Tag: Human

Reflections on pain and peace.

Seeking solace in these times of insanity.

Not sure what it is about Tuesdays because exactly a week ago I wallowed in introspection with an essay Finding one’s true self and here we are again with another wallow!

The pain came about when good friend, Chris Snuggs, included a picture link that is on Facebook in an email exchange we were having.  Here’s that picture.

dead rhino

Here are a couple of comments left on that Facebook page.

Oh Dear God in Heaven. This is just so so so so so wrong. I am so ashamed of my species.


Armina,you have said it right. Animals never sin,they never commit crime, they don’t go to war against each other. Humans do all these and they face the negative results of it. Who will save them? Who will protect them? The very humans that are to protect and save them, are the very heartless wicked people killing them … Sometimes I cry when I see animals being treated badly …. the world is a wicked place and they should not have been here among humans …. I wish there could be a place where there are no humans and no human can be able to go there no matter how hard they may try. So that all animals may go and live there ever safe.

 In his email Chris wrote, “Difficult to comprehend. And all in this bizarre quest to improve themselves, increase their sexual potency or some such tosh. Why do many humans not accept themselves for what they are, warts and all, and just try to do the best with what they can bring to the world?

To which I replied, “That is so disgusting a picture.  Sometimes, in fact too often these days, I seem to want to pull up the drawbridge and just forget this mad, insane world so many seem to ‘enjoy’.

Then yesterday, over on the Wibble blog, there was a post with the title of Schrödinger’s Leopard that generated a comment from Mikestasse, “Yes, we humans think we own everything. Copyright the planet, patent its contents, run amok, screw it all. I’m often ashamed to be human …….

So all of this was reinforcing the pain I was feeling.

I then turned to my email and there was a further reply in from Chris.

Yes, it is a terrible photo, but no doubt there are far worse somewhere. One of the worst things about rhinos (and other large creatures) is that they clearly have largish brains and probably a lot more “consciousness” and/or “understanding” than we appreciate. And therefore are very much aware of what is going on, have pain and other “emotional” sufferings we can’t fully comprehend but which undoubtedly exist. I mean, they are not like fish I guess (though some maintain that even fish feel pain) or even more clearly insects.

Was it Voltaire who said in response to the world’s evils: “Il faut cultiver son jardin.“? [We must cultivate our garden.]

He had a point – sometimes one has to shut oneself off, but on the other hand and at other times if we all do that then the bastards can get on with their evil unchecked – or even uncommented. At least you in particular are spreading good vibrations and a moral view of the world. I feel the same about my political rants and blog entries. It may not do much to change the world but it could perhaps confirm to others that they are not alone in their protests about whatever. I would like to get engaged more actively in a particular “charity” or movement. One, since one cannot do everything. I might go for tigers and rhinos, etc. The last three years have been horrendous for me but I hope things will settle down a bit in coming months so I can do something more positive.

I would just say to you that you SHOULD completely detach sometimes and WHEN you do you should relax TOTALLY and clear your mind of negative thoughts in order to return fully charged to the fray at a later stage!!!

NO, you DON’T need a shrink for this but I understand that the US is well-equipped in this department if needs be!!!

Now because of the time difference between here and Europe it was too late for me to check if Chris was comfortable about me sharing his personal email.  But I took a gamble that it would be OK because of the power of Chris’ advice; the plain common-sense of that penultimate paragraph.

Because if we end up consumed by the pain then, not to put too finer a point on it, the bastards have won!  If we can feel the pain but stay grounded, remaining at peace, then that poor rhino did not die in vain.

So please go now and sign the petition Save the Rhinos!

Future uncertainties!

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. Niels Bohr

I love this saying from Mr. Bohr and often repeat it, albeit at times with my own twist to it.  I was reminded of this uncertainty of the future from some comments to a recent post over at Lack of Environment.  The particular post was called Can technology save us? and was a reflection of Martin Lack, the blog’s author, watching a recent BBC Horizon special called Tomorrow’s World.  (There’s the YouTube of the broadcast at the end of this post.) Martin opened his post by saying:

I happened to stumble across a BBC TV Horizon special, entitled ‘Tomorrow’s World’ last Thursday.  It begins with a fascinating review of humankind’s history of – and propensity for – invention. It also explains some truly fascinating – and inspiring – developments in the spheres of space exploration, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and power generation.

In the introduction, the programme presenter and narrator Liz Bronnin explains how, after 100’s of thousands of years of technological stagnation, the fast-moving world of technological innovation is very definitely a modern invention.

Then a little later Martin goes on to say:

After about 32 minutes, Bronnin introduces the power of the Internet to promote innovation – crowd-sourcing research funding and the concept of open-source technology – the complete abrogation of intellectual copyright… It is a fundamental challenge to globalised Capitalism; but it may well be the solution to many of our problems…

However, to me, the final third of the programme is by far the most fascinating… It looks at the challenges of finding a replacement for fossil fuels. It provides a very clear message that this is a technological challenge driven by the reality of physics – not by ideology.

But, overall, Martin lets us know his perspective with his final paragraphs:

Re-engineering nature for our benefit will, without doubt, be very very useful. However, I still think the optimism of the comment at the very end of the programme “…I never worry about the future of the human race, because I think we are totally capable of solving problems…” is very unwise. This is because anthropogenic climate disruption is a problem that is getting harder to solve the longer we fail to address it effectively.

Bronnin concludes by saying that, “it is an exciting time to be alive…” However, I remain very nervous. This is because, as Professor Peter Styles of Keele University – a strong supporter of the hydraulic fracturing industry – recently acknowledged, it will be impossible for carbon capture and storage to remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to prevent very significant changes to our climate. This is because of the collective hypnosis that deludes most people into seeing perpetual economic growth as the solution to all our problems.

In short, I am certain that technology alone cannot save us. In order to avoid the ecological catastrophe that all but the most ideologically-prejudiced and wilfully-blind can see developing all around us… we need to modify our behaviour: This primarily means that we need to acknowledge the injustice of a “use it up and wear it out” mentality and, as individuals, all learn to use an awful lot less energy.

Climate change “sceptics” have picked a fight with history and science – primarily with the concept of Entropy – and they will lose. The only question that remains is this: Are we going to let them put us all in (what xraymike79 recently called) ‘the dustbin of failed evolutionary experiments’.

Now Jean and I also watched the Horizon special and, to be perfectly frank, found it both uplifting and inspiring.  It seemed a great counter to the overwhelming volume of commentary these days along the lines of ‘The end of the world is nigh!‘ some of that coming from yours truly! That’s not to make light of the huge hurdles ahead.

But it was a couple of comments on Martin’s post from Patrice Ayme that got me thinking.  Here’s the exchange that went between Patrice and Martin following on from a comment from Thomas Foster.

Considering that it is technology which has enabled us to “conquer” nature and thus the degradation of the environment which is a consequence of that it seems most unlikely to this writer that the cause will also bring about a cure. Thomas Foster


The genus Homo has been technological for 5 million years. Give or take two million. Homo is the cure for life. Patrice Ayme


If we Homo Sapiens have been technological for 5 million years, we have spent most of that time being very unsuccessful; and have spent the rest being far too successful. Is there no scope for just living in harmony with our environment (as opposed to being at war with it)? Martin Lack


Hominids have been masters of the environment for at least three million years. By a million years ago, only Homo was left (but for places like Flores). Dozens of megafauna species got annihilated. Homo’s technology has extended to the entire Earth for at least a million years. The Earth itself was turned into a tool. A tool we are not at war with, but that we use. Patrice Ayme


A utilitarian attitude to Nature is one that does not recognise its inherent value (i.e. which it would have even if we did not exist). Seeing ourselves as superior to Nature rather than as part of it has resulted in our not living in harmony with it. This is, by definition, equivalent to being at war with Nature. QED. Refer: Nature is not your enemyMartin Lack


Call it what you want, Martin. Man manipulates nature, and that nature one calls nature has not been “natural” for more than a million years. Except if one views man as part of nature! Patrice Ayme

Patrice is a very clear thinker even if, at times, pretty hard-hitting.  But this exchange confirmed in my mind that clearly looking out to the future must always be hard.  Most certainly in this period of mankind’s evolution predicting the future is especially difficult.  Hence my contribution to Martin’s post:

Jean and I watched the Horizon special a couple of evenings ago. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my overall thoughts are in response to your post, Martin. What does come to mind is that old saying, “Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences.

So it may be that we are at a particular point in time, or more likely an era, where seeing clearly into the future is challenging.

The one aspect of modern life that is a game-changer is what we are doing now. Sharing ideas and thoughts across a far-flung net. Not only as the Horizon programme illustrated but as ordinary people trying to make sense of the world.

These are incredibly uncertain times.  Undoubtedly not the first in man’s long history as an historian will explain (cue to Alex!).   But to all of us alive today, these are the most uncertain times we have ever experienced!

No wonder so many of us feel lost at times in today’s world.

Here’s that BBC Horizon, courtesy of YouTube.

I will close with this thought from one masterly ‘wordsmith’, William Wordsworth.

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.”

It really is a very simple message!

Repeat after me: We are of this planet!  It’s really very simple!

There are times when I look back at my writings on Learning from Dogs, now well over 1,500 posts (1,633 as of today, to be anal about it!) and ponder if the fundamental message behind the name of the blog often gets overlooked.  The Welcome page states:

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer. Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming, thence the long journey to modern man. But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite. Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better! Time again for man to learn from dogs!

Elsewhere on the blog, I underpin that proposition by listing the attributes of dogs:


  • are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

Now this is all fine and dandy but of what relevance is this to the mess that homo sapiens now finds itself in? Two parts to that answer come to mind.

The first part is that watching a dog out in the open countryside quickly brings home the fact that these animals are part of nature and, if push comes to shove, can live in the wild and fend for themselves.  Not saying that a domestic dog would enjoy the experience but that their wild dog and grey wolf roots still rest somewhere in a dog’s consciousness.

The second part of the answer is that all animals instinctively live in harmony, in balance, with their surroundings; with their environment.

For the incredibly obvious reason that dogs, as with all other animal species, are an evolutionary consequence of the natural history of Planet Earth.  That evolutionary journey from the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) part of the Canidae family, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  That journey all the way to the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).

That ancient journey where the African wild dog (Lycaon pictuspainted dog) came together with early man. No one knows when but the African wild dog was certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago!

Two vastly different natural species, dog and man, evolving compatibly with each other for so many thousands of years.

Back to the attributes of dogs, in particular a dog’s ability to cherish the present.  Earlier this week I was chatting with Kevin Dick, friend from Payson, AZ days, about the ‘interesting’ times we are living in.  Kevin thought there was a significant difference between the generations born in the 1940’s and 1950’s and those born in later times.  Most people over the age of, say 55, were brought up to save for ‘a rainy day’ and, possibly, be able to leave a legacy to their offspring.  Kevin then went on to reflect that more recent generations exhibit a ‘buy today, don’t delay’ mentality.

A by-product of this materialistic instant gratification approach is that the whole damn consumer machine has created a total disconnect with the fact that we humans are of this planet.

The earth is the mother of all people..

(Chief Joseph 1840 – 1904, leader of the Wallowa band, a Native American tribe

indigenous to the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon)

Humans today fail to comprehend this fundamental fact: Our ability to harm the planet and think that it won’t affect our species is complete madness!  If only we could learn how to cherish the present in the way that our dogs do!

I’m now going to offer an essay from John Hurlburt.  I knew John had written this essay but didn’t get round to reading it properly until I had finished the introduction above.  I’m blown away by the resonance between the two but, as always, John’s words are so much more eloquent.

Inside Out

Climate change, religion, economics, government, politics and social issues are topics which create strong personal opinions and cultural divisions. We have difficulty accepting ideas which may conflict with our personal understandings. As usual, it’s an ego thing. The arrogance of our species is inclusive. We all suffer the consequences.

To counter our ego, we know that everything fits together. We exist in a unified cosmos with fluctuations and diversities that emerge around and through us.

Our present transformative state is as a biological form of energy and matter which possesses a conscious awareness of the natural order. We choose to ignore or deny the essential nature of our being at our own peril. Do we live only for the moment or do we live to insure our species future? That’s our fundamental choice.

Seek the truth and identify the common good.” Zoroaster [also known as Zarathustra, Ed.]

We are a consciously aware component of a living world in an isolated corner of a remote galaxy. Everything within and on the earth has an extraterrestrial origin. We live on an incubator we call the earth. We rarely truly communicate with or fully understand the energy of nature in our lives. Our critical thinking ability has become enveloped by an electronic cloud.

We generally agree that the actions of many religions and most politics are based upon short term human interests rather than upon the long term well being of our planet and its disappearing life forms. The fact is that we only began to emerge as a species about 100,000 years ago. Hubble telescope observations have dated our universal origin to roughly 13,002,000,000 years ago.

Could it be that we only imagine ourselves as independent beings? Could it be that beyond the mind games we play there is a vast reality greater that we can understand with our limited sensory apparatus and our finite minds?

Life is a transformative experience. All species, tribes, races and genders are united by the nature of life. We pass through a period of being selfish and ambitious during our journey. Many of us choose to move into these familiar ruts and furnish them. We do not always walk the way we talk.

Nature favors species which adapt to constant change in an emerging universe.

If we agree that our intelligence is judged by choices we make, there is some question about intelligent human life on earth. A recent Harvard University study of species in relation to change estimates that the life span of the human species is approximately 100,000 years. Sound familiar?

The wisdom of our brief human history tells us that we are on a careless and needless path to self destruction. All that’s necessary to verify this assertion is to turn on the news of the day. The systemic paradigm that has been imprinted on our psyches is in constant flux. As we live and learn, we realize that our purpose is to leave life better than we found it.

A delicate balance is necessary to maintain an even strain of faith in the natural process rather than dwelling upon our self centered fears of losing something we imagine we own or not attaining something we believe we want. The earth heals itself from the inside out. We can do the same as a species. Today is the tomorrow we dreamed of yesterday. What have we done to fulfill the true purpose of our lives?

an old lamplighter

So, yes, we have much to learn from dogs.

I will close as I started. We are of this planet!  It’s really very simple!

A mathematical approach to the demise of the Neanderthals.

Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. Albert Einstein.

I have never been proficient at mathematics. But that doesn’t mean that I am not fascinated by the field of maths.

Hold that in your thoughts as I mention the name of blogger: Patrice Ayme.  It’s a non-de-plume but so what!  What blows me away, to use the vernacular, is the depth of thought expressed through the keyboard of Mr. Ayme (even the gender is an assumption).  The sub-heading on the home page of his blog is “Intelligence at the core of humanism“.  Just run your eye down the list of Recent Posts to the right-hand side of the home page to get a feel for the topics covered in the last few months.  Impressive is an understatement!

Anyway, five days ago Patrice published a post proposing how the Neanderthals were outbred, under the title of Math Extinguished Neanderthals.  It fascinated me and Patrice was gracious in allowing me permission to republish it on Learning from Dogs.


Math Extinguished Neanderthals


Zillions of theories about the “disappearance” of Neanderthals. The latest one, from Oxford University, claims that Neanderthals’ big, beautiful eyes, and their big muscles caused their demise. They were too busy looking at things, and flexing their muscles. The idea is that significantly larger eyes would have crowded the Neanderthal brain out, making them relatively stupid. In particular it made them incapable of having social groups as large as those of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

Big Eyes Do Not Kill

Big Eyes Do Not Kill

Sapiens girl on the left, Neanderthal girl on the right (reconstitution published in Science Magazine a few years ago).

I have long argued that the strength of democracy came from having many brains working in parallel. There is little doubt that larger social groups bring a higher cultural intelligence, hence higher individual intelligence. So I agree about that bit of logic. Yet, ironically, to reach the conclusion that Neanderthals’ social group were less numerous, the simple fact that Neanderthals were bigger, is enough. There is no need for hazardous demeaning allegations about Neanderthals’ brains.

That big eyes made Neanderthals stupid contradicts some facts that were thought to be established:

1) Sapiens Neanderthalis’ brains were significantly larger to start with. See Wikipedia.

2) Many very clever Homo Sapiens Sapiens have small brains. Famously Anatole France, an intellectual, had only a 1,000 cubic centimeters brain. Homo Floresiensis, the “hobbit” species living on the island of Flores, Indonesia, until it was wiped out recently, was extremely intellectually capable, although it had really small (and completely different) brains.

3) In the Middle East, Neanderthals and Sapiens went back and forth through the same large caves over 50,000 years. So whatever happened, it was not in evidence for 50,000 years.

So, of course, I have my own theory. That’s what philosophy is all about: trying to guess what really matters most, and how that most significant data logically articulate. Then scientists, politicians and writers can swoop, figure out the details, and attribute themselves the glory.

What could have happened by around 28,000 years ago that caused the demise of Neanderthals? At the time, the last fierce glaciation was gaining ground. (It reached its maximum 25,000 years ago.) Some have argued, absurdly, that the Neanderthals could not take it. That’s beyond silly, as Neanderthals had evolved, from half a million years ago, precisely to handle extreme cold.

Neanderthals were stocky, powerful, and they had thrived through hundreds thousands years of glaciation, mostly on a meat diet, hunting big game. But they also knew how to cook plants, and eat them.

50,000 years ago, Neanderthals exterminated Cave Bears, a huge animal who lived in caves, prime real estate Neanderthals craved for. Could the disappearance of Cave Bears be logically linked to the disappearance of Neanderthals? Yes. That’s a consequence of my theory. More advanced technology played a direct role.

How did Neanderthals kill Cave Bears? With technology. We do not know exactly what weapons Neanderthals had at their disposal. However, technology had improved, and kept improving. Recently it was found that Sapiens Sapiens (Homo SS; I hope one gets the joke) in Africa had invented bows and arrows 80,000 Before Present (BP).  (About 60,000 years earlier than previously thought!) Before bows and arrows, the propeller had been invented, and was used in Europe. The propeller took advantage of angular momentum to send a sort of mini lance further and stronger than by hand.

Why did the Neanderthals and Denisovans (another human species from Central Eurasia) lose their edge? Advancing technology is the obvious answer. When technology of clothing and weapons was sufficiently advanced, the physiological advantage that the Neanderthals genetically had, disappeared. Homo Sapiens Sapiens could thrive just as well through winter.

At that point, Homo Sapiens Sapiens from Africa could be as successful as the Neanderthals through the freezing wastelands of Europe. OK.

But the Homo SS outbred the Neanderthals, so they became genetically more successful. How do I explain that?

Simple. However, the explanation involves the exponential function, the same function found all over, and that the mathematician Rudin called “the most important function in mathematics”. The exponential also explains the plutocratic phenomenon, and that is why it’s so dangerous. The exponential always rules extinction events, that’s why one day a species is all over, like the American Pigeon, or the Tasmanian Tiger, and the next day, it’s gone.

So visualize this. Neanderthals were bigger than Homo SS, just like the Polar Bear is bigger than the Black Bear. Bigness is an adaptation to cold. Southern Europe’s Brown Bears are smaller than those found in Kamchatka, or Alaska (also known as Grizzlies: the Grizzly is an emigrated European Brown Bear!) Bigger makes warmer inside. That’s why the most massive animal that ever was, the Blue Rorqual, at up to 180 tons, is nearly twice the mass of the largest dinosaur (it’s not just that it’s floating, but also that water is cooler than Jurassic air, I hold).

To simplify, let’s use a bit of exaggeration (that’s reasoning by exaggeration, one of my preferred tactic of thought; the one humor exploits, and why joking helps thinking). Let’s assume Neanderthals were twice more massive than Homo SS.

Now let’s consider an habitat where Homo SS and Neanderthal bands roamed. They will tend not to mix, for obvious racist reasons. The racial hatred between Neanderthals and Homo SS has got to have been colossal. People who look too different are not even sexually attracted to each other (and where Neanderthals and Homo SS were in contact in the Middle East, for 50,000 years, there is no evolution of an interbred species, an indirect proof that there was no love lost there!)

The density of human mass is going to be roughly the same all over, because that density depends only upon the resources available (mostly meat on the hoof, and fur in burrows in glaciating conditions).

Thus, there would have been apartheid. But the Homo SS would have been twice more numerous, where they reigned (from my assumption of twice the mass). So now graft on this a catastrophe; a drought, a flood, a very tough winter, a volcanic super disaster, whatever. The climate was highly variable, starting about 40,000 years ago, just when Homo SS appeared. Some have stupidly argued that Neanderthals were too stupid to adapt to this changing circumstances. Like this paralyzing stupidity struck them just when Homo SS were around. My explanation is more subtle.

After a catastrophe in said habitat, say one of these numerous habitat in Europe isolated by glacial mountain ranges, or seas and lakes, most of the human population would be wiped out, Homo SS, just as Neanderthals. There would tend to be always a small remaining population, because the greatest limit on man is man himself: as a population gets wiped out, resources rebound, and life of the survivors tend to get much easier (that’s what happened in Europe after the Black Death of 1348 CE; if nothing else, survivors could ask for higher salaries from their plutocratic masters, and they did).

So say 90% of the population of the habitat was wiped out. As suddenly resources are now not limited, the human population will rebound exponentially. The equation is: N(t) = N(0) exp(Rt). “R” is the “Malthusian” parameter, the rate of growth. Now it’s going to require twice the resources to feed a Neanderthal to sexual maturation (under our outrageously simplifying assumption that Neanderthals are twice the mass). Thus one may assume that R(Homo SS)/R(Neanderthal) is 2. The end result is that the quotient:

Number Homo SS/ Number Neanderthal = A exp(2t). (Where A is the ratio of the populations H SS/Neanderthal after the catastrophe.)

Thus the population of H SS would exponentially grow relative to that of the Neanderthals, resulting in a quick extinction. And in no way this is happening because Homo SS were superior. Just because they were more gracile.

Hence the mystery of the evolution of contemporary man is smoothly explained. Just a bit of math. QED.

Europeans & Asians: Not Just African

Europeans & Asians: Not Just African


Patrice Ayme


Note 1: what of the mentally deliquescent and racist article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society? First, they sank so low as tousing orbit size as a proxy, that Neanderthals had larger visual systems than contemporary AMH [Anatomically Modern Humans]. That’s about as intelligent as saying that, because special forces use night vision goggles, they have got to have bigger visual systems.

The main woman author also found the same physiological feature, bigger eyes, in the past, about people presently living at high latitude. She contentedly asserted that, because light levels are lower in the north, people living in the north (40,000 years at least for Homo SS) have bigger eyes. Amusingly, she did not draw, in that case the conclusion that Norwegians and the English are therefore more stupid. Somehow, though, in her lack of smarts, she applies that controversial reasoning to Neanderthals. Does she have giant eyes?

Seriously the Oxford study rests on a central fact that contradicts one of established facts about Neanderthals. Indeed it claims Neanderthals’ brains were not any larger than Homo SS.


Note 2; what catastrophes am I talking about? Well the climate fluctuated wildly, to start with. Second, A Campanian ignimbritevolcanic super-eruption around 40,000 years ago, followed by a second one a few thousand years later, certainly crashed Neanderthal populations (based on logic, and evidence fromMezmaiskaya cave in the Caucasus. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of a specimen there is C14 dated 29,000 years BP, one of the latest living pure Neanderthals). After such a catastrophe, the exponential rebounds of populations would have advantaged Homo SS, as explained above.


Note 3: OK, I exaggerated with the mass ratio. (Mathematicians often do this, considering an exaggerated case to understand the mean, through the tails.) But the real mass ratio would be aggravated because, Neanderthal was built in such a way, relative to gracile Homo SS, that they consumed more calories per day (some paleontologists have come up with 300). So there is no doubt that the effect above will play a role, even if the mass ratios were not as bad. Notice the mechanism above would tend to extinguish the Neanderthal traits that were most characteristic of the subspecies.


Note 4: A preferred trick of Neanderthals’ haters is to exhibitArchaic Neanderthals‘skulls, and compare them to those of modern men. The skull of an Archaic Neanderthal of 400,000 years ago should not be compared to a modern human, less than 40,000 year old! All the more since Neanderthals’ brain size augmented faster than the brain size of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.


Note 5: Part of the mechanism above generalizes for other species in competition. It provides with a disappearance mechanism after ecological turbulence, according to species’ ecological footprint.


So hope that others shared my pleasure at reading the essay.

Going to close with another quotation from Mr. Albert Einstein: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

I blamed it on the dog

All will be made clear if you go here.


I blamed it on the dog

He lay there, on the hard concrete, motionless, his eyes linked to mine. Linking our two very different species in a bond that defied rational description. A bond across not only two radically different creatures but across the tens of thousands of years since species dog embraced species homo sapiens, that is the hunter-gatherer version.

Such history of intimate co-operation shining out from those quiet, wise, brown eyes. Impossible not to sense the linking of souls as each gazed into the eyes of the other. The arm of the man reached behind, found the camera, and captured forever this magic.

(106 words)

Clarity of thought

The power of clear visions.

Martin Luther King, (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968)

One of the aspects of modern life that is deeply unsatisfactory is the way that politicians and leaders of democratic societies fudge the truth in the hope that trying to be all things to all men means wider acceptance of their messages.

Think of the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. ”

These words serve as an introduction to some beautiful thoughts from a loyal American living here in Payson.  This is a man who is deeply spiritual, who has fought for his country, and who is soft and gentle to the core.  This is a man who is not afraid to offer a personal vision to the world.  I regard it as a real bonus that Jean and I have his friendship.

Here is the first of two contributions from John H.

The Passion of Enlightenment

Enlightenment includes deep grief and a passion to leave life a bit better than we found it. Enlightenment has little practical value in a growing and constantly consuming cultural demographic. Consumers tend to spiritually disconnect when faced by a need for change or when morality becomes inconvenient.

Is God truth?  What is the opposite of truth?  We’ve lost our way as a species.  Does God tell us to worship money? Does God tell us to ignore our finite earth?  Does God tell us to kill each other?  Does God tell us to ignore human history and the emerging network of scientific understandings?

Human wisdom has been far greater in the past than it is today.  God is not known through empirical knowledge.  Man is as limited as the finite planet which gave life to our species and sustains our existence. Matter and energy are interchangeable as fundamental forces.  God is experienced through our inner being and understood through the wisdom tradition of our species.

Sustainability includes the well-being of our planet and the life it supports.  Sustainability includes serving as caretakers rather than acting as owners.  Sustainability includes surrendering our addictions, our illusions and our delusions. Surrendering includes the courage to speak the truth and walk as we talk.  Surrendering assures our common well-being as a conscious component of God.  We have nothing to fear.

Consider world leadership.  Who are the aggressors?  Who are the oppressed?  Who serves God?  Who serves Mammon?  We each must search our heart, mind and soul to answer these questions honestly.  We need to face our shame and guilt in order to redeem ourselves and make a sustained effort to change.

The roots of wisdom in a constantly changing world are God, nature, history, and science.  We’ve come a long way since we first learned to use tools.  What have we forgotten in the process?  We can’t wait for the truth to become popular.  We each need to help make the truth popular.

an old lamplighter

Powerful words.  Thank you John.


An unbroken record for two million years!

I came across this previously unknown, well to me, volcanic eruption during my research on my Vesuvius article for last week.  In that article I mentioned that I would discuss this truly giant eruption at a later date.

If your general knowledge is sufficiently good to know exactly what I am referring to, both in the title, Toba, and the sub-heading, then well done!  So to those that do know about the Toba volcanic eruption, my apologies.  To all you others, read on.

The Toba volcano produced the largest known volcanic eruption on earth during the past 2 million years.

Here’s an extract from the website Articles Extra,

Toba almost wiped out mankind 73,000 years ago. Back then Neanderthal man inhabited our Earth alongside Homo sapiens in Europe, Homo erectus and the recently discovered Homo floresiensis in Asia. It was cold in Europe, the last ice age was in full swing and reindeer, wild horses and giant stag were hunted in our breadths. Alongside the herbivorous nourishment, mammouth and woolly rhinos were occasionally on the menu for humans when Toba, with a diameter of 90 kilometres on the island known today as Sumatra, in the truest sense of the word, “blew up”.

A volcanic eruption with a diameter of 90 kilometres!  Ouch!  Back to the article,

Alongside gigantic Tsunami waves, there was the unimaginable amount of 2800 cubic kilometres of ejected ash, which, evenly spread throughout our planet’s atmosphere, should have reduced the total number of humans to just 5000 to 10,000 survivors, as the Australian vulcanologist Prof. Ray Cas explains in an interview: “The suns rays only weakly reached the ground all around the globe, plants received too little light, the average temperature dropped to 5 degrees, so that summer turned to winter and winter became deadly in Verbindung.”

Two thousand, eight hundred cubic kilometres of ejected ash!  It’s practically impossible to get one’s mind around that figure.  OK, it’s easy enough to look up the volume of just one cubic kilometre – it’s 1,000,000,000 m3 or a trillion litres!  Or for those of you in old money, as 1 US Gallon is the equivalent of 3.785 litres, then a trillion litres is 264,200,792,602 US gallons!   Approximately 264 billion US gallons!   264 billion US gallons which, in case you missed it, is just one cubic kilometre.  Toba ejected 2,800 times that amount in ash!

Back to the article,

Today we know that humans and their near relatives survived this global Armageddon of nature in small groups, mainly in Africa. It is incredible how scientists found all of that out with the help of thousands of DNA studies of today’s humans. Mag. Bence Viola from the Anthropological Institute of Vienna University: “We examined the DNA in human mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells, and thereby observed that the genetic composition in samples from humans from all over the world had to have been much more different if Homo sapiens were able to have developed in all parts of the Earth without problems.”

Actually today’s humans originate from a few thousand survivors and we can attribute the cause to the eruption of the super volcano Toba around 73,000 years ago. So it is a sort of genetic bottleneck, through which not only Homo sapiens had to have been forced, but also all of his relatives that were still living at that time but who died out later on due to other reasons.

Therefore a volcano in the region of Indonesia was responsible for the near destruction of mankind. From the 60 to 70 volcanoes that are to be found in the area today, a remarkable number have become active again in the weeks and months after the seaquake in December. Yet Toba is dozing today deep and safe under a huge sea bearing the same name in Northern Sumatra. Many people fear that if the suddenly active volcano of Talang that lies 300 kilometres south erupts, it could awaken the deadly giant.

Vulcanologist Prof. Ray Cas

Vulcanologist Prof. Ray Cas: “That could actually happen, but only if Toba were ready to erupt and at the moment there is not the slightest indication of that.” The expert does think that it is probable that one day another huge eruption will take place: “But that can only happen in 10,000 or even 100,000 years. The Earth is despite all efforts not predictable.”

It remains furthermore open to know what would happen to us in the face of such a devastating natural disaster, if a volcanic eruption similar to Toba were imminent. The way things stand today we cannot do anything against it.

Let’s close this reflection on a truly earth-changing event by looking at a picture of Toba today,

The Toba volcanic caldera as of today.

Two years today!

Learning from Dogs first saw the light of day two years ago.

It all started on July 15th, 2009, during a very hot summer down in San Carlos, Mexico where I was first living with Jean.

Now, some 1,000 posts later life is very different.  Jean and I are now married and living incredibly happily, with our twelve dogs and six cats, in Payson, Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix, up at 5,000 feet on the fringe of the world’s largest Ponderosa Pine forest.

Ponderosa pine forest

So apologies if today’s Post is partly reflective on the last two years.  It also seems appropriate to revisit the reasons why so many articles on the Blog aren’t about dogs.

I feel the need to do that because the number of new readers now is just staggering.

The first full month was August 2009.  Wordpress stats reveal that there were 1,172 unique viewers of the Blog.  The last full month was, of course, June 2011.  Wordpress figures were 31,664 unique viewers!  That’s over a 1,000 viewers a day, and the trend is still upwards!

I am, of course, deeply moved by this response.  Thank you, one and all!

In writing Learning from Dogs, I have tried to stay close to the theme that dogs are a metaphor for change for mankind.  But that doesn’t mean that this is a doggy Blog.

As I wrote on the Welcome page, “Dogs live in the present – they just are!  Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value.”

Learning from Dogs is a Blog about the fundamental truths that we need to be reminded of, for our long-term survival. Dogs teach us the importance of integrity, of faith and loyalty and of unconditional love.

But just as importantly, dogs are a reminder that our evolution to Neolithic man may have been an evolutionary mistake.  Stay with me for just a while.

Dogs were domesticated a mind-numbing number of years ago.  There is good evidence that dogs were co-operating with man 30,000 years ago.  However, one might speculate why the DNA of the dog separated from the grey wolf approximately 100,000 years ago.  Was it because they evolved even that far back as domesticated companions to man?  Science can’t tell us that yet.

But 30,000 years ago man was most definitely a hunter-gatherer.  Archaeologists have pondered whether the domesticated dog allowed man to be so successful as a hunter-gatherer that, in time, man was able to evolve into farming which, of course, we describe more accurately as the Neolithic Revolution.

Here’s an extract from WikiPedia,

The “Neolithic” Revolution is the first agricultural revolution—the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicate that various forms of domestication of plants and animals arose independently in six separate locales worldwide ca. 10,000–7000 years BP (8,000–5000 BC), with the earliest known evidence found throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of southwestern and southern Asia, northern and central Africa and Central America.

However, the Neolithic Revolution involved far more than the adoption of a limited set of food-producing techniques. During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human history, into sedentary societies based in built-up villages and towns, which radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation (e.g., irrigation and food storage technologies) that allowed extensive surplus food production.

These developments provided the basis for concentrated high population densities settlements, specialized and complex labor diversification, trading economies, the development of non-portable art, architecture, and culture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies and depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g., property regimes and writing).

There’s one sentence that just jumps off the ‘page’.  It’s this one. “During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human history

Here’s a quick bit of history about Homo Sapiens, from here,

Neanderthal man: from 230,000 years ago

Around 250,000 years ago Homo erectus disappears from the fossil record, to be followed in the Middle Palaeolithic period by humans with brains which again have increased in size. They are the first to be placed within the same genus as ourselves, as Homo sapiens(‘knowing man’).

By far the best known of them is Neanderthal man — named from the first fossil remains to be discovered, in 1856, in the Neander valley near Dusseldorf, in Germany. The scientific name of this subspecies is Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. The Neanderthals are widely spread through Europe and the Middle East, and they thrive for an extremely long period (from about 230,000 to 35,000 years ago). Bones of animals of all sizes, up to bison and mammoth, and sophisticated stone tools are found with their remains.

Thus as a species we, as in H. sapiens, survived for approximately 200,000 years as hunter-gatherers!

Now after just 12,000 years, give or take, as ‘farmers’ we are facing the real risk of extinction. Go back to that WikiPedia extract above and re-read “concentrated high population densities settlements, specialized and complex labor diversification, trading economies, the development of non-portable art, architecture, and culture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies and depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g., property regimes and writing)“.

If you want to fully comprehend the mess we, as in man, have got ourselves into, then watch the stunning movie What a Way To Go: life at the end of the empire.  That movie website is here or you can watch it from here.  (I will be reviewing the film on Learning from Dogs in the next couple of weeks.)

The filmmakers, Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson, towards the end of the film muse if mankind must go back to some form of hunter-gatherer society, not literally, of course, but ‘back’ to a form of society that is fundamentally sustainable with the world upon which we live.  As successful as Neanderthal man.  Here’s where dogs may have critically important lessons for mankind.

  • Dogs form small packs, up to a maximum of 50 animals
  • They have a simple hierarchy within the pack; the alpha female (who has first choice of breeding male and makes the very big decisions about whether the pack should move to a better territory), the beta male (always a dominant male that teaches the young pups their social skills and breaks up fights within the pack – my Pharaoh, as seen on the home page, is a beta GSD), and the omega dog (the clown dog, male or female. whose role is to keep the pack happy through play).
  • They survive through an extraordinary relationship with humans but if they have to revert to the ‘wild’ they survive as hunter-gatherers.

Maybe humans, at heart, also share certain similar characteristics:

  • We are happiest in social groups of less than 50
  • We much prefer simple methods of group order, where rules and discipline are managed within the group.  (Think about how easily we form all sorts of local clubs and groups.)
  • A ‘local’ approach to survival through deep and extensive group co-operation would be so much more effective than what most of us presently experience in our societies.

That’s why so many of the articles that appear on Learning from Dogs focus on the madness of what we experience so often in our present enormous, faceless, distant societies.

Back to Sally Erickson, one of the film makers mentioned earlier.  Here’s what she wrote in her Blog

Our world is in need of healing at every level. We as a species aren’t going to survive, the way we are going. If we don’t heal ourselves, evolve a new consciousness, and fundamentally change the way we live, human beings won’t make it.

Where’s it all heading?  Who knows?  I am reminded of that wonderful quote attributed to Niels Bohr but, more likely, from an unknown author (although Mark Twain is often suggested), “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

Happy Birthday, Learning from Dogs.  Thank you to all of you that have supported this venture over the last two years.

Anthropocene era gaining legs

We really may be on the verge of a new geological period.

Just a couple of weeks ago, on the 16th May, I wrote an article called The Anthropocene period.  It was based on both a BBC radio programme and a conference called “The Anthropocene: A New Epoch of Geological Time?”

So imagine my surprise when I collected this week’s copy of The Economist from my mail-box last Saturday.  The cover page boldly illustrated a lead article within, as this picture shows.

US edition, May 28th

The leader is headlined, ‘Humans have changed the way the world works.  Now they have to change the way they think about it, too.’  The first two paragraphs of that leader explain,

THE Earth is a big thing; if you divided it up evenly among its 7 billion inhabitants, they would get almost 1 trillion tonnes each. To think that the workings of so vast an entity could be lastingly changed by a species that has been scampering across its surface for less than 1% of 1% of its history seems, on the face of it, absurd. But it is not. Humans have become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale—but at a far-faster-than-geological speed.

A single engineering project, the Syncrude mine in the Athabasca tar sands, involves moving 30 billion tonnes of earth—twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers in the world in a year. That sediment flow itself, meanwhile, is shrinking; almost 50,000 large dams have over the past half- century cut the flow by nearly a fifth. That is one reason why the Earth’s deltas, home to hundreds of millions of people, are eroding away faster than they can be replenished.

There’s also a video on The Economist website of an interview with Dr. Erle Ellis, associate professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland.  That video link is here.

That Economist lead article concludes,

Recycling the planet

How frightened should people be about this? It would be odd not to be worried. The planet’s history contains many less stable and clement eras than the Holocene. Who is to say that human action might not tip the planet into new instability?

Some will want simply to put the clock back. But returning to the way things were is neither realistic nor morally tenable. A planet that could soon be supporting as many as 10 billion human beings has to work differently from the one that held 1 billion people, mostly peasants, 200 years ago. The challenge of the Anthropocene is to use human ingenuity to set things up so that the planet can accomplish its 21st-century task.

Increasing the planet’s resilience will probably involve a few dramatic changes and a lot of fiddling. An example of the former could be geoengineering. Today the copious carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere is left for nature to pick up, which it cannot do fast enough. Although the technologies are still nascent, the idea that humans might help remove carbon from the skies as well as put it there is a reasonable Anthropocene expectation; it wouldn’t stop climate change any time soon, but it might shorten its lease, and reduce the changes in ocean chemistry that excess carbon brings about.

More often the answer will be fiddling—finding ways to apply human muscle with the grain of nature, rather than against it, and help it in its inbuilt tendency to recycle things. Human interference in the nitrogen cycle has made far more nitrogen available to plants and animals; it has done much less to help the planet deal with all that nitrogen when they have finished with it. Instead we suffer ever more coastal “dead zones” overrun by nitrogen-fed algal blooms. Quite small things, such as smarter farming and better sewage treatment, could help a lot.

For humans to be intimately involved in many interconnected processes at a planetary scale carries huge risks. But it is possible to add to the planet’s resilience, often through simple and piecemeal actions, if they are well thought through. And one of the messages of the Anthropocene is that piecemeal actions can quickly add up to planetary change.

We are living in interesting times!

Finally, more of Dr. Ellis may be watched on the following YouTube video.

The Third Eye

A guest post from John Hurlburt.

Our living garden planet.

When we’re in love with God, the cosmos, our living garden planet and the steadily growing conscious interconnection between those who understand and serve, we live in awe and wonder and realize a peaceful natural serenity in the midst of our daily concerns and responsibilities.

As our world, our environment and our culture appear to be unraveling, it becomes increasingly necessary for human beings to slow down to re-energize. It’s clear that our species has recently lost spectacularly to natural forces in the Gulf of Mexico and Japan. It’s no coincidence that it’s our technology which continues to reveal the fundamental weakness of human ego. It’s more than a metaphor that our individual and species arrogance is our Achilles heel.

There are many people who fail to perceive, understand and appreciate parallel realities from a rational, sensory and unified perspective by learning to see through a mystical third eye. Mysticism may be misunderstood as simply thinking outside of the box. Forget about the box. Let go of self-centered fears. Become aware of being unaware. Nurture capabilities to perceive non-locally and act locally. What’s happening worldwide comes with the territory. We are each responsible for our collective destiny

Meditation reflects that imagination and creativity are necessary to invent and utilize tools. Creativity did not begin with humans and is not exclusive to humans. God’s nature precedes emerging technology. Morality derives from our common need for species unity.

The message is that God doesn’t care about money and the sky is no longer a human limit. The fact remains that except for occasional astronauts we all continue to live on the same planet. Those who understand need no explanation.

There is a need for productive use of intelligence and technology at our natural frontiers. We need to refuel world economies with clean energy visions that provide solutions for our present local planetary emergency.

We may choose to implement the changes necessary to avoid impending local ecosphere, cultural and technological meltdowns while preparing for a migration to the stars.

Unification is a common goal. Leaving the nest of our garden planet is a partial unifying solution for the problems of our exponentially expanding species. An alternative is that our obsession with the symbol of money will have the same dire consequences for those who are obsessed as for those whom are oppressed.

Please love God, maintain an even strain, follow your bliss, continue to learn, share and serve our common purpose under God, proceed as the way opens, cross the next bridge as we come to it, enjoy the journey and stay in touch.


From an old lamplighter!