global change, human being, Intelligence, natural, Uncategorized

Think Aloud…Thinking Allowed?

In the past, heretics were people who openly contradicted the dogmas of religions. At best, they were exiled from society. And we know what the worst was. Today, we still have heretics. These are the people who openly contradict the dogmas of society in general. They challenge the conventional wisdom. They say, for example, that the human population is out of control, and that human behaviour is out of control. Specifically, the claim that the relentless push for “material progress” – in other words, economic growth – is totally incompatible with a finite planet. And they add that technology is not the solution. Indeed, in the wrong hands, technology is part of the problem. It clearly should not be in the hands

I have lost count at the number of times I have been stopped or overruled at meetings and conferences when I tried to start a discussion about the dangers of economic growth and overpopulation. The mood is changing, but it is very late in the day. People are very slow to wake up, and just as slow to change. Children in many countries are, at long last, demanding action, but we can reasonably sure that, as always, any action will be too little and too late. We are told, by just about every scientist alive today, that we have, at most, 5 years to fundamentally reverse the behaviours and policies that are causing global warming and destruction of the biosphere. So, what do policy-makers do? They set targets for 2030 and 2050!!

The more I think about heresy, the happier I am that I live in a remote part of the world. If I were to rejoin the big debates, it would be only a matter of minutes before I was discovered, and re-exiled! In any event, what are the heresies these days. Am I allowed, for example, to state my strong belief that Islam is a terrible religion? Can I say in public that the militant atheism of Dawkins and others is creating a huge spiritual vacuum, for which we will pay a high price? As for “equality” and “diversity”, I hardly know where to begin. We all know what happened when dictators tried to impose equality in China and the Soviet Union last century. I led to the death of millions and to the repression of basic human freedoms. As for “diversity”, I cringe each time I hear it, because the word has been twisted to mean just a few things connected to colour, race, gender, and belief. For me, the word still means what it originally meant – varied. I like a diversity of food, a diversity of places, a diversity of activities, a diversity of wines, a diversity of ideas and opinions, as well as diversity of people!

Can you think of any current heresies? The list is alarmingly long.

global change, human being, less is better, simplicity, Uncategorized

The Exponene

Some people say we live in the Anthropocene Era. They say this because mankind dominates as never before. We dominate in the sense that our presence is the cause of major global changes, most of them bad. The litany is all too familiar – global warming, loss of rainforest and other live-giving habitats, species extinction on a scale never seen before, as well as serious pollution of land, air and water. It is not a happy picture, not least because our responses are unsatisfactory, to say the least.

It is difficult to predict what will happen. Will we continue as we are, consuming far too much of the planet’s finite resources, and leaving a dangerous carbon footprint wherever we tread? Or will we finally wake up and radically change our lifestyles and the way we organise human society? It is impossible to know. Although it may be true that we live in the Anthropocene Era, it is time we made this something to be proud of, and not ashamed of.

The term is unlikely to catch on, but I like to think that we live in the Exponene Era. Perhaps you can guess what this means. We leave in an era of exponential change. If you type in those two words on Google, most of the responses will be about technology, particular kinds of technology – smartphones, AI and computers. I have other changes in mind, changes that are least as important as the technological changes most people seem to be focused on. First and foremost, the human population.

Look at any population graph for the last 200 years, and you will see the same thing. Human population was stable for a very long time, and then, in the middle of the 20th Century, it suddenly took off. The alarming thing is that it is still taking off. The human population is way out of control. There are far too many of us. Even if we all lived ecologically, taking from the planet only what we really need, and ensuring that we replace what we take, it would not be so much of a problem. But we don’t live like that. So it is a problem. We overconsume and we overproduce, and we do not replace what we take. It is not as if the overconsumption is doing us any good. Obesity is now epidemic, as more and more of us eat far too much, and eat badly. About 40% of adults in the USA are clinically obese, and the epidemic has spread to other countries, including China, where fat children are to be seen everywhere.

It’s not just the human population that is out of control. Many activities that used to be a pleasure have become unpleasant. These include travelling by air and driving in cities. The common factor is that things are growing exponentially.

When we combine the Exponene with the Anthropocene, we get what could be described as the “out of control era”. Seen from my own perspective, it certainly feels that way. I have never felt so impotent. It was not always this way. There was a time, 30 or 40 years ago, when I was full of hope and felt that I had much to contribute. In the 70s I was active in the politics of Scotland, in an attempt to bring independence to that small country. At least that is moving in the right direction. In the 80s I was very involved in many things beginning with the word “new” – the new economics, the new science, the new healthcare, and new politics. Looking back, these were good days, full of the promise that things would really change for the better.

How different things feel today! Although all these “new” movements are still alive, they remain on the fringes of society, while materialism reigns supreme. You know me well enough to know that I believe that only a deep shift in our core beliefs (our worldview) will produce the radical changes we need to make in our behaviour. Will this happen? Possibly, but only if we survive long enough. And that looks doubtful.

being natural, global change, human being, inner cosmos, Intelligence, less is better, natural, simplicity, Taoist, the big questions, Uncategorized

Joining the Dots

This is not the first time I have used this title. I assume I am using it again today because I want to solve the mystery. I want to see what the picture looks like, when all the dots are joined.

I had this thought this morning because I have just completed six long articles – three on The Inner Cosmos, and three on Intelligent Simplicity. They are part of plan to publicise my work more effectively. The plan is to publish a series of three articles every month on topics that best reflect my work. These include a very unusual range: the two mentioned above, as well as A Science of the Whole, the New Economics, Energy and Consciousness, and The 21st Century Taoist. My question to myself this morning is Why this range of topics?

I believe that part of the reason is that I have studied an unusual range – the natural science, economics, Chinese, and law, and all at university level. I also think it is because I am a heretic! I challenge orthodoxy wherever I find it…in economics, in science and medicine, as well as modernity itself, from which all current orthodoxy springs.

Some might say that I do this because I want to stand out, to be different, to be noticed. I think it goes much deeper than this. I think it is rooted in own deep sense of what the world is and what a human being is. Whatever they turn out to be, they far transcend the pictures of them painted by science. Although science may have some of the physical aspects of the world and the human being correct, it falls far short when it comes to their non-physical aspects, for the very simple reason that science denies that these aspects exist.

That’s it! That’s the picture the joined dots will paint. The dots will reveal what I have been trying to say all these many years, ever since the 60s. Some of my work attempts to describe the world and the human being, as I see them. Other parts of my work describe how our lives could be if the world and the human being were as I see them. Hence, the New Economics, A Science of the Whole, and The 21st Century Taoist.

The pictures are getting clearer every day.

global change, human being, the big questions, Uncategorized

A New Story – Part One

The story I am about to tell you is not all that new. It has been emerging for quite a long time, probably since the 1920s, when quantum physics arrived on the scene. Although some parts of the story are already established, it has still not entered the consciousness of the general public, and it is actively rejected by academia and mainstream media. It is rejected because it contradicts the “science story” – the account given by science of the nature and history of the universe and the human being. Although you may have never heard the science story in its entirety, some of it will be familiar to you. If we want to know what the new story is, there is probably no better place to start than the science story. What follows does not claim to be comprehensive, but I believe that I have captured the essentials. I should add that, although this is this is still the prevailing view in science, an increasing number of individual scientists are warming to the new story. The science story is as follows…

The universe began from nothing. To be fair, science tells us that it was not exactly nothing. It was a “singularity”, which existed before space time. In other words, it had no dimensions. Difficult to imagine? Yes. And difficult believe that the vast universe, including this planet with its myriad forms of life, came effectively from nothing? Sure. But let’s get on with the story.

The “laws of nature”, such as the laws of physics and chemistry, all came into existence in the first few nanoseconds of the life of the universe. This is what scientists seem to agree on. Clearly, it begs some big questions. For example, how do they know this? And how did it happen? How is it possible for a large set of complex principles, which did not exist a nanosecond earlier, suddenly to come into being? Although I can just about stretch my mind to imagine a singularity, I have to say that this part of the science story takes us into the realms of fantasy. This is by no means to suggest that I know how or when the laws of nature came into being, but I am reasonably sure that it did not happen this way. I will say more about this when we come to the new story.

The universe has no intrinsic meaning. It began for no apparent reason. If this is true, then we have to wonder why it bothered coming into being in the first place. In any event, presumably this absence of meaning applies to us too, because we are surely products of the universe. It is little comfort to tell ourselves that if everything is basically meaningless, then this statement must be meaningless too! In any event, is meaning a purely human construct? If so, are we sole exceptions in the universe? Highly unlikely, I would have thought.

Everything is physical.  Although scientists do not define the word “physical”, we know what it means. According to science, the whole universe is physical, and everything in it, including us. We are nothing more than our bodies. This implies that we do not exist before conception or after the death of our bodies. It also means that anything that, at first, appears not to be physical – such as consciousness – will eventually be shown to be physical in nature. It should be self-evident, but perhaps it needs to be stated that scientists believe everything is physical because they use only the physical mode of perception to explore the world and the human being. In other words, they rely only on their five physical senses, and on extensions to these senses, such as telescopes and microscopes. When we think about it, we realise that all scientific instruments are, ultimately, extensions to one or more of our five senses. If scientists used other, “non-physical” modes of perception to explore the world, the world would respond accordingly, by appearing to non-physical. This is a central feature of the new story. Meanwhile, the next part of the story follows naturally from this part.

Matter is primary, and consciousness is secondary. In other words, consciousness is believed a product of matter. This is why scientists say that consciousness is an “epiphenomenon of the brain”. This, too, has some far-reaching implications, such as the belief that consciousness can exist only within the brain. As we shall see, when we look at the new story, there is a lot of compelling evidence that consciousness can exist well beyond the brain.

Science’s emphasis of the physical and the material leads it to believe that the world and the human being can best be understood as “mechanisms”. This suggests that, if you really want to understand something, you take it apart, and see how its parts fit together and interact with each other – just like a machine. This “mechanistic worldview” is very evident in medicine and in pharmacology.

Science also wants us to believe that the universe contains disorder, chance and randomness. They tell us that some things happen by chance – such as life on this planet – and that some things lack order. The important point of this part of the science story is the claim that disorder and chance are inherent characteristics of the universe. This means that some things can never be explained. They just happen!

Science’s focus on mechanisms and parts takes us to the next part of its story – that the primary reality is to be found at the level of the very small – at the level of particles, waves and quanta. From this, it is a short step to the belief that causality is upwards. In other words, “prime causes” take place at the sub-atomic level. Everything else is secondary, a consequence of primary causes.

We are almost there! Although this may be obvious by now, it is worth stating explicitly that science believes that things are basically separate from each other, and connected only by physical forces, such as gravity and electromagnetism. This belief persists, despite long-standing evidence of “quantum entanglement”, which strongly suggests that things are anything but separate. This belief is separateness runs deep in our lives. It may, for example, be at the root of the loneliness and isolation many of us feel from time to time.

Human evolution happened more or less as Darwin described it. I might agree with this, if we were talking only about the evolution of our physical body. For scientists, this is all we are, our physical body. For me, and for the new story, we are much more than that. T If we are much more than that, this puts the whole of evolutionary biology into question.

Finally, and although this is not a formal part of the science story, it is implied that, while some religious and spiritual traditions can offer useful moral guidance, they cannot give us facts. Only science can give us facts! Yet, when we stop to think about it, we realise that most of the facts of our own lives come not from science. They come from our personal experience. The new story differs from the science story in many respects. Most importantly, it places us – human beings – right at the centre of the story.

Many scientists – indeed many people in general – think that the science story is a set of facts. As such, they are beyond argument. This is very evident when you hear Richard Dawkins speaking! The reality is that the science story is merely a set of beliefs. While it is true that some of these are based on careful observations and complex calculations, they are still beliefs. This is because science is always provisional. Its “facts” are not set in stone. They are not eternal truths. All of them are subject to change. Thus, the science story is believed to be true. This is significant, because it means that, as a set of beliefs, the science story is a worldview – a worldview that profoundly influences all aspects of our lives.

It influences our lives more than you might imagine. Most obviously, it is the basis of our knowledge. This, in turn, makes it the basis for our education. This is because a worldview tells us what is true and what is possible. The untrue and the impossible is very unlikely to be taught in our schools and our universities. Bu it goes much deeper than this. The science story is at the root of our values – what we believe to be important – and our behaviour. It follows that if we change our worldview, our core beliefs, then everything else changes. This is why the new story so important. It is because it will change our core beliefs, our values and our behaviour. Few will deny that the planet is crying out for us to change.




global change, human being, Intelligence, Uncategorized

The Shortest Era

You will know that the history of our home planet is divided into “eras”, such as the Precambrian and the Palaeozoic. They are very long – millions of years. As it happens, the mainstream media (e.g. the Guardian two days ago) has just woken up to the fact that some people have been talking about the most recent era for many years. It is called the Anthropocene Era, reflecting the fact that the human species now seems to be dominant on this planet. Although there is no general agreement about its commencement – some date it from the beginning of agriculture 15,000 years ago, while others like to believe it started with the first test of an atomic bomb in 1945 – one thing does seem clear, this era is unlikely to last long. I say this simply because we do not deserve to dominate. Our domination will soon be revealed for what it is – false, and therefore transitory.

Having laid my cards on the table, one could easily imagine a species that did deserve to be dominant. Above all, that species would be intelligent, in the sense that it would behave wisely and well. For instance, it would not overpopulate. It would not degrade the natural environment (all this planet’s life-support systems are in serious decline). It would not preside over an unprecedented extinction of species. It would not destroy its own members on an industrial scale (just think 20th Century!). And it would ensure that none of its members had too little because a few had far too much. I hardly need add that none of the above can be said about our own human species.

Of course, it need not be this way. As a species, we clearly have the potential to behave wisely and well. The very obvious problem is that there is an immense gap between our potential and our actual behaviour, and this gap is not closing quickly enough (if it is closing at all) to avert dangerous climate change, serious damage to our life-support systems, nor the terminal social breakdown that will inevitably follow huge inequalities.

Until quite recently I believed that we would become a truly intelligent species, and avert catastrophe. I now believe that any change for the better will be too little and too late. End of Anthropocene!