HUMAN EXISTENCE

Findings, ideas and conversations from Dr. John Skoyles, an Uomo Universale at University College London

( j.skoyles at ucl.ac.uk )  
                                                     
BIOLOGY LANGUAGE MIND OPEN SOCIETY EXPERIENCE CLINICAL Bookmark and Share
intelligence symbol bipedality etc symbol human body symbol pronuciation symbol syntax symbol meaning symbol blank slate symbol headdress individualism symbol science symbol democracy symbol know yourself western civilization symbol meditator art symbol sport symbol sex symbol religion symbol Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis symbol autism symbol dyslexia symbol schizophrenia symbol

Edward Skoyles 1943

BIOLOGY—how human evolution made your brain, skills, and body

intelligence symbol Smart brains—thank not only large size but also your prolonged childhood—with your short legs came hot neurons—200,000 years ago evolution extended their energy guzzling period of synapse exuberance, and this revolutionized intelligence. story here

bipedality etc symbol Bipedality, dexterity and speech/song make us human—and amongst animals uniquely skilled. Thank human brain expansion starting two million or so years ago for enabling them to share the same well-researched but paleoanthropologically ignored human specific upgrade in motor control. story here

human body symbol Apes into humans—before us, there existed Lucy and Australopithsshort bipedal chimp-like apes. When these ancestors of ours stopped living in trees, they evolved a new taller shape—that of the human body. The answer why is remarkably well-researched.




LANGUAGE—how its different components arose 

pronuciation symbol Vowels and Consonants—every word we say is "phonetic". No one knows why. Likewise, it is a mystery why children after hearing speech can so rapidly expand their spoken vocabulary by incorporating all the tens of  thousands of words they overhear. Could mirror neurons have created phonetics by selecting vowels and consonants as easy-to-copy units of pronunciation? Click here
syntax symbol Syntax—words are syntactically organized into well-formed phrases and sentences, and this enables articulate thought and language. But even Chomsky is mystified as to its origin. Could reliable and efficient packing codes for complex motor communications within the brain provide an answer? Click here

meaning symbol

Meaning—without semantics the mind cannot think and language cannot express and yet until recently the exact nature of "meaning" as a neurobiological phenomena baffled scientists. Now latent semantic analysis (LSA)  shows that it arises when we navigate and map the context that gets generated out of higher-order associations. 


MIND—evolution created our brains to feel and think in unevolved ways. Here is the science

blank slate symbol Darwin's Blank Slate—evolution packed our brains with genes. But not to create cognitive gadgets—the Pinker myth—but neural freedomminds liberated from the past with the power to invent and share new cognitive capabilities. The extraordinary science of this is the great story of our origins and our most magnificent inheritance.

 
headdress Symbolic culture—every past and present human thought and feeling is enriched by the diversity of symbols that intertwine our lives into shared culture. Thank your prefrontal cortices for letting symbols exist and rework our ape brains. This makes us unique and enables our species to keep reinventing itself.

 

individualism symbol

Individualism—each of us is a skilled social primate. But human evolution left the psychology of that primate sociality open as to whether it skilled us to belong to one group (collectivism), or let skilled us to promiscuously hop in and out of many (individualism). 

OPEN SOCIETY—we live in rational free societies based upon rational debate. Here is the story

science symbol Science—logic is necessary if we are to be rational. Necessary—but not sufficient: an ethos of quality controls upon human error is also needed. There is more to rational persuasion than valid deduction. Truth seekers ignore it at their peril. Click here
democracy symbol Democracy—democracy is not only about elections and politicians. Even more crucial is the existence of institutions and a public ethos that spots and checks the human error and the self-serving manipulations of those in control. With people-power goes rational quality control. Here is the untold story of the open society.
know yourself Literacynot just skill in reading and writing but the confidence to use them to answer back those with power. Such modern literacy first became possible with the completely vowelled Greek alphabet and its easy-to-acquire full literacy. It was a key stepping-stone to our modern world.
western civilization symbol Civilization—modern civilization is grounded upon personal freedom that fosters individualism (see above) while growing out of institutions that quality control those with power. This form of human coexistence first started with the Classical Greeks. Here is how it arose.

 

EXPERIENCE—there is more to existence than rationality. Here is how live the life least enjoyed

meditator

Meditation—tips, tricks and traps of letting the unsavored moment be—guidance gleamed from human physiology and neuroscience about walking, breath and uncluttering your mind.


 

art symbol

Art—what is it? Alan Turing asked that question of machine thinking. His solution applied to aesthetics rewrites Art's history. Enter here to meta-view the latest Koon, Hirst et al on display at your nearest MOMA.

 
sport symbol Sport—fair play and race free—but not when inherited physiology and physique determines who wins. Here is the case for race-neutral athletics that puts everyone irrespective of genetic background on the same starting block.
 

sex symbol

Sex. Fun with other humans—whether sport, drinking, or friendshipis shared with those of the same gender. So why is intercourse and "love" the exception? The answer why may not be so simple as you think. 

religion symbol Religion—faith lives in behavior, or otherwise it is just atheism with lots of  socializing, self-deception, and a sing-song. Modern piety is a scandalbut it does not have to be. Religion is not contrary to science, but not so the present fraud that goes in its name.
 
 

CLINICAL—here are new ideas on why some of us face problems 

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis symbol Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis—when the gut mistakes microbial friend for microbial foe, problems arise. So we better know how the normal gut is smart to microbes. Could it be that guts identify the good from the bad by a trick of double sampling that lets it spot the behavioral difference between pathogens and nonpathogens to the gut wall? Click here
 
autism symbol Autism—science has failed to find an explanation. For why—and the directions where we might find an answer Click here

 
dyslexia symbol Dyslexia —was once attributed to the visual system, in particular to magnocellular system deficits. Here is why that idea is wrong. Also, my own story of growing up with dyslexia.
schizophrenia symbol Schizophrenia—is the magnocellular system defective in those with schizophrenia? Here is why that idea is lacks science.


Edward Skoyles 1943 Why this site