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Planks
Unjustified Ancients of MuMu
Posted - 2009.11.04 12:21:00 - [1]
 

First of all I am no scientist so forgive me for putting this question across in laymen's terms.

Secondly, I am a firm believer in evolution by natural selection so please, no creationism vs evolution debate (save that for another thread).

Basically my question is this ... Being the most advanced species known of, do you think our brains are capable of understanding the universe and 'everything there is' at our current state of evolution?

Modern humans have only existed for 200 thousand years or so having evolved from apes (who evolved from some rat like thing who evolved from fish who evolved from slime etc etc)

Our closest genetic relative, the chimp, can be taught sign language and I heard somewhere that an adult chimp is close to a six year old human in terms of intellect ... well done mr chimp have a banana.

So our cousin chimpanzees can learn, are self aware and can grasp simple concepts. In evolutionary terms we are about 2.5 million years ahead of chimps. Now, whilst chimps can be taught a basic sign language and stuff, could a chimp ever understand something relatively simple such as how an internal combustion engine works or how a cpu operates or even follow the plot line of eastenders? I doubt it.

So given that we are about 2.5 million years more advanced than the next most intelligent species on our planet, do our human brains have a chance of understanding the theory of the universe and 'everything there is', or do we still need millions or even billions of years of evolution for our brains to be able to handle this?

TL;DR Are our brains simply unable to understand the universe at this stage of our evolution?

Or should we even be bothered and just concentrate on drinking beer, getting laid and blowing up pixels in internet spaceship games?



frsd
Caldari
No.Mercy
Merciless.
Posted - 2009.11.04 12:39:00 - [2]
 

42... we dont have to understand it to know its true Wink

Planks
Unjustified Ancients of MuMu
Posted - 2009.11.04 12:50:00 - [3]
 

The '42' project was demolished to make way for a stellar high way.

Next!

Oh wait do I need to read up on my Adams?

Jacob Mei
Gallente
Posted - 2009.11.04 12:50:00 - [4]
 

Note that I don’t believe in evolution, however out of respect for your thread I wont bring anything other than that up so you know where I am coming from.

I believe that the brain can handle that much information for such a thing as understanding the universe. Humans have an innate desire to question everything, its just through conditioning by culture, governments, organized religion and so forth that this questioning is either tempered or subdued.

The primary problem though, beyond the above mentioned, is that our point of reference if you will is rather fixed. For all the time humanity has existed all we have managed to do is observe with telescopes, gather limited data from various waves (radiation, radio, light, etc) and send probes out of the solar system into the orort (sp) cloud. Sure we’ve sent humans into space but not a few miles past the moon.

TL;DR Yes but we are still on the shore of an otherwise infinite ocean in comparison of where we are in our understanding of the universe.

Plim
Gallente
Everything Financial
Posted - 2009.11.04 12:54:00 - [5]
 

Edited by: Plim on 04/11/2009 13:00:16
The difficulty humanity faces in understanding the universe does not seem to be a cognitive one, but a technical one. Observe the great difficulties we face in acquiring the relevant information with which to reason - experiments which cost billions in order to further the standard model of particle physics, along with instruments in astronomy which require overcoming great logistical and technological hurdles and so on.

Evolution has gifted us with the cognitive faculties to understand the universe, but the other required means must be produced by humanity itself.

Some of your statements about human evolution are little off the mark I might add. The common ancestor we share with the chimp goes back to about 5 million years ago or more, and even those early hominids such as Ardipithecus and Australopithecus will have been far more neurologically geared towards understanding the world than our contemporary chimps. It is a little simplistic therefore to say that we are ‘2.5million’ years ahead of chimps, as not only have we been evolving from more neurologically sophisticated animals for a longer period than that, but evolution does not work teleologically like a set of steps towards some kind of super being, the evolutionary forces work upon different species in different ways. For most animals the cognitive development we see in humankind has not been evolutionarily expedient and therefore was not developed.

In anthropology, there is a time labelled the 'tectonic phase' of human development, which describes the point after the 'speciation phase' at which the human genotype came to match modern man. This was about 150,000 years ago, yet mankind has dramatically changed itself since then, despite being genetically almost identical. The reason for this, is that the main driving force for humanity’s survival is now cognitive adaptation and not evolutionary adaptation. So human evolution has very much ceased to be a driving force for human change, precisely because we are so prodigiously capable of understanding our environment in comparison to other species.

Planks
Unjustified Ancients of MuMu
Posted - 2009.11.04 13:16:00 - [6]
 

Originally by: Plim
Very interesting stuff


Thank you. This is precisely the sort of response I was after! Like I say I am no scientist so all my facts and figures come from a quick trawl of google (I was close with the modern man thing at 200k years ... whats 50k in relation to the known universe), but your answer has educated me.

However you seem to be roughly saying that now we are concious beings that physical evolution (including the physical structure of the brain) is less important than cognitive evolution ( or have I completely missunderstood you here).

Try imagining the colour of x-rays or gamma rays without refering to visible light. You can't describe it without refering to a sort of greeninsh purpley silvery black sort of thing.

One day we may have evolved brains sufficiently powerful to see colours outside the visible spectrum, or even be able to think in more than three dimensions. Such things are as impossible for us to imagine now as it is for a chimp to appreciate eastenders. So this is why I don't think we are capable of understanding 'everything there is' right now.

My point is that there may be things in this cosmos that we simply can't grasp ... things that are impossible to even imagine.


Plim
Gallente
Everything Financial
Posted - 2009.11.04 13:38:00 - [7]
 

Originally by: Planks
Originally by: Plim
Very interesting stuff

However you seem to be roughly saying that now we are concious beings that physical evolution (including the physical structure of the brain) is less important than cognitive evolution ( or have I completely missunderstood you here).



Yes that is pretty much the argument I have come accross while studying anthropology recently, and it appears logical. I responded to this thread because i'm in the middle of reading a book which is an athropological investigation into the development of the modern human mind and some relevant issues are discussed in the book.

So, for example, another species when dispersing out from one climate, branches out evolutionarily in order to survive. So the driving force for other species is an evolutionary one.

Whearas humans developed from bipeds who after coming out of the trees, had their hands freed up for other uses. This led to a series of adaptations in the brain and the hands. As the hands became more adept at manipulating the environment, it became expediant for the brain to become more sophisticated at understanding it. Along with this came language, which essentially represents the ability to transfer complex abstrations about the world to other members of the community, and therefore increase its and our chances of passing on genetic information.

This had lead to a level of cognitive sophistication which has allowed us to conquer much of the globe, without nescessitating further dramatic evolutionary development. Instead of us changing ourselves, we change the environment. So to argue that further changes in the human condition will be a product of evolution misses the point, as the process of natural selection in humans is very limited now, as it is no longer at work as the main way of increasing our survival. There is therefore, no reason to assume that the evolutionary process in humans will even lead to a further development in the brain's fundemental capicity for cognition.

The complex human brain has beget rationalism, concepts of epistemology and ultimately modern science. I think that this demonstrates that we have the cognitive means to understand all the basic principles of the universe without further evolutionarily driven cognitive development. As I stated before, the hurdles we must overcome to understand the cosmos appear to be grounded in the difficulties associated with gaining further information about the universe, rather than the human capacity to interpret it.

baltec1
Posted - 2009.11.04 13:45:00 - [8]
 

Black holes.

Every law of physics we have just doesnt work with them as all result in the black hole being infinity. Crack black holes and we will be well on the way.

Mary Makepeace
Caldari
Neh'bu Kau Beh'Hude
Ushra'Khan
Posted - 2009.11.04 13:56:00 - [9]
 

here is the simple answer, NO. Every time we find something out, we end up with more questions (which thankfully keeps scientists in a job). Although the rate at which we find out stuff is increasing and some people think we may reach a 'technological singularity' where this rate becomes infinitely fast.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity

There is a couple of other problems in your questions. When you say understand, what do you mean? is it to know everything about the universe? We are are within the universe and to know everything would be to generate a model of the universe within our minds that includes us and the model within our minds ad infinitum.

Also quantum uncertainty means that you can not observe something without affecting the outcome of the observation.


Ealiom
EAT THE POOR
Posted - 2009.11.04 14:11:00 - [10]
 

I used to always be interested in the universes "Hows?"

"How did the universe come into existence?"
"How do black holes work?"
"How does Quantum Mechanics operate?"

but more and more these questions fail to interest me asmuch as they once did. The questions that keep me thinking is "why"

Scientists will eventually explain the How's but the Why's.... For instance.

"Why is there even such a thing as reality?"

Scientists will argue and formulate grand proofs to explain how the universe came into being. But Why?

Why does the hard matter im sitting on or the energy from the cup of coffee even exist. I'm looking out my office window at the city scape and I don't particularly care how all this matter got created and arranged.

I ask without a shred of religious belief... On purely scientific terms. Why on Earth does there have to be a reality. I use the term reality to cover everything, from the wierdest depths of multi dimensional space to good old humdrum 3d existence.

The universe coalesced from an implosion/explosion "blah blah blah" why the hell did that ever have to happen. Questions like "The meaning of life" are small and arbitrary next to that one.

Myleena
Posted - 2009.11.04 14:13:00 - [11]
 

Originally by: baltec1
Black holes.

Every law of physics we have just doesnt work with them as all result in the black hole being infinity. Crack black holes and we will be well on the way.


At the risk of being slightly off topic:

I did watch with interest a program on the BBC last night which explained the problems with Einsteins General Relativity theory -

As I understand it, at the point of singularity (measured as zero in his equation) things don't quite stack up because a) gravity becomes infinite b) time stops.

I've thought about this and if the electrons in matter stop moving and collapse about their nucleus forming a 'something' that is very, very small but weighs as much as it did before (and big stars weigh a lot!), then this small, very heavy 'something' that causes space to bend around it in such a way that it sucks in everything (even light) is, by definition, at the center of the black hole.

So, if there's a very heavy small ball of stuff that used to be a star there, how do you get to point zero? You can't, there's something in the way. Thus as far as I can see his theory is ok. You can get close to zero but the singularity is actually 'something' (that used to be a star) so gravity might be a really big number, but not infinity.



Mary Makepeace
Caldari
Neh'bu Kau Beh'Hude
Ushra'Khan
Posted - 2009.11.04 14:14:00 - [12]
 

Originally by: Planks

One day we may have evolved brains sufficiently powerful to see colours outside the visible spectrum, or even be able to think in more than three dimensions. Such things are as impossible for us to imagine now as it is for a chimp to appreciate eastenders. So this is why I don't think we are capable of understanding 'everything there is' right now.



if we saw outside the visible spectrum wouldn't it be within the visible spectrum?

jokes aside, we look at all ranges of the EM spectrum at the moment, we just use instruments to make them accessible (radio, X-ray are easy examples). you also already think commonly in four dimensions. When you walk, you think about when you will be somewhere as well as where you are, adding the fourth dimension of time. This become very clear when you are driving, time becomes of critical importance when you are at a pedestrian crossing for example.

Understanding is the ability to model and predict an outcome. While there is a lot of opportunity to do so which allows advances in technology. We will never be able to model the whole universe.


Ealiom
EAT THE POOR
Posted - 2009.11.04 14:28:00 - [13]
 

Originally by: Myleena
Originally by: baltec1
Black holes.

Every law of physics we have just doesnt work with them as all result in the black hole being infinity. Crack black holes and we will be well on the way.


At the risk of being slightly off topic:

I did watch with interest a program on the BBC last night which explained the problems with Einsteins General Relativity theory -

As I understand it, at the point of singularity (measured as zero in his equation) things don't quite stack up because a) gravity becomes infinite b) time stops.

I've thought about this and if the electrons in matter stop moving and collapse about their nucleus forming a 'something' that is very, very small but weighs as much as it did before (and big stars weigh a lot!), then this small, very heavy 'something' that causes space to bend around it in such a way that it sucks in everything (even light) is, by definition, at the center of the black hole.

So, if there's a very heavy small ball of stuff that used to be a star there, how do you get to point zero? You can't, there's something in the way. Thus as far as I can see his theory is ok. You can get close to zero but the singularity is actually 'something' (that used to be a star) so gravity might be a really big number, but not infinity.





I dislike infinites as well... But my limited understanding say this.

That as you plumment into the a black hole all these values that you are measure have an exponential curve.

Imagine going at the speed of light. its takes 1,000,000 units of energy to get to 99% speed of light
But takes 2,000,000 to get to 99.5% 4,000,000 to get to 99.6% every tiny step closer to 100% requires or generates an exponentially growing number.

So that at
99.999999999999 10^99 units
99.9999999999999 10^198 units
99.99999999999999 10^497 units

The curve will never reach 100 and thus the units required will never reach a finite number.

I hope to live to see the day that another one of the universes curtains are pulled back.

baltec1
Posted - 2009.11.04 14:41:00 - [14]
 

Originally by: Myleena
Originally by: baltec1
Black holes.

Every law of physics we have just doesnt work with them as all result in the black hole being infinity. Crack black holes and we will be well on the way.


At the risk of being slightly off topic:

I did watch with interest a program on the BBC last night which explained the problems with Einsteins General Relativity theory -

As I understand it, at the point of singularity (measured as zero in his equation) things don't quite stack up because a) gravity becomes infinite b) time stops.

I've thought about this and if the electrons in matter stop moving and collapse about their nucleus forming a 'something' that is very, very small but weighs as much as it did before (and big stars weigh a lot!), then this small, very heavy 'something' that causes space to bend around it in such a way that it sucks in everything (even light) is, by definition, at the center of the black hole.

So, if there's a very heavy small ball of stuff that used to be a star there, how do you get to point zero? You can't, there's something in the way. Thus as far as I can see his theory is ok. You can get close to zero but the singularity is actually 'something' (that used to be a star) so gravity might be a really big number, but not infinity.





Its not gravity alone thats the issue is the amount of space it takes up which according to our current undistanding is zero. So its something that isnt there but is but we cant see it but KNOW its there because it must be there because there is nothing thereugh

SEN 5243
Posted - 2009.11.04 18:44:00 - [15]
 

Edited by: SEN 5243 on 04/11/2009 19:36:18
the problem is you think yourself and the universe to be seperate entities.
if you stop and pull the plug then theres your answer.
the rest is mind projected fantasy.
human drama.


Abrazzar
Posted - 2009.11.04 18:56:00 - [16]
 

Edited by: Abrazzar on 04/11/2009 18:55:50
Compare the size of the brain with the size of the cosmos. There. Your answer.

SEN 5243
Posted - 2009.11.04 20:58:00 - [17]
 

Edited by: SEN 5243 on 04/11/2009 21:43:16
Originally by: Ealiom
I used to always be interested in the universes "Hows?"

"How did the universe come into existence?"
"How do black holes work?"
"How does Quantum Mechanics operate?"

but more and more these questions fail to interest me asmuch as they once did. The questions that keep me thinking is "why"

Scientists will eventually explain the How's but the Why's.... For instance.

"Why is there even such a thing as reality?"

Scientists will argue and formulate grand proofs to explain how the universe came into being. But Why?

Why does the hard matter im sitting on or the energy from the cup of coffee even exist. I'm looking out my office window at the city scape and I don't particularly care how all this matter got created and arranged.

I ask without a shred of religious belief... On purely scientific terms. Why on Earth does there have to be a reality. I use the term reality to cover everything, from the wierdest depths of multi dimensional space to good old humdrum 3d existence.

The universe coalesced from an implosion/explosion "blah blah blah" why the hell did that ever have to happen. Questions like "The meaning of life" are small and arbitrary next to that one.



how and why is both a resistance in you, but the resistance is you aswell.

so it changes and works out eventually into something deeper where there will be more actualised living rather then bla. it will dislodge it and bla will be on the way out.

then you laugh about all that folly. :)



Genghis Kitty
Hello Kitty Online Adventurers
Posted - 2009.11.04 21:15:00 - [18]
 


I hate the idea of things getting worked out after I am dead, as I'll never know what's been invented / discovered after my death.

I doubt we'll ever work out everything, as every answer opens up even more questions. The more we know, the more we'll seek to know.

Abrazzar
Posted - 2009.11.04 21:31:00 - [19]
 

Originally by: Genghis Kitty

I hate the idea of things getting worked out after I am dead, as I'll never know what's been invented / discovered after my death.

Good news: You will be too dead to care.

HankMurphy
Minmatar
Pelennor Swarm
Posted - 2009.11.05 05:55:00 - [20]
 

with our silly monkey brains ? no. however, using our ingenuity we may be able to create a machine intelligence that does understand it all.

...but by then we will be well into the robot wars and you'll be too busy running from the flesh farms to worry about comprehending the vast mysteries of the Universe.

Myleena
Posted - 2009.11.05 08:09:00 - [21]
 

Originally by: Abrazzar
Originally by: Genghis Kitty

I hate the idea of things getting worked out after I am dead, as I'll never know what's been invented / discovered after my death.

Good news: You will be too dead to care.


Not necessarily so. I read an article the other day (can't find the link now) about today's young people living forever.

If you look at the advances in technology v's cost over the last sixty years (take mobile phones as an example - vastly more power than comprehendable then for very little money now) and if this were to continue, we could see replacement body parts grown to order, real life brain implants and whole blood transfusions for nanobots that fix any problems as they go.

Sounds a bit Star Trek but I think most health problems won't exist in sixty years, and be affordable.

HankMurphy
Minmatar
Pelennor Swarm
Posted - 2009.11.05 09:04:00 - [22]
 

Originally by: Myleena

I think most health problems won't exist in sixty years, and be affordable.


We exist to consume. Anything that risks stifling that consumption will be eliminated or delayed as long as possible.

We won't get solutions to most health problems because it takes too much money away from the health/drug industry. 'The money is in the treatment, not the cure'

Sorry to be a downer, but this is how our world is run. Unless you can wrestle control away from the greedy ****s that own us... it ain't gonna happen.

now, they MAY find a way to stave off most health problems allowing you to double your life span. This is pretty much where we are headed. Will it be affordable?? Laughing, well that is a relative term.

SEN 5243
Posted - 2009.11.05 10:48:00 - [23]
 

Edited by: SEN 5243 on 05/11/2009 11:46:19
blablabla i bla myself.

Stratio
Minmatar
Mirkur Draug'Tyr
Damu'Khonde
Posted - 2009.11.05 14:03:00 - [24]
 

Edited by: Stratio on 05/11/2009 14:10:55

Compare the size of the universe with the size of our brains, that should answer the question with an emphatic NO. Very Happy

Originally by: Abrazzar
Edited by: Abrazzar on 04/11/2009 18:55:50
Compare the size of the brain with the size of the cosmos. There. Your answer.

Ha ha, I got beaten to it, fully agree with you! Surprised

Emil Erlenmeyer
Posted - 2009.11.05 15:27:00 - [25]
 

I'm gonna go with yes on this one.

It might depend on how you define it more specifically.
Remember, we're not talking about one single man grasping everything there is to know about the universe. That's, I would dare say nigh on impossible. It's rather about our collective understanding of things. This is why we have experts in limited and specific areas of life but not any one expert on everything.

First, we've got the technological singularity aldready mentioned above.

Second, we've got the fact that we're getting better and better at curing deceases and aging. Right now I think the mean life expectancy increase by one year every decade, as that reaches one year per year we're closing in on infinity. This man explains it a little better.

(couldn't link to the TED-talk by Aubrey de Grey as it got messed up for being too long)
You can either click it on the right on that introduction page I did link or you can just copy/paste the link below.

http://www.ted.com/talks/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging.html

Abrazzar
Posted - 2009.11.05 16:11:00 - [26]
 

We may manage to eliminate cellular aging some time in the future but overcoming the entropy in the brain is an entirely different issue.

The brain's functionality connects sensory stimulation with other stored sensory stimulation, creating patterns of thought and reason. If this goes on long enough you will end up with a jumbled mess of cross-cross-cross-cross-linked information patterns. At that point you will no longer be able to follow a straight though or remember anything in a orderly fashion.

You would end up with a planet full of senile immortals. I rather have renewal through death and education.

Natasja Podinski
Posted - 2009.11.05 21:55:00 - [27]
 

no such thing as wormholes!

distances in space are too waste for us to ever cross!

speed of light and timetravel are childish beliefs!

purpose of life is to **** and have offspring and do all the other stuff ur brain rewards u for with endorfines and so on!

Stratio
Minmatar
Mirkur Draug'Tyr
Damu'Khonde
Posted - 2009.11.06 03:11:00 - [28]
 

Originally by: Emil Erlenmeyer
It's rather about our collective understanding of things.

All we are likely to find out is how much we don't know.

For example, Newton came up with a nice simple description of how orbits work. Einstein showed that things were not that simple and there are many unanswered questions.

goodby4u
Valor Inc.
Valor Empire
Posted - 2009.11.06 07:57:00 - [29]
 

We won't know everything until we venture off this blasted rock, in this context I say no to knowing everything there is to know within my lifetime(I am 19).

Now if by everything you mean the basic laws of motion, physics and so on, it might be possible. We are in an ever shrinking world due to technology, new medical discoveries and nano robots may deem us immortals(well live very very long anyways). This all ontop of an ever expanding understanding of the cosmos and physics through observation.

There may be many stumbling blocks however. Overbearing and eventually collapsing and rebirth of governments, a gulf between academia and the basic labor force, and possibly Armageddon through our works or our lack of work can stop us dead in our tracks. This all on top of economic problems ceasing some of our space programs may slow the developement further.

I suppose it is a question of our willingness, will we know EVERYTHING? I say no. Will we know the basics of almost everything? I say yes if things progress as they have.... This may simply be a result of my optimism.

Lui Kai
Better Than You
Posted - 2009.11.06 09:15:00 - [30]
 

ITT: A few people who are really stoned and a bunch of people who really need to be.


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