They are not dumb, they are different

Despite a plethora of supportive reports David Suzuki says we do not have enough data to predict that global warming will definitely bring about human extinction. Derrick Jensen quotes people claiming that millions of years provide not enough data to state that indigenous peoples are living sustainably.
Theoretically, that is true. There is never enough data to predict the future. It’s highly unlikely but some undiscovered feedback loop might reverse global warming, and the tribes may kill life on Earth if only we give them enough time to do so.

It’s a different thing regarding another claim which concerns present-day matters of fact: that there is not enough data to support the notion of human-like animal intelligence. I’d just turn that around and say, there is not enough data to support the notion of human intelligence superiority. What do we actually know about animals? That they do not write novels? That they do not have a theory of gravity? That they did not paint a Mona Lisa? That they do not conspire to get rid of us? What if they do, but in their own way, a way that we cannot understand because the inquiry into animal intelligence is sort of forbidden terrain? Our inability understanding ‘simple’ animal communication does not exactly encourage the notion of evolutionary hierarchies.
Lack of understanding is not a one-way street.
Beyond our civilization, most of what we do also makes absolutely no sense, even to humans themselves – those humans who have the privilege of still living outside the Matrix, in aboriginal tribes. They have no use for abstract art or historic novels or mathematical functions or a language built from hundreds of thousands of words, so they don’t produce them. Counting to three is enough for some of those tribes, sixty words are enough for others, simple stick figure murals are enough to serve most tribals’ needs. They don’t need money, they don’t measure time, they don’t form complex societies. They are capable of more, as we know from individuals who have been abducted and pulled into the Machine, but they don’t apply it. And that served them well for millions of years.
So what justifies the notion of our way of life as an expression of human superior intelligence?
Exactly nothing. Looking at all the problems it continues to cause, the opposite may seem more correct. But that does not do humanity justice; we know by the example of the tribes that our problems are cultural phenomenons only. Similarly, the intricacy of our societies, the cleverness of our technology, and the beauty of our arts are cultural in nature rather than expression of humanity’s supposedly higher intelligence.
With open eyes intelligence can be seen ranging from a Universal level down to the behaviour of atomic particles, and it is not dependent on the size – or even the presence – of a brain. I find the way everything makes sense truly astounding, though I am aware that this might be so due to my personal bias. But then again, I am in and of this world, a member of the web of life, an offspring of its evolution, and basically one with it. Why would I not be able to intuitively make an accurate guess? There is no doubt in my mind that science’s efforts to measure intelligence are heavily distorted by a cultural lens which is farther removed from a direct grasp on reality than my own bias. Science literally claims to observe matter in separation from the observed.
How would I put it more appropriately?
Well, it seems to me that our language, art, music, technology, society etc. are specific applications unique to our culture(s). They naturally vary from culture to culture and from species to species. They are expressing basic faculties common to all of life, plant and animal (including human), even existence as such. One basic faculty is communication, one of its applications is language. Cognition is a faculty, reasoning is an application. Intelligence is a faculty, technology an application.

If the theory of evolution has any root in reality it must follow that human faculties emerged from animal faculties. There is no reason to believe that ours are mounting sky high above everyone else’s.

The limits to reason

How did humans get to the idea that they could domesticate plants and animals for food prdoduction? How did they do it, and what were the implications? What has changed over the millennia and how did this affect people, plants, animals and the land?
Many among us may think they know the story, but what we actually heard was the narration of the agricultural perpetrators. The picture they paint gives rationales and justifications for modern industrial agriculture, based on utilitarian materialistic notions of bottom lines and benefits. What is missing from their picture is the suffering caused by rapist practises that sprang from rapist minds. While this may sound like a harsh judgment, consider that the rapist is separating himself from his victim, and he objectifies it so he can use it for his own benefit. The victim’s “bottom line” does play no role in his calculations. In his mind, there is no soul, no heartache, no dignity, no connectedness, no oneness, no sacredness.
In various publications Daniel Quinn pointed out that this rapist totalitarian agriculture is but one way of growing food. Other ways are not about production in the first place; they help embed humans into the web of life. Experience from organic gardening and farming does support this notion, but the case may also be made historically and etymologically.
The morpheme agri- is derived from a Latin word and means “field”. -culture, again from the Latin, means “to till, to inhabit, to protect, to nurture, to worship, to honour.” The relationship expressed in the word Agriculture is therefore a close, nurturing, loving one, originally.
What we commonly understand, today by the word agriculture, because its practices have become so ubiquitous, is a subduing of the Earth, forcing our will upon soil, plants, and animals so they deliver what we demand of them. Totalitarian agriculture is the starting point and main driver of the physical destruction of the biosphere as well as the emotional and spiritual destruction of human beings.

TENDING OUR LAND. A new story. By M. G. Jackson & Nyla Coelho
By NASA Langley Research Center, public domain

Focussing on the history of Indian farming and agriculture practices since the dawn of civilization, Jackson and Coelho give a new account of the succession of ideas and notions around tending the land. This is at the same time a history of modern science and its failures to grasp what almost every culture on Earth understood: that humans are an integral part of the world, not separate from it, and that the way we relate to it has consequences on a material level; that in fact relationships are the actual substance of reality.

“17th century specialists assumed that they were impartial observers of the objects and events they study. Such findings are thus objective, free from personal bias, and thus reveal the true nature of the phenomena studied. This assumption is based on the concept of a duality of body and mind formulated by Rene Descartes.”(p73f)
But the duality between free mind and causally-determined matter makes no sense, says Whitehead (quoted after Tending our land):
“Western peoples exhibit … two attitudes [that] are really inconsistent … A scientific realism, based upon mechanism, is conjoined with an unwavering belief in the world of man and higher animals as being composed of self-determining organisms. The radical inconsistency at the base of modern thought accounts for much that is half-hearted and wavering in our civilization.” [A. N. Whitehead, Science and the modern world, 1925, p76]
Jackson and Coelho express that there is no clear separation between the observer and the observed, so,
“In view of this assumption about the process of observation — who observes, what is observed and how — it would only be prudent to doubt the entire edifice of 17th century science. It seems likely that the specialists, in fact, see what they expect to see based on their assumptions about the nature of the world. Since they are unaware of the assumptions they hold they think they are seeing ‘the’ world as it ‘really’ is.” (p73)
In other words, the world of clearly separate entities, entities which consist of lifeless inert mass, entities which can be used and manipulated as humans please, is basically a delusion. The case can be made for things the size of galaxies, as well as for atoms, and everything inbetween.
“Size, volume, shape, density, position and velocity are not attributes of the atoms themselves, but refer to the relationships among them […] abstracted from this reference frame, an atom cannot be described; it cannot even be said to exist.” (p69)
“Another way of describing the unreality of physical entities is to say that in the world we construct from our experiences there are no spatial boundaries. If there are no boundaries there cannot be any independently-existing entities”, (p70f)
because it requires a defined area or volume for them to exist.
And really, particle physicists have been unable to discover such entities. The same goes for the macroscopic level. Can soil exist or be seen without the organisms living in it, of it, and creating it? Can a human being exist without the myriads of microspecies living on our skin, off our hair, in our bowels? Can a planet exist in and of itself, without its gravity field and the gravity fields of its neighbouring celestial bodies? With everything so tightly interlinked as to be inseparable the scientific description of relational dynamics becomes utterly ridiculous.
by MLWatts, public domain

“It is not possible to describe the simultaneous interactions of three or more bodies in one equation; say for example, the sun, planet, and the planet’s moon, or the entire solar configuration, or a human body or a landscape” (p73)

Though we can point at “things” and though we canroughly or with relative precision predict those things’ near-term development, truly exact forecasts are simply impossible. But,
“If we assume that what we observe are relationships and not objects, the appropriate research protocol is to describe these relationships. It is a process of synthesis rather than of analysis.” (p72)
So if we described the world in terms of relationships like some Eastern, and almost all indigenous, cultures used to rather than in terms of forces and masses, the outcome might be quite different. It certainly makes a difference regarding our behaviour, and our relationship to the living planet. And that in turn might mean all the difference in view of the future course of the global crisis we are currently undergoing. If what happens, eg. to the climate, is the outcome of humanity’s impoverished, disrespecting and abusive relationship towards basically everything — and how could we deny that the uglification, the exploitation, the pollution etc of the planet are just that — then re-establishing a loving relationship with the universe might result in a ‘miraculous’ healing.
“Everything in the universe we [Indians] are told is not only living, but is also sacred. What does it mean to say that life is sacred? Sacredness is a feeling, not a concept. How, or from where, does it arise? We can only say: from a sense of mystery. It will not do to say that the ancients lacked our present particular knowledge and so fell back on superstitious belief. Rather we must admit, as they did, that there is a limit to human reason. Admitting this humbles us and gives rise to a sense of awe in the face of the universal mystery of manifestation; awe and reverence are the very essence of the sacred.” (p61f)
A miracle is not something we can hope for. Similarly, sacredness is not something we can work for. Both would arise from a change in our deepest understanding, therefore today’s science would be unable to explain it. From a rational point of view, reducing emissions or cleaning up pollution would have done the job (though we know already that it’s too late for this to have any significant effect), but what would have actually happened is the mending of broken ties through re-establishing the sacred dimension of things.
Our actions are the result of inner — mental, emotional, spiritual — states and processes. Whether physical actions are effective elements in a cause-and-effect mechanism, or if they are merely symptoms of inner processes is one of the great differences in worldview between East and West, and it might be the difference between a living and a dead planet.

See also:

Towards an ethics of permanenceNyla Coelho & Dr. M.G. Jackson, Ecologise, 20170510.
An essay made from excerpts from the book Tending Our Land: A New Story, Earthcare books, Kolkata, 2016

Cognitive Justice: Science and the Sacred

Let’s take a step back and forget about climate change and the planetary catastrophe called global industrial civilization for a moment. Some of the deeper roots of our predicament have been discussed here repeatedly. (see some of the articles under the label ‘collapse of civilization‘) I have also touched into the epistemological dimension of it, what I’d call ‘nature of truth and reality‘.

Today, I’d like to have my – much more learned – colleagues elaborate on how the dominant worldview, i.e. our most basic assumptions on the nature of truth and reality, not only started the cycle of destruction but perpetuate and aggravate it through a self-reinforcing mechanism called scientific discourse.

This is in no way meant to diminish the epistemological achievements of science (see below, Nagler), or to strike a blow for the deliberate distortion of facts that runs by the name of ‘alt-truth’. Yet for us to get a more accurate picture of what is going on we need to be aware that there are actually truths alternate to our own understanding and that those truths are just as valid as what is scientifically believed to be real (see below, Wilber).

Drone magic, by Mike Licht (CC)
There is an abundance of alternative views to rationalistic materialism, yet they initially are – very – hard to discover. The dominant culture is fighting an epistemicidal war against ‘the other’, a war that is unseen by most because the enemy is not supposed to even exist. Why?

Empire is not merely territory covered, not just populations made into subjects. Empire rules not only through political, economic, and military force but through the very culture that gave birth to Empire. In other words, Empire rules the minds of its subjects, and it does so by defining what they can know — what is real. This may sound overstated to some, likely most, but the cognitive injustice created by scientific discourse is actually key to the question why social injustice does not spawn the kind of movements that would overthrow Empire. Marx had it wrong because we are not simply victims, we are co-creators of oppression. Awareness has never been enough; it takes an awakening.
The totalitarian exclusion of ‘the other’ from our view has turned it from a simple alternative into the deadliest enemy of the dominant culture, because once you start seeing it, awakening to it, you can no longer buy into the common dogmas around separateness, competition, materialism, utilitarianism, or scientism.

If you are still with me let’s foster cognitive justice now, by exploring an example which helps making the issue obvious: the relationship between science and the Sacred.

A discourse provides a set of possible statements about a given area, and organizes and gives structure to the manner in which a particular topic, object, process is to be talked about. In that it provides descriptions, rules, permissions and prohibitions of social and individual actions.”
– Günther Kress – Linguistic Processes in Sociocultural Practice, 1988
Epistemology(literally, the logical discourse on knowledge) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. Epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. Much of the debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, and justification, (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification.”
– Wikipedia

“The whole notion of ‘discourse‘ and ‘discourse community’ is a circular one – the community is defined as those that share certain discourse habits and functions, while skill in the prescribed discourse is a prerequisite for being taken seriously by the discourse community. Hence, academic discourse is thus revealed, from the outset, to be a self-referential self-justificatory practice that determines what may legitimately beconsidered as knowledge.”

In this era of increased knowledge the essence of religious phenomena eludes the psychologists, sociologists, linguists, and other specialists because they do not study it as religious. According to Mircea Eliade, they miss the one irreducible element in religious phenomena—the element of the sacred.“
– 1996 introduction to Mircea Eliade’s book „Patterns in comparative Religion“ (1958)
The dark side of modern science, and unfortunately it has one, does not arise from science itself, still less from any of the facts of nature. It arises from the impression we allow science to give us: the impression that we are merely biological machines in a meaningless material universe.
Science has every right to confine its attention to the physical, i.e. the outside world. It has no right to say, when it has done so, that it has given us the whole story.”
– Michael N. Nagler – Is there no other way?, 2001
Cognitive injustice, the failure to recognize the different ways of knowing by which people across the globe run their lives and provide meaning to their existence.”
– Boaventura de Sousa Santos – Epistemologies of the South: justice against epistemicide. 2014 (pdf)
Epistemicide: the war on, and the destruction of existing knowledge and the subsequent abortion of the possibility of acquiring new knowledge within a certain system of thought.
The way that a particular culture formulates its knowledge is intricately bound up with the very identity of its people, their way of making sense of the world and the value system that holds that worldview in place. Epistemicide, as the systematic destruction of rival forms of knowledge, is at its worst nothing less than symbolic genocide […]
There are others […] that view the encroachment of the scientific paradigm as a form of cultural imperialism […] They often experience the rationalization and objectivization of reality as a kind of reductionism that is inadequate to explain the complexities of human experience.”
– Karen Bennett – Epistemicide! The Tale of a Predatory Discourse. 2007
The modern age has forgotten that facts and information, for all their usefulness, are not the same as wisdom—and certainly not the same as the direct experience of Reality. We have lost touch with the intuitive wisdom born of silence and stillness, and we are left stranded in a sea of information that cannot deliver on its promise of ever-increasing happiness and fulfillment.”
The Way of Liberation is not a belief system; it is something to be put into practice. In this sense it is entirely practical.”
– Adyashanti – The way of Liberation: a practical guide to spiritual enlightenment, 2012

“When we find those types of statements in Plotinus or Asanga or Garab Dorje or Abhinavigupta or Shankara, rest assured that they are not simply theoretical hunches or metaphysical postulates. Those are direct experimental disclosures issuing directly from te subtle dimension of reality, interpreted according to the backgrounds of those individuals, but issuing from this profound ontological reality, this subtle worldspace.

And if you want to know what these men and women are actually talking about, then you must take up the contemplative practice or injunction or paradigm, and perform the experiment yourself […]
So this experiment will disclose the archetypal data, and then you can help interpret what they mean. And by far the most commonly accepted interpretation is, you are looking at the basic forms and foundations of the entire manifest world. You are looking directly into the face of the Divine.”
– Ken Wilber – A brief history of everything, 1996

Doom-dee-doom

Abrupt climate change and consequent near-term human extinction are minefields of their own. For most people I encounter they are next to ungraspable as concepts, and completely unimaginable as a reality. The kind of action me and some other folks from the so-called “doomer community” are proposing is yet another very difficult topic to bring across. We are using scientific data as means to point out the predicament we as a species have manoeuvered ourselves into; at the same time we reject science and technology as means to “solve the problem”. Why do we feel this way?
In an interview with Peter Melton, Zhiwa Woodbury argues:
“We allow ourselves to get bogged down in the debate over what the science says and what it doesn’t say. It’s the same kind of technological approach to the natural world that got us into this mess. it’s all about trajectories and predictions and scientific models, acquiring knowledge, learning about the climate crisis as if it is not us that is in crisis. What we need to consider and focus on is not, how all the pieces of the climate puzzle fit together into our model of externalities but rather the cycle of trauma and dissociation that is implicit in our own subjective and dysfunctional relationship to the natural world which is crying out to us in distress. Then, only then, will we begin to discover insights into how to respond to the crisis.”Viewing the Climate Crisis Through the Lens of Cultural Trauma, Extinction Radio ep. 47, Feb. 12 2016
First issue here is, as Guy McPherson likes to point out, a problem has solutions; a predicament hasn’t. (Why we better to consider ourselves being confronted with a predicament has been explained in previous articles here.)
Accordingly, further meddling with Earth’s systems, so-called geo-engineering, will fail to achieve the intended result, as quite a number of scientific reports show, or even worsenthe predicament. Our goal is not some sort of escape from the consequences of our actions as a species, but rather the acceptance of our role in the uglification and destruction of the living planet, and surrender to our not-quite-unlikely demise. Among the aims of the not-actually-gloomy-minded doomers are, reconnecting to the natural world, living with passion, and the effort to soften the impact on our fellow humans and non-human species as many of us go extinct.
Secondly, to understand that it has been technology that brought about our predicament, and that this technology is nearing the end of its ability to handle the climate situation – or any complex situation at all – is absolutely necessary for being able to open up to more fruitful paths of action. Like a rapist is hardly able to soothe his victim, so is technology not exactly a good choice when we think about healing the wounds it has torn into body and soul of the planet. Seen from this angle, again, geo-engineering cannot be regarded as an option. The patient, Earth’s biosphere, is about to die. Another surgery will not do, and surely not another face-lift, painkiller pill, or band-aid. If some of the planetary life force is supposed to survive civilization’s onslaught, it takes less, not more, technology interfering with its functioning. In other words, we need to learn again how to live as one species among millions of others, and in the appropriate way for humans; this certainly means slower, simpler, lower-tech, more respectful and humble, and face to face, in smaller groups.
Thirdly, the deeper reason for why science and technology won’t be able to help the situation is, they are based on the false assumption that the world ‘out there’ is a pile of mindless ‘resources’, that it is driven by an indifferent set of ‘mechanisms’, and that it can be manipulated and put to use at will, by humans. As a result, human activity, in its totality, has altered the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere and the oceans to a degree where they can function no longer the way we were used to. In effect, we unwittingly did perform an experiment in geo-engineering with the aim of rendering the planet inhabitable; all went well and we are supposed to go extinct within the next decade or so. While some may try and reverse the upward trend in global average temperature, many of us just don’t believe in this kind of ‘saving the Earth’ any longer. How many of those wanting to preserve civilization have ever asked what we need it for, in the first place? All this knowledge piled up, all those gadgets surrounding us, all that progress people try to achieve – what are they good for when they come at the price of our lives having become pointless and the planet going to shreds? What makes you think this is going to change if only we hold on a little longer?
There is no golden age right around the corner. There never was. Let’s face it: Our culture has let itself get lost in a nightmare of ever increasing, ever faster destruction from which we cannot see a way out because we got our premises wrong.
The dark side of modern science, and unfortunately it has one, does not arise from science itself, still less from any of the facts of nature. It arises from the impression we allow science to give us: the impression that we are merely biological machines in a meaningless material universe.”–Is there no other way?, by Michael N. Nagler, 2001.
Overcoming the false assumptions at the foundation of our crises might make the kind of difference that matters. It is not only the climate that has come off-balance; so many things and processes within and without our culture have suffered severe damage, and all for the same reasons: our obsession with separation and control.
Even former US secretary of defense, under Clinton, from 1993 to 1997, William J. Perry, who seemingly does not have spiritual understandings in mind says, in his memoirs,
“technical innovation, private profit and tax dollars, civilian gadgetry and weapons of mass destruction, satellite technology, computers, and ever-expanding surveillance are interconnected.”My journey at the nuclear brink, 2016
The politician also thinks that nuclear strategies are “surreal thinking”, and I concur in both of these statements. Our whole civilization is one vast surreal thought that disturbs our perception of what is really real. Our responses to the crises therefore are inappropriate, even adding to the destruction, and will eventually lead to our fall. When and how that happens, and how deep we fall depends to a certain degree on our collective ability to let go of our perceived entitlement to grid energy, supermarkets, automobility, and tap water.
If we fail to ‘save’ mankind from its fate, the demise of the biosphere can at least take on rather gentle than brutal form. While the world is certainly under no-one’s control, the state of awakening will be crucial to how it is all going to unfold. Healing one’s relationship with the world has a profound effect on everything and everyone around us, allowing for everyone to leave this life in peace.
In order to bring this essay to its conclusion, it needs to be said that it doesn’t take science if we want to understand the predicament as such. The damage done can be seen and felt in other ways as well; it is present within all of us as a background fear or pain. Referring to scientific facts, though, helps with waking up those who firmly believe that science represents the only way to grasp reality. There is more to the story, though. Aspects of life besides our physical existence are affected, and layers of reality beyond the scientifically observable are involved.
Science has every right to confine its attention to the physical, i.e. the outside world. It has no right to say, when it has done so, that it has given us the whole story”, says Michael N. Nagler in his book Is there no other way?
Science has contributed its share to dividing the world into the human and non-human realm. While it has been our deliberate separation from nature that has brought about our predicament, the perception of separateness is only an illusion. At no point have we ever been out of touch with the ‘objects’ we observed, or independent from the community of life we require for our survival; we need the bacteria in our intestines, the oxygen that green beings created, the food that consists of other life forms, and gazillions of other things made out of, or created by, other living beings. And that is just the physical aspect of life. We have been born as parts of this world and we do have an innate understanding of its workings. Our connection to the Source and our ability for wisdom never went away. We may trust our personal observations of the real world, and we should as well trust our gut feelings and intuitions about the situation we are facing. Looking at details, it sure seems complicated. Yet the grand picture is simple enough –
Our world stands before a severe change. Every human being should, from now on, try to live joyfully and peacefully for the rest of his or her life. This would really be the best. Everything else is meaningless and useless and there is no benefit in trying to think your way out of it […]
Humanity has arrived at a moment in time from when on our prayers – no matter whom to – will no longer be heard. There is no stopping what we are up against, no matter how hard we cry. –The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu.
As paradoxical as it may seem, in this moment of profound powerlessness, the final hour of a brief epoch called Anthropocene, when we get shaken up, tossed around, and beaten down by the inescapable consequences of our deeds, there is the unique chance of taking back responsibility for how we live. In the words of conservation biologist and climate researcher Guy McPherson,
Let’s give freely of our time, wisdom, and material possessions. Let’s throw ourselves into humanity and the living planet. Let’s act with compassion and courage. Let’s endow ourselves with dignity.
Even if all the data, models, assessments, and forecasts about abrupt climate change are incorrect, even if Earth can support infinite growth on a finite planet with no adverse consequences, I remain unconvinced there is a better way to live.” –Extinction dialogs: How to live with death in mind, 2015

Close to remoteness

When people refuse to face their emotions, when they deny them the right to come up by judging them as ‘negative’, that’s when facts begin to matter no longer. You should think that emotionless measuring of things and cold-hearted piling up of facts create sort of an objective image of reality. Yet the opposite is the case. By excluding the humanity of the observer and his/her existence as a physical-psychological-spiritual creature that has a relationship with the world, ‘objective’ data becomes meaningless. The observer and his audience – including those who are supposed to judge the information with relation to the world of humans – win no useful understanding from research results because something is missing from the picture. You, as a receiver of news, feel like you are living in a surreal world of dreadful events of incredible dimensions, but nobody around is willing to respond timely, sufficiently, if at all – including yourself, because you don’t trust your half way suppressed feelings enough to challenge authorities. That’s when we literally sit there waiting till kingdom come.

It’s the end of the world – how do you feel?

The thing that bothered me always with how science is being used is both this attitude of „the sustained loss of blood might potentially lead to a death-like situation within the next one hundred years“, and the way technocrats use the notion of objectivity to dismiss feelings as a source of information or as a proper response to a situation. What we call ‘negative’ emotions are actually healthy signs of alarm to a potential threat. Potentiality may become actuality if we do not respond. In the case of climate disruption, humanity has been robbing itself this way of the ability to do anything about the unfolding disaster. I think that, somewhere deep inside, we know this and we are ashamed of it.

Shame, though, is as detrimental as pure alarmism. Both keep us in a state of fright. Maybe it takes just a little courage, maybe it takes nothing else than healthy reasonableness to look at that feeling and take the next step.

Daring to cry for what we have done is a liberation because it releases the pressure of having to sustain the illusion of control over a situation that has completely escaped from our manipulative reach. It is only through liberation that right action can come about.
The other option consists of complete and utter panic the very moment our useless remote controls are taken from us. I don’t know about you, but I sure know which choice to take for myself.

Permaculture and the Megamachine

The other day I gave a comment, saying that, with so many tipping points crossed and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already triggered, there is not much hope mankind would survive the oncoming steep temperature increase. The reply was that the gloom-and-doom preachers just don’t know how much CO2 permaculture techniques were able to sequester. There are two points I wish to address.

First of all, with all the criticism I use to direct towards scientism – the belief that science alone can define the nature and contents of reality – we all depend on the results of scientific research in order to evaluate what is about to happen. Apart from the rather anecdotal observations from our own environment scientific data is the foundation for climate discussions. One can interpret it in various ways but the figures as such are already awe-inspiring. With previously relatively conservative scientists like Peter Wadhams now pointing out that we are effectively effed, I think it is not adequate to dismiss the messenger as a doom-and-gloom fearmonger. That goes especially for McPherson whose intention is not spreading fear or defeatism. He expressly encourages people to actually live for the things or the people they love rather than continuing to trying to uphold the zombie obedience to the machine which created the mess in the first place.

Which brings me to my second point. Most of the permaculture scene, like all the rest of society, does not question the origin of the many crises this planet is currently going through. These people are still looking for technical solutions when it was technology – and the mindset of separation and control behind it – that has created those crises. Even if we solved the climate issue – which I doubt because we will not stop wanting to grow, and therefore wanting to produce stuff, and therefore using more energy, and therefore producing more heat – there still is mass unemployment, mass poverty, mass extinction, desertification, dying oceans, diminished forests, resources depletion, overpopulation, criminality, war, nuclear waste, plastic pollution, child labour, inflation, … you name it. All of this is inherent to the thing that Mumford called the Megamachine, civilization. None of it will go away as long as the notion of separation from, and control over nature prevails, a notion which lies at the very heart of civilization. Civilization HAS to end, or the price we pay is our planet going Venus.
If there is any hope for survival of life on Earth it will not lie in doing, for it was doing that brought us here; hope lies in the collapse of belief in the ideology of control. Hope, though, is part of the collective illusion that prevents us from seeing reality as it is rather than the way we wish it to be. Awakening to the true nature of existence is a task that has to be picked up by each person individually, and it implies surrendering to the possibility of complete annihilation, without fear. Fear of death kills everything.

Grief, yes, we will grief for the loss of loved ones – butterflies, bluebirds, sequoias, relatives, friends, last not least ourselves. And it will be for the love of these that life may find a way. 

Jesus, in a bottle fashion

I have been baptized a Catholic, and I grew up among Lutheran country folk. My social situation, though, was not such that any upright Christian, or any righteous Philistine, for that matter, would have approved of my existence at that time. My mother did have to leave home and had trouble finding a flat thanks to that unaccounted-for belly of hers. According to the doctrines, I was… I am the product of sin, and no matter what the New Testament says about forgiveness or first stones — Jesus, basically, was a funny-dressed guy sharing space with some sheep on a cheesy picture above the sofa — the Old Man In The Clouds wasn’t as merciful as the Bible, according to the priests, propagates. What it takes denominations for, I couldn’t tell anyway. As a result, I came to a similar view like Jeremy Taylor, an Anglican cleric, who wrote in his “Polemical discourses” in 1674,

“That the Scriptures do not contain in them all the necessary to salvation, is the fountain of many great and capital errors; I instance in the whole doctrine of the Libertines, Familists, Quakers, and other enthusiasts, which issue from this corrupted fountain.”
At a later point, I guess it was around 7th grade, I heard, through a Catholic teacher, of the idea that the scriptures were not to be taken literally, and that God was not some remote person, but he was present in everything, and even later, that he WAS everything. I neither realized that I had been introduced to the concepts of Animism and Spirituality, nor what was the difference between the two. I mean, it DOES make a difference whether it is about the wine in the bottle, and the bottle, as every environmentalist grievingly must accept, does not seize to exist after the wine starts to animate a human being instead, or if we are talking about the bottle as such and it vanishes with the spirit.
Words, I gradually found out, are a tricky thing describing a no-less-tricky reality, whatever that is. I guess that was when I began to understand how sarcasm works. Though I took some of its products way too literally. The cynical mind of the rational person makes religious texts sound pretty weird, like:
“CHRISTIANITY — the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.” (taken from Urban dictionary)
As we are almost completely disconnected from the culture and conditions that created the Bible, it is hard to tell what the source actually said when it talked about Trinity, Heaven and stuff. Words, what do they mean anyway? Tyranny, racism, sexism, war, slavery, depletion, exploitation — name anything that has not been justified by God’s supposed will as stated in the Bible.
What is needed to have truth speak from any text, of course, is, to approach the text with the right mind, a mind that is open to the kind of experience, or insight, which a source is talking about. A spiritual mind alone can make proper use of a religious text, like a rational mind alone can fully understand a scientific paper.
So readers got to be willing to go through the inquiring exercise themselves. Sam Coleridge, in a marginal note to Taylor’s above statement, put it aptly so in 1811:
“As I cannot think that it detracts from a dial that in order to tell the time the sun must shine upon it, so neither does it detract from the scriptures, that tho’ the best and holiest, they are yet scripture – & require a pure heart & the consequent assistances of God’s entlightening Grace in order to understand them to edification. And what more does the Quaker say? He will not call the written words of God the Divine WORD: & he does rightly.”
–A book I value; sel. marginalia by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; ed. by H. J. Jackson, 2003
While different, “foreign”, angles of attack can produce interesting insights, the core message only reveals itself with a matching key to its interpretation and an understanding of the diversity of truth’s expression.
Therefore, if you approach the Bible text from a Hindu or Buddhist point of view, it begins to make way more sense than when following Western de-spirited, exclusivist trains of thought — including theology. There are less contradictions and more points one can relate to as a modern person. The text would only indicate a truth (‘metaphorical‘ doesn’t fully describe its functioning) which can be verified by anybody anywhere through exercises of introspective contemplation, rather than stating the truth in and by itself.
Whereas, to me, the Dalai Lama makes for a better Bible interpreter than the Pope himself, the rationalistic worldview completely fails to grasp the inner meaning of the texts (because, in science, there exists no meaning). The analysis in terms of mere historicity and function opens the gate for cynical reading. At best it results in puzzlement, or in sarcastic rephrasings like the one above. And hey, they can be quite funny. I did laugh hard on reading it for the first time, though I liked the following even better:
“God is dead.” –Nietzsche
“Nietzsche is dead.” –God

Science rules… out other realities

“Science is the dominant religion of our time. Like most religions, it comprises canonical texts, metaphysical teachings, a priesthood, initiatory processes (grad school), its own special language, schismatic cults, and a procedures for discovering truth (the Scientific Method). Like any dominant religion, it is closely wedded to institutions of economic and political domination as well.”
–Charles Eisenstein, same day, on Facebook

On the blindness of scientism

One famous Indian once said that it was not a measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
I would like to add that, in turn, it is not a sign of health in a society when it is unable to accept, and integrate itself into, the suchness of existence. If it has, at its basis, the idea of improving on nature it is well on its way to insanity.
For in that case it regards itself — culture — as external to, and separate from, nature, a category it introduces to name the thing it seeks to manipulate and control.
And the whole practice of substituting vitamin pills for fruits, plastic packaging for freshness, hydroponics for soil, legal bondage for empathic relationships, social insurance for compassion, money for trust, horsepower for horses, governance for personal responsibility, rational for reasonable, and all the rest of it, reeks of manipulation.

Science and technology, along with politics and religion, are fine as far as they go, but as solutions to our crisis they must fail, for they are expressions of the paradigm of separateness from, and control over, ‘nature’. They can reveal aspects of reality, yet in no way can they claim to be the only way, or source, of knowledge that there is. For their understanding of reality is limited while existence is infinitely larger and deeper than their rational scope.

We have observed what came from giving way to pure rationality. Just look at the world of today. If we are engulfed in conflict and misery it is because, among others, rationalism lacks an ethical dimension, a social dimension, a spiritual dimension, and an emotional dimension, all of which are defining us as human beings. That which is ‘irrational’ is part of reality — the totality of existence. The sense for it is not a glitch, a dysfunction, or a human disease, but exists for a reason. When we exclude it from our ‘calculation’ we are ignoring the deeper roots of the world’s condition, and therefore the way forward, both of which literally lie outside science’s view and technology’s grasp.

Our society may be profoundly sick (or maybe it is just a passing adolescent phase), but as a species, we are neither dysfunctional mutations nor diseased miscreations (born sinners, as the Bible goes); we are wearing cultural glasses that impair our sight. Leaving culture aside, not negating it, but looking beyond it — what do we see?

Determinism

I must admit that I once was a guy who couldn’t believe in anything that was out of reach of science. If you couldn’t touch it, define it, extract it, manipulate it, categorize it, prove it, it couldn’t have been real. What a miserable existence that was, denuded of all the beauty and freedom of emergence.

Well… having had a lazy day I recently stumbled into someone else’s blog who discussed the subject of determinism, and people being unwilling to rethink their beliefs. I liked the observations she made. Information per se hardly ever changes anything. People will resist new information, no matter what, unless they feel the new truth in their bones, or unless it already agrees with their world view. So I agreed with my previous responder to that blog, that using a Socratic approach can do magic (although I prefer to just present my personal view as such, rather than manipulating people into finding what I find).

As for determinism, it isn’t all that new. As a matter of fact, it has been the basis of science and technology for over 400 years. If science is right about the determinism of the universe, then people’s behavior cannot be free as well. What’s revolutionary about that idea is that we now begin to apply it on humans, although, in our subconscious, we use to think we were exempt from the laws of nature. And maybe we think so because we feel that determinism might be a wrong concept.

The Cartesian world view in public perception is very hard to kill and people trained in rational thinking and rhetorics can talk you into believing it – if you ever doubted. But since ~1900, Heisenberg, Einstein, Gödel, Turing and many others have demonstrated that we cannot be sure about anything, or even everything. Determinism is dead. We just didn’t notice.

After all it is just another concept, another ideological (or religious, if you prefer) world view. People have come up with others, like eastern religions, buddhism, animism, chaotic organisation, chaotic non-organisation and so on. Both science and religion have their use in a certain area; both determinism and free will work within a certain frame, but then they fail due to applying a rigid method to a living process. That is what the scientists I mentioned proved with their methods, and what e.g. Buddhists agree with for 2500 years now after having applied their own methods, and why I say that determinism is yesterday’s jam.
Of course that is only my view, no more valid than anyone else’s view. I see no objective reality “out there”, truth being the same for everyone when in “fact” it isn’t.

Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear here. I didn’t intend to say that Heisenberg alone declared that we cannot know anything for sure, but that he, the persons I mentioned, and others like Schrödinger *together* paint the picture of a science different from the deterministic ideology of pre-20th century science. Taken as a whole their work unintendedly shows that science as such fails with explaining reality, especially in complex systems, and therefore will never be able to make true precise longterm predictions.

Why is it that the laws which science finds don’t fit reality and have to get redefined over and over again? Besides the complicated one (represented by Gödel &co.) there’s two easy parts:

a) The nature of a law (especially a scientific law) is generalization. You have to reduce individual things with infinite properties each to categories of similar things with a finite set of properties to which the law applies. There are two problems with that:
– The set of properties is of arbitrary choice. Look at the definition of “planet”. Look at any map.
– The rest which we discard as irrelevant but which represents an infinitely higher number of properties has a significance. Think of it when you listen to the weather forecast or when you drink a vitamins shake instead of eating an apple.
The categories we make up along with the limited-properties things create a picture that may follow the laws of science within a given frame set, but only if you don’t look too close. Taking that picture for real hence trying to apply the laws universally results in chaotic, unexpected response. Always.

b) Even if we do not look for rules and do not gain our knowledge from books, we can rely on our senses and say, “I see that thing. I measured some of its properties.” Still people disagree for a vast amount of reasons, one of which is that we cannot handle infinite amounts of properties. What then, following from that, is reality if not that what we choose? Isn’t it different for each person? What can we actually know for sure if we cannot completely know at least one single thing?

You do believe in determinism, but you do not believe your life is unalterably fixed, past, present, and future, do you? For, no matter if we are able to predict what’s to come, that is what “determined” means. Otherwise I didn’t get your reason for acting as responsible individuals. If I’d ask a person in a deterministic world why s/he is doing something, the answer I’d expect would be, “Because I cannot help but to follow the laws of the universe. There is no choice”; like a planet cannot willingly resist the gravity of its star. Without choice you could not act responsibly. You were just a puppet on a string, a programmed robot.
But, as a matter of fact, you are free to choose whatever option you prefer; even in a situation of being “forced” you are free to say: “Pull the trigger!”

Personally, I have given up on determinism as soon as I found out that it doesn’t work on me when I decide so; it also doesn’t hold for natural processes, if you take a closer look.
Instead, I (in short) think of an interdependent system of self-organizing complex subsystems, in which each element has options within a given frame, but each action changes the context by causing feedback, so we evolve while, and by, adapting to the constantly changing world we created and that created us. We are both free and bound. That’s pretty much what I see around me and inside myself – which results in active participation in the world’s affairs without desperately clinging to my ideas and wishes.