I believe language arises from the confluence of our vocal tracts being able to make such articulated units of sound and the primate brain's ability to organize these sounds effectively, specifically into hierarchies of meaning. Without our fine vocal folds, there would be no language, and quite possibly if our brains had evolved in even a slightly different way it might also have been impossible. I don't think looking for some specific 'language gene' is a fruitful avenue, and looking for any tidy explanation will likely turn up nothing. In order to understand the origin of language, we would need both a highly sophisticated knowledge of the nervous system far beyond that which we have now, as well as a detailed evolutionary picture, specifically related to the anatomical development of the vocal folds, which is probably unknowable. I anticipate it will remain truly a mystery for a very long time.

It seems the U.S. needs an enemy. We don't have a center without one. I guess we'd rather have Cold War II than live peacefully with other nations, even ones who may not see eye-to-eye with us. For the life of me, I cannot see why we can't cooperate with Russia the same way we do with, say, China. We are very wary about China in this country, most likely because of the anti-communist bullshit we can't seem to shake, but we do business with them to the tune of trillions annually, so it's a peaceful coexistence. For whatever reason, we want Russia to be a villain. We're very sanctimonious and hypocritical with them. No, Putin is not a particularly good dude, but that hasn't stopped us before from having alliances. As far as Crimea, it's woefully misunderstood. It is historically Russian. Krushchev ceded Crimea to Ukraine in the sixties in a show of pageantry, not knowing the Soviet Union would collapse! For Russia to annex it makes a lot of sense to them, and is not really an invasion of a foreign country as far as history is concerned. Crimeans are essentially Russian -- they speak Russian, they are pro-Russia and pro-Putin, and they have a direct historical continuity with czarist and Soviet Russia. If we were to be democratic about it and hold a vote in Crimea, they would support annexation. So this issue is badly misunderstood. Unfortunately, it has fanned the bonfire against Russia in the West. I wish we could cooperate with the Russians rather than pick a fight with them -- it would be much better for both parties. But I suppose the gloves are off at this point, and the Russians can only make the hole deeper as they defend themselves and do what they can for themselves. Like I said, we're a bunch of hypocrites on this. What should be done is that we call of hostilities, and enter a peaceful, if not necessarily sanguine, period of coexistence and cooperation. This bullshit has got to stop. The Russians are a wonderful people.

There is no benefit to being in the Middle East whatsoever. It is a quagmire. These people have been fighting each other for over a thousand years, and there is nothing we can hope to gain by pouring gasoline on the fire. There is no conceivable endgame except more instability. We're in over our heads over there, and there's no constructive way out that will work. We went in for oil and strategic interests, and now we can't (or won't) get out. It's fucked.

Policy and public opinion diverge on most of the important issues, and they get away with it cleanly for some reason. As long as the 'masters of mankind' get to execute their agenda with impunity, and there has to date been no one to challenge them, I'm afraid the meaningful changes people talk about will most likely not come to pass. I can't see it happening without real changes at the top. The real top.

Well, the second amendment is clearly an anachronism. Don't get me wrong, I'm a gun owner and I support gun ownership, and of course any sort of prohibition would never work anyway, just as alcohol prohibition didn't and couldn't. But this amendment was designed by and for colonial Americans. It made sense then. Even though I support guns, as I said, the world is diametrically different than it was in late eighteenth century America. When gun nuts go off about the second amendment, it seems stupid because there's really no balance of power anymore between the government and the people. An uprising of armed militias would be quashed immediately, and it would be silly. So to protect the right to defend against a misbehaving government is rather ridiculous, and that is what the amendment was designed for. Again, I'm not arguing for an abridgement of this right. I just think we should have it in a bit better perspective. If there can be effective legislation against some of these murders, I will support it. There's nothing anyone can do with a Republican supermajority, though, so for the moment such propositions are totally academic. And gun deaths are a minuscule fraction of total deaths in this country. That's not to say it's okay, but driving around town in one's car is infinitely more dangerous, as car deaths outnumber gun deaths by tens of thousands to one. Still, it's a problem that deserves serious attention, and there are certainly no easy answers.

If the U.S. ever experienced a true economic collapse, my guess is that the situation would look more like rioting and chaos than an organized civil war.

Sometimes revolution is necessary, as the founders and especially Jefferson believed. However, history seems to show us that what replaces the toppled regime is very often worse than that which got toppled. The Middle East over the last twenty years proves that point. Generally speaking, it seems to me that today's revolutionary is tomorrow's despot nine times in ten.

Is our failing democratic tradition to blame for our problems, or is it rather our current expression of neoliberal capitalism that is at fault for our woes? Perhaps it's an amalgamation of both.

I'm a diabetic and I am therefore very expensive. Single-payer is the only option that would truly work for me, but most Americans are afraid of "socialism," and moreover, most Americans don't really give a fuck, and don't understand the reality of our healthcare industry, which is essentially medieval. Obamacare was better than what came before it, but even it is not really that affordable, at least for me. But shit, I'm covered, thank God. I don't expect to see single-payer anytime soon, and I'm not optimistic that the Trump administration can improve upon the ACA. I'd rather hover than not have coverage, though. But single-payer would be a dream for me.

In a capitalist society, people figure that the smartest people must also be the richest. It is important to realize that this is not the case.

A good rule of thumb for determining the reach of the government is this: Government should provide all the goods and services that are strictly necessary for the consumer, and not necessarily provide those that are not. Education, healthcare, infrastructure, power and water, general administration and regulation -- these are all areas that should be covered by government funding and oversight. Incidentally, free access to food is not considered a basic human right in America, but that's a different topic. With a few exceptions, everything not mentioned should be under the purview (and profit motive) of private enterprise. To me, this seems reasonable, but to most Americans, it doesn't. I am not at all sure why.

The American political system, and by inference the Constitution, is obsolete. It worked satisfactorily in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and most of the twentieth, centuries, but is now quite broken. The fact of the matter is that China is the up-and-coming power of the twenty-first century. No one can deny that. Their political system, for all its faults, would never elect a person of Donald Trump's incompetence, inexperience and overall disability to the Politburo, or any other agency of national government. And the proof is "in the pudding": what did our antiquated American system recently do? Elect a Donald Trump. Many millions of Americans like his Jacksonian, wrecking-ball policies -- because things can't get any worse for them -- but anyone of sound mind has got to disqualify him for his aforementioned inexperience and related incompetence, his unsatisfactory general intelligence, and his overwhelming penchant for utter dishonesty. It's very sad that our country has come to this, and the situation will very probably get worse before it gets any better.

As far as ranking the presidents, even a top three, the only president who showed any real restraint and decorum, sincerely listened to everyone's opinion, and wasn't a partisan hack, was Washington. Carter was maybe the best man, and certainly one of the smartest, but an awfully ineffective administrator and not a good president. I can't name a top three because I don't think we've had that many good ones.

Because I am a generalist, there is no field in which I am so completely interested that it would be appropriate to pursue. I am fine with this. I would rather have some wide though appreciable knowledge of many areas than to be imprisoned in one narrow, exclusive one. This makes a well-defined career difficult to acquire, but I seem to manage.

It is possible, after all, that the major religions have actually done more good than harm.

What's most sociologically distressing is that so many who are at the top shouldn't be there, while so many with no access to it at all should. This is a repeating historical phenomenon. It takes a particular type of person to "make it," and this is not a pleasant truth. Most societies, despite their claims, are not true meritocracies.

Civilizations turn to decadence and decay, and more often than not fall by the wayside, when the very factors which made them fresh, dynamic and invigorating evolve and transform into a reversing trend. Liberal democracy and capitalism worked extremely well for us in the beginning and for some time after, and now the very same institutions we started out with are causing a blockage to the flow of dynamism that is leading to a rotting of the sociocultural fabric, and real dysfunction. It is a vicious, and seemingly unavoidable, cycle.

Eyes Wide Shut is a cruel piece in a way, as it is almost meant to trick the people who don't understand it.

Business is the art and science of stealing legally. The broader sweep of capitalism is really institutionalized theft. And the thieves only get richer as everyone else watches helplessly.

True randomness would have to be defined as 1/infinity. Can anything be truly random based on this definition?

Separateness is very real, but also illusory. Ultimately we're all made of atoms which were born in stars. The process by which those atoms construct themselves, energize and interact is what unites us in one undivided movement. That is not to say we are defined by matter and energy, but rather, what gives rise to matter and energy.

A given society cannot be functioning properly if there are people in it who are able-bodied and competent but are not given the chance to succeed.

I think "unnatural" is the wrong word to describe how Berman feels about Sacred Authority and its attendant structures. Berman accepts that civilization exists, he merely posits that it is not evolutionary. It's artificial, in essence. And perhaps in large part because of this, it is not really working well as a means to provide a decent living for most of the world's people. At least not without undue hardship. Berman fully accepts verticality as a reality, and argues that our job is not to dismantle civilization, but to find a way to make it work.

Does the best idea always win? Is what is popular in a capitalist society necessarily good? Is what is good necessarily popular? George Carlin spoke well about the "illusion of choice." The notion that we have any real choice in the modern marketplace is a fallacy; people are intentionally led to believe they have a choice, when in reality it's all a business model. It may be that what is "good" about capitalism is merely what is most profitable. So I have to wonder about the assertion that the free market is a "good" thing, or necessarily generates good things. It looks more like a money machine to me, giving people what they think they want, or what they are told to want, that will not necessarily make them happy, and very probably won't.

For a biologist to tell me with certitude that successful mutations exhibit no inherent degree of order seems unbelievable, to put it politely, and to put it crudely, insane.

I simply cannot tell at this point whether people are basically all right, or basically not all right. I can't discern the truth.

I don't care if people misunderstand my work as long as they don't involve me. I have no interest in correcting anyone's errors.

All that we know: I am here, it is now, and there is change.

Our schools teach our pupils, not only how to be worker bees, but how to accept being worker bees.

The world may be shitty, but the only thing that will ever change with respect to one's experience of it is oneself: is you. The only thing that can really change is one's own perspective. Everything else is likely to remain more or less the same. That's the best advice you'll get about where to look for whatever it is you're looking for.

Let's be honest, there are many, many people out there without whom the universe could get on quite well, and suffer no real loss. But... here they all are...

Transcendentalism sounds good, but if you look at it, you will see that it is inherently dualistic. The notion is that we must transcend the mundane to reach the divine. In truth, reality is one singular movement, with the divine located everywhere.

America preaches equality among its citizens, but there is no country in the world better at masking its own class structure. America is a class society, and in reality, there is no real equality here, at the very least on an economic basis. One must also realize that the notion of equal treatment under the law is a sad myth. The founding fathers preached egalitarianism, but it was never quite able to take hold. Of course, these men were mostly white, upper-class, propertied slave owners who never had any concept of what it is like to be poor. In the end, most of our citizens idolize the rich, and they themselves, the vast majority, will never achieve appreciable wealth for themselves at all. It all strikes me as a well-oiled machine catered to the rich, with an occasional concession thrown in now and then to keep hope alive. No one here is communally equal in any meaningful way, but the rich shall be able to withhold their privilege and their impunity as long as people believe that they are.

Marx made some decent points, but communism isn't the answer. In theory, it looks pretty good, but in practice, it most often doesn't work. Marxism indeed posits that a communist society must start out on the right, and that, therefore, it must be authoritarian to get things in order for a move to the left. The ruling elite do move the economic structure toward the left, but the governments themselves have tended to remain on the right, as the ruling elite or a single dictator do not wish to give up their power. Theoretically then, a communist society is to begin on the right and end with a popular government that exists totally on the left. But the politburos never give up their power, and true Marxism is never realized. This is the basic malfunction.

What we are witnessing now in America is the death throes of a civilization. Whether we will suffer cataclysm or be transformed, we will just have to wait and see.

Maybe some people belong at the top and maybe some don't, but let's stop pretending we're all equal in every meaningful sense. The people at the top sure don't.

Civilized society probably does have to be a lot like this, at least at this point, but there is no principle at work making necessary a situation in which it has to be so beset by perfectly soluble problems we just can't seem to stop bickering long enough to fix. I will say, just looking at Europe compared to the U.S., that America could do a hell of a lot better today.

In America, we are considered equal to our fellow man essentially completely. While I do espouse equality under the law, and an equal right for all to economic security, I feel the truth is that we are all different, with some better than others in various ways, and that it would make sense to assert the truth, rather than mask it.

People tend to demonize the rich, and that can get taken a little too far. You're not necessarily a bad person if you have a lot of money. But the type of person that makes it to the status of "extremely wealthy" is generally the type of person who steps on throats to get to the top. To treat the very rich as normal citizens is essentially to deny that corruption exists, and it also denies the fact that this type of person is a shark, nine times in ten. After all, business is not a pretty enterprise.

The human species, by and large, seems only able to plan effectively over the short term. Given that we currently face numerous long term threats, this is a serious problem. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why civilizations have a tendency to get top-heavy and collapse. In any case, the inability of humanity to strategize effectively about long-term solutions is itself a threat to our existence over the long term. We seem unable to cope effectively with the complexity we have created; we know how to get into trouble, but aren't very good at getting out.

Burroughs was absolutely right when he stated that addiction is the result of exposure. Very many people cannot control themselves when they are exposed to certain chemical compounds. That's not their fault. The war on drugs is a pitiful failure in its insistence that people be blamed for having problems with using substances. Some people can avoid addiction, and others can't, quite simply. Almost everyone in the world is addicted to something, on some level. That we lack compassion about this to such a degree is a sad commentary on an already very sad group.

How many people are there out there -- dozens, hundreds, thousands? -- who could direct a movie as well as Orson Welles, but will never, ever, be behind a camera? It's interesting to think about.

The ethos in the United States of America is to organize society around greed and selfishness, even explicitly. The highest good here, instilled from childhood, is to make as much money as possible for oneself, and not worry about anyone else.

I have trouble with blaming God for the misery and destruction all around us. Everyone always blames God. Really, it doesn't seem to me that God is the one in control here. I would say it rather seems more like that task has fallen to Satan. Blame him.

When women don't give a fuck about you, you can plainly see what they do give a fuck about when they do.

As far as my writing is concerned, I see most of it as pretty good, some of it as very good, and a portion of it as great. And I am contended with that.

When it comes to the topic of the conquest of the continent, many point out, to those who sympathize with the natives, that they were bloodthirsty, devilish and brutal. This is certainly true. Thing is, it was their land.

It is a potent irony that the very technology that will ultimately spell our redemption is, for us, extremely toxic and destructive on numerous levels. What a sad story Earth's is.

What the conservative establishment of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s did not understand was that a person could be rather far left and not be a card-carrying communist. The Red scare and all that was one of the most tragic follies in the history of our republic. McCarthy, Korea, Vietnam, etc. All pointless.

To say that the animal kingdom is in a perpetual state of suffering and misery is nothing more than a psychological projection by certain groups of humans -- who themselves are suffering because of the situation they have created for themselves, or think they are. Most animals do quite well in most ecosystems, or their species would not have survived for very long. Yes, being eaten alive is no walk in the park, but sometimes it's just one's day to die. Animals don't think like we do -- they don't brood, or wallow in misery, or contemplate about how much better life could be. They simply live in the moment. It can be hard to make a living in nature, but even if you're an animal getting just barely enough, you're not worried about how fucked up everything is. Certainly, the majority of the animal kingdom is not living in 'starvation and misery.' Thomas Hobbes has been debunked completely. I must add, though, that as humans keep rapidly destroying habitat, this is changing for many species and they really are now in trouble. But in a normal state of nature, I believe what I have said applies.