on humanism and environmental crisis

Archive for October, 2013

My Thoughts on Worldview: 2013

People on Beach Doing Tai Chi

What is?

The world around me and me, my body, are made of matter. I experience this real world through the perception produced by my nervous system. When I think about the origins and the mechanisms by which this experience was produced the things become more interesting.

My worldview developed through my infancy,childhood and the adulthood, starting from the moment I was born. Very soon after the birth , the personal experience was augmented by sharing others’ experiences: initially mainly the mother’s, then the family, then many , many others. I think, that this distinction of personal and shared experience is extremely important, even if, except for early infancy, those two are mixed and intertwined. Only mine is real for me, yours is real for you, but yours or anybody else is not real for me. The real universe, my universe is 66 years old and it will die with me, with my body, my mind, my soul, my house, my country and my stars. The same with you and with every life form. Practically I live my life with personal and shared world completely mixed and treat it as more or less real, as  the social animals do. This experience of the reality is produced by our nervous system. To understand this production, this our experience of the universe, we will have to understand the workings of our nervous system. We need to understand how it handles the concept of outside of the body, inside of the body, its dealing with perception data of ourselves and data of others. Also, we need to understand its origins – I am talking about my nervous system- how similar is its structure and function – to yours, to apes, to fish or to bacteria. The instrument I have to do it with…..is the very nervous system , I am trying to understand. And this is boot -strapping par excellence. Unfortunately, the boot-strapping thinking is inherently an illusion of the insight or success- it is like meeting the mafia boss- there is always one above him you have not met…

I think, real  help comes from the analysis of the evolutionary process. Lets , briefly, look at some less obvious elements and consequences of this process  , relevant to the evolving of the nervous system and worldviews in animals and humans.

1. The tricks of the brain.

2. The evolution as a special case of the broader worldview.

3. The evolution is like an onion.

4. The evolution of the nervous system.

5. Integration of the entropy, complexity, time ,space and the kitchen sink. ( sorry, I meant ‘ consciousness )

6.The complexity engines

7. Subjectivity rules

8. The metaphor of the tapestry.

The tricks of the brain.

The other name for them is “counter- intuitive” . The intuition is the advice of your old brain, thousands or millions years old notions, the snakes are bad, the earth is flat, there is no limits of speed, the objective is solid, the subjective is wobbly etc, etc. These days we are bombarded by the surprises from the science, different cultures, life styles, and generations. We should have become immune to the trauma of the magic trick explained! The mixture of excitement, and annoyance and shaking the head.. It is just a matter of time: the roundness of the earth becomes slowly intuitive? When it comes to the worldview .. it is tough, we fight it. Well, my worldview is somewhat counter-intuitive..

The evolution as a special case of the broader worldview.

The evolution has to be seen as a special area of our understanding of the universe. There are no laws of evolution other then the special application of the broader laws of nature. The concept of “broader” is operative here. We discover new and new laws of nature, many of them are broader or inclusive rather than really new. It is like relativity  over newtonian physics, or the yungian concepts over freudian concepts. So, the hierarchy of laws and concepts is almost

all-deciding creator of the worldview. What is on the top, where do I start.

On the other hand : our brain is a master in shifting – the hierarchy , the dimensions- different in the work days and other ones for the weekend, also our brain is the master of keeping completely incompatible and self-contradicting partial worldviews in the same time with surprisingly little headache or nausea.

The evolution is like an onion.

During the “DNA” period of the evolution- circa 4 billions years ago to about 1 million yeas ago- the timing interplay between the changes in the organisms and the changes of its niche were very peculiar. The niche was relatively stable, so the new trait or behavior was “tested” for fitness advantage over many generation in unchanged niche- to stay or die out. That situation favored hugely small changes versus large and adding new function (duplications) versus  replacing functions. So, our body and brain and behavior and mind is build like onions – tiny changes from the archaic bacteria time added and added relentlessly, each coming from a successful animal, a winner, better adapted than the siblings, but very slightly , and only in one tiny area of functioning. Of course the slow changes in niche and the expansions into the new niches allowed for the diversity- there were many temporary winners, some onions were better than others…

 The evolution of the nervous system.

Many before me thought about our brain as an onion, so I think we are ready for the next step. I see complexity of my universe, with the science, philosophy, cultures and worldview being multiplied by complexity of my own mind and experience . I am overwhelmed and lost, and I am not only one. The anthropology and sociobiology attempt to use the laws of evolution to figure out the ways of our ancestors (and ours). We do not know their worldviews but we know that they, as us now, were trying to understand. Their instrument, the nervous system was not much different than ours, just fewer data. I imagine that their goals were much closer to survival than ours (except for academics-they have to publish or perish) but the process was the same. To navigate the world , they used the inherited structures and abilities and they were combining them with personal experiences, building their worldview from birth to death. When I think about more primitive animals, farther removed ancestors, I think about worldsense rather then worldview. All of them had perception systems, memory, the drive to survive and the abhorrence for death, all of them have a wolrdsense, a coherent system of neural circuitry which allows animal to make decisions, to act. Can we look at these simpler organisms and learn from the observations and experiments  about the basic mechanisms of of our nervous systems? We have to assume that there is no mechanisms which would have suddenly replaced their “primitive and animal-like” way of seeing the world into “our modern, advanced, true, human way”. Thus, the survival related perceptional skills/data, for example ”run from the shark” were encoded as the reality and/or law. The failures like” play with the shark” or “smell the shark” or” ignore things with fins” were never played, smelled or ignored again.

The integration

When I think about my worldview, as hard as I try to avoid it, my dimensions shift all the time. I am asking the question  about the objective world, and the answer comes back with the annoying appendage:”it is how I try to understand it” . It means that it is a personal experience trying to be objective. Subjectively I see the world with my nervous system and it works in time and in space. Remember the evolution of the nervous system: the  time and the space were the tools of the animal’s budding nervous system devised to describe behaviors. Time and the space were located within , or inside the dimension of consciousness( for the lowly ancestors we can use the term -”awareness”-if it make us feel superior). The principle of the objectivity tells you just the opposite, it is intuitive, it is what the animals were trained for eons, see the world as true, as objective so you can act and succeed- we live inside time and space, this is what 6 month old baby learns: the permanence of the objects. I guess it is the time to unlearn this like flatness of the earth.

For the longest time people noticed : every two moments differ that one is closer to birth- or ”earlier” the other is closer to the death -”later”. the observations of the closed system, the earlier moments had same or more energy/potential than later! On the other hand in the evolutionary thinking things have the tendency to improve/strengthen with time.

As we try to understand early universe, we see the place with minimal granularity, high energy, and low complexity. As we organize our observations(in the dimension of consciousness)  along the time, the entropy rises: with it the energy dissipates into matter, creates expanding space and increasing complexity.(the matter in our universe occurs in granular, uneven way and it occurs in space)

The Complexity engines

With time increasing and the amount of matter increasing the probability of creating the areas/moments of complexity increases. Then the entropy pushes them mercilessly back to chaos. When we look at these areas of higher complexity we  can discern special mechanism which might prevent loss of complexity. These “chaos busters” or “complexity engines(CE} “ work differently at each stage of universe history. Most primitive CE were just “dense “areas” with a lot of matter in small space ,also uneven distribution of energy helps differentiation of the matter( i.e. makes more likely to be more complex than the other area). The special cases of that process  would be stars and planet with “energy supplier’ and “energy receiver”. If some of energy receivers are also the “time receivers”, then probability , together with the relative niche stability, fosters complexity. The subatomic and inter atomic and intermolecular bonding forces are typical  CE’s. Then come all the stuff of the primordial soup: the sun, the lightnings, the tricarboxylic acid circle, the nucleotides zipping and unzipping, the bubbles of pre-membranes etc., etc.  Some of these complexity engines seem almost magical, pulling the rabbit out of the probability hat- like the planet with the right distance from the sun, right size, crust, density,  and more.. others are “no big deal” like electron, proton attraction, but I guess this is our perception only,  and everything what happened had probability of 1. It is just how we try to understand it…

Subjectivity rules

As I am approaching the question about my vision of the universe the strange feeling overwhelms me. Its tenderness and warmth and awe directed towards us humans and our ancestors. This the paradox: the more magnificent and heroic are human attempts to understand the universe, the more the answers make him small, irrelevant and peripheral! The size and the ambition of his ideas make him divine, but the results of these investigations turn him to dust. What I see is a real world. But I know that it is made of the ancient descriptions of ancient behaviors of bacteria and fish and cave man all piled up and adorned with bells and whistles of our culture. My mind immediately responds:  so, where is the real world our ancestors were reacting to , with these behaviors? There is none. Remember: it is subjectivity, trying to be objective. This illusory “real world” for which we have no senses , no instrument to investigate, never needed one, never asked for one, has all attributes of god. We live inside him, his children, he knows all, has all mercy and the omnipotence.

Remember a strange feeling of being followed? you have three options: first, like most of us: you are not sure, (evolutionary!)- “probably nothing”, but from time to time you suddenly jerk your head- “nobody”-you shake your head and go do laundry. The life goes on.  Clinically this is the chronic anxiety. Spiritually , there are most of the believers. Second option is for the wise and strong guys: “a trick of the brain” ,”pretty common” they say, and they never flinch. Clinically this is the sanity, spiritually- atheism. The third option- make the predator real, his voice, his menace- clinically this is the psychosis, spiritually- fundamentalism.
The metaphor of the tapestry.

In summary: do not be mad, be glad about the tricks of your brain. Enjoy and celebrate paradoxes. Understand that the only worldview is subjective, but act as it would be objective reality. So do not expect dragons, stories, gods and aliens to be really real, but pray and love hard.

My image of the universe is five-dimensional. Our brain works intuitively with images and the metaphors containing geometry and the tridimensional space concepts ( the world in the grain of sand,  the turtle over the turtle, multiverses or string theory) .We are much more awkward and slow (filo- and ontogenetically) with time and consciousness- the other two dimensions.

My image of the universe includes an observer, or the bunch of them , or… all of them, living in or looking at the sort of canvas or a tapestry. On the top it looks like our world, underneath you can see that it is made of mathematical equations or an other form of the information. Accordingly, remembering what is underneath,  the appearance on the top changes with the observer’s intention, capacity or wisdom. The changes involve shifting of dimensions. For us humans (the homo historicus), the universe , as our life, is organized along the dimension of time. As we are using our ancestors’ ancestors brains , we can observe the parade of dimensions as we go from birth to death, from the birth of nervous system in bacteria to  the consciously evolved post-human specia, and from the early universe to the end of it. Close to the observer the image is sharp, all dimensions at his disposal work great. The bacteria knows almost only the distance- one dimension only- the sober human – all five. The further away you look the picture will be dimmer- unevenly though- some animals and humans have some special ability- the bat into the land of ultrasounds and astrophysicists in radio-waves, and the pediatrician can empathize with the newborn. But nobody should be worried about  the edges . They are too far, not real,  but foremost not true.

Unlike the guy in 14th century picture sticking head through the canopy of stars, we worry about only two edges of the “tapestry”- early universe and THE END…

The further from the observer and closer to the edge the situation on the top become similar to the underneath. At the beginning the endless energy, without any complexity, make the concepts of time and space mute and our limits can be seen both by mathematics and physics. At the other extreme we can dream of maximal complexity created by each of us being able to be conscious of all the universe and being able to share it with the rest. There would be no need for energy with nothing more to do, nowhere to hurry.

What ought to be?

My axiology- the theory of values and the praxeology -”how to act”- are pretty simple, obvious and uncontroversial.

The intelligence- figuring things out- personally and evolutionary is the job number one.

Everything else, other values,  follow logically- the wisdom, the cooperation, the empathy and the beauty.

It doesn’t take rocket scientist to see that we are alone on our heroic and beautiful earth. Yes, we are in the center of the universe , and there is the trend. Going with the trend sooner or later will make me satisfied – in peace, happy or fulfilled- going against the trend , probably not so.

No chance for help from gods or aliens, no excuse that “we are insignificant speckle”, no hope in previous or future lives.

You have free will, you live on the top of the “canvas,”( see part I) and it is all what counts.

The information underneath (in my leviathanish metaphor for the Universe, the underbelly was made of the mathematical equations )do not mean” everything has already happened”, this would be the determinism , which occurs in time- an excuse for the lazy or fearful. The information or equations “underneath” is a metaphor and, again, metaphorically means “ everything is happening now”.

Therefore we are witnesses, actors and the originators of this exciting, magnificent complexity march. With the social and environmental doom looming,  we need to get together our wits and possibly squeeze away rapidly through the perils of probability, as it happened before and will happen again. Remember these few rag-clad bands of hominids escaping the drying and overheating Africa?


Again, if you swallowed my schizoid  “what is” , you’d sail happily trough subjective knowledge, trying to be and acting -justly- as if it was objective. In my thinking I find useful the division of the worldview’s content into – personal experience and shared experience. The personal experience is- structured consistently and identically since early life forms around the description of behavior beneficial for survival, with the perception, memory, interpretation and the behavior itself getting more complex with the evolutionary progress. The social animals developed incredible evolutionary tool, multiplying adaptability and diversity by the ability of the exchange of information between other mostly same species animals. The worldsense of the social animal consists of it’s personal experience -( the data inherited from all the tiny evolutionary steps of the ancestors and the  personal development since birth) augmented by data shared with other animals’ sharable part of it’s worldsense/worldview.

. All these sources are jumbled together, as all work the best as “objective truth”  rather then positioned as a constellation of more or less probable hypotheses.  I mean until recently, until human found beneficial for the survival to find the truth. Like with many other areas of the human quest, to understand his folly, we need to go back and unscramble these sources of knowledge..Evo-devo ,child development research and primatology help with that.


In the beginning was the word. “I love you” said between my Mom and Dad. Sounds cheezy but in my daily meditation I think about the gratitude toward them. And towards other people who gave me so much. When I am worried about my kids or other loved ones I pray to God. Which? Some kind of mixture of Catholic upbringing with recent involvement with Buddhism. The Heart God, my Guardian Angel. Sometimes it is (when things are not so serious) Medicine Buddha all Lapis Lazuli Blue with the strange oriental face. I believe this is next for humanity- befriend the stranger, go beyond  relationship with family, nation, religion, race, beyond fear or charity – with the stranger you share only consciousness, nothing else.  There is no small chat about the soccer or the weather, just he or she is as you are, and what shall we say to each other?