Notes from Neptune: The Rise and Fall of Homo Addictus

by Charles Lyell on June 18, 2013

“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune.” 
                 – Noam Chomsky

One problem with being years ahead of the scientific community is that people think my theories sound like they’re from Neptune — or even Uranus. That’s OK. As Mahatma Gandhi noted, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Since I’ve recently graduated from being ignored to being mocked, it seems like a good time to rattle the critics’ cages a little, so here goes…

We don’t know where we came from or where we’re going and what we do know is, to put it mildly, disconcerting.

We’re optical illusions made up of atoms that are 99.9999+% empty space. Our planet is a self-contained spaceship that started out as a solidified cloud of dust and gases left over from the creation of an unremarkable star. Thanks to gravity, a phenomenon few understand, our tiny star holds its teeny offspring a safe 93 million miles away. A little further and we’re frozen. A little closer, we’re fried. 

Everything we see, touch, smell, eat, say, experience, and think can be traced to the sun, including:

  • the light we see with — sometimes the light is a by-product of the nuclear energy the sun converted into electromagnetic radiation eight minutes ago. Sometimes it’s the sun’s energy stored in the wind, clouds, living to fossilized vegetation, or mostly empty atoms converted into heat that’s converted into mechanical energy that’s converted into electrical energy that can be transported through wires and reconverted into light by bulbs, TVs, and the screen you’re reading this on. 
  • the food we eat — our bodies convert the sun’s stored energy (that plants and animals turn into the fuels we call foods) into heat, movement, sensations, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and speech. Imagine that, we turn the sun’s stored energy into the electrical, chemical, kinetic, and sound energy that powers our imagining, thinking, writing, reading, and talking about the sun.
  • the heat that warms us — the fuels we convert into body heat, the sun’s minutes old electromagnetic radiation absorbed by our skin and stored in the earth and its atmosphere, the sun’s energy stored in fabrics and animal hides (that can be worn or converted to warming fires), and the sun’s stored heat that’s converted into heat, mechanical, and electrical energy, then reconverted back into heat.
  • the energy that makes our lives easier — the sun’s stored energy fueling the vehicles, machinery, computers, refrigerators, and air conditioners that make it possible to escape the sun‘s heat.
  • the beauty that warms our hearts — the miracle of birth, the earth turns we call days, nights, sunrises and sunsets, the magnificent plants and creatures that are born, reproduce, swim, fly, soar, slither, burrow, climb, walk, and die.
  • the energy fueling our hearts — pumping the life-sustaining blood that pulsating through your veins.

No matter how you look at it, we are the sun. You could say we’re all superstars. 

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
       – Neil deGrasse Tyson

If that isn’t magical, mystical, and mind boggling enough, just as matter isn’t as “solid” and reality isn’t as “real” as they seem, time is an illusion. According to Albert Einstein, “For us believing physicists, the separation between past, present and future has only the meaning of an illusion, albeit a tenacious one.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin summed up our situation quite nicely when he wrote, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."

How did potentially sentient beings, gifted with the intelligence to understand that we’re sharing a mystical experience, turn into such foolish creatures? Why do we turn our backs on the miraculous and get mired in petty diversions, inane squabbles, silly roles, and hypocritical religions that hamper genuine spirituality?

The answer to the above question eluded me for 40 years. Then researchers, using sophisticated brain scanning equipment, started publishing studies that made it possible to connect every single dot I’d collected over the decades.

In a nutshell, I believe all of mankind’s problems can be traced to primitive ancestors who turned dopamine-induced survival behaviors into addictions to the deficiency needs Abraham Maslow included in his famous hierarchy of needs. It’s no coincidence that chimpanzees also obsess over food, sex, safety, power, acceptance, approval, attention, esteem and status. Same dopaminergic system, same behavior.

Our more recent ancestors were so dodo for dopamine they figured out how to use drugs, gambling, and belief systems to score massive amounts of the addictive neurotransmitter.

Until 2010 there was no one to blame. Everything changed three years ago when researchers discovered how delicate the dopaminergic system is. It turns out the primitive survival mechanism, that evolved over millions of years, is so effective because it’s extremely sensitive. So sensitive that flooding the system with the dopamine triggered by junk food can destroy fragile receptors and cause them to backfire. Scripps Research Associate Professor Paul J. Kenny wrote, “What happens in addiction is lethally simple. The reward pathways in the brain have been so overstimulated that the system basically turns on itself, adapting to the new reality of addiction, whether its cocaine or cupcakes.”

In addition to cupcakes, researchers have linked dopamine to autism, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, delusions, paranoia, music appreciation. compulsive texting, the popularity of video games, the taste of beer, obesity, and a long list of acknowledged addictions. The topic is so hot that neuroscientists are cranking out two studies an hour.

Since the Scripps’ breakthrough I’ve been trying to find out why dozens of research teams aren’t scrambling to answer a simple question.

If cupcakes can cause a fragile survival system to wreak havoc and lead to a worldwide obesity epidemic, what about powerful psychological deficiency needs for safety/power, acceptance/approval/attention, and esteem/status?

Here’s what I think happened. Our ancestors’ chicanery set a bewildering trap that kept their descendants locked in a dopamine haze and avoiding, dismissing, mocking, and hating anyone who tried to help them escape. History is filled with examples of visionaries, inventors, saviors, leaders, and curious schlubs who were eliminated for threatening the dopamine flow of incurious, defensive, jealous, brutish, colluding killers.

With all choices reduced to dopamine flow, safety/approval/esteem addicts consistently eliminated the DNA of anyone who threatened the addicts’ safety/approval/status and dopamine flow.

Even the names, Homo sapiens and human beings, had more to do with triggering dopamine (by boosting esteem) than merit. Homo addictus seems like a better fit for a primitive species that preferred feigning sapience and humanity over behaving wisely or humanely.

Homo addictus owed its success to the symptoms associated with drug addictions — self-deception, denial, an inability to admit to (or assume responsibility for) irrational, illogical, and destructive behaviors plus the ability to attack, silence, neutralize, and murder any and all threats to their dopamine flow.

Hooked on brain drugs, early Homo addictus traveled far and wide, plundering, destroying, raping, scoring, killing, and begetting. They joined forces. They ganged up. They colluded. United, the most aggressive addicts fed and protected their addictions by weaving layers of lies and deceptions into a flimsy hoax that demanded the elimination of anyone capable of reason. Reasoning individuals have always been easy to spot because they threaten the addicts’ dopamine flow by noticing and challenging blatant hypocrisies, self-deceptions, and inhumane acts.

Inhumane, incorrigible, and invincible, Homo addictus became the most powerful species on the planet. In their insatiable quest for dopamine, our ancestors bred a subspecies of unconscious old-brain addicts who weren’t concerned about derailing evolution. And they couldn’t be bothered understanding what sharing an ongoing miracle implies. The only thing they cared about was scoring dopamine. This left the most aggressive dopamine addicts vehemently opposed to honesty, truth, facts, and individuals who threatened their dopamine flow. Which is why their 21st century progeny, including brilliant scientists, excel at denying the undeniable, rationalizing the irrational, and ignoring the obvious. All symptoms of addictions.

Here’s another symptom of addiction — we’re on an ephemeral magical mystery tour and most of us are more impressed by petty diversions, “reality TV” stars, junk foods, junk news, and consumer goods that we turn into junk.

You can bet that if aliens kidnapped a group of earthlings and dropped them on a strange planet, the secure abductees would be amazed, astonished, flabbergasted, wide-eyed, and scared. 

That’s what happened to every one of us. Except that the space aliens who delivered us to a strange planet were our mothers.

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

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Discussion

One Response to “Notes from Neptune: The Rise and Fall of Homo Addictus”

  1. mystics agree … just don’t get too “logical” in cause and effect

    Posted by gregorylent | June 19, 2013, 7:31 am

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