Friday, February 18, 2011

Humans Are Awesome

Usually when I ask you to do something, I do it politely, or I make it into a joke. This is not one of those times.
Go read this right now. Unless you're going to complain about it, in which case don't bother, because you won't like it, but there you go.

My grandma and I went to have dinner with my aunt, uncle, and cousins (one of whom is nearly 10 and the other of whom is almost 3 months). On the way there, she said something to me. I don't remember what it was. I was in the midst of thinking about something, so I didn't respond. Then I decided I should apologize for not responding. Then I realized that "Sorry I didn't say anything-- I was contemplating the miracle of human consciousness" sounded kind of strange.

But that's what I was thinking about. 
Later, a similar thing happened, only I was thinking about the cosmic radiation background.

But really: human consciousness. How are we "sentient," while animals are not, if we share the vast majority of our DNA with, say, chimps? How are we "conscious," while they are not? If it's just because we're much smarter than they are, what about the really, really dumb humans? Do they count as animals? No.
And how did we become conscious? Did one of our ancestors give birth and suddenly that baby thought "WOW! I HAVE INDEPENDENT THOUGHT!"? I doubt it.

But if this is true, then we really are animals. We're just really, really developed ones so it feels like we have something more. But we're really nothing more than the most complex organisms that we know of. Or maybe we're really nothing less than that.

Some people would find the thought depressing. Aren't we really more than a bunch of instincts and reactions? doesn't look like it. But does that make a difference? We are what we are. We still make art. We still have our brilliant ideas. We still have creativity. We still dream. We still love and are loved and feel pleasure and pain. 
And that, I think, is where the miracle is: somehow we ended up capable of all of this. Even the most complicated of our computers can't do it (yet).

How freaking amazing is that?


  1. Odd, isn't it?
    Thank you so much for commenting on my blog post and linking to it! :D Comments make me super-happy and I feel honored that you felt compelled to share my post with your readers!

    Anyway, yeah. Humanity is fantastic and intriguing.

  2. What a wonderful post to which you linked! I have to admit I was quite disappointed when the rest of the article was somewhat unrelated, but I suppose you warned us that you felt no need to add anything to the topic, so I ought not feel abused. However, I am not sure that I agree that you have nothing to add, but you would know best! Perhaps I'll write a, "what Feminism means to me," post...

    In regards to your actual post, "Sorry I didn't say anything-- I was contemplating the miracle of human consciousness," honestly sounds kind of wonderful to me. I took a course on Free Will (philosophy) and another on Subconscious Psychology (psychology) a while back and I came to the somewhat cheating and quite atypical conclusion that I may not want to think about this stuff too much. There is a story about a turtle, jealous of the centipede's dancing skillz, who sabotaged the centipede simply by asking, "how is it that you do such a marvelous dance?" The point is that sometimes doing what we do gets messed up if one thinks about it too deeply, and I sort of like my free will and consciousness, so I don't want to think about them until I decide they no longer exist.

    But, I guess I do still think about related things, as evidenced by this awkwardly long comment. In conclusion, I recommend the book Blindsight by Peter Watts, I didn't think it was all that accessible, but it was some interesting science fiction and had an intriguing argument about consciousness.

  3. Perhaps I should have said "nothing to add right now," because I'm still thinking about it, and will undoubtedly create a post soon.
    When I was reading "Philosophy for Dummies" three-ish years ago, I came to the same conclusion: this stuff is fun to think about at first, but ultimately not so much. I know I've suffered from the centipede's problem before, although the example that comes to mind is when playing both the piano and computer games.

    Blindsight. I'll add it to my Shelfari.

    But that reminds me of a probably un-related book called Truesight, which is a novel about a colony of blind people. Except the main character begins to see. I think it's part of a trilogy, but my middle school's library only had the first one.

    @Aly You're welcome. I enjoy writing what I believe to be interesting/meaningful comments, and all of you guys here seem to be pretty good at it as well.

  4. Blindsight can be found for free in a variety of digital formats on the author's site, here:


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