The Evolution of the Scientific Observer, and of Society and Its Laws
THE MODERN SCIENTIFIC OBSERVER HAS A LONG HISTORY OF evolution from various sources. The modern scientific observer has been formed by evolutionary parameters within human society. He/she has been evolved from conflicts between different human groups espousing different belief systems. The struggle to evolve scientific observers as "neutral noninvolved separate from the system observed" dates back at least to the time of Galileo. One can see roots even further back to the time of Aristotle.
The dominance of religious organizations over the power structures in human society provided the setting in which early scientists sought for truths. Many early conflicts resulted when prevailing beliefs were at odds with the universe as it really exists.
Galileo's observations of the moons of Jupiter passing behind Jupiter suggested a model for the whole solar system, which he then postulated. The beliefs of the Catholic church, however, placed the earth at the center of the universe. Galileo concluded that the earth is a planet rotating around the sun. The conflict between these beliefs led to Galileo's confinement in an attempt by the church to cut off his publications from the public.
Subsequent to Galileo, the astronomer became the objective observer par excellence. His observations did not influence that which he observed, i.e., the fact that someone turned a telescope upon planets and stars does not change the courses of those planets and stars. In the hands of Tycho Brahe, Newton, and others, this position of the noninvolved objective observer became the model of the scientific observer for the other physical sciences.
These early scientists had further problems with prevailing religious beliefs. In the religious tradition various human characteristics were projected upon nature. Nature was inhabited by spirits, supernatural forces, and gods who regulated the universe of humans and of nature surrounding human societies. Slowly but surely a few persons shed these beliefs and began to look at nature as something that had evolved without the interposition of intelligent forces, similar to those that man can exert upon man and upon his environment. These early religious beliefs, then, were said to be mistaken projections of man's inner life upon the universe. Consequently, as a result of objective observations, the planets and the stars, instead of being projections of man's own mental life, became systems independent of man's thinking, existing in the depths of space quite separate from anything that man could do about them.
Such deductions led then to the concept of the scientific observer who was not influenced by religious beliefs. Through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears among scientists and their antagonists, the observers of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries held to the principle of their total noninvolvement and of their abilities to observe nature anywhere, any time, without influencing the objects of their observation in any way.
The religious viewpoint put down man's instincts, which religion labeled "the beast in man." Man's sexual activities, his aggressive hostile activities, were all attributed to "the beast within him." Anthropomorphically, other mammals were given human characteristics. A slovenly, dirty man was labeled piggish, as if he shared the characteristics of pigs. A man or woman was called sheepish. In other words, "sheepishness" was projected as if it were a characteristic of the animals, not of most men. All animals were considered to be lower than man. Pejorative terms for humans such as "son of a bitch" were derived from such pejorative views of animals inherited from the religious view of the beast in man.
The biology of the nineteenth century began to deny such projections as these and a host of others that were considered inappropriate to the study of animals. Darwin's classic work on the evolution of the species and on the descent of man was accomplished by steering through such hazardous waters as were raised by religious beliefs.
It was then that scientists devised terms such as anthropomorphism and anthropocentricism to characterize the old religious projection of man's characteristics onto other animals. Anthropomorphism and anthropocentricism in the nineteenth century were very limited concepts and were directed at removing from science the old religious concepts. Scientists were staking out their territory, separating it from the territory of the churches.
The objective noninvolved observer became the be-all and endall in scientific research. The astronomer observer began to study his own planet and began to observe biological nature surrounding him. The zoologist, i.e., those who kept zoos and studied the science of captive animals in zoos, acted as if they were astronomers. Their papers, the meetings, their beliefs, and their treatment of animals were based on the notion that their presence and the captivity of the animals had no effect on the animals. Zoologists and other biologists played the part of noninvolved observers.
However, some of the religious beliefs were still inherent in this concept of the noninvolved objective observer, such as the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence attributed to God. In a sense the nineteenth-century observer believed in his own omniscience. His simulations of reality were said to apply to everything, everywhere, once he had determined them by observation and by experiment. The "omniscience" of previous scientists was attacked when later scientists by further experimentation found earlier conclusions to be defective. At that time no one really looked at the basic assumption that once laws of science were determined they applied everywhere Once one experimented, observed a species of animal, then that applied to that species no matter where found.
These early biologists also made the mistake of omnipresence. Since one set of observations made in one place must auto matically apply to the next case and to all such cases, therefore the observer acted as if he were omnipresent, as if he were observing everywhere rather than in a limited local region.
The early zoologists (and some current zoologists) also acted as if they were omnipotent, i.e., as long as they could capture, kill, and investigate animals, they had the power to make all decisions about them.
These unconscious beliefs in the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of scientists in regard to the other animals is slowly but surely disappearing. The modern view of an ecosystem in which man is a coordinated part of the total biosphere is reducing these unconscious beliefs and their influence on our thinking.
As the religious beliefs of man's "holy spirit" are attenuated, a modern scientific simulation of the observer evolves. In ancient religious teachings, man's brain was not understood. In 400 B.C. Aristotle stated that the brain was an organ that cooled the blood and furnished mucous that came out of the nose. In spite of the observations of Hippocrates who noted that unconsciousness resulted from blows to the head, Aristotle maintained his belief. With the rise of the science of anatomy at the time of Vesalius, doubts were cast on Aristotle's view of the brain.
As medical science developed over the centuries, the brain became more and more important in understanding the function ing of man. Gradually, ideas about the brain evolved, arriving at the conclusion that it housed the mind of man. Over the last three hundred years this belief has become more and more central to the concepts of bases of man's behavior_his mental, ethical, and philosophical activities. Conflict between man as a spirit and man as contained within his own organism has become sharpened.
Through medical practice and medical research, new sciences appeared dealing with the brain itself. Observations of the effects on mental ability caused by blows to the head, anesthesia, various toxins and poisons, lack of oxygen, and so forth led to the concept that the mind is contained in the brain. Modem medical science consensus limits the mind to the brain. In a modern view, the human observer, the human scientist himself, is limited as follows:
1. Each observer has only one mind contained within his/her brain.
2. Each observer is limited by his knowledge_experiential, experimental, and theoretical. The observer's simulations of reality limit his observations of that reality.
3. Each observer lives within his projections, within his simulation spaces, within his own belief systems. His beliefs particularly limit that which he observes, that which he considers real and true, that which he considers worth his efforts. The further evolution of the scientific observer has definite requirements, as follows:
a. The duty of each observer is to examine his own beliefs ruthlessly and revise them to agree with the goodnessof-fit-with- reality criteria resulting from experience and experiments. His beliefs in regard to the surrounding society should be revised to accord with his social experience and experiments.
b. A scientific observer is unequipped to be neutral unless he studies brain evolution in the human species and the brain evolution of other species. Until an observer has learned the structure of his own central nervous system and how it operates, where it came from, and compares it to that of other species, he cannot adequately understand his relative position on the planet Earth.
c. There must be recognition that the modern scientific observer is an evolved and evolving animal of the mammalian group. Scientific research is a Western way of enlightenment.
d. The modern scientific observer must realize that he is a member of a vast feedback system within his own species and the other species. He must realize that man has established a separate "reality"; defined by the beliefs current in that society.
e. The modern scientific observer must also realize that eventually the reality external to man's society can and will assert its demands and will determine the parameters of future evolution/devolution of his species upon this planet.
Thus we see that the modern scientific observer is consciously aware of his own structure, of his own evolution, of the possibilities of his future evolution, contingent upon the evolution and the structure of the beliefs current in his present society. He is no longer omnipresent, omnipotent, or omniscient. He has given up these wishes about himself and the wishes about how the universe could be constructed in favor of the way the universe is constructed.
Man must give up his own wishful thinking as projected in his human laws and in his socially acceptable beliefs.
As our knowledge of the human brain has increased, we have begun to realize that this is a superb biocomputer that generates its own internal reality. In a loose sort of way this internal reality is interlocked with a current external reality, past experiences with the external reality, simulations of both of these and simulations of future events, action, and so forth. The observer then lives in a simulation domain; he is a product of the computations of the brain.
The computational power of the human brain is such that it can construct internal realities and project them upon the external reality very effectively. A group of humans can agree upon certain beliefs and then reinforce them sufficiently so that they are willing to fight for those particular beliefs against all other groups with diverse beliefs.
The obvious route out of an internal reality that has a bad mismatch with the universe as it really is, is through designing experiments to test the internal reality and modify one's simulations of it. In the last one hundred years some very effective simulations of external reality have been devised in science and in engineering. The successful construction of bridges, buildings' computers, electrical power plants, and so forth, all demonstrate the success of the goodness-of-fit of the models within men and their simulation of the way that nature operates.
Similar advances of other internal realities of men have not been achieved by science. There are those who say they cannot be, that the human mind has infinite potentialities and hence cannot be programmed in the way that inorganic matter outside the mind can be. Counter to this is the knowledge of the material reality of the brain itself, a complex system that we have not yet succeeded in exploring.
For example, we do not know the rules of growth of our own brains, nor the rules of their past or future evolution. We do not understand their present methods of functioning. We do not understand the connection between our mind and that which generates it within the neuronal networks of the central nervous system.
Modern scientists tend to organize their internal realities along certain very disciplined lines. A theoretical physicist will stick to his mathematical models of whatever it is that he is considering in the external world. He feels secure as long as there is a certain goodness-of-fit of his theoretical simulations and experiments with that portion of external reality. Within certain definite limits he can then learn to control that external reality in the experimental mode.
Similar experiments on the internal reality are very difficult to perform. The observer immersed in his own system has too much power to change his simulations of what he is doing. His simulations of himself and his own thinking processes now become the subject of his scientific investigation. In solitudinous isolation he can be an experiencing experimentalist in his own inner domains.
This freedom to modify oneself and one's inner simulations of self and one's simulations of one's internal reality is not yet under scientific control. We can say a few things about the evolution of such powers and of their probable extension into the future.
As we say in other parts of this book, as the size of the neocortex, the associational silent computational areas of the brain, increases, the domain of the inner reality increases in its magnitude, in its dimensions' in its complexity, in its degrees of freedom. This can become a dangerous property. If a particular person sets up rules of this internal reality, the rules operate so as to generate that inl;ernal reality. With increase in brain size the preoccupation with the inward journey increases and problems with the external reality can increase. The basic survival of the human species may be at stake in the presence of such powers.
We know of past cultures that have disappeared because they worshipped that which in their internal realities they felt to be externally real. For example, the gods would destroy the universe unless they were propitiated with human sacrifice (Aztec).
Man is still struggling with his new inward threshold, his new inward freedom, misusing it sometimes to dangerous levels of lack of goodness-of-fit with the external reality necessities for survival dictated by his ecological environment. It behooves us to study the simulations of the external reality, its relations to our simulations of it, and to internalize the ones that work for us not against us. It behooves us to watch out for our creative and persuasive abilities to create destructive social realities from our "unreal" beliefs and our powers to recognize those that do not have long-term survival of our great-grandchildren and their children in mind. We must extend our time scale into the future for future generations of humans or else we will be terminated. One of the major lessons of evolution is that large brains survive only in concert with one another and with the planet and its laws of survival in total interdependence with all species.
Since any internal reality can be created and believed, let us select those beliefs that ensure really long-term survival of all species, that lead to a future rather than to destruction. Unless we exercise proper control of experiment and of theory, we will spend our time, effort, and resources learning how to destroy, and ultimately we will destroy ourselves.
As we show in more detail elsewhere in this book, the Cetacea have demonstrated a capacity to survive far longer than we have on this planet. Insofar as can be determined by paleontological evidence, the cetaceans have had large brains equal to and larger than ours for at least thirty million years. The dolphins have had brains equal to ours for fifteen million years. They have proved that they are able to survive with big brains. In spite of the enhancement of the inner reality, they have managed to work out their own thinking, their own doing, their own feeling, and their own actions to remain in tune, in harmony, with the total ecology.
Humans have not yet demonstrated such a capacity. Brains of the present size have been with man only one hundred thousand years. In other words, man in his present form has only existed 1/150th of the time that the dolphins have existed and survived. Such considerations do not take into account that man may have appeared many times before and been totally destroyed on the land. With a big brain, survival in the sea seems to be easier than survival on land. There may have been cataclysms on this planet in which the land mammals including man were wiped out many, many times, while those in the sea continued their evolution and their survival because of the cushioning effect of the oceanic environment.
We should pay closer attention to Cetacea and the facts of their survival over as long a period of time. If, eventually, we can communicate with them, we may find the ethics, laws, and facts that they have discovered, which have allowed their survival. They went through the dangerous acquisition of the large brain and of the resulting large internal reality millions of years ago. Somehow they have learned how to use this enlarged internal reality in the service of their survival in the external reality and to continue their evolution to larger brains and larger internal realities
Man's narcissistic worship of dangerous beliefs generated in man's own small past endangers long-term survival not only of man but of all species. Somehow, sometime, somewhere, we must agree with one another or we follow the great reptiles into our own extinction, self-inflicted.
Since so much attention and so much power are given to consensus science in the Western world, the power of generating consensus belief systems is the result of groups of scientists agreeing on what the external realities are. We must make our legal system agree with the laws of the universe and see to it that our laws include the entire planet and all its inhabitants. The sciences of man must be expanded and become more consonant with the evolutionary advancement of the whole planet and all humanity. The new scientific observer must be aware of his role in the forefront of those who investigate the way the ecological system really operates rather than some dream of how it should operate.