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Why & How Humans Think


To answer why humans think is often conducive to find out how they think.

Human beings, when they think creatively, can think bottom up, or top down.

Most of the time, of course, humans do not bother to think creatively: they just learn by rote what they have heard, and sounds good to be integrated in the peer group that presents itself, or that they have chosen.

Bottom up thinking is thinking from practice: the hand makes the brain (even Heidegger figured that one out).

Top down thinking starts from axioms. It’s creative, but only if one makes one’s own axioms. It is intellectual fascism, if the axioms are given by fascist thought system (one animated by the Leader Principle).

We need guinea pigs to experiment on. The best subjects are those who think for a penny, the professors who grace academia. As their final product is supposed to be thinking, thinking they are supposed to exhibit.

They know this, so they try to hide, by drowning the fish in the water: a typical scientific, psycho, socio, medical or philosophical paper tends to use hermetic jargon, rich with a barrage of references, automatically obscure (by contrast, Einstein’s breakthrough papers had basically no references).

Our subject here is going to be Brian Key. In his essay “Why Fishes (likely) Do Not Feel Pain”.

Professor Key started, with axioms setting up the mood he wanted us to have: animals are machines; wolves’ behavior can be duplicated with computer programs, fishes don’t suffer pain, because they fight the hook, whereas clever mammals trapped, give up.

Pop ethology presents with silly axioms. Predators trapped by a leg have been known to chew it off.

Fish on a line do give up in the end, when they have no more will (although they still have some strength, as they flap around when brought on a boat and speared).

Brian Key claims one needs a cortex to suffer pain. Reptiles and birds have no cortex, and they suffer pain. http://wiringthebrain.com/2010/09/ancient-origins-of-cerebral-cortex.html

How did Brian’s brain get so silly? Because he reasoned top down that “it does not feel like anything to be a fish”, as he put it. So then he looked for structures in fish similar to those known to be associated to pain in humans.

Naturally, he did not find them. Birds have brains that are organized completely differently from ours, although our common ancestors are around 240 million years ago. Fishes, separated by another 200 million years more, are going to be even more mysterious.

The cortex is over-valued: conductivity modulation by glial cells occur along axons, for example. That means that “white matter” also “thinks”.

It has been notoriously difficult to find out how birds’ brains work. Still, some bird species score possibly higher in some mental ways than any primate, but man.

Generally, understanding life is difficult. It’s even impossible without Quantum Physics: a plant captures sunlight in one femtosecond. The rapport of a femtosecond to a second is the same at the rapport of one second to 31 million years. Crucially photosynthesis depends upon electrons being in many places, at the same time.

So, Brian, please, don’t tell me how it feels to be a fish. You don’t know. As many academics, you are more busy posing to advance your career. It’s OK, it helps, but it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Attributing to animal brains the same general purpose that our brains have is just common sense. It is not forming the world according to man (anthropo-morphizing). It is just the most natural explanation, the most economical one, too (“Ockham Razor”).

Telling us one can think of wolves differently, like machines, show a will to impel on us the mood to the notion that animals are machines. When human hunters go out after game, they use the same tactic, as described by Brian, not because we can think of them as simple computer program, but because it is the smartest strategy to follow.

Common sense is found in computer programs, written in wolf and human brains, or on paper, because sense is common.

And brains are into making sense. By the way, dear Brian, computer programs are written by humans, and, apparently, wolves. This is all you have demonstrated.

In “Diving Into Truth“, I pointed out that fishes known to be clever, groupers, are found to recruit complementary predators to hunt. Other fishes do this. The idea is to find a predator such as a Moray Eel to get in cracks and caves. The eel understands this, and the grouper makes a suggestive dance and mimic to get the eel into action.

Since I wrote the initial article linked above, other species of fish have been found to also suggest transpacific cooperation to fetch food.

Any trout fisher will tell you that old trouts are very smart. You can put the juiciest morsel in front of them, once they know it’s an ape who proposes dinner, they won’t bite.

Meanwhile, back from the Kremlin, Merkel faulted the Russians in Ukraine. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko exhibited passport and military identification papers of Russian officers, “found inside Ukraine, killing Ukrainians”. The border was now “swarming with Russian tanks, armed personnel carriers, multiple rocket launchers and ammunition,” he added.

After the talks yesterday in Moscow that the French president and I had, it is uncertain if it will succeed, Merkel said, “but it is my view and the French president’s view [that it’s] definitely worth trying. We owe it to the people affected in Ukraine, at the very least.”

The French president had a less sanguine angle: “If we don’t find not just a compromise but a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name, it’s called war,” Hollande told journalists in his city of Tulle, in central France.

Putin backtracked right away, in full Hitlerian disingenuous style: “We don’t intend to war with anyone. We intend to cooperate with all.”

Wonderful. How and why we think is at its best, when survival is a stake.

Patrice Ayme


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