Thursday, August 13, 2015

Evolution is not an upward staircase. And why we write/read poetry

Evolution is not an upward staircase

"Many people conceive of evolution as an upward staircase, an unfolding sequence that produces ever more advanced organisms. From this perspective, the advantages of the neocortex - speech, reason, abstraction - would naturally be judged the highest attributes of human nature.

But the vertical conceptualization of evolution is fallacious. Evolution is a kaleidoscope, not a pyramid: the shapes and variety of species are constantly shifting, but there is no basis for assigning supremacy, no pinnacle toward which the system is moving. Five hundred million years ago, every species was either adapted to that world or changing to become so. The same is true today.

We are free to label ourselves the end product of evolution not because it is so, but because we exist now. Expunge this temperocentrist bias, and the neocortical brain is not the most advanced of the three [the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex], but simply the most recent.

Poetry, a bridge between two brains

.....Because people are the most aware of the verbal, rational part of their brains, they assume that every part of their mind should be amenable to the pressure of argument and will. Not so. Words, good ideas, and logic mean nothing to at least two brains out of three. Much of one's mind does not take orders. "From modern neuroanatomy," writes a pair of neuroscience researchers, "it is apparent that the entire neocortex of humans continues to be regulated by the paralimbic regions from which it is evolved.

...A person cannot direct his emotional life in the way he bids his motor system to reach for a cup. He cannot will himself to want the right thing, or to love the right person, or to be happy after a disappointment, or even to be happy in happy times. People lack this capacity not through a deficiency in discipline but because the jurisdiction of will is limited to the latest brain and to those functions within its purview.

...Only the latest of the three brains traffics in logic and reason, and it alone can utilize the abstract symbols we know as words. The emotional brain, although inarticulate and unreasoning, can be expressive and intuitive, Like the art it is responsible for inspiring, the limbic brain can move us in ways beyond logic that have only the most inexact translations in a language the neocortex can comprehend.

...And so people must strain to force a strong feeling into the straitjacket of verbal expression....Poetry, a bridge between the neocortical and limbic brains, is simultaneously improbable and powerful."

Page 32 - 34, 'A General Theory of Love', Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., Richard Lannon, M.D.

No comments:

Blog Archive