on humanism and environmental crisis

Archive for December, 2019

Open letter to all humanists.

This is an open letter to all humanists and this is a great majority of all humans. Most of them do not realize that they are humanists. I want to bring this fact to the open : the King is Naked! The term and the meaning of humanism has been hijacked. Most of us are rational, educated and concerned with human problems( including personal, family and tribe problems). But many of us are still working on the childhood fears of the unknown. We think that if we stick to material, scientific or scriptural, “factual” Universe – we will be safe and if we manage to suppress and deny the unknown- we would win.

It is why in my town of Chattanooga, Tennessee,  a group of 20 or 30 ex-baptists or ex-catholics (like me) huddle every month for the Humanist Assembly meeting. It is how we try to handle the fear of the unknown. Next door in hundreds of churches, few synagogues and mosques hundreds of thousands faithfuls respond to this group by desperate or happy clinging to the religious way to handle the unknown.

The more we resist, the more they persist. But we are the species created by evolution! Like in every species, handling unknown is an essential part of survival. Every stupid animal knows it. Cavemen knew it, medieval men knew it-see all these cathedrals- the renaissance men knew it- read Shakespeare!  The imagination, the art, the poetry and the divine- they are all part of the unknown and of the beautiful and awesome human nature, human myth. Also the competition, arrogance, naivety and cruelty – you pick, literally.

The origin of species was described 250 years ago, but it is not in our bones yet, not in our deep, deep worldview.

Get it! Celebrate the unity of man, his creativity and achievements. Not a second too early. Stop fighting! Instead, try to understand and work together on our fears, on the fears of each of us. The ship is sinking (remember The Tempest?), we are the last hominids remaining. Our ancestors survived  several threats of extinction and almost extinction. The scientism like religions make us tiny, helpless, divided and..wrong. The evolutionary thinking shows clearly how over millions of years we created and named all we can see. We can, this time not by luck, but by reason, duck, sneak out and survive again.

Humanists of the world unite!

 

 

 

Deep origins of humans, reading E.O.Wilson

I am reading “Genesis” by E.O. Wilson. I love him for the last forty years since I read “Sociobiology”one of the first books in English , while working in The Gambia and learning about the West. Then ” Consilience” and then “On Human Nature”- he is the closest to the mentor- virtual mentor- I never had a “real” one.

Now, putting together my notes, (I have actually finished the book), I see this text in triplicate. I see Wilson’s problem, similar to modern human’s problem, similar to evolutionary trick which created homo sapiens.

Wilson knows more than any human I know, mostly about ants and other insects, some about other animals, and humans. But he is a hard nose materialist, scientist numb and deaf  to the language of unknown.

The same with modern humans, we forgot how to evolutionary benefit from two languages we have learn, one- the language of science, Newtonian logic, materialism and money. Other – the language of divine, poetry, love and empathy. To survive we have to combine both, tertium non datur.

It was the trick which created us, we have to use it again to survive.

The insight came in two steps. First i was reading about  ants , wasp ant termites ( the cousins of cockroaches!) They built eusociality, incredible empires with the intricate system of members programmed to forgo own benefits for the mother queen. These were genetic traits, they strengthened the colony expressed by members instinct and  pheromones and neurotransmitters. But at what a cost !- the cost of rarity- the more formidable these societies are – the fewer of them exist. And this is the evolutionary  no- no, the dead end. With rarity you have no chances for diversity- thats it, finito.

My old concepts of mechanisms of evolution helped me with the second step.

 

The evolution works  via diversity, complexity and the third element, how to call it? – biomass?  or sheer number of organisms, amount of energy absorbed. All three interrelated, all increase the chances of species survival.

The diversity- a major genetic system is preserved at the expense of he minor variations (skin color) producing phenotypes still interbreeding but improving species niche, energy intake.

The complexity- A. the quality of the description of the behavior to be encoded or remembered. the quality of organism’s Umwelt, the system of senses, memories and feelings- it is what we call- outside World.

B.  sociality, system of competition versus cooperation, group selection, the texture of relationships, altruistic group beats selfish group (  David Sloane Wilson)- working for some ants, wasps bees, termites and hominids.

The number, size of the niche, biomass- balances the cost of above elements increases the chances of rare and difficult things to occur.  More often than not it fails and species is extinct, despite being the “good prospects”- the Neanderthals, the dinosaurs, the whales ( almost extinct).

Each route , as we see is expensive, so wouldn’t be just peachy to combine all?

Quite a few systems combines  3 of 4 ways to survive, but the problem was that the tools for complexity- A. and B. -they compete.  A uses vision, sound, ultrasound to describe Umwelt, B. uses chemicals (pheromones), neurotransmitters , electricity- (chakras??) and other senses- smell, and touch. Evolutionary dead end.

Only humans  developed system of combining all 4 elements within one noncompeting but self enhancing system.

It happens when the description of the Umwelt  (A) had to include the description of the elements of (B) eusociality.  Unidirectional communications – orders, warnings, grooming, dominance, even stories did not need to use so much of the “shortcuts” or “grammar”. The Theory of Mind- sure, animals have it, your dog knows  well what you think, but when the toddler tells his friend: “you do it” and the friend answers , “no, you do it”, this is language.

Only when the mother started to teach this ( above) more and more complicated material to  older and older infant the switch occurred. The infant responded IN LANGUAGE, the oxitocin, the love, however you call it, precluded her from ignoring the invention of the communications reciprocity, the relationship did it, and the rest is  history.

To repeat, there is the chance, small chance, in our dwindling niche, for us not to ignore similar situation. To survive (again, remember last 10 000 sapiens leaving Africa?) we need to combine the language of the Umwelt  description, science, materialism with the language of eusociality –  unknown (poetry or spirituality), experience,  empathy.

 

 

 

 

Niche crisis

Niche crisis

 

This species is on the brink of extinction. Each species survival relays on the quality of its niche. The resilience of the species depends on ability to adapt to environmental changes. The organisms, members of a species, use energy to build size of the niche , diversity and complexity. 

 Human’s niche is shrinking , diversity is dwindling and the complexity is built to drive these processes  instead of protecting niche and diversity. Quality of life is rapidly decreasing: people are frightened, worried, angry, impoverished physically, emotionally and intellectually.

  This happened before to many other species and they were extinct, including all six species of earlier humans.

  But only our species can observe this happening. 

Can we use this unique fact to  reverse the trend?

 

I will never know, my children might, my grandchildren will know for sure.

 

To survive we need stop fighting- we need to conquer out tribalism, nationalism and religious divides.

 

To survive we need recognise our unity as a species, as a group of fellow travellers on the same leaking boat, develop friendships, admiration to each other and learn how to cooperate.

 

To survive we have to quit being materialistic, learn ourselves   and teach our children from the crib to cherish and be happy with experiences not with things, 

 

To survive we need to shrink our world population and our economies, develop new education system with emphasis on humanities, art, music , theater and philosophy.

Earth Charter

Ecohumanist Lab officially endorses Earth Charter. Everybody should too, we are a sinking ship and we have to unite under the guidance of UN and science to save this wonderful but still foolish species of Homo Sapiens.