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Thursday, October 7th, 2010

From the SynEARTH Archives … The following is the fourth chapter from We Can All Win!

Three Classes of Life

Timothy Wilken, MD

In 1921, Alfred Korzybski (1), a mathematician and scientist, classified Life with precise and accurate operational definitions of plants, animals, and humans. He defined the plants as energy-binders, the animals as space-binders, and we humans as time-binders.

Korzybski explained that the plants adapt to their environment through their awareness and control of energy. The animals adapt to their environment through their awareness and control of space. And we humans adapt to our environment through our awareness and control of time.

Energy-binding – the power of plants

The power of energy-binding is transformation, growth, and organization.

Energy-binders have the ability to transform solar energy to organic chemical energy. The plant is a solar collector. It spreads its leaves and harvests the ultraviolet rays directly from the sun.

Energy-binders have the power of growth. The plant draws water and minerals from the soil organizes this energy and nutrients into growth through cell division. The growth of the energy-binder and its self-propagation through progeny are the resultant of cell division – if the cells remain together we have growth; if they split off into a separate entity we have progeny.

Energy-bindings have the power of organization. Organization possible through the ability to time the release and binding of energy. Timing based on knowledge – energy knowledge.

Life requires complexity. Take one of the simplest of energy-binders – a single celled bacteria.

We are looking at a simple rod-shaped one celled plant which can avoid dangers and seize opportunities. Inside this simple one celled plant – there are four “boss” molecules. These DNA molecules have a molecular weight of 2.5 billion each. Then we find 400,000 assistants to the bosses, RNA molecules of over 1000 types with an average molecular weight of 2 million each. Packed between all of these molecules are about 1 million protein molecules of over 2000 different types with an average molecular weight of 40,000 each. And to complete this simple cell we find 500 million smaller molecules of approximately 700 types with an average molecular weight of 300 each. All of these units working together to bind energy, making controlled choices, adapting to their environment, avoiding danger and embracing opportunity.

This description of a simple one celled energy-binder is mind boggling; but to keep our sense of proportion, we must recognize that life requires complexity. Energy-binders represent a much more complex order of organization that the most complex of nonliving molecules. If a molecule were likened to an automobile, then a cell is like an automotive factory – a vast organization of men, machines, and computers.

And so plants – the energy-binders are energy aware. They are aware and they process information about energy. They remember energy events and from that memory make controlled choices – energy choices. The plants think and decide.

This is not human thinking, not even animal thinking, but it is a form of intelligence – very powerful energy intelligence. The plants use their power to bind energy – to organize, to adapt to their environment. They must adapt by making controlled choices, which keep them within the narrow corridor of life or they will die. They must avoid the dangers threatening their survival and embrace the opportunities for growth and reproduction.

While the energy-binders have the power to collect and store energy, to make controlled choices of the use of that energy, they have limited adaptability. Limited because they cannot move. Plants are rooted to their environment. If a plant roots in the shade, it cannot move to a sunnier place. If it is dying for lack of water, it cannot move to a rainier spot. Plants lack the power of mobility.

Plant growth is movement, but movement towards an infinitely remote goal – the sun. Plant motion is in a constant direction, either away from gravity or towards the sun.

Neutrality – the natural law of plants

Neutral relationships originate in the plant world.

Sunlight provides unlimited energy for the plants. Each individual plant needs only the sun, and adequate water and minerals to survive. Plants are solar energy collectors. They use the sun’s radiant energy in photosynthesis to manufacture glucose, carbohydrate and other plant cells.

Individual plants do not relate to each other. They relate only to the earth and the sun.

Plant survival does not require any relationship with other. The plants unique ability to utilize sunlight directly to synthesize organic tissue frees them from the need for others. This fact makes plants the independent class of life – independent of other.

While no plant will deliberately hurt another plant, it will also never help another plant. A plant’s success or failure depends solely on its own efforts and talents. Individual plants have no relationship with each other. Plants have no awareness of each other, they ignore each other. To survive as a plant, you must be self-sufficient.

Plants are the only form of life that are truly independent.

If we analyze neutral relationships, we discover that individuals are unchanged by their relationship. They are neither less nor more after the relationship. They are the same. (1+1) = 2.

Choices which do not hurt or help are neutral. Actions which do not hurt or help are neutral. Relationships which do not hurt or help are neutral.

Space-binding – the power of animals

The power of space-binding is mobility – the ability to move about in space. This is not the simple motion of plants. This is mobility – running, jumping, leaping, swinging, swimming, creeping, stalking, crawling, diving, and flying.

The space-binder moves towards a specific and attainable goal – water, food, a mate, shelter – and in any direction. The mobility of the space-binder is not just motion, it is controlled motion. The space-binder moves in search of food. For grazing animals the quest is continuous; for predators, occasional but more strenuous. And all animals are under constant threat from natural enemies. The animal, therefore, requires sense awareness – awareness of the space in which he lives. The space-binder uses his awareness to find food and to warn him of the approach of enemies. A deer may be motivated by thirst to go to a waterhole, but if it senses a lion, it will refrain. It must continuously evaluate conflicting stimuli and choose between alternatives, alternatives of pleasure or pain, alternatives of good space or bad space. Space-binders are aware of space, they are aware and they think, they think and they decide – constantly making controlled choices as to where and when to move.

Thinking for the space-binder is wholistic. The animals base their decisions on the whole situation. When the rabbit hears a sound in the thicket, he must react instantly, “fight or flight” and the decision must be made now, based on the whole situation. There is no time for analysis. Only wholistic thinking has the rapidity and flexibility to allow survival in the adversary world of space-binders.

Spacial intelligence allows the animal to move instantly towards good space – space that enables one to survive, and away from bad space – space that produces injury or death.

But the animals are not only space-binders, they also have some of the power of energy-binders. While they cannot transform solar energy directly into organic chemical energy, they can transform the tissues from the plants and animals they eat into organic chemical energy, they can also grow, and they can also organize energy.

To the fox who sees the rabbit, success at seizing this opportunity for a meal depends not just on his ability to know when and where to move, but also on his ability to control the energy which he will need to power his movement. He must have adequate energy stored so that he can release it at the proper moment to catch the rabbit. And the rabbit can only escape if it uses its knowledge of both space and energy effectively.

Adversity – the natural law of animals

Adversary relationship originates on earth in the animal world. Earth supplies limited space for the animals. Space is finite. Good space is even more finite. It is very limited. There is only so much good water, so much good grazing land, so much good shelter, and so much good potential food. There is not enough to go around. The space-binders must compete for this limited amount of good space. They compete adversarialy. They compete by fighting and flighting. They compete by attacking and killing other space-binders. They compete by devouring the energy-binders.

Animal survival depends entirely on finding others to eat. The herbivores depend on finding plants to eat. The carnivores depend on finding other animals to eat. The animals inability to utilize sunlight to synthesize organic tissue means they must eat organic tissue. Animals survive by eating either plants or animals. Animals are completely dependent on other for survival. This fact makes animals the dependent class of life – dependent on other.

Imagine a fox chasing a rabbit, if the fox is quick enough, it will win a meal, at the expense of the rabbit who loses its life. On the other hand, if the rabbit is quicker, the fox loses a meal, and the rabbit wins its life. The animals live in an adversary world of losers and winners. This is a world of fighting and flighting – of pain and dying. To win in this world someone must lose. Winning is always at the cost of another.All animals, from the smallest insect to the largest whale are struggling to avoid losing – struggling to avoid being hurt.

CONFLICT –def–> The struggle to avoid loss – the struggle to avoid being hurt.

The animals must fight and flee to stay alive, and they do. Always ready at a moments notice to go tooth and nail to avoid losing – to avoid death. Losers/winners is the harshest of games. Winning is always at the cost of another’s life.

The loser tends to resist with all of its might occasionally prevailing by killing or wounding its attacker. So both parties can lose, turning the game – losers/winners into losers/losers.

If we analyze adversary relationships, we discover that individuals are less after the relationship. (1+1) < 2. In the animal world where the loser forfeits its life (1+1) = 1. Or in the end game of losers/losers, both adversaries may die in battle, then (1+1) = 0.

Adversity is completely natural in the animal world. It is the law of Nature for dependent live forms. It is the way of all animal life. The adversary way is not bad for the animals, it is Nature’s way.

The animals have acquired the ability to move voluntarily, but they lack the ability to understand their environment. Their inability to understand locks them into the adversary world.

To be complete, some plants do not have chlorophyll. They cannot convert radiant energy to chemical energy. They lack the full power of energy-binding. They are dependent life forms like the animals and survive through adversary relationships with other forms of life. This includes pathological bacteria and parasitic plants. This also includes the carnivorous plants which possess a primitive form of mobility.

Time-binding – the power of humans

We humans are time-binders. We possess the power to understand and through that understanding to control and dominate planet earth.

The power of time-binding is to understand – to observe and remember change over time. Understanding comes from the awareness of time – an awareness that allows humans to experience time as sequential or linear.

Tomorrow follows today as today followed yesterday. Time always moves from the past to the present, from the present to the future. Change is bound in time. And time-binders can understand change in space because of their awareness of time.

Time-binding is a new way of thinking – analytical thinking. The time-binder can make decisions based on understanding changes in his environment over time. Time-binding analysis is sequential analysis – linear analysis – focused on the parts rather than the whole.

Analytical thinking recognizes cause and effect. Time-binders are the masters of cause and effect. When humans understand cause and effect, they make scientific discovery. They make knowledge. When humans make choices based on knowledge, they make inventions. They make technology. Time-binders are the creators of knowledge and technology. When knowledge is incorporated into matter-energy, it becomes a tool.

Humans are above all else toolmakers. Most of our knowledge is embedded in our tools. Human knowledge grows continuously and without limit. As we incorporate our evermore powerful knowledge into tools. We produce evermore powerful tools.

Time-binding’s head start

Time-binding is also that unique human ability to pass that ‘knowing’ from one generation to the next generation. Both animal and human offspring begin their lives in nearly total ignorance. The differences that exist between them are small, but what advantage in ‘knowing’ that does exist belongs clearly to the animal. While the animal seems to begin life with a greater store of inherited ‘knowing’, it possesses little ability to learn from its parents. The animal is condemned to rediscover over and over, every generation must discover anew the ‘knowings’ of its parents. The wise old owl may know a great deal, but he has no way to pass what he knows to his offspring and they have no way to receive it. We humans are very different in that respect. We can and do pass our knowing from one generation to the next.

My grandmother was born in a house without telephone, radio, television, electricity, or running water. My mother was born in the same house, but with the addition of electricity, running water, and radio. I was born in a modern hospital, my mother was put to sleep for the delivery and I grew up in a house with electricity, running water, flush toilets, radios, and telephone, and when I was eight, we got a television.

My daughters were born in a hospital home birth center with my wife awake and participating. My daughters have grown up in a house with three televisions, two stereos, three radios, several telephones, two video recorders, and three personal computers.

We humans do not start our ‘knowing’ over every generation. My paternal grandfather had a 3rd grade education; my maternal grandfather had an 8th grade education.

My parents were high school graduates. I have 26 years of formal education and a doctorate. My wife’s mother has a grade school education; her father finished high school. My wife completed 23 years of formal education and has a graduate degree.

Our two daughters are now teenagers attending college, but both were involved in organized and systematic educational programs since their births. I am not smarter than my grandparents or my parents, I am simply later. Present humanity is not smarter than past humanity, they are simply later. As Alfred Korzybski explained in 1921:

“Human beings possess a most remarkable capacity which is entirely peculiar to them – I mean the capacity to summarize, digest and appropriate the labors and experiences of the past; I mean the capacity to use the fruits of past labors and experiences as intellectual or spiritual capital for developments in the present; I mean the capacity to employ as instruments of increasing power the accumulated achievements of the all-previous lives of the past generations spent in trial and error, trial and success; I mean the capacity of human beings to conduct their lives in the ever increasing light of inherited wisdom; I mean the capacity in virtue of which man is at once the inheritor of the bygone ages and the trustee of posterity. And because humanity is just this magnificent natural agency by which the past lives in the present and the present for the future, I define humanity, in the universal tongue of mathematics and mechanics, to be the time-binding class of life.” (2)

We humans bind time and are bound together in time. The record of our time-binding is everywhere. It is in all that activity that we so innocently call progress. It is the very motor of obsolescence. It is embedded in just about everything associated with humans and yet most humans are unaware of the very power that makes them human. We humans catalogue and store our various knowings in libraries, universities, colleges, data banks, and information services. We store our knowing in many formats – books, tapes, films, movies, newspapers, magazines, video, microfilm, photos, computer files, etc., etc., etc..

We are time-binders and the mark of our human power is everywhere.

But, humans are more than just time-binders with the power to understand. We also have the power of space-binding – mobility and the ability to think wholistically, and the power of energy-binding – conversion of plant and animal tissue to organic chemical energy, growth and organization of energy.

Human success depends not just on understanding, but also on knowing when, where and how to be mobile. And also on the ability to control the energy which we will need to power our movement. We must have adequate energy stored so that we can release it at the proper moment to adapt to our environment.

Synergy – the natural law of humans

The synergic relationship originates in the human world. As Korzybski foresaw:

“The human class of life is a part and a product of nature, therefore, there must be fundamental laws which are natural for this class of life. A stone obeys the natural laws of stones; a liquid conforms to the natural law of liquids; a plant, to the natural laws of plants; an animal, to the natural laws of animals; it follows inevitably that there must be natural laws for humans.” (3)

Universe provides unlimited time for humans. This is in the sense of time-binding. Human lives are finite, but human knowing is not. Humans discovered control of fire ~1.5 million years ago, and it has been in daily use since then.

Humans invented the wheel ~5500 years ago and its use is everywhere today. Because humans pass their knowing to their descendants, in a sense, collective human life is not limited. Understanding is not limited. Knowing is not limited. Technology is not limited. Quality of human life based on knowing and technology is not limited.

We first discover synergic relationship in the microscopic universe. It is the basis of human cellular organization. Each of us has approximately 40 trillion cells organized within our bodies. These cells are related synergically, each acting in a highly co-Operative way.

Synergic relationship becomes available to human individuals because of time-binding. Our ability to invent and to understand new ways of doing things creates a new possibility for co-Operation which does not exist in the world of the plants and animals.

Co-OPERATION –def–> Operating together to insure that both parties win, and that neither party loses. The negotiation to insure that both parties are helped, and that neither party is hurt.

Cooperation is an old word with lots of different meanings and feelings attached to it. Similar words are uniting, banding, combining, concurring, conjoining, and leaguing. Individuals who cooperate are affiliates, allies, associates, or confederates.

To some cooperation seems a losing word associated with socialism and communism. This is not what I mean. Co-Operation in synergic relationship means operating together to insure a win-win outcome.

Co-Operation is the mechanism of action necessary whenever an individual desires to accomplish a task beyond his individual abilities.

Imagine, you and a friend are moving a heavy piece of furniture. Neither of you are strong enough to move the furniture by yourself. You decide to co-operate. You decide to operate together during the lifting. You would negotiate to insure that both of you win – to insure that both of you are helped.

The conversation might go like this, “Are you ready?” “OK.” “Ready, 1.. 2.. 3.. lift!”, and if things are going well that is fine, but if one end gets too heavy then synergic co-Operation requires that you also protect each other from loss. “Whoops! Set it down.”

This is the synergic veto. This is the true meaning of co-Operation. The negotiation to insure that both parties win, and the synergic veto to stop the action if either party is losing.

A very limited form of cooperation exists among some animals. We see it the hunting pride of lions and within the hyena pack. Human co-Operation is a much more powerful mechanism. Animals have no voice with which to negotiate an action in which they win. They have no voice to veto an action in which they lose. Their primitive cooperation is guided by instinct, and it is quick to breakdown into the fighting and flighting of the adversary way.

We humans share the animal body, to survive we must also eat. We are omnivores. We meet our basic needs and survive by eating both plants and animals. Physiologically, we humans are also a dependent class of life. So adversary behavior comes to humans legitimately. But we humans are much more intelligent than the animals and that intelligence gives us the synergic option to avoid fighting or flighting.

True co-Operation – working together, teamwork, joint effort, alliances – these are only possible to a life form with symbolic intelligence – to a life form with a voice and with language – to a life form able to negotiate and veto. On earth, synergic relationships are only available only to humans.

Synergic relationship means sometimes I depend on other and sometimes other depends on me.

Synergic relationship makes humans the interdependent class of life – interdependent on each other. Today, synergic relationship exists only within small groups of humans.

Today, we find synergic relationships within families, occasionally within small businesses. But, there are no examples of institutionalized Synergy. Today, there are no synergic governments.

Co-Operation results when there are no losers and no one is ignored. When humans behave synergically, they seek their goals and needs as allies rather than as competitors. Human intelligence is most useful when we humans think of ways where all parties can win and where there is no need for losers. Synergic relationships can produce all-win scenarios. And when humans begin to co-Operate wonderful things can happen. When we analyze synergic relationships, we find that (1+1) > 2 , frequently it’s much greater (1+1) >>> 2.

Synergic mechanism is basic to Life. Synergy is present in the energy-binders. If we examine the plants microscopically, we find that every cell within a plant is organized to work together, each contributing to the integrity of the whole plant. The whole plant is more than an accumulation of vegetable cells. However at the macroscopic level the plant is neutral. It has no relationship with other plants.

Synergy is present in the space-binders as well. If we examine the animals we will find that microscopically they are synergically organized. Their organelles are synergized into cells, their cells are synergized into tissues, their tissues are synergized into organs, their organs are synergized into the organism-as-a-whole. Every cell interacting synergistically with every other cell. But for space-binders this is where synergy stops. The space-binder is behaviorally an adversary – the very opposite of synergy.

The intelligence of space-binding is inadequate to allow space-binders to organize themselves into a synergic community. The lion kills the zebra with no thought of the community of animals. The space-binder is not irresponsible he is aresponsible. His adversary behavior is the result of innocence. He sees himself as the only “whole”.

In the adversary world there is only good space or bad space. The animal lives the life of true dependence. If he is to eat, he must kill other.

We humans are also microscopic synergies. However, on the macroscopic or behavioral level we have a choice as how to behave. We can choose Adversity, Neutrality or Synergy. Today1999 most of us choose Adversity and Neutrality, and most of our relationships are adversary and neutral.

However, we humans do have the synergic option denied to the plants and animals. In synergic relationship, (1+1 ) > 2, (1+1) can be 25. In synergic relationship (1+1+1+1) can equal 100,000,000.

The Beatles – an example of synergy

Four young musicians named, John, Paul, George, and Ringo form a group in England in the 1960’s.

If we add up their separate individual musical abilities, (1+1+1+1), we would expect it would equal 4. But when The Beatles perform in synergy they break the rules of Newtonian logic with their joining, for The Beatles (1+1+1+1) equaled hundreds of MILLION$.

Synergy is in the “whole”. When the synergic relationship was broken, when The Beatles stopped performing together as a group in 1979, and began performing as individuals, their earnings dropped off dramatically despite high separate activity.

Forbes Magazine ranked The Beatles #5 on its list of the 40 top earners in the field of entertainment for period 1996-1997. The Beatles music royalties for this period totaled $98,000,000.00 eighteen years after they had disbanded.

What made the Beatles so very special cannot be found by analyzing John, Paul, George, or Ringo as separate musicians.

Synergy then is that something extra that exists in the whole that cannot be discovered by analyzing and summing the parts.

In summary then, Alfred Korzybski defined the three classes of life as energy-binders, space-binders, & time-binders.

Plants adapt through their awareness and control of energy. Animals adapt through their awareness and control of space, and. Humans adapt through their awareness and control of time.

Plants possess the power of energy-binding which is growth and organization. Animals possess the power of space-binding which is mobility and some of the power of energy-binding. Humans possess the power of time-binding which is understanding, and some of the power of space-binding and some of the power of energy-binding.

The natural law of plants is Neutrality – they ignore other.

The natural law of animals is Adversity – they hurt other.

The natural law of humans is Synergy – they help other.

Plants have no relationship with other. They are the independent class of life.

Animals depend on others as a source of food. They are the dependent class of life. Their lives are filled with conflict – the struggle to avoid being hurt.

Humans share the animal body and physiologically we depend on others as a source of food. However, psychologically and socially, sometimes we depend on others and sometimes others depend on us. We are the interdependent class of life.

Interdependence gives us humans the option for co-Operation.

We can choose to operate together to insure that both parties win, and neither party loses. We can negotiate to insure that both parties are helped, and that neither party is hurt. We can veto any action that would cause either party to lose or be hurt.

1 Alfred Korzybski, The Manhood of Humanity, E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1921 2 Alfred Korzybski, The Manhood of Humanity, ibid

3 Alfred Korzybski, The Manhood of Humanity, ibid

UnCommon Sense Library


The BasicsWe Can All Win!-PDF

2—Three Ways
3—The Relationship Continuum
4—Three Classes of Life
5—Human Neutrality

The Science — UnCommon Science(PDF)

Intro—Science 2001
1—Knowing 2001
2—A Limit to Knowing
3—Scientific Mistakes
4—What Do We Know

5—Order (PDF)-New

The Present — Crisis: Danger & Opportunity

The Future – A Synergic Future

Front Page

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

From the SynEARTH Archives … The following is the second chapter from We Can All Win!.

Three Ways of Relating

Timothy Wilken, MD

When we examine the relationship between self and other, we discover that we can choose actions that result in our being worse off, actions that result in our being unchanged, or actions that result in our being better off. We can choose to hurt each other, we can choose to ignore each other, or we can choose to help each other.

Terry and Timmy a few years before the chase.It was as a child on the school playgrounds of rural America in the 1950’s that I first learned of these three choices first hand. My twin brother and I were seven years old when our Dad was transferred to a new job and our family moved to the small community of Palco, Kansas. We arrived there after the start of the school year, and soon found ourselves threatened by the established group of boys at our new school. For reasons unclear to me then, conflict seemed almost constant, and real knock down battles occurred all too frequently.

One of my strongest childhood memories is of fear and running. A pack of boys are chasing me and my brother. If they catch us, they will beat us up. I am very tired. We have been running for nearly thirty minutes. My heart is pounding so hard I can hear little else. Perspiration fills my eyes making it difficult to see. A hundred yards ahead my twin brother is running easier. He is taller and a great runner. The pack cannot catch him. But, they are getting closer to me. Recess is almost over now, if we can just hold out until the bell rings, we will escape back into the safety of the classroom. But our escape will be short-lived.

I remember dreading every recess – every lunch hour.

Just like in boxing, at the sound of the bell we would all come out fighting. At every recess, the war would resume.

While my brother could often run all noon hour without getting caught, I was smaller and slower with options more limited. Sooner or later the confrontation came, and with it would come the hurt: a bloody nose, a torn shirt, a pair of broken glasses, detention after school, and the risk of a whipping when you got home for fighting at school.

To my seven year old mind, conflict seemed really stupid. Both sides got hurt. I tried to give as good as I got. Hurt and be hurt. I realized in that first year at the new school that there were no real winners in conflict. Even, when you “won” somehow you lost. It didn’t make any sense to me. I resolved to learn how not to fight.

By learning how not to fight, I did not mean giving in. In submission, the threatened party does what the threatener demands so the threatener will not hurt him. A bandit may say “Your money or your life,” the victim gives the bandit his money, and the bandit goes off with it, leaving the victim with his life.(1) This is an ultimatum – lose a little or lose a lot, but you will lose.

As a child, I recognized submission as a clear option. Some of the boys in the pack avoided getting hurt by giving in. But this is not what I had in mind when I sought to learn how not to fight. To me submission was worse than getting a beaten. I had always run my own life and I wanted things to continue that way. At my last school I had many friends. My brother and I began our education in a one room school shared by children ages 5 though 13. There the children were more like family. Conflict was unusual and little part of our daily life. We were friends and it seemed we had always been friends.

This way of being friends seemed to me the best way to relate.

I knew I wanted to turn the enemies in my new school into real friends, like I had enjoyed at my old school. But this could not involve giving in. I began my campaign very simply. I knew I liked friendly people. So, I started by just being friendly to my enemies.

I was friendly not submissive. I still did what I wanted. If that happened to be what others wanted that was fine, and I went along. If I didn’t, I went my own way. But either way I was friendly, and I never tried to impose my way on others. The boys came to realize that while they could beat me up, they could not make me give in. And, since I vigorously resisted being beaten, my attackers could usually count on a few bruises and pains for their trouble.

My strategy of non-submissive friendliness worked to some degree. Conflict was less and my share of battles decreased dramatically. I found myself being more and more left alone.

They ignored me, preferring to focus their efforts elsewhere, but they were not my friends. I had managed to step outside the world of conflict. I was neither predator nor prey. I was in a different place. The other boys no longer sought to hurt me. They simply ignored me. We had shifted from an adversary relationship to a neutral relationship.

However, I was not where I wanted to be. Clearly, if I wanted these boys to become my friends, something more would be necessary.

I had no idea what that more might be. The search for an alternative would dominate and shape my life far beyond any other concern.

Many years later as a physician and scientist, I would encounter the work of Edward Haskell. His relationship science would help me understand the phenomena, I had first encountered on the rural playgrounds of Kansas.

Relationships can hurt, ignore, or help

Edward Haskell (2) discovered that when any two individuals relate the result of their interaction may be negative, neutral or positive. Returning to the use of common gaming language, when two individuals relate they can lose, draw, or win. In all relationships, individuals experience one of the following qualitative states:

1) They can lose. They are hurt by the experience. They are less after the experience than before.

2) They can draw. They are ignored by the experience. They will be the same after the experience as before.

3) They can win. They are helped by the experience. They are more after the experience than before.

From the point of view of the individual joining in relationship, I can be hurt, I can be ignored, or I can be helped by the relationship.

Relationships that hurt are adversary. Relationships that ignore are neutral. Relationships that help are synergic.

1 Kenneth Boulding, Ecodynamics, Sage, Beverly Hills, 1978

2 Edward Haskell, FULL CIRCLE: The Moral Force of Unified Science, Gordon and Breach, New York, 1972

UnCommon Sense Library


The BasicsWe Can All Win!-PDF

2—Three Ways
3—The Relationship Continuum
4—Three Classes of Life
5—Human Neutrality

The Science — UnCommon Science(PDF)

Intro—Science 2001
1—Knowing 2001
2—A Limit to Knowing
3—Scientific Mistakes
4—What Do We Know

The Present — Crisis: Danger & Opportunity

The Future – A Synergic Future

Front Page

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The following is the first chapter of We Can All Win! (PDF), first published online in April 15, 1999.

Understanding Life

Timothy Wilken, MD

Let us begin our journey towards understanding the human condition by examining life. Biology in 1999 uses a number of different terms to represent living entities. These terms include life forms, living organisms, and more recently living systems. These terms have subtle but important differences which I will discuss later in The Science section, but for now these terms may be considered as synonymous.

We humans are a form of life. This is a fact of reality paramount to understanding ourselves. And, yet this fact is so pervasive and constant that it rarely enters our consciousness. Our clear and distant superiority to all other forms of life have made it easy for us to neglect our biological basis.

As we have seen ourselves different and superior to all other forms of life, we have missed the point . While we differ from plants and animals, we share their aliveness – we are still forms of life – we are still living organisms –we are still living systems .

When we examine ourselves scientifically, we discover that humans are living systems, and it follows therefore that our powers and our problems will be those of life.

If we are to create a safe and comfortable future for ourselves and our children, we must understand our connection to life. Our life connection is not only relevant, it is the crucial factor in determining a safe passage through the current human crisis.

A fundamental way of understanding life is by examining needs and actions.

Needs and actions

All living organisms have needs and all living organisms act to meet those needs. The primary drive of all living organisms is to survive – to continue to live.

To accomplish survival, a living organism requires a zone of survivability. In science we call this zone of survivability the biosphere. The biosphere is that environmental zone wherein a living organism can meet its needs and act to survive.

Life on earth can be divided into three general classes – these are the plants, the animals, and we humans. These three classes of life each require a different biosphere to meet their needs.

Plants need sunlight, water, carbon dioxide from the air, and adequate minerals from the soil. Plants are able to grow and reproduce by utilizing sunlight in the process science calls photosynthesis. Photosynthesis allows plants to create organic tissue utilizing energy directly from sunlight.

Animals lack the plants’ power of photosynthesis. They cannot utilize sunlight to create organic tissue. They must ingest either plant or animal tissue which they then digest to release chemical energy and molecular nutrients. They further need water and oxygen from the air instead of carbon dioxide.

Humans share animal body and like the animals lack the power of photosynthesis. We too must ingest plant or animal tissue. And, we too need water and oxygen.

The biosphere for plants must therefore provide sunlight, carbon dioxide, water, and minerals. It must also be some shelter from environmental extremes. It must not be too hot or too cold.

The biosphere for the animals, and for our human bodies must provide food either plant or animal tissue, oxygen, and water .

And for the animals as well as we humans, there must be some shelter – a safe place and time for the process of life itself – to breathe, eat and drink, to eliminate bodily wastes, to rest, and restore the body’s energy from the stresses of living, and to procreate if the species is to continue.

The biosphere therefore must provide air, water, food, and shelter or neither animal nor human will survive. Biospheres are also specific to individual species. One particular biosphere might support one species of organism well, but not another.


In synergic science, a system of continuous pull balanced against discontinuous push is called a tension integrity or tensegrity.

Needs are continuously pulling on all living organisms to be met. To meet its needs, the living organism must take action.

Fourteen to Sixteen times a minute, I take a breath. Many times a day, I drink water. And two or three times a day, I eat food. My actions are discontinuous. Discontinuous means I have some control over when I act to meet my needs. I can eat now or a few hours from now.

Life and living then is all about the continuing pull of our needs and the discontinuous push of the actions we take to meet those needs.

Life is organized as a tensegrity. The tensegrity is the most powerful organizing pattern in universe and I will discuss it more completely in The Science section.

The needs of plants and animals are primarily physiological. Our human body shares the physiological needs of the animal. But what differentiates human from animal is our more powerful brain and mind. This dramatic difference in intelligence is reflected in our more complex human needs.

Human needs

To survive for 24 hours, scientists have determined that the average human adult body requires 1.84 pounds of oxygen, 1.36 pounds of food solids, and 6.86 pounds of water.

For the majority of humans these basic needs seem pretty easily met. But few humans are satisfied with the basic needs as one very wise man once said, “Man does not live by bread alone.” We humans need a lot more, and most of what we need has nothing to do with our bodies. Humans require a rich psychological and social life. In a word, humans require meaning in their lives. Plants and animals can just survive, but humans require meaningful survival.

An internet search for “human needs” results in lots of returns. As we examine these needs, we begin to realize that the relationship between other and self is enormously important for humans.

One internet page even divides human needs into two categories based upon whether they are related to other or to self.

A second internet page references scientists Wackernagel and Rees writing in 1993, stated that “basic human needs are not only physical in nature … but also psychological, such as dignity and self-esteem, love and social connectedness, self-realization and to have control over one’s life”.

And finally, a third internet page references the psychologist Henry Murray as identifying twenty human psychogenic needs. Again all of these can be broken down further into categories related to other and self.

Plants, animals and others

Plant survival does not require any relationship with other. The plants unique ability to utilize sunlight directly to synthesize organic tissue frees them from the need for others. This fact makes plants the independent class of life – independent of other.

Animal survival depends entirely on finding others to eat. The herbivores depend on finding plants to eat. The carnivores depend on finding other animals to eat. The animal’s inability to utilize sunlight to synthesize organic tissue means they must eat something. Animals survive by eating either plants or animals. Animals are completely dependent on other for survival. This fact makes animals the dependent class of life – dependent on other.

We humans share the animal body, to survive we must also eat. We are omnivores. We meet our basic needs and survive by eating both plants and animals. Physiologically, we humans are also a dependent class of life. But humans need more than basic needs. Sometimes we need other and sometimes other needs us. Some scientists have used the term “the social animal” in reference to these social-psychological needs of humanity. And it is these social-psychological needs that makes humans more than dependent upon each other. This means sometimes I depend on other and sometimes other depends on me. This fact makes us humans the interdependent class of life – interdependent on each other.

Stop reading

Take a few moment to examine the contents of your pockets or purse. …

Can you find any item there, that you obtained without the help of someone else? Look around you. What do you see? Did you make the clothes you wear? Did you grow the food you eat or the tools you use. Look around your home or workplace. Can you find anything that you made. Do you know the names of those who did make all these things? Do you ever know upon whom you depend. Can you find anything in your environment that was obtained without the help of someone else?

I am not talking about ownership here. I will grant that you own your possessions. But would you have them if they had not been for sale.I would argue that nearly everything modern humans possess was obtained with the help of others.

As I examine my world I discover that I depend on others to grow and produce my food. I depend on others to design and build my home. I depend on others to generate my electricity.

I depend on others to supply my water. I depend on others to deliver my mail. I depend on others to educate my children. I depend on others to entertain my family. I depend on others to manufacture my automobile. I depend on others to refine the gasoline for my car. I depend on others to care for my family when we are sick. I depend on others to protect us from crime and war. I depend on others to …. I depend on others. I depend.

Human interdependence is made less visible by our present economic exchange system. I go to work and help my employer. He depends on me. At the end of the month he pays me for my help. I depend on him. I can then take some of the money from my paycheck to pay my house rent. While I depend on my landlord for the roof over my head, he depends on me to pay the rent promptly. Sometimes I depend on others and sometimes others depend on me. When we buy and sell in the economic marketplace we are really exchanging help. When I help others they owe me. When others help me I owe them. Money is just the present accounting mechanism we use to settle up.

This will come as a surprise to most readers, but humans are not and can not be independent.

We are an interdependent species. We rely on each other for nearly all our wants and needs.

Independence from other is not available to the richest man with the most affluent life style. He is as dependent on the staff of servants who wait on him as they are dependent on him for their shelter and sustenance.

Independence from other humans is only available to the poorest of hermits. This hermit must gather and prepare all his own vegetables and fruits. He must hunt, kill, skin, dress, and cook all his own meat. He must find or build his own shelter using only the materials he can gather and prepare by himself aided only by the tools that he can manufacture by himself from the materials that he can find. He must shelter himself from all storms and natural disasters, and protect himself from all enemies. Only by committing 99+ percent of his waking time to basic survival can he achieve true independence from other humans.

And, what is the cost of this independence from other humans? His lot will be to live a life of abject poverty devoid of any meaning. His search for independence forces him to forsake his very humanness and de-evolve into an animal. And, even then, he can not achieve true independence. For, his body is still dependent on plant and animal tissue for its survival.

We humans are not an independent life form. Despite the common desire of most of us to be independent, human independence is not possible in any scientific sense. Our bodies do not contain chlorophyll and we cannot get our energy directly from the Sun. Other plants and animals serve as our source of energy. We are just as dependent on others for our survival as are the animals.

We can ignore this fact of science by calling the other plants and animals – food and cooking their bodies in ways so that we are not reminded of the source of our sustenance, but we are still not independent. When we further examine our relationships with other humans, we discover that even here we are not independent.

In summary then, we can say that in the lives of plants – the independent class of life, other plays no role .

In the lives of animals – the dependent class of life, other serves primarily as a source of food.And finally in the lives of humans, the interdependent class of life, other is very important. Our bodies are as dependent on others for food as the animals, but socially, psychologically and economically, we depend on others and others depend on us. We humans are interdependent.


All living systems act to meet their needs. Let us now examine action more carefully. Science1999 reveals that:

“What is most basic in universe is not material particles but activity. The older concept of a universe made up of physical particles interacting according to fixed laws is no longer tenable. It is implicit in present findings that action rather than matter is basic.” (1)

Science as of 1999 has discovered action to be fundamental in both nonliving universe which includes light, particles, atoms, and simple molecules as well as within living universe which is life itself – the living molecules, the plants, the animals, and we humans.

  • Action implies motion, movement, animation – process.

  • Actions require energy to occur. No energy – no action.

  • Actions have location in space. Actions always begin somewhere and end somewhere else. No location, no space – no action.

  • Actions have duration. Actions always have a beginning and an ending. While some actions may occur in a very short time, they all require some time. There are no instantaneous actions in universe. No time – no action.

Because actions require energy, location or space, and time, synergic science sometimes uses the term energy event to describe what we commonly call action. R. Buckminster Fuller explains:

“Two different energy events cannot pass through the same point at the same time. When one energy event is passing through a given point and another impinges upon it, there is an interference.

“We find experimentally that two lines cannot go through the same point at the same time. One can cross over or be superimposed upon another. Both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries misassume that a plurality of lines can go through the same point at the same time. But we find experimentally that two or more lines cannot physically go through the same point at the same time.

“When a physicist bombards a group of atoms in a cloud chamber with a neutron, he gets an interference.

“When the neutron runs into a nuclear component: (1) it separates the latter into smaller components; (2) they bounce acutely apart (reflection); (3) they bounce obliquely (refraction); (4) they combine, mass attractively. The unique angles in which they separate or bounce off identify both known or unknown atomic-nucleus components.” (2)

Therefore actions can not and do not occur in isolation. If they impinge on the environment, they will effect or impact the environment. If they impinge on others, they will effect or impact on others. Therefore:

Actions can effect or impact environment and others in a negative and harmful way.

Actions can effect or impact environment and others in a neutral or negligible way.

Or, actions can effect or impact environment and others in a positive and beneficial way.Therefore actions that effect or impact on others can produce the following results, using the language of games:

  • Other can lose. They are hurt by the action. They are less after the action than before.
  • Other can draw. They are ignored by the action. They will be the same after the action as before.
  • Other can win. They are helped by the action. They are more after the action than before.

From the point of view of an individual effected or impacted by action, I can be hurt, I can be ignored, or I can be helped by the action.

  • Actions that hurt are adversary.
  • Actions that ignore are neutral.
  • Actions that help are synergic.

Because of the effect or impact that action always has on the environment or upon other, we discover that action is always accompanied by two other phenomena – the reaction, and the resultant.

The environment or other reacts at the beginning of the action. And the effect or impact on the environment or other occurs at the end of the action producing a resultant.

Action, reaction, and resultant are always found together.

In the following illustration (3), we see the man act by jumping from one boat to another. As he jumps, he pushes off causing a reaction in the boat he left. As he lands his impact effects a resultant on the boat he lands on.

The reaction occurs at the beginning of the action while the resultant occurs at the end.

By understanding that these three phenomena always and only coexist, we should not be surprised that since actions can be either adversary, neutral or synergic. So too, reactions and resultants can have the same three effects. Reactions can be adversary, neutral or synergic. And, resultants can also be adversary, neutral or synergic.

And while this is not always the case, we would expect and discover that:

  • adversary action usually provokes adversary reaction ending in an adversary resultant or loss, while
  • neutral action usually provokes neutral reaction ending in a neutral resultant or draw, and
  • synergic action usually provokes synergic reaction ending in a synergic resultant or gain.

Action implies a need for choice. The living system must choose which action or actions to take. The living system must decide when to act and where to act. Actions bring choices.


Choice is defined in the dictionary as deciding, picking, selecting. This would seem a type of pre-action, or for living organisms mental or intellectual action. The phenomena of choice begins even before the beginning of life. An Englishman, Thomas Young in 1803, focused science’s attention on the phenomenon of choice when he designed unique double slit light experiment. Some scientists interpret his experiment as demonstrating that photons make decisions.4 A photon of light seems to be making a choice as to where it will go in universe.

When a photon is released at a particular point in universe, one second later it can be anywhere within a sphere of 186,000 miles. We cannot predict where it will be at the end of that second, for its choice is random. But we see that it moves to only one place in that sphere. If we were to define choice mathematically, we would say that choice is that condition where a system moves from a point of multifaceted potentiality to a point of single actuality.

CHOICE –def–>

Multifaceted potentiality –becoming–> single actuality.

The photon, once released at some point in universe has the multifaceted potential to be anywhere within a sphere of 186,000 miles within one second. But, it only goes to one place – it selects a single actuality.

Light is the simplest of universe’s phenomena and humans appear to be the most complex. If photons choose, then they must have a form of consciousness. But, this is not the complex form of consciousness we see in humans, consciousness at the stage of light must be the simplest of consciousnesses.

Science in 1999 reveals that universe contains no ‘things ‘. All in universe is process. All in universe is flux. All in universe is change. And change means change in energy. Change in energy is change in information. Universe is full of change and universe is made up of energy and information.

We humans know that when we are confronted by change, we respond by making choices. Every event – be it birth of a child or loss of a loved one, feast or famine, poverty or prosperity, peace or war – represents change. Every idea – be it a discovery that cures cancer or a decision to commit a crime – represents change. Every situation – be it getting a new job or losing a job, marriage or divorce, childhood or old age – represents change.

We humans adapt to these changes by making choices. This is what all living systems do from the time of conception until they perish. They make choices. They make decisions.

The human brain is estimated to be capable of 10 raised to the exponential power of 800 thoughts (10 800 ) – multifaceted potential. The human brain will have only one thought at the time of decision – single actuality. At any moment I am capable of an enormous number of behaviors but I will choose only one – multifaceted potential becoming single actuality. With the power of action comes opportunity for choice.In summary then, life can be examined from the point of needs and actions. All living systems have needs and they meet those needs through actions. Living systems meet their needs within a zone of survivability called the biosphere. Biospheres differ for different species and different classes of life.

There are three classes of life on earth – plants, animals, and we humans. The plants are the independent class of life. They have no relationship with others. The animals are the dependent class of life. They depend on others to survive. And, we humans are physiologically dependent, but psychologically and socially interdependent. Our animal bodies require we eat the plants and animals to survive. Psychologically and socially, our relationships with other humans are interdependent. Sometimes we depend on others and sometimes others depend on us.

All needs of living systems are met with actions. All actions require energy and have duration and location. All actions effect or impact both environment and other. These effects or impacts can be adversary – negative and harmful, or they can be neutral – negligible, or they can be synergic – positive and beneficial.

All actions are always and only accompanied by reactions at the beginning of an action and a resultant at the ending of the action. Reactions and resultants are also either adversary, neutral, or synergic. Usually adversary actions provoke adversary reactions and end in adversary resultants. Usually, neutral actions provoke neutral reactions, and end in neutral resultants. And usually, synergic actions provoke synergic reactions and end in synergic resultants.

And finally, with action comes choice. Choice is deciding, picking or selecting an action to take. Choice is a pre-action. Choice is multipotentiality becoming single actuality. Choice made without knowledge is random. Choice made with knowledge is controlled.

Life makes controlled choices.

1 Arthur Young, The Foundations of Science: The Missing Parameter, Robert Briggs Associates, San Francisco, 1984

2 R. Buckminster Fuller, SYNERGETICS – Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, Volumes I & II, New York, Macmillan Publishing Co, 1975, 1979

3 R. Buckminster Fuller, ibid

4 Gary Zukav, Dancing Wu Li Masters, William Morrow & Co., 1979

Front Page

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Fellow thinkers, the following essay is a mind stretcher. It may turn your concept of reality upside down. So you should pass on this one, if you are truly happy with our present world. –TW

… Instead of taking counsel of despair, I make bold to vary my statements, in the faint hope that repeated droppings may wear upon the stone, and that my formulas may seem less obscure if surrounded by something more of a ‘mass’ whereby to apperceive them.

William James,1909 The Meaning of Truth

Humanity is moving ever deeper into crisis – a crisis without precedent. First, it is a crisis brought about by cosmic evolution irrevocably intent upon completely transforming omnidisintegrated humanity from a complex of around-the-world, remotely-deployed-from-one-another, differently colored, differently credoed, differently cultured, differently communicating, and differently competing entities into a completely integrated, comprehensively interconsiderate, harmonious whole.

Second, we are in an unprecedented crisis because cosmic evolution is also irrevocably intent upon making omni-integrated humanity omnisuccessful, able to live sustainingly at an unprecedentedly higher standard of living for all Earthians than has ever been experienced by any; able to live entirely within its cosmic-energy income instead of spending its cosmic energy savings account (i.e., the fossil fuels) or spending its cosmic-capital plant and equipment account (i.e., atomic energy) – the atoms with which our Spaceship Earth and its biosphere are structured and equipped – a spending folly no less illogical than burning your house-and-home to keep the family warm on an unprecedentedly cold midwinter night.

Humanity’s cosmic-energy income account consists entirely of our gravity-and star (99 percent Sun) – distributed cosmic dividends of water power, tidal power, wave power, wind power, vegetation-produced alcohols, methane gas, vulcanism, and so on. Humanity’s present rate of total energy consumption amounts to only one four-millionth of one percent of the rate of its energy income.

…Ninety-nine percent of humanity does not know that we have the option to “make it” economically on this planet and in the Universe. We do.

Buckminster Fuller,1981 Critical Path

Man is always the measure of all things, even in matters of space and dimension.

Robert M. Pirsig,1992 Lila

What is Truth?

Pragmatism, Precession and the Metaphysics of Quality

Dan Glover

What is truth? Is there only one,  just  ‘a’- Truth? Or are there many truths? b- truth and c- truth and d-truth and on and on, contained within One? Is such a thing even possible? The concept of “many truths” presupposes One truth by the virtue of talking about truth at all, as well as supposing definition of a truth as an independently existing reality in the universe, doesn’t it?

In this paper I would like to explore the meaning of truth, whether it is indeed a verifiable independent reality in the universe, or if it is only what we agree it is. I will be quoting mainly from these sources: the works of Robert M. Pirsig, including Lila; An Inquiry Into Morals, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; An Inquiry into Values , The Meaning of Truth, Pragmatism, and Essays in Radical Empiricism by William James, who Pirsig makes mention of in Lila, and Critical Path by R. Buckminster Fuller, since his work helps to explain some of the irrelevant meanings that Pirsig talks about in Lila.

James describes reality in the much the same terms as Carlos Castaneda. In a previous paper, Quality is a Good Dog I explored the complex relationship between the Metaphysics of Quality as proposed by Robert M. Pirsig and the writings of Castaneda, the teachings of don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian from Sonora. I will assume the reader is familiar with it here. And in another paper called Force of Value in the Metaphysics of Quality I explored in a small way the complex relationship between the social and intellect levels of Pirsig’s theory as depicted in his diagram from his Subjects, Objects, Data and Values paper. order to use this diagram, it must be realized it is a pragmatic tool, a metaphor and not an actual map of reality. To understand pragmatism, its worthwhile exploring the thinking behind it briefly.

Taking Pragmatism down from the shelf, we read William James writing in 1907: … I wish to illustrate the pragmatic method by one more application. I wish to turn its light upon the ancient problem of ‘the one and the many’. I suspect that in but a few of you this problem occasioned sleepless nights, and I should not be astonished if some of you told me that it had never vexed you. I myself have come, by long brooding over it, to consider it the most central of all philosophic problems, central because so pregnant. I mean by this that if you know whether a man is a decided monist or a decided pluralist, you perhaps know more about the rest of his opinions than if you give him any other name ending in ist. To believe in the one or in the many, that is the classification with the maximum number of consequences.Pragmatism page 50

[We] treat the problem of the One and the Many in a purely intellectual way; and we see clearly enough where pragmatism stands. With her criterion of the practical differences that theories make, we see she must equally abjure absolute monism and absolute pluralism. The world is one just so far as its parts hang together by any definite connexion. It is many just so far as any definite connexion fails to obtain. And finally it is growing more and more unified by those systems of connexion at least which human energy keeps framing as time goes on. Pragmatism page 60

Pragmatism relies on “common-sense” everyday reality to lend agreement to its conclusions. Lets start by examining just what James means by pragmatism. In The Meaning of Truth he writes: My account of truth is realistic, and follows the epistemological dualism of common sense. Suppose I say to you ‘The thing exists’ – is that true or not? How can you tell? Not till any statement has developed its meaning farther is it determined as being true, false or irrelevant to reality altogether. But if now you ask ‘what thing?’ and I reply ‘a desk’; if you ask ‘where?’ and I point to a place; if you ask ‘does it exist materially, or only in imagination?’ and I say ‘materially’; if moreover I say ‘I mean that desk,’ and then grasp and shake a desk which you see just as I have described it, you are willing to call my statement true. But you and I are commutable here; we can exchange places; and as you go bail for my desk, so I can go bail for yours. The Meaning of Truth

This notion of commutability is an underpinning of pragmatism. Basically, our reality consists of observations only the individual can be sure of. But because of commutability, we are able to assume a concrete reality independent of the self by assuming others with like quality’s to our self also view this independent reality in the very same way as we our self. Subjects and objects are born by agreement with commutability. James goes on:

This notion of a reality independent of either of us, taken from ordinary social experience, lies at the base of the pragmatic definition of truth. With some such reality any statement, in order to be counted true, must agree. Pragmatism defines ‘agreeing’ to mean certain ways of ‘working’, be they actual or potential. Thus, for my statement ‘the desk exists’ to be true of a desk recognized as real by you, it must be able to lead me to shake your desk, to explain to myself by words that suggest that desk to your mind, to make a drawing that is like the desk you see, etc. The Meaning of Truth

Here James gives us the essence of his pragmatism. It is essential to note he uses “ordinary social experiences” as the basis for pragmatic truth. Cultural realism. In order for something to be counted true, we MUST recognize an independent reality beyond “our self” AND AGREE WITH OTHERS THROUGH ORDINARY SOCIAL EXPERIENCE. We see James is starting with social experience “agreements” to develop his pragmatism. This is his foundation, much as don Juan’s tonal is the foundation of his teachings and Pirsig’s foundation of static quality everyday reality comprising everything that arises from awareness.

James continues: Only in such ways as this is there sense in saying it agrees with that reality, only thus does it gain for me the satisfaction of hearing you corroborate me. Reference then to something determinate, and some sort of adaptation to it worthy of the name of agreement, are thus constituent elements in the definition of any statement of mine as ‘true’. The Meaning of Truth (remarks at the meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Cornell University, December, 1907)

Reference is to something determinate. For that something to be determinate, we must all agree that it is indeed a determinate something. James calls that determinate something “social experience”. Looking at this from a Metaphysics of Quality point of view, social experience can be seen as a social level pattern of value opposed to both a higher level intellect pattern of value and a lower biological level. Unlike the Metaphysics of Quality, pragmatism seems to assume the existence of the molecules that make up social experience as well as the biological life forms and starts with the social level as a basis.

James writes: “Pragmatism defines ‘agreeing’ to mean certain ways of ‘working’, be they actual or potential.” “Agreeing” is a difficult term to define. I find I use it   in my own writings and I have attempted to define it in the past when asked, but have always failed to really convey what I meant. I am somewhat at a loss to understand James definition too. I wonder why Pirsig felt highly enough of James to mention him in Lila? Here is what Pirsig wrote:

However, in his rereading of [William] James, he had so far found three things that were beginning to dissolve his early prejudice. The first wasn’t really a reason, but was such an unlikely coincidence Phædrus couldn’t get it out of his mind. James was the godfather of William James Sidis, the child prodigy who could speak five languages at the age of five and who thought colonial democracy came from the Indians. The second was a reference to James’s dislike of the dichotomy of the universe into subjects and objects. But the third thing, which might also seem irrelevant, but which was doing more than anything else to dissolve Phædrus’s early prejudice, was an anecdote James told about a squirrel.

James and a group of friends were on an outing somewhere and one of them chased a squirrel around a tree. The squirrel instinctively clung to the opposite side of the tree and moved so that as the man circled the tree the squirrel also circled it on the opposite side.

After observing this, James and his friends engaged in a philosophic discussion of the question: Did the man go around the squirrel or didn’t he? The group broke into two philosophical camps and Phædrus didn’t remember how the argument was resolved. What impressed him was James interest in the question. It showed that although James was no doubt an expert philosophologist (certainly he had to be to teach stuff at Harvard) he was also a philosopher in the creative sense. A philosophologist would have been mildly contemptuous of such a discussion because it had no “importance”, that is, no body of philosophical writings existed about it. But to a creative philosopher like James the question was like catnip. Lila page 373-4 Being a creative philosopher, James point of view evolved into what he called Radical Empiricism, distinct in his opinion from pragmatism. In his Essays in Radical Empiricism he writes: Although for fluency’s sake I myself spoke early in this article of a stuff of pure experience, I have now to say there is no general stuff of which experience at large is made of. There are as many stuffs as there are ‘natures’ in the things experienced. If you ask what any one bit of pure experience is, the answer is always the same: “It is made of that, of just what appears, of space, of intensity, of flatness, brownness, heaviness or what not.” Experience is only a collective name for all these sensible natures, and save for time and space (and, if you like, for “being”) there appears no universal element of which all are made. Essays in Radical Empiricism, Does Consciousness Exist? Page 27-8

Here James makes no bones about his methods. He says that what we perceive is just that, just what it appears to be and nothing more or less. James’ conclusions are much the same as Pirsig’s answer to the mind/matter platypus, that all schools of thought are right on the subject. The “rightness” is built on a foundation of agreements with reality that we have each formed prior to the experience.

James builds this line of thought into “perceptual experiences” and “conceptual experiences”. He writes: Of [these], our perceptual experiences are the nucleus, they being the originally strong experiences. We add conceptual experiences to them, making these strong also in imagination, and building out the remoter parts of the physical world by their means; and around this core of reality the world of laxly connected fancies and mere rhapsodical objects floats like a bank of clouds. In the clouds, all sorts of rules are violated which in the core are kept. Extensions there can be indefinitely located; motion there obeys no Newton’s laws. Essays in Radical Empiricism, Page 34

This sounds remarkably like Robert Pirsig’s Dynamic Quality that James is attempting to describe here. I am intrigued by seemingly inconsequential, irrelevant coincidences, like Pirsig is, and he mentions in Lila that William James was the godfather of William James Sidis. I have also read off-handedly about Buckminster Fuller being given a copy of one of William James Sidis’ books and being very impressed with the depth of understanding portrayed by Sidis.

Buckminster Fuller (sometimes described as an eccentric genius, though he himself was loath to call himself a genius of any kind) was also impressed with seemingly inconsequential happenings, so much so that he declared those coincidences and seeming irrelevant happenings as the “real” way the universe operates, and named that action “precession”.

Precession explains these seemingly irrelevant happenings and coincidences beautifully, and is perhaps the way Dynamic Quality operates in the universe, so perhaps it’s worthwhile looking into a a bit more detail. Of course this will take us a bit off-track, but perhaps we will get to where we are going anyway. In his book Critical Path Fuller explains what precession is and why it is the fundamental way the universe operates.

Precession Fig. 1

When we push toward one another the opposite rigid-disc ends of a flexible, water-filled cylinder, the center swells maximally outward in a circular plane perpendicular (at right angles) to the line of our pushing together.

When we pull away from one another on the opposite ends of the same water-filled cylinder, the middle part contracts in a concentric series of circular planes of diminishing radius perpendicular (at right angles) to the line of our pulling.

Precession Fig. 2

When we drop a stone in the water, a circular wave is generated that moves outwardly in a plane perpendicular (at right angles) to the line of stone-dropping – the outwardly expanding circular wave generates (at ninety degrees) a vertical wave that in turn generates an additional horizontally and outwardly expanding wave, and so on.

Precession Fig. 3

All these right-angle effects are precessional effects. Precession is the effect of bodies in motion on other bodies in motion.

The sun and the earth are both in motion. Despite the 180 degree gravitational pull of the in-motion sun upon the in-motion earth, precession makes earth orbit around the sun in a direction that is at ninety degrees – i.e., at right angles – to the direction of the sun’s pull upon earth.

Precession Fig. 4

The successful regeneration of life growth on our planet Earth is ecologically accomplished always and only as the precessional, right-angled “side-effect” of the biological species’ chromosomically programmed individual-survival preoccupation’s – the honeybees are chromosomically programed to enter the flower blossoms in search of honey. Seemingly inadvertently (but realistically precessionally) this occasions the bee’s bumbling tail’s becoming dusted with pollen (at ninety degrees to each bees’ linear axis and flight path), where after the bees’ further bumbling entries into other flowers at right angles inadvertently dusts off, pollenizes, and cross-fertilizes those flowers at right-angles (precessionally) to the bees’ operating axis – so too, do all the mobile creatures of Earth cross-fertilize all the different rooted botanicals in one fashion or another precessionally (right-angled), inadvertent way. Critical Path Page 141-2

There are no solids. There are no things. There are only interfering and non interfering patterns operative in pure principle, and principles are eternal. Principles never contradict principles. Principles can interaccomodate one another only in non interfering frequency ways. Principles can interaugment one another if frequency is synchronizable. Critical Path Page 158

Here we have a description of reality that is very close to Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality’s description of static quality and Dynamic Quality and what William James calls pragmatism. All three deny the dichotomy of subject/object thinking as a foundational base and instead incorporate an actuality/potentiality, interfering/non interfering patterns operative in pure principle state, a static quality/Dynamic Quality division as a fundamental basis as a metaphor of reality.

This concept is of primary importance to understanding the Metaphysics of Quality and the interactions of the four static levels with Dynamic Quality via the forces of value creating and discreating our everyday reality in a precessional way. Even though Pirsig uses the term “division of reality” in describing static quality/ Dynamic Quality, that is not really a proper way of talking about this “split”.

This is what James calls a determinate social experience. We all “know” how to split something…we do it all the time. But the division Pirsig talks about is beyond our conception of the four static levels of reality, beyond our awareness altogether. We have all formed “agreements” with each other through social interactions from the time we were born. These agreements are all we know, and all we can ever know. But if this is true, where do new agreements arise? How can we ever learn anything new? Clearly we must “know” much more than we think we know at any moment in time.

Interacting then, in a precessional, or right-angled manner, is the fundamental way the entire universe operates. Recognizing this, we can then say that this is how the four static levels of the Metaphysics of Quality also interact with one another.

From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance we read: In all of the Oriental religions great value is placed on the Sanskrit doctrine of Tat rvam asi, “Thou art that,” which asserts that everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided. To realize fully this lack of division is to become enlightened.

Logic presumes a separation of subject from object; therefore logic is not final wisdom. The illusion of separation of subject from object is best removed by the elimination of physical activity, mental activity and emotional activity. (Page 126, paperback)

This separation of subject and object is also a focus of James when he writes: …the pragmatic method, in its dealings with certain concepts, instead of ending up with admiring contemplation, plunges forward into the river of experience with them and prolongs the perspective by their means. Design, free-will, the absolute mind, spirit instead of matter, have for their sole meaning a better promise as to this world’s outcome. Be they false or be they true, the meaning of them is this meliorism.

I have sometimes thought of the phenomenon called ‘total reflexion’ in optics as a good symbol of the relation between abstract ideas and concrete realities, as pragmatism conceives it. Hold a tumbler of water a little above your eyes and look up through the water at its surface – or better still look similarly through the flat wall of an aquarium. You will then see an extraordinary brilliant reflected image say of a candle-flame, or any other clear object, situated on the opposite side of the vessel. No candle ray, under these circumstances, gets beyond the water’s surface: every ray is totally reflected back into the depths again. (Pragmatism page 128, The One and the Many)

This is how I like to look at the relationship between the social and intellect levels in the Metaphysics of Quality. Logic arises as social level agreements to what is normally perceived as an independently existing reality, commutable between us as individuals. This commutability arises Dynamically in a precessional manner permeating the four static levels of everyday static quality patterns of value with forces of value. These forces direct the social level to create our entire reality, while at the same time they direct the intellect level patterns of value to seek Dynamic freedom precessionally from the underlying social level by means of abstraction, or discreation of what would otherwise be exclusively permanent stasis and stagnation in the social level.

In conclusion then, what is Truth? Pragmatically, Truth is an agreement, and as such, it is a social level pattern of value within the Metaphysics of Quality. Precessionally, Truth always occurs at a right angled intersection of the Quality Event (interesting connections to Pirsig’s explorations of the morpheme rt where he writes “The right-handedness was also interesting”, Page 434 Lila). Truth lies in value forces that direct the four levels of static quality patterns of value in the Metaphysics of Quality. Hopefully this paper sheds just a little more light on how these forces of value operate in the universe.

More by Dan Glover

Front Page

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Timothy Wilken, MD writes: As a synergic scientist I am always delighted when I discover others making use of tensegrity.

What is a tensegrity?

Tensegrity is the pattern that results when push and pull have a win-win relationship with each other. The pull is continuous and the push is discontinuous. The continuous pull is balanced by the discontinuous push producing an integrity of tension–compression.

Push and pull seem so common and ordinary in our experience of life that we humans think little of these forces. Most of us assume they are simple opposites. In and out. Back and forth. Force directed in one direction or its opposite.


Buckminster Fuller, who coined the term tensegrity, explained that these fundamental phenomena, push and pull, are not opposites, but rather compliments that can always be found together. He further explained that push is divergent while pull is convergent.Imagine pushing a yellow ping pong ball on a smooth table with the point of a sharp pencil. The ball would always roll away from the direction of the push, first rolling one way then the other. Push is divergent.

Now imagine the difference, if you attach a string to the ping pong ball with tape, and pull it toward you. No matter how other forces might influence the ball to roll away from you, the string would always bring it to you more and more directly. Pull is convergent.

Another example from common experience occurs when we are pulling a trailer with our car. When I am driving uphill, I am pulling against gravity. The trailer converges nicely behind my car. If the trailer begins to sway, I can dampen it by increasing pull– simply increasing my acceleration. Now if I am driving downhill, the trailer may begin to push. This produces a strong side to side force – divergence. My trailer will begin to sway from side to side. Push is divergent. When the trailer begins to push us, experts advise us to accelerate our car in order to re-establish pull. Pull is convergent. The trailer will straighten out and we can congratulate ourselves for being good drivers. These then are the two always co-existing fundamentals of Universe–Push and Pull–Compression and Tension–Repulsion and Attraction.

A more common example of a tensegrity is a child’s balloon. When we examine an inflated balloon as a system, we find that the rubber skin of the balloon continuously pulls while the individual molecules of air are discontinuously pushing against the inside of the balloon keeping it inflated. All external forces striking the external surface are immediately and continuously distributed over the entire system. This makes the balloon very strong. We all know how hard it is to break a good balloon with a blunt blow.

Molecules of air discontinuously pushing against the continuously pulling rubber skin of the balloon.Tensegrity is a balance of continuous pull and discontinuous push.

The automobile tire is one of the strongest most durable inventions
in the history of humankind. And yet few of us are even aware that it is a tensegrity.

It is the power of tensegrity in each tire that protects us from failure and blowout despite high speeds and long miles.

A tensegrity then is any balanced system composed of two elements – a continuous pull balanced by discontinuous push. When these two forces are in balance a stabilized system results that is maximally strong. The larger the system the stronger the system.

Most of humanity knows of Fuller’s discovery of the Geodesic Dome, but few realize that geodesic domes are themselves tensegrities.

What does Dymaxion mean?

Synergic scientist Buckminster Fuller coined another term to represent the concept of “least action” — the concept of “doing the most with the least” — the concept of achieving “maximum efficiency.”

Today, I discovered a small start-up company called Cool Earth that is using the power of tensegrity to help create a new dymaxion technology to produce abundant clean and safe energy. Electrical power is the most convenient form of energy for modern living. Today, most electricity is created by burning fossil fuels. As we know fossil fuels are no longer abundant and they have never been safe. The following is from the Cool Earth website.

How much electricity does the world use?
As reported in the 2008 EIA International Energy Outlook Report, electric power plants produced 17,320 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2005. In 2030, the world is projected to need about 33,264 TWh—nearly double the amount of 2005.

How much energy does the Sun provide?

The amount of sunlight that hits the Earth’s surface in one hour is enough to power the entire world for a year.

How many solar power plants would the U.S. need to meet its electric needs?

One solar power plant, using Cool Earth’s technology, covering 150 miles by 150 miles, would generate enough power to meet all the electrical needs of the United States through 2030.

A Tensegrity Solar Collector

Eric Cummings

Our technology, which is the basis for our power plants, is “reshaping solar energy” in a very literal way: Most of today’s solar energy systems take the form of flat panels or boxes-with-lenses and require large amounts of heavy, expensive materials. Our inflated solar concentrators, on the other hand, are shaped like balloons and are primarily made of inexpensive and free materials. This design approach radically reduces material requirements as well as our plant deployment costs and time.


Solar Concentrators Focus the Sun…

Our inflated, balloon-shaped concentrators are key to Cool Earth’s innovative design. Each 8-foot-diameter concentrator is made of plastic film—the same kind of plastic film used to bag potato chips, pretzels, and so on—with a transparent upper hemisphere and a reflective lower hemisphere. When inflated with air, the concentrator naturally forms a shape that focuses or concentrates sunlight onto a PV cell placed at the focal point. This means we need fewer cells to produce a lot more electricity. In fact, a single cell in our concentrator generates about 300 to 400 times the electricity of a cell without a concentrator.

The inflated structure is naturally strong—strong enough to support a person’s weight—and aerodynamically stable, able to withstand winds of 125 miles per hour. Finally, the transparent upper surface protects the PV cell and mirrored surface from the environment, including rain and snow, as well as insects and dirt.

Each concentrator has additional structural components: a small steel strut and a harness. The steel strut, tethered in place, holds the cell at the focal point inside the concentrator and provides a conduit for a small water loop that cools the cell. A lightweight, flexible steel band forms a harness around the circumference of the concentrator and is used to hold and point the concentrator.

A Support System Holds It All in Place…

The concentrators are suspended with our patented support system, which is based on the architectural principles of tensegrity. The resulting system of wood posts and steel cables uses a minimum amount of material, has a small footprint, and causes the least disruption to the natural environment of any solar power plant.

Our design philosophy demands a system that scales plausibly so that the costs of constructing and maintaining our power plants can compete with those of conventional fossil fuel power plants. This means we can’t use rare materials or otherwise expensive materials. In fact, the materials have to be among the most abundant in nature and industry. The primary materials choices for our concentrators—plastic film and air—are critical to making our solution economically competitive.

Plastic film, the basis of our patented concentrator design, is the only man-made material produced in enough abundance to meet our scaling needs for a collector material. All in all, 744-billion square feet of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) polyester film—which is the type of plastic we use in our design—is produced worldwide every year for packaging and other uses. This total could create enough Cool Earth concentrators to produce 6,482 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually. Each concentrator uses about two pounds of plastic.

Air is used to inflate our concentrators. We’re talking regular, breathable, nothing-fancy air, provided freely by nature. Each concentrator uses about five pounds of air.

As for other materials, we take a minimalist approach in their use. For instance, we use a very small amount of aluminum to create the thin (a few micrometers thick) reflective layer for each concentrator. And how small is “very small?” The average aluminum soda can has enough material to create reflective surfaces for about 725 of our concentrators.

Visit Cool Earth…

More about Eric Cummings…

Now if Cumming’s and company can provide us with a way to make highly efficient inexpensive solar collectors then we still need a way to efficiently store that electrical energy. After all the sun doesn’t shine at night. Environmental engineer Fouad Khan thinks the thinkers at MIT may have found such a way. They began by asking themselves, how do plants store energy for use when there is no sunlight?

MIT News — Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today’s announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.”

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan’s new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it’s easy to set up, Nocera said. “That’s why I know this is going to work. It’s so easy to implement,” he said. ‘Giant leap’ for clean energy

Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world’s energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet’s energy needs for one year.

The following description of their process is reposted from the Nocera Lab at MIT.

Photosynthesis Chemistry of Renewable Energy

Daniel G. Nocera

A great technological challenge facing our global future is the development of renewable energy. Rising standards of living in a growing world population will cause global energy consumption to increase dramatically over the next half-century. Energy consumption is predicted to increase at least two-fold, from our current burn rate of 12.8 TW to 28 – 35 TW by 2050. A short-term response to this challenge is the use of methane and other petroleum-based fuels as hydrogen sources. However, external factors of economy, environment, and security dictate that this energy need be met by renewable and sustainable sources with water emerging prominently as the primary carbon-neutral hydrogen source and light as an energy input. This area of research in our group is summarized by a simple equation:

solar light + H2O = fuel

The above equation is aimed at driving the energetically unfavorable, water-splitting reaction to produce fuel – hydrogen and oxygen. The photon may be captured directly by a transition metal catalyst or indirectly by a transition metal catalyst at the surface of a photovoltaic (PV) cell. The transition metal complex can the use the solar converted energy (from the PV or directly) to act on water and rearrange its bonds to produce hydrogen and oxygen – a solar fuel. In this way, solar photons are converted into high-energy chemical bonds, the energy of which can be released in a fuel cell. The construction of such a cycle, however, reveals daunting challenges because it relies on chemical transformations that are not understood at the most basic levels. Unexplored basic science issues are immediately confronted when the water splitting problem is posed in the simplest chemistry framework,

The overall transformation is challenging because: (1) It is a multielectron process, (2) proton transfer must accompany electron transfer (i.e., PCET) – both electron and proton inventories need to be managed, and (3) strong bonds need to be activated to close a catalytic cycle.

This photochemical water splitting problem shares basic chemical commonalities with the activation of other small molecules of energy consequence, including CO2, N2 and CH4, H2 and O2. All involve bond-making and –breaking processes that require multielectron transfers often coupled to proton transfer events. Our research efforts have addressed the foregoing italicized research themes by expanding the reactivity of metal complexes in ground and electronic excited states beyond conventional one-electron transfer. We have created molecules that react in multielectron steps from their electronic excited states. We have been examining the coupling of electrons and protons in catalytic small molecule reactions (see PCET section for more information). We are inventing a myriad of new ways to photoactivate stable metal-ligand bonds, especially those involving oxygen. Against this backdrop of knowledge, hydrogen- and oxygen-producing catalysts have been developed and are continually being improved.

Original Article with References…


About the Author

Front Page

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

I have received some feedback on Foaud Khan’s Hypothesis related to Rate of Change of Entropy, Exponential Growth, and Biological Populations. I responded to the feedback as follows, and I include feedback from Fouad Khan as well.

A Conversation on Humanity’s Future

Exponential Growth, the Rate of Change of Entropy, and Biological Populations

James Howard Kunstler, the author of The Long Emergency responds:

Khan tells us that exponential growth whether in bacteria or humans has a major impact on the finite environment it finds it self in. This is just as true for a culture of bacteria living in finite growth tank in a laboratory at the University of Houston or the entire human species living on a finite planet called Earth.

Timothy– I appreciate you sending this.  I will print it out and read it. But as per the above, is this not a re-statement of Malthus? (I’m not anti-Malthus, by the way.)

Khan has discovered that exponential growth increases the rate of change of entropy,

This is not surprising, since entropy is a function of the dispersion of energy.

Now the only way for us to avoid extinction is to change our behavior. We must reduce our population. I’m sure this will happen whether we put our minds to it or not. And I don’t mean to be snooty about it.  I see our numbers falling off a cliff in the next 50 years. Oil depletion = food depletion.  Then figure in social disorder, geopolitical discord, etc.

James Howard Kunstler

My response to James Howard Kunstler


Thanks for your quick response. I look forward to your thoughts when you have had time to digest the full paper. I very much enjoyed The Long Emergency and World Made by Hand. I have reposted many of your articles on my websites. I most enjoy your posts on the positive things we could do. If we weren’t so determined to commit humanicide.

Malthus was correct in many ways, but he lived 1776 to 1834. Rudolf Clausius coined the term entropy in 1850. What is remarkable about Khan’s work is his connection of relatively unlimited resources to exponential growth resulting in a hyperentropic growth phase. What overwhelms a species is not change, but the rate of change.

Thus Khan gets us out of the world of opinion and into the world of scientific proof.

I have suggested that what Khan called hyperentropic growth phase could also be expressed as a hyper-entropic pollution phase. Malthus thought the limitation on population would be only because we ran out of food. Khan’s work demonstrates that we might actually have enough food, but poison ourselves with our waste.

I don’t know if Khan did this, but it would be interesting to see what happens if you kept feeding the bacteria in the growth tank benzene, thus no shortage of food, but the effects of hypertropic growth would still impact their finite living space.

By the way, I discovered Khan as one of the commentors on Clusterfuck Nation. Small world.

I also got a quick response from Jay Hanson. He said he would take a look and get back to me.



Response from Fouad Khan.

Dear Timothy,

Thanks for spreading the word on my book, and for your very apt clarifications to Jim’s comments.

I’ve been an avid reader of Mr. Kunstler as well for a while now. I even dug out an old copy of The Life of Byron Jaynes from somewhere and read it; very immersive and entertaining.

You are right about Malthus. What he’s talking about, to oversimplify to some extent, is the finiteness of any one resource in a system. I think, that is just one physical manifestation of what is essentially, a living species running out of breathing space on the spectrum of permissible rates of change of entropy (the band of rates to which the species can adapt). In humanity’s case for instance, we’d have been heading towards a serious disruption to our civilization right about now anyway -even if the earth did have a “creamy nougat centre of oil”- because of global climate change. That would not have been a Malthusian collapse, but it certainly would have been a case of a species rendering its own host system inadaptable for itself by accelerating the rate of change of entropy for that entire system.

A Malthusian collapse would have been the same thing as well, just expressed differently in physical terms.

Timothy, the writings of both, Mr. Kunstler and Mr. Hanson have informed and entertained me immensely over the years and I am looking forward to their feedback on this.


Fouad Khan.

James Howard Kunstler’s response to me.

I very much enjoyed The Long Emergency and World Made by Hand

Timothy– The Sequel to World Made By Hand is coming out in Sept.

Thus Khan gets us out of the world of opinion and into the world of scientific proof.

This is all well and good, BUT, I’m not sure that political / cultural leaders will ever understand what the fuck we did to ourselves… plus I have grown skeptical lately of one particular facet of the empiricist mind-set, namely, that just because we can measure stuff means that we are able to control stuff.

In fact, I’m deeply sick of econometric explanations for all the various imbalances we currently suffer from.      Forgive me for being cranky this morning.  Just got this from a friend, vis-a-vis Deepwater Horizon oil spill: I talked with Matt Simmons on Friday for about an hour. He was morose – said this will be worst ecological disaster of our species. Said relief well has <5% chance and oil will flow until its done (1-2 years) also said oil will spike over $100 by june (which i seriously disagreed with)

James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”

Response from Jay Hanson, who has been writing on Peak Oil for many years.

Hi Timothy,

I am afraid this doesn’t help.  We know the overpopulation exists. The problem is how to solve it.


Timothy Wilken responds to Jay Hanson.

Hello Jay,

Thanks for taking a look. I agree that Khan does not provide a solution, but the value of his paper is in improving our understanding of the present human crisis.Population as a problem was first proposed by Malthus who lived 1776 to 1834. I am sure the following population growth chart is very familiar to you. At the time of Malthus’ death world population was just reaching 1 billion. Malthus’ concern about overpopulation was unrelated to exponential growth. There had been no exponential growth of the human population prior to his death.

Today, we know no biological population can undergo exponential growth without a relatively unlimited resource. In Khan’s experiments, the exponential growth phase was supported by the relatively unlimited resource of benzene, however what Khan discovered is that the use of this resource by the exponentially growing population of bacteria always provokes a secondary hyper-entropic pollution effect. While the bacterial population swept up in exponential growth will collapse and die off if the resource is with drawn or depleted, that same population will also collapse and die off if the rate of change of entropy exceeds the adaptability of the hosting environment.

They literally change their environment so rapidly that it becomes uninhabitable. Exponential growth produces exponential entropy. As you have taught me and many others, we humans were swept up in an exponential growth phase when we gained access to the relatively unlimited resource called fossil fuels. And, the focus has been on what will happen when the fossil fuels are depleted i.e. Peak Oil.

What we have not been sensitive to is that even if we had unlimited access to fossil fuels, even if Thomas Gold’s abiogenic formation of fossil fuels filling the center of the Earth were true, we would still face die off when the rise of exponential pollution exceeded the adaptability of the hosting environment — in this case the adaptability of the EARTH.

As a small demonstration these two effects, I find this excerpt from a new article at Mother Jones to be instructive, the article is called Population:The Last Taboo, in it Paul Murtaugh, a Professor at Oregon State University with Doctorates in both Zoology and Statistics, is quoted:

“‘The results surprised me,’ he says. ‘Using United Nations projections of fertility, and projecting statistically through the lifespan of the mother’s line—some lineages being short-lived, others indefinitely long—an American child born today adds an average 10,407 tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of her mother. That’s almost six times more CO2 than the mother’s own lifetime emissions. Furthermore, the ecological costs of that child and her children far outweigh even the combined energy-saving choices from all a mother’s other good decisions, like buying a fuel-efficient car, recycling, using energy-saving appliances and light bulbs. The carbon legacy of one American child and her offspring is 20 times greater than all those other sustainable maternal choices combined.’

“Murtaugh’s research shows that even though India has a much larger population and a higher rate of population growth than the US, its overall carbon legacy is vastly reduced, due to its population’s drastically lower levels of consumption combined with shorter lifespans (63.8 years on average for India, versus 80.2 years for the US). At current rates, an American child has 55 times the carbon legacy of a child born to a family in India. While India is conservatively predicted to grow by 400 million people by 2050, the US is projected to grow by 86 million. But take those additional Americans and factor in their 55-times-higher carbon legacy (at current national consumption rates), and they will equal the legacy of 4.7 billion Indians.”

While the average American may consume twice the calories of the average Indian, the real problem is that we use 150 times more fossil fuel. We Americans can make no claim that just because we are not adding to the human population therefore the problems lie with India and China. Americans are the number one producers of exponential entropy– the number one producers of the hyper-entropic pollution effect.

If we have a better understanding of the present human crisis, we stand a better chance of solving it.As I see it, there is only one solution. We must design and create a higher system. A system that has a better capacity to absorb entropy, and that helps us live without producing so much entropy. These new system must be enormously more efficient that our present systems. Khan writes:

“The higher system is more expansive and has a better capacity to absorb entropy. So the sudden change in entropy caused by sudden microorganism population rise does not have an effect on the RATE OF CHANGE OF ENTROPY, though it does add a bit to the entropy of the system. We must understand that the inherent rate of change of entropy is a primary characteristic of a system and once that is changed, the system definition is fundamentally altered, leaving the system either adaptable or inadaptable for a habiting living species population. The ‘adaptability’ of the species must now be measured against the new rate of change of entropy.”

I see only two ways to make such a higher system, either we move to larger planet, or we make our system of relating with each other, much more efficient, cooperative, and intelligent in every way. Khan’s work seems to be scientifically supportive of your project to re-invent the American way of life with America 2.0.



Fouad Khan’s response to Jay Hanson.

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Thanks for reading through my work. You are right, there are no solutions in there, though there are hints at a solution in the complete novel. While it is true that the problem is well established to a large extent now and we should be moving towards identifying viable solutions, it’s also pretty clear, I think, that what we are suffering from is not a dearth of beneficial solutions but an incomprehension and acceptance of the gravity of the problem itself.

The addict that is our civilization to fossil fuels, we are not even past the FIRST step of recovery.

I don’t think population is the problem per se. It can be a manifestation of the grander problem, but if we clean up our act, I believe mother Gaya is capable of providing for a couple billion more manlings at least.

What the earth can’t handle are r-strategist consumers. Not even three or four billion of them probably.

So what do we do?

I have some ideas. But let me summarize my thesis first.

I believe human beings are creating entropy at such a fast rate that it has increased the rate of change of entropy of our host system earth to levels which are uninhabitable and inadaptable for us as a species.

There are two major manifestations of this inadaptability; a) we’re reaching the finite limits of the most easily and cheaply accessible form of energy at our disposal, b) we’re altering some physical parameters of our host system at an unbearably fast pace (global climate change). These two manifestations are really flipsides of the same coin.

Based on this thesis, we need to do three things, a) find another energy source, b) find a larger system which has greater capacity to absorb entropy c) reduce our entropic footprint so we are not burning through the entropic capacity of our host systems every half a century. I think your plan for America 2.0 falls within category c.

So what do we do?

I would propose the following.

1) Move to nuclear as fast as we can to buy ourselves some time. Nuclear is a higher system, but it can’t be a permanent solution because the less nuclear waste we produce the better. Move to nuclear, but plan to retire it in fifty years.

2) Reorganize life to decrease our entropic footprint. Make use of the technological revolution in computing. Commutes should become a thing of the past. Give up on ideals that are based on the promise of perpetual growth. Retire the trinity of freedom-democracy-capitalism. We need new deities. We need to recognize the ever shifting balance between man and machine as the information age comes to maturity. We need America 2.0.

3) Focus our resources on research and development in areas where viable higher systems could be found. That happens every time we learn a new language. The miracle of our species is communication. I think the language of genes is where it’s at in the future. We just spent a century writing masterpieces in steel and concrete and silica. I think we would be writing masterpieces in polypeptides soon. We need to make that bet on human ingenuity because the only other option is death and misery for billions of people.

Anyway, that’s just what I think.


Fouad Khan.

Jay Hanson responds to Fouad Khan.

Interesting ideas Fouad.  At the present time, I am in the middle of a seminar.

I suggest you present them to this group for feedback.


Front Page

Monday, May 10th, 2010


Understanding Our Human Crisis

The following excerpts are taken from a small book called Katrina Nights by Fouad M. Khan, which was published in late 2009. This brief but complex work can be viewed as a coming of age story, a stranger in a strange land tale, a terrorist thriller, or simply a ribald sexual romp, and it is all of these. But woven into the fabric of the larger story is an important scientific hypothesis.

Why is the brightest species on the planet in crisis? Why do our present actions threaten our very future?

As a scientist, I have selected excerpts from the volume that I believe best present that hypothesis. Those excerpts have been edited slightly to make them more understandable since they have been lifted out of the context of the novel itself. Although the book is described as a work of total fiction, many of the details reported in the story ring amazingly true. I suspect the story is a mixture of both truth and fiction.

All of the following is true. Fouad Khan was born and bred in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He was a graduate student at the University of Houston in 2005-2007. Fouad was in America on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a PhD degree in Environmental Engineering. For his thesis and research, he did study the population dynamics of hydrocarbon-eating bacteria.

The story presented in the novel, describes the activities, thoughts, conversations, and research of a fictional graduate student who by coincidence also attends the University of Houston and is named Fouad Khan. In the process of this experience, Fouad discovers what he believes is an important truth about living populations. If he is correct, and I believe that he is, then he has discovered the scientific basis for our present human crisis.

Crisis is always the harbinger of an overwhelming problem. Fortunately, crisis has two components—Danger and Opportunity. When faced with crisis, there is almost always a window of opportunity, when intelligent action can avert most or at least some of the danger of the crisis. But, that opportunity is fleeting. The only rational response is Carpe diem—Seize the Day. We must recognize the opportunity in time and then act quickly and intelligently.


Timothy Wilken, MD


Preamble to a Hypothesis

Fouad M. Khan, MS

From Page 67 of Katrina Nights

Juan (my faculty adviser) called them ‘bugs.’ I didn’t like the idea, they weren’t really bugs, so much smaller and such a much more collective entity compared to bugs. They thought and behaved as one composite being, the whole population a single, simple all inclusive mind, making the necessary decisions for all, to eat or not to eat, to procreate or not to procreate, to die or to live. I wondered, in that mass of organic heap that was the bacteria culture, what were the individual thoughts of a Pseudomonas Putida? Did it enjoy sex? Did it think about eventually settling down with a nice blonde wife and thousands of kids in the suburban corners of my Petri dish?

I grew microorganism populations in the lab and studied their behavior. We could afford to study their behavior at population levels. That was all that mattered to us. We built up massive armies of them and monitored their consumption patterns, how they ate, what they ate and when they decided to go on a massive eating and spawning spree. This was important. Once the microorganism populations took on an exponential growth curve, the pollutants we were trying to get rid of quickly became history.

But wait, I think I need to start from the beginning.

You see all that oil, we consume as an industrialized species, is stored in containers of various types at various stages of its supply cycle. Most of these containers are underground like the steel tanks at your local gas station. Oil and oil products have been stored in underground tanks for more than a century now; at first it was even stored in large pits that weren’t even lined. It would be safe to say, that given enough time, there isn’t an oil tank in the world that won’t leak. That leaking is usually so miniscule that it used to not even show up in the inventory of the gas stations; they just covered it up in the books, hundred in, hundred out, no wastage. Now we know for sure that that can’t be true for any given oil products storage and distribution site.

Aside from the usual minor leaks and spills, there are also accidents. Storage tank failures that result in thousands of liters of leakage within minutes, oil tankers run over, sea bound ones run into icebergs and color pristine beaches black, this shit happens. Oil spill and leakage is a fact of life. If there’s a gas station in your neighborhood, there’s a good chance it’s leaking at least some oil underground.

This oil is a resource when contained anywhere within its supply and consumption chain, but once it gets out of that loop, it becomes a serious pollutant. It’s a complex industrial product made up of compounds with names such as Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl Benzene, Xylene; compounds, some of which are confirmed carcinogens; enough exposure will give you cancer.

A large part of the oil that leaks, naturally ends up seeping underground, where lie pristine aquifers capable of delivering refreshing water for human consumption. If the leaked oil gets to the aquifer, it can contaminate a precious drinking water resource. The contaminated water, if consumed regularly for a long time, can increase cancer risks significantly. Who the fuck am I kidding; it can kill, in more than one ways.

While working for one of the big three oil companies in an earlier life, I once came upon this case study. This gas station located in a densely populated locality where groundwater usage for drinking was common, had a rusty tank. It kept leaking for some fifteen years and nobody had a clue. The aquifer was hardly ten feet deep and it got contaminated with Methyl Ter Butyl Ether, Lead and even some Benzene; serious shit by any measure. Benzene is a confirmed carcinogen.

Now, nobody ever found out how many children consumed that contaminated water for how many years and how many of them got cancer, nobody had the resources or intent to. What shook the company into action was this one ‘incident’. The water being used in one of the larger apartment complexes near the gas station was drawn from the aquifer and stored in a huge underground tank. The tank was emptied for usual cleaning one year and sat like that for two days, empty. When one of the cleaning guys finally climbed in, he made the fatal mistake of lighting a match. The gas had seeped in and accumulated within the tank from the contaminated aquifer water and soils all around it through miniscule cracks in the lining. The place nearly blew up. The gas station was hardly hundred feet away from the water tank. There were investigations, local politicians got involved and the oil company was brought into the fray.

Now, granted, all of this happened in Pakistan, the laws are lax there; but I am talking about a major global player in the energy world. They present themselves as the industry leader in green practices; they used to have entire campaigns based around that fact. Travesty. I was brought in as a consultant to carry out investigations to show that the oil leakage could not possibly have had a connection with the explosion. That is if there was any leakage at all.

Owing to the confidentiality contract I signed I will not go any further into the details of my investigation and the results. They are available in the report I submitted, which you can read for yourself, if you can get your hands on it.

I got to work at tens of such sites and the only reasonable conclusion I could come to was that this was inevitable. It was the necessary price we had to pay for enjoying the comforts of modern living. A percent, maybe half of a percent, maybe lot more of all the oil transported and used always leaked, it became a pollutant and some of it eventually killed people. This is the unacknowledged ‘nuclear waste’ of the fossil fuel energy industry.

In America, ‘superfunds’ were founded to treat this menace, with billions of dollars going into research and development alone. Juan and his engineering expertise were a product of that drive.

He’d spent decades contributing to the field, and now he sat in front of me, in his office, trying to figure out why I wasn’t making progress. He could not have guessed that there was more to this mystery than his mathematically trained mind could decode. He couldn’t draw a thoughts-balance diagram for my mind, couldn’t write a differential equation, couldn’t solve it. Not even numerical modeling would have given any clue to the mystery of the malaise that was (the result of my crazy new girlfriend) Katrina. I couldn’t produce because I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t concentrate because I was sick, because I had a disease occupying my faculties.

But there was a little more to it than that. If it was routine number crunching or experimental work—stuff that made up most of academic research—I would’ve wrapped it up working like a zombie. My problem was that I needed to solve a problem.

“Ok… let’s go back to the basics.” Juan said in his French accented English.

“Populations can switch from consuming Benzene to MtBE if you give them enough incentive and at least three weeks. Is that right?” He asked. Naturally occurring microorganism populations had all sorts of ‘bugs’ in them, some liked to eat one compound, one part of the oil pollution, others preferred some other compound. If I spilled excess Benzene on a naturally occurring microorganism population, the benzene eaters suddenly had a field day. Their population started to increase exponentially until the benzene stocks were consumed and finally started falling short. But usually by that time, the benzene eaters dominated total microorganism populations by a huge ratio; out of every hundreds of thousands only one or two ate anything else. This was troublesome because once the benzene was gone, there were parts of the oil compound still left to be eaten, pollutants that needed to go away. Only, the environment that the Benzene eaters had defined for themselves no longer remained conducive for the exponential growth of any other bacteria such as Toluene eaters. The overall microorganism population was now useless for a while until all the Benzene eaters died off and some other types of dominant bacteria rose in their place.

This switch was what I needed to figure out. How could I make microorganism populations go from one type of food to another without significant lag times and investment.

The lab was a tardy place to work on this problem because you just didn’t grow composite populations in lab; you grew focused, one-type-of-bacteria populations in your Petri dishes and trays. And if you didn’t have composite populations you were missing an important ingredient for your testing. I sat in the lab all day growing and killing entire microbial metropolises, but had been unable to find real focus. Months of work and I still didn’t have a direction.

“Yes, but we have to remember that I can’t make bacteria do the switch from Benzene to MtBE in lab, three weeks or three years. Just doesn’t happen. I need to find real life data to deduce some conclusions and move forward.” I tell Juan.

“Ok. Then do that. Study the literature. Find data, deduce results. Come up with a plan for further investigations. What are you waiting for?” Juan said.

I let my chin drop. “I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what to do.”

“I don’t think you’ve done your research right. Look, Fouad I don’t know what your interests are and where you are spending your time but you never seem to be around. You are never there in the lab working. This is not how you get a PhD. Where were you on Tuesday, why didn’t you show up for our meeting?”

“I told you I wasn’t feeling well. I had to take some antibiotics and nearly collapsed into a coma, thought I’d call and inform you but couldn’t. I’m sorry.” I bullshitted.

“Look Fouad, it’s your degree. You are the one who wanted to do it in the first place. I have letters from you going back three years. Don’t be sorry to me. Make a decision for yourself and try not to be sorry to yourself.” His usage of the language was still a little unconventional, but always effective. He went on, “This can’t just go on like this. We are way behind. You still haven’t finalized a plan.”

“Yeah.” I could only say quietly. “You know I still want to do it. Just give me another week. I’d come back with another plan.” I said.

“No. It just can’t work like that. I have to set a firm deadline for your qualification exam now. And it’s the end of this semester. I’m setting it. Present a coherent plan there and justify it. From now on we meet every day to discuss.”

He went on. “Look, here’s the deal. They are just bugs, don’t get too … complicated on them, or too technical. You just have to find a way to make them like the food that we offer them. Turn their discerning taste buds off. I want them to eat no matter what comes in front of them.” It was easier said than done. “I want them to eat like pigs.” Juan said.

Or like human beings I thought. Sitting in my lab, looking at graphs of microorganism populations shooting up in exponential growth curves, the very first thought that occurred to me was the eerie similarity of such a growth pattern with the human population growth pattern. About two hundred or so years ago, we human beings had also stumbled upon some such elixir of potent exponential growth and risen in population from about a billion to more than six billion. From the dawn of humanity some sixty thousand years ago till the eighteen hundreds, human beings, population: About a billion or less, year two thousand, human beings, population: Six point five billion. Our society and even our psychological makeup seemed to be changing so fast the social theories of no more than a thousand years ago today seemed like children’s fairytales.

Interestingly, the thing that triggered our growth spree and sustained it was almost the same thing that shot microorganisms into consumption overdrive; fossil fuel, in one form or another. Industrialization, the birth of modern city, the invention of industrial agriculture, advances in modem medicine and public health had lead to the growth in human populations apparently, but what it was essentially, was the human discovery of the true potential of the resource called oil. We found out that there was energy in it to be harvested for everything from food growth to making antibiotics to keeping our cities glowing at night. We’d started consuming oil like we were cookie monster and had stumbled upon a jar full of delicious chocolate chip delights. In the greater scheme of things it seemed, human beings were no better or smarter than cookie monster, or ‘bugs.’

Page 81

I sat on my desk with my head in my hands for about a couple of hours and then the question first occurred to me. Why exponential growth? What if we could stabilize the bacteria population instead of making it grow exponentially? What if instead of promoting the growth of bacteria consuming one type of pollutant, we could promote the growth of parallel populations maintaining some of the diversity of the original population. That would definitely hamper the growth rate and slow down consumption.

Fuck with it. What was the hurry? If the pollutants could wait for being cleaned up, in the case of some sites, ten years, they could sit there without being additional risk for another ten. There was something fundamentally wrong with the exponential growth curve anyway. I knew there was, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

I’d have to figure out a way to demonstrate the enhanced growth of mixed populations. I’d need to set up a larger lab experiment, maybe an indoors soil chamber, should be at least three feet by three feet by three feet. But if I could grow such populations in lab, keeping a tab on the various bacteria populations, creating an alternating balance between them, and then report the nutrient ratios needed, this was a decent quality PhD.

I suddenly felt like I had direction. I needed to add to my literature study and could potentially produce a relatively sound thesis proposal if I worked my butt off for the next week.

Page 84

Once back at the library my research sucked me right in; the travails of D, M, Dickens, the British Engineer who’d seen both Benzene and MtBE deplete from his contaminated site simultaneously over a period of five years. He’d intervened little but had collected detailed monitoring data and published a really nice tale of two naturally competing microorganism populations growing simultaneously. I’d contacted him to obtain his detailed data and had been playing with it for the last couple of days. There were patterns in it that could be explored and systematized.

Page 91

My day at the library was dull except for the discovery of the works of A. Chandrasekhar at U Penn. He wasn’t an engineer; a professor of organic chemistry, but some ten years ago he’d written a series of papers about the nutrient balance required to control the microbial population growth in a culture. He’d worked on getting other types of curves besides the exponential growth curve right and his experimental setup very similar to what I had in mind, but his work had focused on growing one bacterial population at a time instead of simultaneous growths. His data was nonetheless very significant.

Page 93

(My friend Ishmael, a graduate student from Yemen,) … took me to Layal an Arabic café where they had belly dancers on Wednesday and Saturday.

“I like this place because it has tried to recreate some of the original ambience of a street corner café in Yemen.” Ishmael said as we were seated.

“Yeah I know what you mean. Hardly anything in this country has the original flavor retained. The food, the music, everything gets Americanized before it is finally served to the customer.”

“There’s a reason for it.”

“The desire to get more customers?”

“True.” Ishmael said, “But it runs deeper. The reason is the desire for growth. Nobody starts out thinking I want to be a corner place that gets twenty customers on the weekends but serves the perfect baklava Everybody wants to have fucking franchises within a year. The idea is to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator. Your shit must not be too strong for anyone. Nobody is working to do what they can do best, nobody wants the niche market. Growth must always be pursued.”

“What’s wrong with that Ishmael?” I said looking around, just provoking more conversation.

“Nothing wrong with it. It just sucks the flavor right out of life. It’s a philosophy resting on the significance of material, material never satisfies human beings. The more you get it, the more you crave it. And it’s not sustainable.”

Page 96

(Distracted by my beautiful but crazy girlfriend Katrina, I hurriedly worked to finish the final proposal for my thesis. … All too soon, the day of the qualifier arrived.)

“There’s something fundamentally wrong with the exponential growth curve.” I stood in front of the thesis committee, talking like a philosopher. Something? What in the world is ‘something’? Something is not a word you use in engineering. Be specific boy, their faces seemed to say. I’d just put the latest version of my proposal in front of them which was different from the one I’d submitted a couple of days ago. This was unacceptable in itself. Also, I’d come to my exam ten minutes late. This was unheard of. The committee members and Juan, who sat there visibly pissed, had already given me too much slack before I’d even started speaking.

“Something about the curve which makes us think it is the answer to all our questions when we stumble upon it.” I went on unembarrassed. “Something about the idea of growth happening so fast, it must be good. It appeals to our evolutionary nature, to our inherent tendencies to think that big and more is always better.” Big and more, like Katrina I thought. “We’d have to give up this fascination with the exponential growth curve before we can move on.”

I then went on to explain how if we gave up on trying to grow bacteria populations so rapidly, we could have populations which were much more diverse and adaptable. I showed them Dickens’ data and all the other graphs and figures I’d assembled from literature, not a word about Chandrasekhar.

He was the elephant in the room whose presence I needed not to acknowledge on my own. If somebody else brings him up, well, we’ll see about that. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it as an American would say. In the meanwhile, I explained to them my proposed experimental setup. Precedents from the literature, no Chandrasekhar though. As I talked I saw Juan’s expressions change. There was a contentment starting to make a shy appearance on his face. This was definitely more than he’d expected me to have come up with. He probably didn’t know about Chandrasekhar.

My proposal was not airtight, parts of it were vague and the theory somewhat still hanging in the realm of metaphysics, undefined. I festooned my arguments with a generous sprinkling of ‘big talk’. The accomplished professors sitting in front of me, the white haired Cliff who talked about Arsenic removal at different pH ranges like telling nursery rhymes, the young and lithe Hoover, who could design you a dam in three minutes, the feisty Dr. Robinson whom they called when bacteria started misbehaving inexplicably at any water treatment plant in Texas, they were all no-bullshit people, career engineers who’d spent a lifetime building things, big behemoth machines and structures that worked and needed hundreds of people to run them. They were professors not because they liked theorizing but because they were now in a position where their one minute theorizing could solve complex problems that other people would have spent years deciphering.

They didn’t seem overtly, immediately hostile as I spoke. Perhaps they still had a soft corner in their hearts for some good old fashion philosophizing. Perhaps they were giving concessions because they saw some real thought had been put into the proposal, if not necessarily work. There was time for work once I qualified. Perhaps none of them had heard of Chandrasekhar.

The question, answers session moved steadily forward. Most of the questions that came from the committee I’d expected. Within thirty minutes of that, the exam followed into the lulled period where the questions became suggestions. It started to appear that for all practical purposes I had cleared my qualifier now and the professors were telling me how to move forward from here on. Juan seemed obviously pleased; my colleagues were giving me congratulatory looks. Impossible! It seemed like I was actually going to pass this. …

“Just one more question Fouad”, Cliff said, “I am sure you must have looked at it, though you haven’t mentioned it yet in the presentation, Dr. Chandrasekhar did some excellent work a while ago on the growth dynamics of bacteria in other patterns besides the exponential curve. He came to the conclusion that you could, theoretically stabilize a bacteria population to a level where they started to derive newer and newer resources from their surrounding, never actually entering the death phase, but for that you needed to input, in one form or another, an amount of energy that was roughly equivalent to the Chandrasekhar factor for each hundred thousand bacteria. How do you…”

Yes, I’d briefly read through the Chandrasekhar factor paper, but didn’t know anymore about it. So Cliff did know Chandrasekhar’s work after all. Of course he did, what was I thinking? That I could get away with this bullshit so easily. Time to flunk now my boy Fouad. Cliff went on but the room was darkening in front of my eyes.

“…propose we could trip that theoretical energy gap…” his voice seemed to be coming from a deep well now, “ … if you think it doesn’t exist…” My heart was now doing jazz soliloquies. “…what’s your reason for thinking so?”

At that point I felt a deep pressure rising on my chest. Suddenly it seemed like the next breath was too far away to catch. The room darkened in front of my eyes, and as I was told later on, I had collapsed grabbing on to my chest.

Page 104

(I woke up in the hospital. They said I had suffered a stress breakdown.  The Fulbright people intervened on my behalf. My exam with the thesis committee was pushed back a couple of months. On my third and last day in the hospital, I had a visit from my friend Ishmael.)

“You know what’s wrong with America?” Ishmael suddenly asked me.

“I don’t know. Donald Trump?”

“The trivialization of America, the stupidization of the great American ideology, the biggest fuck up in the history of mankind. It starts with the building of the American city. First, you want to systemize everything, good idea, that’s how industrialization works, but you fuck it up and everybody you see on the road is wearing the same black suit. You give birth to the modern industrial metropolis in America, and turns out it’s a horror. So you dream up the suburbs, a country house for every family to raise their children in innocence, away from the chaos of the city, but you fuck it up and you get suburban sprawl, you get the tragicomedy of suburbia, the fat beer drinking stupid American male who’s only partially an adult and doesn’t know shit about the world, the cheating housewife behind the white picket fence, who isn’t satisfied. Can’t be satisfied. You get Bart Simpson for a son; where else would the teenage energy look for an expression of its free spirit, except in nasty tricks on the weak. And in the middle of this fuckaplooza, you get the bastardization of new age ideals. It becomes criminal to offend someone’s feelings so everything gets sacrificed at the altar of feelings; everything, rigor, standards, standards of work, standards of living, standards of social conduct. It becomes OK to enjoy unearned riches; it becomes glorious to be a pimp. The Las Vegas virus creeps into every facet of American life.

Now we have a country of the richest fat Asses in the world; their sole output the sordid details of Paris Hilton and Tara Reid’s sexual lives. E True Hollywood Story; America! You have the Wall Street Big Boyz fooling the world into the supposed legitimacy of American wealth to keep the dollar afloat and the hummers running. When this enterprise comes down the Big Boyz will be blamed but it’s not their fault. When there was no real productivity left in a society to get capital out of, they invented fake capital. And sure they got the lion’s share of it for themselves. They’ve earned it, they’ve fucking cooked it all up out of thin air.” He paused to catch his breath; looked outside the window bitterly. “And all of this fed by a parallel collapse of town planning and architecture, the American environment growing to reflect the purposelessness of American society. The typical suburban home becoming a cartoon of country living, the school starting to resemble the jailhouse, the most frequented public space, the parking lot, the curb cut between Wal-Mart and KFC. That’s where the fuck we’re at right now. Where this fucked up living arrangement now has become an end in itself. Everything is being done to keep this film rolling, like a bad sitcom that jumped the shark three seasons ago but won’t go away.”

Only part of what he’d just said had made sense to me. Was he actually criticizing the American city as a monumental failure? What was he talking about? Most of the world, the world that I lived in, would have given their hind sides for a chance to live in America. I knew bright, beautiful, smart young Fulbrighters from lively cities with high standards of living like Dublin, Moscow, Madrid, even Berlin who didn’t want to leave America. Everyone was always looking to find a way around the two-year rule, the rule that said you had to go back and serve your country for two years before you could apply to move to America if you’d just been on a Fulbright. This was still the land of opportunities.

“Dude… would you rather live in Sanaa or Houston?” I asked him. (Sannaa is the capital of Yemen.)

“Sanaa.” He said without blinking. “But you’re missing the point. You cannot compare Sanaa and Houston, not like that. Look, nobody is contesting the fact that America is a great nation and what they’ve built here is a great country. A paradigm shift is needed, was needed yesterday, should have come thirty years ago but didn’t. And what you got was the greatest misallocation of resources ever. Ever, in the history of mankind. America started out with the basic idea of satisfying every human’s animal needs, the need for food, shelter, security and healthcare, essentially the needs of our body. That was achieved in the western world for most of the population by the seventies. The need then was to shift the focus towards growing not as animals but as human beings. To cater to the needs of our higher brains. Instead, America elected Ronald fucking Reagan as president. What better way to satisfy the essential human need for drama and story than to be led by an actor, a fucking simulation of a leader. Simply because the real leaders just didn’t look the part. Today, every measure of development looks at how we are catering to our animal sides, how we can increase our average lifespan. We should instead be looking to nourish our human side.” He tried to summarize his thoughts in a coherent conclusion but his ideas still seemed foggy to me. He settled down. The room suddenly felt too quiet.

Page 107

I started running stats on Chandrasekhar’s data. I could see where he’d have come upon his philosophical conclusion, it seemed apparent now as I started to look at the data in more detail. If you leave the microorganisms on their own, their population settled down into a stable curve in harmony with the ecology of their surroundings. They became a part of the environment they were in, they became soil. That was the great thing about bacteria, they were everywhere, even right now, on and inside our body by the millions but they exist quietly, the effects of their presence felt as part of the nature of the thing, such as the sourness of yogurt.

When you gave them a little taste of some nutrient external to the environment such as Benzene, the Benzene eating amongst the bacteria suddenly went wild, suddenly unawares of the ecological balance around them. They ate and they reproduced and they grew in numbers, exponentially.

We utilized this exponential growth, which was by definition unsustainable, to get rid of the contaminant bugging us. In some cases we encouraged it and fed it, we definitely monitored it.

When the nutrient concentration ran out, the bacteria died off. Their population usually entered a brief stationary phase and then a long death phase from which it never recovered.

Chandrasekhar discovered that if you would have left the bacteria population alone, not having introduced the contaminant in its jiving environment, the populations would have lasted for longer than they eventually did. The mere act of the introduction of the contaminant and the triggering of the exponential growth curve rendered the population unsustainable. The rule was, if you hit upon an exponential growth curve, it was eminent that you’d eventually hit upon the death phase and die off until hardly a single one of your species remained.

From there Chandrasekhar concluded that at least in theory it was possible to introduce the bacteria to a new ecology where their population could exist in harmony with the gradual introduction of a bevy of different contaminants in moderate quantities. As such you could harvest bacteria populations naturally capable of eliminating incoming contaminants without going on an eat-and-grow-spree; in theory.

But part of his theory seemed antithetical to the very nature of microorganisms. Were microorganisms capable of restrain? No, it was more like growing a bonsai tree, you had to give and take, three steps forward, two back and so on and so forth, until the natural rhythm that Chandrasekhar visualized could be achieved. That was the dynamics I needed to figure out. This was going to be purely experimental work and I started to study his tank design deriving notes for the design of my own bacteria-harvesting soil tank.

Read Part II of a Preamble to a Hypothesis

View/Download the complete document in PDF.

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Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

It is my privilege to be currently  studying with Marc Gafni. Today I offer a brief  taste of his writing, followed by a lesson from one of his favorite teachers Rabbi Abraham Kuk.

The Credo of Evolutionary Kabbalah

Marc Gafni

Evolutionary Kabbalah means that all of reality is evolving. It means that from a non-dual perspective there is no separation between the divine and all of reality. This means that all levels of reality, from matter to body to mind to spirit, are co-evolving all the time.

Moreover, in Evolutionary Kabbalah a key emergent tenet is that the human being is one of the pivoting points causing evolution to reach forward, becoming ever more advanced.

The human being’s awareness of his/her role in the process of evolution is the divine principle of evolution becoming conscious of itself.

Not only, however, does each human being participate in the process of divine evolution―that is to say, the evolution of all of reality―every human being participates uniquely in that evolution.

There is some particular task, vocation, calling, or mission that devolves upon every human being. This calling, at a particular moment in history, the Now, can be done only by that person.

If one human being is missing, if one human being does not respond to her call, then there is a dimension of divinity that remains un-evolved.

As if that were possible.

Two Types of Perfection

Abraham Isaac Kuk (1865-1935)

We perceive there to be two types of Perfection in absolute divine Perfection: One type of Perfection is so great and complete that no additional evolution is relevant to it.

If, however, there were no possibility of additional evolving whatsoever, this in and of itself would be an imperfection. For Perfection that is constantly waxing greater has great advantage and is pleasurable, and is uplifting,

For we yearn for it exceedingly, proceeding from strength to strength. Divine Perfection can therefore not be lacking the dimension of perfecting which is the evolving process of perfecting and unfolding power.

This is why divinity has the ability to be creative, to instigate limitless cosmic being and becoming, proceeding through all its levels and stages and growing.

It therefore follows that the essential divine soul of being, that which gives it life, is its constant ascending. That is its divine foundation, which calls it to be and to evolve.

The more science bases itself on evolution, the more it approaches the highest divine enlightenment, and the more it touches the most sublime of visions.

For the entirety of being cannot be judged by its partial relativity, that is to say, by means of the relation between one part and another, for this will not lead us to its true nature.

In truth, its primary inner law is the general relation of its entirety and all of its parts to divine wholeness.

This is the most eminent of all, and the most worthy principle upon which to understand the foundation of all of reality.

Teaching on Evolution

The theory of evolution, which is presently conquering the world, is aligned with the most profound secrets of the Kabbalah, more than any other philosophical theories.

Evolution, which proceeds on an ascending trajectory, provides an optimistic base for the world, for how is it possible to despair when one sees that everything is evolving and ascending?

And when we penetrate the very center of the principle of ascending evolution, we discover that it is the divine principle which is enlightened with absolute clarity. For it is Infinity in realization which realized itself through bringing infinity from infinite potentiality to infinite actuality {infinitely}

Evolution enlightens all dimensions of reality, all of God’s manifestations.

All of reality evolves and ascends, as is evident in its parts, and this ascension is general as well as particular.

It rises to the highest peaks of absolute good.

It is self-evident that good and the whole are interrelated, and reality is prepared to attain this quality, in which the All absorbs all of the good in all its parts.

This is the general ascending, in which all particular parts participate.

No spark is lost from the binding of unity, all are ready for the Great Feast.

To attain this goal the spirit must aspire to sublime divine passion, which is formed by faith-inspired work with God.

More by Marc Gafni at iEvolve.
More about Rabbi Kuk.

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Sunday, April 4th, 2010

The Evolutionary Manifesto

John Stewart

A completely new phase in the evolution of life on Earth has begun.  It will change everything.

In this new phase evolution will be driven intentionally, by humanity.  The evolutionary worldview that emerges from an understanding of our role in the new phase has the potential to transform the nature of human existence.

At present humanity is lost.  We don’t know what we are doing here.  We are without a worldview that can point to our place and purpose in the universe and that can also withstand rational scrutiny.

But this difficult period is coming to an end.  The emergence of the new evolutionary worldview is beginning to lift us out of the abyss.  The new worldview has a unique capacity to reveal who we are and what we should be doing with our lives.  It relies solely on scientific knowledge and reason to identify our critical role in future evolution.  The evolutionary worldview can unite us in a great common enterprise, and provide meaning and purpose for human existence.

At the heart of the evolutionary worldview is the fact that evolution has a trajectory—it heads in a particular direction.  However, evolution on Earth will not advance beyond a certain point unless it is driven consciously and intentionally.  If this transition to intentional evolution does not occur, evolution on this planet will stall, and humanity will not contribute positively to the future evolution of life in the universe—we will be a failed evolutionary experiment.

It is as if evolution is a developmental process.  Just as a human embryo is organized to develop through a number of stages to produce an adult, evolution tends to produce a particular sequence of outcomes of increasing complexity.  Initially, evolution moves in this direction of its own accord.  However, at a particular point evolution will continue to advance only if certain conditions are met: organisms must emerge that awaken to the possibility that they are living in the midst of a developmental process; they must realize that the continued success of the process depends on them; and they must commit to actively moving the process forward.

Across the planet at the beginning of the twenty first century, individuals are beginning to realize the importance of the transition to intentional evolution.  They know that they themselves have a significant role to play if the transition is to be completed successfully.

This role requires them to promote the new evolutionary worldview that will drive the transition.  It also calls on them to begin to remake themselves and their societies in whatever ways are necessary to advance the evolutionary process.  Their efforts, powered by the capacity of the evolutionary worldview to invest their lives with direction and purpose, will bring forth a great wave of evolutionary activism that will change life on this planet forever.

Evolutionary activists use the trajectory of evolution to identify what they need to do to advance evolution.  Socially, the next great step in human evolution is the emergence of a unified and sustainable global society.  Psychologically, the next step is to free our behavior from the dictates of our biological and cultural past, so that we can do that which is necessary for future evolutionary success.

The organization of a cooperative global society is an urgent priority.  With it, the threats of world war and global warming can be easily managed.  Without it, human civilization may end this century.

The Evolutionary Manifesto is an intentional attempt to promote the shift to conscious evolution and the evolutionary activism that will drive it.  To read, discuss and circulate the Manifesto is to participate in a great evolutionary transition on this planet.

Part 1 of the Manifesto provides an overview of the shift to intentional evolution and of the worldview that is motivating individuals to actively promote the transition.  Parts 2 and 3 begin by identifying the trajectory of evolution and showing that its directionality is produced by processes that are fully understandable within mainstream science, without resort to teleology or mysticism.  They go on to use the trajectory of evolution to identify the agendas that guide evolutionary activists in their attempts to advance the evolutionary process.  In particular, Part 2 deals with our future social evolution and Part 3 with the future evolution of our adaptability, intelligence and creativity.

Part 4 of the Manifesto explores the power of the evolutionary worldview to provide meaning and direction for human existence.  It demonstrates the capacity of the worldview to make evolutionary activism the most significant political force on the planet.  In particular, it shows that philosophical arguments such as the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ do not diminish the force of the evolutionary worldview presented by the Manifesto.

The shift to intentional evolution

The shift to intentional evolution has begun on Earth.  The evolutionary process itself is evolving.  It is transitioning from a process that stumbles forward blindly to one that advances consciously and intentionally.

Hitherto on Earth, evolution proceeded largely by trial and error.  The processes that produced mutations were not guided by foresight or by any intention to advance evolution.

The same applies to the processes that drive human cultural evolution.  When we humans make scientific discoveries, technological advances, or institute new forms of social organization, we are not consciously attempting to advance the evolutionary process.  Thus far in our evolution we do not intentionally design improvements so that they will be successful in evolutionary terms.

In contrast, if the transition to conscious evolution is successful, evolution on Earth will henceforth proceed deliberately and intelligently.  Life on Earth, including human societies, will be made and remade continually with the explicit intent of advancing the evolutionary process.  Human nature, culture, technology and social systems, as well as the other living processes on the planet, will all be shaped intentionally so that they contribute positively to the further evolution of life in the universe.

This transition will increase enormously the ability of the evolutionary process to adapt and innovate to meet whatever challenges are faced by life on this planet in the future.  What might take trial and error many thousands of millions of years to discover can be developed almost instantly by intelligent evolution.  In a few centuries, human technology has produced innovations such as heavier-than-air flight that took past evolution millions of generations of genetic trial and error to accomplish.

But the significance of this transition goes far beyond merely improving the effectiveness of adaptation to existing circumstances.  It will also enable life on Earth to identify what it can do to contribute productively to the future evolution of life in the universe.  Life on Earth will be able to envision a creative and meaningful role for itself in future evolution, and use the vision to guide its actions and its future development.

Life on Earth will never be the same.

The potential for the evolutionary process to ‘awaken’ in this way has arisen because of the emergence on the planet of organisms that are conscious and highly intelligent—humanity.  We have the capacity to pursue our goals deliberately and consciously—we use planning, foresight, anticipation and intent.  To the extent that we begin to use our intelligence to advance the evolutionary process intentionally, evolution itself will be powered by intelligence.  Human creativity will drive the advancement of the evolutionary process on Earth.

Importantly, this would not only mean that humanity will evolve intelligently.  Increasingly, humanity is managing and adapting the other processes on the planet, living and non-living, for our own ends.  If humanity embraces evolutionary goals, it will therefore mean that the living and non-living processes of the planet are also managed and adapted intelligently for evolutionary ends.

Because of the central role of innovation in evolution, humanity will also set out to enhance the creativity of the evolutionary process.  This will mean improving our own capacity to innovate as well as the creativity of the systems we are embedded in.  Understanding and utilizing creative processes such as emergence and collective intelligence will be priorities.

If this major evolution transition is completed successfully, humans will henceforth shape their societies, themselves, and all other living processes on the planet to serve evolutionary goals. Through humanity, the evolutionary process on Earth will have become conscious of itself, and will have acquired the capacity to advance itself intentionally and consciously.  It will have undergone a fundamental and extremely significant transformation.  Evolution will have transitioned from a process that groped its way forward by trial and error to one that strides knowingly into the future, guided by foresight and powered by consciousness.

Humans who are alive during the 21st century, 13.7 billion years of evolution after the ‘big bang’, are extraordinarily fortunate.  The shift to intentional evolution is one of the most significant evolutionary transitions that can occur on any planet on which life emerges.  We have the unique opportunity to contribute to its successful completion on this planet.  And if we choose to make this contribution, we will do so consciously—we will be aware that we are contributing intentionally to the successful completion of a pivotal evolutionary event on this planet.

The emergence of intentional evolutionaries

As the transition begins, individuals are emerging who are choosing to dedicate their lives to advancing the evolutionary process.

These intentional evolutionaries recognize that they have a critical role to play in driving the evolutionary transition and the future evolution of life.  Their lives can be an important part of the great evolutionary process that has produced the universe and life within it.  They know that if evolution is to continue to fulfill its potential, it now must be driven deliberately, and it is their responsibility and destiny to contribute to this.

Their conscious participation in the evolutionary process is increasingly becoming the source of value and meaning in their lives.  Redefining themselves within a wider evolutionary perspective is providing direction and purpose to their existence—they no longer see themselves as isolated, self-concerned individuals who live for a short time, then die irrelevantly in a meaningless universe.

Intentional evolutionaries are energized by the knowledge that their decision to embrace this role is part of the unfolding of the great transition itself.  They see that they are contributing to the success of processes much larger than themselves that will outlast them and potentially live forever.  They know that if they live their lives incompatibly with the processes that govern the evolution of life in the universe, their lives will not have any longer-term relevance.  They will die without leaving a lasting trace.

For intentional evolutionaries at the leading edge of the transition, their commitment is a major act of existential self-assertion.  It is not a choice that they are predisposed to make by their genetic make-up, nor by the society in which they were raised.  It is a commitment that they can make only after developing some psychological distance from the goals and perspectives of their culture, and only after achieving a deep understanding of their relationship with the evolutionary process.

Intentional evolutionaries are aware that they have set themselves an extraordinarily challenging task, but know the transition cannot be completed unless sufficient individuals commit themselves to it.  And if life on Earth does not make the transition, it will not participate in the future evolution of life in the universe.  It will be a failed evolutionary experiment.  Intentional evolutionaries know the deepest evolutionary meaning of the challenge: “If not now, when?  And if not you, who?”.

The allegiance of conscious evolutionaries is not to what is, but to what can be.  They know that they are alive at one of those rare times in history when an old phase is ending, and a new one of infinite possibility is beginning.  They have the courage and wisdom to seize their opportunity and to accept the challenge of the future.

Intentional evolutionaries know that they have much in common with all others who consciously adopt evolutionary goals, including those that emerge elsewhere in the universe.  Intentional evolutionaries experience a deep connection and kinship with all who awaken to the significance of evolutionary consciousness, even if they never have any direct contact with them.  They are united because they know that despite many difference, they share common perspectives, worldviews, goals and conscious experiences.  They are bound together as members of the circle of conscious life in the universe.

The goals of intentional evolutionaries

The goals and objectives of intentional evolutionaries are guided by a comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary processes that have produced life on this planet and that will determine its future.  They are aware of how past evolution has shaped all aspects of their being—their bodies, motivations, values and thinking—and how it has shaped humanity’s economic, social and religious systems, as well as all the other living processes on the planet.  But even more importantly, they also have a deep understanding of the evolutionary processes that will unfold in the future and will ultimately determine the relevance of their lives.

For intentional evolutionaries, this understanding of future evolution is indispensable—it points to how life on Earth must remake itself if it is to participate successfully in the future evolution of life in the universe.  It also identifies the types of living processes that will not survive future evolution.  It shows how life on Earth needs to change now if it is to play a significant role as evolution advances.

The direction of evolution

The task of identifying what will work in the future is made easier because evolution has a trajectory.  It has headed in particular directions in the past, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to do so in the future.  It is possible to locate humanity and life on Earth on this trajectory, and to see what needs to happen if we are to continue to advance along its path.

Not only does this understanding emphasize that humanity and life on Earth is evolutionary work-in-progress, it also enables intentional evolutionaries to identify the next great milestones in the evolutionary process on Earth.  These milestones are the evolutionary goals and objectives that they deliberately choose to pursue.  They point to how individuals would live their lives if they are to contribute to the advancement of evolution.  They are the lights on the distant hills that draw us forever onwards.

The trajectory of evolution is not produced by an external force, or by some impulse that is intrinsic to the universe, or by an ideal end-point that somehow attracts evolution towards it.  Directionality can be explained and understood fully without resort to mysticism.

For intentional evolutionaries, scientific explanations have a major advantage.  They identify the forces, processes and conditions that produce directionality.  Scientific understanding can therefore be used to work out the kinds of interventions that will advance the process.  In contrast, a readiness to accept mystical explanations can be counterproductive—it can impede the acquisition of the detailed evolutionary understanding that is essential to guide intentional evolution.

Life tends to evolve in a particular direction simply because there are particular capacities that provide organisms with evolutionary advantage across a wide range of circumstances.  Irrespective of the specifics of the organism or its environment, these capacities enable it to do better in evolutionary terms. And the more an organism has of each of these capacities, the better it will do (e.g. the greater its fitness).

So as evolution unfolds, it will tend to favor increases in these capacities across all life.  As improvements in these capacities are discovered, life will tend to evolve directionally.  Of course, this trajectory will often be masked by meandering, halting and back-tracking, particularly where the process that searches for improvements relies on blind trial and error.  Furthermore, improvements in these capacities will be favored only when the advantages they provide outweigh their cost.  As a consequence, directional change will often stall until evolution discovers a cost/effective way of enhancing the capacities.

Two attributes that increase as evolution proceeds are the scale of cooperative organization, and evolvability (i.e. the ability to evolve successfully through the discovery of effective adaptations).  As a result, the advancement of evolution is marked by greater interdependence and cooperation amongst living processes, and by improvement in the ability to respond effectively to adaptive challenges.

Both of these attributes have the potential to provide evolutionary advantage to living processes across a wide range of environments.  This is because they are meta-adaptive capacities—they improve the ability to adapt in all circumstances, although they are not themselves an adaptation to any specific circumstance.

In particular, the larger the scale of a cooperative organization, the more resources commanded by the cooperative, the greater its power, the greater the impact of its actions, and therefore the wider the range of environmental challenges that it can meet successfully.  And the greater the evolvability, the greater the capacity to respond effectively to any challenges.

For example, once intelligent life evolves that is organized cooperatively on a global scale, it will have the power and creativity to protect itself from asteroids that would otherwise collide with the planet.  These devastating collisions would be unavoidable to life that is less evolvable and smaller in scale, as was the case on Earth in the age of the dinosaurs.  And left to their own devices, bacteria are unlikely to survive the engulfment of their solar system by a dying sun.

If living processes were to set out intentionally to develop strategies that would enable them to succeed in future evolution, these are attributes that they would boost.  Both are capacities that conscious evolutionaries will intentionally attempt to enhance amongst life on Earth.

Next, read part two: The Evolutionary Manifesto II

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Monday, January 18th, 2010

Humanity is in crisis. Can “modern” science help us solve our problems in 2010?

The answer to this question is unfortunately NO.

Historians tell us that “modern” science began in ~1543, when Nicolaus Copernicus presented a Sun centered model of our solar system that was in strong variance to Claudius Ptolemaeus’ Earth centered model that had stood since ~130 CE. Copernicus’ discovery would produce a paradigm shift and revolutionize science. For lots of reasons that are better discussed elsewhere, this new “modern” science limited itself to modeling the objective, material world. Only that which could be measured, weighed and quantified was considered to be relevant to scientific inquiry. This approach forms the basis for what is called scientific reductionism.

This reductionistic approach works well enough for modeling the simpler processes in Universe like Light, Particles, Atoms and the simple Molecules, but it breaks down when we attempt to model the more complex processes of Life like the complex Molecules, the Plants, the Animals and we Humans.

For instance, if my goal is to model human behavior, how do I measure, weigh and quantify human feelings? Human thoughts? Human beliefs? Human opinions? Or, human attitudes? Aren’t feelings, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and attitudes relevant to the understanding human behavior?  … Yes, in fact they are not only relevant to understanding human behavior, they are the very determinants of human behavior.

“Modern” science is not interested in that which cannot be measured, weighed and quantified. It is not interested in the subjective. It is not interested in the metaphysical. Therefore, “modern” science cannot model human behavior.

Fortunately, about 90 years ago, things began to change. Beginning in 1919, a new approach to science emerged that was much more inclusive and whole-istic. This new “trans-modern” approach to science was based in part on the realization that the “whole” cannot be deeply understood except as an intact functioning “whole.” This new inclusive whole-istic approach to science transcends and includes the older reductionistic “modern” science. This means the new approach really is inclusive. It includes both the “physical” and the “metaphysical”—both the “objective” and the “subjective.” When you transcend and include, you avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water. The phrase synergic science serves as a metaphoric container for all those works of science created using this new inclusive whole-istic approach.

Synergic science is based in part on the important discoveries by scientists using the new inclusive-whole-istic approach in their modeling of reality include: Paul Kammerer’s Theory of Serialty (1919), Alfred Korzybski’s Theory of Time-binding (1921) and his General Semantics (1933), Edward Haskell’s Unified Science (1945), Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory (1962), Arthur Koestler’s Theory of Holons and Holography (1967), George Land’s Theory of Transformation (1973), Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetics (1975), N. Arthur Coulter’s Human Synergetics (1976), Arthur Young’s Theory of Process (1976), and James G. Miller’s General Theory of Living Systems (1978).

Today, I present the transcript of the 1996 International Society of System Science Keynote Address in which the speaker discusses the emergence of the “trans-modern” worldview. —TKW

Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in.

A Changing Worldview

Willis W. Harman

One of the most important aspects of these forces for change is the apparent emergence of a new worldview. Since people operate from their individual pictures of reality which are so strongly affected by collective beliefs, we need to consider signs of change in the worldview that dominates modern society. On the one hand, a radical change in worldview has happened only rarely in history; in the Western world the two times we can identify are the end of the Roman Empire and the end of the Middle Ages. On the other hand, there are many indications of the possible emergence of a trans-modern picture of reality differing both from the scientific worldview and the traditional religious worldview.

This emerging trans-modern worldview, involves a shift in the locus of authority from external to “inner knowing.” It has basically turned away from the older scientific view that ultimate reality is “fundamental particles,” and trusts perceptions of the wholeness and spiritual aspect of organisms, ecosystems, Gaia and Cosmos. This implies a spiritual reality, and ultimate trust in the authority of the whole. It amounts to a reconciliation of scientific inquiry with the “perennial wisdom” at the core of the world’s spiritual traditions. It continues to involve a confidence in scientific inquiry, but an inquiry whose metaphysical base has shifted from the reductionist, objectivist, positivist base of 19th- and 20th-century science to a more holistic and transcendental metaphysical foundation.

The modern worldview is based on Western science which, in terms of its goals of prediction, control, and generation of manipulative technologies, is amazingly successful. Nevertheless, it is an artifact of Western culture and it does have its limitations. The core of the current challenge to the scientific worldview can be taken to be “consciousness,” which has come to be a code word for a wide range of human experience, including conscious awareness or subjectivity, intentionality, selective attention, intuition, creativity, relationship of mind to healing, spiritual sensibility, and a range of anomalous experience and phenomena. Efforts toward incorporating within the scientific purview any or all of this territory has proven to be an extremely difficult task.

The fundamental reason for this difficulty appears to be that Western science has been caught in a basic dualistic trap-that of considering the subject doing the mapping as separate from the map. Getting a more accurate map (more based on modern physics, more “holistic”, more “systems”) will not solve this problem. Rather, we must realize that thoughts are not merely a reflection on reality, but are also a movement of that reality itself. The mapmaker, the self, the thinking and knowing subject, is actually a product and a performance of that which it seeks to know and represent.

Modern Western science fundamentally entails three important metaphysical assumptions: a. Realism (ontological-leads to epistemological conclusion). There is a real world which is, in essence, physically measurable (positivism). We are embedded in that world, follow its laws, and have evolved from an ancient origin. Mind or consciousness evolved within that world; the world pre-existed before its appearance, and continues to exist and persist independent of consciousness. b. Objectivism (epistemological and ontological) That real world exists independently of mind, and can be studied as object. That is, it is accessible to sense perception and can be intersubjectively observed and validated. c. Reductionism (epistemological). That real world is described by the laws of physics, which apply everywhere. The essence of the scientific endeavor is to provide explanations for complex phenomena in terms of the characteristics of, and interactions among, their component parts.

These underlying assumptions are directly challenged by a wide range of data regarding “anomalous” phenomena, and by a wide range of human experience. The critical epistemological issue is whether we humans have basically one way of contacting Reality (namely, through the physical senses) or two (the second being the deep intuition). The importance of the issue shows up in a central ontological question namely whether consciousness is caused (by physiological processes in the brain, which in turn are consequences of the long evolutionary process) or causal (in the sense that consciousness is not only a causal factor in present phenomena, but also a causal factor throughout the entire evolutionary process). Western scientific method urges toward the former choice in both cases, whereas the phenomena of consciousness suggest the latter choice in both cases.

A step toward resolving this long-standing impasse may be the recognition that it is, in a sense, a historical accident that physics was taken to be the root science. That led naturally enough to such ideas as seeking objectivity through separating observer and observed; taking reality to be essentially that which can be physically measured; and seeking explanations of the whole in terms of understanding the parts.

But what if the study of living systems had been taken to be the root science, rather than physics? Had this been the case, science would undoubtedly have taken a more holistic turn. It would have recognized that wholes are self-evidently more than the sum of their parts, and would have adopted an epistemology more congenial to living organisms. It might well have adopted a different ontological stance in viewing reality.

Such an alternative ontological stance is proposed by American philosopher Ken Wilber (1996; based on earlier work by Arthur Koestler), that of considering reality as composed of “holons,” each of which is a whole and simultaneously a part of some other whole-“holons within holons.” (For example, atom-molecule-organelle-cell-tissue-organ-organism-society-biosphere.) Holons at the same time display agency, the capacity to maintain their own wholeness, even as they are also parts of other wholes. A holon can break up into other holons. But every holon also has the tendency to come together with others in the emergence of creative and novel holons. Evolution is a profoundly self-transcending process: It has an utterly amazing capacity to go beyond what went before. The drive to self-transcendence is built into the very fabric of the universe. The self-transcending drive produces life out of matter, and consciousness out of life.

Holons relate “holarchically.” (This term seems advisable because “hierarchy” has a bad name, mainly because people confuse natural hierarchy [inescapable] with dominator hierarchy [pathological].) Thus cell-holons are parts of organ-holons, which in turn are parts of organism-holons, which are parts of community-holons. For any particular holon, functions and purposes come from the next level up in the holarchy; capabilities depend upon the next level down. Within such a representation of the global system, let us now explore how goals are achieved and problems get resolved.

In the holarchic of picture of reality, the scientist-holon seeking to understand consciousness is in an intermediate position. Looking downward in the holarchy (or to the same level, in the social sciences), and exploring in a scientific spirit of inquiry, it is immediately obvious that the appropriate epistemology is a participative one. That is, it recognizes that understanding comes, not alone from being detached, objective, analytical, coldly clinical, but also from cooperating with or identifying with the observed, and experiencing it subjectively. This implies a real partnership between the researcher and the phenomenon, individual or culture being researched; an attitude of “exploring together” and sharing understandings.

Looking upward in the holarchy, it is apparent that the appropriate epistemology involves a holistic view in which the parts are understood through the whole. This epistemology will recognize the importance of subjective and cultural meanings in all human experience, including experiences-such as some religious or interpersonal experiences-that seem particularly rich in meaning even though they may be ineffable. In a holistic view, such meaningful experiences will not be explained away by reducing them to combinations of simpler experiences or to physiological or biochemical events. Rather, in a holistic approach, the meanings of experiences may be understood by discovering their interconnections with other meaningful experiences.

If this ontological stance is accepted, a good many seemingly opposing views in Western thought become reconciled. From the level of the human-holon, the scientist looks mainly downward in the holarchy; the mystic looks mainly upward. Science and religion are potentially two complementary but entirely congenial views; each needs the other for more completeness. In Western philosophy there have been three main ontological positions: the materialist-realist, the dualist, and the idealist. Again, the materialist looks downward, the idealist upward, and the dualist tries to reconcile fragments of the two-but all represent but partial glimpses of the holarchic whole.

This new ontological stance takes some living with to fully appreciate how successfully it resolves many of the time-honored puzzles of Western philosophy-the mind-body problem, for example, and free will versus determinism. Since everything is part of the one holarchy, if consciousness or purpose is found anywhere (such as at the level of the scientist-holon), it is by that fact characteristic of the whole. It can neither be ruled out at the level of the microorganism, nor the level of the Earth, or Gaia. Nor need we be nonplussed by evidence of anomalous phenomena and experiences that don’t fit with a materialist, reductionist ontology.

As within the presently dominant concept of science, the epistemology implied by this ontological stance will insist on open inquiry and public (intersubjective) validation of knowledge; at the same time, it will recognize that these goals may, at any given time, be met only incompletely. Taking into account how both individual and collective perceptions are affected by unconsciously held beliefs and expectations, the limitations of intersubjective agreement are apparent.

This epistemology will be “radically empirical” (in the sense urged by William James, 1912) in that it will be phenomenological or experiential in a broad sense (that is, it will include subjective experience as primary data, rather than being essentially limited to physical-sense data) and it will address the totality of human experience (in other words, no reported phenomena will be written off because they “violate known scientific laws”). Thus, consciousness is not a “thing” to be studied by an observer who is somehow apart from it; research on consciousness involves the interaction of the observer and the observed, or more accurately, the experience of observing.

This adequate epistemology will be, above all else, humble. It will recognize that science deals with models and metaphors representing certain aspects of experienced reality, and that any model or metaphor may be permissible if it is useful in helping to order knowledge, even though it may seem to conflict with another model which is also useful. (The classic example is the history of wave and particle models in physics.) This includes, specifically, the metaphor of consciousness. That may sound strange.

It is a peculiarity of modern science that it allows some kinds of metaphors and disallows others. It is perfectly acceptable to use metaphors which derive directly from our experience of the physical world (such as “fundamental particles,” acoustic waves), as well as metaphors representing what can be measured only in terms of its effects (such as gravitational, electromagnetic, or quantum fields). It has further become acceptable to use more holistic and non-quantifiable metaphors such as organism, personality, ecological community, Gaia, universe. It is, however, taboo to use non-sensory “metaphors of mind”-metaphors that tap into images and experiences familiar from our own inner awareness. I am not allowed to say (scientifically) that some aspects of my experience of reality are reminiscent of my experience of my own mind-to observe, for example, that some aspects of animal behavior appear as though they were tapping into some supra-individual nonphysical mind, or as though there were in instinctual behavior and in evolution something like my experience in my own mind of purpose.

The epistemology we seek will recognize the partial nature of all scientific concepts of causality. (For example, the “upward causation” of physiomotor action resulting from a brain state does not necessarily invalidate the “downward causation” implied in the subjective feeling of volition.) In other words, it will implicitly question the assumption that a nomothetic science-one characterized by inviolable “scientific laws”-can in the end adequately deal with causality. In some ultimate sense, there really is no causality-only a Whole evolving.

It will also recognize that prediction and control are not the only criteria by which to judge knowledge scientific. As the French poet Antoine Saint Exupéry put it, “Truth is not that which is demonstrable. Truth is that which is ineluctable.” In other words, the unquestioned authority of the double-blind controlled experiment is thrown deeply into question.

This epistemology will involve recognition of the inescapable role of the personal characteristics of the observer, including the processes and contents of the unconscious mind. The corollary follows, that to be a competent investigator, the researcher must be willing to risk being profoundly changed through the process of exploration. Because of this potential transformation of observers, an epistemology which is acceptable now to the scientific community, may in time have to be replaced by another, more satisfactory by new criteria, for which it has laid the intellectual and experiential foundations.

We need to comment briefly on the dialogue between society and science. Science and society exist in a dialectical relationship. The findings of science have a profound effect on society; none of us have any doubts about that. But science is also a product of society, very much shaped by the cultural milieu within which it developed. Western science has the form it does because it developed within a culture placing unusual value on the ability to predict and control.

Research on perception, hypnosis, repression, selective attention, mental imagery, sleep and dreams, memory and memory retrieval, acculturation, etc. all suggests that the influence of the unconscious on how we experience ourselves and our environment may be far greater than is typically taken into account. Science itself has never been thoroughly re-assessed in the light of this recently discovered pervasive influence of the unconscious mind of the scientist. The contents and processes of the unconscious influence (individually and collectively) perceptions, “rational thinking,” openness to challenging evidence, ability to contemplate alternative conceptual frameworks and metaphors, scientific interests and disinterests, scientific judgment-all to an indeterminate extent. What is implied is that we must accept the presence of unconscious processes and contents, not as a minor perturbation, but as a potentially major factor in the construction of any society’s particular form of science.

The implications of research on consciousness go even further. They suggest interconnection at a level that has yet to be fully recognized by Western science, and throw into doubt the pervasive conception of a world dominated by competition. The ontological stance of the universe as holarchy appears to have great promise as the basis for an extended science in which consciousness-related phenomena are no longer anomalies, but keys to a deeper understanding; a science that transcends and includes the science we have. But the most important thing is not to accept a particular answer, but to open the dialogue about the metaphysical foundations of Western science.

In his Introduction to Metaphysics the eminent French philosopher Henri Bergson said of the “much-desired union of science and metaphysics” that it would “lead the positive sciences, properly so-called, to become conscious of their true scope, often far greater than they imagine.” The time may have arrived for realization of that dream.

Biography of Willis Harman

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