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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Canada's most shameful environmental secret must not remain hidden | Tzeporah Berman


This week, the Canadian government will be in Bonn touting Canada's climate plan. It will be joined by Canadian oil companies working to put a green hue on Canadian tar sands – but the world shouldn't be fooled.

The truth is, Canada cannot yet meet its own arguably weak climate targets. The country plans to expand oil and gas production despite evidence that this is inconsistent with Paris goals. Then, there is the issue of the toxic sludge of waste products from Canada's tar sands destruction, which form what are known as tailings ponds.

As of this year, these ponds hold 1 trillion litres of sludge that is unlike any other industrial byproduct in the world. They contain a unique cocktail of toxic chemicals and hydrocarbons that will remain in molasses-like suspension for centuries if left alone.

These open, unlined ponds currently cover 220 sq km, an area of land equivalent to 73 New York Central Parks. A single tailings pond – the Mildred Lake Settling Basin – has been identified by the US Department of the Interior as the world's largest dam.



'These ponds hold 1 trillion litres of sludge that is unlike any other industrial by-product in the world.'

These tailings ponds made international headlines in 2008 when 1,600 ducks flew into one of them. The resulting imagery of animals coated in oil was a powerful reminder of the costs of our global oil addiction.

Since then, the issue has slowly faded from public memory as the Alberta government's strident promises to clean up the ponds left Canada and the rest of the world under the impression the problem was being seriously dealt with.

Yet, last month the government of Alberta approved a tailings management plan for Suncor Energy Incorporated, the oldest mining company in the Canadian tar sands. By approving this plan, Suncor will get an additional 70 years after their operations shut down to clean up the environmental mess that they have created over 60 years of oil extraction.
These open, unlined ponds currently cover 220 sq km, an area of land equivalent to 73 New York Central Parks
To be clear, Alberta has a new progressive majority NDP government which has made some great, long overdue strides in addressing social and environmental issues such as a coal phase-out and a cap on emissions from the tar sands.

However, even under this government, the cumulative impacts of this fossil fuel development are growing and industry continues to obtain sweeping approvals that are shocking for their lack of environmental rigour.

The history of the government's weak attempts to address tailings are shocking. A couple of years ago a directive was put into place to require companies to reduce tailings. Not a single company complied. Rather than fining the companies or refusing permits, the government simply removed the directive.

This recent Suncor approval highlights the staggering and growing cumulative environmental footprint of the Alberta tar sands. Mining the tar sands for oil produces over 3,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions per hectare, consumes freshwater at a rate that rivals the daily water use of several major Canadian cities combined, and has destroyed a New York City-sized chunk of boreal forest and muskeg habitat.

For these reasons, the tar sands have been dubbed the largest (and most destructive) industrial project in human history.

Unfortunately, the now full-blown environmental crisis of tar sands tailings ponds has only gotten worse in the last decade. In Canada, provinces and territories have jurisdiction over resource extraction, and the implementation of a new tailings regulation by the provincial regulator has resulted in a recent review of all tar sands operations tailings management plans.

Suncor's plan is the first to be approved, but represents a typical submission. For this reason, the approval decision has now set the precedent for what will be considered acceptable by the regulator in the sector, and it isn't pretty.

While Suncor's mine will close down in 2033, they have been granted until after 2100 to figure out how to clean up their tailings and reclaim the land. Moreover, they will be "treating" their tailings by dumping them in the bottom of pits and covering them with freshwater to form a permanent "lake".
The long-term ecological risks this creates extend far beyond Alberta, and even Canada. Several of the tailings ponds are now decades old. A failure of a single tailings dyke could result in contaminated waterways from Alberta's Athabasca region through to the Arctic Ocean, that would make even the Exxon Valdez disaster look mild by comparison.

In addition, government data shows that these tailing ponds are leaking and indigenous leaders have repeatedly called for health studies and noted that the expansion of the tarsands is violating their Treaty rights

The dire state of this situation is compounded by the very uncertain economic future for tar sands mining. The tar sands industry's approach to tailings management since 1967 has been to procrastinate on cleaning up the mess until a silver bullet technology is found to deal with them.
Now, 50 years later, technologies to clean up tailings that have been discovered are not being implemented because they are expensive and government is not requiring them.

Meanwhile, the buck is being passed even further into the future. In 2015 the auditor general estimated that tailings liability now surpassed $20bn, a figure many say is conservative. Mining tar sands is one of the most expensive ways to produce crude oil in the world, and with the International Energy Agency assessing 21st-century peak oil demand to be around the corner, it will be among the first oil industries to face bankruptcy.

If they are not dealt with now, tar sands tailings could become a permanent toxic legacy of the most reckless forms of 20th-century fossil fuel extraction.

Fortunately, however, there is still time to shine a light on Canada's most shameful environmental secret and force the polluters to pay up today before they are no longer around to do so.

  • Tzeporah Berman is a Canadian policy adviser on climate and energy issues and an adjunct professor of environmental studies at York University

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Naughty Nuns: Vintage nun porn from the classic tale ‘The Nun’ & more (NSFW or church)




Denis Diderot might sound like the name of some superstar French soccer player but it is in fact the name of a famous Enlightenment writer, philosopher, and playwright, who might do you good getting to know.

Diderot (1713-84) had the smarts. Apart from all his fancy writing, Diderot was also co-founder, editor and contributor of Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts), or the Encyclopedia. His intention was to make information and knowledge available to all—well, at least to all those who could read that is. Diderot and his buddies wanted to break the superstitious rule of religion over their fellow citizens. To this end, he was always asking difficult questions of religious believers, gently poking fun, and writing controversial philosophical tracts on the question of God, belief, design, and all that.

Take, for example, his book The Skeptic's Walk which featured a deist, a pantheist, and an atheist out on convivial perambulation together where each offered up their thoughts on God, the universe, and so forth. Due to its content, the book was not published in Diderot's lifetime. It was long believed the only copy of Diderot's original handwritten text had been confiscated by the police not long after its completion in 1752. Thankfully, it turned out that Diderot had another copy (told you he was smart) which was eventually published in 1830.

Anyway, you're not here to read about Enlightenment philosophy, you're here to see naughty nuns, and we'll get to that shortly, well, unless of course you've already scrolled past all of this and are getting an eyeful below. Good luck with that. That's kinda like people who "Like" things on Facebook but never click the fucking link. But let's get back to Diderot.

You see, Diderot was also a bit of a scallywag and a wit. He had a propensity for pranking his buddies which on one occasion led to his infamous work of literature, La Religieuse or The Nun.
The Nun all started when Diderot was miffed over the loss of one of his drinking buddies who had moved out of Paris and back to some big fancy country estate in Normandy. To draw him back to Paris, Diderot started writing his pal (Marquis de Croismare) a series of letters purportedly from a nun called Suzanne Simonin. This young lady had been forcibly sent to a nunnery by her greedy and ungrateful family—a common occurrence at the time—where she found herself preyed upon by sadistic lesbian Abbess of Ste-Eutrope.

The Marquis on receiving these missives from such an unfortunate young woman, wrote back offering his help. Diderot continued the ruse until the Marquis demanded to meet with the young lady to get her free from her imprisonment in the convent, at which point Diderot wrote a final letter from another fictional character claiming the young girl was dead. Later, when all was revealed, the Marquis found the whole prank "hilarious," as he had acted honorably throughout. (I'm guessing that this was expressed with more of a nervous titter than an outright LOL-style guffaw.)
The correspondence started an idea in Diderot's head to write a book based on his letters and this became La Religieuse. Published twelve years after his death in 1796, The Nun became a scandalous hit. Obviously tame by today's standards, the book's notoriety continued right up to the 1960s when filmmaker Jacques Rivette made a movie of The Nun which was banned by French authorities after the Catholic Church ran a letter-writing campaign to have the film stopped. Rivette's rather dull movie went on to be nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

I've never quite got the whole nuns as sex objects thing—maybe the attraction for some is the frisson of deflowering someone who is supposedly betrothed to the Son of God. Or simply a manifestation of "hot for teacher" for lapsed Catholics? Many nuns were forced into convents against their will (like the character in Diderot's book), and many (even today ) had the sexual attentions of priests and bishops forced upon them against their will. When Aldous Huxley pointed out that the grounds of some convents were littered with the skeletons of dead babies it is as if he is landing the blame solely with the women. This kind of selective blindness never equates male desire and sex with the consequences of pregnancy or disease.

In 1947, Paul-Émile Bécat produced a series of illustrations for Diderot's The Nun. DM's featured Bécat's work before, and he had a highly respected reputation as an artist and for illustrating some of the most infamous and famous books of French literarture—see more here. This small selection mainly features on the nuns Bécat drew for Diderot's book and some other works.
 
All this searching for pictures of Bécat's naughty nuns inevitably led me to many other artists who have similarly illustrated sensuous tales of sapphic and libidinous clergy many of which I've included below.


Via Historia del Arte Erotico and Pinterest.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Naughty nuns, Nosferatu and BDSM: Surreal works by the master of 'anything goes' Clovis Trouille
Lusty erotic playing cards from 1955

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Because You Are Too Deep


1. You say what you mean and mean what you say
Most people fear to speak their mind as they want to avoid being criticized.  In other words, they don't want to be seen as weird for thinking outside the box.  But, you aren't anything like this. You say what you mean and mean what you say!
2. You don't depend on others for your happiness
We have all been in a relationship which consumes you, and leaves you feeling traumatized when it is all over.  You learn from such experiences as they make you realize that being who you are is the only way to happiness.
"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path."
3. You hate small-talk
You hate small-talks and conversations which lack meaning. You are into deep and meaningful conversations, as you genuinely want others to express themselves and be honest.
4. Action is what matters to you
We all know at least one person who is a flatterer and able to convince anyone about anything by using persuasive and competent manner.  While they seemingly say the right words, they don't act upon it.
You are aware of the importance of action and you tend to use critical thinking skills to see whether someone is or not the real deal.
5. You love to listen to others and learn about other people
You are interested in learning and fully aware of the fact that learning is one of the most important aspects of one`s life.  When you learn something about someone, it feels like you have entered a new world.   This makes you a great conversationalist, as the other person feels comfortable and calm, basically like they are the only person on the planet at the present moment.
6. You don't seek attention
Seeking attention because of your status or appearance simply isn't your thing.  You find this meaningless and superficial.  You want to be recognized by your depth and complexity, so you take time to get to know someone.  You know that there is much more than what appears at first.
7. You can't stand insensitivity, idiocy or ignorance
You are extremely proud of your self-taught knowledge.   This is why you get upset when others judge about things and people they don't little or nothing about.  Thinking for yourself is an extremely important quality, especially in the world of Google and algorithmic newsfeeds when you have little control over.
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Monday, November 13, 2017

Bicameralism (psychology) - Wikipedia


Something to chew on...

"Bicameral mind" redirects here. For the Westworld episode, see The Bicameral Mind. For other uses, see Bicameralism (disambiguation).
Bicameralism (the philosophy of "two-chamberedness") is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once assumed a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3000 years ago. The hypothesis is generally not accepted by mainstream psychologists.

The Origin of Consciousness[edit source]

Jaynes uses governmental bicameralism as a metaphor to describe a mental state in which the experiences and memories of the right hemisphere of the brain are transmitted to the left hemisphere via auditory hallucinations. The metaphor is based on the idea of lateralization of brain function although each half of a normal human brain is constantly communicating with the other through the corpus callosum. The metaphor is not meant to imply that the two halves of the bicameral brain were "cut off" from each other but that the bicameral mind was experienced as a different, non-conscious mental schema wherein volition in the face of novel stimuli was mediated through a linguistic control mechanism and experienced as auditory verbal hallucination.
The bicameral mentality would be non-conscious in its inability to reason and articulate about mental contents through meta-reflection, reacting without explicitly realizing and without the meta-reflective ability to give an account of why one did so. The bicameral mind would thus lack metaconsciousness, autobiographical memory and the capacity for executive "ego functions" such as deliberate mind-wandering and conscious introspection of mental content. When bicamerality as a method of social control was no longer adaptive in complex civilizations, this mental model was replaced by the conscious mode of thought which, Jaynes argued, is grounded in the acquisition of metaphorical language learned by exposure to narrative practice.
According to Jaynes, ancient people in the bicameral state of mind would have experienced the world in a manner that has some similarities to that of a schizophrenic. Rather than making conscious evaluations in novel or unexpected situations, the person would hallucinate a voice or "god" giving admonitory advice or commands and obey without question: one would not be at all conscious of one's own thought processes per se. Research into "command hallucinations" that often direct the behavior of those labeled schizophrenic, as well as other voice hearers, supports Jaynes's predictions.[1]
Jaynes built a case for this hypothesis that human brains existed in a bicameral state until as recently as 3000 years ago by citing evidence from many diverse sources including historical literature. He took an interdisciplinary approach, drawing data from many different fields.[2] Jaynes asserted that, until roughly the times written about in Homer's Iliad, humans did not generally have the self-awareness characteristic of consciousness as most people experience it today. Rather, the bicameral individual was guided by mental commands believed to be issued by external "gods"—commands which were recorded in ancient myths, legends and historical accounts. This is exemplified not only in the commands given to characters in ancient epics but also the very muses of Greek mythology which "sang" the poems: the ancients literally heard muses as the direct source of their music and poetry.
According to Jaynes, in the Iliad and sections of the Old Testament no mention is made of any kind of cognitive processes such as introspection, and there is no apparent indication that the writers were self-aware. Jaynes suggests, the older portions of the Old Testament (such as the Book of Amos) have few or none of the features of some later books of the Old Testament (such as Ecclesiastes) as well as later works such as Homer's Odyssey, which show indications of a profoundly different kind of mentality — an early form of consciousness.[2]
In ancient times, Jaynes noted, gods were generally much more numerous and much more anthropomorphic than in modern times, and speculates that this was because each bicameral person had their own "god" who reflected their own desires and experiences.[3] He also noted that in ancient societies the corpses of the dead were often treated as though still alive (being seated, dressed and even fed) as a form of ancestor worship, and Jaynes argued that the dead bodies were presumed to be still living and the source of auditory hallucinations.[2] This adaptation to the village communities of 100 individuals or more formed the core of religion. Unlike today's hallucinations, the voices of ancient times were structured by cultural norms to produce a seamlessly functioning society. In Ancient Greek culture there is often mention of the Logos, which is a very similar concept. It was a type of guiding voice that was heard as from a seemingly external source.
Jaynes inferred that these "voices" came from the right brain counterparts of the left brain language centres—specifically, the counterparts to Wernicke's area and Broca's area. These regions are somewhat dormant in the right brains of most modern humans, but Jaynes noted that some studies show that auditory hallucinations correspond to increased activity in these areas of the brain.[2]
Jaynes notes that even in modern times[when?] there is no consensus as to the cause or origins of schizophrenia. Jaynes argues that schizophrenia is a vestige of humanity's earlier bicameral state.[2] Recent evidence shows that many schizophrenics do not just hear random voices but experience "command hallucinations" instructing their behavior or urging them to commit certain acts.[full citation needed] As support for Jaynes's argument, these command hallucinations are little different from the commands from gods which feature prominently in ancient stories.[2] Indirect evidence supporting Jaynes's theory that hallucinations once played an important role in human mentality can be found in the recent book Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination by Daniel Smith.[4]
The Origin of Consciousness was financially successful, and has been reprinted several times. Originally published in 1976 (ISBN 0-395-20729-0), it was nominated for the National Book Award in 1978. It has been translated into Italian, Spanish, German, French, and Persian.[citation needed] A new edition, with an afterword that addressed some criticisms and restated the main themes, was published in the US in 1990 and in the UK by Penguin Books in 1993 (ISBN 0-14-017491-5), re-issued in 2000.[5]

Breakdown of bicameralism[edit source]

Jaynes theorized that a shift from bicameralism marked the beginning of introspection and consciousness as we know it today. According to Jaynes, this bicameral mentality began malfunctioning or "breaking down" during the 2nd millennium BCE. He speculates that primitive ancient societies tended to collapse periodically (e.g., Egypt's Intermediate Periods, as well as the periodically vanishing cities of the Mayas) as changes in the environment strained the socio-cultural equilibria sustained by this bicameral mindset. The Bronze age collapse of the 2nd millennium BCE led to mass migrations and created a rash of unexpected situations and stresses which required ancient minds to become more flexible and creative. Self-awareness, or consciousness, was the culturally evolved solution to this problem. This necessity of communicating commonly observed phenomena among individuals who shared no common language or cultural upbringing encouraged those communities to become self-aware to survive in a new environment. Thus consciousness, like bicamerality, emerged as a neurological adaptation to social complexity in a changing world.[citation needed]
Jaynes further argues that divination, prayer, and oracles arose during this breakdown period, in an attempt to summon instructions from the "gods" whose voices could no longer be heard.[2] The consultation of special bicamerally operative individuals, or of divination by casting lots and so forth, was a response to this loss, a transitional era depicted, for example, in the book of 1 Samuel. It was also evidenced in children who could communicate with the gods, but as their neurology was set by language and society they gradually lost that ability. Those who continued prophesying, being bicameral according to Jaynes, could be killed.[6][7] Leftovers of the bicameral mind today, according to Jaynes, include religion, hypnosis, possession, schizophrenia, and the general sense of need for external authority in decision-making.[citation needed]

Reception[edit source]

Jaynes's hypothesis remains controversial. The primary scientific criticism has been that the conclusions drawn by Jaynes had no basis in neuropsychiatric fact.[8]
Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion (2006) wrote of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind:
"It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between! Probably the former, but I'm hedging my bets."[9]
Some early (1977) reviewers considered Jaynes's hypothesis worthy and offer conditional support, arguing the notion deserves further study.[10][11]
According to Jaynes, language is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for consciousness: language existed thousands of years earlier, but consciousness could not have emerged without language.[12] The idea that language is a necessary component of subjective consciousness and more abstract forms of thinking has gained the support of proponents including Andy Clark, Daniel Dennett, William H. Calvin, Merlin Donald, John Limber, Howard Margolis, Peter Carruthers, and José Luis Bermúdez.[13]
Williams (2010) defended Jaynes against the criticism of Block (1981).[clarification needed][14][15] [clarification needed]
In a 1987 letter to the American Journal of Psychiatry, H. Steven Moffic questioned why Jaynes's theory was left out of a discussion on auditory hallucinations by Asaad and Shapiro.[16] In response published in the May 1987 issue, the authors replied:
"...Jaynes' hypothesis makes for interesting reading and stimulates much thought in the receptive reader. It does not, however, adequately explain one of the central mysteries of madness: hallucination."[8]
Drs. Asaad and Shapiro's comment, that there is no evidence for involvement of the right temporal lobe in auditory hallucination, was incorrect even at that time.[17][18] A number of more recent studies provide additional evidence to right hemisphere involvement in auditory hallucinations. Recent neuroimaging studies provide new evidence for Jaynes's neurological model (e.g., auditory hallucinations arising in the right temporal-parietal lobe and being transmitted to the left temporal-parietal lobe). This was pointed out by Dr. Robert Olin in Lancet[19] and Dr. Leo Sher in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience,[20] and further discussed in the book Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness.[21]
The philosopher Daniel Dennett suggested that Jaynes may have been wrong about some of his supporting arguments, especially the importance he attached to hallucinations, but that these things are not essential to his main thesis:[22]
"If we are going to use this top-down approach, we are going to have to be bold. We are going to have to be speculative, but there is good and bad speculation, and this is not an unparalleled activity in science. […] Those scientists who have no taste for this sort of speculative enterprise will just have to stay in the trenches and do without it, while the rest of us risk embarrassing mistakes and have a lot of fun." —Daniel Dennett[23]
Gregory Cochran, a physicist and adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Utah, wrote:
"Genes affecting personality, reproductive strategies, cognition, are all able to change significantly over few-millennia time scales if the environment favors such change—and this includes the new environments we have made for ourselves, things like new ways of making a living and new social structures. ... There is evidence that such change has occurred. ... On first reading, Breakdown seemed one of the craziest books ever written, but Jaynes may have been on to something."[24]
Author and historian of science Morris Berman writes: "[Jaynes's] description of this new consciousness is one of the best I have come across."[25]
Danish science writer Tor Nørretranders discusses Jaynes's theory favorably in his book The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size.[26]
As an argument against Jaynes' proposed date of the transition from bicameralism to consciousness, one might refer to the Gilgamesh Epic. It is supposedly many centuries older than even the oldest passages of the Old Testament, and yet it describes introspection and other mental processes that, according to Jaynes, were impossible for the bicameral mind. Jaynes himself, noting that the most complete version of the Gilgamesh epic dates to post-bicameral times (7th century BCE), dismisses these instances of introspection as the result of rewriting and expansion by later conscious scribes, and points to differences between the more recent version of Gilgamesh and surviving fragments of earlier versions. ("The most interesting comparison is in Tablet X.")[27]
This, however, fails to account for either the generally accepted dating of the "Standard Version" of the epic to the later 2nd millennium BCE or the fact that the introspection so often taken as characteristic of the "Standard Version" seems more thoroughly rooted in the Old Babylonian and Sumerian versions than previously thought, especially as our understanding of the Old Babylonian poem emerges.[28]
Brian J. McVeigh (2007) maintains that many of the most frequent criticisms of Jaynes' theory are either incorrect or reflect serious misunderstandings of Jaynes' theory, especially Jaynes' more precise definition of consciousness. Jaynes defines consciousness—in the tradition of Locke and Descartes—as "that which is introspectable". Jaynes draws a sharp distinction between consciousness ("introspectable mind-space") and other mental processes such as cognition, learning, and sense and perception. McVeigh argues that this distinction is frequently not recognized by those offering critiques of Jaynes' theory.[29]
A "Julian Jaynes Society" was founded by supporters of bicameralism in 1997, shortly after Jaynes' death. The society published a collection of essays on bicameralism in 2007,[30] with contributors including psychological anthropologist Brian J. McVeigh, psychologists John Limber and Scott Greer, clinical psychologist John Hamilton, philosophers Jan Sleutels and David Stove, and sinologist Michael Carr (see shi "personator"). The book also contains an extensive biography of Julian Jaynes by historian of psychology William Woodward and June Tower, and a Foreword by neuroscientist Michael Persinger.[citation needed]
Divination is also considerably older than that date and the early writings he claims show bicamerality; the oldest recorded Chinese Writing was on oracle bones, meaning that divination arose at the same time or even earlier than writing, in Chinese Society.[31][not in citation given]
While he said ancient societies engaged in ancestor worship before this date, non-ancient societies also engaged in it after that date; very advanced societies like the Aztecs and Egyptians mummified rulers (see Pyramids and the philosopher Nezahualcoyotl), the Aztecs all the way up to the meeting with Hernan Cortes.[citation needed]
Julian Jaynes' study is mostly based on the writings and culture of the Mediterranean and Near-Eastern regions, although he occasionally also refers to ancient writings of India and China.[32][33] It does not explain how such bicameralism could also have been near totally lost at the same time across the whole planet and in the entire human kind. In particular the aborigine culture was completely separated from the rest of the world from 4000 BCE to 1600 CE and appears today to be both historically unchanged but also self-conscious.[citation needed]

Similar ideas[edit source]

In his books Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology, transactional psychologist and author Robert Anton Wilson proposes a similar theory, referring to the right cortical hemisphere as "Thinker" and the left cortical hemisphere as "Prover". He summarizes his concept as "Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves."
VS Ramachandran proposes a similar theory as well, referring to the left cortical hemisphere as an "Apologist", and the right cortical hemisphere as a "Revolutionary".
In his book Neuroreality, Bruce E. Morton, Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii, similarly proposed such a concept.
In his book The Master and His Emissary, psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist reviews scientific research into the role of the brain's hemispheres, and cultural evidence, and he proposes that since the time of Plato the left hemisphere of the brain (the "emissary" in the title) has increasingly taken over from the right hemisphere (the "master"), to our detriment. McGilchrist, while accepting Jayne's intention, felt that Jayne's hypothesis was "the precise inverse of what happened" and that rather than a shift from bicameralism there evolved a separation of the hemispheres.[34]
Michael Gazzaniga pioneered the split-brain experiments which led him to propose a similar theory called the left brain interpreter.
It is now known[citation needed] that sense of agency is closely connected with lateralization. The left parietal lobe is active when visualizing actions in the first person, while the right parietal lobe is active for actions in the third person. Additionally, Wernicke's area processes the literal meaning of language, while the homologous region in the right hemisphere processes the intent of a speaker. It has been found that people with damage to the right inferior parietal cortex experience alien hand syndrome, as do people who have had a corpus callosotomy. This reverses the relationship between the right and left hemispheres posited by bicameralism: it is the left hemisphere that "speaks" and the right hemisphere that is responsible for self-awareness.
Neuroscientist Michael Persinger, who co-invented the God helmet in the 1980s, believes that his invention may induce mystical experiences by having the separate right hemisphere consciousness intrude into the awareness of the normally-dominant left hemisphere.[35]

In popular culture[edit source]

In literature, the 1992 novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson involves an attempt to return humans to their bicameral, pre-conscious state. It contains some of the illustrations used in Jaynes' book. Stephenson's first novel, The Big U, also contains references to bicameralism as an explanation for cult-like behavior among some of the titular university's students and teachers. The 2005 novel Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks also contains themes of bicameralism. The Rage of Achilles, a 2009 novel by Terence Hawkins, recounts The Iliad in terms of the transition from bicameral to modern consciousness.
Bicameralism is a theme in the 1997 Anarky limited series.
The 2005 novel Mind Scan by Robert J. Sawyer discusses the idea at length, and within the story this is used to create artificial consciousness in human-like androids.
The 2014 novel Echopraxia by Peter Watts features a transhumanist religious cult (known as the "Bicameral Order") whose members network parts of their brains to form a hive mind.
The 2016 sci-fi television series Westworld invoked bicameralism as the model for the development of consciousness in its android "hosts", as represented for example in the season 1 finale "The Bicameral Mind". Within the series narrative, the hosts' designer admits that the theory was largely rejected, but working with it was still helpful for designing the hosts' higher cognitive functions.

See also[edit source]

References[edit source]

  1. Jump up ^ Erkwoh, R. (2002). "Command Hallucinations: Who Obeys and Who Resists When?". Psychopathology. 35: 272–279. doi:10.1159/000067065.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g Kuijsten, Marcel (1998–2006). "Summary of Evidence". Retrieved 2006-05-22.
  3. Jump up ^ Stove, D.C. (April 1989). "The Oracles & Their Cessation". Encounter. 72 (4): 30–38. ISSN 0013-7073.
  4. Jump up ^ Smith, Daniel (2007). Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination. ISBN 1-59420-110-2.
  5. Jump up ^ Jaynes, Julian (2000) [1976]. The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind (PDF). Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-05707-2.
  6. Jump up ^ Jaynes, Julian (2000) [1976]. The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind (PDF). Houghton Mifflin. p. 221. ISBN 0-618-05707-2.
  7. Jump up ^ Zechariah, 13: 2-3
  8. ^ Jump up to: a b Moffic, H. Steven (May 1987). "What About the Bicameral Mind?". American Journal of Psychiatry. 144 (5). doi:10.1176/ajp.144.5.696a.
  9. Jump up ^ Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 1-4303-1230-0.
  10. Jump up ^ Keen, Sam, "Julian Jaynes: Portrait of the Psychologist as a Maverick Theorizer," Psychology Today, November 1977, vol 11, pp. 66-7
  11. Jump up ^ Keen, Sam, "The Lost Voices of the Gods (Interview with Julian Jaynes)", Psychology Today, November 1977, vol 11, pp 58-60
  12. Jump up ^ Jaynes, Julian (2000) [1976]. The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind (PDF). Houghton Mifflin. p. 66. ISBN 0-618-05707-2.
  13. Jump up ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2007). Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. Julian Jaynes Society. pp. s. 96–100, 169–202. ISBN 0-9790744-0-1.
  14. Jump up ^ Williams, Gary (2010). "What is it like to be nonconscious? A defense of Julian Jaynes". Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. 10: 217–239. doi:10.1007/s11097-010-9181-z.
  15. Jump up ^ Block, N (1981). "Review of Julian Jayne's Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". Cognition and Brain Theory. 4: 81–83.
  16. Jump up ^ Asaad, G.; Shapiro, B. (Sep 1986). "Hallucinations: theoretical and clinical overview". American Journal of Psychiatry. 143 (9): 1088–1097. doi:10.1176/ajp.143.9.1088. PMID 2875662.
  17. Jump up ^ Buchsbaum, M.S.; et al. (1982). "Cerebral Glucography with Positron Tomography: Use in Normal Subjects and in Patients with Schizophrenia". Archives of General Psychiatry. 39 (3): 251–9. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1982.04290030001001. PMID 6978119.
  18. Jump up ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2009). "New Evidence for Jaynes's Neurological Model: A Research Update". The Jaynesian. 3:1.
  19. Jump up ^ Olin, Robert (1999). "Auditory Hallucinations and the Bicameral Mind". Lancet. 354 (9173): 166. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)75304-6. PMID 10408523.
  20. Jump up ^ Sher, Leo (May 2000). "Neuroimaging, Auditory Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind". Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. 25 (3): 239–240. PMC 1407719. PMID 10863883.
  21. Jump up ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2007). Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. Julian Jaynes Society. pp. s. 116–120. ISBN 0-9790744-0-1.
  22. Jump up ^ Dennett, Daniel (1986). "Julian Jaynes's Software Archeology". Canadian Psychology. 27 (2).
  23. Jump up ^ Daniel Dennett (1998) "Julian Jaynes's Software Archeology." In: Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds.
  24. Jump up ^ Edge Foundation (2006). "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?" http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_4.html
  25. Jump up ^ Berman, Morris (2000). Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality. ISBN 0-7914-4442-2.
  26. Jump up ^ Nørretranders, Tor (1991). User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. ISBN 0-7139-9182-8.
  27. Jump up ^ Jaynes, Julian (2000) [1976]. The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind (PDF). Houghton Mifflin. p. 252. ISBN 0-618-05707-2.
  28. Jump up ^ See A.R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, for a through overview of the current understanding of the Gilgamesh Epic's textual history.
  29. Jump up ^ McVeigh, Brian (2007). "Elephants in the Psychology Department: Overcoming Intellectual Barriers to Understanding Julian Jaynes's Theory". Julian Jaynes Society.
  30. Jump up ^ Kuijsten, Marcel (2007). Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. Julian Jaynes Society. ISBN 0-9790744-0-1.
  31. Jump up ^ "Oldest Chinese Writing".
  32. Jump up ^ Jaynes, Julian (2000) [1976]. The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind (PDF). Houghton Mifflin. pp. 312–313. ISBN 0-618-05707-2.
  33. Jump up ^ According to Jaynes, Indian Veda literature dates clearly from the bicameral age whereas Upanishads very clearly show a developed subjectivelt conscious mind, as do Confucius's teachings in China.
  34. Jump up ^ McGilchrist, Iain (2009). The Master and his Emissary. Yale University Press. p. 262. I believe he [Jayne] got one important aspect of the story back to front. His contention that the phenomena he describes came about because of a breakdown of the 'bicameral mind' - so that the two hemispheres, previously separate, now merged - is the precise inverse of what happened.
  35. Jump up ^ Persinger, M A (1993). "Vectorial cerebral hemisphericity as differential sources for the sensed presence, mystical experiences and religious conversions". Perceptual and motor skills. 76 (3 Pt 1): 915–30. doi:10.2466/pms.1993.76.3.915. PMID 8321608.

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Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking - Issue 54: The Unspoken - Nautilus

I bought Julian Jaynes "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" sometime in the late 90's, when the book and the theory were well established and was then becoming mainstream and universally accepted and argued over...for me it worked, it went on to explain in what I thought was plain-speak how man had and was still changing from a very practical being to a being accepting the the inner mind as the other...it told of the God we imagined talked to us to be the God we are.

How Julian Jaynes' famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age.

November 9, 2017

By Veronique Greenwood
Julian Jaynes was living out of a couple of suitcases in a Princeton dorm in the early 1970s. He must have been an odd sight there among the undergraduates, some of whom knew him as a lecturer who taught psychology, holding forth in a deep baritone voice. He was in his early 50s, a fairly heavy drinker, untenured, and apparently uninterested in tenure. His position was marginal. "I don't think the university was paying him on a regular basis," recalls Roy Baumeister, then a student at Princeton and today a professor of psychology at Florida State University. But among the youthful inhabitants of the dorm, Jaynes was working on his masterpiece, and had been for years.



From the age of 6, Jaynes had been transfixed by the singularity of conscious experience. Gazing at a yellow forsythia flower, he'd wondered how he could be sure that others saw the same yellow as he did. As a young man, serving three years in a Pennsylvania prison for declining to support the war effort, he watched a worm in the grass of the prison yard one spring, wondering what separated the unthinking earth from the worm and the worm from himself. It was the kind of question that dogged him for the rest of his life, and the book he was working on would grip a generation beginning to ask themselves similar questions.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, when it finally came out in 1976, did not look like a best-seller. But sell it did. It was reviewed in science magazines and psychology journals, TimeThe New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. It was nominated for a National Book Award in 1978. New editions continued to come out, as Jaynes went on the lecture circuit. Jaynes died of a stroke in 1997; his book lived on. In 2000, another new edition hit the shelves. It continues to sell today.
Jaynes was sent to prison, where he had plenty of time to reflect on the problem of consciousness.
In the beginning of the book, Jaynes asks, "This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all—what is it? And where did it come from? And why?" Jaynes answers by unfurling a version of history in which humans were not fully conscious until about 3,000 years ago, instead relying on a two-part, or bicameral, mind, with one half speaking to the other in the voice of the gods with guidance whenever a difficult situation presented itself. The bicameral mind eventually collapsed as human societies became more complex, and our forebears awoke with modern self-awareness, complete with an internal narrative, which Jaynes believes has its roots in language.


It's a remarkable thesis that doesn't fit well with contemporary thought about how consciousness works. The idea that the ancient Greeks were not self-aware raises quite a few eyebrows. By giving consciousness a cultural origin, says Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, "Jaynes disavows consciousness as a biological phenomenon."

But Koch and other neuroscientists and philosophers admit Jaynes' wild book has a power all its own. "He was an old-fashioned amateur scholar of considerable depth and tremendous ambition, who followed where his curiosity led him," says philosopher Daniel Dennett. The kind of search that Jaynes was on—a quest to describe and account for an inner voice, an inner world we seem to inhabit—continues to resonate. The study of consciousness is on the rise in neuroscience labs around the world, but the science isn't yet close to capturing subjective experience. That's something Jaynes did beautifully, opening a door on what it feels like to be alive, and be aware of it.

Jaynes was the son of a Unitarian minister in West Newton, Massachusetts. Though his father died when Jaynes was 2 years old, his voice lived on in 48 volumes of his sermons, which Jaynes seems to have spent a great deal of time with as he grew up. In college, he experimented with philosophy and literature but decided that psychology, with its pursuit of real data about the physical world, was where he should seek answers to his questions. He headed to graduate school in 1941, but shortly thereafter, the United States joined World War II. Jaynes, a conscientious objector, was assigned to a civilian war effort camp. He soon wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney General announcing that he was leaving, finding the camp's goal incompatible with his principles: "Can we work within the logic of an evil system for its destruction? Jesus did not think so ... Nor do I." He was sent to prison, where he had plenty of time to reflect on the problem of consciousness. "Jaynes was a man of principle, some might say impulsively or recklessly so," a former student and a neighbor recalled. "He seemed to draw energy from jousting windmills."

Jaynes emerged after three years, convinced that animal experiments could help him understand how consciousness first evolved, and spent the next three years in graduate school at Yale University. For a while, he believed that if a creature could learn from experience, it was having an experience, implying consciousness. He herded single paramecia through a maze carved in wax on Bakelite, shocking them if they turned the wrong way. "I moved on to species with synaptic nervous systems, flatworms, earthworms, fish, and reptiles, which could indeed learn, all on the naive assumption that I was chronicling the grand evolution of consciousness," he recounts in his book. "Ridiculous! It was, I fear, several years before I realized that this assumption makes no sense at all." Many creatures could be trained, but what they did was not introspection. And that was what tormented Jaynes.
A psychology based on rats in mazes rather than the human mind, Jaynes wrote, was "bad poetry disguised as science."
Meanwhile, he performed more traditional research on the maternal behavior of animals under his advisor, Frank Beach. It was a difficult time to be interested in consciousness. One of the dominant psychological theories was behaviorism, which explored the external responses of humans and animals to stimuli. Conditioning with electric shocks was in, pondering the intangible world of thoughts was out, and for understandable reasons—behaviorism was a reaction to earlier, less rigorous trends in psychology. But for much of Jaynes' career, inner experience was beyond the pale. In some parts of this community to say you studied consciousness was to confess an interest in the occult.

In 1949, Jaynes left without receiving his Ph.D., apparently having refused to submit his dissertation. It's not clear exactly why—some suggest his committee wanted revisions he would not make, some that he was irked by the hierarchical structure of academia, some that he simply was fed up enough to walk. One story he told was that he didn't want to pay the $25 submission fee. (In 1977, as his book was selling, Jaynes completed his Ph.D. at Yale.) But it does seem clear that he was frustrated by his lack of progress. He later wrote that a psychology based on rats in mazes rather than the human mind was "bad poetry disguised as science."

It was the beginning of an odd peregrination. In the fall of 1949, he moved to England and became a playwright and actor, and for the next 15 years, he ricocheted back and forth across the ocean, alternating between plays and adjunct teaching, eventually landing at Princeton University in 1964. All the while, he had been reading widely and pondering the question of what consciousness was and how it could have arisen. By 1969, he was thinking about a work that would describe the origin of consciousness as a fundamentally cultural change, rather than the evolved one he had searched for. It was to be a grand synthesis of science, archaeology, anthropology, and literature, drawing on material gathered during the past couple decades of his life. He believed he'd finally heard something snap into place.


ONE-BOOK WONDER: Although Julian Jaynes, who died in 1997, never completed another book, The Origins of Consciousness in Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind will carry his name into eternity. John Updike wrote in The New Yorker that when Jaynes "speculates that until late in the second millennium B.C. men had no consciousness but were automatically obeying the voices of gods … we are astounded but compelled to follow this remarkable thesis through all the corroborative evidence he finds in ancient literature, modern behaviorism, and aberrant psychological phenomenon such as hypnotism, possession, glossolalia, prophecy, poetry, and schizophrenia."Princeton University
The book sets its sights high from the very first words.  "O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind!" Jaynes begins. "A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries."

To explore the origins of this inner country, Jaynes first presents a masterful precis of what consciousness is not. It is not an innate property of matter. It is not merely the process of learning. It is not, strangely enough, required for a number of rather complex processes. Conscious focus is required to learn to put together puzzles or execute a tennis serve or even play the piano. But after a skill is mastered, it recedes below the horizon into the fuzzy world of the unconscious. Thinking about it makes it harder to do. As Jaynes saw it, a great deal of what is happening to you right now does not seem to be part of your consciousness until your attention is drawn to it. Could you feel the chair pressing against your back a moment ago? Or do you only feel it now, now that you have asked yourself that question?

Consciousness, Jaynes tells readers, in a passage that can be seen as a challenge to future students of philosophy and cognitive science, "is a much smaller part of our mental life than we are conscious of, because we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of." His illustration of his point is quite wonderful. "It is like asking a flashlight in a dark room to search around for something that does not have any light shining upon it. The flashlight, since there is light in whatever direction it turns, would have to conclude that there is light everywhere. And so consciousness can seem to pervade all mentality when actually it does not."

Perhaps most striking to Jaynes, though, is that knowledge and even creative epiphanies appear to us without our control. You can tell which water glass is the heavier of a pair without any conscious thought—you just know, once you pick them up. And in the case of problem-solving, creative or otherwise, we give our minds the information we need to work through, but we are helpless to force an answer. Instead it comes to us later, in the shower or on a walk. Jaynes told a neighbor that his theory finally gelled while he was watching ice moving on the St. John River. Something that we are not aware of does the work.

The picture Jaynes paints is that consciousness is only a very thin rime of ice atop a sea of habit, instinct, or some other process that is capable of taking care of much more than we tend to give it credit for. "If our reasonings have been correct," he writes, "it is perfectly possible that there could have existed a race of men who spoke, judged, reasoned, solved problems, indeed did most of the things that we do, but were not conscious at all."

Jaynes believes that language needed to exist before what he has defined as consciousness was possible. So he decides to read early texts, including The Iliad and The Odyssey, to look for signs of people who aren't capable of introspection—people who are all sea, no rime. And he believes he sees that in The Iliad. He writes that the characters in The Iliad do not look inward, and they take no independent initiative. They only do what is suggested by the gods. When something needs to happen, a god appears and speaks. Without these voices, the heroes would stand frozen on the beaches of Troy, like puppets.

Speech was already known to be localized in the left hemisphere, instead of spread out over both hemispheres. Jaynes suggests that the right hemisphere's lack of language capacity is because it used to be used for something else—specifically, it was the source of admonitory messages funneled to the speech centers on the left side of the brain. These manifested themselves as hallucinations that helped guide humans through situations that required complex responses—decisions of statecraft, for instance, or whether to go on a risky journey.

The combination of instinct and voices—that is, the bicameral mind—would have allowed humans to manage for quite some time, as long as their societies were rigidly hierarchical, Jaynes writes. But about 3,000 years ago, stress from overpopulation, natural disasters, and wars overwhelmed the voices' rather limited capabilities. At that point, in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, bits and pieces of the conscious mind would have come to awareness, as the voices mostly died away. That led to a more flexible, though more existentially daunting, way of coping with the decisions of everyday life—one better suited to the chaos that ensued when the gods went silent. By The Odyssey, the characters are capable of something like interior thought, he says. The modern mind, with its internal narrative and longing for direction from a higher power, appear.
Daniel Dennett likes to give Jaynes the benefit of the doubt: "There were a lot of really good ideas lurking among the completely wild junk."
The rest of the book—400 pages—provides what Jaynes sees as evidence of this bicamerality and its breakdown around the world, in the Old Testament, Maya stone carvings, Sumerian writings. He cites a carving of an Assyrian king kneeling before a god's empty throne, circa 1230 B.C. Frequent, successive migrations around the same time in what is now Greece, he takes to be a tumult caused by the breakdown. And Jaynes reflects on how this transition might be reverberating today. "We, at the end of the second millennium A.D., are still in a sense deep in this transition to a new mentality. And all about us lie the remnants of our recent bicameral past," he writes, in awe of the reach of this idea, and seized with the pathos of the situation. "Our kings, presidents, judges, and officers begin their tenures with oaths to the now-silent deities, taken upon the writings of those who have last heard them."

It's a sweeping and profoundly odd book. But The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind was enormously appealing. Part of it might have been that many readers had never thought about just what consciousness was before. Perhaps this was the first time many people reached out, touched their certainty of self, and found it was not what they expected. Jaynes' book did strike in a particular era when such jolts were perhaps uniquely potent. In the 1970s, many people were growing interested in questions of consciousness. Baumeister, who admires Jaynes, and read the book in galley form before it was published, says Jaynes tapped into the "spiritual stage" of the ascendant New Age movement.

And the language—what language! It has a Nabokovian richness. There is an elegance, power, and believability to his prose. It sounds prophetic. It feels true. And that has incredible weight. Truth and beauty intertwine in ways humans have trouble picking apart. Physicist Ben Lillie, who runs the Storycollider storytelling series, remembers when he discovered Jaynes' book. "I was part of this group that hung out in the newspaper and yearbook offices and talked about intellectual stuff and wore a lot of black," Lillie says. "Somebody read it. I don't remember who was first, it wasn't me. All of a sudden we thought, that sounds great, and we were all reading it. You got to feel like a rebel because it was going against common wisdom."

It's easy to find cracks in the logic: Just for starters, there are moments in The Iliad when the characters introspect, though Jaynes decides they are later additions or mistranslations. But those cracks don't necessarily diminish the book's power. To readers like Paul Hains, the co-founder of Aeon, an online science and philosophy magazine, Jaynes' central thesis is of secondary importance to the book's appeal. "What captured me was his approach and style and the inspired and nostalgic mood of the text; not so much the specifics of his argument, intriguing though they were," Hains writes. "Jaynes was prepared to explore the frontier of consciousness on its own terms, without explaining away its mysterious qualities."



Meanwhile, over the last four decades, the winds have shifted, as often happens in science as researchers pursue the best questions to ask. Enormous projects, like those of the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Brain-Mind Institute of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, seek to understand the structure and function of the brain in order to answer many questions, including what consciousness is in the brain and how it is generated, right down to the neurons. A whole field, behavioral economics, has sprung up to describe and use the ways in which we are unconscious of what we do—a major theme in Jaynes' writing—and the insights netted its founders, Daniel Kahneman and Vernon L. Smith, the Nobel Prize.

Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at University of California, Riverside, has conducted experiments to investigate how aware we are of things we are not focused on, which echo Jaynes' view that consciousness is essentially awareness. "It's not unreasonable to have a view that the only things you're conscious of are things you are attending to right now," Schwitzgebel says. "But it's also reasonable to say that there's a lot going on in the background and periphery. Behind the focus, you're having all this experience." Schwitzgebel says the questions that drove Jaynes are indeed hot topics in psychology and neuroscience. But at the same time, Jaynes' book remains on the scientific fringe. "It would still be pretty far outside of the mainstream to say that ancient Greeks didn't have consciousness," he says.

Dennett, who has called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind a "marvelous, wacky book," likes to give Jaynes the benefit of the doubt. "There were a lot of really good ideas lurking among the completely wild junk," he says. Particularly, he thinks Jaynes' insistence on a difference between what goes on in the minds of animals and the minds of humans, and the idea that the difference has its origins in language, is deeply compelling.

"[This] is a view I was on the edge of myself, and Julian kind of pushed me over the top," Dennett says. "There is such a difference between the consciousness of a chimpanzee and human consciousness that it requires a special explanation, an explanation that heavily invokes the human distinction of natural language," though that's far from all of it, he notes. "It's an eccentric position," he admits wryly. "I have not managed to sway the mainstream over to this."
The broader questions that Jaynes' book raised are the same ones that continue to vex neuroscientists and lay people.
It's a credit to Jaynes' wild ideas that, every now and then, they are mentioned by neuroscientists who study consciousness. In his 2010 book, Self Comes to Mind, Antonio Damasio, a professor of neuroscience, and the director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, sympathizes with Jaynes' idea that something happened in the human mind in the relatively recent past. "As knowledge accumulated about humans and about the universe, continued reflection could well have altered the structure of the autobiographical self and led to a closer stitching together of relatively disparate aspects of mind processing; coordination of brain activity, driven first by value and then by reason, was working to our advantage," he writes. But that's a relatively rare endorsement. A more common response is the one given by neurophilosopher Patricia S. Churchland, an emerita professor at the University of California, San Diego. "It is fanciful," she says of Jaynes' book. "I don't think that it added anything of substance to our understanding of the nature of consciousness and how consciousness emerges from brain activity."

Jaynes himself saw his theory as a scientific contribution, and was disappointed with the research community's response. Although he enjoyed the public's interest in his work, tilting at these particular windmills was frustrating even for an inveterate contrarian. Jaynes' drinking grew heavier. A second book, which was to have taken the ideas further, was never completed.

And so, his legacy, odd as it is, lives on. Over the years, Dennett has sometimes mentioned in his talks that he thought Jaynes was on to something. Afterward—after the crowd had cleared out, after the public discussion was over—almost every time there would be someone hanging back. "I can come out of the closet now," he or she would say. "I think Jaynes is wonderful too."

Marcel Kuijsten is an IT professional who runs a group called the Julian Jaynes Society whose membership he estimates at about 500 or 600 enthusiasts from around the world. The group has an online members' forum where they discuss Jaynes' theory, and in 2013 for the first time they hosted a conference, meeting in West Virginia for two days of talks. "It was an incredible experience," he says.
Kuijsten feels that many people who come down on Jaynes haven't gone to the trouble to understand the argument, which he admits is hard to get one's mind around. "They come into it with a really ingrained, pre-conceived notion of what consciousness means to them," he says, "And maybe they just read the back of the book." But he's playing the long game. "I'm not here to change anybody's mind. It's a total waste of time. I want to provide the best quality information, and provide good resources for people who've read the book and want to have a discussion."

To that end, Kuijsten and the Society have released books of Jaynes' writings and of new essays about him and his work. Whenever discoveries that relate to the issues Jaynes raised are published, Kuijsten notes them on the site. In 2009 he highlighted brain-imaging studies suggesting that auditory hallucinations begin with activity in the right side of the brain, followed by activation on the left, which sounds similar to Jaynes' mechanism for the bicameral mind. He hopes that as time goes on, people will revisit some of Jaynes' ideas in light of new science.

Ultimately, the broader questions that Jaynes' book raised are the same ones that continue to vex neuroscientists and lay people. When and why did we start having this internal narrative? How much of our day-to-day experience occurs unconsciously? What is the line between a conscious and unconscious process? These questions are still open. Perhaps Jaynes' strange hypotheses will never play a role in answering them. But many people—readers, scientists, and philosophers alike—are grateful he tried.

Veronique Greenwood is a science writer and essayist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Discover, Aeon, New Scientist, and many more. Follow her on Twitter here.
This article was originally published in our "Error" issue in May, 2015.

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