Posts Tagged ‘science’
Here’s what reality seems to be.
We live on a planet that is spinning as it orbits around the sun that is the center of our particular solar system. All living things on Earth appear to have begun their life on earth. Life is made up of the elements that were manufactured by the formation of the universe and the deaths of stars , and those elements eventually found their way to a young, coalescing earth. Once on earth, minerals were formed from these elements and liquid water, and here life began, fueled by the energy that blasts out from the ongoing nuclear furnace that is our sun.
Once life took hold, it rapidly diversified through a process we describe as evolution through the process of natural selection, where the ever-changing challenges to survival favored the continuation of one species over another (as well as heritable traits within species), and geographic isolation (combined with random genetic coding errors) led to ever more varieties of living things, each suited to it’s own environment, each occupying a certain niche in nature. This process has continued to this very moment, and will continue as long as the Earth remains a habitable planet.
Humans are a product of this process. We are a species of animal that is related to every other living thing on this planet. We are classified as mammals, and as primates. Our closest living relatives are the Chimpanzees and Bonobos, with whom we share 99% of our DNA. (We also “share” almost as much DNA with mice and about 40% with lettuce).
We humans are clever toolmakers who have developed both verbal and written language, which has allowed us to operate in a conceptual as well as an animal world. Our brains have allowed us to develop technology that has dramatically altered any landscape that we have occupied. We have, in a remarkably short time, grown from a collection of tribes of hunter-gatherers into huge, complex societies and nations.
A most notable feat of human intelligence has been the creation of the scientific method, which has, over the last few hundred years, allowed us to come to a fairly deep understanding of the reality of our biology, our world, and the universe we float in. It is through the investigations of science that we know most of what I have just cataloged.
And yet humans also believe in the existence of God. We have built entire civilizations and cultural institutions around our belief in gods that both created us and who control our fate. Our first explanations of reality were mythological in nature. (Before science gave us a means of testing propositions, one person’s guess was as good as another’s). It would seem fair to say, at this point, that all of the early religious claims about nature and physical reality have been proven false by subsequent scientific discovery. Yet religion and religious belief persists.
And though science has not (and can not) ever disprove the existence of God, science has shown us that there is nothing about our existence on Earth that necessitates the intervention, direction or supervision of any sort of divine agent, supreme deity, or intelligent god. And yet the natural state of a human being appears to include a belief in such a being or force, along with a feeling that all of creation is somehow here for (primarily) our benefit.
But not all humans believe in God.
Perhaps tellingly, it is among scientists that we find the highest percentage of humans who do not believe in god(s) or magic. Which means it is those who know the most about reality that believe the least in what we might call the “unreal”. Yet the number of such unbelievers (including non-believing non-scientists as well) still represents a minority among the human population. This hints at the proposition that magical belief flourishes best in ignorance. But, since belief is coming to be understood as a sort of “default” setting of the human brain, ignorance of reality cannot be seen as the only factor in the continuation of belief in magical things.The not-so-reverend bob waves goodbye as the Pterosaur that will carry him to his retreat circles above.
Over these last years, I have explored this continuing reality of the believing human in an age of science. Using my own experience as a means of both discovery and explanation, I’ve experienced a rather intensive period of learning and thinking that I have then turned into my weekly “sermons”. And I find myself, now, in the rather interesting position of having “answered” the most basic questions we humans seem to have about life: Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? And though I could probably go on writing a new “sermon” every week for the rest of my life (because there is always going to be a new scientific discovery, or a new popular science book, or a new personal experience to write about), I’ve realized that it’s time to re-direct the energy I’ve been putting in to this blog into other projects. Because understanding that I am here as the result of natural processes more begs than answers the question of how best to live the life I have (though it does, I think, offer some helpful clues).
I am primarily an artist and performer. I can now see “the not so reverend bob” as one of my creations — a champion for humane reason and science. But playing the extroverted evangelist for evolution has been a bit of a strain on this natural introvert (a bit like a submarine doing battle on the surface). And I think the answer to how to live my life (in this next stage of that life) comes in the form of a recognition that this artist is most effective operating below the surface (like the submarine). And, for now, trite as it may sound, I want more love and less argument in my life. And holding the view I do – that we only have this one life to live — I have only so much time to write my next musical or paint my next painting. (And, besides: it’s not as if anyone’s chances at eternal life will be jeopardized by me not reaching them with the “gospel” of the church of bob)!
So let this be my final sermon on the boblog of the not-so-reverend bob. I’ll keep the site up for those who might want to read one of my 166 sermons (167 counting this one. Yikes!). And I’ll always be ready, like a Minuteman with his musket hanging over the cabin door, to answer the call when needed. But for the foreseeable future I’ll be directing my energies elsewhere. I have other lost creative sheep, as it were, to gather up while the sun still shines.
I want to thank each of you that has visited this blog, and especially my “faithful” readers. I hope that I have given you something worthwhile.
the “retiring” not so reverend Bob Diven
If you stop to think about it, the fact that I am writing my thoughts into a sentence that you can read and understand is nothing short of amazing. As far as we can tell, such acts of communication are not occurring anywhere else in our solar system. And even on our small planet, teeming with life, you and I are members of the only species that reads and writes (though whales and dolphins may very well have their own book-of-the-month club that they are very adept at concealing from us).
We naturally take for granted the things that seem to come naturally to us. We don’t have the time, frankly, to sit in wonder at every little thing that — were we to see it in its true historical or biological context — would blow our ever-lovin’ mind. So we spend the time we must learning how to walk and talk and drive and sculpt and dance and compute and then just get on with living our life.
But one of these times while you’re walking from your car into your house, thinking about the next thing on your to-do list, consider what underlies these regular acts that seem so effortless to us.
Walking upright is a good start. That is quite an evolutionary change for a body of muscle and bone that began as a bacteria that managed to clump together enough to become, eventually, an actual body of a lobe-finned fish that adapted to walking on land, then developed into a small mammal, then a primate and then the upright hominid that was our great great great great grandmother.
And what about the air that flows so easily into your lungs? It’s easy to think of that air as having no mass at all, but of course it does. The one-ton weight of the atmosphere over our heads weighs down upon us every moment, but we don’t even notice it. Our bones and muscles have evolved under that weight (not all of which is, exactly, pressing “down” on us) so that our density and shape and mechanical arrangements are so well suited to air’s “mass” that we only sense when the breeze blows it across our face, or when we stick our hand out the window of our fast-moving car and play our hand against the force of the air compressing in front of it .
This is where creationists stop one step short of a true sense of wonder, and invert reality when they decide to praise God for making the world so perfect for us to live in. It’s quite the other way around, I’m afraid. The world was not made for us. The reality of evolution is that we were “made” for the world that we evolved in, or — more precisely — that we were “made” (evolved) in the world as it already existed. That is the power of evolution as the result of natural selection: the things that work well in a given environment have a better chance of being preserved in reproducing life forms than those that don’t.
One could argue that the original conditions that were made possible by earth’s particular composition and location in relation to the sun were “made” just for us, but that would be pushing things more than just a bit. For there is no evidence of intention in anything that exists — other than the animals, like ourselves, that possess consciousness. What we can say with absolute confidence is that the conditions that came to be on Earth were hospitable to the beginning — and continuation — of biological life. And knowing — as we now do — just how rare of an occurrence such a state of affairs is in the known universe, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer luck of it all.
But the idea of such cosmic, existential “luck” really bothers a lot of people. And so there arises in humans a deep cry for intention, and a purpose for our existence that must be rooted in some larger intelligent force. I hear this from Christian friends who are sincerely baffled by the notion that existence can, well, exist without an intelligent, interested source. (What they are really concerned about is how one could deal with this reality in an emotional and intellectual sense). But this impulse toward religious belief is, I believe, an artifact of the way we have mentally and emotionally processed our physical reality over the generations, and has everything to do with our brain-based consciousness and absolutely nothing to do with the physical world. It is a “software” issue.
Be that as it may, human belief systems are a definite social and cultural reality that is deeply embedded in our intellectual life. And old ideas die hard.Speaking up for science in a culture of religious belief, once can feel like a “voice in the wilderness”.
I have often wondered at how religious belief survived the arrival of Darwin’s theory of evolution. But others have pointed out that the end of the earth-centric view of the universe should have been enough to knock the pins out from under the truth claims of the church. Right they are. And I’ve just been reading about the intellectual and spiritual crisis that the discovery of the Americas caused for the Europeans (in “The Great Divide”, reviewed here this week). For here was an entirely new world (filled with people) that — because the discovery of its existence came with no hint or mention in ancient literature or biblical texts — was completely unexpected and shocking. It took Europe and the church a few hundred years to really get used to the idea. And so it goes.
Every new scientific discovery erodes ancient religious claims about our physical reality. I think that is indisputable (at least in a general sense). But, seen anthropologically, this is not surprising: almost all of our early philosophy and religious ideology was developed in a context of deep ignorance of the inner workings of biology, cosmology and geology. Fortunately for us “westerners”, the evolution of Christianity took a course that embraced Greek thought, and led us to the idea that the “one God” was a god who had created a nature that could be understood (as He could be understood) through continuing study (Islam — and the shamanistic religions of other cultures — held that all that could be known had already been revealed in holy books, and to seek additional knowledge was to blaspheme).
In this way, the evolution of thought in the “Old World” of Europe and Asia was open to the discoveries of science, at least until those discoveries began to bring the revealed wisdom of scripture into question. But by then the cat was out of the bag, as it were, and, despite the excommunications and heresy trials, scientific discovery has became our primary source for reliable knowledge about reality.
Be that as it may, actual non-believers (in God or in “divine purpose” generally) remain the minority, even in America. Most people believe in God. And most of those believers, whether they realize it or not, tacitly accept as true scientific descriptions of the world they inhabit, without realizing the profound implications of those scientific truths. The result being that the majority of humans, to my mind, take for granted the true miracle of their existence as a thinking, feeling, personality in a discreet physical body living on a planet hospitable to such an existence. No, to them a wonder of this magnitude (if they give it a thought) is not nearly enough. They require (for their sense of well-being) that there be a single great god of the universe who is just like them, and who, despite all of his necessarily awesome responsibilities and powers, must reliably bend an ear to any individual’s urgent prayer request for a good parking spot at the mall.
But the rather amazing (and counter-intuitive) point of all of this should be plain by now: the believer in God, by holding fast to a religious view of existence, actually limits their capacity to experience the true awe of seeing creation for what it really is: an expanding universe of a scale we cannot truly comprehend; a tiny, blue planet of water and air and elements born in exploding stars; the continuous, persistent non-random selection from random genetic changes that, over time (and under changing environmental pressures), transforms a bacteria into a fish, a fish into a mammal, and mammals into elephants and whales and humans that, after millions of years develop language and then an alphabet and then the technology that allows this one human to write his thoughts for other humans to read and understand.
In the larger scheme of things, one has to ask, what does it matter if people believe in God or angels (or fairies in the garden, for that matter)? It’s not like adults playing pretend or believing in magic is going to slow or speed the final, fatal blossoming of our sun, or the eventual contraction of our universe. No — we are blessedly powerless on those scales. But where we are powerful is in our effect on the quality of our own lives, and, potentially, the lives of others.
And so it’s none of my business if one of my fellow humans is comfortable in a world governed by a god of their choosing. But when so many live in that kind of world, one has to speak up for that which is obscured by the veils of religious belief. There was a time in the evolution of religion that called for a “voice in the wilderness”, a “John the Baptist”. What’s needed now is more “John the Scientists” to stand by the doorway that science has opened for us in the wall of human ignorance, pointing the way to the unseen wonders that await beyond.
“Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7, New International Version ©1984)
It occurs to me that if all that mattered was truth (that could be verified by reliable experiment) then religious belief would have died out a long time ago.
Saying something like that reveals several assumptions, however.
The first assumption would be, naturally, that we humans were purely rational creatures. And despite how often we try appeal to our fellow humans’ rational minds, it seems like even the most hopeful rationalists would have to recognize that this marvelously analytical part of our brain is not the major force of our evolved consciousness. (For more on this, read “The Righteous Mind”, reviewed this blog). Any psychologist will tell you that once the fight or flight (fearful) parts of our consciousness are triggered, calm, rational behavior is nowhere to be seen (though it could be argued that fleeing on adrenaline soaked legs is a highly rational act when the danger is life-threatening — but that’s the thing — we generally experience more fear than a given situation truly warrants).
The second assumption would be that the results of scientific experiment (duly tested and confirmed) could be quickly and evenly distributed to every human on the planet. (Another underlying assumption would be that every human would already have in place a cultural/mental construct that was receptive to scientific evidence — meaning the evidence would be accepted as credible. But we don’t have to look far in our own circle of friends to see that even in our individual communities there is not a truly homogenous landscape of equally educated and acculturated minds).Yes, I love science.
One of the realities of the society I see around me is that there exists only a percentage of people who are sufficiently curious about reality to happily “change” their mind when a new scientific experiment proves that an idea they held was now known to be incorrect.
I often get comments along the lines of “people’s minds are made up”, or “you’re preaching to the choir”, which are all ways of recognizing that the part of our minds where beliefs are formed is understandably conservative. After all, the things we believe most deeply are also most likely to have a direct bearing on our survival in a seemingly capricious natural world. (This is likely the basis for our sliding scale of trust — where we are most likely to believe someone who is our closest kin, and least likely to believe something a stranger tells us).
And being the profoundly social animals that we are, we are also natural believers. As we learn more about how our brains operate, it has become clear that we believe first, then analyze and question after. Meaning that once we take in a statement as “true” (from someone high up on our “trust hierarchy”) the odds of us taking the difficult extra steps that would lead to deleting that item from our “truth” list are pretty low. (For more on this, see “Blink”, reviewed this blog).
And so we have millions of humans walking around with a mix of internalized beliefs, most of which have been acquired from friends and family, but some of which have come from other sources. And sometimes that other source is science.
I consider us fortunate that newspapers, magazines and television programs regularly feature interesting science stories. Every other week there is featured a tale of some new dinosaur discovery, or the latest theory on Neanderthal behavior, or the analysis of new images from a space probe. This information — even if not taken in directly by the less-curious — can enter the consciousness of individuals by a process of “cultural percolation”. (When I listen to Christian preachers on the radio, it is revealing just how many times they quote science when it appears to support whatever spiritual point they are making).
The upshot of this is that there are very few living humans who still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, or that diseases are caused by evil spirits. However…I have to be cautious here. Because even among those that have some passing acceptance (if not understanding) of gravity, or evolution, or genetic inheritance there often live, side by side with scientific truth, a whole raft of beliefs that are incompatible with physical reality. Most often these are quasi- and outright religious beliefs that can range from adherence to great grand-mother’s home remedy for this or that ailment, or a mild superstition that makes them not walk under a ladder, to full-blown beliefs in alien (or angelic) visitation and, of course, the grandaddy of all human beliefs: God.
It seems to me that if we were to take on — as our solemn task — the eradication of irrational belief from the human population, it would immediately take on the shape of brutal human oppression (think of the re-education camps of Communist governments, or the Spanish Inquisition). And this is where the difference between a humanist and a fundamentalist religious believer becomes most apparent: even though, as a humanist, I believe that most people would be better off with more truth to counter our natural (and abundant) fear, I shrink from risking real violence to a human psyche to accomplish such an aim by force. The deeply religious (even if their religion is a particular political ideology) seem to have far fewer qualms in this area.
Though — it should be noted — that American evangelicals (as well as other conservative religionists) do feel as if they are under attack and experiencing oppression from a secular humanist army of atheistic scientists. I think they are more than mildly overstating their case.
All of this brings me to the realization that I will not live to see irrational religious belief swept by reason into the dustbin of history. For even though it is abundantly clear that religion is an evolved human activity (that we humans have always been the active agent in creating), and that it is, therefore, not “true” in any evidential sense, religion remains a sort of cognitive and cultural reality and, as such, must be accepted and understood for the phenomenon (and fixture) that it is. And understanding this shifts my stance a bit from armored crusader to curious fellow human.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t hold my ground to resist aggressive, religiously-motivated cultural foolishness. Neither does it meant that I’ll stop writing these sermons for those who are like I once was (questioning, or in transition out of, their religion). Because each of us is part of the quiet “commission” to spread the best truth we can get our hands on, and point out ignorance when it becomes dangerous.
(After all, those who think God is on their side do not think it unseemly to label unbelievers “fools” condemned to Hell, so I hardly think it abusive for me to call them — when appropriate — “incorrect”).
My natural curiosity (an example of the type of brain I possess), combined with life events and circumstance, have conspired to bring me to a place where I am not simply interested in reality, but crave the truth of it. And science is the single best tool we humans have come up with for determining what is “true” and what is “false”. Science does not have all of the answers (though it does have the most reliable ones available), and some of the answers we now have will be modified (or discarded) by future discoveries (and I realize that I will die carrying bits of old or incorrect information in my head). But what matters to me is that I care enough about reality to discard the old when the new arrives. And for having that kind of brain, I consider myself deeply fortunate.
I got emotional recently, to the point of crying (not that unusual, in my case). No sooner had the episode begun but there was a particular “voice” in my brain that started to chatter…rather insistently. I did my best (this isn’t the first time this has occurred) to “disengage” my attention from that particular part of my consciousness so that I could get on with my emotional moment. But afterwards, I began to ponder just where this “chattering voice” was coming from. I began to think about the “geography” of my own consciousness.
Here is a good place to make something clear: I approach questions such as this from an understanding that any and all of this mental cacophony that I experience is happening within the confines of my skull (and not outside of my self). Still, I have a need to “place” things. That’s only natural. The big difference, then, between me and many others is that I don’t place any of my conscious self outside of my physical self.
So as I thought about the chatter that kicked in when I was emotional, it didn’t feel like it was coming from a “higher” functioning part of my consciousness, but from a sort of ante-room of my brain. Having said that, I must still recognize that I am applying an imaginary construct in order to give a location to the different aspects of my functional consciousness. This is a conceptual tool — like language itself — that allows me to create a visual sense of something that is biological and electrochemical. Therefore there will never be an exact one-to-one physical relationship between the mental phenomenon such a framework describes and the phenomenon themselves. But then, language has no intrinsic connection to the things it describes — what matters is that those of us using language share our catalog of word-object associations with our fellow speakers (so that, for instance, we don’t picture a pit bull when someone asks us if we like their hat). On the other hand, we know from recent studies that certain actions are taking place within specific regions of the brain. So my exercise in mental geography — fanciful though it is — is not without some basis in reality.
That being so, what can I know about the nature of this chatter that popped up to halt my tears? Well, it almost seems as if it had intention, in that it appears to be a quite specific reflex that is triggered by strong emotion, almost like a too-earnest friend that jumps in with a “WHAT’S WRONG IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP AND MAKE YOU STOP CRYING RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” while what we feel like saying is: “Shut up and let me cry!”. (Actually, the “heart” doesn’t want to say anything — does not, in fact, want to switch it’s focus from emotion to the part of the brain that is used to tell someone to “shut up!”. No, in moments of deep emotion, our “heart” just wants to feel what it is feeling, which is a joint exercise of mind and body that, like sex, doesn’t like distractions just now thank you very much. But then, that could be precisely why the noisy chatter is effective — that interruption, alone, breaks the hold of deep emotion on our conscious attention. Like sleep, like sexual intensity, deep emotion — once interrupted — can be “lost”).
You’ll note here my use of the term “heart” for the seat of my emotion. This is a rather universal exercise in placing parts of our brain activity on a conceptual “map”. In this case, however, the emotions are displaced to a place somewhere in our chest — or gut, depending on the emotion — a foot or two away from our brain case. This is a recognition, I think, of the sense we have of emotions coming from a certain depth of our consciousness. They feel too deep to be taking place within our brain, and, since they are felt in our body, we place them (with some good reason) somewhere in the deepest parts of our physical body. (In a similar, if more dramatic way, we most often displace the mid-level of our consciousness — the part that answers us when we talk to it — much further outside, or above, us). Which just goes to show how natural is the bleed-over between our brain and body, and how natural, then, is our ability to displace aspects of our consciousness from the particular region (or regions) of the brain that they are actually occurring in.Hannah Holmes does a great job of exploring the “quirks” of the human mind in her book (reviewed this blog).
And so what sense can I make of this mental chatter that would seem to be — if the emotions are the root of the tree – the chirping birds in the upper branches? I can make some guesses about what this part of my consciousness is all about — what it’s “intention” is. And I can have some confidence that it is there for a useful reason (useful for my evolutionary success, anyway, even if it gets in the way of my emotional life). But I may never be able to state with absolute confidence what is really going on in that part of my brain. We are, after all, wary, reactive, emotional animals. Understanding that fact alone immediately makes a lot of what goes on in our day-to-day experience of consciousness make some sense (even the parts that don’t seem to make sense for the kinds of comfortable lives many of us Westerners actually live).
The fact is I have no good, specific answer to give you on that score. I do have a more general answer that may have to suffice. But it involves a story, and a kind -of answer.
I used to be a much more anxious human than I am today. I struggled with intrusive thoughts and periods of panic and even depression. This led to what I refer to as my “Therapy Years”. But the point where things began to turn around took place at a Golden Corral restaurant one night. It must have been around this time that my therapist first offered me the idea that the “biggest thing wrong with me what that I thought something big was wrong with me”, and that the panics that gripped me were not necessarily events that just happened to me — were not, in fact, irresistible forces imposed on a helpless Bob. This seemed far-fetched, as it felt as if a panic would always hit me before I saw it coming — like a mad monkey that suddenly was on my back — and all I could do was react after the fact. But that night as I finished my dinner, I had turned enough of my attention to the workings of my own brain that when a panic hit me, I caught the slightest glimpse of a tiny gap between the thought I was thinking and the nearly instantaneous global bodily reaction of cold fear. I had at last witnessed the machinery of reaction in my consciousness. After that, it was only a matter of time before my senses become attuned to the point where I could widen that gap, and identify the thought I had had that triggered the reaction. Then began the process of learning to interrupt the process between the thought and the panic (it turns out this can be done). My therapist was right: my own thinking was the source of my panic. But it was the (rather intriguing) ability to use one part of my consciousness to catch another part of my consciousness in the act that led to my coming to terms with that brain of mine. I was learning to fight brain with brain.
Obviously, this has informed my view of consciousness as I then moved from the last years of my religious (or quasi-religious) belief to a more materialistic view of consciousness. Having experienced many of the quirks of our human consciousness, I deeply appreciate the insights into those quirks that neuroscience and evolutionary psychology offer. The upside of this is obvious, as such a view can free us from some of the add-on doubts and terrors — based in a belief in outside intentional agents acting upon our exposed souls — that have accompanied our evolution over the last few tens of thousands of years.
The point being that this non-externalized understanding of the brain makes analysis of events much different than the standard search for external agency that is our most common response. Note that the phenomenon in question do not change, only the way in which they are interpreted or understood to exist. It is a question of SOURCE, and with our determination of source comes our idea of causation or intention.
Hence, I can see this odd chattering that suddenly pops up when I’m crying not as some evil spirit, or neurosis, or critical agent, but a reflex that most likely evolved in my brain and may be more or less active in me than in the average human (perhaps as a simple tool to reduce my physical vulnerability when overcome by emotion by “snapping me out of it”). In other words, there is a real possibility of understanding it in a nonjudgmental way, which removes from the discussion all sorts of further emotional and existential complications. (After all, if I think the Devil is trying to seduce me away from God, then my poor mind and body are reduced to a sort of confused war zone with spies and plots and open battles taking place over my highly-valued soul. What a mess).
Instead, I can see my brain for the highly evolved organ that it is, even though this also means that it carries within it some rather ancient operating systems, reflexes and responses that were programmed at different times in my evolution, some of which are not necessarily the most conducive to living in a relatively non-violent, non-life-threatening modern social environment. This is the down side: the fact that we have to come to terms with the notion that — having the evolved mammalian brains that we do — we are living with a consciousness that is actually a complex, sometimes self-contradictory alliance of innumerable evolved survival responses often better suited to a lizard than a lawyer (insert favorite lawyer joke here).
And, finally, back to my allusion to the “intention” of my emotion-interrupting mental chatter that kicked off this sermon. I have to say here that the mind’s response to stimuli turns out to be intentional in only a rather limited way. I’ve come to understand that there resides in my brain a sort of “blind librarian” that connects current stimuli to stored experience, and in a bio-chemical version of a word-association game, yanks from our memory any and all cognitive and bodily responses in our past experience that have any possible connection to the moment at hand. That’s why certain triggers can make people panic over and over again — even when the current situation doesn’t warrant it — and why such connections are so challenging to break. In evolutionary terms, this makes perfect sense as a means of keeping a wary animal wary, but it can sure get in the way of relaxing and “enjoying” life.
As an aside, I can tell you from my own experience that one of the most curiously challenging parts of my own journey has been this recognition of the kind of brain we humans are actually carrying around in our skulls: That the very organ that has brought us through all of our generations of evolution — and that we rely on for every bit of our ongoing survival and experience of life — is, well, a “Kluge” (as Gary Marcus so aptly describes it in “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind” reviewed this blog).
In general, I am obviously well-adapted to my overall species (and individual) survival, but that does not mean that I am always going to be perfectly suited to any and every situation I find myself in. Evolution is not about perfection, but adaptability. And so nature doesn’t care if the human brain is an amalgam of reserved bits and pieces of its evolutionary journey through every brain it’s ever been, from fish to shrew to monkey to man. I may care, but that, in the end, is my mental problem to map out.