Cary Neeper

Writer, Blogger, and Painter -- esteeming life wherever and whatever it might be.

Check out Critical Non-fiction for links to reviews in Goodreads.com

COMPLEXITY
Exploration of complexity, its indicators, embedded chaos, and value in human organizations.

Forty Years with Birds and Dogs
Care and Respect

The Hen House Takes on Mark Twain--9. “Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country..."

November 30, 2013

Tags: Human Self-Image, Book Club Discussion

This is Mark Twain’s ninth Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race as inferior to all other animals.
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

“There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner...[all have been] taken by force and bloodshed.”

I’ll agree with MT on this one. Here he summarizes much of the history we had to memorize in Freshman Western Civilization—the bane of all college Freshmen until the 70’s, when you could graduate from college with a degree in basket weaving. Don’t get me started. I believe in vocational training, but I also value an education in a wide variety of the essentials necessary to open young human minds.

My argument with MT on this topic is his assumption that human beings need to own land. I think the Native American cultures—I don’t know which ones—got it right. Land is a necessity of life, like air and water. Without land one cannot hunt or gather or grow food. Someone has to do it, and everyone needs food.

In my book The Webs of Varok, second in the series,, I add to recommendations for a secure future the suggestion that no one owns land—as in Greenland—not even governments. You simply trade the productive or constructive use of the land for its care. You become responsible for its protection from harm and for the enhancement of its best potential, not just for your own monetary advantage. The idea is worth exploring, perhaps in another setting?

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain--8. Man is the Only Animal that Does War?

November 19, 2013

Tags: Human Self-Image, Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Mark Twain’s eighth Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race as inferior to all other animals is open to question. Do ants do war?
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

MT puts it this way: Man gathers together “for sordid wages” other men “to exterminate without passion those who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.”

I’m not sure E.O. Wilson would agree. Ants do something similar. Ants They are quite good at warlike behavior, but perhaps we can excuse them, for several reasons. They have a smaller brain than we do. It is programmed to do a simple, specialized job (most likely), and the purpose is attaining food and surviving as a species. All life needs to do that. MT’s statement gives defending Homo sapiens two challenges 1) we do war against others of our own kind and 2) against others who are innocent.

I agree that (1 may be unique to humankind. We seem to have nasty tribal instincts left over from a time when competition for food was necessary for survival. Recently we have discovered a gene, allele D4-7, that gives us a dopamine high whenever we win a battle or eat good food.

MT’s (2—doing war with those innocent of hurting us—will bring a storm of protest from many who feel we always have a righteous cause. There’s always something, from someone’s point of view.
Now, however, as borders dissolve under the impact of rising global communication, economic necessity, migration and interracial breeding that produces hybrid vigor in the species—we have less and less reason to war against our human brethren, more and more reason to work together for a stable future.

In short, the writing is on the wall. Our numbers are now so large and our impact on mother Earth is so great, if we don’t get together soon to agree on a way to limit our avariciousness and our blind tribalism, we will forfeit our chances of rising to our best potential as long as Earth is habitable.

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain-7. “Man is the cruel animal.

November 14, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Written at the worst time of his life, Mark Twain’s seventh Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race goes on to say [Man] “...inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

MT’s list of human cruelties is not fun to read. It goes on for a full page. I hate to think what would be on the list of current incidents.

MT excused the cat who plays with a “...frightened mouse...” because the cat doesn’t deliberately torture the mouse. The kill is sudden and quick, as is the deadly throttle of experienced non-human hunters.

As MT suggests, the cat may or may not be conscious of the mouse’s fright . The jury is still out on that issue, but, at last, evidence is gathering that non-human consciousness is more astute than we have recognized to date.

If the cat knows that the frightened mouse is suffering, but plays with it anyway, we’ve got a serious problem. What’s the point? Philosophically, should we write off life knowingly torturing life as the inevitable consequences of a brain too complex for its own good.

Maybe it’s like the price we pay for being made out of stuff. The material called flesh and bone is subject to harm. Pain is an alarm system so you can fix your hurting stuff. Too much pain and you shut down—another blessing in disguise.

Looking at torture as a byproduct of the most complex object in the universe—that’s what students of complex systems call the brain, due to the super-astronomical number of connections between neurons and other brain cells—one can say that our moral or religious challenge is to rise above such complex aberrations and prove ourselves worthy of heaven.

Though that may be viewed as a primitive western myth, it has some merit in giving us motivation to be the best complex critters we can be. However, viewing the ability to do torture as a byproduct of natural processes doesn't make it acceptable, not in the least.

When Creation started tinkering with matter so that is could come alive, consciousness and complexity were as inevitable as vulnerability and imagination. Surely we can meet these challenges and live as if we were grateful for the miracle of our conscious lives.

The Hen House Takes on Mark Twain 6-“Man Is The Animal that Blushes.”

November 7, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Scooter, feeling what?
Mark Twain’s sixth Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race as inferior to all other animals since he invented “indecency, vulgarity, and obscenity.”
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

Well, maybe. This is a tricky one. Nature has pruned and shaped us so that our mating signals are far more obvious than most other animals.’ Hence, we wear clothes, so we can do good work without distraction. The historical and current cleavage fad is a rebellion against this work ethic and should be considered carefully. Because of our blatant biological design, maybe we should not advertise unless we mean it.

MT blames our “moral sense” for our invention of “indecency, vulgarity and obscenity,” but I blame the accident of nature’s creating a “naked ape” with a brain so complex it has resulted in the human capacity to invent such concepts, plus a million reasons why the concepts induce lewdness and/or humor.

“The “...higher animals...hide nothing; they are not ashamed.” MT’s second statement for the superiority of animals on this topic is simply not true. Dog owners know very well that dogs are capable of intense shame—though it may be triggered more often by their sensitivity to human expectations than not. Is it shame that some dogs feel when their luscious fur is shaved?

I need more input on this one. Anyone have any experience with animal shame to share? It’s closely related to, but different from, guilt, isn’t it.? Or does MT have this one correct?
2013 Nautilus Silver Award YA and 2012 Foreward Finalist Adult Science Fiction




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A Place Beyond Man
Authors Guild Edition 2011


The Oil Patch Project--Mystery team Cary and Don
See Oil & Gas tag above.