600 million years ago, in the Burgess Shale fossils of Canada, one can see dramatic changes happening in evolution. Life is exploding in form and diversity. Nature is experimenting wildly, with body shapes, body parts, eyes, and heads, fossils that look like Pixar animation. We aren’t sure why, but at that time, animals started eating other animals . . .alive. The dance of predator and prey, it seems, was creating an evolutionary storm.
It is one thing for life to learn to survive in the elements, to be able to find and digest food, reproduce and survive the weather. It is another to survive the attacks of other living beings, to outsmart other beings that are trying to outsmart you. A spiral of deceit and evasion and ferocity develops. Both predator and prey push each other to get bigger, and quicker, and meaner, and smarter . . . fast.
Forward 350 million years, as the great single-continent land mass, PANGEA, is splitting apart, causing a hell-fire holocaust of volcanic eruption called the Permian Extinction, predator and prey evolution culminates in the age of the dinosaurs.
“as the world was going to hell, dinosaurs were thriving, somehow taking advantage of the chaos around them” The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs, Steve Brusatte.
Prey became bigger and more herd-like, utilizing defense in numbers and size, and more and more armored with horns and plates of skin. The Sauropods, like Argentinosauris – the largest animal ever on land on Earth – were four London buses long and five stories tall.
Predators became more and more cunning and vicious killing machines. Initially it was the crocodile, Archosauros, that ruled the killer world. Then came the Allosauros, the “butcher of the Jurassic”. Finally came the most ferocious hunter and killer of our planet’s history. . . Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Movie maker Steven Spielberg, did not have to exaggerate the evil, monstrous nature of Tyrannosaurus Rex.
T. Rex appears, almost exclusively in North America, 85 million years ago. He was 35-40 feet long, could weigh up to 7 tons, had teeth the size of bananas, 58 of them, the head the size of a car, and massive, bone crushing jaws capable of 3000 pounds of pressure, the strongest bite of any known animal on earth. His skull was built like an airplane fuselage, to withstand the forces of his bite. All his action was in his head. He didn’t chew. . .he ripped and crushed. He bit deeply and. . . pulled.
T. Rex hunted in packs. He had exceptional low frequency hearing. Like a seismometer, he would know, from far away, where you were. His camera eyes were the size of grapefruits. He had satanic horns for eyelashes. He was covered in scales and feathers like some freakish Mardi Gras nightmare.
T. Rex was the largest predator that has ever lived on land in the 4.5 billion years of life’s history on Earth. This meat lusting monster travelled in packs! He had bird’s lungs, and could breath in his bones. He could run 25 miles per hour. He was as smart as a chimpanzee. . the animal today that is thought to most closely rival human intelligence! He had very good smell. His only ‘weakness’ – he couldn’t turn well.
Empathy was not much in the T Rex brain. Young T. Rex may have wanted to get away from Momma T. Rex as soon as possible.
To this day, there is no fossil evidence of T. Rex eggs. . . .
Triceratops seems to have eventually been his main prey, a 40 ton gargantuan – the size of 5 elephants – with very thick scale and a giant, goring central unicorn horn. He was hard to bite without getting pierced.
T. Rex was just so good that his success was likely spelling his own doom, as he would eventually kill himself out of food. Before that, only God, it seems, could stop this Devil on Earth, and it seems God actually did.
Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops were present on the Day of the Chicxulub asteroid impact 65 million years ago, the great inferno that brought to an end the Age of Dinosaurs, and T. Rex, and the spiraling horror show of predator and prey.
Birds are the only surviving dinosaurs today.
Nature it seems, for a long time was better at making killers than cooperators. Only small, nocturnal, rodent mammals, running under foot, at night, could co-exist in the Tyrannosaurus heyday, too small to bother with for T. Rex. Only after the asteroid impact could gentler predators, and greater cooperation. . .the age of mammals. . . flourish.
Eventually came Humans, as good at cooperation as T. Rex was at killing. They may be next to put themselves out of business. . . if God doesn’t.
This equation “is the basis of our mechanical, civil, hydraulic, acoustic, and other types of engineering; it used to understand surface tension, the flow of fluids in pipes, capillary action, the drift of continents, the propagation of sound in air and in steel, the stability of structures like the Sears Tower or one of the most wonderful of all bridges, the Bronx-Whiteston Bridge Leon Lederman
Alone on his aunt’s farm, to escape the plague after graduating from college, he developed the laws of motion for both the planets in space and falling bodies on earth. To explain his laws, he developed a whole new system of mathematics, the calculus, which gives dynamic change to geometry. He is still the greatest scientist of all time.
He seemed to know that his mind was different.
“Common people did not know how to abstract their thoughts from their senses. Speaking always of relative quantities or measures, they are thus unable to discern the true, real world that lay beyond their perceptual cloaks.”
He was certain that his ideas were correct.
He was not much interested in convincing others. He avoided argument – the ‘legal sphere’. Why waste one’s precious time? He kept his discoveries to himself for almost 20 years, until Edmond Halley, of Halley’s comet, pressured him to publish.
Born into the puritan tradition, an orphan raised by priests, he was a devout believer in God, and an exacting student of the Bible.
He was a ‘natural philosopher’ and that included theology. Getting the concepts right meant getting God right too. Be clear about God so as to be clear about Nature. God is both immanent – in all things, and transcendent – above all things. Absolute Space is the universal presence of God. Absolute Time is the omniscient consciousness of God. The Laws of Nature are Transcendent, like their creator. Gravity, like God, is a omnipresent, a universal power, active everywhere.
“The principles I consider, not as occult qualities supposed to result from the specific Forms of things, but as general laws of Nature, by which the things themselves are formed; their truth appearing to us by Phenomena, though their causes be not yet discovered.”
As We are in God’s image, our reason is God’s gift to us to discover the laws of nature. And as God is unitary, so is truth. Truth must be consistent and agree with observation. Science, for Isaac Newton, was a religious calling, Our human reason can be trusted.
His great treatise, Philosophiae Principia Naturalis Mathematica – the greatest book of science ever written – for him, was written in the tradition of Moses of the Bible.
And yet he remained humble, mindful of what he didn’t know.
“Thus far I have explained the phenomena of the heavens and our sea by the force of gravity, but I have not yet assigned a cause to gravity. . . I have not as yet been able to deduce from phenomena the reasons for these properties of gravity, and I do not ‘feign’ hypothesis.”
Isaac Newton gave the same intensity that he gave to natural philosophy, to the study of Christian history. Any polytheism is blasphemy, and always leads to corruption. . . in all things, in theology. . . and in natural philosophy.
His studies convinced him that the notion of the Trinity was wrong – a giant conspiracy starting at the Council of Nicosia, with the falsely added 1 John 5:7, and 1 Timothy 3:16 verses to the King James Bible. In his time, in England, denial of the Trinity was a capital crime. He kept these views to himself.
Sir Isaac Newton didn’t like music, poetry, or literature. He never married, and had no known personal companion. He was buried in Westminster Abbey . . . ‘like a king’.
Octopus are hunters and predators, but with no physical defense. Unlike their ancestors, they did not retain their shells. They can ink the water to escape, and do instantaneous camouflage, and a few are poisonous, but mostly they are mobile, and smart. . . brains over braun. Two thirds of their brain cells are in their eight arms. They can squeeze thru an opening as small as one of their eyes.
They are minds that swim.
Their squishy bodies, with no hard parts, are pure tasty, and quick, digestible meat. They are hunted by all the predators of the sea. Their life span is short, they die shortly after breeding just once. Life is risky, they go for broke.
They are ingenious at escape, and always try. They have been known to open a jar . . . from the inside . . . to get free. They seem able to recognize particular individual humans. When they escape, they are uncanny at picking the moment you aren’t watching them.
“When you work with fish, they have no idea they are in a tank, somewhere unnatural. With octopuses it is totally different. They know they are inside this special place, and you are outside it. All their behaviors are affected by their awareness of captivity.” Peter Godfrey-Smith
They have been found to have perceptual constancy – they understand an object is the same object, from different points of view. They have comparative memory analysis – they can bring past experiences to bear on present situations and decisions . They have curiosity. They will interact with something, even when they know they can’t eat it. They do step by step action, like other animals with consciousness, they can navigate mazes.
They are not considered to be social, but divers have known then to ‘high five’ each other . . . !
They have three hearts and blue-green blood.
We humans are not just conscious, but also are self-conscious, we have awareness of ourselves along with our awareness of the world, an eerie sense of two-ness that haunts us, and we sense that the octopus has that too.
“Meeting an octopus, is, in many ways, the closest we are likely to get to meeting an intelligent alien.” Peter Godfrey-Smith
They may BE alien. Scientists have very recently decided that since their genetics and intelligence are so much a leap from their origins that some of their DNA, literally, may have come from outer space, carried in the spray of meteors from outer space.
“the genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity, with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo Sapiens. . . the possibility that cryopreserved octopus eggs arrived in icy bolides [in meteors] several hundred million years ago should not be discounted, as that would be a parsimonious cosmic explanation for the Octopus’ sudden emergence on Earth circa 270 million years ago.” Steele, et. al. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, March 2018.
Do we speak because we think, or do we think because we speak? How does our thinking depend on our language? Did we become smart because we can talk, or can we talk because we are smart?
To Noam Chomsky, we speak because we think, and we think . . . linguistically . . .not because it helps us speak, but because it helps us think. Life is about characters and events, situated in the past, present, and future, and so is our thinking. We function in social groups, with goals of survival, children, cooperation, and deception. We live stories, and so we think stories. Our minds are literary. We are playwrights, and we are one of our characters. Language is always and everywhere structured for stories.
For Chomsky, speech came later, an output of thinking, like a printer is to a computer. Unlike for thinking, there are physical constraints on speech delivery, so speech is less than thinking. By speaking our minds with others, we expand our knowledge. Speaking empowered thinking. Thinking and speaking feedback to enlarge our intelligence and our scope of collective action. The rest is history. We vanquished the bigger and stronger Neanderthal, and everything else. We have taken over the planet.
Noam Chomsky started linguistics in the 1950’s, when the human mind was considered a blank slate, to be filled up with culture and learning. He noted, however, how easily and fast children acquire language without specific instruction. They acquire the skills of language fare faster than it can be taught. He wrote a ground-breaking work, Syntactic Structures, in 1957, in which he posited an innate language ability with a ‘language acquisition device’ in the human mind – a universal, innate and hard-wired brain system that unfolds a language ability – in a child, as it is activated, not learned, by exposure to speech in the early years of childhood.
This was at last a theory of nature and nurture in human development, not one or the other. Chomsky’s theory up-ended the blank slate foundational theory of social science, and launched the field of modern brain science. He is, today, the sixth most cited person in scientific literature . . . of all time . . . just behind William Shakespeare.
People vary in their ability to convert thought into speech. Chomsky, himself, is master thinker/speaker. No one can speak more clearly, more comprehensively, or more spontaneously, or enunciate streams of information as they support reasoned conclusions and opinions about very complex ideas, than Noam Chomsky. He can drive people crazy.
Politics is a different matter.
This great linguist theorist of biological human language is a . . . radical socialist anarchist. Famous for repudiating behaviorism, the blank slate theory of social science, he strangely applies behaviorist rationality to human political nature. Seemingly blind to the biology of tribalism and political behavior of non-linguistic human nature, he forever condemns illogical politics as immoral. . . .
In 1939, at Cambridge University, Ludwig Wittgenstein was lecturing on the Philosophy of Mathematics. By this time, with messianic certainty, he was adamant that mathematics was just a lot of linguistic convention, a bunch of tautologies based on definitions and word play. He thought that seeking mathematical proofs, along with the quest to develop a mathematics without inconsistencies, was pointless. He essentially taught against mathematics.
At the same time, Alan Turing, soon to be one of the great mathematicians of all time, was also at Cambridge, teaching a course in mathematical logic. He was also a student in Wittgenstein’s class. He had proven certain mathematical truths that would eventually be very important for code breaking during the coming war, and for the future of computer programming. He could not agree that mathematical inconsistency didn’t matter.
“The real harm of a system that contains a contradiction, will not come in unless there is an application, in which case a bridge may fall down or something of the sort.”
Turing and Wittgenstein debated each and every class. The other students were bystanders. Wittgenstein would cancel class if Turing wasn’t going to show up. Turing gradually realized that Wittgenstein considered debate. . itself. . . as meaningless. He eventually stopped going.
The Vienna circle philosopher, Moritz Schlick, told his friend Albert Einstein of his allegiance to Wittgenstein’s thinking, finding all philosophy ‘superfluous’ and all metaphysical thinking meaningless. Schlick was the dean of the Vienna school of ‘logical positivists’, philosophers who tried to believe that only observations, verified by experiment, could be considered real or true. Theory and philosophy can never lead to knowledge.
Einstein, like Turing, could not agree. He found the philosophers such as Kant and Mach very helpful. He defended the role of both experiment and theory in scientific advancement. It was not one or the other. All living creatures used thinking in some way! Concepts, as well as observations, theory as well as data, are necessary.
“Physics is an attempt to construct, conceptually, a model of the Real World, as well as its law-governed structure. You will be surprised by Einstein the metaphysician, but in this sense every 4 and 2 legged animal is, de facto, a metaphysician.”
Turing’s legacy is computers, Einstein’s is space travel.
Computers that have logically inconsistent programming will crash.
Space ships, with inaccurate calculations of fuel and trajectory, traveling millions of miles to encircle and land on asteroids, will crash.
The SpaceX robot-guided Falcon 9 rockets ride into sun-synchronous orbit, deliver satellites to geo-synchronous orbit, at the speed of a bullet, and then return, decelerating from 120,000 feet per second to zero feet per second, in a matter of minutes, rotating elegantly from head-first to feet-first, and landing, intact, on a platform 60 square yards in size, floating at sea.
Mathematics, a product independent of human experience, is the pilot.