on evolution and evolutionary reality (me and you)

Archive for April, 2016

Big Question #3: What is the origin of good?

These virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions … The good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life.”
Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Subquestions and everyday application

  • What is good and what is evil? Axiology (theory of values);
  • Are humans basically good? Why do good?
  • Human nature- what is it? Can goodness be explained by human nature or we need something beyond?
  • Is good an absence of evil,  or is it something more beautiful?
  • Is cooperation the same as friendship?  Who are my friends and how?
  • Is giving better than receiving?
  • What does goodness mean for you?

How to work on the answer to Question #3

Working on this question should make you smile, should make you good about mankind. Think about a good person, he or she could bring a good story.  How  has goodness started in your life?

Example by Vinny Zembruski: “The birth of a child. Pure, innocent and uncorrupted”.

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

Some people are sad, hopeless and cynical. They will benefit from this question.  They should edit their answer  until they smile and weekly afterward.

An Interview

It was an autumn hike in Tennessee. We walked noisily, deep in dry, golden-red leaves. I asked Sophia, my daughter, and the co-author of Philozophy.com, whether good is just the opposite of evil and both concepts are inevitably “glued” to each other, or whether it is possible to talk about good as a separate entity.

Sophia: An even more basic question is whether the concepts of good and evil make sense, or the World just is, not good, not evil, just is…. But humans make stories and in a story there is always a battle between good and evil, one or the other are winning, like the balance of the scale.

Me: (Somehow, I wanted the answer to be that good and evil are separate and different) But, look, Sophia, the caveman had to choose between competition and cooperation. Cooperation was good and independent of evil, while competition was separate from it- one person was winning which was good for him or her; the other was losing.

Sophia: More questions than answers… Another one is the obvious difference between bad and evil. And there are no clear opposites of these two. In our discussion, we think about that good which is the opposite of “evil”, it is almost like “good intention” or “goodness.” It is different that the simple good /bad distinction.( “I broke my leg”, versus “I did not break it!”)

Me: Ok, next question: what would 10-years old Sophia think about the origins of good?

Sophia: Let’s try 20-years old Sophia. She would think that the World and its Creator are essentially good. Therefore, all things are created for a reason even if they seem to us bad or evil, they are ultimately good because of the ultimate goodness of the Creator. Well now, I think that 10-years old Sophia might have said that nature was good before the humans came along and messed things up, everything was good, the humans are the source of the split into good and evil.

Me:  Can you think about a life event that contributed significantly to your present position?

Sophia: “ I think I am still figuring these things out. But surely, my professional education was this life event. I always had curiosity and creativity, and this helped with this drive. But only when I realized that I can help other people, can create good, can help them to create good for themselves… that felt really good.”

Me: “How would your answer help people representing different worldviews to talk about values, to talk about good and evil? (I think, it is education again?)”

Sophia: It is not my “answer,” it is what I do. And sharing how I am figuring out my place in this world might help. This brings a more important conversation: “what is the origin (and practice) of my creating good?” If I can, for example, help to create a system which allows teachers to teach better. And for others, it can be something completely different: like making some pretty babies or picking up the trash from a park…And inevitably this brings up the other side–what is the origin of my evil?

Me: Wow, interesting!

Sophia: Yes, I have to think about that often in my work. Am I impatient with somebody who isn’t following my workshop? Am I belittling somebody who doesn’t agree with me?

Again, other people might have different problems, but we all have to carry out “internal audits.” We have to be aware of our own “negativity bias”.

Me: ?

Sophia: Humans pick up and experience bad things easier than good ones, a brain remembers worries and hurts and fears 10 to 20 times easier than praise and acknowledgment and gratitude.

Make a “laundry list”–and mine is different than yours–to see how to be an agent of good and avoid being an agent of evil.”   

Me: Thank you, Sophia, we did not solve any philosophical questions, and this is good because all philosophical solutions are wrong. But we talked and thought about them, and this type of conversation brings incredible benefits of working on your personal worldview.

Sophia: (laughing) I feel better already.

 

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Big Question #2: What is the universe made of?

Plato’s Phaedo 65d: There is such a thing as absolute Form (pattern). It is the essence or real being of everything. It is apprehended by the intellect (not the senses).

Plato’s Timeaus, 37d: [the Demiurge] began to think of making a moving image of eternity: at the same time as he brought order to the universe, he would make an eternal image, moving according to number, of eternity remaining in unity. This, of course, is what we call “time.”

Subquestions and everyday applications        

  • What is? Ontology (the model of being).
  • What is Your Universe made of?
  • Where are you, really?
  • Is the matter all it is? Can science describe it fully?
  • We like stuff. We chase stuff, we want more and more. What is it actually, is it worth it?
  • Does matter matters? Are things you can grab better or different than things you can feel?
  • Are you a materialist or an idealist or neither or both?
  • In the USA, we have more and consume more than anywhere in the World. We also have the highest percentage of believers. Do gods smile on us?

The philosophers, as a part of the “what is” dilemma, argue always about dualism and nondualism.

As of 2016,  according to folk psychology,  The Universe has eight(!) distinct natures for you to pick from.

  1. There is God, he is lately rather not a bearded white man, more and idea not a guy.
  2. The World is permeated with the divine presence, it is everywhere, something more than the things. The New Age gone mainstream, Buddhism, Taoism, Gaia hypothesis, etc.
  3. There is a real world. It is solid, reliable, measurable, and scientific. What you see, it is what you get.
  4. There is also the soul, me, self,  it is more than science, it may be even immortal if we’re lucky. It may be quite separate from a religion.
  5. The Subjectivity: the opinions, aches, personal “experiences”, it is pretty scientific, but it is slightly beyond the exact description.
  6. The Sub-consciousness, the murky, dark world of psychics, dreams, psychoanalysis and hypnosis.
  7. Then, it is a loose group of beings , and it is ok to believe in them or not. There are ghosts, aliens, zombies, demons, dead people, devils, and angels.
  8. At last, there is the quantum science, pseudo -science and  just plain weird facts. The expanding Universe, uncertainty principle, anthropic principle, string theory, the multiverses, dark matter, non-linear time a’ la “Groundhog Day”, and some half-dead cats… 

How to work on the answer to Question #2

“What is” and ” what’s real” seem to me completely unanswerable or so obvious that you just open your hands with “huh?” gesture. But if you just slightly attach to them the value shade of “what’s important” they make more sense.  Your home brings values, the church brings beliefs and myths, the school and media bring ” ten thousands of things”.   How do they sit together in  you ?

 View  answers on Philozophy.com

An example, by Ricky Newins: “Pragmatically speaking that which we come to know via science. Is there more to it outside of science that we will perhaps never know? Quite possibly.

 Psychotherapy

Clarifying these issues  is very important for the people who worry about the money, which is about everybody. Some worry more than others, some realize it more than others… How to know if I need to go to school some more, invest, retire?  This question helps also people  with the anxiety of their importance… or lack of importance- these often go together.

 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.

An idea that we are in the center of the Universe seems like the fine place to start from!

I have been studying the mechanisms of the evolution for the last 35 years and the idea of the personal Universes comes straight from the evolutionary neuroscience. Every animal’s brain evolved to fine tune animal’s behavior in given environment. Perceive, see, understand, adapt, this for the 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, 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.

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.

The mess is here, on Earth, we are in the center and the safe heaven moved somewhere to the galaxy next door.

I have my life, my world which is interconnected with 7 billions of “you’s”.

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 is 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.

To reflect exactly my opinion, this answer should be followed by several caveats.

But if you are asking this question in the sense “isn’t it true, what science 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?” , then the answer is resounding – NO.

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.

  My caveats which include the glossary and concepts pertaining to my philosophy may seem in the beginning slightly controversial, but if I worry too much about it, I wouldn’t even start.

First, talk about “the center”.

We automatically think about “the center’ like a cartographer, or as a boy scout- “we need a flag in the center of the camp”. The Universe is “everything” and has many, many dimensions.

On the top of the obvious ones, like space, mass, magnetism, time, think  of “the center of ethical and emotional concern”, “center of complexity “, “center of the information density’ and “ center of consciousness”.

We could now get bog down in the nightmare of definitions controversies.

But this we will not do, it will not be necessary.

Hold this thought and let’s go to “the Universe”.

The only Universe I have is my Universe, and the same is true for you, and for you.

The “we” means 7 billions of us , right?

Again it looks that I am trying to trick you and left you with the play on words. Not in the least.

If we find out that the center is more or less similar for everybody, then we will not need to argue about “my Universe” vs “our Universe”. Like you and me, who have been building mine and your Universes since mine and your conception.
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.

All the dimensions we mentioned and many which we did not count were the product of this incredible complexity masterpiece, including  space, the time and others. The main function of the evolving animal’s nervous system is to create understanding, in other words -the cognition. 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.

And, of course, about 50 000 years ago, the culture and the technology for the engineering 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”.

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 worlds, the Universe consists of. We are responsible for it and every of us 7 billion, matters.

Big Question #1: How did the universe begin?

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • Where does it all come from? Does the World seem very old?How does Your World begin?
  • Do things in your life begin all the time? Popping out from nowhere?
  • Do things in your life, in the World , as you see it, just circle round and round?
  • The scientists think the new things are “emergent”. Are they really?

Since the beginning of life, we are constructed, the genes and the beliefs, to organize the things around the birth and death, beginning and the end, the days, the seasons, the projects and the cosmos. Every time you breathe deeply, every time you reflect,  automatically you position yourself, according to your gut feeling, somewhere along these beginnings and ends.

In our version of the set of Big Questions, four of them deal with the beginning, the change, and the trend. The three of them explore the beginning of the Universe (#1), the fate of the mankind (#13) and the business of dying (#11) and they are old and primeval as the mankind itself. We always bury and mourn the dead, gaze the stars and worry about the future.  Heraclitus of Ephesus  said famously: “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. After he thought for a while he added: “there is nothing permanent except change”. The fourth one is (surprise!) about the role of evolution.

Jacob Bronowski about the beginnings (a paraphrase) :” The science is a systematic attempt to establish the closed system, one after another. The scientific discovery opens the system again.

Every act of imagination (new connections, new symbolism, new language, new formulae) is the discovery of likeness between two things which were thought unlike- like Newton’s apple and the Moon.”

How to work on the answer to the Question #1

When confronted with the task of answering these Big Questions, I was not sure if I should try to find some deep truth of Universe ( like Heraclitus?) or say something that would be personal, uniquely mine, important to me. One can also answer ”Big Bang” and be done with…(still much better than “how the Hell I would know?”, which is again better than not being here with us at all)

 This is my advice, but as it is your worldview, take it or leave it. If some universal truth feels interesting and helpful, go for it, but if the personal insight sounds more like you to you, that will be more beneficial. As it happens, I believe, that both worlds-  the Big One out there and my personal world are the same, but most people do not. So here you are.

View answers on Philozophy.com

An example: (my answer) “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.”

Psychotherapy

Working with the Question #1 is especially useful for anxiety, depression and procrastination, that include just about all of us. It sounds like the excerpts from the Dr. Bach’s Herbal Remedies :“Mustard- good for the unexplained dark cloud”, but you will be surprised by the effectiveness of the process. Remember, the benefits increase exponentially with the every edit, starting after the third one.

An Essay

For me, the question of the beginning is absolutely associated with my mother. Biologically I obviously grew in her belly according to her and my father’s genetic blueprint. Then, as an infant, I began to build my world, with the identity still merged with my mom. The baby’s initial world is created with the very little activity of the prefrontal lobes, mostly it is sensory combined directly with the emotional and instinctual behaviors. It is wired in the old, mammalian parts of the brain, the humanness present mainly as a capacity, possibility, and preferences. These were the emotional and the personality beginnings that stayed with me until today. Then I learned , mostly from my mother and the family (aunt Mary, the Granny, there was not much of the father) the human ways of the world. I was curious and more curious, and trying to understand, I was cautious, but ambitious explorer, I was selfish, but I was shown how to love and cooperate.

 Now, 72 years old, during the meditation I talk to my Mom often. I asked her about her beginning.

I: “ You bore three sons. Each one was a beginning, wasn’t it?”

Mom: “ Not really. Every beginning is nothing more, than the phase of the process, when the situation requires a switch of the dimension, or as you say in America nowadays “the conversation”, when the old way of seeing just would not do… With my first son Christopher, it was as always – the struggle to extend the relationship with Edwin, your father. He was a strange genius, complex and far away, in his own world, the poet, and the philosopher… and a healer. He was tormented by the generations- long inability to commit and love- I was trying to help him, help us, go deeper into love…

And we succeeded and failed to sustain the success, as always, and with Peter, my second son, it was the beginning… of the end. Then it was the war.  It ruined our lives, the families, and careers. But I would not give up, against all odds, you, Tommy, were conceived and born. When the communication failed, when the raw sense cried “no!”, the biology and, I guess, subconscious commitment did the job. It was the most strange beginning in my life….

I: “the end of beginnings?”

Mom: “Yes, now I see it, as an investment.”

I: “Mom, but we in Poland did know anything about the investments”.

Mom:”No, Tomeczku, this beginning was not an investment in the material things, like in America. I had to invest fiercely in my life principles. It was a terrible choice between reinventing myself to follow the love to the very imperfect man, against  my family and the faith or to throw away the love. I did the later and now it is the ” Dr. Zofia’s Myth of Beginning”.

I: “And you followed Jesus. I remember you in the mornings, up before anybody else, busy in the kitchen, already back from the shop with the fresh bread,  before going to the Clinic and visiting the Church on the way.”

Mom: “yes, I loved these mornings.. and the evenings,  kneeling at the bed  and thanking Jesus for the another day with God.”

I: ” Thank you,  Mom, thank you for the myth, thank you for the lesson, I will talk to you soon.

Same Time, same Space.”

Using Philozophy.com

This post is going to be published as a part of Worldview Owner’s Manual.  It is posted on my blog to invite you to cooperate in this project.                                           

At that moment, this is going to be a very short chapter, the membership is being slowly created, the etiquette is practically in diapers.

We hope to create a community of like-minded, curious explorers of the last frontier- of the self, in the best Socratic tradition of having your life examined. We hope that this group will grow, will enjoy the benefits of working on the worldview and contribute to the progress in the building a prosperous, democratic and free society. I am worrying that this idea’s time has not yet come, but the future of the mankind is in the individuality, education and freedom of expression, all of them are promoted by the Philozophy.com. Conversely, I believe, if we won’t do it ( I mean if we don’t change our wicked ways and do not befriend each other), we all, or most of us, die in about 30-40 years.

Work on your worldview, share, comment on the others’ work, have fun.

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