on humanism and environmental crisis

Posts tagged ‘science’

Be the best?

Be the best?


Because of the niche crisis, I am thinking and writing a lot about materialism, its origin, and its effect on humanity.


I am obsessed with the notion that shifting dimensions is something very important in our thinking. Nolens volens American democrats (and I as one of them) were forced to do just that. 

From climate and health care suddenly COVID pandemic was all-important: and now- race.

The ability to shift dimensions is crucial for wise judgment. It is an element of critical thinking, there is no creativity without shifting dimensions. To do it you use imagination, historical, and global perspective. 

 In racism a doctrine selects a group of people, declares them inferior and then other people can use it for brutal advantage, sometimes for generations and generations. And a systemic injustice can persist because the critical thinking, shifting dimension, and perspective are so rare. 

  It is also difficult, requiring effort and training. 

And here the materialism comes back like an old stew. Living and thinking in the world of things offer incredible advantages. Modern school with an emphasis on technology and science is famously one dimensional. Auto mechanics and computer technology don’t require fluency in classical Greek. Actually, it is difficult to think where would you use this skill- still standard in European high school 100 years ago.

One dimensional thinking gives quick and high profit while fosters consumerism and inequality and racism. And it is a hallmark of free-market capitalism- profit is everything.

Fortunately, it is not in our genes, it started only 50, 000 years ago. Like poor people are not stupid- only taught to be poor for several generations, the same – CEOs and financial sharks are not bad and greedy- only taught for several generations to be the best you can be- measured by one dimension- your account. Neither group is happy- so the reversal is possible but it would take one or two generations. If we start now.

What is an alternative to materialism?

Evolutionary, before the invention of material culture and the language of material things- whichever came first- the world of primitive hominids, like animals, was populated with the more or less sophisticated descriptions of behaviors. Now, with our prodigious brains, we call it experiences. We can not completely eliminate material culture, but we can create a world where experiences are valued high and they, not things define the richness and qualities of our lives.

If you share a pie the more you take, the less is left for others. It is where we are. But if you share a beautiful sunset, the more you share, the richer and more fantastic is the experience. It is where we need to be. The experience, unlike the gadget you owe, depends on your input, your relationship you are in, your mood, your knowledge, and your imagination. It makes it difficult but it makes you really happy, content and peaceful. Makes your life examined and your children smiling. It is when you are the best- the quality of experience determines it.


And one more thing. It is sustainable, the switch would give us a glimmer of a chance of survival as a species.

Because our share of the pie is dwindling and it will continue to.

I know, we need a whole new conversation, the measuring system, a new language, institutions, and industries…the parents teaching love and relationships, the schools teaching critical thinking and multidimensional thinking. Teaching art, poetry music, and literature.

And who will do it, where is this broad coalition of courageous and hopeful people?

We are in the center of the Universe



          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 behavior that benefits an organism’s evolution has to be communicated and encoded.  The speed of the evolution is uneven. The traits/ behaviors which relay on body changes are slow, but the ones relaying on communication are fast.  The more complex, the  smarter you get, the faster  you get even smarter. Your brain is  better, your society is more complex, you communicate faster.  Your brain, your synapses evolving on the neck-break speed starting to get shortcuts. When you start communicating with shortcuts, these are words. So you start to relay  on them, there is more and more to teach an infant, which become smarter and smarter.  Soon they become speakers, for these exchanges you need  grammar and then language. So these communications which started with the simple descriptions of a beneficial behavior (swim towards warmth) now name actions, feelings, reasons and most amazing – THINGS. We teach infants these words and they see them as independant of communication , independent from language.

      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.


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.


Big Question #10: What is the role of evolution?

Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another. Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own intelligence! This is, therefore, the motto of the enlightenment…

 Immanuel KantAn Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?

“We are what we are, we see what we see, and we know what we know, because of the evolution and according to the evolution.  Any scientific or philosophical discussion ignoring evolution is naive and lame. ” -Me

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • Why things change?
  • Is there a trend?
  • Is there a purpose?
  • Can human mind evolve?
  • Is the history, the civilization, the Universe in its nature linear or circular?
  • How is this question relevant to our everyday life?

(It is not, you can live happily without being bothered by the idea of the evolution.)

How to work on the answer to Question #10

That is the only Big Question, which is not the part of the classical, unanswerable, basic questions of the mankind.  Adding this question to our list was partly personal, as I have studied evolution for the last 30 years, but beyond the personal, I think, the evolutionary look at the world is the part of any rational worldview.

 Examples of answers:

Ann Marshall: “To keep things interesting for God”

Linda Gambill: “To nudge us to look at the little sticker on the windshield that reminds us to change the oil.”

View more answers on Philozophy.com


Many our problems stem from the fact that we are so dreadfully close to them. They just sit in front of our fat noses and we can not see anything beyond them. Evolutionary thinking gives you a broader perspective. Modern human is also called homo historicus, as the species which has the history. But we can now look deeper and broader than history, we can look into the history of life on Earth, into cosmic space, into subatomic world, into time itself. Won’t it feel good?


An Interview

Well, the planned interview is not coming. I wanted to talk to Clement Vidal, a Belgian philosopher who wrote about the future worlds, evolution, worldview, and complexity. Here is my letter:

“Dear Clement, I read with the great interest your article about the worldview. I think you created the monster! You single handed created a new branch of philosophy; the philosophy of the worldview, with its own methodology, history and a purpose. this is great, this is needed. The people have a lot of difficulties when it comes  to creating the personal explicit worldview. But, I think, this work is rewarding, and the world would be a better place if more people work on it. It is why I and my daughter Sophia created Philozophy.com. Now I am writing a companion paper called “Worldview Owner’s Manual”. I am trying to shift from the attempts to improve on Aristotle, do unanswerable answers, towards something like savoir vivre  in the broad and literary sense ( I mean after one figured out how to hold the fork), something useful and beneficial for the participant. In the first part,  I am discussing the general issues, like what is the worldview and why one should write it down, etc. In the second part, there are 13 short chapters each for one of our Big Questions. At the end of each chapter, there is a “guest’s interview, an essay or a worldview story”. Again, rather than pure philosophy, I prefer personal insight or story.  The length varies- 1 to even 5 or more pages.

Some of the chapters are finished (need editing badly), some need badly to be written.
All this you can find on my blog evolutionandmeandyou.com under Worldview Owner’s Manual and in posts. Big Question # 10 is “What is the role of evolution?” I would be honored if you’d write something to finish that chapter because you are the best. But you are probably too busy to do it. So maybe I could call you and interview you on this subject (15-20 min), transcribe it the best I can and with your permission and approval, stick it there? Tom”.
He did not answer, so to avoid an empty page in this book I had to write something.
One of the best books I read about evolution is Adam Frank’s “About time”. It shows how human culture and the way of life parallel scientific discoveries. It is 158 years since Darwin’s famous book was published. Since then the view of the world slowly transforming, life forms disappearing, new ones appearing creating the magnificent tree of life connected and explained like never before is seeping into our brains, our culture and our language. It is not that it is difficult to understand what Darwin was saying. It is that every generation in our global culture slowly sinks deeper and deeper in the evolutionary understanding of the world. Scientific discoveries like the fireworks lit the road of the slow process of changing peoples minds, every generation a little bit further.
The genetics is now household concept, the dating of fossils, the background radiation, nuclear energy, and weapons- all these have no sense whatsoever without evolution. And yet more than 50% of Americans do not accept evolution. So fundamental is the role of evolution, it requires, often subconsciously, to rebuilt your vision of the universe and of ourselves from the ground up. The similar process occurred in our implicit sense of cosmos. The Earth was always stable, solid and unchangeable( even if balancing on the Great Turtle) with the Sun and Heavens looking benevolently from above. Then, slowly, over the last five centuries, the Earth moved, then the Planets, then the Suns and Galaxies and Universes swirling around us madly with deeper and deeper disregard for little bi-pedals. Similarly, we saw ourselves as unchangeable, as part of the family, we wanted our children to live better, but we saw our lives tougher than good old days of our parents and ancestors. With the invention of the history, we, for the first time, saw that the old times could have been quite different, maybe not so good. But surely the people were the same! Then, we, slowly again, started to worry about the other cultures about the “primitives” and “aborigines” and then Darwin shocked us with his crazy theory. Now we have to digest that our intelligence changed, from cave man to present, so will it change again in the future. We have to digest that our sensory mechanism changed, we see different things than the animals. According to neuroscience, our emotional and social brain changed.  And now how about a spiritual brain, how about the sense of reality,  the sense of freedom and individuality, All because of these prefrontals and reflective thinking and this obnoxious and annoying SELF…. After a century and a half, we just started to seriously grapple with this evolutionary worldview transformation, I guess we need to ask Millenials?

Towards Evolutionary Reality- How to act.

Towards Evolutionary Reality (TER)- How to act.

The Summary.

1. We are the center of the Universe. We are all important and all-responsible for it.

2. We are interdependent and interrelated. The relationships: friendships and love are our only chance to survive.

3. It is up to us, to create happy and meaningful life.

4. We live inside our evolutionary system. The story is all that is. Our meaning and fun is to listen and understand it.

5.Practice mindfulness

6. Be tolerant to other worldviews

It should be so simple. But the brain tricks us all the time. Piotrus, my brother, after letting me talk for an hour about the evolution and perception and the fish, asked me

So, what? or “ translate your TEO principles into a blueprint for living or the meaning of life”.

Everybody knows what is the right thing to do, to feel, to think, to say.

But how?

How to stop eating and share, when eating feels so good?

How to send money to Africa , when you need new i-phone?

And how to smile to your wife, when she blames you unfairly?


Can evolutionary reality help?

Sure! easily…


1. We are the center of the Universe. Mankind is the most complex system ever created by the thermodynamics and the evolution, a showcase, the best of the best. No excuse for sceptics, we are not “an insignificant speck in the one backward , one of a trillions galaxies”. We are the most important , only chance, for all the people we care for… and for ourselves.

And yes, as I said, “the only chance”- because we are alone (every evolutionary system is). No help (or an apocalyptic excuse!) from demons, gods, dragons, ghosts or werewolves.

No mysteries, magical origins or elusives justifying uncertainties about us. We are well built by the evolution mechanism, and we are trying to get to know ourselves/Universe as much as we can. And we will know more and more of incredibly fantastic and horrible things about us.

2. The friendship and the love.

I said we are alone, but actually we are not. Also, the presence, existence and messing with us by the above mentioned demons, gods, etc would not affect our solitude.

So, we are alone as an evolutionary system, but within this system we are interdependent.

I am not sure whether there is a consensus regarding the origins and mechanism, but have this thing called empathy and altruism.

It seems something happened during early hominids period 5 to 2 million years ago. Some weird feedback loop: the complexity of breeding (seen already in bonobos in the crude form) increased intelligence. This increased intensity of childhood learning which was making social system even more complex. Our mirror neurons went bezerk: for one it pushed us into hypersocial dance, on the top of that they got mixed with consciousness related neural pathways and puff! we can see a little bit of ourselves in the bird with broken wing.

That is great news that we have other beings to be with. To me this is the greatest achievement of modernity ( and postmodernity?) : the beauty, the variety and the diversity of the relationships modern humans can create.

Jane Goodall, sure, but not only, take such a diverse elements as symphonies, gay marriage, FaceBook, DNA mapping, Big Mind Meditation, Little Mermaid- it is all about relationships!

And loving our pets, and Izrael problem, and “I the Vortex”, etc etc…

And I am not saying it is easy, but it is crucial: friendships and loves and co-workers and artists..We are one big, big family, really.

Going bravely across the kinship and society and nations and religions.

Going across cultures is almost like going across the times and perception systems. We have and we need more relationship with the whole future generation!

We need to realize how strong is our relationship with our parents teachers and the ancestors.

As we reach further and further in our capacity to relate and care, across physical and emotional dimensions, including time- the evolution teaches us about our origins. The evolution connect us to the animals in much harder way than” I missed my pretty kitty”. We see the world in the same way, or, in other words, the world is as animals see it. It is possible to develop the mirror neurons, compassion and reflective thinking ( the consciousness). But you can’t develop the dualism, can’t develop the double reality, Plato’s cave can’t be real. Why? Because , while you can upgrade the wiring of the brain, you can not mess with what’s already in  there. You can change an acuity of perception,

and the interpretation but the evolution can not change what is perceived (ontologically).

Like medieval dungeon and the modern correctional facility. They are both prisons, serving the same function. Or the shaman and the surgeon with computer guided laser- still doing the same thing.  And the same argument goes through the comparison of every tiny level of the evolutionary change- from seeing just purple to seeing purple and magenta. Still the same sunset. The only way for survival is to be able to repeat that improved action ( like better recognition of the ripe fruit- for the animal, millions years ago it felt like “more good eat”- for the researcher- it would manifest like “more retinal discrimination”)

The animal’ brain is full of behaviors. Learned and inherited behaviors, the behaviors of the animal itself and its ancestors and the ancestors’ ancestors. Evolutionary , nothing else is worth knowing, and if it is not worth -the animal doesn’t know it. We do not know it either.

So, what?

Well, we need to work on the behaviors, i.e. on relationships.


The Behavior – compassion and gratitude. one directed towards the future, other towards the past. Both types related and attached to the person. Me and you.

3. You are all important.

Other problem with the modernism is that the modern culture shows us as an insignificant one- of the 7 billions. The God says : you are my child, you are special, but we do not hear it. Whatever are the moral rules , I am so small, I am below the radar, I can do anything because actually I can not do anything which matters ( except for serial killing , which is not for everybody).

Not so according to TER. Not only we are the center of the Universe , but the only world there is ( is real for you) is your world. And for me is mine.

We share many elements so it looks( and it works like) like it is our world , but it is just practical simplification and a shortcut. You bring it to the existence by looking, perceiving, there is nothing behind you, you are all important to do good.

From the birth to death you create your world , you learn and you live it and you die -accordingly. So, there is nothing more important to know what you doing and why.

You, as an individual, not a part of a mob. You are responsible and you have to train your reflective and critical thinking to know inside and outside of you.

It is why the development of the personal and unique explicit worldview is so important.


4.TEO dispense with spirituality.

The spirituality is this wishy- washy term, the back door exit , “ we are too evolved to believe in the angels and devils, but the Universe is permeated with the divine , the oneness, the suchness…”

The mind is made by the evolution, and the details are coming in as we speak.

We are developing the language shared by evolutionary neuroscience and evolutionary philosophy.

The sooner we demystify mind’s elements and the building process (after saying bye to ego, soul, shadow and the likes) the sooner we stop barking at the wrong tree!

Our moral enemy is social materialism, not the atheism.

And the fundamentalists feel so holy, that the materialism is justified.

It looks to me that the church and synagogue and mosque going folks are the greediest, the most cruel and lazy bunch (the quintessence of materialism). Many of them are violent , intolerant , xenophobic, bigotic and self assured buffoons.

And the last but not the least:

No.5. The practice.

The task to understand , to deepen the wisdom takes work and mindfulness practice. We need to work with artists and musicians and philosophers and scientists and listen to the simple folks and to the ancient cultures.

We need to listen to the animals and to the forests. We need to walk the mountains and swim in oceans.

When we meditate we listen to ourselves, to our bodies and our memories from far, far away. Listen to the story, the story between me and you.

As I said , according to TER the only real world is your world. It makes subjective experience all important, it invites you to learn about yourself, be individual.

There is no “we” as opposed to “them”. Leave we to royal pluralis majestatis.

I have known a man-a buffoon- who loves to use “we”- it is not the pretty sight.

The beauty of learning about yourself is opening for the real relation with “you”.

Getting to know “me” through the meditative practice, beyond autobiography, beyond the judgment and the projects opens possibility to know in the same way- you.

And you and you and you. One by one. Beyond the time, to know past you’s and the present and future ones. To know your lover, your mom and dad, your child, the teacher, maybe God or Buddha.

This is the crux of the matter. This is our chance, for us humans to cooperate, be friends, love and maybe survive.


6. All human actions and theories are just attempts to understand and we value them if they bring good to the humanity. The science will select itself from non science by more understanding and research.

We dismiss “turtles, all the way down” because it is blind alley concept. We question Big Bang theory because it doesn’t say” what was before”. If god (this or that) is unexplained – by definition- we say it is unscientific- again the argument of the blind alley.

Teo  tells us that the deepest structure/material the Universe is made of is our understanding.  My understanding built from the infancy and through eons of the evolution ,shows the Universe like… well, the normal, beautiful world. And I am trying to understand that it is also the content of the mind of each of us, shared to the degree. It consists of the units of behaviors evolutionary beneficial, inherited or preserved otherwise.

This means that “blind alley concept”  extends to all laws and all thinking.

Is it a relativism “all the way down?”

Yes and no.

We need to be humble ( yes) and practical :it is better to built on the rock than on the sand, even if we know that there is lava underneath both of them(no).

We need to try to understand how we understand the World rather than try to understand how the World really is, because it’s how it really is.