The Evolution of the Human Mind: Part 2
The Emergence of the Modern Human Mind
"...many modern scientists [assume] that human behavior can only be explained in physical terms, and ignore the fact that the human mind or psyche is to some degree an independent entity, which can change or develop along its own lines, without necessarily altering physical structure." -Steve Taylor, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era
Though each and every human has personal first-hand experience with it, though it is the most foundational element that makes each of us who we are, the human mind to this day remains one of our most elusive and least understood mysteries. So arriving at any sort of definitive conclusions as to when and how the unobservable human mind evolved and developed over the course of tens of thousands of years of human history can be difficult to say the least. The one thing that we can be certain of, if the evolution of life is any indication, is that humans and the rest of the animal kingdom share a common origin. So, the question is, at what point did we stop being animals and start being humans?
Anatomically modern humans first appeared roughly 200 thousand years ago. Though soft tissue, like brain matter, doesn't last nearly as long as hard biological materials, like bones, it's assumed that because the skull has not changed since the first appearance of anatomically modern humans that the physical brain has seen little to no change from this point forward.
As is still the case today, the only evidence available in any pursuit to understand the human mind is the output of the mind. Our clearest form of expression of thoughts and ideas is through verbal and written communication. In the case of human history written language is the best insight we have available. Of course, if our goal is pinpointing the emergence of the modern human mind, and written language is a product of the modern human mind, we have to delve into prehistory where the window into the minds of our ancestors isn't so clearly articulated. Our next best indicators that signify the emergence of the modern human mind capable of reason is in studying their tools, artifacts, habitats, and behaviors.
However, the invention of writing does aid in the effort as it signifies a point in history when the modern human mind was most definitely present. This defines a range of time. What we're looking for happened sometime after 200 thousand years ago, which is the earliest known point that the brain was physically modern, and about 5500 years ago (3500 BC) when the earliest known form of writing was invented.
Homo sapiens first appeared in the same region that many species of the Homo genus originate, the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. For the first 100 thousand or more years of Homo sapien existence their behavior seemed to be no different than any other species of hominid. They were hunter-gatherers who lived in small groups and migrated all throughout the African continent.
About 70 thousand years ago, whether it be due to climate change or the massive Toba volcanic eruption, the Homo sapiens population was reduced to less than 10 thousand mating pairs, causing a bottleneck in our evolution. Near the brink of extinction, it was the descendents of those who survived that soon began to exhibit much more modern behaviors that aided them in accomplishing something in a relatively short amount of time that very few species of animal ever had, populate the entire planet.
Around 50,000 BC something happened. This period is often referred to as the 'Great Leap Forward' or the 'Upper Paleolithic Revolution'. It's still debated whether it was as abrupt a change as it appears to have been or whether it was a gradual change not clearly reflected in archaeological evidence, but it's around this time in our history that an abundance of more complex artifacts begin to appear, as well as signs of more complex behaviors. Prior to that 50,000 BC mark Homo sapiens made stone tools not unlike those made by the Neanderthal for hundreds of thousands of years prior. But after that mark, not only did stone tools improve, but tools in general began to diversify in function and purpose. No other tool-making species of hominid ever improved on their tool design. Now, instead of just using stone tools for cutting and skinning animals, they made smaller spear/projectile points, engraving tools, knife blades, and drilling and piercing tools.
This is also around the same time that the massive migrations out of Africa began. At this point the Neanderthal (Homo sapiens distant cousins) had inhabited the much colder European continent for nearly 200 thousand years, clearly exhibiting the capability to survive the adverse conditions and etch out a living for themselves. Yet, within 20 thousand years of the massive migration of homo sapiens out of Africa and into Europe Neanderthals disappear completely from the fossil record. By 20,000 BC all of Europe was densely populated by semi-settled early humans. By 10,000 BC Homo sapiens had populated the entire planet, including North and South America, standing alone as the only remaining species of the Homo genus. So, in the span of just 60 thousand years Homo sapiens went from less than 10 thousand mating pairs in Africa to worldwide domination.
Clearly there were some significant qualities that began to surface during that span of time that were uniquely human. The tools alone show a more advanced capability to conceptualize a result first imagined then brought to fruition. In this span of time we also see more advanced hunting methods, tools for fishing, art work like cave paintings and carved figures, and decorative artifacts like beaded jewelry. Artifacts found many miles away from where they were first created suggests the possibility that prehistoric humans of this age engaged in trade. It's also in this age that early humans began burying their dead. Being that this all occurred many thousands of years before the invention of writing it's difficult to know for certain, but many suspect that the dramatic advances towards modern behavior in this era may be due to developments in verbal communication.
It was around 9,000-8,000 BC that the early humans of northern Mesopotamia (in the region of modern day Turkey) first discovered agriculture, or more accurately horticulture. Where before humans had to migrate with the changing of seasons to survive much like many other species in the animal kingdom, the discovery of horticulture allowed humans to settle in one location permanently.
Exceptionally large settlements developed in Catal Huyuk (7,500 to 5,700 BC) in Turkey and the Lepenski Vir settlement (dating back to 7,000 BC) located in the central portion of the Balkan peninsula. The Lepenski Vir culture gave way to the Vinča-Turdaș culture (5,000-4,500 BC), which at one point had populations estimated at 2,500 or more in some of the larger sites.
There are several differing theories that attempt to explain what caused the transition the humans of this region made from the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle to cultivating plants and domesticating animals, but no consensus has been reached. The recent discovery and ongoing investigation of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey has only confused matters further.
While these advances towards behavioral modernity certainly widened the chasm between humans and animals (and all other hominid species), and while they most definitely gave humans a distinct advantage in establishing themselves as the dominant species amongst the animal kingdom, they don't tell the full story. There was another dramatic change in human development around 5,500 BC that draws a dividing line between humans of primal cultures and those who brought about another very modern and uniquely human characteristic... civilization.
"it is an error, as profound as it is universal, to think that men in the food-gathering stage were given to fighting... All available facts go to show that the food-gathering stage of history must have been one of perfect peace." - WJ Perry, Archaeologist
"For the first ninety-five thousand years after the Homo sapiens Stone Age began, there is no evidence that man engaged in war on any level, let alone on a level requiring organized group violence. There is little evidence of any killing at all." - Richard Gabriel, Anthropologist
Contrary to popular belief, human characteristics like violence, war, social stratification/oppression, materialism, and male dominance are not inherent primal human traits bubbling up from some long ago repressed inner caveman. These are very recent behavioral developments in the context of human history. It could be said that the traditional idea that humans transitioned from 'savage' to 'civilized' is backwards. Hunter-gatherer humans were by general rule egalitarian, non-violent, and much more group-minded and self-less.
Many experts agree these traits developed late and suggest that they were probably the result of the discovery of farming and the change in lifestyle it brought about. The general assumption has always been that the discovery of farming led to larger settled populations, which led to increased social interaction, which led to the sharing of ideas, which led to advances in inventions and technologies, which eventually led to the dawn of civilization. The logic here in regards to changes in human behavior is that a settled lifestyle would allow for the accumulation of possessions which would create social stratification, it would create divisions of labor between those who work the fields and those who build homes or provide other services, and farming would give value to land and therefore make people territorial, eventually leading to war when resources were limited.
While this is a logical view, archaeological evidence reveals a very different story.
"the prevailing view is still that male dominance, along with private property and slavery, were all by-products of the agrarian revolution...despite the evidence that, on the contrary, equality between the sexes - and among all people - was the general norm in the Neolithic." -Riane Eisler, American Scholar, Cultural Historian
"There is the same lack of evidence for violent conflict throughout the simple horticultural period of history as in the hunter-gather era. Graves don't contain weapons; images of warfare or weapons are still absent from artwork; and villages and towns aren't situated in inaccessible places or surrounded by defensive walls." - Steve Taylor, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era
The term 'Neolithic Revolution' can be misleading as it actually took over six thousand years (9,000 to 3,000 BC) for farming practices to be adopted throughout Eurasia. As noted above, there were a number of large human settlements that formed after the discovery of farming in northern Mesopotamia and Europe, with some of these places having populations in the thousands. These are not, however, classed as 'cities' or 'civilizations' as they did not have organized governments or class systems. Much like the humans of the hunter-gatherer age, these horticultural settlements showed no signs of class distinction or gender inequality.
In looking at the evidence, rather than the transition to a settled lifestyle gradually bringing about social stratification, gender inequality, and the penchant for war and violence, the five thousand years or so between the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution and the dawn of human civilization in the Middle East shows that these behavioral changes came, not as the result of a slow, gradual progression within these growing human settlements, but rather quickly, originating from an outside element introduced into these cultures, like a seed planted in fertile soil. Behavioral changes that appear to have been the catalyst that led to the first human cities, rapid urbanization, and eventually the dawn of full fledged civilization.
The Dawn of Civilization(s)
"The thousand years or so immediately preceding 3000 BC were perhaps more fertile in inventions and discoveries than any period in human history prior to the sixteenth century AD" - V. Gordon Childe, Archaeologist and Philologist
"a tremendous explosion of knowledge took place as writing, mathematics, and astronomy were discovered. It was as if the human mind had suddenly revealed a new dimension of itself." - Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess
Earlier I pointed to the invention of writing as a point in human history when the modern mind was most definitely present. The earliest known form of writing was Cuneiform, invented by the Sumerians of southern Mesopotamia around 3500 BC. Other discoveries, like mathematics and astronomy, and inventions like organized governments and laws, began to emerge in this same time and place and are attributed to the Sumerians as well. Unlike the rest of the populated world, who continued to live as they had for numerous generations, the people of these budding societies in southern Mesopotamia were clearly not content to do the same. Then, in the centuries to follow, very similar advances towards civilization began to happen to the west in Egypt, then to the east with the Indus Valley Culture, then to the north in Akkad. All of them seemingly independently from one another as each had their own unique language and culture.
Sumer (3500 to 1940 BC) -http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsMiddEast/MesopotamiaSumer.htm - "Sumer was one of the first great civilizations, emerging slightly ahead of that of Ancient Egypt and up to a millennium before that of the Indus Valley culture. Located in southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), by the late fourth millennium BC Sumer (or Ki-en-gir, 'Land of the Sumerian tongue'), was divided into approximately a dozen city states which were independent of one another and which used local canals and boundary stones to mark their borders."
Besides being the inventors of the first city-states and the first civilization, here's a partial list of other inventions credited to the Sumerians: the wheel, the sailboat, the first written language, frying pans, razors, cosmetic sets, sheppard's pipes, harps, kilns for firing mud bricks and pottery, bronze hand tools, the plow, the plow seeder.
They also invented the first government, which was a combination of a monarchy and a democracy, they established the first laws, and they were also the first astronomers/astrologers, and the first mathematicians. The number system they used was a base 60, rather than base 10 as we predominantly use today, because 60 is a handy number when tracking inventory as it can be divided by halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, etc. In fact, it's the Sumerians numbering system that we still use today to track increments of time.
Egypt (3400 to 30 BC) - http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsAfrica/EgyptAncient.htm– “From around 3500 to 3000 BC there were great and very sudden advances in craftsmanship and technology, which culminated in the working of copper, stone mace heads and ceramics.”
"Archaeologists have never been able to conclusively answer the question of who the original Egyptians and Sumerians were. But evidence clearly suggests that the Egyptians who "civilized" the Nile region were immigrants from the desert areas. As Bran Griffith points out, in North Africa recorded history begins against the background of mass migrations out of a growing desert. He notes that "pre-dynastic Egyptians were a jumbled assortment of tribes, many of them recent arrivals from the deserts." - Steve Taylor, The Fall
The Egyptians have a good number of inventions to their credit as well, including paper (papyrus), scissors, locks and keys, the first calendar with a leap year, surveying, black ink, a numbering system that included fractions, communication through carrier pigeons, and of course pyramids. While there is evidence that they shared ideas and engaged in trade with the Sumerians, it's clear from their unique language and form of writing that their civilization developed independently.
Indus Valley Culture (3300 to 1700 BC) - http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsFarEast/IndiaIndusCulture.htm– “As the first great civilizations took shape in Sumer and Egypt, a people of unknown origin who were centered in the Indus Valley in modern Pakistan and India began constructing their own series of cities. These were as remarkable as any the world had yet seen, and at the same time trade flourished, and a system of writing evolved.”
The Indus Valley culture is still very much a mystery to us, mainly because the form of writing they invented for themselves has not yet been deciphered by modern scholars. Unlike the Sumerians and the Egyptians, it is unknown what became of the people of this culture. They are probably best known for their skills in architecture, and most notably for their sewage system which rivaled societies in Europe just a couple of centuries ago.
The Saharasian Armouring Hypothesis
In his book, Saharasia: the 4000 BCE Origins of Child-Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, in the Deserts of the Old World, historian and geographer James DeMeo compiles his results, after studying the behavioral development of humans throughout the course of history, and has put forth a rather interesting, albeit controversial, suggestion.
Basically, he suggests that human patriarchy was coaxed out of humans by a dramatic climate change that transformed Mesopotamia, northern Africa, and western Asia into a desert around 4000 BC. A behavioral change that then propagated throughout the region when the people of those dramatically dried-out lands were forced to migrate towards land near riverbanks, transforming every culture that came in contact with them. He reached this conclusion based on patterns he saw in human behavioral changes when he mapped them out using archaeological and historical research data combined with in-depth reviews of standard anthropological databases covering over a thousand distinct human cultures.
DeMeo uses the terms Matrism and Patrism to distinguish between the two behavioral types. He defines Matrist cultures as "democratic, egalitarian, sex-positive and possess[ing] very low levels of adult violence", where in contrast to that he describes Patrist cultures as being those who "tend to inflict pain and trauma upon infants and young children, subordinate the female, possess high levels of adult violence, with various social institutions designed for the expression of pent-up sadistic aggression".
"There does not exist any clear, compelling or unambiguous evidence for the existence of patrism anywhere on Earth significantly prior to c.4000 BCE." - James Demeo
There is definitely some validity to what DeMeo is pointing out. There was a transition from Matrism to Patrism that can be seen throughout the Middle East, northern Africa, and Europe, where Matrist cultures were systematically replaced by the more aggressive (and progressive) Patrist cultures. Matrist cultures, being predominantly peaceful, were simply no match. Where the controversy arises is in his explanation of where these Patrist humans first came from.
In DeMeo's view, the dramatic climate change in this region of the world around 4000 BC (see 5.9 kiloyear event) coaxed these behavioral changes out of these groups of humans that he associates to Wilhelm Reich's psychological concept of Armouring. Basically, the pain and suffering that came from the abrupt climate change into an arid baron desert caused the people of this region to "wall themselves off" from the natural world as well as from their own feelings. They suppressed their natural pleasure-seeking impulses and replaced them with pleasure-denying instincts. This psychological change is what DeMeo feels caused the people of the Sahara region, who he calls Saharasians, to deny their maternal-infant bonds, their male-female bonds, their connection to the natural world, their sexual instincts, and their trust and openness to other humans. This change would alter how they treated their children, giving them less attention and affection, treating them more harshly, causing the children to psychologically armour themselves in the process, which would then propagate from generation to generation.
Opponents of this hypothesis point to cultures who have lived in the adverse conditions of the Sahara desert for numerous generations who still very much fit the bill of Matrist cultures, or who have at least maintained relatively egalitarian traditions.
The "Ego Explosion" Hypothesis
"The Fall, then, refers to a change which occurred in the psyche of certain human groups around 6,000 years ago. It was the point in history when these peoples developed a strong and sharp sense of ego. The Fall was, and is, the intensification of the human sense of "I" or individuality." - Steve Taylor, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era
"the great change - a change so great, indeed, that nothing in all we know of human cultural evolution is comparable in magnitude." - Riane Eisler, American Scholar, Cultural Historian
It's said that necessity is the mother of invention. So then what was different, necessity wise, in the case of the Sumerians and others in that region that brought about so many inventions and revolutionary new ways of doing things in such a relatively short amount of time? It's not like the environment they lived in was somehow unique in its conditions where human necessity was greater there than elsewhere. Humans have lived in every environment all around the world for tens of thousands of years, etching out an existence in the most adverse of conditions, without the same output of creativity and problem solving capabilities, before or since.
So, what was different about this environment? Or, was it maybe the people who were different? Not different physically, but psychologically. These inventions were born of a fundamental change in the human psyche that made these things seem necessary where before that was not the case. If necessity is the mother of invention, then discontentment is its grandmother, because it's discontentment that first gives birth to necessity, which then births invention.
"Discontent is the first necessity of progress" - Thomas Edison
In his book, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era, psychology lecturer and author Steve Taylor takes the findings of James DeMeo a step further, explaining how these changes could be tell-tale signs of the emergence of a more prominent ego, or sense of individual awareness. A change he calls the "Ego Explosion".
"my own research indicates that almost all indigenous peoples, if not all at one time, were matrilineal societies before the European conquest and colonization." - M.A. Jaimes Guerrero, Anthropologist
In this light, the behavioral differences between 'matrist' and 'patrist' cultures are the symptoms of this enhanced ego, with male-dominance, war and violence, materialism, and negative feelings towards sex and natural functions of the body come from having a more distinct sense of "I" that separated us from our bonds with nature. An ego that, in effect, 'walls us off' from the external world; from the natural world, from each other, and even from our own bodies. A similar separation as was discussed in Part 1 of this series where the conscious mind's perspective is concerned.
Signs of the Emergence of the Modern Ego in Ancient Mythology
Considering the same group of people who are credited as the inventors of civilization were also the first writers, the first mathematicians, and the first astronomers, it appears something significant happened in the development of the human mind somewhere very near that 3500 BC mark. If we're to associate changes in behavioral patterns with these intellectual advancements, then it appears the change happened closer to roughly 5500 BC.
The establishment of the first Sumerian city-state, Eridu, also represents the first known instance of a human settlement that exhibits class distinction, as Eridu, and every city-state established afterwards, was built with a temple at the center. The inhabitants governed the masses that lived all around the temple, coordinated the work load, and the work force would carry out the labor and provide for those in the temple.
Once writing emerged, a much clearer window into the psyche of the people of that age opens up to us. Initially writing was invented as a way to keep track of administrative needs. Tracking goods and accounting for labor. Needs that in themselves suggest a (new?) need to account for what's owed to an individual. And as noted above, along with writing, its in this age that we being to see significant advances in technological capabilities and inventions. In this light, writing, inventions, technological advancements, and the birth of civilization are symptoms of the emergence of the modern human ego. An ego that brought with it an enhanced sense of self, and a separation from the natural world.
Once writing became sophisticated enough to convey the oral stories of the people of this age, we begin to get a much stronger sense of the minds of the people of this age. Some of the oldest known written texts, that are not administrative in nature, are mythological stories. Much like the more well known stories of the Greeks and the Romans centuries later, the Sumerians also told stories of male and female gods and their interactions with humans. In fact, according to the Sumerians, who history shows to have been the inventors of many of the tenets of civilization we still use in some form to this day, it was these gods that taught them. And it would seem, in light of what's discussed here, that the various 'fall' myths of this age may not have been purely fiction.
The most well known of these is, of course, the Adam and Eve Garden of Eden story in Genesis. According to that story, Adam and Eve deliberately chose to behave contrary to God (nature) by breaking the one rule they were given, which resulted in what would seem to be a more acute sense of self-awareness, as it says they then became conscious of their nakedness. Rather than behaving according to the laws of nature/God as the rest of the animal kingdom does, these two are said to have made a choice based on their own individual wills and desires. Or, in other words, rather than behaving according to God's will, they were behaving of their own individual free will.
The Sumerians also tell a very similar story of a 'first man' who's immortality was lost due to his choices. A story which includes a plant that gives eternal life. And according to Iranian mythology, the first man, Yima, lived in a 'walled garden', complete with a 'tree of life', where they knew 'neither hot or cold, neither old age or death, nor disease', and where father and son walked together, each looking but fifteen years of age. A sort of 'golden age' which eventually came to an end when the weather became more harsh and the garden was destroyed by snow and ice.
Likewise, in other mythological stories, in what would seem to mirror the transition from matrist to patrist behaviors as discussed above, cultures like the Greeks and Romans and even Chinese mythology speak of a 'golden age' before humans became corrupt, and life became more difficult and full of suffering.
"The need to possess land and material good is, like war and patriarchy, a specifically fallen characteristic. In fact, some of the world's Fall myths explicitly state that the "love of possession"was one of the negative effects of the Fall. This is especially clear from the Roman poet Ovid's description of the human race's decline from the original Golden Age:
There broke out ... all manner of evil, and shame fled, and truth and faith. In place of these came deceits and trickery and treachery and force and the accursed love of possession ... And the land, hitherto a common possession like the light of the sun and the breezes, the careful surveyor now marked out with long boundary lines." - Steve Taylor, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era
It would seem that the ancient mythological tales, that are nearly as old as civilization itself, all but confirm what modern science and archaeology are slowly uncovering, which means these stories may not be as 'fictional' as once thought. They seem to show that the people of these ancient societies who told these stories were aware of the changes emerging in humanity and recognized their significance.
It's in this age that the modern human ego appears to have emerged, separating us, and even pitting us against, the natural world that we are a product of. While the rest of the animal kingdom, and even indigenous humans, seem to be content with living in harmony with the natural world, since the dawn of civilization modern humans have behaved as if it is foreign to us. We began to study it, conquer it, and learn to bend it to our will. Rather than behaving in accordance to the laws of nature/God's will, it's from this age forward that we have behaved according to our own individual 'free will'.
What I find most interesting is how well this all fits with the account of Adam's creation in Genesis. It's, of course, always been assumed that this story is describing Adam as the first human God created, thus making it seem more a mythological tale than a realistic real-world scenario, especially given our modern understanding of human evolution. However, if read in the context that the creation of humans in Genesis 1 and the creation of Adam in Genesis 2 are actually two separate events, and that Adam's creation took place in an already populated world, then the rest of the story from that point on lines up quite nicely with what's observed here in human history.
First of all, you've got the introduction of 'patrist' type behaviors coming from external sources, introduced into the already established societies along the various river banks of the region. Behaviors more akin to the nomadic tribes who arrived in these societies, who brought with them their own languages, where both their behavior patterns, and their language, soon enveloped and altered the societies they were introduced into. All of which appears to have been set into motion by that dramatic climate shift that both DeMeo and Taylor speak of. This all falls right in line with the tower of Babel story from Genesis 11.
And, if we were to really go out on a limb and take literally the lifespans attributed to Adam and his descendants, given the 'already populated world' scenario, then compared to naturally evolved (or Genesis 1) humans, they would seem god-like in comparison, meaning all of those seemingly fantastical mythological stories of the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, etc, could very well actually be talking about, or at least be greatly inspired by, the descendants of Noah who were 'scattered' in Genesis 11.
Outside of this rather 'crazy' suggestion, we've got little explanation for a whole host of related pieces. We've got no explanation for the phenomenon of 'life' that animates animate matter as its just dismissed as a 'given', we've got little more than conjecture and speculation in our attempts to reconstruct the evolution of the human mind, we've got a will that seems 'free' though that would not exactly compute in a purely causal universe type scenario, we've got little answers as far as the discovery of farming is concerned, and we've got much the same issue with understanding the rapid advancement leading into the dawn of civilization.
Simply overlaying the Genesis account across known history, lining up the creation of Adam with the first appearance of 'patrist' type behaviors right in that same region and time frame that Genesis describes itself as being set in, and it manages to resolve all of that all at once. And it simultaneously offers context to those first few chapters of Genesis, which then in turn makes the rest of the bible from that point forward much more clear. After all, according to the story, everything in that first chapter of Genesis seems to have adhered exactly to what God's will mandated, including the humans who managed to populate the earth and establish dominance in the animal kingdom. From Adam and Eve on, humans behaving contrary to God's will could be said to sum up the primary theme of the whole thing.
Then again, maybe I'm just off my rocker and need a nap.
On the Evolution of the Human Mind and the Origin of Free Will: Part 1
- On The Evolution of the Human Mind and the Origin of Free Will: Part 1
Part 1 examines the physical brain itself, its development throughout vertebrate evolution, and discusses what is known and what is still unknown about the physical brain's most mysterious and least understood manifestations: the conscious/reasoning