WIZ 1500 Review: Paradox Lost (on us)?

You don’t need X-ray glasses to see through to this credo’s backbone: valuation of life—one’s own and others’—rooted in an ethic of hierarchy.

Book: How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human
Author: Melanie Challenger
Penguin Books
New York, 2021

Reviewer: Patricia K.

Sporadically across history, more consistently for the last century, conscientious people have worked at dismantling human supremacy narratives other folks have shored up for millennia. At the hearts of such stories: belief that by virtue of dominance of other species, we human beings are the highest expression of intelligent life. Our superior qualities make us unlike anything else living. This supremacy entitles us to using whatever species we wish (including our own) to our benefit, in whatever way seems good.

You don’t need X-ray glasses to see through to this credo’s backbone: valuation of life—one’s own and others’—rooted in an ethic of hierarchy.  

Continue reading “WIZ 1500 Review: Paradox Lost (on us)?”

WIZ 1500 Review: Molecular Storms, Octopuses’ Gardens, and the Meeting of Mind

 

by Patricia Karamesines

Metazoa
Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind

by Peter Godfrey-Smith



Science has a problem: nobody understands it. Science was bewailing this problem back in the 80s when I worked at an archaeological dig. “How do we get people to care about what we do?” the archaeologists wondered. “Everything we need to say is important to humanity…but so technical.”

Poor science! Only attractive to other scientists.

Enter Peter Godfrey-Smith, scuba diver, professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney, and author of several books exploring evolution and origins of the mind. His latest, Metazoa, tackles dense questions indeed: are animals sentient (he distinguishes between “sentient” and “conscious”)? If so, are all animals sentient, or only some? If they are sentient, is their sentience of a sort we can understand? If so, what can we learn from their sentience about the origins and nature of human consciousness?

Continue reading “WIZ 1500 Review: Molecular Storms, Octopuses’ Gardens, and the Meeting of Mind”

Environment Almighty

At the bottom of these sustained bad acts that may imperil us all, or at least those who are “Not-Us”, lie age-old beliefs that Earth exists as a source of wealth and power for the worthy, that it’s a “thing” for our use. But underpinning those beliefs? An even older traditional story line traceable to early creatures’ adaptive behavior, aroused in response to the need to secure the evolutionary advantage. And nowadays, that old struggle almost always takes form in the language of instrumentality; that is, in language—including body language—applied strictly as a catch-and-hold tool.

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Adam designates the animals: an prime example of instrumental language’s usefulness. (Artwork’s real name: “Adam Naming the Animals,” by Theophanes of Crete.) Also, as an aside, Wow, why do we settle for a lion chilling with a lamb as a symbol of peace? That dragon lying down sheltering the hare beneath its wing would be pretty interesting.  The camel, though … I sense artist bias. Public domain image.

A Motley Vision readers from way back may recognize some content in this post. The older version appeared as a 2-part piece in 2010, then titled, “So You Say You Want a Creavolution? Well, You Know…”. I’ve since added an introduction and more material about language and the possible tensions that may be at work when competing narratives go to war. This version is also the outcome of a Facebook discussion where I crowd sourced a thinking problem I ran up against in writing an introduction for a chapter of my WIP, Showdown at Crossfire Canyon: At the Interface Between Language and Landscape. The online discussion resulted in a breakthrough that enabled my reworking the chapter’s introduction and fine-tuning the post.

 

Here it is; have at it.
Continue reading “Environment Almighty”

Excerpt from Showdown at Crossfire Canyon: Getting Digs In, Part 3

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Vandalism at a petroglyph site.

Yes. Yes! In San Juan County, during my field school years in the mid-80s, I saw shocking pot hunting damage firsthand, sites hit very badly. I’m haunted by memories of human skulls and other remains churned up and tossed aside—men, women, children, including a child’s mummified foot—remains meaningful to diggers only as signs that grave good such as pots, jewelry, or other marketable artifacts might lie nearby. The exposed human remains don’t trouble me so much for their grim “to this we must all come” reminders, though there’s always something show-stopping about coming upon human bones. Nor do they impress me for the disturbing evidence they offer of the pot hunters’ disregard for law. To me, what’s telling is the pot hunters’ complete reduction of a culture and its members to “the good stuff”, the shrinking of life and its cultural contexts to mere “things” having market value. Continue reading “Excerpt from Showdown at Crossfire Canyon: Getting Digs In, Part 3”