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Prehistory - Does It Really Matter?

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by BlackMetalWhiteGuy, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. BlackMetalWhiteGuy

    BlackMetalWhiteGuy Manly Man!

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    For reference, "Ardi" refers to the new Ardipithecus ramidus fossils.

    I was trying to watch the "Discovering Ardi" documentary a couple nights ago when in a hostile takeover of the television, my father dismissed the documentary as "the same old crap we've seen a million times before repackaged so they can keep showing it." Obviously, this is wrong, since Ardi is a brand new discovery, but that point is not important. While attempting to explain the importance of Ardi, my dad once again dismissed it as irrelevant, stating that "it's all just speculation with no evidence to back it up," and that "it doesn't prove anything," because "it's all just theories."

    For one reason or another, he is fiercely skeptical of anything even remotely scientific and these are his default arguments for any data that he doesn't initially understand, contradicts his childhood superstitions, or just isn't personally interested in being challenged on. Clearly, according to him, if he doesn't personally understand how the evidence was obtained or why the evidence is permissable, then it must be the evidence that is suspect, as opposed to his lack of education.

    Additional arguments that he used were "I'll bet the dirt in our back yard is a hundred million years old, too," in an attempt to discredit the entire concept of radio dating, as I'm sure no geologist, radiologist or paleontologist has ever considerred that when estimating the age of a rock layer :rolleyes:

    During a documentary on the formation of the moon, he authoritatively declared, in addition to his usual "speculation without evidence" argument, that all computer models were irrelevant because the software was programmed by the physicist who was testing the theory and therefore "would have given the results he wanted anyway." Despite the best efforts of my brother and I to explain to him that the physicist only used existing, testably accurate physics data and that any other physicist or engineer could run their own tests to disprove it, he remained steadfast in his belief that a computer simulation cannot be used to test real physics. I find this highly ironic, considering that he works in the auto industry.

    Factually, all of his objections are easily refuted, but he also brought up a more subjective argument, that I'm really unsure how to address. "It doesn't put food on the table, so it doesn't matter. I'm only interested in the here and now."

    Intuitively, I feel this to be an extremely immature and unenlightened perspective, as it seems like the type of thing that only a small child or an illiterate could say with a straight face. However, after getting past the initial shame of accepting the fact that a member of my own family is as ignorant in real life as razoredge is on the internet, I'm trying to remain open minded and unbiased, but am still struggling to respect his position, even if it does seem unforgivably stupid.

    Unlike with recorded history, it seems that there aren't as many clearly defined "lessons" to be learned from natural history and that any attempts to advance our knowledge will often be criticized by outsiders as arbitrary, unnecessary, and a waste of resources. In addition to being immature and unenlightened as I stated earlier, it also strikes me as incredibly condescending in a "your interests aren't worth my time" kind of tone.

    Trying to dissociate myself from any personal bias though, I'm forced to wonder how important this so called "enlightenment" really is, especially from the perspective of someone who is genuinely concerned about where their next meal will come from and if they will be able to afford next month's rent.

    On the other hand, while I must acknowledge that I enjoy a certain luxury of being able to "waste my time" on the pursuit of ideas that aren't immediately relevant to my survival, I don't think that meticulously contemplating our origins is a wasted effort, particularly as it's a recurring theme throughout all human cultures. By focusing on a rigorous scientific evaluation of evidence however, I think that human society AS A WHOLE can come to a much more accurate, but more importantly, a more responsible conclusion not punctuated by the forms of civil unrest that are perpetuated by opposing cultural mythologies.
     
  2. hexwind

    hexwind Creepiness Och Terrorism

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    I don't know what's your question.
    Your dad reminds me of yours, dad is a Muslim, and he rejects any scientific theory that (he believes) contradicts Islamic doctrine (Although it's just a misinterpretation of his, as far as I am concerned, I have never heard of any scientific theory that contradicts Qur'an, on contrary). Why does your dad dismisses this? What's the reason? does it contradicts his religious beliefs?
     
  3. BlackMetalWhiteGuy

    BlackMetalWhiteGuy Manly Man!

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    I guess it's more of a two part question. Does prehistory really matter and if so, how can we legitimize the study to those who are preoccupied only with the most immediately relevant issues, or for some reason are just not interested in learning (either because it is new and challenging, or because it threatens their pre-existing beliefs). I attempted to address this issue in my last short paragraph, but as it was almost 4:00 AM, I didn't go into much detail.

    As for my dad, I really don't know what his issue is. He doesn't seem to identify with any specific religious group and we've never gone to church other than mandatory religious services at Boy Scout events. He has made comments about Muslims being terrorists before, but I had previously thought that he was just joking. Also, while growing up, he did occasionally tell my brother and me about God, but since he also told us about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, I assumed that this was all just a front that parents adopted to leverage their children into behaving.

    It wasn't until the last holiday season that I learned that my dad really does believe in God. We probably should have figured it out earlier, because at every holiday dinner he suddenly becomes inspired to have one of us say grace, although he never offers to do it himself. Anyway, we went along with it throughout high school since we thought he was just trying to be funny, since it's rare that we all eat at the table together and I would just say "dear God, thanks for the food, Amen." Last year though, he tried to make my brother say it since I've done it ever previous year, but he refused on premise that God isn't real. To our surprise, he actually became agitated and tried to convince our mom to say it, but she just laughed. I guess in a desperation attempt he stated "well, your brother believes in God," referencing me, which caught me off guard because I'd thought he was joking all these years, so I promptly corrected him. "Since when!?" he demanded, apparently surprised by the fact. Finally, we managed to make it through a holiday dinner without saying grace and he seemed either shocked or disappointed and didn't say anything for the rest of the night.

    I attribute his stubbornness to the fact that he doesn't have any formal education beyond high school, since there's not very much about science that he does understand and seems to be convinced that personal ignorance of a topic is a justifiable basis for its dismissal. Unfortunately, many of these same people also take a proactive stance on intentionally limiting their exposure to anything that threatens their predetermined set of beliefs, because it's easier to deny your ignorance than it is to take on the responsibility of accepting it. In my dad's case though, I think he just continues to believe what he learned as a child because his beliefs were reinforced by the culture in which he was raised and because skepticism and objectivity weren't encouraged back then as they are now. Also, it's possible that years of contentment with tradition and routine have caused any inkling of curiousity to deteriorate beyond recogonition. I guess what this means is that after a certain age, or a certain period of time without excercizing or challenging various aspects of your cognition, you become so content with the adequacy of what you know that you know longer feel obliged to learn more, especially at the expense of admiting that some of what you already know is wrong.

    I'm feeling pretty pessimistic right now, but I hope this is no indication of what to expect for my own future :erk:
     
  4. Dak

    Dak mentat

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    My opinion on whether pre-History matters falls in line with my opinion of space exploration:

    Why are we going where we haven't been before when we haven't even gotten what we do know right yet?

    There is no magic answer to our problems in fossils, and we aren't going to solve our problems by building a base on the moon. So in a practical sense, your dad is right.
     
  5. BlackMetalWhiteGuy

    BlackMetalWhiteGuy Manly Man!

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    I was hoping you would post because I anticipated that you would agree with him, but since you're more articulate than he is, I was hoping that you might be able to provide some more reasonable insight into the perspective than simply "I agree."

    Whether or not exploring our origins and colonizing the moon is a priority for you personally however, is completely irrelevant to the discussion, because everyone's priorities are different. Fifteenth century Europeans may have thought that sending ships across the Atlantic was pointless, since the cost of ships and seamen could have been spent on hunger relief instead.

    As far as "haven't gotten what we know right yet," science is a progressive field in which many of the gaps in our understanding may never be filled in. This doesn't mean that increasing our understanding isn't a worthy goal, and it certainly doesn't mean that we should abandon all pending endeavors until Dakryn from the Ultimate Metal Forums is convinced that we've earned the privilege to study further.
     
  6. Dak

    Dak mentat

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    You are missing my point. We are currently mis-managing the hell out of earth, so why project that mismanagement onto other planets/moons? Not to mention spending the resources on it.

    Going to the mooon or Mars, or finding an older fossil will not solve our energy problems either. These are much more pressing concerns.
     
  7. BlackMetalWhiteGuy

    BlackMetalWhiteGuy Manly Man!

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    Once again, I've already covered the "more pressing concerns" argument. I agree that there are more important issues, but being comparatively less important doesn't make something unimportant and it doesn't mean that it should be put off until everything else of any possible importance has been sorted out.

    With regard to our energy problems, solving the arguments over our origins won't fix those problems, but there are other issues that it will address, such as intercultural aggression and intolerance. This is by no means an unimportant issue.

    If only you were more familiar with modern scientific concerns, you would be aware that the moon actually is playing a role in solving our energy dilema. For starters, the dark side of the moon offers promise for the dispossal of prolonged radio active materials. Moon mining is also under investigation for its potential as a source of Helium-3, which may be one of the next big energy trends due to its significance in fusion research.
     
  8. Dak

    Dak mentat

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    I don't see any new fossil discoveries explaining the root of selfishness and the automatic fear/distrust of humans who are "different".

    Suggesting dumping our highly toxic garbage on the moon is exactly what I was talking about in regards to mismanagement. I think we have moved way to fast with technology in some aspects without looking at the longterm ramifications of our creations and actions. The highly toxic nature of a lot of things used in new technologies being one of them. Alternatives to these should be found first, or real ways to recycle. Not just a new landfill that is farther away.
     
  9. BlackMetalWhiteGuy

    BlackMetalWhiteGuy Manly Man!

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    Nor should you expect to. These are issues that are the topic of discussion in fields such as psychology with theories of self-preservation bias. From the perspective of an evolutionary psychologist, the explanations are pretty easy and intuitive, but that's not as directly related to anthropology and prehistory, so maybe it's a better discussion for another thread.
    I agree with you about how we should manage our technological expansion, but it seems you're having difficulty dissociating ideology from reality. Sure, we can all agree how things should be, but clearly that's not how they are and not how they're going to be. Unfortunately, this topic is also irrelevant to this thread, but I would be more than happy to discuss it with you in a new one.
     
  10. Blowtus

    Blowtus Member

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    What is wrong with a new landfill?



    Bmwg: big picture answer: Science, and its accompanying occasional creative genius', does not occur effectively in a direct-able manner. Creativity is (at least in part) the drawing on seemingly disparate knowledge for the creation of some new and useful idea. I imagine there has been a lot written out there about the problems of laymen directing science to what they think is important, if you want to find better ammo.

    small picture answer: an understanding of pre-history is necessary for climate models, at the least.
     
  11. hexwind

    hexwind Creepiness Och Terrorism

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    Could you explain it please? :)
     
  12. Blowtus

    Blowtus Member

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    Because you'd like to refute it or because you're genuinely interested? :)
    Climate models use data gathered regarding long ago times. That's about as far as my knowledge and interest of the specifics go.
     
  13. BlackMetalWhiteGuy

    BlackMetalWhiteGuy Manly Man!

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    The climate models is actually a really good point that I somehow overlooked. It also reminds me additional significance to astronomy.

    By studying the fossilized fauna and flaura over a geological layer, we don't just know what the animals ate, it actually gives us insight into the types of environments that those organisms inhabited. The diversity and specialized adaptations of the various organisms gives us clues about whether it was hot, cold, wet, dry, forrest, desert, swamp, sea, etc. Specific adaptations also provide data about other environmental trends, such as atmospheric content and density. For example, the ambundance of large, flying insects during earlier periods indicates that the atmosphere was dense with oxygen, as the proportion of oxygen in our current atmosphere is inadequate to supply the energy demands of a species of that size that accepts oxygen into its blood through passive transport (insects breathe by allowing oxygen to enter open compartments in their abdomen and do not have a pressurized inhalation system. This is why non-aquatic invertebrates have severe size restrictions, while vertebrates do not).

    By accurately dating the fossils and adjusting for tectonic movement, we get valuable insight into the climate of a geographic region during a specific time period and by comparing multiple regions we get an idea of an estimated average global temperature. By comparing average global temperatures of different time periods, we can establish a pattern of climate change, the severity of those changes, and most importantly, how those changes affected life. Obviously, this is extremely significant as it is directly applicable to predicting any adaptations that we may need to be prepared to make in the future.

    Astronomy correlates with climate data too, as the Earth rotates on two axes. Rotation on the first axis (directly through the poles) takes 24 hours to complete and is responsible for circadian shifts (day / night). The second axis is off center of the poles and takes 26,000 years to complete and is associated with the transition between ice age and non-ice age periods.

    More info:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles
     
  14. monoxide_child

    monoxide_child New Metal Member

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    you're dad is an idiot, probably a christian, and broke
     
  15. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    WTF ? Attacking someones parent from the safety of a keyboard ? Should I be surprised..... na
     
  16. hexwind

    hexwind Creepiness Och Terrorism

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    oO dude... show the guy some respect please...
    Geeze, this board is becoming a playing ground for trolls.
     
  17. monoxide_child

    monoxide_child New Metal Member

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    okay obviously you can't hear tone of voice in text

    what i meant was that Black Metal White Guy is better than his dad, and that at that at the end of the day, you're parents shouldn't be honored/revered/worshipped etc etc simply because of the fact that they're your parents
    when your parents are being/acting stupid, you have to treat them in the same way that you would treat other people that are saying/doing the same stupid things that you're parents are doing

    "honor thy father and mother" is an instruction that had to be written down because people that breed are less worthy of being honored than sterile/gay/lesbian people

    i can't have respect for someone just simply because they were capable of breeding
     
  18. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    You have serious issues and doubtfully have any respect from anyone that has ever been in your life. Its the only thing that could possibly explain most of the thoughts and weird statements that come out of your head.
     
  19. hexwind

    hexwind Creepiness Och Terrorism

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    Man, you don't at least appreciate how your mother carried you in her womb for 9 months, the nights she spent watching your back when you were a kid, the hard time they had figuring out how to raise you in the best possible way, how much worried and cared about you when you were ill, how they did every possible thing to bring you happiness, how much time and money and thoughts they have invested on you from their own time, money and thoughts??? And still you don't show them respect, at least for being more or less responsible for the person you are right now and for most of what you have/had in life, and not only for them, for other people parents' too. True that you have to treat people equally, but with respect...
    I really don't know what kind of reasoning people have to come up with such values...
     
  20. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    +++ :headbang:

    One thing I do keep reminding myself is that some kids are not granted the good decent parents that myself and all my friends were. Then those with poorer quality parents act out against ALL adultsm then some just do it to be cool when truth is they were spoiled punks. So it goes both ways or all three ways. Anyhow respect your elders is an age old teaching that has been under serious attack since sometime in the 80's or 90's through media and entertainment sources here in America. So many unrational children jump on the miserable bandwagon of hate adults. They are quite a muse.

    Respect your elders stems from them having "prehistory" aka experience and has nothing to do with human sexual mutations and other such nonsense written in the oxyben deprived post.
     

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