The Springboard



Introduction

Over the ages, humankind has made many discoveries, both internal and external. We have compiled vast amounts of information on the universe within and beyond our bodies through observation and measurement; we have gained deep personal and social insights through introspection and participation. All of this information eventually accreted into various bodies of knowledge known as the arts and sciences, while spiritualities manifest themselves through existence per se.

Now, after years of expansion, it is time to draw it all together again. This is exactly what I propose we do. The ultimate goal is the creation of the theory of everything (for starters, see Smolin 2001, Penrose 1997, Crick 1994, Rees 1997, Layzer 1990, Greene 1999, and Goswami 1993). "The theory of everything?!", you ask. Yes. Ideally, it will be the perfect combination and distillation of all the known sciences together with the intrinsic value of all the known arts and spirituality. The gestalt of all human information and knowledge.

Absolutely anyone and everyone is qualified to add to the body of an important precursory theory which I, and others, have recently re-coined humanology. The reason is, that humanology draws on all of the known arts, psychological-behavioral sciences and spirituality! (However, once quantum gravity becomes complete, humanology will probably be consumed by it!) If you are human, you can add to humanology, since one very effective way of exploring humanity is through the observation of and participation with, the existent. For example, if you perceive something with your own senses it is difficult to argue against its existence. (On the other hand, just because you don't perceive something doesn't mean it does not exist!)

As I write about humanology, I will be attempting to combine all of the psychological and behavioral theories written to date. Two important ingredients of humanology are the arts and spirituality which our human existence has given rise to.

A Theory on Theories            (<== Pssst. That there's a link!)

The Mind's Eye

My writing policy ... and other stuff

How is it that every person has a different take, or perspective, on the same event? Why does one person look at a painting by Picasso and call it garbage, while another is willing to spend thousands of dollars just to own it? Part of the answer lies in what behaviorists call "the black box", commonly known as the mind. The mind has been called the black box because it can not be objectively studied; any influence it has on behavior is not directly observable. A second part of the answer lies in what is known as emotion. Emotions are yet another tricky subject. They can not be fully shared between observers, nor is an emotion even able to be completely replicated in the same person. Of course one will feel "happy" again and again, but the absolute phenomenology is different due to changes in the environment, the passage of time and all subsequent additions to the memcons.

As we experience events, we pay attention only to certain aspects, or qualities (Pepper, 1942) of the environment. For instance, that scraggly looking plant over there disappears as you notice a truck jump the curb and come barrelling down your sidewalk! In other words, we filter out what we do not perceive as important, while taking in what we perceive to be more important for our present needs, the anticipations of future functioning and one's general sense of self. To attack this problem of "attention filters" and illustrate how memories might effect human consciousness, we can look to the workings of the vertebrate eye for an analogy.

The image from the human retina is able to be broken down into roughly 126 million data points (Kalat, 1981). In the same way, the human preconscious can be simultaneously aware of lots of information, but consciousness would be swamped if it tried to process it all at the same time. What the human eye does then, is to send the 126 million bits of light information further up into the system where it is perceived (shaped) into more recognizable patterns. Now they can start to be made better sense of.

"Lateral inhibition" is one of the first steps in helping the brain to summarize the data from the millions of receptors located in the retina (Carlson, 1994). This process takes place in the eye and helps us perceive edges. In doing so, we can begin to separate out individual objects for further processing (Kalat, 1981).

To begin with, light stimulates the visual receptor cells (rods and cones). They in turn excite bipolar and horizontal cells (actually, the rods and cones affect the bipolar cells, while the bipolar cells then affect the horizontal cells). The intensity of the energy, in this example light, regulates the firing rates of the energy receiving cells. (All of the "sensory energies" in fact, have this effect on their custom-evolved sensory organ -- evironmental intensity increases neuronal firing frequency.) The actions of bipolar and horizontal cells (for simplicity, let's refer to these collectively as "second level" neurons, the first level being the rods and cones), then work to inhibit the firing of the stimulated (first level) receptor cells. This in turn decreases the first level firing rates, and consequently the intensity of some of the light points as eventually perceived by the brain (Kalat, 1981).            Confused?

However, the first level neurons associated with the darker sides of edges do not increase their firing rates. The second level neurons are thus inhibited only on the side of the stimulated receptor cells - the ones that are receiving more light energy. The second level cells that are not being inhibited on both sides report the surface as being even brighter. Consequently, we perceive the lighter sides of edges as slightly brighter than the rest of the lighted surface (Kalat, 1981).

Returning to my analogy, in the same sense that some neuronal actions inhibit the actions of other neurons, the anticipation of discomfort (say, by the activation of association cells in places like the thalamus and neocortex, in response to environmental perceptions), could perhaps inhibit -- or repress -- particular memories or association branches from reaching conscious awareness. Alternatively, the actions of these cells could inject just enough of an electrochemical bias to change the memcon, thereby making the memory or memories less anxiety-provoking. It follows that, anticipations of pleasure will excite positive memcons to feed into one's hopes, improve techniques, become more considerate of others and in general, make for a more pleasurable conscious experience for all.

Sidedish: Implications for mental health workers include...

The Flame Analogy       Ouch!

Those of you who are already familiar with psychological theories of behavior will have more references in your memory constructures (memcons, for brevity), to relate this to:

Since no one has yet succeeded in specifying the specific antecedents of our behavior on the electro-magneto-biochemical-spiritual level, humanology remains strewn with analogies. The problem with analogies, is that they are based on a similarity to the subject at hand, and not the subject itself (Stephen C. Pepper handles this topic well in his 1942 book, World Hypotheses; a challenging book I highly recommend reading).

To understand reality, we often start by comparing things to the way other similar things work. Perhaps the Wright brothers spent a lot of time watching birds in flight, getting a sense of air dynamics before beginning their designs. To understand the Gestalt of the human body-mind-spirit (bind it), we can consider all four of Pepper's (1942) global analogies (formism, mechanism, contextualism and organicism), to find support for this "flame analogy" of behavior.

* ABRUPT CHANGE OF DIRECTION *

Fire is a chemical reaction; human behavior can be seen as "caustic" on the environment as the person succeeds in doing what it wants to do, re-arranging things to better suit his or her needs. Our behavior towards our environment is often, like fire, irreversible. Just look at a strip-mined hillside after the fact, sometime.

Looking into a person's eyes as well as observing his or her facial expression(s), can be seen as observing the physical representation of the physical burning of the fire within. When facial muscles twitch and move, sending an expression or emotion over the face, it represents the flame burning, varying in intensity and position. A steady expression is like the flame burning at a constant rate and in the same orientation. Then, the internal flame may dim or intensify, change shape, direction, or both, displaying another emotion felt. It's not just the face and eyes which correspond to a burning existance in this flame analogy; the entire body is like some incredibly complex, individual welding furnace walking around! Our skin holds us together in individually shaped bundles, as the fireous heat inside travels around in an organized network of pathways, ducts, etc, much like our veins, tendons, bones and such, organizing the internal structure and storing what keeps our bodies going. It also happens over time, signifying the burning up and replenishment of resources in order to do so.

But alas, we are not stars; we must replenish our energy regularly, while a star can burn for billions of years with just it's original mass of existance. (That is, assuming it isn't a former binary partner which has completely consumed its companion over time.)

Now let's contemplate the theory of modern plate tectonics; something most geologists believe in today. When the earth was in its infancy, it was just a ball of molten rock exposed to the cold of space. Inside, the new planet was very hot and viscous; massive, radiant convection currents were present, moving molten material from deep inside to the outer surface and back down again. On the surface it was still molten rock moving around in response to the currents below. Over eons of time, as the planetary mass cooled off, the very outer layer transformed into a solid crust, encasing and now insulating the planet's hot interior from the cold of space, growing thicker as Earth continues to cool. The cooling off rate slows a little now, beneath a slowly thickening crust. The planet will continue to have "active geology" for as long as the interior can maintain geological phenomena such as earthquakes. Eventually, our planet will become "dead"; having cooled off completely, leaving little to no internal heat anymore. At this point, there's little energy left for shifting around large chunks of the planet! That's of course assuming we don't get obliterated by some massive cosmic projectile (ie, Desonie 1996) before the human race runs its course, or the sun swells into a red giant encompassing Earth's orbit!

Now let's consider the earthquakes associated with plate tectonics.

Ideas on Cosmology

                

What is the universe and why is it here? Quite a question, isn't it? Perhaps the universe is just another manifestation of everything we already know. Just as the laws of physics work the same everywhere, perhaps bio-systemic functions the universe over are standard, too. (Cosmology is fun; it's one of the last "scientific fields of study" still readily open to the amateur.)

It seems (to me, anyway) that the basis of all existence is the cyclic conversion of matter into energy and back into matter in one way or another. Take the big bang theory, for example. How is this seen as turning matter into energy? To answer that, I would like to propose a silly-sounding analogy to describe what the universe is up to: Just as an inchworm raises up its front half, lurches forward, lands and catches up with itself, so does the universe. It starts out as a point of infinate energy and explodes "outward", almost immediately creating matter. One of two possible outcomes then comes into view.

Either the blast force reaches the "escape velocity" for that specific amount of material, and the universe continues to grow ever larger, slower and colder; or the matter acts more alive and purposeful, allowing gravity to eventually re-compress it into what's being called "the big crunch". Far away from where it started out, all known existance recombines into yet another energetic blast for yet another journey of the eons. I personally vote for the big crunch theory. It at least explains why the further galaxies are moving away faster than the closer ones are. Imagine an unimaginably large area. The universe as we know it is inside this huge area and is falling down to a big crunch, in its spacetime. The laws of physics tell us that a falling object picks up speed as it travels toward the source of gravity. So, maybe the universe as we know it, is just some huge Slinky toy traveling down someone's stairs!

Is it not at least conceivable, that an entire galaxy can act as an atom or neuron for something else? It's possible to encode endless information in light position, wave frequency and intensity. Consider something like the Ishihara Test for "color vision deficiency" (that's the current PC term for the condition formerly known as color blindness). Maybe if we were able to back up far enough, the stars, galaxies, etc, would fall into more discernable patterns or shapes. That leads right into the observed existance of what's being called structural "filaments" of the universe, made up of countless galaxies and huge voids. Might these not resemble bronchial sacks or some other functional structure for some enormous beast??? The more we learn about "the universe", the bigger it gets!

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