The New Indifference
Working on Astonishing Capacities and Self-Inflicted Limitations, a new anthology of Joseph Chilton Pearce, his life and insights, I happened upon the following. You may find it of interest.
The Biology of Transcendence
A Blueprint of the Human Sprit
Joseph Chilton Pearce
THE NEW INDIFFERENCE
Back in the late 1960s, professors at the University of Tubingen, Germany, noticed a serious drop in sensory perception and general awareness in their students. (The same drop was noted in 1966 in the United States.) Students didn’t appear to be as aware of information from their environment or schooling or didn’t seem to register it as young people had previously. A corresponding deterioration in learning patterns was also evident. The German Psychological Association joined the university in a research project to determine if such a shift could be quantified. Tests involving some four thousand test subjects—young people in their late teens to early twenties—were carried out over a twenty-year period. The conclusions can be summarized thus: “Our sensitivity to stimuli is decreasing at a rate of about 1 percent per year. Delicate sensations are simply being filtered out of our consciousness.” In order for our brains to register it, “…especially strong stimuli” are required. (The translation of the German reads that in order for our brains to register it, “brutal thrill” stimuli are necessary.)
Most noticeable was this elevation of what is termed the gating level of the ancient RAS, or reticular activating system, where sensory input from the body is collected, collated, synthesized into basic world information, and sent up to the higher brain centers for processing. The high-intensity stimuli to which these young people were subjected from birth along with the corresponding lack of appropriate nurturing and natural development resulted in a high level of stimuli that must be received in order for cognizance to form. Sensory information below a certain level of intensity or weight was not registered because it was not of sufficient strength to cross the high RAS threshold into conscious awareness and perception.
Dr. Harald Rau, of the Institute of Medical Psychology at the University of Tubingen, said,
It is apparent that the cross-linkages [networks for sensory synthesis and associative thinking] have been reduced, and that the capacity [to screen out stimuli] has been enormously increased using direct stimulus carriers working parallel to each other…. Previously, an optical stimulus would be directed through various brain centers and would also activate the olfactory center, for example. Today it appears that entire brain areas are being skipped over. The optical stimulus goes directly and exclusively to the visual center…the stimuli are then processed faster, but the stimuli are inadequately networked [not integrated by other stimulus centers] and not enhanced with emotional input.
There is no effect—no emotional intelligence. Information is processed without evaluation, thus without reference to areas of knowledge or meaning and without emotional response. The claim of the research people is that those born before 1949 show “old-brain” reactions—that is, the norm of the time. Those born between 1949 and 1969 show modified brain action. Those born after 1969 show new-brain functioning. The new brain can tolerate extremes of dissonance or discord. In a perceptual process that would otherwise be harmonious, disruptive and inappropriate stimuli are processed without the individual noticing the discrepancies. Gert Gerken notes that new-brain people have “grown up with contradictions and they can handle them. That which used to produce a split or division of consciousness, today is the norm.” Gerken refers to the ‘new indifference,” the mental ability to unite elements that are not logically related and the failure to recognize severe logical fallacies—which results in a young person meeting everything with equal indifference. Because the brain can’t bring contradictory pieces of information into any kind of relationship, it treats everything with a relative uniformity of low-grade response.
Consciousness is becoming more restricted, the research claims—the brain processes more intense levels of information and less of it reaches our consciousness. The brain has always adapted to changes in its environment by changing its own organization. “But now…our brain is not adapting. It is rebelling against the world and changing [the world experienced] by changing itself.”
The studies show that enjoyment and aesthetic levels have dropped dramatically. Fifteen years ago people could distinguish 300,000 sounds; today many children can’t go beyond 100,000 and the average is 180,000. Twenty years ago the average subject could detect 350 different shades of a particular color. Today the number is 130. The brain “loses its standards and degenerates into a kind of dialectic processing of sense impressions… The brain stores opposing and contradictory information without creating a synthesis.”
These young people must have a steady input of high-level stimuli or else sink into sensory isolation and anxiety. Natural settings such as parks and rural areas are avoided because they don’t offer sensory input intense enough to keep awareness functioning. German psychologists have speculated that a generation with such changed brains will create an environment of such intense stimuli that a normal brain might not survive.
As a means of comparison, the total sound level of a preliterate jungle society is about that of a modern refrigerator.
WHAT “FORTUNATE” CHILDREN LACK
In my book Evolution’s End, I related Marcia Mikulak’s research on sensory registration in children in the mid-1980s. Ashley Montagu and French physician Alfred Tomatis had both reported on our failure to physically nurture infants through touch, leading to increasing sensory deprivation and neural impairment. Mikulak, an independent child psychologist, employed standard Gessel tests to determine the level of a child’s sensory awareness, eventually devising more extensive tests of her own. She examined young children from a wide range of cultures—from the preliterate societies of Brazil, Guatemala, and Africa, to the highly literate countries of Europe and America—and found that the children from primitive settings averaged levels of sensory sensitivity and conscious awareness of their surroundings that were 25 to 30 percent higher than those of the children of industrial-technological countries. Preliterate children were more aware of what was taking place among the people around them and what was said to them and asked of them, as well as the general sights, smells, tastes, and touches of daily life. They knew the names and characteristics of the flora and fauna in daily life. They knew the names and characteristics of the flora and fauna in their environment, which few if any of our industrialized children or adults do. Mikulak’s studies were ignored. Those of Tubingen and the German Psychological Alliance, published in 1995, have equally been ignored.
In Evolution’s End, I also quoted from studies made in the late 1980s of the learning ability of children in so-called primitive groups such as those in Guatemala and similar countries that have severely low standards of living. When these “deprived” children were put into a learning situation equal to those provided for our well-cared-for children, the deprived children showed a three to four times higher learning capacity, rate of attention, and comprehension and retention than our “fortunate” children. Deprived of advanced electronics, these primitive children were given the most necessary things—love and nurturing—and they played continually and developed to the maximum their society afforded.