Neil Mach

Author – Fantasy Realism

It is practical and beneficial to balance open-minded mental imagery with common-sense pragmatism when we think of our place in the vastness of the universe and our transience in the infinite splendor of nature.

In my opinion, it has always been unwise to accept any orthodoxy that requires compliance. When a theory is suffocating, when it becomes religiously compelling (when belief is mandatory) there will always be “trouble ahead” as Irving Berlin shrewdly put it.

There’s always another (better) theory about to turn up…

If we have learned anything from science (the highly subjective areas of physics, astronomy, and biology especially) it is that all theory changes… theories seldom last. There’s always another (better) theory about to turn up. They tend to come along regularly, like buses — you don’t have to worry about jumping onto this one, because there will be another theory along in a minute! It’s as if all doctrines, particularly those shouted from rostrums and pulpits, are transitory assumptions. All theories have a fragile temporariness. Why do we trust them so much?

For example, Copernicus (1473-1543) placed the sun in the centre of the solar system (actually a theory that Greek astronomy had already exposed, almost two thousand years before him, but anyway…) although Copernicus felt he must delay the publication of his theory (so obvious to us now) because he knew his thoughts would bring “astronomical and philosophical objections…” and his life (much less, his reputation) might be seriously damaged by the theorisation.

So, when theorising about human evolution (and the theory of evolution is a pretty flimsy proposition anyway, more ideological than scientific, but please don’t get me started!) they say that humans arose somewhere between 130,000 and 800,000 years ago. It’s like telling a new employer, in a job interview, that you quit school in 1975 or perhaps it was 1580, but you couldn’t be absolutely sure. When pressed, you admit, sheepishly, it could have been on any other date. Isn’t that ridiculous? Isn’t it absurd? Yet we are expected to agree with this nonsensical hogwash without complaint or dissent. How do anthropologists and archaeologists come up with such folderol?

They also told us that anatomically modern humans first appeared around 300,000 years ago in Africa (or it could have been 70,000 years ago, they can’t really be sure) and these so-called modern humans transplanted what they call “archaic” human varieties that had been around for seven million years before that! Yes, seven million years! Homo erectus, our oldest recognisable ancestor, emerged from these people about two million years ago. The first human, Homo Sapiens, and the near-human Neanderthals are believed to have coexisted around 400,000 years ago. By the way, they have dated the oldest known fossil record of any anatomically modern human to be about 195,000 years old.

But the discovery of another line of human beings, reported widely in the media this week, a new human species, described as the “Dragon Man” of China, calls into question some of these earlier assumptions.

“Dragon Man” (Homo longi) lived around 146,000 years ago and is said to be a “sister species” to our own species (Homo Sapiens). By the way, to put some of these big numbers into some kind of perspective, people have been gathering wild grains and planting sticks for about 105,000 years (according to historians who study agriculture) and the wheel was (probably) invented around six thousand years ago. This means that “Dragon Man” (Homo longi) was apparently hunting woolly mammoths and giant deer some fifty thousand years before anyone thought about sowing and planting.

Perhaps this new information should remind us that knowledge (the things we think we know and things we are told must be true) is liquid: knowledge flows and it corrects. Let’s not get pressured into thinking that knowledge is about conclusions, because it’s not. Knowledge is about opening-up ideas, not a “closing things down”. Knowledge is about possibilities, potentials, and perspectives — it’s not about conformity & control.

The most important (and perhaps only essential) characteristic of a successful human is the ability to be open-minded: to consider all mysteries and think of them as sets of intriguing possibilities: and not to be blocked by those who like to think they “know better ” .

A successful human is a being who imagines the vast possibility of everything. Because politicians and plutocrats, and even academics will seek to engineer our thoughts.

Tweet @neilmach

Words: @neilmach July 2021 ©

Neil Mach is the author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast

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