All posts by worldsmany2

I'm passionately engaged in exploring the great questions of life. These questions encompass all the humanities, arts and science, as well as all the vital domains of life, including personal wholeness, human relationships, cultural literacy and civil society.

Liberal Arts, Critical Thinking, Cultural Literary & Civil Discourse in the Digital Age of Trollers & Demagogues

We live in the technological age of digital information and entertainment. We also live in an amused and distracted society of “bread and circuses,” of show business and media spectacle. These two statements are not unrelated to each other. The result of living in a show business and media spectacle society is the dumbing down and coarsening of personal reflection and social discourse. A society of thoughtfully reflective and liberally educated persons who value the serious life of the mind and the disciplined practice of civil discourse will produce a very different kind of society.

Perhaps nothing represents both the dumbing down of personal reflection and the coarsening of social discourse than the ravings of Donald Trump. He largely depends on creating endless controversy and feuds through Twitter and through calling in to the major media outlets to spread his ignorant, arrogant narcissistic and demagogic message of racism, resentment, fear and hate.

As the Huffington Post puts it, “Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to pan all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.”

My point is not to adopt a luddite view or to demonize our digital revolution. I welcome it and put it to use in my own life all the time. Rather, it is to point out that for those who lack respect for humanistic values, liberal education, cultural pluralism, civil discourse and democratic institutions, the digital revolution has made it astonishingly easy for those with the most hateful, violent, cruel and crazy views to use the loud-speaker of twitter and fabricated pseudo news stories to “control the narrative” and drown out all other voices than their own.

We live in a society that increasingly lives in the “shallows” of radio, TV and internet noise, trivia, sensationalism and chatter. We are forgetting out to think slowly and deeply about the great issues of life, about what it means to be a whole human being, to build a civil and just society, and to foster a verdant and sustainable world. We need to recover our ability to sustain our powers of attention and concentration. Both the habit of serious book reading, including the literary classics, and the art of critically reflective constructive dialogue serve to reinforce the rigorous life of the mind and the generous empathy of the heart. Attention to great music and the fine arts also serve to cultivate the finer qualities of enrich our common humanity.

Living in an information and entertainment digital technology society it not enough to nurture the life of the mind, the care of the soul, the opening of the heart and the awakening of the spirit. We need to recover the neglected wisdom of past generations. We need to learn how to slow down, to listen deeply, to calm the chatter and to see beneath the surface of things. This can be achieved through the habits of solitary sauntering, quiet meditation, broad reading , journal-writing, and conversational circles, as well as through exploring the vital domains of general knowledge such as history, myth, philosophy, religion, language, literature, music, art, science, technology, sociology, psychology, economics, politics, health and education, energy and ecology. A “great people” who are committed to cultivating the well-rounded life of the body, soul, heart, mind and spirit, and to working together with others in an open democratic society that celebrates both unity and diversity will not be seduced when an ignorant, arrogant, hateful and xenophobic demagogue comes knocking at their door.

 

 

Asking the Oldest Philosophical Question: What Is the Nature of Fundamental Reality?

The first ancient Greece philosophers thought that Fundamental Reality is one of the basic physical elements, like air, fire, water and earth, or all of them together.

Their offspring, the atomists, thought it is “matter” or “atoms”

Others have thought that it’s “energy” or “forces.”

Or maybe its a combination of matter and energy working together. Maybe matter and energy are just two aspects of the same reality, so that we get the hyphenated word “matter-energy.” When we think of prime reality as particles we call it matter. When we think of prime reality as energy we call it waves. So maybe it’s both-and, not either-or.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the atomists are the idealists who think Fundamental Reality is, well, Thought, various called Idea, Form, Mind or Consciousness. Some have envisioned a single, universal transcendent Mind, whether personal (God) or impersonal (Godhead), or both. Others have envisioned many finite gods. Still others have imagined that there are many subsidiary and differentiated Minds or Monads, centers of sentience and/or conscience, even hundreds of billions of them throughout the galaxies, but that all of them are ultimate absorbed into the One Universal Mind.

Still others have thought that Matter and Mind are two different realities that have little or nothing to do with each other. Matter is the realm of immanent physical quantities. Mind is the realm of transcendent spiritual qualities. This view is known as metaphysical dualism. Descartes held this view..

And then there are those who think that Fundamental Reality is a synthesis of Matter and Mind, again two aspects of a single entity. So both sides are right, but there is one reality, not two. This view is called Neutral Monism.

Aristotle thought that Fundamental Reality is Being, and that Being is composed of Matter and Form, not either one separate from the other. This view is called hylomorphism.

In more recent times some have suggested that Fundamental Reality is Matter-Energy + Form-Process + Body-Mind + Identity-Relationships. Obviously this group is trying to have it all, to say “Yes, you’re all partly right” to many difference theories concerning the nature of Fundamental Reality. Both-And thinkers like it. Either-Or thinkers hate it. Both sides believe that reason and the evidence support their view and contradict the other.

It is not likely that this ancient and ageless philosophical question will go away any time soon. And it is equally unlikely that there will ever be anything like “universal consensus” when it comes to answering the question. It will remain a Mystery we continue to live with, even while there will be strong partisans who hold their views, some provisionally and others with evangelistic zeal. Materialists, Idealists, Dualists, Panpsychists and others will continue to probe the Mystery as if it were a philosophical or scientific problem that can be solved by our finite and conditioned but promethean and inquisitive human minds. Whether it can or will be “solved” remains an open question. I have my doubts.

Science Set Free from Reductive Materialism ? Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Resonance Fields

In the “values clarification” tradition it is recommended that values (and beliefs) “be chosen freely, after thoughtful consideration, and among alternatives.” In that spirit I would like to offer an alternative worldview to scientific materialism and reductionism for your consideration.  Rupert Sheldrake articulates such an alternative view in such books as Morphic Resonance: The Nature of Formative Causation, and Science Set Free . Here’s some biographical information followed by several reviews of “Science Set Free.” This book and the worldview it represents is at counterpoint to the two books referenced to Peter Watson in my previous blog. It’s important to offer “equal time” for different worldviews. This information is gathered from Amazon Books.

Rupert Sheldrake

Biography

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and ten books. He was among the top 100 Global Thought Leaders for 2013, as ranked by the Duttweiler Institute, Zurich, Switzerland’s leading think tank. He studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honours degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize (1963). He then studied philosophy and history of science at Harvard University, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow (1963-64), before returning to Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in biochemistry (1967). He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge (1967-73), where he was Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology. As the Rosenheim Research Fellow of the Royal Society (1970-73), he carried out research on the development of plants and the ageing of cells in the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge University. While at Cambridge, together with Philip Rubery, he discovered the mechanism of polar auxin transport, the process by which the plant hormone auxin is carried from the shoots towards the roots.

From 1968 to 1969, as a Royal Society Leverhulme Scholar, based in the Botany Department of the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, he studied rain forest plants. From 1974 to 1985 he was Principal Plant Physiologist and Consultant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, where he helped develop new cropping systems now widely used by farmers. While in India, he also lived for a year and a half at the ashram of Fr Bede Griffiths in Tamil Nadu, where he wrote his first book, A New Science of Life, published in 1981 (new edition 2009).

Since 1981, he has continued research on developmental and cell biology. He has also investigated unexplained aspects of animal behaviour, including how pigeons find their way home, the telepathic abilities of dogs, cats and other animals, and the apparent abilities of animals to anticipate earthquakes and tsunamis. He subsequently studied similar phenomena in people, including the sense of being stared at, telepathy between mothers and babies, telepathy in connection with telephone calls, and premonitions. Although some of these areas overlap the field of parapsychology, he approaches them as a biologist, and bases his research on natural history and experiments under natural conditions, as opposed to laboratory studies. His research on these subjects is summarized in his books Seven Experiments That Could Change the World (1994, second edition 2002), Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (1999, new edition 2011) and The Sense of Being Stared At (2003, new edition 2012).

In his most recent book (2012), called The Science Delusion in the UK and Science Set Free in the US, he examines the ten dogmas of modern science, and shows how they can be turned into questions that open up new vistas of scientific possibility. This book received the Book of the Year Award from the British Scientific and Medical Network.

In 2000, he was the Steinbach Scholar in Residence at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. From 2005-2010 he was the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge University. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California, a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut, and a Fellow of Schumacher College in Devon, England.

He lives in London with his wife Jill Purce. They have two sons, Merlin, a graduate student in Plant Sciences at Cambridge University and a research fellow at The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Cosmo, a musician.

 
Editorial Reviews: Science Set Free
By Peter White on September 4, 2012

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

“We all have assumptions that frame how and what we know; without them we couldn’t think at all much less discover a cure for Alzheimer’s. But assumptions can take on a life of their own and choke off the pursuit of knowledge; especially vulnerable are those who sit atop powerful hierarchies for long periods of time. The medieval Church required astronomers to assume that the earth was at the center of the solar system. Science overthrew such groundless imperatives but today seems unable to disenthrall itself from its own long and tautly held assumptions. In “Science Set Free,” Rupert Sheldrake names ten of these assumptions and explains, without raising his voice, why science needs to have another look at each one.

“His arguments make sense to me. For example, the first assumption Sheldrake takes on is the hypothesis of materialism: the idea that only matter and energy exist and that the cosmos is a machine with no original purpose and a bleak entropic future. Under this assumption, held as an unassailable dogma by science, existence is purposeless, consciousness is an illusion, we have no free will, and God is out of the question. These are not small issues.”

Science Set Free takes us through the history of materialist theory, showing how it emerged in the Renaissance in a religious context, acquired self-confidence in the deism of the Enlightenment, and in the 19th and 20th centuries attained megalomania, leading to the notions of reality mentioned above. Sheldrake rejects materialism and depicts nature as an organic whole with boundless evolutionary potential. His arguments are based on the sound science in which he is grounded as a Cambridge and Harvard-trained biologist; but what I admire especially is that he is also a man of “scientia sacra,” which reveres the poetry and beauty of life and knows that there is more to knowledge than measurement.

By Pete Sargasso on October 3, 2012

“SCIENCE SET FREE is an excellent work, well worth the reading. Here are ten reasons why.
1. Good writing. The sine-qua-non of all good books… and the test is that once started it is hard to put down.

2. Personal. One can feel the engagement of the writer in the prose. He is there in light touches of humour: but more importantly, he is there in his conviction, in his willingness to share data and in his reporting of the way his work has been marginalized – not because it is wrong- but because it challenges some of the current assumptions of Science.

3. Coherent Structure. All the chapters follow the same pattern, and this gives the book a special kind of unity. Each chapter begins with a question followed by a historical analysis of how that question has been answered in different epochs, and leading to an up-to-date analysis of the available data.

4. Superb bibliography. Enough reading here for a lifetime.

5. Breaks new ground. No one can tell where research will lead, but an openness to fresh ideas is necessary for progress.

6. Educational. Whether one agrees with Sheldrake or not, SCIENCE SET FREE serves as an introduction to many areas of scientific research. Where the jargon of science is necessary to avoid confusion, he explains not only the meaning of a given term, but its etymology. That is a courtesy to the reader and greatly facilitates understanding.

7. Interdisciplinary. The text moves easily from scientific research to conclusions from ancient and modern philosophy. Also, it is not restricted to one science but ranges from physics to botany, to the experiences of shamans, to telepathy, and yes, to religion somewhat…. Hence we gain a comprehensive picture.

“His arguments make sense to me. For example, the first assumption Sheldrake takes on is the hypothesis of materialism: the idea that only matter and energy exist and that the cosmos is a machine with no original purpose and a bleak entropic future. Under this assumption, held as an unassailable dogma by science, existence is purposeless, consciousness is an illusion, we have no free will, and God is out of the question. These are not small issues.“Science Set Free” takes us through the history of materialist theory, showing how it emerged in the Renaissance in a religious context, acquired self-confidence in the deism of the Enlightenment, and in the 19th and 20th centuries attained megalomania, leading to the notions of reality mentioned above. Sheldrake rejects materialism and depicts nature as an organic whole with boundless evolutionary potential. His arguments are based on the sound science in which he is grounded as a Cambridge and Harvard-trained biologist; but what I admire especially is that he is also a man of “scientia sacra,” which reveres the poetry and beauty of life and knows that there is more to knowledge than measurement.

By Robert McLuhan on September 5, 2012

“For those of us who are suspicious of the claims of materialism it’s astonishing, and also heartening, to hear a scientist agree that it’s a hidebound ideology, dismiss the belief in determinism as a ‘delusion’ and call on the ‘high priests’ of science to abandon their ‘fantasy of omniscience’.

“This all sounds rather rhetorical, but this is as polemical as his language gets; the book certainly has little about religion. For the most part it’s a dispassionate expose of materialism’s failures, and a plea for scientists to open up to new thinking. Despite his reputation as a heretic, gained from his controversial theory of morphic resonance and his psychic research, Sheldrake has impeccable credentials as a biochemist – Cambridge, Harvard, ground-breaking research and a stint in India helping to develop high-yield crops – that demand respect.

“Sheldrake identifies ten core beliefs that scientists take for granted:

that people and animals are complex mechanisms rather than goal-driven organisms; that matter is unconscious and human consciousness an illusion;
that the laws of nature are fixed; that nature is purposeless;
that all biological inheritance is carried via material structures like genes, and so on.

“Each is the basis of a chapter, in which he draws attention to unresolved tensions, problems and dilemmas. Most scientists think these will eventually be ironed out. However Sheldrake argues they are symptoms of a deeper malaise, and that the failure of the materialist model to make good on its predictions will eventually lead to its demise.

A key idea for Sheldrake is the existence of information fields that act as a kind of universal memory.

Rich’s Comment: Sheldrake’s holistic theory of  morphic resonance fields and emergent systems has affinities with the worldview of “panpsychism” and Alfred North Whitehead’s “process panexperientialism.” Similar authors include Ervin Laszlo (Quantum Shift in the Global Brain), Christian de Quincey ( Radical Nature, Radical Knowing), David Ray Griffin (Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem}, and Fritjof Capra (The Hidden Connections, The Web of Life), among many others.