DR.DAVID CHRISTIAN, SCIENTIFIC MODESTY & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Can we bring the study of evolution to schools? Can children be taught that we are one big evolutionary entity? Can we instill the spirit of enquiry and keep young minds away from mischief?
A meeting in the midst of books was in order as I had the privilege to get some of Dr.David Christians’ time and views.
In this blog, I’ve been on ajourney, exploring how human beings got the gift of language. Consciousness has played a major role in human beings acquiring the gift of language. But by and large, we do not understand consciousness, yet.
Somewhere, since the beginning of time, 13.7 billion years ago, to the cognitive revolution roughly 70000 years ago, we got both consciousness and language- we don’t know the order.This is nothing short of a miracle- and our ability to communicate with each other has saved our species- and may save humanity itself in future.
The clue to ending the violence and unrest in the world, may just lie in a greater appreciation of where we have come from. Young minds in schools all over the world, can be instilled with the spirit of enquiry. A mind once opened by possibilities, is more likely to see all of humanity as one great evolutionary entity. There is nothing so dangerous as uninspired young minds- they set out to mischief & violence.
Dr. David Christian shared that most of our understanding of the world today is owed to scientific modesty- our scientists admit what they do not know- and keep looking for answers. Reproducing here a part of our discussions.
Would there be big history if there was no consciousness?
Neuroscientists around the world have been looking at consciousness, and have been advancing evidence-based theories about it- there’s a lot of good work being done. Consciousness is one of the three big questions we are grappling with today.
Consciousness is a complex arrangement within the brain- and it’s only fair that from time to time, we talk about collective consciousness, as opposed to individual consciousness.
Is consciousness fundamental?
Referencing the now famous discussion between Nagasena and Milinda, a lot of our answers may lie in the theory of emergence. The property of a system is said to be emergent if it is in some sense more than the “sum” of the properties of the systems’ parts. An emergent property is said to be dependent on some more basic properties (and their relationships and configuration), so that it can have no separate existence.
The Homo sapiens drove the most resilient species to extinction, the Homo erectus. What role did our consciousness play in that?
We certainly know that language played a role. But unless we have hardcore scientific evidence, any discussion on consciousness would only make for interesting theory. What science needs is evidence- not theory. For eg; there is scientific evidence that energy congeals to form matter- the very basis of big history; but none yet to show that energy could congeal to form consciousness.
Would you rather the earth was hit by another asteroid and wiped out Homo sapiens? Or will it be violence?
65 mn years ago, that’s how the dinosaurs bid adieu; thanks to an asteroid. Our history, at least over the last 200 years has seen a lot of violence. It is encouraging that; there is evidence that violence is declining around the world. However, to keep violence at bay, we need to inspire our young minds with the spirit of inquiry- there is nothing so dangerous as unemployed youth.
Finally, Dr Christian had a question for me- if you never talked to one other human being in your whole life, would you be the same person?
No. Even though our experience of the world is uniquely ours, it is influenced by the collective; because consciousness is a social phenomenon and there is such a thing as a shared experiences and collective consciousness. In any group situation, revolutions around the world and
Two recent interviews of Dr. David Christian attached.
May 22, The Edge.org: “We Need a Modern Origin Story: A Big History”, electronic publication & video interview, The Edge.Org, http://edge.org/conversation/david_christian-we-need-a-modern-origin-story-a-big-history
May 23, the Australian Financial Review: “Lunch with the AFR: David Christian, Bill Gates and their Big Adventure”, http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/food-and-wine/lunch-with-the-afr-david-christian-bill-gates-and-their-big-history-adventure-20150522-13c9da.
About Dr.David Christian.
Dr. Christian is credited with coining the term Big History and he serves as president of the International Big History Association. His course entitled Big History caught the attention of philanthropist Bill Gates who is personally funding Christian’s efforts to develop a program to bring the course to high school students worldwide.