The Human Condition and The Magnification of the Opposable Thumb.

The Human Condition and The Magnification of the Opposable Thumb.

If you ever watch an awards show for the movies, you'll almost certainly hear someone talking about how important their work is to society. Because they made a movie (for which they have likely made millions of dollars) the earth spins more smoothly. They emphasize their contribution to society as the people who are creating a better world by making such movies (and millions of dollars), imploring you to express your gratitude by viewing their movies in the most profitable medium available.

It's common to hear movie producers and actors let their contemplative, poetic side come out as they talk about how their movies are about "The Human Condition". They speak as though it is burdensome and morose to be Homo Sapiens. These actors, as they receive rewards for their advancement of society through film, will then take the opportunity to make sure to push their views upon you, and shame those who disagree with the accepted viewpoint. They attract applause for their brave statements as though they are the hero, leading us all out of this regressed societal state where a certain view is not fully embraced by all people.

For those who are wondering what "The Human Condition" is, it can be identified and carefully diagnosed by the following symptoms:

  • Being a human
  • Acting like a human
  • Having human biological properties
  • Doing human, or human like things

Basically, The Human Condition is to experience those things commonly experienced while being human. Joy, pain, victory, defeat, love, desire, etc.

Hollywood actors have a penchant for the dramatic. They present themselves as very erudite by using words like erudite, and wax poetic about their line of work, filled with pomp and self importance. When they focus on The Human Condition, it comes across as though they are trying to explain in dramatic detail why we are different from animals. To the Hollywood Erudite, it is through the making of films that tell stories about The Human Condition that we know we are not wild beasts.

Others may feel that the opposable thumb is our differentiator. I'm not sure I can disagree, because I can attest that my dog has not gripped a hammer, a cell phone, or a movie camera in his paws, as he can't with his rudimentary beastly digits.

The opposable thumb has provided a significant advantage to humans for quite some time.  We've been able to use this distinct advantage to increase efficiency and perform daily tasks in very sophisticated ways. Notable examples include grabbing power tools, buttering bread (also holding bread to be buttered), pressing two keys on a keyboard at the same time to perform such tasks as 'copy and paste', just to name a few tasks that you would not see a beast performing. It's fair to say that the opposable thumb has been a key human asset for the creation of movies–yes, because of copy and past when it comes to common movie plots and certain predictable dialogue–but also because of the way we are able to demonstrate The Human Condition in ways that are not limited to simply finding food, having sex and surviving an attack from predators, as is the life of a wild animal.

The opposable thumb is a stand out feature, and it's clear why this makes us humans unique, showcasing our importance in this Universe. Opposable thumbs also makes all of the following animals unique as well.

  • Gorillas
  • Chimpanzees
  • Orangutans
  • Other variants of apes
  • Certain frogs
  • Koalas
  • Pandas
  • Possums (and opossums)
  • Many birds
  • Many dinosaurs (extinct)

Humans basking in their exceptionalism is seen in all kinds of social contexts. Back in the 1600s or so, Galileo Galilei got in a fight with the Catholic Church more or less, because he posed the idea that the earth was not the center of the Universe. This pushed back on the Church's accepted view which was known as Ptolemaic geocentrism. The thinking goes like this:

Earth is the center of the Universe, and that helps explain our worldview and support our teaching about our group being extremely important. This gives us a means of control, and anyone that observes any data that gives them reason to suggest otherwise is a threat and should be stopped.

Imagine the idea that your planet, your civilization, your religion, and you personally are not the central figure in the Universe? Galileo suggested this. He wrote a book called The Assayer which basically means 'the analyst'. The book talks about a method of analyzing data, using math and basing one's conclusion on the testing of that data. His book is regarded as one of the pioneering works on the scientific method. Using this method of testing data to verify or falsify a conclusion, Galileo was able to provide testable proof that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way around as was popularly accepted based on biblical interpretations. His writings on this topic drew substantial criticism from the religious community, and the dispute continued for many years until at some point he was convicted of heresy. His writings were banned and he was sentenced to prison, which was later commuted to house arrest where he remained for the rest of his life.

Obviously the opposable thumb didn't give him an advantage in this case, not to say that it didn't come in handy while writing his later banned books. What ultimately was his greatest strength was also that which provided him a great disadvantage–the willingness to test his own ideas and form his beliefs not based on what was popular, but on what could be tested and demonstrated to be true.

No sir, this sound and reasoned thinking did not give him any advantage, but rather earned him his final years in confinement. The Human Condition in this case took precedence and his opposers did everything they could to shut him down. By blocking him and his writings from public view, those with the most influence were sure to thrust their views on all those who would listen, and shame and punish those who do not embrace the accepted way of thinking.

Much like our pride about the opposable thumb, we see ourselves as unique and advantaged, and therefore we must be of exceptional importance. But simply taking a moment to review the data may show us that the pedestal on which we position ourselves in our view of the Universe is not quite squared up with reality.

The Human Condition is to have a propensity toward self importance, a lack of intellectual humility, and an unwillingness to listen to those who have reason to disagree with us.

My advice: Do your part to keep The Human Condition in check.

We need to hear what you think.

You'll have to sign in. Just enter your email to get a log in link.