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.
A New Republic of the Heart: Because its center is everywhere and
its circumference is nowhere, wholeness cannot be pointed to. It has no particular location, because it is not “other” than anything. But if it is anywhere, it is here, at the very center of each “when” and each “where.” The wisdom of the center of the being reflects the character of the whole. And we intuit its intelligence at the heart.” – Terry Patten.
I think we, humans and other beings on Earth, are in the center of the Universe. We are in the center of our Universe and this is the only Universe that exists. It is important to ponder this as if it is really so, it brings a lot of the responsibility to us, humans, as the squirrels and dolphins , as pretty and smart they are, they won’t help much.
As a philosopher, I think that the solution for the present pickle will come from the maturing of the human mind rather than from more successes in the technology. As would Einstein put it -“no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
An idea that we are in the center of the Universe seems like the fine place to start from! The argument usually involves astronomy and physics . The theologians, after the setbacks handed by Copernicus, Darwin and raging capitalism are trying to side with science to regain some respectability. They are conspicuously absent from the fry.
But I am a pediatrician, for Goodness Sake!
Well, for the last 50 years I was playing with babies. I was watching them, talked to them and studied their development. I was studied the similarities and the differences in their thinking and feeling as compared to primates and other simpler animals. And the idea of us being the center of the Universe came straight from the evolutionary neuroscience and developmental pediatrics.
Every animal’s brain evolved to fine tune this animal’s behavior in given environment. To perceive, to see, to understand, to adapt, this for an animal is the same thing. It is what an animal does, without splitting it into categories. The animal’s world (Nagel’s “What it is like to be a bat” will not tell you much…) is very different that mine and yours. It is not subjective and it is not objective- there is no self to make this distinction. It is obviously dependent on the observer (the animal itself), made by the animal’s peculiar, primitive perception and memory, but it is out there. Birds’ migration shows that they can coordinate complex actions, but the sharing is automatic, not via intentional communications. So, the animal’s world is outside, around the each animal, built mostly over the eons of the evolutionary time, with just a little of it built during the life of the animal- to allow for diversity beneficial for the species survival, the world of behaviors. Even if the evolution created homo sapiens with the vastly improved brain, the communications ability, and thinking skills, each of us still builds his or hers personal world, with the Universe getting bigger and bigger around us. So, again, an young infant, with minimal activity of cortex, the human baby has the world out there, instinctual and emotional. But, unlike the animals, human infant rapidly activates upper limbic centers and prefrontal cortexes. The rich social communications add to the world of behaviors two new worlds: the world of language and the world of things. The world of behaviors enables the world of language, the world of language enables the world of things, but there is a huge difference between the first and the last two of them. The world of behaviors (shared with the animals) surrounds each baby, (each animal ) making, her own Universe (Umwelt) but the worlds of language and things are shared with other human beings, they feel like floating outside and independent of us! This transition happens around 6 to 9 month of age in infants, this make them cranky and confused, they can’t sleep, suddenly clinging to mom. Psychologists call this the development of the object permanence, I call it losing of the object impermanence, or even better – entering from My Universe into the strange Universe which is Nobody’s- it is just there.
Now imagine 7 billion personal worlds all mingled, shared, interconnected. Then add 14 billions of the mom’s and dad’s worlds which were the base of the each of our personal worlds, add all the ancestors’ worlds, further and further back in time. All sentient beings contributed to the process of building subsequent generations of personal worlds.
Space, time and other dimensions are products of this complex masterpiece. The main function of the evolving animal’s nervous system is to create understanding, in other words -the cognition (the way for control). And this works through categorizing, naming, creating semantic shortcuts, the metaphors.
According to the Gaia hypothesis, kind of similar to my philosophy, the interconnected sentient beings create super intelligence, like interconnected neurons and dendrites, create the conscious brain. To me, these connections between humans are mostly related to ancestors via genes and culture via instincts and the core of human nature. These connections make possible for each of us to become conscious and create a meaningful world.
During the last 80 years, science and philosophy are grappling with the explanation of the observed vs observer dilemma. From Bohr and Einstein to Maturana and Varela and Thompson , the concept of observer-built reality is gaining ground. See also Archibald John Wheeler’s Participatory Universe and Anthropic principle debates.
And, of course, about 100 000 years ago, the culture and the technology for the practical reasons developed “the agreement universe” so we could hunt the mastodon or build the bridge or a spaceship. The other names for this are “nobody’s universe” or “reality”.
My world which is interconnected with 7 billions of “you’s” and it was built by our ancestors and the ancestors of ancestors down to the beginning of life..
You are in the exactly same situation, these are all assets we have, and if we are not extremely careful, we are going to blow them out in the nuclear holocaust. Or starve slowly, take your pick.
After the last human dies, a computer in some deep bunker will still continue to churn out data revealing new “discovery” based on Cosmic Microwave Background measurements.
But it will be no CMB, this term will become completely meaningless. And it will not matter whether the report is in English, Arabic or Chinese. If there is nobody to read it, there is no CMB, period.
Really, see- “micro” means nothing, “wave” means nothing, “back” means nothing – there is no front so can not be back, there is no “ground” and no “cosmic”.
OK, you say “ let’s continue this story, and in a million years, the aliens discover this planet and this computer printout”… Not so fast: you can not discover anything if there is no concept of “discovery”. There are no years if there is no spring and winter, and if nobody is born and dies , the time is meaningless and useless. Without the human, there is even no story.
Yes. We are the center of the Universe.
We are the only observers of the world. Naturally the world is fine tuned for humans (the Anthropic Problem) if they invented the measurements accordingly. And while animals’ world of behaviors occurs in time and space, only the humans with their worlds of language and things named them and are aware of them. We also invented the science that tells us, that we live as a tiny, insignificant specs, on the small planet, on the periphery of the remote galaxy, with the huge, cold, unknown cosmos around us. Some scientists are trying to cheers us up, like Primack and Abrams in “The view from the center of the Universe” and Tom Yulsman in “Origins”. They made it worse, their wishy -washy argument and wishful thinking goes from reassurance that our size is just right (sic!) to the hope that future science will alleviate our wretchedness to stating that the Universe does not have the center, therefore we can not be off it.
But while the scientists still ( and will forever ) argue, this should not make us feel like the insignificant specs, excused to be helpless and small, waiting for the creator to help us, please!
We are at the center of human experience, as we are building personal and interconnected worlds, the Universe consists of. We are responsible for it and every of us 7 billion, matters.
Writing it down
In The Republic, the utopian society created by Plato is supposed to eliminate poets. The poetry represented the oral culture, the social communication system where the messages were bound to the messenger and the social function. Plato ideas opened road to the one of the biggest inventions of the mankind : the literacy. The poets were the symbol of oral culture, subjective, emotional, community based. By introducing the ideas of literacy , Plato’s new society was supposed to be more objective, analytic, individuality based. What followed was the birth of Information, the message which is the thing, can be stored, interpreted, modified and multiplied.
Well, this has been happening over last 3000 years, a blink of the eye in the evolutionary time.
It is why we live in the world of information ( and dis -information), but we still think the way the caveman did.
Everything you know about yourself, your all mental structures, the values and purposes live in your world as if the literacy revolution would have not happened. The memories, the worries, the opinion are all in the oral or even pre-linguistic form.
It is why the working on the writing down your personal worldview is so awkward, difficult and “unnatural” but also so important. Your personal worldview is truly transformative work, you will change how you think about yourself but even more importantly how you live in society.
And if following the celebrities many people will do it, the world would become more rational and thoughtful- more mature.
My 2018 Humanist Manifesto
There is confusion and no consensus regarding who we are.
We are good people concerned with dire problem of humanity and trusting human nature being up to handle them.
We are responsible for this planet and to save it we have to stop fighting and put all our minds and hearts into the survival of our species and our environment.
The old “liberty, equality and fraternity” will lead to cooperation and democratic societies. The diversity is the base of our strength, not a reason to fight. These include nationalities ,religions, ethnic minorities, life styles, sexes, skin colors, education, wealth and worldviews.
We humanists explore human’s three major strengths – our hope against terrible odds of societal regression and extinction .
1. We have the ability to communicate, share our knowledge, love, empathy, and suffering.
2. We use the wisdom and achievements of the past, the mythology and science, to handle the problems of the present.(homo historicus)
3. We are curious, imaginative and intelligent with the passion for the success and happiness
We trust wisdom of religions but we distrust the magic part of religions.
We trust technology of science but we distrust materialistic philosophy of many scientists.
We trust evolution and progress but we distrust modern culture of material greed and violence.
We believe that all these principles are consistent with evolutionary built human nature, its intellectual, emotional and social characteristics.
We cherish beauty, art, music, humor and critical thinking – teaching them to our children is our main goal.
We believe in transcendent and sacred:
- The Mother and the Child ( the life, the birth)- our Christmas or Winter Solstice Holiday.
- The Love for the family, the friendship and the happiness- our Thanksgiving Holidays
- The ancestors and the peaceful death (completion)- our All Saints Day
- Human suffering and life -our Easter or Spring Holidays.
- The Love for Nature and animals – our vegetarian Harvest Holidays.
- The love for democracy, equality and societal transcendent bond- our Independence Holiday
These are the examples coming from the european, christian traditions, and while for muslim, jewish, african and asian people the names and dates will change – the sacred will remain.
If you too hold these part of human culture sacred, if you share these values -you are a humanist.
Notes and explanation from an evolutionary humanist.
You may replace the term “sacred” with the “important” but then the question arises “how important”. I like the term sacred because it emphasize the fact that we are idealists and we not afraid of concept and values that we can not fully understand or explain. These values are from the evolutionary perspective older than the concepts of personalised deity as animal, the sun, the omnipotent person. The confirmation of that sequence comes from anthropology, mythology, eastern philosophies and the interfaith movements.
How much are we ready to fight and sacrifice for these values? It differs from person to person but we should never be violent or should the conflict dehumanise the opponent.
We also cringe in front of the concepts of “savior”, “creator” and “fatherland” as they, in our opinion, decrease the chances for saving our species and to create a peaceful and happy world.
We observe this world and as observers it feels that we are the most complex system, but any other observer, like a whale or a squirrel would have the same feeling (without language and self reflection). On the other hand the concept of complexity is pure human invention, so even without language this comparison doesn’t make sense.( the same with the concepts of intelligence, magnificence, power or wisdom).
The concept of intelligence in our understanding is related to the complexity of logical networks -biological or artificial. The artificial intelligence is still the human intelligence, no matter how much self learning it can accomplish unless we’d learn how to teach robots of the depth of our evolutionary past or the subconsciousness. The non-human intelligence to develop would have to repeat exactly eons of earth environment changes, the niches twists and turns and consequently repeat the exact our pattern of the evolution which seems impossible. These concepts are species specific, Umwelt -specific. It is why breeding is so rare across the species. And in traditional human societies the cousins are the best mates , “the closest to share my world”.
I think that this concept of humanism works the best with the evolutionary theory and the theory of the evolutionary reality.
As I am embarking on the task of teaching how to write your worldview, I thought I need to publish my own. The answers to the unanswerable questions are short, like at the Philozophy.com. In that way they can serve as a brief note to yourself, a reminder. It is also easier to compare them with others and to discuss them. Here you are:
1.How did the Universe begin?
My Universe began with my conception. As I am learning from others and my experiences, my world shifts, gets bigger and more complex. Where my understanding ends, on that edge, reversing the arrow of time, there and then the Universe begins
- What is the Universe made of?
My Universe is built from my birth with my instincts, my experiences and the experiences of other people I learned from. It is also solid and real. Maybe there is a Nobody’s Universe, independent of our personal worlds, but I doubt it.
- What is the origin of good?
Eusocial hominids, using mirror neurons, created and genetically encoded altruism and friendship. Surviving evolved into the drive to cooperate and to understand. The wisdom -understanding- translates socially into good, true and beautiful
4.What is the origin of evil?
Survival instincts and natural selection. We supposed to grow up and transform fear and greed of the caveman into the understanding and wisdom. I guess, we need to work harder on that. Tempus fugit.
- Is there free will?
As I have built my world, I am responsible for it and for my actions, even if sometimes I don’t know what I am doing. I feel that I have many freedoms, but in the same time I realize that I am a part of the cosmic interdependent web of causality.
- What is the nature of the mind?
The Mind is a cluster of functions of the brain. Thinking and feeling create my experience while consciousness, memory, attention make possible of me being aware of the performing these very functions. It is a concept, like a joy or pain.
- How do you find happiness?
With effort and intention of love, curiosity and gratitude, the results exceed expectations. It is transient, subjective and trainable. Practice to become happiable- ready for happiness.
- How do you find truth?
Truth is relative and mythic. It is what has been working for long time and for many people as a human nature and it is civilization dependent. So, I am trying to find wise books and wise friends to trust and then to ask.
- What is the meaning of life?
Being curious, doing good and having fun. It is how I am trying to do projects bigger than me. Working with people makes it meaningful and significant and beautiful.
- What is the role of evolution?
The evolution is probably the most important algorithm human invented to understand the world. It tries to explain how simple organisms evolved in Time and how the level of entropy and complexity can be so uneven across all dimensions.
- What happens after death?
I will live in others. If one does good for the reward after death, one will not be rewarded, if one does good to avoid punishment, that is one’s punishment. The judgement? It occurs inside our heads. Immortality? Sure, what you sow, you reap.
- Who or What is God?
The animal and then human intelligences were built through the process of the evolution. It is an awesome system, which we are trying to understand, often heroic and Divine. Gods are the parts of human mythology, therefore a part of human nature.
- What is going to happen to humankind?
Miraculously we will understand our unity, stop fighting, stop overpopulating, stop wasting resources. We will see our relatedness as Love and Friendship between us. Only then we will build a better world. A piece of cake but we need to hurry.
- What Question is missing?
What is the human nature?
I am interested in human intelligence as it evolved from the animal intelligence. What are our abilities and our constraints? Looking into the past, into the nature of our world, who did what? Which part is done by animals: colors, for sure? Fear and pleasure, certainly? But reality??
The brain of mammals, our ancestors, is huge, compared with other animals, and is mostly consisting of neurons handling sensory perceptions and the interpretation of the perceptions in the view of survival/ adaptation benefits. Attached to this behemoth are the ganglia ( we call them “old brain” but for the mammal, they are actually new), the neural centers responsible for the emotions. The animal “tries” to figure out constantly what is going on and if so, what to do. When a lion attacks, the sensory data combine with behavior menu and emotional impulses like fear and hunger. We associate these actions, like emotions or feelings with the events going on inside us, in the head, in the chest, or heart, but with the animals, they are obviously ” out there”, as a part of the animal’s environment.
So, animal brain creates real world with the brain which works on instincts and emotions? This does not make any sense. How that type of the brain can create solid objects, trees, antelopes etc. Also, to confuse things even more, we think about the emotions and feelings as subjective, but subjective is related to reflective thinking and the robust self, while the animals just do not have the necessary brain structures (or minimal).
It looks like the split between subjective and objective is the part of the development of the human mind, and therefore is artificial. What’s worse that the new, invented part is an objective part.
Well, let’s put some order into this mess, an upside down order that is. When we build, as infants, our world around us we do not develop the “permanence of the objects”. We develop the world of impermanence. It is the world which we call the subjectivity, the one which changes, it resides in our “mind” or even “heart”, it is related to the development of self and reflective thinking. The brain we use to develop this new human quality is the newest part of the brain- prefrontal areas, verbal areas, the empathic brain. Animals do not have it, or have very little of it.
On the other hand, young human infant’s brain is like animal’s: literal, permanent and real. It has no good feel for time- this comes much later. Her world occurs outside, feels objective and real and its complexity depends on the complexity of the animal (or the age- level of the development of the infant.) For the low complexity organisms even if feels real- the only world they have- it is very different than our reality.
The concept of dimensions, for example, develops one by one ( a simple bacteria detecting ony concentration of the chemical, i.e. distance, i.e. one dimension, E.coli can orient itself and has buding of tri-dimensional sensory). These realities, “Umwelts” (Uexküll) consist of gradually increasing number of elements and interactions and are built for survival, that is the organism’s niche. ( the idea that the world and the niche is the same deserves separate attention, no?- not I and thou but I and my niche!)
It seems that the objective world is just the evolutionary construct of the subjective experiences of our ancestors. As their ability to socialize and communicate increased they built something more sophisticated than bee’s beehive: the whole virtual shared world, our objectivity. How far back this construct reaches? It reaches further and further back, as our understanding broadens, our science reaches deeper into cosmos and time and consciousness.
Our objective world is shared with the member of the species. Our sharing is vastly superior than animal’s world because of social connections via language and culture. Animals sharing is limited to social adaptive traits. So the lion and antelope do not see the same tree, even two antelopes see only as much of a “tree” as evolutionary minimally necessary.
This, when you think about it, puts all reality concepts upside-down and the consequences are mindblowing.
Making of the modern sage.
Recommended cycle of study:
HUMANISM EVOLUTION OF NERVOUS SYSTEM
HUMAN NATURE <- SOCIAL ANIMALS
The transition from studying self (like, growing up) to the concept of complexity is the most difficult and revolutionary.
It is like a deep, narrow, rocky canyon filled with the cacti of self doubt. And at the bottom run wild rivers of cosmology, neuroscience, epistemology and ontology.
Some trying to hang the bridge of second order cybernetics, some-recently- bring predictive coding -bloody sheets of phenomenology and neo-Kantian tied end to end.
I am offering my own bridge : the theory of evolutionary reality.
But, when you get to complexity- further steps roll smoothly and naturally.
You can actually stick with studying complexity and treat all the step as the examples of increasing complexity.
Everybody writes about the human nature but it remains a nebulous subject ( like: who? me??)
You do not need individuality to have a worldview, everybody has one or more, but I mean, working on the explicit worldview.
“Accidentally” – no, not accidentally at all, the level of explicitness of communication follows the same circle of progression.
Some steps will be your favorites, some – slippery and yucky like pickled okra, but if you miss one step you inevitably will get stuck, the chi of wisdom needs to flow, not spurt like a broken fossett.
Of course when you get back to “self” – good luck- we need to start again .