global change, Intelligence, Uncategorized

The Devil’s Delusion

This is the title of a book by David Berlinski. As the title may suggest, it is a refutation of the arguments set out in Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion”. I have read quite a few good refutations of Dawkins, but none as good as this one. It is short, always to the point, and well argued and written. I highly recommend it.

If you know Dawkins’ work, you will know he is a militant atheist. He is at pains to show that God does not, and cannot, exist. I do not think it an oversimplification to say that his argument is as follows:

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of God.

In any event, there is no need for God, because science has shown how the universe began, how life got stated, and how we human beings have evolved to what we are today.

Science may not have all the answers, but it will eventually. (I believe that the inference is that science’s “truths” are the best truths)

Berlinski refutes all of this, with very compelling arguments. I am much more convinced by Berlinski than by Dawkins. But this raises an interesting question: why are Dawkins’ book and arguments so well known and so widely accepted, and why are Berlinski’s book and arguments so little known? Is it because of the zeitgeist? Is it because we are living through very materialistic times, this reflected in the current predominance of the beliefs and worldview of science? There is no doubt that this is part of the reason. However, I think it is also because we non-materialists tend to be quiet. We tend to keep our beliefs to ourselves, rather than trumpeting them loudly in books, conferences and on YouTube.

All this puts me in mind of the “intellectual dark web”. If you have not come across this, you could do no better than explore the videos put on YouTube by Rebel Wisdom. While some of the content and some of the personalities (notably Jordan Peterson) make compelling viewing, one is left with the impression that much of it is just scientific materialism dressed up in new clothes. For example, much time is devoted to evolutionary biology, of which Dawkins is a big part. To be fair, Jordan Peterson is clearly a fan of Carl Jung and his archetypes, and he appreciates the significance of deep myth, including some of the stories in the Bible. And I am heartened to see that Rupert Sheldrake is getting the airing that his ideas have long deserved. Overall, however, there is little that is new. Yes, it is true that Ken Wilber has made some recent appearances on the IDW, but Ken and his ideas have been around since 1973, the year of his first book “A Spectrum of Consciousness”.

My thoughts about all this are still not fully formed, but I will end this with just one thought. I do believe that there is a need for some new thinking about the big, important things. But I also believe that this needs to go well beyond what Rebel Wisdom seem to be trying to achieve. It needs to include intelligent, open exploration of those topics and questions that are largely ignored by science. The list is alarming long, and it includes unusual forms of consciousness (not induced by drugs), as well as the whole range of so-called paranormal experiences and phenomena. Now, that would be an intellectual web that I would be proud to be part of!

 

Chris Thomson

 

christhomson1000@gmail.com

 

global change, Intelligence, natural, Uncategorized

Order out of Chaos?

This is the title (without the question mark) of Ilya Prigogine’s 1984 book. He made the radical suggestion that order always emerges from chaos, and he noted that it is impossible to predict exactly what kind of order will emerge from chaos. Specifically, he suggested that this happened when systems were in a “far from equilibrium” state. Although he was writing about chemical and physical reactions, I believe that his findings are equally valid for social and political systems.

 

There can be little doubt that we are living in “far from equilibrium” times. On good days, it feels confusing and dispiriting. On bad days, of which there are many, it feels dangerous. If you doubt this, you have not been paying attention. I will just mention a few items from a very long list. A lying narcissist has direct access to the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal. An extreme right-winger who wants to commercially exploit the Amazon rainforest (“the lungs of the planet”) has just been elected President of Brazil. The UK is committing an act of massive self-harm by exiting the European Union. Economic and social inequalities are now greater than they were in Victorian times. Human behaviour is changing the climate dangerously. As if all this were not enough, all this planet’s life-support systems – yes, all of them – are in serious decline. i.e. clean air, clean water, forests, topsoil, aquifers, fisheries, wetlands, and biodiversity. This is because we human beings (and only we human beings) overuse and abuse them.

 

In these circumstances, it is a matter of astonishment that we continue to believe that we are the most intelligent species on this planet! Yet I believe that Prigogine’s findings give us cause for hope. There is clearly a strong sense of collapse and chaos. Things are very evidently far from equilibrium.  In the domains of chemical and physical reactions, this situation leads to great change – change that cannot be predicted. I suspect that this is exactly what we are going through now, on a human scale. I believe that we are right on the cusp of global changes that we can barely imagine. Yes, it looks dark outside now. But a new dawn is just about to break. Are we ready for it? It means that we have to be prepared for anything, including things we can barely imagine.

 

christhomson1000@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

consciousness, global change, Intelligence, natural, Uncategorized

CONSCIOUSNESS, CHARACTER, AND CAPACITY

Although our behaviour often suggests otherwise, human evolution has not stopped. And although many of us are fat and unhealthy, we are almost certainly still evolving physically. What we will look like, and sound like, in 1,000 years is anyone’s guess. However, my main interest is in the other ways in which we seem to be evolving. In my opinion, we are still evolving in consciousness, in character, and in capacity, and all the evidence suggests that we still have a very long way to go. I will say a few words about each of these.

Consciousness is just another word for experience. We are conscious, for example, that it is getting warmer, and we are conscious that we feel good, or bad. We are evolving in consciousness when we notice more – in quantity and in quality. You notice more about yourself, about other people, and about the world. This is the quantity of your consciousness. But you also notice more about the same things – such as shades of feeling, nuances of meaning, and so on. This is the quality of your consciousness. Ideally, as you become more conscious, you also become wiser. This takes us to the evolution of your character.

You are evolving in character when you behave better, more wisely, more ethically. More often than before, you do the right things, in the right ways, at the right times. It is significant, I think, that the evolution of consciousness and character go hand in hand with the evolution of capacity. They are all closely interrelated. They need each other!

You are evolving in capacity when you can do more things, and you can do them better. For example, you learn to speak Catalan and, eventually, you are able to speak it well. Or you begin to learn to ski and, over time, you become a competent skier. It could be any activity or any ability. The point is that your capacity to do things evolves.

Ideally, as you evolve in these three respects, you will one day become a highly conscious individual, of impeccable character, with the capacity to help make the world a better place. And ideally (yes, I know that this is the third time I have said this!), the whole human race will one day be highly conscious, of excellent character, with wonderful abilities. That day will come, of this I am sure, but not for a while! I do believe that this is the general direction we are taking. Of course, there is evidence to the contrary and, of course, we will stumble and fall many times on the way. But with a good deal of faith and application, it is ever onwards and upwards!

 

global change, Intelligence, simplicity, Uncategorized

HOW TO RESPOND

As a Scot living in Catalunya, with a keen interest in world affairs, I often wonder how to respond to current events. The litany is all too familiar – the madness of Trump, the sadness of Brexit, the pathologies of radical Islam and climate change, as well as the local struggle here for independence.

Although there are dark clouds on the horizon, I see quite a few silver linings. Trump will go, probably sooner than we imagine; we will, at last, stop tolerating the stupidities and abuses of Islam; people will realise that Brexit is a big mistake, and do something about it; and, hard as it is to believe, we will eventually stop destroying this planet and its climate. Of all this I am certain.

True, we will go through some unpleasant moments before all this happens, but perhaps we need to. Perhaps we need extremely loud wake-up calls before we really do come to our senses. As for my adopted home, Catalunya, I know the strength of feeling here and the quiet determination. Independence will surely come, sooner or later.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with intelligent simplicity. Two things. First, it is intelligently simple to allow crises to pass – they always do! Trump, radical Islam, Brexit and climate change will all pass. When we recognise this, it makes it easier to live our lives. We don’t have to fret all the time!

Second, it is intelligently simple to be realistic about what you, personally, can do to change things. On the world stage you can do very little. On your own stage you can do a lot. For example, if you are living an intelligent and simple life, you are already making a difference. And if you are consciously working on your own evolution, the whole world somehow benefits.

being natural, global change, Intelligence, natural

THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Hopefully, we all become more conscious as we go through life. Yes, I accept that it’s easy to think of exceptions, such as some current world leaders! Generally speaking, however, I believe that growing in consciousness is a natural part of life’s journey. As we get older, we notice and experience things that we had not noticed or experienced before – about ourselves, other people and the world. This growth in consciousness is normally accompanied by a corresponding growth in knowledge and understanding. In other words, as we notice and experience more, we understand better what we are noticing and experiencing. There is a growth both in quantity and in quality!

That much seems clear. The question I want to address today is this: is our normal growth in consciousness one and the same as evolution of consciousness? The short answer is yes, it could be, in certain circumstances. This needs a little explanation.

Conventionally, we call something “evolution” if it is permanent change, and if it applies to the whole species. Thus, the next generation is born with whatever has evolved in previous generations. A topical example of this is the remarkable ability of very young children (as young as 2) to use technology, such as mobile phones, TV remote controls, and to access their preferred YouTube videos, all without the help pf adults. My grandchildren, aged 3, can easily do what I found hard to do only a few years ago. There has undoubtedly been a generational change, and we are probably justified in calling this “evolution in ability”.

But does this also apply to consciousness? Is my grandchildren’s generation naturally more conscious than mine? For me, the jury is still out. I accept that something does seem to have changed in human consciousness. For example, as a species we are more conscious than ever that everything is connected to everything else, and that the familiar physical world is only part of a much bigger picture. We are also more consciousness of the “human family” and of this planet as a living entity. The problem is that a big part of this “greater consciousness” is knowledge and understanding, which have grown immensely over the last 100 years or so. Only part of what we call “greater consciousness” is actually consciousness! So, to be clear, what I am talking about here is not the fact that we notice and experience more. There can be no doubt that we do. What I am talking about is our capacity to notice and experience more. For me, it is only when that capacity itself grows that it counts as the evolution of consciousness.

Just to sum up, we are certainly evolving in ability, and we are certainly evolving in knowledge and understanding. There are many examples of this. It is also true that most of us growth naturally in consciousness as we get older. The only thing I am unsure about is whether there have been permanent generational shifts in consciousness. Has the youngest generation been born more conscious than mine? Despite my uncertainty, I am more than happy to give evolution of consciousness the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is happening. In any event, doing what we can to increase our capacity to be conscious can only be for the good!

CT
29 July 2018

global change, Intelligence, Uncategorized

OUR FUTURE EVOLUTION

When we think of human evolution, we normally think of the past, the history of our evolution. And we may have in mind our evolutionary achievements, such as language, technology, manual dexterity, and the ability to self-reflect. But do we ever think about the future of our evolution? Or do we assume that human evolution has stopped? Given the state of the world today, we can be forgiven for thinking that we have stopped evolving, and that all that remains for us is to constantly try to solve the problems of our own making.

In fact, there is much evidence that we are still evolving, and that we may still have a long way to go. Although we like to think of ourselves as “top of the evolutionary tree”, humanity may still be in its infancy, in evolutionary terms. The evidence is that we are still evolving in five significant respects:

We are evolving physically, and this includes our health and longevity

We are evolving in consciousness and in knowing and understanding. Many of us are more conscious, and as a species we know and understand much more

We are evolving in intelligence – defined as “behaving wisely and well”. It often does not seem so, when we look around us or watch the news, but the overall trend is positive

We are evolving in character and maturity. This means many things, such as our ethics and morality. In practice, it means we are becoming kinder, stronger, more disciplined

We are evolving in ability, in two senses: we can do current things better; and we can do completely new things, including that considered by some to be “paranormal”

An important part of the evidence that we are still evolving is that large numbers of people are working on their own evolution (although they probably do not use this term). Under headings such as “personal development” or “therapy” or “spiritual practice, they are working on their health, their consciousness, their intelligence, their character, or their abilities – any or all of these.

Given the existential threats that just one species – ourselves – pose to this planet, there is clearly an urgent need for we human beings to evolve as much as possible, so that we can become what we are capable of being – wise and kind, with the will and capacity to care for each other and this planet as they are meant to be cared for. I hope that it goes without saying that this will involve work, much of it. That said, if you work regularly on yourself, you will almost certainly evolve. And as you evolve as an individual, humanity as a whole will somehow reflect your personal evolution.

global change, Intelligence, natural, simplicity

ARE WE HERE BY CHANCE

Today I will apply intelligent simplicity to an important question: are we here by chance? Do we human beings just happen to be here, for no reason, on this particular planet, and nowhere else? In any event, what do we mean by “chance”? When we say that the toss of a coin or the throw of the dice is a matter of chance, what do we really mean?

What we really mean is that we cannot predict the outcome. This is not because the outcome is theoretically unpredictable. It is because we cannot do it in practice, because we do not know all the variables. There are two many of them, and the effect of some of them (for example, the exact force exerted by our thumb, or the influence of the air temperature) are too difficult to know.

This is important because it suggests that there might be no such thing as inherent chance – meaning no reason at all for something to happen. What we have instead is apparent chance – meaning our inability to know exactly why something happens. There is a world of difference between inherent incomprehensibility, on the one hand, and our current inability to understand or explain. The first would be a quality of the universe. The second simply reflects our state of knowledge and consciousness. The problem is that we tend to confuse the two.

Having said this, I believe that nothing happens by chance. We may not be able to explain why it happens, but this is no reason for consigning it to “chance”.

Significantly, if we are not here by chance, but for very good reasons, it is clearly important that we discover what these good reasons are. To express another way, if there are good reasons for our being here, this suggests that there is a purpose – a meaning – for our being here. We have a role to play in the grand scheme of things! How would we go about finding out what our role, our purpose is? For the moment, I think this question is best left hanging in the air!