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Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:05 AM


Setting human limitations... [View all]

This is a difficult subject, and also one that leads to huge disagreements and misunderstanding.

First is defining what we mean by limitations, some limitations are well known, for example in unaided human perception, the wavelengths of light we can see with a naked eye, its sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation, the wavelengths of sound and the intensity we can hear. This also can vary by individuals, some can hear or see better than others, but generally the average limits are well known.

Another is physical limitations of the body, we know the average tensile strength of our bones and knowing the laws of physics as we do, we know what are the possible limits of what we can do with our bodies. How much we can lift, etc. Sometimes we exceed these limits, usually due to stress, causing injury, but overall the limits are again well known.

Since these are relatively well known, we have developed tools to overcome them, a single human would have difficulty lifting a ton of stone, but using a rope and pulley, or a lever, and they can easily overcome this limitation of the body. The same goes for our perceptions, again tools, such as night vision goggles, infrared cameras, hearing aids and other tools can overcome the limits on our senses.

But what about limitations on human comprehension, knowledge, and learning? This is more difficult to quantify. The more we know about the brain, the more questions pop up. Obviously there is a limit to how much knowledge and memory a single individual can hold inside that head of theirs. However, we have yet to figure out what exactly this limitation is, we don't really have a measurement of it.

Its can be extremely individual, savants of various sorts show what happens with specialization of memory, such as remembering dates, or calculating numbers, etc. However, most humans are generalists, and suck at certain things, such as math. However, again, we developed tools to help overcome these limitations, from the abacus to slide rules, to calculators and computers today.

In addition, we have other tools to aid in things such as retention of knowledge, increased comprehension, etc. Language is the first and obvious one, no longer shackled by learning by imitation alone, we could explain the hows and whys of what we did, and pass them on to others. The written word then came along and gave such knowledge a sense of permanency and an ability to spread such knowledge far and wide. Development of technology, especially in recent decades, has only accelerated this spread and growth of knowledge.

So, just like how technology has overcome our limitations on our physical bodies and perceptions, so has it augmented and overcome our mental limitations as well. We developed tools to help us think better, and combined with faster and more efficient communication between us, has lead to an explosion of knowledge and understanding.

This seems to frighten many, and they use religion not as a bludgeon, but as a road block, claiming we can know only so much, and can go no further, and try to reserve what's behind the roadblock as something incomprehensible, such as a deity. The evidence for this road block actually existing isn't evident, indeed it seems, with the exponential growth of discoveries we are making, setting any limit on human knowledge and understanding at this point is foolhardy at best.

Am I saying that there are no limits? Of course not, we, as a species, may have a limit, but it certainly seems evident that we haven't reached it yet, so why set an arbitrary line? We don't know what happened before the Big Bang, we don't know exactly what chemical processes lead to life arising in the first place, but these are blanks, not barriers. Inserting a deity or religion in these blanks, these gaps, doesn't increase our understanding of them or anything else, really. Only careful examination of the evidence seems to lead anywhere.

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Reply Setting human limitations... [View all]
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 OP
tama Dec 2011 #1
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #2
tama Dec 2011 #3
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #15
tama Dec 2011 #20
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #25
tama Dec 2011 #27
Eliminator Dec 2011 #4
rrneck Dec 2011 #6
cleanhippie Dec 2011 #9
rrneck Dec 2011 #13
cleanhippie Dec 2011 #8
deacon_sephiroth Dec 2011 #10
tama Dec 2011 #14
Leontius Dec 2011 #21
Jim__ Dec 2011 #5
tama Dec 2011 #16
cleanhippie Dec 2011 #7
deacon_sephiroth Dec 2011 #11
tama Dec 2011 #18
cbayer Dec 2011 #19
rrneck Dec 2011 #12
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #17
MarkCharles Dec 2011 #22
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #23
MarkCharles Dec 2011 #24
Leontius Dec 2011 #26