I am Saravanane Carounanidy. I am a doctor practising in Chennai, India.
As much as I like helping the sick and the infirm, I also have a passion for scientific and philosophical inquiry. I indulge in reading books that deal with some of the most pressing questions about the Universe and our place in it – questions like, “How did the Universe begin?”, “Who are we?”, “What is the purpose of life?”, “How did life begin here on earth?”, “Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?”, “What is the ultimate nature of Reality?”, “What is real?”. Engaging in contemplative thought about these questions is another of my favourite pass-time.
During my train of thoughts pondering the question of what makes us human, I stumbled upon some insights which I have elaborated in an article entitled, “Sophisticated Time-Awareness: The Human Spark?” The full article can be found here, a summary here and a non-technical version here. After an adequate search of literature, I believe that many of my ideas are original and may have significance in advancing our knowledge about our uniqueness.
The following are the salient points of the article –
– sophisticated awareness of time is the mental trait that makes humans unique,
– it is the common underlying denominator of most, if not all, cognitive and behavioural traits unique to humans, such as sophisticated tool-making, language, logical thought, notion of causation, episodic memory, mental time-travel, self-awareness, religion, music and the arts,
– sophisticated time-awareness can explain the fairly abrupt appearance of modern human behaviour about 50,000 years ago
– sophisticated time-awareness could have appeared as a by-product of mental rules that evolved for multi-part tool-making and language.
I agree that my article contains mostly speculative hypotheses. This is because the subject lies at the frontier of human knowledge, and not much experimental research has been done on it. I also acknowledge that I am an amateur when it comes to scholarship in the relevant fields such as neuroscience, evolutionary anthropology and paleontology, but, while the experts are narrowly focussed on the their respective areas of specialisation, an amateur can get a bird’s eye-view of many fields of human intellectual endeavour, identify a common thread that runs through them, connect the dots and bring fresh insights to help advance human knowledge.
As you probably know, Einstein famously said: “The grand aim of all science is to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest number of hypotheses or axioms”. I humble belief is that my article fulfils that aim.
This is a start. There are more such ideas lying dormant in my mind. I hope, time permitting, to elaborate them in the future through this blog. All reasonable queries and constructive criticisms are welcome. Happy intellectual adventure!