A Theory of the Human Mind and its Disorders: Against Spiritualism, Genetic Determinism and Racism
Henry H. Lindner, MD
All the evidence indicates that we humans are animals and that our minds are a natural function of our brains. Now that we have some experience with artificial intelligence (AI), we can begin to understand the mind. Like any computing machine, the mind has hardware (brain), firmware (instincts and experiential programming), and software (linguistic programming). All higher animals have a “consciousness” similar to our own that is just a biologically produced form of virtual reality. Language is the tool that differentiates human consciousness from that of other intelligent mammals, allowing us to create a much richer, more powerful virtual reality. This AI analogy helps us to understand the various types of mental disorders. The author argues that modern psychiatry and racism make the identical mistake of reducing human behavior to our hardware, inappropriately ignoring the role of firmware and software.
The nervous system of higher animals functions as a primary representational system. The input of their senses is processed to create an experience of the world very similar to our own. This world of conscious experience is a virtual reality—an indirect and selective “picture” of the world. The most closely related species have feelings and emotions much like ours, with similar instinctual desires and aversions.
As a result of our inventions of computer and software, we now have some understanding of what it takes to create computer-generated virtual reality. The most sophisticated virtual reality systems simply substitute computer-generated sensations and feedback for natural sensations. 3D goggles provide the visual input. The subject’s body is wired so that his movements are fed into the computer. The computer reacts to the subject’s motions and changes the visual environment accordingly. Feedback devices provide sensations of movement. The effect is to give the person the experience of being in an environment that seems real but is actually artificial. All animals’ mental experience of Cosmic reality is similar to this. We know very well that we do not experience reality “as it is”. Our minds reconstruct “reality” on the basis of the inputs our brain receives from the senses. The Cosmos, the external world, exists and interacts with our senses—but what we see, feel, and experience of this physical Cosmos is a facsimile, a virtual reality—the product of the interaction of our central nervous system with the rest of the Cosmos. Our “mind’s eye” experience is an analogic representation of Cosmic reality honed by millennia of evolution to be sufficiently accurate and complete so as to allow us to survive and thrive.
We human beings differ from other animals not only in intelligence and dexterity, but by the fact that we also have a secondary representational system—language. Our acquisition of language some time around 50,000 years ago provided our minds with a new tool that greatly increased our information-processing ability. With language, we use words to represent things, actions, intentions, and more complex ideas. It’s no coincidence that language and tool-making appeared at the same time, for words helped humans to organize their actions in a way that other primates cannot. A human who never learns language experiences life in essentially the same way as a chimpanzee, only with greater intelligence, discrimination, and adaptability. This fact was illustrated historically by the life of Helen Keller—dramatized in The Miracle Worker. Helen was essentially a very intelligent primate until she grasped the trick of language.
Think about the power of language. It was brought home to me when I began to study vertebrate anatomy in college. We opened up the belly of a preserved cat, and saw this menagerie of colors and shapes—the abdominal organs. Without language, my knowledge of these organs simply could not advance beyond a very simple acquaintance. The only way to start to “know” this anatomy was to assign names to these different objects. Once they had names, I could remember them, catalog them, think about the different connections and functions of the named organs. I could begin to “know” the abdominal organs. This is why humans needed language to make the first tools. Without names we couldn’t keep an object in mind, plan to make it, and persist in the task through its many stages. Without language, human tool making could not have advanced much over what chimpanzees are capable of today. With language came the explosion of human culture—eventually leading to our attempts to explain the origins of the Cosmos and ourselves. This endeavor evolved from primitive myths into today’s religions. We can do better.
There are several good books that develop similar theories as to just how language evolved and how it changed human life.[i] Consciousness does not require the spirit hypothesis. We are apes that learned to talk. We are not an “immortal soul” added to a human body. This old mystical theory of Mind stands in the way of understanding ourselves and improving our lives and the lives of our children.
With our invention of and experience with computers, we now have a useful model for the functioning of our minds. Our brain functions as our information-processing hardware. Its neurons are grouped into specialty areas that handle different input, output, and information-processing tasks. The brain and nerves are analogous to a computer’s disc drives, motherboard, central processor, peripherals, input/output devices, cables, etc. Of course, the brains of higher animals and humans differ substantially from man-made computers in certain ways. The brain has evolved naturally over many millennia, and has added new layers and functions on top of old ones. Unlike computers, we are animals with a rich endowment of instincts—evolved to survive and thrive in this world. The deepest layers of our brains are reptilian—containing our most primitive reactions and emotions. On top of this reptilian complex are the more highly sophisticated layers (paleocortex and neocortex) that give us our much greater information-processing abilities and adaptability. Situated in the left neocortex are the most distinctly human neuronal complexes—the speech centers. Given this multi-layered mind, we humans face a unique challenge—we must integrate the functioning of the various layers of our mind. Our linguistic formulae—our theories and ideas—must correspond to the facts of our internal and external realities. If they do not, our mind is literally short-circuited and its adaptability and functionality disrupted. Should we be surprised that the ancient, ignorant, and false religious and political doctrines that we cherish are disrupting our minds and leading us to destruction?
Back to hardware: Disease or trauma involving various regions of the brain produce known neurological syndromes—these are the specialty of the neurologist. There is perhaps no more fascinating and intellectually challenging medical specialty than neurology. When confronted with a person’s complaint or signs of disease, the neurologist must always ask: “Where is the lesion?” Damage or dysfunction in specific areas of the brain produce known constellations of signs and symptoms. For instance, there are two regions in the left hemisphere of the brain that control language. A lesion in one area causes a Wernicke’s aphasia (receptive aphasia), which destroys the person’s ability to either understand or produce speech. He can make speech-like sounds, but all that comes out is gibberish. The victim of this disorder is very frustrated by this loss of language, he loses even the ability to think with language. A lesion in the other area produces a Broca’s aphasia (productive aphasia): the person can comprehend language but cannot speak. Now with the quintessentially human faculty of language so dependent on the function of specific small areas of the brain, what is left of the theory that the mind is an eternal spirit inhabiting the human body? If the spirit can’t think in words or produce words all by itself, then what can it do? Where is this spirit “located” within the brain? In the pineal gland? (Descartes’ theory) If the mind is an eternal spirit, why does mental functioning depend so completely on an intact brain? As a young psychiatry resident, I spent four months on the neurology service of a Veteran’s Administration hospital. As I observed the various effects on the human mind of trauma, strokes, infections, diseases, epilepsy, and vitamin deficiencies I soon lost my religious belief in the spiritual theory of the human mind. I realized that the mind is wholly a function of, and dependent upon the brain. As parts and functions of the brain go, so goes the mind. When the brain dies, so does the mind. Most people, unfortunately, do not have the benefit of such experience. They continue to indulge in the delusion (with which they've been indoctrinated) that their own minds, and the minds of their loved ones, are eternal entities that only temporarily inhabit bodies here on Earth, and will later exist for eternity in the spirit world. This belief is not beneficial, nor is it benign; it contaminates our understanding of the Cosmos and ourselves and causes us to believe in and to do many harmful things. It leads to a false psychology, as we expect infants to have some knowledge of "right and wrong" because they are eternal spirits. So we discipline them for being "wrong". To draw out all the false implications of spiritualism will take another essay.
A computer is not just hardware. In order for its hardware components to work at all, they must have built-in programming. They must have chips that govern their internal functions and that allow them to communicate with each other. This kind of basic programming these chips and components require is called firmware. Let us identify two kinds: permanent and programmable. Our permanent firmware is our genetically determined instincts—programming that is built right into our hardware, without which we couldn’t function and which cannot be changed. In less complex animals, most behavior is instinctual firmware—genetically programmed. In a computer, one form of permanent firmware is the ROM or read-only memory. Another form is programmable, like the computer’s BIOS (basic input/output system). The BIOS can be adjusted and even updated (flashed) to allow the computer to handle knew types of hardware or software. Our human programmable firmware is the result of early life experience during the maturation of the brain—up to about age 14 years. During this period of maturation, the brain is actively deleting and forming inter-neuronal connections in response to experience. The child is permanently programmed by its interactions with its parents primarily, and with other humans and its environment secondarily. Much of this programming occurs in the infant’s pre-verbal period—which makes it much less amenable to later modification by language-based methods. The younger the child, the more powerful and lasting are the effects of experience—for the less mature brain is more easily programmed and less capable of understanding or reasoning about experience. It must simply incorporate experience by more-or-less permanent firmware programming. For instance, we know that emotional trauma of certain types at certain ages can produce psychoses, depression, and paranoia. Contrary to the popular spiritualist delusion, infants are extremely sensitive and programmable, and parents must be highly solicitous of their wants and needs. (It’s called “love”.) Unfortunately, most parents today, believing their infant’s mind to be an eternal spirit, are ignorant of their child’s mental nature and needs, and so they treat him in a way so as to program him with the same pathological firmware that they carry. Example: Humans infants are programmed to feel intense fear and to cry if they are separated from their mother. Yet Western mothers have been taught to “toughen” their infants by placing them alone in separate rooms and letting them cry until they stop. The infant is thus forced to repress his fear and anguish. This traumatic memory and its feelings are isolated from the rest of the mind—producing a lifelong disruption of his mental functioning. If the mother screams at, hits, or abandons an infant, then he again must resort to repression and he is programmed with, among other things, the idea that he unlovable or bad and that other people cannot be trusted. This firmware will remain with him for the rest of his life, only slightly amenable to change by later, more positive interpersonal experiences, and hardly amenable at all to linguistic cognition (software programming).
Let me add here that we have evidence that emotional and physical trauma also damage or distort the brain’s hardware.[ii] Researcher have found that childhood trauma correlates with atrophy of the left hippocampus, the amygdala, cerebellar vermis, and the corpus callosum that connects the two cerebral hemispheres. Abnormalities in the cerebellar vermis have recently been reported to be associated with various psychiatric disorders, including manic-depressive illness, schizophrenia, autism, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Epileptic disorders, particularly temporal lobe epilepsy, are also correlated with trauma. The researchers speculate that these hardware changes are adaptive. For instance, if the child enters a world where they are neglected and harmed, their brain changes in order to cope with this world. The victims become paranoid and aggressive. Conversely, adequate nurturing and the absence of early life stress appears to permit our brains “to develop in a manner that is less aggressive and more emotionally stable, social, empathic, and hemispherically integrated…this process enhances the ability of social animals to build more complex interpersonal structures and enables humans to better realize their creative potential.[ii]
So we cannot draw a clear line between firmware and hardware. I will use the term firmware to designate both inasmuch as they are changes in the hardware and programming brought on by experience. The firmware disorders vary from the severe to the mild: from psychoses, to the personality disorders, to the neuroses. Psychosis is a flagrantly delusional state, where the person holds false beliefs about obvious facts. It results from severe childhood emotional trauma and resultant adaptations. Powerful negative emotions, when repressed, prevent the person from living a normal life in relationships to himself or other persons. In order to explain his emotions and experiences, he creates false theories. He may believe that he’s Jesus Christ, or that aliens are speaking to him via a transmitter in his brain, etc. If his psychosis is less severe, he may believe that Jesus Christ is living inside of him—a more socially-accepted delusion. In addition, he may hear his own thoughts as voices—a mechanism that appears to be a regression to a primitive mental experience of language.[iii]
In personality disorders the basic orientation to the natural world is remains intact, but the person has false and self-defeating delusions about his own and other persons’ personality and behavior. He may think he’s unlovable, and therefore will not believe anyone who claims to love him. Having been mistreated at an early age, he may believe that all other persons are filled with bad intentions towards him (paranoia). He may not be able to understand other people at all, and can only class them as “bad” or “good” (splitting). He may be chronically despondent and depressed. He may be chronically anxious and lack confidence in himself. The hallmark of personality disorders is that they are such severe disturbances of firmware programming that the person cannot even observe that they have a problem. They believe that they’re OK, but that their partners, other people, and society in general are screwed-up. Psychologists know, by long experience, that they can do little to help persons with psychosis and personality disorders.
Neurosis is our term for the least serious firmware pathologies. In neurosis, the person is aware that their actions or beliefs are inappropriate and self-defeating. They may hate the fact that they are so afraid of crowds or open places. They may hate the fact that they constantly think about or repeat certain actions—they know it’s crazy. People with neurotic disorders, unlike psychotics and personality disorders, realize that they have a problem and will often seek psychological counseling. Lest the reader make the mistake of thinking that he has no firmware disorders, I must state my opinion that 99.999 percent of people, including myself, have mild firmware disorders, and 90% have moderate to severe firmware disorders. These are all caused by the pathology of our childrearing and schooling practices. These disorders can be improved with therapy, positive relationships, and better software (ideas and beliefs) but can never be “cured”. The key is prevention through proper childrearing practices , a healthy social environment , and a realistic, working philosophical system (good software). Keep in mind also that all mental “diagnoses” are just approximate descriptions that are useful for certain purposes. Every individual’s mind is a unique interaction of different hardware, firmware, and software.
Any parent who has had two or more children knows the differences exist between people that are purely genetic in nature: as a result of genetically-determined hardware and firmware. From birth, one observes infants to vary greatly in sensitivity, activity levels, tendency to complain by crying, need for visual or physical stimulation, motivation to learn new skills, etc. etc. (Some of these characteristics are also programmed firmware due to the intrauterine environment and birth experience.) These differences certainly influence how other people interact with the child, and they influence how that child will respond to trauma, neglect, or abuse. Genetics certainly has a big role in one’s personality—but its role is a specific one, it must be understood for what it is, not generalized to explain all thought and behavior. Genes produce types of personalities, people who will have very different abilities, faculties, and tendencies. Contrary to the psychiatrists’ and racists’ assertions, there is no evidence whatsoever that genes “cause” psychological health or pathology, or good or evil behavior. There is no evidence that any psychological or behavioral disorder is sufficiently caused by any genetic endowment. By “sufficiently” I mean that the genes produce the disorder regardless of the quality of mothering or level of emotional trauma. Indeed, in practice we call firmware and software disorders “psychological” or “psychiatric” precisely because no brain disease has ever been found in such cases. The psychiatric literature makes much ado about tiny differences in certain neurotransmitters or in variations in activity in certain parts of the brain in people with certain mental disorders, but such differences are more easily explained as the result of the pathological firmware and disordered mentation than as the cause of same. Genetic disorders of brain hardware and firmware are the province of the neurologist, not the psychiatrist. The payoff for reducing all mental pathology to brain disease is clear: our society wants to blame all mental suffering, disordered thinking, and aberrant behavior on our brain and our genes in order to it ignore, evade, or suppress the psychosocial pathology of our culture! As long as we’re talking about “brain diseases”, we don’t have to talk about the pathologies of our childrearing practices, our schooling of children, our racism, or our over-controlled society! We can continue to indulge in the delusion that our beliefs and our society are just fine! Everyone would be happy and productive if only we didn’t have these pesky brain diseases! (Attention-deficit disorder--doesn't sit still and do what we say; Defiant disorder--refuses to obey; depression--refuses to perform, etc.)
I know you’ve heard all about how schizophrenia is a clear case of brain disease. Well, let’s take a look at the evidence. About 1% of people in our society receive this diagnosis—although you have to realize that all “mental disorders” exist on a continuum from “normal” to “very sick”. Many people have some features of schizophrenia, but never get diagnosed. There’s no magic cut-off between non-diseased and diseased for any of the so-called psychiatric illnesses. Now the psychiatrists are telling everyone that schizophrenia is a clear case of a genetically-induced brain disease. Parents of patients, and society as a whole, are made to believe that it has nothing to do with the child’s experiences or the parenting he received—therefore there is no need for society to concern itself over how children are treated in general—right? The primary treatment offered for this “chemical imbalance” is drugs. The fact that drugs alleviate certain symptoms is taken as proof that a “biochemical imbalance” was the cause of the disorder, when in fact no such conclusion is warranted. The fact that aspirin relieves pain doesn’t mean that the person has a genetic deficiency of some aspirin-like chemical, does it? Neither do small differences in brain biochemistry or function prove genetic causation. So what proof do the psychiatrists offer that genetics causes schizophrenia? Well, proving genetic causation is very difficult as one has to design a study that controls for both for genes and environment! If one is raised by a schizophrenic parent, one receives not only their genes, but their firmware programming as well—they treat or mistreat their children the same way that they were treated as children—they may be neglectful if not abusive parents. One has to somehow control this environmental aspect. Obviously, no researcher can observer an infant’s life every minute of every day from birth through adulthood. The only way to see whether the same genetic programming produces the same mental disorder regardless of early life programming is to study identical twins separated at birth and raised by different parents (randomly selected). These studies are fraught with difficulty and possible bias—as the psychiatric profession does not understand the importance of proper parenting and is hell-bent to prove that our genes cause all mental disorders. (They can then sell themselves as real medical doctors treating real brain diseases!) In addition, the early life experience of any infant separated from his biological mother and raised by others is bound to be traumatic—so separated twins are bound to have higher rates of all mental disorders than infants raised by their biological mothers. If the disease rate is higher, this will produce a falsely elevated concordance rate. However, even if we trust the psychiatrists’ own conclusions from their studies, we see that, at most, they can produce only a 50% concordance rate among identical twins! Even when both parents are schizophrenics, their children have only a 30% incidence of the disorder. This means, quite simply, that genes have some role in this disorder but they do not cause schizophrenia! This finding attests to the very crucial role of early life firmware and software programming. At most, what the literature[iv] tells us is that monozygotic twins—people born with genetically identical brains, have a kind of personality that can result in schizophrenic symptoms and signs in certain circumstances. It is reasonable to postulate that they have a special sensitivity to emotional trauma. Yet, our National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) calls schizophrenia a “brain disease”! I quote Dr. Hyman, “This disease, once thought to be psychological, is clearly a brain disease…In some ways, schizophrenia is like other diseases. People who develop diabetes or heart disease have a genetic vulnerability, and then external circumstances convert this vulnerability into disease. Rather than being unusual and mysterious entities, mental illnesses are real diseases of an organ—in this case, the brain.” [v] This is a false analogy, since diabetes is a simple cellular-biochemical disorder, not related to the complex human brain or to emotional experience. Furthermore, we needn’t be the least surprised that schizophrenics, depressed people, and highly anxious people have (very) subtle differences from “normals” in activity levels in certain areas or the brain, or in levels of certain neurotransmitters. These differences are explicable as the results of severe experientially-induced brain dysfunction, and also may reflect differences in underlying hardware in the brains of people who are prone to particular these type of dysfunctions only if traumatized. We must maintain the distinction between programmed mental disorders and primary “brain diseases”. he brain-firmware-software model presented here is obviously superior to Dr. Hyman’s reductionist model. He is like a computer engineer, who, seeing that Windows isn’t working well, declares that the motherboard is defective—and indeed, because if the Windows software is defective, he will find abnormal patterns of activity in the CPU and motherboard to “confirm” his diagnosis!
So the evidence tells us, unmistakably, that genes determine only a certain type of personality that can exhibit signs of schizophrenia under certain environmental conditions. This is hardly surprising since we know that genes do produce people with very different personality characteristics. But is this “schizophrenogenic” genetic endowment actually pathological? Or is it perhaps supernormal in some ways, perhaps a greater general sensitivity? In fact, it is prejudicial and unwarranted for researchers to conclude, as they uniformly do, that this type of “predisposing personality” is “pathological”! One can say that the schizophrenia-prone person has a very high sensitivity to emotional trauma and the tendency to react to this trauma in certain ways that we label “schizophrenia”. This “schizophrenogenic” person’s traits may be highly adaptive if the child does not suffer emotional trauma (like the trauma of being abandoned by his mother to an empty room or to day care). Inasmuch our culture’s childrearing practices are uniformly bad, then one will see higher rates of schizophrenia, and higher concordances among monozygotic twins. Other persons with other genetic endowments will react to identical early childhood parenting environments in very different ways, including anxiety, depression, acting out, tuning out, etc. Additional evidence that schizophrenia is a firmware and not a hardware disorder is that it flares up in the teen years when the child needs to define who they are and is forced to separate from their parents. The symptoms tend diminish or even disappear altogether as a person ages and their life situation changes. This is not how a brain disease would be expected to manifest itself. Good studies have shown clear environmental influences on the production of schizophrenia. Dr. Clancy McKenzie is one of the few psychiatrists actually studying the role of early childhood emotional trauma in schizophrenia and other mental disorders. He has found that parental abandonment is a major measurable cause of the severe firmware disorders. One of the simplest traumas to document is the rather mild abandonment that a child experiences if a sibling is born while they are less than 18 months old. A large study showed a significantly greater incidence of schizophrenics in person with siblings less than 18 months younger. Imagine the influence of much more serious abandonments. Dr. McKenzie believes that mental disorders like schizophrenia occur in life when an earlier abandonment trauma, with its repressed content and emotions, is re-awakened by current events—such as when a teenager leaves home. This is experienced as a re-enactment of the earlier abandonment experience. Thus firmware programming that was necessary and adaptive in infancy later corrupts the mental functions and produces the schizophrenic break. (I will not discuss other mental disorders here, but let it suffice to say that their genetic component is generally similar to or less prominent than in schizophrenia, and the firmware and software components more apparent—to those who care to look.)
What about the human racial and ethnic groups? Are there genetic differences among them that make some groups good, other bad? Are some races genetically programmed to be lazy, slothful, unintelligent, disorganized, slow, or criminal? Well, those who believe our psychiatrists will be inclined to be racists, for if behavioral disorders are genetically determined, then all behavioral differences among races are also genetically determined! Like spiritualism, genetic determinism assuages certain human fears, but because it is false, it produces many negative side-effects. So if people find certain ethnic or racial groups to have certain less desirable or even objectionable traits, who’s to blame them for being racists? They’re just following the psychiatrists’ lead! We adults benefit from blaming our childrens’ supposed brain disorders for all their problems—that gets us off the hook doesn’t it? Likewise if we can blame a group’s racial genes for their problems, then we don’t need to question our own role in their suffering or violence, DO WE? In both cases, the unintended side effects of ignoring natural causation are very damaging.
In fact, there are big differences in how children are raised in different familial, ethnic, and racial groups in general. Different cultures clearly produce different early childhood and later social firmware programming. We also see vast differences in the “accomplishments” of different groups over the centuries. All these differences are liable to be interpreted as genetically determined, but if one cares to look, if one studies the matter carefully, one can see how all these difference between groups can be explained by their differing environments and histories. For instance, Jared Diamond has demonstrated, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” that the varying technological achievements of different races and cultures are explicable by differences in environment; making genetic/racial explanations unnecessary. The resort to genetic determinism reduces to an argument from ignorance. (Since we don't know how the difference arose, we can say it's somehow encoded in the genes.) We fall back on simplistic, reductionist explanations because we simply don’t know about, or don’t care to know about the historical, environmental, cultural, and psychological background!
Let’s address the terrible race problem in America today: there is certainly some severe psychosocial pathology among many African Americans in the “underclass”. I deny that this pathology is genetic and challenge anyone to prove that it is. How can one ignore the specific environment, history, and childrearing practices in this disturbed group? How can one resort to a genetic explanation when there exists clear evidence of environmenta, historical, and childrearing pathology! Consider for a moment the legacy of slavery and discrimination. These produced negative ideas and attitudes (firmware and software) that the enslaved parents passed on to their children, who passed them onto their children, etc. There is an extensive literature on the psychosocial pathology of such people. Look at the lives of the underclass. They know that they are labeled as “inferior” from birth, their own parents think that they are inferior like themselves. They know that they look different from whites and live in much poorer circumstances. They will obviously tend to believe that they are inferior human beings. For many reasons, they rarely have a stable home life. The father is absent, the single mother has to work for a living or is raising too many children. Mothers thus stressed tend to treat their children harshly, imposing on them the same negative firmware that they received from their parents…that they received from their parents…that originated in their ancestor’s degrading, humiliating slavery. Are there bell-curve genetic differences in “intelligence” between Africans, Europeans, and Asians? It’s not impossible, but imagine what effort would be required to prove that any such difference was indeed genetic and not at all environmental! You would have to place many children from different races into randomly selected homes of parents of all races! You would have to analyze all this data involving thousands of experimental subjects looking for a statistically significant difference in measures of school performance, behavioral disorders, life achievement, drug abuse, etc. This study has never been done and will not be done. One could, however, compare anecdotal evidence of intelligence and achievement in African-American children raised from birth in European-American families compared with African-American children raised in African-American underclass families. I personally have little doubt that, if the Euro homes are stable homes with affluent, careful parents, then the Afro kids will do as well as Euro kids raised in that same home; whereas Afro kids raised by shame-based, overstressed Afro single moms in housing projects would do worse. So let’s just stop talking about race and genes and start dealing with the real sources of our problems. Let’s talk about racism, psychosocial pathology, the needs of children, and the requirements for good mothering. Let’s work to eliminate the causes of psychosocial pathology instead of attributing it to race and making the situation worse.
The bottom line: We cannot rule out a genetic bell-curve variation in “intelligence”, but neither do we have any convincing evidence of same. And we know that what makes us human is our incredible malleability—the dominant role of our firmware and software programming. Our use of language is our highest and most distinctive quality. No matter what subtle differences our brains or genetic firmware may have, we are all highly programmable. So what if some persons or even groups are a little more “intelligent” on average than others? Is an slower computer “bad” while a faster computer is “good”? Of course not! They differ in processing speed, memory, etc., but what they can do and how well they perform their functions is mostly dependent on the quality and types of firmware and software they run!! I’d rather have a stable old computer than an unstable fast computer any day! I'd rather have a slow computer that was loaded with intelligent and useful software than a fast computer loaded with junk. Wouldn’t you!
Language and the Problem of Inappropriate Software
We have yet to touch on the problems in human society caused by our software—the ideas that the minds holds, the programming it has received in words. With language, we create words that represent things and actions, and we create sentences that represent causation and intention. These words and linguistic ideas allow us to understand and manipulate our environment to a much greater extent than the non-linguistic species. Even if our hardware is intact, and our firmware is healthy, our minds can still fail to function properly if our software is old, inappropriate and corrupted. We have neurologists to diagnose and treat brain diseases, we have psychologists to diagnose and treat firmware disorders, but who diagnoses and treats software disorders? There is no one in our society who fulfills this function! It should be the task of Philosophers. Unfortunately, as I have explained in several essays at this site, philosophy is all but non-existent in our culture. The authorities in our society—parents, schools, politicians, doctors, the wealthy elite banking/corporate class—all have a vested, short-term interest in maintaining the status quo. Philosophy—the discipline that abhors contradictions, analyzes ideas, and creates better theories to explain the causes of things—is the greatest threat to the status quo, and their wealth and power, and is therefore suppressed. The academic discipline called “philosophy” is but a shadow of the real thing. Without a working, realistic theory of the Cosmos and of human nature, we are bound to live in error. We are bound to believe in lies that destroy our happiness and our security. False ideas can only lead to suffering. Lacking a higher understanding or purpose, we are bound to resort to the lowest common denominator, to the immediate gratification of material wealth and pleasures. and we are bound to resort to force to achieve our goals. In order to have a healthy, functioning society, we need ideas and theories that correspond to reality. To see just how bad our programming is, just look at the old software of the Old Testament that determines so much of our culture! We must reject all such old, contradictory, and superstitious ideas. We must admit that all our “holy” writings were the writings of men who understood far, far less about this world and human life than we do today! Our knowledge has advanced tremendously in the last 500 years, yet our fundamental ideas are over 3000 years old, and obviously pathological to boot!
[i] Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1976); Derek Bickerton, Language and Species (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990); Merlin Donald, Origins of the Modern Mind (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1991); Daniel C. Dennet, Consciousness Explained (Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1991); John McCrone, The Ape That Spoke (William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1991).
[ii] Martin H. Teicher, Scars that Won’t Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse, Scientific American, Vol. 286, No. 3, March 2002, p. 68.
[iii] Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1976)