I have written a book with the familiar title of The Biological Roots of Humanity: The evolution and development of empathy and symbolization. It has not been published yet nor do I have an agent yet. If anyone out there knows of an agent or a publisher that might be interested, please pass on this summary. They can find me here. Thanks.
What we call our ‘humanity’ comprises many facets: our treatment of each other, our cultural achievements in the arts, religions, and science, our civic governance, our languages, morality, etc. Likewise we see the lack of humanity in our disregard or exploitation of others and even more in the sadistic enjoyment of others’ suffering such as is evident in war. This book examines the biological roots of humanity in the evolutionary past and the current development of the human mind. The two main roots here are our mammalian heritage of empathy-based conspecific relationships and the trend in primates for intimacy and intellect that has culminated in our symbolic capabilities. Our humanity is most assuredly a biological phenomenon, and we can see its roots in our studies of neuroscience, linguistics, evolution, psychology, and other fields.
How is it that our minds have become so much bigger on the inside than on the outside? Call the body of any organism its soma; to remain vital a soma must ingest food, etc. Organisms with somas in which brains have evolved have been quite successful—they have spread, grown larger and more complex. While much of the brain remains dedicated to somatic vitality, certain parts have evolved to form what I call the MEMBRAIN of the mind. These structures surround and create a virtual interiority, larger on the inside than outside, constructed with information old and new. We can see through our evolution and development how humans have come to fill our interiority with information displaced in time and space, information not just about the concrete world immediately in our surrounds but very much about what has been remembered, abstracted and created by the MEMBRAIN and held together by the Self. Upon these developments our humanity depends. My book is about that.
My book is different from most others in a couple of ways. I see the totality of the human mind and culture as biological phenomena. While most focus primarily on cognitive issues, my goal is to move toward understanding symbolization as manifested in language, art, and cultural memes; this is to me the holy grail of neuroscience. Understanding this necessarily entails the study of empathy and mental connection. In this I am guided by the philosophical writings of Susanne Langer whom all too few seem to know. My thinking is also informed by a wide and varied sampling of our intellectual heritage from William James through the linguist Noam Chomsky and the great neuroscientists like Paul MacLean and Gerald Edelman and on to the established neuropsychological theories based upon understanding humans as social and symbolic animals, exemplified in the writings of Kandel, Damasio, De Waal, and others. So my book is, I believe, distinctive for its integration across various disciplines as organized by my idea of the MEMBRAIN, that part of our brain that acts as a membrane surrounding the mind, and my understanding that displacement of information in time and space is ubiquitous in mental development.