Mog, the Modern Neanderthal
The Beginnings of Lots of Things
by Jody Nagel
I. Economics: Competition / Cooperation
Mog was a modern, enlightened Neanderthal. His brain/body ratio was a notable sliver higher than that of his fellow man. Lucky Mog.
Mog wanted to kill a mastodon to feed his woman and offspring, and himself; but there was always the problem that he had a much better chance of being trampled to death by the mastodon than of killing the beast. And furthermore, his so-called friends Og, Krog, or Polywog, or worse, the coyotes or saber-tooths, might steal the meat from him. Even if they didn't, there was only so much meat that he and his family could eat before the carcass would start to rot. Oh, but there was absolutely nothing that could beat a flame-roasted hunk of mastodon meat, if you could get it!
Mog's bigger brain gave him this idea: How about if I go ask Og, Krog, and Polywog to help me. (The evolution of language also continues to be a difficult factor at this time: how do I grunt "help me?")
"Now, I don't really trust them, and they don't trust me or each other, but if I point out that all of us cooperating could use some of those good, strong forest vines to tangle up the mastodon's legs and trip up the beast, why then, we'd all have a much better chance of not getting trampled, and we could all eat our fill, and could all live to kill another day. Less of the meat would be wasted, and we would have a much better chance of fending off animal attacks. It's a great idea, if only we could trust each other to cooperate."
And right there we see the beginnings of the ideological difference between capitalism and socialism. The capitalistic mind strives for personal profit. The socialistic mind strives for group profit. Throughout mankind's history, cooperation has triumphed over competition, but only by a slim margin, perhaps 50.1 to 49.9%. However, until the Reagan era of the 1980's, cooperation (just barely) kept the human race from going extinct. Cooperation certainly did end up helping out Mog and his friends, as we now know that their efforts effectively caused the mastodons to become extinct. After Reagan, greed was declared "good" (Wall Street, starring Michael Douglas, 1985). Selfishness and competition finally gained the moral upper hand. Can human survival continue, given that we have been for so long adapted to the former cooperation/competition ratio? Capitalism is not obviously superior to Socialism. It's tenets have been a majority-position (and only in some parts of the world) for just a vanishingly small percentage of human existence.
II. Form Perception
Mog had a distant 3rd cousin who lived far away. His name was Amog. Amog also had a brain that allowed him to experiment now and then. Amog, like other modern Neanderthals, enjoyed noticing beauty when it occurred. He liked to go smell the daisies. He experimented with noticing that-which-does-not-change more than he noticed that-which-does-change. The sight and smell of the daisies did-not-change much more so than the little tiny snap of a stick behind him which did-change. As a result, a saber-tooth tiger ate Amog, and his genes did not pass on. Poor Amog.
Lucky Mog, who noticed that-which-does-change more than he noticed that-which-does-not-change. Mog had a similar encounter with a tiger, but Mog twirled around at the sound of the snapping stick, and he just had time to slit the tiger's throat with his sharpened flint blade. The tiger died. Poor tiger. Mog's genes did pass on.
Let's say on some scale "100" means being fully alert, and "0" means being dead. Deep sleep is about "50," and falling asleep is about "60." You are sitting on the ground with your back against a tree on an idyllic spring day. It's a clear sky, a perfect temperature, there's no wind, you're out in the country and nothing man-made is around. You're sinking into a day-dream kind of mood. You're at about a "65." Now, in your field of vision, there is nothing changing at all . . . until, all of a sudden, and in the merest split second, a little chipmunk dashes up the trunk of another tree about a hundred feet away. In your entire field of vision, almost nothing has changed except for that tiny little dot of motion. So much for Democracy's "majority rules." You instantly notice the tiny flicker much more than you notice all the rest of your field of vision. And now, perhaps merely for a moment, you are jolted upwards to at least a "75."
We always notice change more than constancy. Our olfactory nerves get saturated and we stop noticing the smell. We forget to notice the constant hum of the building's central air system. In art, we notice the parameters that change over those that do not, and we consider the form of a piece of art to be a description of how those changes take place. We do not consider form to be a description of how constancy takes place. We do so because it is a naturally selective feature that has always enabled us to survive!
III. Art: A Naturally Selective Advantage for Humans
Mog, Og, Krog, and Poliwog eventually allowed an additional member into their little band of families. His name was Mr. Frog. He had a brain that had a few too many neurons, as far as Og and Krog were concerned. Mog kind of liked him, and Poliwog developed a kind of hero worship of Mr. Frog. One day, after a triumphant mastodon kill, Mr. Frog got the strangest idea. He bent down and scooped up some red-colored dirt, added water, and made some mud. He then smeared it on the rock wall of a cave that they visited sometimes. He drew a picture, a simple line drawing, of the five guys bringing down the mastodon. Mr. Frog was one of those artsy-fartsy types, I guess. Everyone peered at the picture, shrugged, and then moved on.
Now, a couple weeks later, that little band of modern Neanderthals drifted past the same place. They saw Mr. Frog's picture still there. It jogged their memory. ("Memory development. Good thing," grunted Mog.) It reminded them that they were successful the last time they cooperated to bring down the mastodon. It encouraged them to repeat cooperative behavior in the future. It built solidarity into their little group. ("Solidarity. Cooperation. Do it again, which means 'tradition-building.'" Mog noticed these things, and he saw that they were very good, indeed.) Even Krog, who had wanted to kill Mr. Frog because he was "too weird," perhaps not a real human, backed off a bit and tolerated Mr. Frog a tad more from that point on.
"Art" is a uniquely human naturally-selective advantage. It has contributed in many important ways to the survival of humankind. Groups that lacked a "Mr. Frog-type" did not increase in solidarity in this same way, and their memory-development had at least one less factor than did groups that, for whatever random behavioral reason, did include at least one "Mr. Frog-type." If the two groups of humans ever "crossed paths," and battled over turf or women, the group with the greater solidarity and greater experience at cooperative behavior would more often defeat the other group. In other words, the group with the "artist" would be more successful ultimately at passing on their genes. This itself would confirm the group's tendency to allow, or even encourage, a small number of their band to engage now and then in "artistic" activities. So, why should School Boards not cancel art programs within public schools? Everything else we've ever "invented," we have become dependent on. If one suddenly removes these factors, who knows, maybe humans WILL DIE. Consider the following:
IV. Adaptation: Fire, Clothes, Printing press, Cesarean Sections, etc.
Mog had an ancestor twenty generations ago. This ancestor, The Old One, might have been the first true human. Once, after a lightning-started grass fire, all the animals and humans fled in terror. Except, for some reason, The Old One turned from his fear, picked up the non-burning end of a burning branch and gazed at it. From this point on, The Old One used fire to keep animals at bay. The Old One happened to find an unlucky rabbit that was killed in the grass fire. The rabbit was charred in places, and The Old One tasted it. Wow! It was delicious! He now wanted to roast his meat all the time. He taught his woman and offspring how to cook meat. Our Promethian hero started a cooking tradition.
Now, unbeknownst to The Old One, or to Mog twenty generations later, but beknownst to us, these modern Neanderthals were not exercising their immune systems. Most carnivores eat raw meat, which includes all those nasty micro-organisms that we call germs. Mog and his friends are thoroughly out of practice at dealing with these nasty critters because they always cook the meat and kill the germs. (Though they are utterly unaware of this.) So, whereas other carnivores eat raw meat without problem most of the time, Mog and his friends get sick when they eat raw meat, because their immune systems are no longer adapted to this kind of behavior. Later generations wonder why only humans cook their meat and then they classify humans as some special "other than animal."
Mog wears a bear-skin coat in the winter. Long ago, another of Mog's ancestors felt a bit cold in the icy weather, as did all the other animals. Their furry coats kept them alive but they did feel cold when things got really bad outside. Mog's ancestor had another brainy idea. "If I kill that bear and steal his fur coat, then I be not cold at all in the winter. I be toasty warm, and, to boot, there be one less bear to worry about." He kills the bear, makes himself a bear-skin coat, and concludes: "This is very, very good indeed." He teaches his offspring how to make coats.
Meanwhile, by Mog's turn in history to be alive, many generations have gone by where humans don't really need furry coats to stay alive in the winter, since they use bear-skin coats. So humans start to lose a share of their body hair, and eventually have the least amount of hair of any mammal. Now, instead of being a little cold in the winter without a coat, you DIE in the winter without a coat.
So, if its "cooked meat" or "wearing clothes," we become dependent on our brainy inventions. We trade away a share of our immune system for better tasting meat. We trade away our own furry coats for clothes. We have added on "art" to human life; what would happen if we suddenly take it away? Does anybody really know? Or wish to experiment with our species to find out? If we stop teaching cooking to our children, they will get sick. If we stop teaching clothes-making to our children, those in northern climes will die. If we stop teaching art to our children, what might happen?
Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century. This quickly afforded many more people the opportunity to learn to read. Reading had been the domain of only priests and an elite class prior to this. As more people learned to read, they began to rely less and less on memorized knowledge and on knowledge obtained from an oral tradition. They began to rely more on referencing written works. We have probably by now, as a species, traded away a share of our memory potential for book referencing. If we stop teaching our children to read, what will then happen?
Humans like having bigger brains and they also like walking bipedally. Not a problem at first, but at some point, say 40,000 years ago, humans encountered a dilemma. To have a bigger brain requires a bigger head, which requires a larger birthing canal, which requires a larger hip width. However, given the Earth's gravity and mass, there is a geometrical limit to how wide humans can get before they would tip over, and then they would have to give up bipedal walking. Not good. So, an impasse was reached. Human heads got just so big. Birthing became much more painful in humans than in any other creature. If an infant with larger-than-average head size was trying to get born from a woman with less-than-average hip width, why then, probably one or both of them would die, and a built-in limit to how big human heads could get was reached. Statistically, over time, head size stopped getting bigger. But then comes 20th-century medicine, and the possibility of "Cesarean Section" birth. Suddenly, a larger-headed baby can be born. If larger heads with increased intelligence capacity is naturally selective in humans, then our brainy invention (Cesarean Sections) will enable brains to get even bigger over time. In another millennium, humans may have a somewhat larger average head size than now, but, to be born, every mother must undergo a Cesarean Section. Once again, people may become dependent on their own inventions; if some generation of children is then deprived of the knowledge of the Cesarean Section procedure, the whole human race dies out.
We are dependent on what we have already done as a species. There is NO FIXED HUMAN NATURE. We keep inventing ourselves. We are our own creator. We have traded away behaviors based on instincts for behaviors based on learning. We are dependent on teaching and being taught. If teaching stops, so does the human race. So, while we may debate which subjects should be taught by teachers in public schools, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that TEACHING MUST TAKE PLACE somehow or other. There is nothing worse than hearing somebody mouth the cliché "you can't change human nature" as a (to them) obvious reason why nothing can be improved. Human nature is the one thing that IS NOT constant and that is continually being changed, and that exists in many many sub-types even within any one given generation.
V. Religion and God(s)
Mog knew he had more "smarts" than his friends. He knew about using the Wheel. Language was dawning upon him. Fire and Art and Clothes all seemed to be good to Mog. Sometimes it was difficult to get the others to learn to do things in new and improved ways. They resisted change. They sometimes grew suspicious of him and wondered whether or not Mog was a "true" human. Perhaps they should kill Mog.
Mog found this most disturbing. He had to think of some way to convince them that he was right and to keep himself from getting killed in the process. He finally found the perfect solution. He became a high-priest of some god, and then instead of attempting to get his friends to change because of Mog's Will, it would be because of this God's Will.
Mog announced to them that God had spoken to Mog and would destroy them all if they refused to listen to Mog. This God was invisible but much stronger than all of them put together. The others were just stupid enough to believe this nonsense. Mog's group got smarter and better in spite of themselves, thanks to Mog's creative idea.
The problem is: later generations contained priests that inherited the tradition of supposed god-belief, and these later priests actually believed this stuff themselves. What a mess.
All this was happening at about the time when humans, with their bigger brains, were evolving more self-consciousness, more intelligence, more awareness and gaining more knowledge. They became the first animal ever to realize that they would die someday. This could have "nipped in the bud" any hope for greater intelligence to prevail as a naturally selective strategy for survival. Knowledge of death just simply freaked out early humans.
Mog then had a wonderful idea. It goes like this: "There is an 'afterlife' for after you die."
Since everybody believed that Mog talked to some god, when Mog announced this new bit of wisdom, the others were tremendously relieved. Their overall anxiety about death was lowered within their group. They were all fellow believers! Just like "art," religion added to solidarity. When Mog's group fell into conflict with another group that lacked a priest-type, the other group already had more anxiety and less solidarity and lost the competition. Their genes did not pass on. The genes of Mog's group did. Religion proved to be naturally selective to humans.
Ethical behavior began to evolve. Mog's group came up with the notion that "Thou shall not kill" (at least not the "true" humans of your own group). Other groups did not develop this idea, perhaps, and killed themselves off, so that that ethical "experiment" mathematically didn't work out at all. Mog's group constantly failed to live up to their own maxim. They murdered within their group sometimes, and sometimes got punished for it. They didn't hesitate to kill "lesser" men of other groups. However, over time, groups that even entertained the notion that murder was wrong won out over groups that lacked the idea. The "ethical" thought won the gene-transmission game.
People wondered why "good" people didn't murder. Mog told them that it was God's Will that they didn't, and that they would "go to heaven" if they obeyed God.
The group's explanation as to why "Thou shall not kill" is "right" comes after the fact of group survival due to the group members not killing each other. Interestingly, all religion's ethics are very similar concerning basic ideas about murder, stealing, cheating, etc. This is because there is a naturally selective "truth" about these ideas when statistically measured over the eons. These same groups have drastically different notions of God or gods, heaven, hell, spirit and soul. This is because there is no actual "truth" to these ideas, though these ideas have served as a motivator for "true" ethical ideas.
If religion is taken away from the masses, their primary motivator for ethical behavior is removed. Society would be in shambles. Even intelligent humans that understand the nature of the history of religion within human society, and who do not literally "believe" any of the supernatural components, must still tolerate the presence of religion. If nothing else, this lowers the statistical odds that the modern knowledgeable person will be murdered by his less knowledgeable fellows, those that "believe." If society is ever to grow above the need for religion, it must do so slowly, by education, and in a way that prevents those that "know" from being killed off by those that "don't know."
Mog! Thank you very much for your contribution to human survival. You did what you had to do way back then. We are deeply appreciative. However, now it is time to go the next step, fellow humans. "Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself" requires no God-belief for intelligent and educated people. It is the ultimate mathematical perfection of human natural selectivity.
Fellow humans! Please let our economic system be based on cooperation more than competition. Please notice that little word in the famous quote above, "as." The word "as" implies equality, equitable treatment, socialistic attitudes towards one's fellow man. Please let us continue to teach all that we have learned so that the human race can continue to survive. Please realize that "art" is important to human natural selection, even if you never "appreciate" art for its own sake. Please realize that you doom humanity when you believe "human nature" is fixed. Human Nature can be anything we want it to be. Please learn that we are our own creators. We have come a long way, but can even do better. We will never develop heaven on Earth while we continue to wait for heaven in some supposed "heaven." Believe in "good," not in god." Do be sympathetic to those that are not yet ready to give up their god-belief, and remember that god-belief was naturally selective at a crucial step in the human journey. Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself. And teach your children well.
Dr. Jody Nagel
September 5, 2004