. . . .
. . . .
. . . . Which is more real?
. . . . Your God or my God?
. . . . . . How do you know?
And yes, if we don’t understand how the ecosystem functions, we will not be able to save OURSELVES. I am very sure of that. If we ran across a car sitting someplace and knew nothing about mechanics and had never even seen metal, how would we be able to fix it? There is no doubt that the universe and the ecosystem function by “natural laws,” that is physical laws, and that life (the ecosystem) would not exist if those laws were not what they are. And, as the ecosystem is more than we are, similarly the natural laws are more than the ecosystem is. We would not be here without the ecosystem, and the ecosystem would not be here if there were no physical law of gravity, law of thermodynamics, etc. So neither we nor the ecosystem can survive outside the natural law that makes us both possible.
It is not possible for the part to dominate the whole. The ecosystem is an organism and it functions as an organism. Think down a bit — you are an organism. It would be laughable if a group of your cells, say the kidney cells, decided to dominate you. There are only two possible ends. They fail or you die.
I leave a hope of success because there is no point assuming we will fail to learn these things, but the longer we delay the more terrible will be the cost in human suffering, and we can not succeed by applying human intuition to the problem. Example again. Your needs for survival, as an individual organism, are not the same as the needs of your kidney. For one thing, you eat food. Kidneys do not eat food, they plug into your circulatory system for their survival. If we continue to evaluate the needs of the ecosystem according to even the highest of human values, we will continue to deprive the ecosystem of what she requires for her survival. If we are to succeed, there is an absolute imperative that we understand the mechanical natural law that makes ecosystem survival possible, and there is only one accurate source of measurable facts about this information, because science is the only discipline that limits itself to measurable facts for its evaluations. If we ignore that source we will not succeed.
That is not the same as saying there is no spiritual component to our study of the ecosystem. It also is not the same as saying there IS a spiritual component. Science has nothing to do with spiritual because science is not science unless it is studying measurable facts. The Dalai Lama is trying to scientifically measure spiritual experiences, and a number of scientists also. And they are succeeding in measuring brain waves that are different during various mental states of people. So what does that prove? It proves the mechanics — it proves nothing about the spirituality itself. Science has nothing to do with spirituality. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama has 2000 years of human study of spirituality in his heritage, and he has stated that measurable facts take precedence in those areas of understanding where our human interpretation conflicts with the measurable facts about the universe. His statement reflects his understanding of the relationship between measurable facts and human spirituality, and he is no scientist. He is one of the world’s most knowledgeable spiritualists.
So none of science is necessarily spiritually related. It’s more like mechanical. This is how things work, therefore this is how we should behave if we want ourselves and our super-organism — the ecosystem — to survive. There isn’t anything necessarily spiritual or not spiritual about it.
But I agree with Maaark that we are more likely to succeed if scientists and spiritualists (religionists I think he said) would come down off their respective ivory towers and begin the conversation.
(The following is a paraphrase) In science we have an ethic. We argue from evidence based on publicly available information. When you become a scientist you agree to be bound by that, even if the evidence goes against your own theory. To do this you must first have disagreement before you can devise a theory to test. A problem is not definitively solved until we have evidence from experiments. Lecture at NSF, Leo Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Physics in trouble, why the public should care. Podcast on the Research Channel. http://www.nsf.gov
Dr. Smolin is a physicist highly trained in the use of the scientific method to differentiate between measurable facts and hypotheses. He is qualified to speak about the scientific method, the universal laws of physics and the various theories and facts therein.
I hear quite a few people grabbing some untested or inadequately tested idea that physicists are throwing around and presenting this idea as a fact in some book or in their practice. This is fun and it is probably as comforting as the various ideas about God, spirit and spirituality, but it is not science. Science is the study of measurable facts using the scientific method. (And by the way, this does not mean we got the answer we want in one isolated experiment, even if that experiment was published. The scientific method requires more than one result as proof.)
Spirituality and religion are sometimes fun and sometimes comforting and sometimes a way to sell books. Mostly they are fine and beautiful and real. But they are not science, and I think it’s sad when we use fake science rather than real measurable facts as we try to deal with the measurable, solvable problems that we are now facing in our culture and our environment.
It’s time to learn the difference between spirituality and science so that we can get the maximum benefit from both. We should not limit our spirituality by tying it to measurable facts — fake or real. On the other hand, we will never solve factual problems if we aren’t willing to acknowledge and deal with the facts.
There is no point arguing about God, because God is everything, or God created everything, and we are just the tiniest part of everything.
For us to argue about God is like a couple of cells in our bladder trying to influence our spiritual agenda. To the extent that all living things are manifestations of God, they and I have a common spiritual base. However, these cells have their own existential imperative, which is probably about living and dying in the bladder. I do not go to them for advice about how to operate my computer.
Life probably does have a common core of being, but that doesn’t mean everyone/thing is the same, nor does it mean that the ethical imperative of a cell is the same as mine, nor that mine is the same as God’s.
I believe as Americans, we should not be fighting each other or anyone else over unimportant things while the country and the ecosystem collapse around us, and I believe that something is happening higher up in the politico-economic structure that wants to lay waste the land in order to “get theirs” now. Of course this has always been true, but right now there are two huge differences:
(1) Now the ecosystem has run out of reserves to support their biological and economic ravages. Before now we were not so big and there were always more resources somewhere that could make up for the crooks’ behaviors.
(2) Now the power brokers are more subtle and have learned to maintain their power by setting us against each other. Obviously their goal is to pretend we are recovering and at the same time give us something unimportant to fight over so we won’t notice as they ravage the countryside and we lose the rule of law that is THE thing that defines us as American.
Our political model makes this very easy for them, especially after Bush indoctrinated a whole generation of young into the glories of war, because the people are willing to believe that “winning” a debate or an election, or ANYTHING is a valid way to solve a problem. Just as they were willing to believe that “winning” a war is. Wouldn’t you think we would notice the proofs of all the failed wars? So I am dedicating my time and energy to fighting FOR the constitution and rule of law and the ecosystem.
One of the things that stands in the way of our problem solving, as we push the whole earth ecosystem further and further away from a healthy balance, is that we are NOT teaching our people how the ecosystem works. We do know in its basics how the ecosystem works, but we are withholding this information from the voters (even on PBS). I think the reason for this is what I said above — so that the voters will not interfere with the crooks’ ravaging.
The other thing that stands in our way is our war mentality that prevents us from talking among our selves and realizing that we all want the same things and we all have the same problems. We apply our war mentality extravagantly to almost everything we do because we believe that “winning” is more important than solving the problems. We are so indoctrinated in the “winning” model that we can’t feel good about ourselves if we believe someone else might be better in some way than we are. Now I ask you, what problem does that solve?
I am antiwar. Really. Not like people who go out and fight with each other about whether or not we should have war. I don’t care who wins, so long as we solve the problems.
Wait — if we solve our common problem — wouldn’t we all win?
What a novel idea.
In part one of evolution, we agreed that evolution is NOT a simplistic version of survival of the fittest, but rather a change in the gene pool over time. We said that we have no control over time and that our direct impact upon our own human gene pool is insignificant. The third word in the definition is change.
What causes this change?
No person knows exactly, and unless you can understand all the genes in all the species in the ecosystem and all the ways in which these species interact to allow the ecosystem to be alive, then there is no way for you to know precisely what causes evolution, beyond what we have already said. There is a change in the gene pool, that is, a change in the information content of the living ecosystem.
Now it gets complicated because the gene pool changes in response to the environment. That sounds like a cycle, doesn’t it, with the gene pool on one side and the environment on the other. The gene pool is necessary for the environment, and the environment is necessary for the gene pool. And this is true, except for time.
If the gene pool changes in response to the environment then the gene pool is changed, and it can not go back to what it was before. Therefore, in the next moment of time, or more likely the next generation of organisms, the relationship between the gene pool and the environment is different, because the gene pool is different. That will then make the environment somewhat different; and then the environment influences the gene pool again in the next following generation. So it’s not a cycle, like the carbon cycle, that happens over and over again in the same sort of way. It’s more like a spiral with infinite potential to continue — if it doesn’t destroy its own environment or its own gene pool.
So to this guy on Wall Street who is puffing out his chest and gloating that he is contributing to the survival of the fittest by causing the destruction of weaker companies, or because his company has grown 100%. That’s not the way it works. Furthermore, he doesn’t know how it works. And what that guy has done to us all is essentially to unbalance the ecosystem, which depends upon balance for its survival.
The ecosystem does not honor Ponzi schemes, nor does it honor growth. The ecosystem defines “fitness,” as the ability to maintain a viable balance among all the factors that it requires for its survival. Balance between the gene pool and the environment; balance in all the interactions among all the species in the gene pool of the ecosystem; balance among all the chemicals and nutrients that cycle around so that we may have life, and balance between input of energy from the sun and its use by organisms.
That economist who is going around boasting that he has grown 100%, what has he done by growing 100%? He has taken out more resources than the earth ecosystem can sustainably replace, he has destroyed species that are required for balance of the ecosystem, and even changed the weather for goodness sakes, and he thinks he has done a good thing because he‘s a winner in human terms. That guy, who is richer and more important than any other person on wall street, if you measure him by natural law, is one of the most unfit persons on earth. He and his friends have caused more harm than any other single group of humans, probably in history, because he, like Hitler, chose to rally behind a silly slogan rather than find out how evolution really does work.
The ecosystem is not human; it does not bow to human power, and its requirements for survival are not dictated by human ethical beliefs. We can not change the physical laws of God, such as gravity, thermodynamics and evolution — or of the ecosystem. The only thing we can do to contribute to a viable balance in the ecosystem is change our own behaviors, and it’s way past time that we begin.
Many people today, from the military to the economist to the new age, are basing decisions about their behavior on evolution. Some of us don’t even know we are doing it, and most don’t really know what evolution is. If we are thinking that evolution is “survival of the fittest,” we are making a mistake. It doesn’t work that way. We can’t plan to change physical evolution anyhow, and we would be far better to base our social behaviors on human ethics so as to possibly impact social change, and our physical efforts on not unbalancing the ecosystem.
Physical evolution is the law of nature that involves the information content of life and is the process of change of the entire information content of the ecosystem over time. Or, a change of a part of the ecosystem over time.
We all understand that time does not go backward, nor does it stop. I don’t know why; physicists might know about that. I do know time stops for no living thing. We can’t change what has already happened, so it’s better not to make mistakes. If God created the ecosystem, then, that’s one of God’s laws.
So that takes care of time. We can not change what is already behind us. Furthermore, no matter what we are doing, evolution never stops. It does not happen in the future, or rather it will happen in the future, but it is what is happening in this very moment of time that affects what will happen in the next moment of time. The only thing that actually is changing is — now. So we should think about not making mistakes, and we should think about it now if we want to create a good future for our kind.
The information content of the ecosytem is usually thought of as the gene pool. You could quibble about this and say that there are other forms of information, but I’m talking about the primary source of information that exists at each moment in time in response to whatever conditions exist. That information is all the genes that exist in the gene pool at this moment in time.
So the ecosystem is the largest unit of life as we know it on earth. The information of life is the genes. The gene pool of life is all the genes in that life. The gene pool of a species is all the genes in all the organisms of that species. The gene pool of a population is all the genes in that population. You have only two genes of each kind, and so does everyone else, so your impact on the ecosystem is tinier than tiny. Even if you kill off all your enemies and even if you are more fit than superman, your impact on the gene pool is still tinier than tiny.
So forget the delusions of grandeur. Your individualistic self might make a huge impact in your community of choice, but whatever we believe we are doing won’t matter to the ecosystem if we throw it off balance. Like all living entities, the prime imperative of the ecosystem is to stay in balance so it can survive, and there is no point in any of our physical or spiritual “cures” for our problems if at the same time we continue to unbalance our living home.
“Survival of the fittest” is only an excuse for people like Hitler, and maybe Bernie Madoff. And other people who want to wish away their social and cultural responsibilities by discounting physical reality. Evolution doesn’t work that way.
It would be better to spend out time finding out how it really does work if we want to stop unbalancing our living home.
(Excerpt from “Outside the Circles,” in production)