“Sentient awareness”

From Michael Crichton’s The Lost World

As one questioner had pompously phrased it, “The Cretaceous allowed our own sentient awareness to arise on the planet.”

Malcolm’s reply was immediate: “What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There’s no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told—and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their ‘beliefs.’ The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion. Next question.”

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  • Steve D  On August 20, 2010 at 5:02 am

    “Malcolm’s reply was immediate:”

    Doesn’t the fact that we can argue that we are not sentient and aware prove that we are?

    “Human beings never think for themselves,”

    Isn’t that what Malcolm just did (although not particularly well)?

    • Aristotle The Geek  On August 21, 2010 at 12:11 am

      I am quite sure his skepticism isn’t metaphysical in nature. And neither does it apply to every human being. He’s making an observation: most human beings lead their entire life like automatons, don’t understand or care about the world that they inhabit, and fight over trifles; an observation every pessimist and cynic would agree with.

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