Conditioned Reflexes

Although there are numerous physical conditioned reflexes, such as in sports, there are also conditioned reflexes in our perception, the way we think, or our philosophy/beliefs.  Sometimes they stop us from seeing the World/Universe as it actually presents itself.  Many of these conditioned reflexes were postulated from the philosophy, assumptions and scientific thinking/evidence of times long ago.  As scientific knowledge grew and new evidence mounted, our perceptions evolved.  Despite this growing body of evidence that invalidates many of these initial philosophies/perceptions of earlier times, we continue to see and speak of them to this day.  Many of these conditioned reflexes are harmless but are none the less incorrect.

Flat Earth philosophy

The 400-200 BC Greeks were slowly discovering a spherical earth but much of the writings on the subject, as well as many others, were destroyed over a few hundred years from the 3 different burning of the great library of Alexandra by the Roman-Pope Emperor. It has been argued that the destruction was in part to gain and secure a great advantage for the over-land caravanning monopoly in the Asia trade game, later over saw and commanded from Constantinople, and to black out the over-sea caravanning knowledge.  Either way the belief that the earth was flat and that probing sea goers would eventually fall off the edge of the world has given us conditioned reflexes that we carry with us to this day.

Flat Earth philosophy comes up with plane Geometry first before spherical Geometry. Plane geometry has us believing that there are infinite planes (wide wide world of sports or the four corners of the globe).  Plane Geometry might be viewed as a special case approximation of spherical Geometry in that the earth may appear as if were an infinite plane because we are so small compared to the size of the sphere (in error of negligible magnitude) …. but there are no infinite planes. 

Flat Earth philosophy is in part the basis of the Cartesian coordinate system we use to this day. Two 90 degree separated axis’s to form the infinite plane and a third 90 degree axis representing the up and down.  It seems that the Universe/Nature uses a spherical coordinate system with many examples of 60 degreeness (vice 90). 

Flat Earth philosophy has the concept of up and down, but we’ve know for hundreds of years that the Earth is spherical.  There is no up or down only in, out, and around.  Pilots always come in for a landing not down for a landing.  In a flat world our observation of volcanoes and the sky tells us that down leads to the fiery domain of the devil and up led to the heavenly domain of God.  If you travel to India do you feel upside down?

Flat Earth philosophy has the earth at the center of the solar system which brought about the concept of sunrise and sunset.  Although a recent poll reveled that one quarter of our fellow Americans believe the earth is the center of the solar system and that the sun revolves around the earth, we know this not to be true, yet we still see the sun rise and set instead of a sun sight and sun eclipse. 

Newtonian philosophy

In the later 1600 Newton developed the science of Classical Mechanics (motions of objects) along with a new mathematical language called Calculus to describe his new science.  Calculus has 2 general process called differentiation and integration.  In differentiation you’re separating varying things apart (deriving your changing position from your speed) and in integration you’re combining varying things together (combine your changing position to get your speed).  This new way of mathematical seeing required the description of motion to be smooth, continuous, and linear which enabled the predictability of all physical aspects of objects in motion (position, speed, acceleration, time, trajectory, etc).  Very powerful as it was, and still is, the Newtonian Philosophy of if we can just have enough present data we can accurately predict the future has brought about the conditioned reflex of determinism.

Newtonian Philosophy had us look below the superficial messiness of nature to find simple forms and linear relationships.  We’ve known for hundred of years that clouds are not circles and mountains are not cones and that history is not linear.

Newtonian Philosophy gave us such great calculating and predictive capabilities in mechanics that it was extrapolated into social, economic, and governance systems. Here we see the origins of central planning, the bureaucrat, and now the newest flavor of schemer, the technocrat. Humans systems are not inert mechanical systems, they are complex and not strictly linear.  We’ve known for hundreds of year that bureaucrats don’t know what’s best for us yet we let them tinker at will.

Newtonian Philosophy tells the technocrat that if they can just get enough present data of everything Humans are doing and thinking through the use of the surveillance state and all the data collection instruments associated with it, they can accurately predict behavior and plan for the future.  Humans and Human systems are comprised of independent entities whose association and disassociation properties are seen only in the interaction between others or other systems.  These interaction based properties disappear when the people or system are studied independently.  You can observe this when two people come together who have bad chemistry.  It will do them no good to study us; non-linear systems are not smooth and continuous and can take sudden leaps (unpredictability).

It’s either you or me but not enough for both philosophy

In the early 1800s Thomas Malthus, later a professor of political economics at the East India Company College, extrapolated from world data that the planets population was growing at an geometrical rate and that food production/life support was growing at a arithmetical rate where by a majority of people will have to live short lives in want and misery.  There were an estimated one billion people on the planet then.  This produced a very powerful philosophy of it’s either you or me but not enough for both and has pitted individuals, groups, societies, and nations in competition with each other.  It would seem that wealth is scarce and that we must make claim to it before others do, i.e. divide up the world’s wealth both physically and metaphysically (know how).

It’s either you or me but not enough for both philosophy has prompted many a family member at some point in our upbringing to tell us that life is tough and unfair and that you have to go out and make a living, to get yours before someone else aces you out.  It’s a net sum zero game. But the sum total of human experiences through out written history and from our own experiences reveals an accelerating trend of doing ever more with ever less.  Total wealth consists of the physical and metaphysical (mind, know-how). Physical wealth is large but finite and metaphysical wealth is continuously growing and, as yet, infinite.  We’ve known for decades that total wealth is increasing, there is enough for both you and me.

It’s either you or me but not enough for both philosophy has influence the structure and stratagems of the Nation States to get theirs.  This recent historical phenomena can be seen in the drive to colonize and the drawing of new border lines for all the new Nation States on a world map.  All those Nation States and their associated border lines weren’t there a few hundred years ago.

It’s interesting to note that although there is still want and misery today there are over 7 billion people on the planet and arguably most have a better quality of life than the Kings of just a few hundred years ago.

Survival of the fittest philosophy

In 1859 Charles Darwin published the book, On the Origin of Species.  An aspect of his observation was taken and narrowly applied to formulate a very powerful philosophy of our relation to our fellow man when it comes to resource scarcity, that of the Survival of the fittest.  Since it’s either you or me but not enough for both, it seemed perfectly clear that the winner of such a competition (by hook or crook) was the one that was the fittest to survive.  The robber barons and monopoly men of the late 1800s and 1900s seem to have made this their manifesto.

We have known for over a hundred years that the hyper-specialization of species comes at the expense of general adaptive capabilities/traits and when there is a high energy environmental event these hyper-specialized species tend toward extinction.  It’s been clear for over a hundred years that the species with the most adaptable traits or those with the must useful variances are the survivors.

Although our physiology is not hyper-specialized, we don’t have binocular eyes or beak like mouths, we have hyper-specialized our trades, crafts, education, environment, culture, etc. Especially those careers that are essentially middle men in a manmade contrived, non-wealth producing rule/regulation game are at the most risk of extinction in a future high energy event.  When the world shifts it won’t be the survival of the fittest but of the most adaptable, those with the most useful variances in wealth, knowledge, and support structures. 

Hyper-specialization is a means of dividing and conquering the more intellectually gifted. Power structures find these folks annoying and, if unchecked, quiet the trouble makers.  Back when, the King would either cut off the head of trouble maker or exploit their talents.  They would be appointed to court and be given a prestigious purple robe to wear, which made it easier for the King to keep an eye on them. Today, we give them a title, a budget, a laboratory, and some authority and you have the potential trouble maker compartmentalized.  The compartmentalized specialists tend to never see the big picture.  They are conditioned to see their specialty as an ends in itself (differentiate) rather a means to an end (integration).  Heaven forbid that all the specialists come together and integrate all the pieces of their differentiated sub-specialties, across all disciplines, to discover the synergic truth. The King can’t have that type of mischief going on in his realm.

From here you can explore and discover many more conditioned reflexes that you, your friends, family, or society holds dear in politics, economics, relationships, cultures, etc.  Consciously unlearning conditioned reflexes is no easy task but gets less difficult with some stick-too-it-ness, carefully choosing the words you use, and questioning the philosophy behind your perception and practices. Change is not how the Universe works but how our perceptions of its working evolve, hopefully in the direction of increasing truth.

1 comment to Conditioned Reflexes

  • Sterling Cornaby

    This is a very good article; it really hits the essence of how we are trained in our minds. We are very much living a Newtonian mindset these days. If we just have a few more inputs from the past, we can predict the future, the economy, climate change, etc. Newtonian ideas are very powerful ideas, but they are the result of very large averages.

    We now know at the root is nature is inherently unpredictable in single events; nature can and does completely random unpredictable events way off the statistical mean in quantum mechanics. Please remember, statics lives on averages, but statistics does not rule out rare events — there are people that win lotteries, get hit by lighting, etc. — One key example is the weather, which Newtonian thought tries so hard to tame in its predictive grasp eludes us. You take temperature, wind speed, etc map of the entire atmosphere of the earth in a one meter grid, and “newtonianize” it, you will lose all predictive powers from this initial state in a few weeks (sometimes called the “butterfly effect)— note, this is just out of my head so you would have to look it up to verify it!

    And I write this response from my perception, in my “safe” differentiated lab…

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