Bare Bones Biology 207 – The Philosophy of Common Sense

I have been listening to an entry level university course that can be obtained from The Great Courses ( Entry level means it’s meant for college freshmen.

“The Quest for Meaning: Values, Ethics and the Modern Experience.” by award-winning U. Texas professor Robert H. Kane. He discusses one of the dilemmas that we modern humans face: “Whether there are any objective values, or whether all judgments about good and evil, right and wrong are merely subjective expressions of personal feelings or attitudes.” And then he discusses “two of the most influential intellectual movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: positivism and existentialism.”

Positivism, he says, emphasizes science as the source of all knowledge, while existentialism emphasizes personal experience as the source of all knowledge. Yet, he says, “both tend to lead, from opposing directions, to subjective views about value.” Of course, he says a lot more than that, and eventually he emerges with the concept that there are levels (he refers to them as dimensions) of values.

Well, certainly I as a basic scientist can agree that nearly everything we experience is organized in levels of complexity ( Have I not been talking about levels of biological organization for some years? Do not most of the religions talk about levels of one thing or another? The concept of levels seems to be universal, and the concept of levels of organization is embedded in nearly everything biological, especially evolution, suggesting that we all are observing the same sort of universal organization of reality from the perspective of our different contexts.

Frankly I wish someone would force philosophers to take biology courses that stress the reality that: “Evolution is the ultimate explanatory framework within which everything about human behavior and mental experience has to be accounted for.” That from Thupten Jinpa Langri, the Dalai Lama’s interpreter (, who I believe to be one of the great modern philosophers.

The fact is that we all live in the same world, and levels of organization is a reality of that world, and at the highest level we humans are all experiencing our existence within the same realities that none of us can completely understand. I think it’s past time we sit down and discuss realities and facts, rather than debate lower-level trivia. And the first discussion would be – do we have an ethical obligation, as humans, to do something in response to those realities and facts.

But before we can do that, we need to somehow point out to the Western philosophers two things:

1 – At the highest levels of biology and of human thought it can be shown that humans are not the center of much of anything. We have already learned that humiliating fact quite a few times: humans are not the center of the universe, the solar system, or even the Biosystem,

2 – But we seem unable to conceive of the idea that the needs (values) of systems other than our own, such as the Biosystem, are not necessarily extensions of our own human values/needs.

The fact is that we are part of a network of interacting processes and influences, including both the Facts of how Life stays alive, and the realities of human needs. It’s a network of levels of organization, and networks do not exist on the basis of two-sided questions and arguments, nor on the basis of central anything. Either/or, either/or, either/or; I think that is a perversion.

As far as I can see, the best guide for what is right is the most good for the greatest
number, which is also expressed within another world view as reducing the suffering of all sentient beings. And the only way to accomplish that is to stop wasting our energies trying to win debates, and instead but ourselves to the effort to arrive at a sustainable, balanced world view — within the network of Life. I know one thing for sure, it is NOT good to increase the suffering of even just human beings, and that is exactly what we are doing every time we choose our win-lose approach to anything, over win-win-win solutions to everything.

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This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM Radio, 89.1, Bryan, Texas.