Response to "Humanity's Journey to Perfection"
This is an interesting post and I have a lot of thoughts about it, both agreements and disagreements. Thank you for this opportunity to think deeper about a lot of important things.
On the subject line: "Humanity's Journey to Perfection", I think that perfection is a human concept and is different for different people. I don't want to live in a perfect world. I value the Gifts of Imperfection.
> In a nutshell holarchy is a heirarchy of holons or ‘whole/parts’
> which is endless in either direction and in which each new
> higher-level holon emerges out of its predecessor, transcending and
> yet including it. To illustrate this, take our human bodies. Each
> body has a whole of 50 trillion cells embedded in it and at the same
> time each body itself is embedded in the larger system of mother
> earth, Gaia. In the same spirit our cells are a community of even
> smaller units, and earth is a small part of an even larger living
> system, and so on.
Our bodies have closer to 100 trillion cells, of which only 10 trillion are actually human. The other 90 trillion are mostly bacteria. Lewis Thomas writes about some of the implications of this in Lives of a Cell which, though outdated now, I still highly recommend. Bonnie Bassler also mentions it in this great TED talk about quorum sensing (which is related to something else you mention later in your post). She has both of those cell counts off by an order of magnitude, however, claiming that there are only 1 trillion human cells. But she correctly notes that by DNA base pair count we are only 1% human (due in part, I think, to lots of mitochondrial DNA in the human cells).
The concept of holons is related to a few other ideas that come up again later in your post, and are intertwined in this discussion for me:
Human Threshold Systems: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Cognitive Proximetry - Spiral Dynamics is also derived from this work but I've not investigated it (yet).
Most recently I've been studying the ideas of Stuart Kauffman. The World We Mutually Make was my entry point to his ideas and I've listened to his talk at MIT twice now. His idea of "Kantian wholes" is related to holons. A Kantian whole exists for and by means of the parts, and the parts exist for and by means of the whole. He also talks about radical emergence and enablement and how the 'world bubbles forth' and creates its own future possibilities of becoming.
> Acoording to Dr Sahtouris, Cancer is an example of what happens when
> the balance is lost, with the proliferation of a particular group of
> cells ignoring the needs of the whole, multiplying wildly at the
> expense of the body holon, ultimately defeating their own purposes by
> destroying it. In fact Dr Sahtouris has been going around the planet,
> telling the heads of big corporations and corrupt governments that
> they are the cancer of the planet and in the ways they conduct their
> business they are not only killing the planet but themselves as well.
Cancer happens when cells ignore the signal for apoptosis, or programmed cell death. There are a couple other people who also deserve some credit for making cancer analogies that I like:
* Dr. Warren Hern used to have a slide show where he'd show photographs of cities growing over time juxtaposed with tumors growing over time. He was building on the work of others before him. See Humans as Cancer at the Church of Euthanasia.
* Edward Abbey once wrote "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell". Unchecked growth creates the crisis of bigness.
From my perspective, cancer is the replacement of unique functional cells with more cancer cells, like unchecked corporate capitalism has tended to replace unique and functional ecosystems with more shopping centers.
I'll argue in a bit for the merits of death, and apoptosis proves my point too. Biologists long puzzled about why individual autonomous cells would ever willingly trade their freedom for a communal living environment that requires them to die on command for the good of the whole. Of course cells don't have what we could call "will" to make such a decision. In all likelihood this was purely a survival response to a toxic environment that was becoming more and more polluted by oxygen. By clumping together, cells on the inside of the clump gain protection against oxygen toxicity as the ones on the outside form barriers that later evolve to become our dead skin cells, performing the exact same function of protecting us against this poisonous oxygen.
> Consider how each ant is dumb, and of very little sophistication, now
> compare this individual ant, with an ant colony comprised of millions
> of ants, with the colony’s massive intelligence and dazzling
> sophistication. Look at different characteristics of this super smart
> colony and see how so many of its intricate intelligent
> characteristics are completely absent in the individual ant.
I'm going to argue just a little here for the intelligence of the individual ant. I recently read Marlene Zuk's Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World. She mentions in there that ants are one of only three species of organism that is known to 'teach' each other. The sociological definition of teaching is that it is an activity performed in order to transfer knowledge/skill to another, and it costs the teacher something. A songbird that is singing may provide a model for the nestlings to follow, but it would be singing regardless of whether it had offspring and so that doesn't qualify. The three known examples she cites are: human beings, meerkats, and ants. When an ant finds a new food source it will head back to the colony until it finds another ant. Then it will tell it that it has found food, and lead it to the food source.
> Well, as it turns out, in the same movie clip I also learned that to
> have an emergent community two critical conditions have to be met:
> Each member has to be able to connect to any other member, and more
> importantly this has to be a two-way communication. To enable this
> communication and collaboration then one can see that an emergent
> society has to be a bottom up cooperative community, as opposed to a
> centrally controlled competitive top down hierarchical one.
I keep returning to this article about Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy: "To Destroy this Invisible Government". The key point for me there is that conspiracies have to necessarily inhibit the connections between members and that inhibits communication and overall operational effectiveness. Assange and Wikileaks are functioning to force the conspiracies to tighten their security and further inhibit their communications until they (hopefully) become non-functional. This is why radical openness (the TED 2012 Global theme, btw) will ultimately beat out conspiracies. We can share information and validate it. This TEDx talk by John Perry Barlow on Enantiodromia is another thing I keep returning to for the same reasons, and I'm going to quote my favorite part:
There is a war going on between those who believe that the power of information lies in its capacity to be withheld-- that information is power if you can keep it to yourself. This is not how it works really. Information is power if you can share it, validate it, vet it, and contribute it to that global awareness that we are all here in the process of creating.For the first time in human history, we are on the verge of being able to convey a right to everybody on this planet that nobody even thought of conveying before, because it was simply impossible. I'm talking about the right to know. Now I know that "knowing" is arguable, that the truth is arguable, and well that it should be. But we are within a very short distance of making it so that some kid in the uplands of Mali who is curious about some aspect of genetic organization inside various genomes is as capable of becoming a world-class expert on that subject as somebody who is getting a doctorate from Harvard… When we convey the right to know we amplify our collective capacities as a unified species into something that is very very different from anything we've ever been before, something very special, something very powerful, and something that may even be capable of saving us from ourselves, since we are all so hell-bent on making our planet inhabitable for human life as fast as we possibly can... The most important thing you offer is whether or not you're going to be a good ancestor. We have it in our control to be great ancestors by enabling the right to know, by freeing up information, by creating new economic models that reward sharing and not hoarding, that reward service and not the precious conceit that you can own the miraculous stuff that I think god puts in your mind, if you'll excuse the term. We can convey that right, or we can withhold it for short term economic interests. And if we do that we will be awful ancestors, and if we don't do that we'll be one of the greatest generations that the world has ever seen.
Back to your post:
> After all our future is best served by a massively cooperative,
> harmonious, bottom up holacrchy modeled after the human body as
> opposed to its current state which most resembles the cancer cells;
> monopolies attacking and destroying the rest of the organism, for
> their own selfish interest.
I argue for the balance of conflict and competition.
All things come into being by conflict of opposites, and the sum of things (ta hola, "the whole") flows like a stream. - Diogenes
I do not want to live in a world where selfish interest has been completely banished. I do want to live in a world where wilderness is valued and left alone. In Stuart Kauffman's talk he mentions that radical emergence implies that the 'adjacent possible' is expanding and growing over time, and that this applies to evolution in the ecosphere as well as the econosphere. As I see it, we're trading complexity of biota for complexity of products and markets and unfortunately, markets can't provide all the ecosystem services on which they depend for their existence.
So we are in alignment of a bigger vision even if we don't agree on all the points. I do think that disagreement is a good thing, fundamentally, and don't desire you to adopt my exact worldview any more than I desire to adopt yours.
> Let us consider for a minute what happens if only one or two of these
> needs are met. If a person is always only working on themselves, that
> doesn’t make them automagically perfect in communities. How many
> times have we tried to follow the lead of a person admittedly good in
> their own growth and extrapolated they must also be good in
> communities, and social interactions, while this same
> self-improvement seeker was lousy in their personal relationships.
> They might have had failure after failure in their social
> interactions. By the same token a person who is great in community is
> not necessarily good in self care, and self development. How many
> times have we met so called community leaders who are quite
> unhealthy, and don’t even know how to take care of themselves. And
> finally just being good at serving the world doesn’t mean that you
> know how to take care of yourself or be good at social interactions.
The model of Human Threshold Systems helps explain this for me. As we overcome survival challenges and gain new skills as individuals we gain greater individuation and that success creates a new need and a new challenge for companionship and community. As we meet that challenge it creates new needs for individuation with new challenges that the old skills don't meet. This builds up a framework over time, like a scaffolding, of skills and needs that can't be dismantled from the bottom if you want to keep growing.
> So yes if we want to have a planet which acts in unison, and not just
> hypothetically, we need to go back to our survivalist approaches,
> dismantle them, come up with adult solutions to thrive, and from
> there become fulfilled human beings in all three areas of personal,
> community and service.
Again from the perspective of the model in Human Threshold Systems it's not that we need to dismantle those earlier approaches. They are still needed and important. The people who are operating at those levels will stay at those levels until they develop the skills to transcend them, and aren't crazy, sick, evil etc.
> In this amazing book Dr Lipton argues that genes don’t determine
> our destiny. He wrote that our genes are actually programmed by our
> beliefs we hold. He proclaimed that genes are simply the blueprint,
> and whether or not a gene gets activated is based on our
> consciousness. He wrote that to say somebody has a gene for
> something, is like saying that something is turned on in a blueprint
> of a building.
I'm skeptical. I'll check the book out if I get the chance, but this sounds too much like the woowoo that David Icke preaches.
Now, our behavior can affect the expression of our genes (via epigenetic feedback mechanisms), and can also affect the expression of our offspring's genes as well. Insofar as behavior is determined by consciousness I'd agree, but I doubt very much that there's anything more mystical going on between consciousness and genetic expression.
I recently watched this TED talk, Is Anatomy Destiny? It goes in a different direction, but it's one I like and can't pass up when talking about genes and destiny.
> Dr Lipton suggests that in biology ATP is called an energy coin,
> which is the currency of our body. Since the body does have a
> currency then we can try and establish how it goes about its economy,
> so that we can learn from it and make our world function more like
> it. So according to Dr Lipton, each cell in our body is fed, and fed
> so much so that it can feel in bliss. Thus the economy of the body is
> not like capitalism, where a lot of people go hungry. But are all the
> cells paid equally, like socialism? Absolutely not. Cells are paid
> based on their level of specialization, criticality and their
> importance in the whole structure. So skin cells for example, who
> don’t play a critical role, since if some of your skin cells in
> your back don’t function you wont even notice, get paid way way
> less than nerve cells. Of course nerve cells play very critical roles
> in our body, losing a few nerve cells could be absolutely
> catastrophic and could mean losing our ability to move an arm. So
> then what happens when cells are fully paid, what do they do with the
> surplus capital? Do they hoard it, and sit on it, like the way in our
> society rich people act? Nope, quite the opposite. Cells get paid
> fully until they are in bliss and feeling great, and then every
> little bit of energy which is brought to the cell is put in
> repository outside the cell. So in other words there is no greed,
> none whatsoever. In fact, the energy of us human beings, is the sum
> total of all these repositories that our cells put together
> generously, without giving away their own energy. So when you move
> your arm that energy is fully donated by all your industrious cells
> without them sacrificing their own energy.
I don't believe that individual cells can feel bliss. I think that takes a higher order of consciousness to experience it. Individual cells lack the neural structures that give us the experience of bliss.
More importantly, when thinking about ATP it's important to go back to the poison oxygen I mentioned earlier. The more ATP a cell produces the more oxygen it needs. The more oxygen it consumes the more free radicals it generates. Those free radicals cause all kinds of damage. There's a feedback here that causes cells to not use more than they need in part because it is hazardous to do so. I highly recommend the book Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane for a great perspective on how life and the atmosphere co-evolved.
Also as I mentioned before, skin cells do play a vital role. It's just that they perform that function best if they are dead and not subject to dangerous oxidation effects.
As a side note: your red blood cells lack a nucleus. This is likely because hemoglobin is so hazardous that the nucleus would become mutated by free radicals too quickly. Since they lack a nucleus they aren't generating the coating of proteins that tells the immune system that they are part of your body. Consequently your immune system ignores red blood cells. This is why the malaria parasite plasmodium likes to be in red blood cells. It's one of the few safe places in your body.
> Now lets talk about governance. How does our body go about that? The
> answer is The Wisdom of Crowds. What exactly is The Wisdom of Crowds?
> It’s the idea that our collective has answers we don’t have
Yes I like this idea a lot and it's where the Bonnie Bassler talk on quorum sensing is relevant again. It explains how bacteria are able to coordinate their activities based on 'quorum'.
Also see the World Cafe which is an alternative to General Assemblies for group communication.
> So that’s how our cells decide on things: thru the wisdom of
> crowds, that’s how decisions and governance happen in the community
> of cells of our bodies. What is super remarkable about this is that
> this means we need all the opinions to come up with a sound judgment
> especially those who are wildly different from us, because those very
> diverse opinions are the ones which bring our collective to an
> amazing level of precision and truth. If all the opinion were in the
> same range, we would definitely be missing some very important data.
I agree 100% with this. I recently started writing about our need for enemies but need to flush it out more.
> They are finding ways to honour everyone’s opinion for whoever
> cares to share. They have come up with ways of how to show your sense
> of what is going on by hand gestures. By using the mike check
> technique, where they have made the process somewhat laborious, they
> have created something that is not necessarily easy breezy to
> partake. So that power-hungry people cant just kidnap the movement
> the way our politics works now. And last but not least they have
> created a way that a person can block a proposal and completely go
> against everybody, knowing fully well the weight and ramifications of
> their input. This mechanism will prove to be an incredibly important
> tool for the future of humanity.
I'm not nuts about mic check and wrote about my feelings and thoughts here.
> Before I delve into the magnificent theory Dr Lipton so beautifully
> proposes I would like to talk to you about what current science with
> its total lack of spirituality and meaning thinks is gonna happen to
> us in the future.
Science is bettered by its lack of spirituality (even as Michael Dowd argues somewhat to the contrary in Thank God for Evolution--he is more interested in bringing science to religion, on the whole).
I know individual scientists who are atheists in their worldview who nonetheless consider themselves to have a spiritual sense of wonder and awe that is enhanced by what science learns. They do not claim that it can answer all questions and appreciate the mystery of existence itself.
Meaning is something that humans make of the world. It isn't an intrinsic property. It is quite possible to make meaning from science. I highly recommend reading Adam Frank on cosmology and time at the NPR blog 13.7, in this order:
- The Tyranny Of Modern Time
- Beyond The Punch-Clock Life: The Tyranny Of Modern Time II
- The End Of Time As We Know It
- Celebrating The Dark Universe
- The Future Of Time
> Being the trouble maker I am, I went and asked the site to guess what
> will happen to our world in
> 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 years from
> now or something like that. The answer was sad and yet not so
> unexpected. The answer was absolute, complete, total death of the
> whole universe. Well Gee thanks. That’s something to look up to
> next morning when I wake up don’t you think? This whole experiment
> is going to nothing, if not in the near future but in the far future.
I recently posted my declarations and am going to quote a couple of them:
3) Death is the invention of invention. Without death we would not have the natural selection which evolved us. Without natural selection there would be no need for birth or sexual selection.
4) Extinction is a form of collective death and is the natural and necessary course for all species, just as death is the natural and necessary course for all organisms. Without the extinction of 99.9% of all past species, the .1% of us today wouldn't be.
5) Pain warns of death and is invaluable. Fear warns of pain and serious injury and is likewise invaluable.
6) Entropy sets the universe in motion. Fear, pain, death, extinction and entropy are all good and necessary for our existence.
I have to give Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution, some credit for #3. I also credit William Burroughs in Ah Pook is Here for the line "Death needs time for what it kills to grow in".
The death of the universe is implied in the laws of thermodynamics. When I say that entropy is good and necessary I'm also saying that the death of the universe is good and necessary too. And it may turn out we're part of a multiverse and maybe our universe's death is another universe's birth.
> According to Dr Lipton billions of years ago, there were these tiny
> organisms like amoeba. These monocellular organisms kept thriving,
> growing, evolving, getting better. But at some point they had grown
> all they could grow, and they couldn’t get any more perfect, so
> then they went thru the evolutionary process of getting together and
> creating cells like our human cells, when they couldn’t
> individually evolve anymore. Then our cells kept growing and growing
> and evolving and at one point they couldn’t evolve anymore,
> that’s when they got together created the smaller multicellular
> creatures. These multicellular creatures themselves kept growing,
> until they reached a point they couldn’t evolve anymore that’s
> when they created us eventually. And now we have reached a point that
> we know we are perfect, our body is a masterpiece our mind is a
> masterpiece, our soul is magic, we cannot evolve any more
> individually, we need to now work our magic to turn earth into one
> organism, one beautiful magnificent organism which is a seamless
> united community made of us human beings.
I agree that we are super-organisms and meta-organisms (see this recent blog for more of my thinking). I disagree with Lipton's story of the evolution of multicelluarity and again recommend Nick Lane's book on Oxygen. Most likely the cells that clumped together in a toxic oxygen environment had a survival advantage over those that didn't.
> Take a step back and compare this vision, this magnificent vision,
> that we are constantly growing in a never ending cycle of perfection,
> beauty and magnificence into the next level of wondrousness to the
> idea that given a long enough time everything will be dead, kaput. I
> mean which one of these theories energizes you and gets you up in the
> morning. You be the judge.
I would rather see the truth than a beautiful illusion. Thus far in my search for understanding I see the beauty of death and appreciate it, as above.
> I would also like to say that Dr Liptons theory is very close to
> physicist Nasism Haramein’s idea of how we are built of infinity
> and that at there is no end to our infinity. There are no small
> particles that cant be broken into infinite pieces, and there is no
> end as to how far up we can go because there is infinity above us and
> infinity below us.
Another model for infinity that I like uses liminocentricity that I linked earlier. Enantiodromia--the way a thing becomes its opposite--has been a key concept of my explorations. Liminocentricity is a special kind of enantiodromia where the edge becomes the center. See also this conversation with physicist Brian Greene on the subject.
> I agree with Andrew in saying that a large part of what is going on
> in this planet has to do with a coming to a balance point of sacred
> masculine and sacred feminine. Andrew brilliantly mentioned that for
> the Occupy Wall Street movement to succeed both the sacred masculine
> and sacred feminine need to be present. We need the clarity,
> structure, steadfastness, and purpose of sacred masculine, while we
> need the deep shadow work, humility, tenderness, flexibility of the
> sacred feminine, if the moment is to succeed. We need the movement to
> have a clear message, while the members of the movement constantly do
> their own shadow work individually and collectively.
I'm all about shadow work! Check out Darkness: The Power of Illumination. I don't agree with all of it, which is convenient given that the book preaches the "dogma of no dogma".
I also see transcendence of false dualities of masculine and feminine as being important to our work. As a t-shirt I found yesterday reads "The gender binary is a form of hierarchy and oppression"
> Finally this writing wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how
> much I recommend anybody who cares to read this to watch the movie
> thrive. We want to go to our next level of evolution. For that we
> need to have suppressed technologies such as free energy, and anti
> gravity, as well as many cures for killer diseases such as cancer
> being given back to the public. Also we need to disclose the
> existence of benevolent ETs as well as abolish the private banks such
> as Federal Reserve. The movie Thrive is a brilliant heartfelt well
> thought out examination of all these issues with kindness, precision
> and passion. I would urge you to watch it and go the site and
> investigate there.
I was not very impressed with Thrive. The last 30 minutes were pretty good and if that had been the whole of the movie, minus the conspiracies and pseudoscience of the first 90 minutes, I'd have been quite fine with the message of local banking, local shopping, ending the fed, etc.
The supposed free energy technologies seem to violate the laws of thermodynamics. I don't think they are being suppressed-- I think they are not functional at all because of entropy. That isn't to say I don't believe that better energy technologies aren't possible. I'm quite interested in what these Italians are up to and more intrigued by the fact that they have a working cold fusion model that seems to transform nickel into copper, but cannot explain why it works yet which means they can't get a patent which means they are afraid to describe it in detail for fear of being scooped.
I'm going to go back again to what John Perry Barlow said on the need to share information so we can validate and vet it. Here's a place (Italian's supposed cold fusion machine) where competition is getting in the way, but I'd argue that self-interest, selfishness and competition helped get us to the point where it is possible at all. I don't know what the better balance is. I'd like to see a free market economy composed solely of cooperative businesses. Each individual company would be worker-owned and each worker would have incentive to work for the greatest health of the company, and yet competition in the market would also continue producing new innovations.
Here is an example of magical thinking in the Thrive movie that I laughed out loud at: "Rather than smashing things together and trying to control the explosion, these new technologies rely on blending, on dancing with what naturally is". My answer to that, in part, is Robinson Jeffers' poem The Great Explosion. It's also an example of finding spiritual beauty of a sort in science.
I also recommend as antidotes Stephen Law's Believing Bullshit: A Field Guide to Not Getting Sucked Into an Intellectual Black Hole and Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
P.S. You may be interested in the documentary Proteus (available here at Amazon--I normally link to the Teaching for Change Bookstore, but couldn't find this title there. Let me know if you want a link to download the whole thing because you know Amazon are bastards who are destroying small book stores).