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For those who are just joining this discussion of the Earth system, we are using Dorion Sagan's book:Notes from the Holocene  {A Brief History of the Future}  I will add links to the first two installments beneath the fold. The ideas about the Earth system that Sagan puts forward are neither new nor widely accepted (yet?).  I like them because they fit in nicely with the world view I have been developing using modern complexity science as my basis.  I also like them because I am pessimistic about other, well meaning, approaches that are confined to the rules of the scientific narrative which has been totally framed to keep new ideas from entering the discussion.  Under their rules, anyone with scientific "credentials" is to be listened to no matter what their hidden agenda is.  We know what the result of that scenareo has been and it is time to move forward; which brings us to the topic of this installment, the role of us humans in all this.  Come with me below the break and we shall proceed.

Let us begin by contemplating history for a moment.  Sagan says this:

What are the prospects for humanity?  How can unfeeling particles give rise to feeling beings? Who are we from the broad vantage point of deep time, in which not just primates but microbes preceeded us, and God knows what will descend from or replace us?   Is the biopshere imperiled?  Are we?  Can it, or us, be saved?  How?  What is the future of a biosphere that is more than four billion years old-approximately a thousand times older than the human species, and two million times older than the oldest cities?

 Oh those numbers!  As a scientist, I have learned to distrust the effect of numbers on people.  Let me digress for a moment to explain why.  We all learned history of some sort in school.  The odds are very great that the history we learned depended heavily on numbers of all sorts.  The odds are also very great that the effect of this was to teach us to nod reverently whenever an expert backs up their largely subjective argument with data.  It was Robert Maynard Hutchins who put the relationship between numbers and ideas into perspective for me:

Science is not the accumulation of facts or the accumulation of data.  A discipline does not become scientific merely because its professors have acquired a great deal of information.  Facts do not arrange themselves.  Facts do not solve problems.  I do not wish to be misunderstood.  We must get the facts.  We must get them all...But at the same time we must raise the question wheter...the accumulation and distribution of facts is likely to lead us through the mazes of a world whose complications have been produced by the facts we have discovered.

 He went on to explain that the big and necessary job is to create a meaningful structure into which those facts can be put so that progress will result from the enterprise.  Indeed that is our goal here.  Creative thought is wiped out by attempts to restrict it within a set of rules.  As I pointed out in the earlier diaries and discussions, we have to use old language to introduce new ideas and this is never easy.  It is especially difficult when the reader does not understand that the movement into a new realm of meaning will only take place if that reader is an active participant in the exchange.

Now that we have dealt with that issue we can look at Sagan's awesome numbers in the right spirit.  My own spiritual being has grappled with large numbers representing things about our past.  Anyone who has been to a place like the cliff dwellings near Santa Fe, New Mexico, has probably experienced what I did on some level.  The realizationthat one was in a sacred place comes to you.  It is not just because these places have been inhabited for thousands of years, because that is a reaction to the time quantity involved, but as Vine Deloria tells us in his book God is Red: A native View of Religion,

In a world which communications are nearly instantaneous and simultaneous experiences are possible, it must be spaces and places that distinguish us from one another, not time or history.

The world, therefore, is not a global village so much as a series of homeogeneous pockets of identity that must eventually come into conflict because they represent different historical arrangements of emotional energy.  What these concentrations of emotional energy will produce, how they will understand themselves, and what minimovements will emerge from them are among the unanswered questipons of our time... We can and must, therefore, create a new understanding of universal planetary history.

I see a convergence of ideas coming into existence.  The timeless wisdom of the people whose thoughts we dismissed as we crushed their culture have survived in some form because of their internal strength.  Now Western science is finding itself rediscovering what has been so long known in a new context.

In that spirit let us look further into the way Sagan brings us to this point.

The new views of space, time, and home suggest that our usual perspectives are just that, perspectives.  The way things are, the way we see them, depends on where we are and how we see.  And those things can change.

 So here we are, a very new factor in the Earth's system.  But a very different factor from our our narcissistic viewpoint.  Just how well do we understand our role?

If Narcissius had too much self-love for his face, and drowned because of it, we have too little respect for ours and may burn-a natural predictable consequence, rather than supernatural punishment-for our environmental sins.  It may even be too late for us to stop the global heating fostered by our rampant reproduction and industrialization of Earth's surface, as well as our collective ignorance-now institutionally encouraged- of the global system in which we are imbedded.

 Again we must be careful about words here.  As we will see, Sagan does not see us as merely imbedded in the system.  He sees us as intwined as an integral aspect of that system.  He sees our blindness as one of our most characteristic attributes:

These humans from earth raze forests, spread farmland, and turn liquid in the ground into gases in the atmosphere.  Like the oxidizing microbes before us, we are changing the world.  Like them, we are, simply because of location, among the organsisms threatened by our acticities.  Our addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, even if it does melt the polar icecaps, drown the beautiful polar bears, and erase what is left of human civilization, will be paltry planetary damage compared with previous global crises generated by asteroid and meteorite impacts, by extinction-linked bouts of subsea and and surface vulcanism, and by rampant growth of mutant bacteria.  It is amusing that as soon as we loose the biblical arrogance that persuades us that the entire Earth was made for us, we overcompensate with the opposite delusion that we are so dangerous, all life is imperiled by our actions.  Both of these egotistic views, allthough opposed, are highly unlikely.

 We here are into politics.  Our politics are very much intwined with the perceptions of the planet's health and our role in it.  So the resultant concern has deep political ramifications.  It behooves us to get the picture as cleary as possible before we charge off on another crusade.  The limits to what we are able to understand, let alone do, are formidable.  Yet those who have had us do nothing have used that very limit on our knowledge to prevent almost anything effective from being done.  Doing the right thing requires a great deal of humility as well as all the knowledge we can gather. Sagan gives us this warning:

We know that life can screw up the global environment.  Cyanobacteria screwed up way worse than we did when they added free oxygen to the atmosphere starting some two billion years ago.  Then again, a lot of death ensued before organisms evolved that considered their waste fresh air.  Although we neither respect nor notice them, the water-using Eqrth-changing cyanobacteria survived.  So far we have, too.  But unless we get our act together, or the observed  current global warming turns out to be caused by some natural phenomenon, such as our solar system swinging nearer one of the spiral arms of our Milky Way galaxy, we may not be so lucky.

A steamy planet may not support human beings in anything like our present numbers. Typically,  when an invasive organism reproduces in a living environment, it disrupts the physiology of the host, sickening it.  We all have had the experience of "chills"-fever alternating with feelings of sickly cold as our bodies work overtime to stabilize our temperature.  Thes same thing can happen on a planetary scale.  Sophisticated but unconscious, like our pumping heart, the bioshereic environment is autonomic-performing highly complex cycling and interspecies phyiological functions without our having to pay the least bit of attention.

 I've tried to be sensitive to the newness of this physiological view of the earth system because of the scientific community's conservativism.  Yet it is so valuable a way of looking at the situation it needs to be considered seriously.  Sagan also is aware of this as he forges ahead in his narrative:

For the moment the notion of a living earth seems like hokum to many scientists, because referring to Gaia as a living thing with awareness or intent violates the scientific norm of considereing only human beings to be endowed with genuine subjectivity,  The rest of the world is a mechanism to be manipulated and observed, and if possible, controlled by the scientific, technological mind.  A living Earth is also an affront to those inculcated in traditional Western religion [See reference to Deloria's book above], which reserves consciousness, awareness, and full purposefulness only for human beings.

 There is a conflict between the wold view we have as inheritors of Western thought and the world view we need to have to begin to operate in harmony with the things going on around us.  I do not see much in the current political hysteria about the environment that overcomes the denial of this reality.  We simply are digging deeper into our bag of technological tricks to find fixes.  Sagan's message, if anything, is a deeply rooted belief that more of human arrogance will not help.  Let us pause again now and discuss.  We will proceed after that discussion if people desire to pursue this matter further.

Here are links to the two previous diaries in this series:
My first Eco-diary:  The earth is Alive?
Eco-diary series #2: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

Originally posted to don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:19 PM PDT.

Poll

Human knowledge

6%1 votes
6%1 votes
6%1 votes
73%11 votes
6%1 votes
0%0 votes

| 15 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  TIP JAR (9+ / 0-)

    give a rec if you want more of this please

    An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:21:03 PM PDT

  •  Fish... (4+ / 0-)

    have lived on this planet for 500 million years.  

    Humans...in our present form...for less than 80,000 years.  

    Fish will be on this planet long after we are gone.

    The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

    by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:29:28 PM PDT

  •  Here's what we need to think about: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage

    Question about Global Warming

    My brother and I are going rounds about Global Warming. He is a staunch conservative so obviously doesn't believe it is real.

    How can I counter this with facts? Or can I, seeing as how he believes everything he hears on radio is a fact.

    See above about "facts".

    An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:34:19 PM PDT

    •  Conservatives are most often... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage, don mikulecky

      anti-intellectual.  Anti-intellectual people resent people with book knowledge and normally reject it in favor of their own personal "local" knowledge of how the world functions.

      These people will never accept the fact that "global warming" as an Earth phenomena exists, because they are  most likely unable to even fathom their pathetically unimportant place in the universe.

      The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

      by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:50:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As the effects imact on their lives more and more (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        linkage

        their sources will become less credible.  it has happened before.  We need to keep sending our message.

        An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

        by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:55:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We have a window of opportunity... (4+ / 0-)

          to vehicule a scientific world-view--it is between the ages of 6-12.

          Sadly, young people do not get adequate science education and in many places everything they learn in school is nullified by what they are taught in Sunday "school."

          I am a cynic...as an environmental historian, I have studied human interaction with nature in the past 500 years.

          We are not just doomed as a species, we are fucking doomed.

          The society that we live in will not exist in 200 years.  

          The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

          by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:59:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Nor will it exist tomorrow (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bob Guyer, linkage

            Change is the only thing constant.  The underlying message in Sagan's thesis is our complete arrogance about our knowledge.  In our subculture, (yours and mine) this is especially dangerous.  Much of progressive political change has come from the very same uneducated people we stereotype as conservative know nothings.  Native American wisdom did not need our educational system and was largely destroyed by it.  The idea of finding new ways is always open.

            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

            by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 06:11:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Native American "wisdom" is a fallacy... (4+ / 0-)

              Native Americans did not have environmentally-friendly socieites.

              In fact, historical and scientific literature of the past decade have shown that they were very destructive of the environment.  They slashed and burned, they over-fished, and they hunted species to extinction.

              The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

              by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 06:19:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What you say is both true and an example of how (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                linkage, saildude

                part of the story can give the opposite picture to what the more complete story will.  The scale with which they had impact was much less.  They also adapted their practices when they discovered the adverse effects. Their view of the Earth system is very progressive over all.  The propaganda about them that you quote was selected to make sure the other aspects of their beliefs and behavior were not accepted,  I have documented my statements and can do much much more.  I doubt you can do the same.

                An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 06:28:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No, I'm sorry...you're simply not correct here. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  lemming22, linkage, saildude

                  I suggest you read:

                  http://www.amazon.com/...

                  And then this book:

                  http://www.amazon.com/...

                  You're not really up to date on the historiography of environmental history.

                  The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

                  by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 06:34:19 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  As I said I gave you references and quotes. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    linkage

                    De Loria is a fine source on environmental history and disagrees with you.  It sounds like your sources are biased.  Amazon.com ?  I'd say that you are the one who is not up on environmental history.  I granted the biased view you give is a small part of the story.  You seem to want to sit on your little segment as if it were universal.  It clearly is not.

                    An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                    by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 06:58:52 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You're kidding me... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      lemming22, linkage

                      I gave you a link to where you can buy the books.

                      This is not "biased" information...these are classics of environmental and ecological historical literature.

                      They are far more scientific and academic than a Dkos diary.  

                      You might want to spend a bit more time learning about this subject before you write about it.

                      I'm unfortunately learning that blogs perpetuate an enormous amount of misinformation and bs.

                      The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

                      by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:04:35 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  OK I found this about one of your authors (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        linkage

                        Cronon suggests that Global Narratives are abstract, virtual, systemic, remote, vast, have a diffuse sense of agency, posses no individual characters (i.e. no heros/villains), and are repetitive (so boring). These characteristics make it difficult to emphasise and justify calls for human action to mitigate against the anthropic influence on the climate.

                         You are kidding me.  I gave you the book by De Loria not a Daily Kos diary.  What is it you are up to?

                        An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                        by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:10:27 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Cute donut there buddy....you know what... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          lemming22

                          you might want to listen more.  I'm quite sure that I happen to know more about this than you do.  7

                          I happen to have a doctorate in Environmental History...and I NEVER heard of this De Loria.  

                          I will never, ever, engage in a discussion with you again.

                          Utter foolishness.

                          The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

                          by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:15:24 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  You were not engaging in discussion. Diatribe is (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            linkage

                            not discussion.

                            I happen to have a doctorate in Environmental History...and I NEVER heard of this De Loria.  

                             The reference is in my diary.

                            Native American "wisdom" is a fallacy...
                            Native Americans did not have environmentally-friendly socieites.

                            This is not a true statement as posed and your Amazon.com links do not say it is.  I granted you that is a part truth and offered you De Loria as one other view.  If you think you can convince anyone that this is universally true then try.  

                            Now as to its relevance to my diary.  I never said word one about the practices of the native Americans with respect to the environment.  What I did do was to talk about their religious world view and its similarity to some aspects of Sagan's book.

                            Don't lecture me about bad discussion tactics sir.  You are the guilty party.  Any time you want to discuss my diary subject do so.  Flaunting your bias about Native Americans by pointing out that they did not live 100% according to their  beliefs is certainly off topic.  No culture has ever lived totally according to stated beliefs.  So what is your point if you have one?

                            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                            by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:30:20 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  And, you need to go read the Dkos FAQ.... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            lemming22

                            for a starter...

                            Because giving other users HR's simply because they state something that you disagree with is not appropriate.

                            And, you might want to consider that I took the time to come in here and discuss your diary with you, and even congratulated you.

                            It is wonderful to see people interested in discussing topics related to the environment and wishing to educate others.  But, you're just simply wrong on this point.  I can only suggest that you take the time to educate yourself.

                            I'm sorry to see that you lack the maturity to take any criticism of your ideas.

                            My "yahoo" links were intended to give you some additional literature to read and consider.

                            As I said, you won't have to worry about me in any more of your diaries.

                            The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

                            by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:38:13 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Your "you need tos" along with the diatribe (0+ / 0-)

                            are what got you the donuts.  I did not give them to you for disagreements.  I even granted you the nasty diversion from the diary topic in an effort to get back on track.  No, it is your troll like use of another's diary to flaunt your "expertise" rather than discuss the diary that are at fault.  I stand behind my judgement about you.  You are not what you profess to be.  You have not answered one of my points.  That is how trolls behave.  You claim to have read the dKos FAQ but like other things you claim to know about, your understanding seems lacking.

                            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                            by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:51:38 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh please.... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            lemming22

                            The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

                            by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:55:40 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You still can't deal with it can you? (0+ / 0-)

                            Answer these questions:

                            What does the stuff you cited do to counter my citation about Native American religious beliefs?

                            What does your field of expertise have to do with anything in this diary?

                            What do the practices of Native Americans have to do with the subject of this diary?

                            Why do you feel that it is appropriate to use expressions like

                            Native American "wisdom" is a fallacy...

                            No, I'm sorry...you're simply not correct here.

                             without any clue what in the diary is being commented on?  For if you were to try you would have to apologize for not sticking to the diary topic.  I hope you do not do this professionally.  You would not get through a tenure hearing in any University I have been associated with.

                            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                            by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 08:06:38 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Memo: (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            don mikulecky

                            Read / study sig. line

                          •  I wish I knew who this is for and which sig line. (0+ / 0-)

                            Sorry for being obtuse!

                            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                            by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 08:21:34 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Memo was for DK, although he is likely gone. (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Bob Guyer, linkage, don mikulecky

                            BTW, Perhaps we are not so limited by our language as we think: link

                            Humility, as Michael Casey, a Cistercian monk of Tarawara Abbey in Australia has written, is etymologically of the same root as earth, humus, and connotes, among other things, a going down to the essential substance of reality, to the place out of which all things grow. It is being in consonance with the truth.

                          •  That is neat! The concept is deeper than I (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            linkage

                            realized.  I did not write about the section in Sagan about what happened to the astronauts as they looked back on earth.  Some of that in there too.

                            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                            by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 08:47:15 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  You speak with forked tongue (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        linkage

                        Here's a comment elsewhere:

                        I don't like to over-intellectualize things...
                        especially in a blog.

                        An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

                        by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 08:52:51 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  To survive off the land (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Bob Guyer, linkage, don mikulecky

                should not be taken lightly. The accumulated knowledge required to thrive in the past is something we have lost for the most part.

                As a modern day sailor I can tell you that my admiration and respect for the achievements and skills of those that preceded us grows with my own experiences.

                It seems we are no longer capable of repeating lost skills required for survival over a large segment of our population.

                Perhaps this truly is the meaning of the meek inheriting the earth, those who struggle and manage to survive without the modern edge will succeed where our own society would grind to a halt with a multi day power or oil disruption.

                Or not

              •  To be fair ... (4+ / 0-)

                ... slash and burn farming, done properly, is extremely sustainable -- and efficient.  Given the choice, IIRC, almost every preindustrial farmer chose slash-and-burn techniques over more intensive agricultural practices.

                Now, that doesn't mean that they did it right.

  •  Your diary is great...I'm sorry it is not well... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, don mikulecky, zenmasterjack

    attended.

    The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. --Thomas Paine

    by David Kroning on Sun May 11, 2008 at 05:55:03 PM PDT

    •  Thank you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage

      I like to lite a candle rather than curse the darkness.  It certainly is worth it for me.  It will become a book with many of you participating if willing.

      An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 06:22:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Certainly the earth is a living system (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, don mikulecky

    as much as we are living systems. I personally  believe all things are part of a living system. What makes something living or non-living is only a product of our definition, not a reality. I do believe a new view of the earth you discuss would certainly be a welcome addition.

    "Those that know, don't say, those that say, don't know"... Tao te ching... Then why am I posting a comment?

    by zenmasterjack on Sun May 11, 2008 at 06:15:35 PM PDT

  •  I haven't finished reading, will comment later (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, don mikulecky

    after taking care of a few things that need caring for.

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:05:33 PM PDT

  •  Thanks Don! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Guyer, linkage, don mikulecky

    Your poll concerning human knowledge set me off thinking of an analog to knowledge and its transmission that I had shoved away into some dark neural cu-de-sac years ago.

    Consider the hormonal systems of the human body.  There are literally hundreds of cell sites that produce hundreds of these highly influential molecules.  Our homeostasis is largely governed by their commands. They issue their proclamations of supply and demand and impose changes of the cellular economies. They are the arbiters of thousands of furious, dramatic and subtle changes at any given time.  

    Now scale up to the human condition and it’s so very young and clumsy methods of knowledge transmission.  We are just beginning to engage, on a broad scale, the kind of information distribution that is necessary to cope with our ignorant and hideous wreaking of our living planet.  Indeed we are just becoming aware of the planet in physiological terms.  The internet is very much our external hormonal system.  Can we as a comprehensive organism, muster the capacity to command our behavior as a species?

    My intuitive sense, tempered by my scientific education and annealed by my spirituality (Buddhist), is that we will survive, and to a lesser extent, thrive.  We have really only just begun to see ourselves as biological and our sense of world will follow.  Diaries such as yours are an important portal to this paradigm.

    •  Responses like yours are also a big part. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Guyer, linkage

      And the whole is always more than the sum of its parts.

      Can we as a comprehensive organism, muster the capacity to command our behavior as a species?

      I believe that the answer to this is "yes", but not without a great deal more humility than we have had so far.  This is as much an "attitude adjustment" as it is an excercise in problem solving if not more.  

      I believe very strongly that principles like harmony and balance are not mechanistic in any way.  When our hearts are straight, our heads will follow.  The way the result of that will look will be a surprise to all of us, especially the "experts".

      An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sun May 11, 2008 at 07:45:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The limit of self absorbtion shown by Narcissius (3+ / 0-)

    is one of the deep psychic structures holding both the western religious and scientific world views together. In my view both are related to seeing human kind from the framework of an exclusively personal social point of view. I know that sounds strange at first but I see both systems of thought emerging from, and reflecting social needs.

    Once Christianity became the religion of the Roman state, and shortly before when it adopted the core set of beliefs that substituted a social hierarchy in place of direct mystical experience, see Beyond Belief, by Elaine Pagels, western religion has focused on social control through a social hierarchy descending from God, Jesus, the church, to the bishops.

    Science was allowed a hard won place in the legitimate social hierarchy as long as they stuck to the territory of materialism and created advantages for the folks in the higher rungs of the social hierarchy. Then we add our industrial economic system to the historic social paradigm in the same obsessively self/socially focused way we add an incredible scientific/technical power to our exclusively social systems perspective, ignoring all the interconnections that spread beyond this limited self focus. Now we have a problem, the effects of our our power have dramatically exceeded their limiting container, human social hierarchy, creating continued profound effects on the living system of which we are a part. Thus far, we have not been able to collectively recalibrate our sense of self  to include those areas and make an image of self that fits within the living biosphere and has a purpose within that expanded context.

    It is good that some of us see the necessity of some type of deep transformation of our way of seeing self and world. Clearly, Sagan is walking down this road, as are others. I think one of the big questions is whether the pace of the conversion of world view and human systems than extend and animate our world view, can change quickly enough to catch up to, and then pass, the technology powered social pyramid scheme held in place by our economic and political, as well as our scientific and religious systems.

    An ongoing diagnostic measure I watch is how frequent and easy is it for people to imagine and discuss different economic and political models. Almost all public discussion of dealing with human forced acceleration of climate change ignores discussion of our economic model, capitalism, and whether it should be replaced with something more well fitted to our existence as a biological entity wielding tremendous technical power not contained within our biology. Cyanobacteria did not have this problem to deal with, this problem seems new to the biosphere, so we don't have a lot of history to call on for reliable and repeatable models.

    I like the material you have written on complexity science and hope you will put some of that out on DKos. The idea that the whole is unquantifiable and more than the sum of its parts is, it seems to me, one of the things that Sagan is working with as he imagines new world views beyond the narcissistic limits which dominate our current social order. Thanks again Don, keep em coming.

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Mon May 12, 2008 at 06:32:06 AM PDT

    •  Are we the self awareness of the universe? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Guyer, linkage

      There's a question Sagan poses.  If the universe is self aware it may, in part,  be through a particular component.  That component could be we humans.  That is an interesting paradox since we are so arrogant as to believe we are somehow not part of anything else.  The narcissism then takes on an even more interesting character.

      The homeostatic regulation of the planet is, as in terrestial organisms, unconscious.  Homeostais in physiology is an interesting paradox in its own way.  Clearly circular in nature, it is outside the methodology of classical science.  Yet we teach about it as if it were a common type of scientific principle.

      Thus far, we have not been able to collectively recalibrate our sense of self  to include those areas and make an image of self that fits within the living biosphere and has a purpose within that expanded context.

       Yes, and that is the crux of the matter.  That is exactly why I have stopped drawing the reductionist lines between disciplines and areas of human experience.  It is all one big problem and piecemeal approaches are part of the problem, not of the solution.  It is complexity science as it must be done.  We  do not have that much time.

      An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Mon May 12, 2008 at 10:39:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is all one big problem and time is short (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        In her own Voice, don mikulecky

        Our activity has accelerated things to the point that the depth of our problem and the time that exists to solve it are moving in incompatible directions. I think this is one of the underlying, largely unconscious, dynamics that is creating the sense of urgency in people. Something is coming apart fast, we are part of the problem, and the problem is bigger than we can comprehend.

        As to the universe becoming conscious of its self through humans, that much is clearly true because we are conscious and part of the universe. I see consciousness present in other biological entities as well, even in quite advanced forms probably, just without a lot of industrial tool making to augment their consumption of resources and creation of practical and symbolic persistent material objects. I have experienced states of conscious that carry with them the self authenticating sense that consciousness is the underlying substance and context of everything, but don't assume that that is the ultimate take on reality one way or another. I tend to portray consciousness as an underlying aspect of universal reality, like gravity, that can become self reflectively aware under the right circumstances.

        I don't think we need an ultimate, nor could we reasonably achieve one, understanding of the nature of consciousness to proceed with re visioning our identity and systems to account for the value of being conscious creatures living as part of a complex living system. I have come to the conclusion, alway tentative theory open to revision for me, that the spiritual and religious insights lead to a conclusion that change of perception is sufficient for salvation are wrong. Expansion of consciousness into more inclusive states is a process that has no end and will necessarily vary widely over a population.

        What we need are new systems for managing our social and individual relationship with the rest of life in the context of having immense extra-biological power available to us. Some change of mind is necessary to get there, but not a specific collective level of universal awakening, as many of our spiritual traditions advocate.

        Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

        by Bob Guyer on Mon May 12, 2008 at 12:00:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Focus on process not events (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bob Guyer, linkage

          What we need are new systems for managing our social and individual relationship with the rest of life in the context of having immense extra-biological power available to us. Some change of mind is necessary to get there, but not a specific collective level of universal awakening, as many of our spiritual traditions advocate.

           What we are doing with our theories and our abstract ideas will never ammount to anything unless they initiate a process of attempting intelligent management and learning as we go.  The theories will modify as we learn,  No matter how bad the coming  changes are, this will be the  only way we will hope to salvage what we are selfishly trying to hold on to.  The irony is that it can no longer be selfish in the old sense.  It will be a collective selfishness that includes all life forms.

          An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

          by don mikulecky on Mon May 12, 2008 at 12:20:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yep, process, events are funny things, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            linkage, don mikulecky

            they really do happen, but aren't really a final something, they are just part of a larger ever changing play or flow of processes.

            Very nice diary, keep them coming, they help energize those of us who are moving out into new territory and it helps being others into the process of rethinking their underlying assumptions and their implications. I'll try to get into the discussion earlier next time.

            Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

            by Bob Guyer on Mon May 12, 2008 at 12:32:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    Don - I have Essays on Life Itself By Robert Rosen on order, I'm looking forward to reading it.

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Mon May 12, 2008 at 01:29:09 PM PDT

    •  I think you will enjoy it. (0+ / 0-)

      It is a very rich and thought provoking book.  I used it in my undergraduate honors courses on complexity.

      An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Mon May 12, 2008 at 02:25:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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