocados, coconuts, olives, nuts and naturally aged cheese, (with some seeds: flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and chia),wild fish, range eggs, lean naturally-farmed grass-fed meat and wild game, and lastly herbs, seasonings, and condiments: mustard, horseradish, tapenade, and salsa if they are free of gluten, wheat, soy and sugar. Unpasteurized milk and cream, sprouted legumes, and non-gluten grains in moderation: these include: amaranth, buckwheat, wild rice, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff. Remember to choose organic wherever possible and non-GMO, gluten-free foods. Choose glass over plastic. Keep plastic away from heat. Buy high quality tea and coffee and don’t dilute them with cream and sweeteners. Enjoy 85% chocolate sweetened with anything but sugar with your raw unsalted nuts and dried fruits. Fast, once a month for 24 hours or once every two months for 72 hours. We evolved to go hungry. Revert to your teenage weight (if it was a healthy one).
As regards, stress. Stress is manageable, and after all you need to get up off your ass and make a life. It is chronic stress that is dangerous: Exercise daily, particularly doing resistance physical exercises and non-contact sports. Laughter is not to be underestimated! Love your life, cherish your friends, keep a balanced budget, work hard and learn to separate work and your personal life, i.e., have a life of your own outside of work. Try to find employment that you enjoy. Your spouse partnered with you for a reason (love of life, romance, family, security) don’t take them for granted! In evolutionary time, our stress was from fear of the dark, predators and day to day famine. But it wasn’t chronic. It found cessation. You must mimic this through the right food, exercise, love, laughter and fun. Most importantly in regards to stress, you must find activities that take you out of yourself without using artificial means, (such as alcohol or drugs), [see above, Finding Flow].
We don't want to be misunderstood as saying there is no room in theory for genetic influences on intelligence, of course it is in many cases huge. My point is that all kinds of genetically gifted people are under-rated systematically by a belief that their social station or their environment has locked them into a path of medrocrity when indeed they can do much better with a hard-paced plan of tenacity, inner-purpose and faith that the mind can be tapped when you embrace some sort of intellectual adventure like I have. This certainly applies to anyone reading this article to the end.
© 2018 - E. A. St. Amant