on humanism and environmental crisis

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Niche crisis, Part 2, ” Materialists and Idealists”

 

Materialists and Idealists

 

In the first part of this essay I made some bold hypotheses and ended up with outrageous promises.

I will repeat then: The niche crisis is in itself not a problem, it is just an inevitable result. Therefore to handle it we have to find the cause. I think that the cause, broadly speaking, is the cognitive dysfunction of our civilization. We can correct this, but in order to do that we need to start with the conversation, maybe even create a new language, new set of metaphors and mythology. This is part 2. 

Part 3 will start the conversation about the promises of the new beautiful world.

I thought that this cognitive dysfunction has to do with the eternal distinction between materialists and idealists. 

I checked a few philosophy texts, some psychology sources and of course: Google. It all left me befuddled. Nothing fitted the bill. 

  1. The philosophy was as always useless; neither early materialists like Democritus and Thales, or late like Marx and Engels were really materialistic, nor idealists like Plato or Hegel were helpful. The primordial sin of our civilization must be somewhere else. 
  2. If it is a sin, maybe the religion would do the trick? Oh, I don’t mean the trick they do with humanity for the last 50 000 years. I mean the elusive distinction of believers vs nonbelievers- i.e. idealists vs materialists. But, no, all of them, fundamentalists, atheists, humanists, all of them want to be good and all are greedy and all want their kids to be successful.
  3. Big psychology- Myer-Briggs tests and others- and folk psychology tell me : materialists are bad (that’s for sure) and unhappy.

-they give babies coca-cola instead of milk.

-they murder to steal money or nice jacket or even sneakers.

-their science is wrong: Newtonian, solid brick and mortar , not relativity and “observer’s Universe”.

– they are behind technology, corporations, gadgets and consumerism.

-among the believers, the materialists are the worst: literal scriptures, real and factual, sacred rights, holy wars and xenophobia.

So, idealists must be good: they live frugally, don’t eat meat, like theater and poetry, hiking, nature, meditation, praying and dancing.

 

Mahatma Gandhi, Princess Diana, Oprah and Albert Schweizer- 

We need to be like them, but we can’t , why?

All of these famous idealists were driven, obsessed by a humongous overwhelming ideas, usually not very happy, crazy overachievers, rather miserable “I will show them” people. 

We all good normal people cannot be like them, do we actually want our children to be like that?

The research shows that typical materialists and famous rich materialists were not so happy and if they were happy it was the idealist part of them which did it.  Like philanthropy of Rockefeller and Gates. And making material achievements a priority in life actually make self expression and good relationships more difficult.

So, we want our children (and ourselves) to be happy first. Then we have to find the way to be happy without hurting the planet.

These distinctions require thinking. Thinking and discussions and role-modeling.  It looks that it is not switching from materialist to idealist that is necessary- it  would be impossible anyway.

What is necessary and doable is noticing how indoctrinated we are by generations of automatic concepts of success, meaning of life and happiness. Well paying job, good house, fast car and a pretty woman. It is a very one sided picture of the American Dream, which is actually a dream of most of the people in the world.

And how did we get like that?  Evolution and ethology ou secours ! Animals are not materialists, their brains are full of behaviors( for the observer, like Jane Goodall watching her chimpanzees),for them ( say, chimpanzees) they are experiences. The trick is to avoid bad experiences like pain, hunger or fear and maximize good experiences- satiation, control, safety even belonging. Not much different than us, humans. Hominids, also hunter-gatherers, lived in more or less egalitarian societies, where the leader, usually male, possessed very little, except for mates. 

    50 to 10 thousand years ago communication became language. In our search for the origins of materialism, there was one moment that was pivotal. Animals and hominid’s “language” follow their world of experiences. It describes behaviors (experiences), even sometimes complex ones like bees dance, crows teaching children about bad people and butterflies astral navigation, still behaviors. And then, at the toddler stage of our civilization, something happened to humans. I said “toddler” because, as a pediatrician, I observed the same magic hundreds and hundreds of times. A 15 month old human infant is a pretty complex being. She can talk a little, but she understands a lot, she knows her surroundings, she even mastered the skill called “object permanence”. She knows pretty much how the world around  works, what is anger and fear and sadness, the hunger and the bliss of cuddling with mom. But, your dog or even a crow in your yard can do all of these. And then, out of blue, your child will point to the pineapple on the table: “What’s that , Daddy?”

And an abyss opened, a huge difference between humanity and all known sentient and artificial beings. Only humans can ask for the name of an object not related to any function or behavior.

 

   Interestingly, more or less at the same time we developed society with haves and have nots, and having was better, and the thing to have to be on the top were, well, things. What was first, naming objects or materialistic society? I don’t know, but what is important is that it happened recently, materialism is not in our genes. 

     We need another renaissance chapter in our civilization. With our technology and advances in knowing the human mind we can make a better renaissance than the original Italian One. A mixture of materialism, idealism, humanism and all what is needed to take care of this planet. We can do it, but it will take new conversation on being authentic, on working on one’s personal unique worldview and on creating unique , personal mythology. James P. Carse in the “The religious case against belief” argues for this conversation, for questioning. It is what the real religious people ( read: happy, authentic, mature) do- reject belief, use the paradigm and language of their religion just for one, but all important purpose – to question the world. To find the meaning, the worldview, the happiness. Well, not to find, to journey on finding it.

 

     This conversation, this work will lead to a new curriculum, more on that unknown black hole in Part 3.

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!

 

 

 

Writing it down

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

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:

  1. The Mother and the Child ( the life, the birth)- our Christmas or Winter Solstice Holiday.
  2. The Love for the family, the friendship and the happiness- our Thanksgiving Holidays
  3. The ancestors and the peaceful death (completion)- our All Saints Day
  4. Human suffering and life -our Easter or Spring Holidays.
  5. The Love for Nature and animals – our vegetarian Harvest Holidays.
  6. 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.

 

My worldview

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

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. What Question is missing?

 

What is the human nature?

Recommended cycle of study

   Making  of the modern sage.

   

   Recommended cycle of study:

                                       SELF

                           ->                          ->

          WORLDVIEW                                  COMPLEXITY

           ->                                                                  ->

INDIVIDUALITY                                                           EVOLUTION

     <-                                                                                 ->

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 .

Teleconference with Elizabeth Warren

For the teleconference with Elizabeth Warren, my question was:  “The opposition to the Trump’s agenda created an incredibly broad coalition. How would you characterize this coalition? What are we for and what against?”

 

The politicians are not philosophers, so I do not expect an answer. With the Mr. President help, the “against” part become clearer and clearer: my dream coalition is against the primitive survival behavior- against the power generated by fear and greed. In politics, it translates into rigid beliefs disregarding the facts, it is also xenophobia, racism, sexism, and entitlement.

The school bully is the poster child of this worldview; sulky, fearful and cruel.

This reminds me the story from the post-modernism: putting a urinal in the art exhibition helped with the question: what is beauty, what is art?

 

Now, what are we for I can describe in one word: humanism.

But in the US the image of a humanist is terrible: a weird, angry, ex- catholic or ex- Jew.

No, my concept of the humanist is close to a “renaissance man”, kind of mixture of Dalai Lama and Madonna, Homo historicus and homo ludi.

Deep in our human nature is curiosity, imagination, trying to understand, to figure out. This is fun!

Throughout our human evolution the religion, science, and philosophy were always one thing, they split only recently ( Chinese never completely split it.) Together with the art, they were the major forces of human advancement, they created metaphor, language, myths, and society.

The humanist is about the education, education, and education, forever.

This will give him or her a broad perspective and ability to participate joyfully in the culture we, together, created.  

Mr. Trump, you like deals, let’s make a deal.

Each time you, by your actions, exemplify what is primitive, fearful and cruel in the human nature, we show once more our human dignity, compassion, and unity. And we’ll get this joyful feeling that the humanity once again will handle the crisis in the way that’ll make our grandchildren and the grand grandchildren proud of us.

Deal?