Tending the Garden of Technology

JF09Lawler

For Wired magazine cofounder Kevin Kelly, technology is neither the practical nor the neutral result of scientific discoveries, but a powerful universal force for creating opportunities. He speaks in unapologetically theological terms. The internet is “a miracle and a gift” that allows humans to organize and create in radically new ways. He says that we are moving from being People of the Book to People of the Screen. Kelly’s radical pronouncements earn fire from both sides of the chasm between religion and science, even as he seeks to see beyond those dogmas. Today he wants to “talk about faith using the vocabulary and logic of science.” When I arrive at Kelly’s home south of San Francisco, he’s sweaty from riding his bike up the steep hill, which rises from the coast. Poet, wanderer, publisher, cross-country bicyclist, former hippie, and self-described nerd, Kelly’s trimmed white beard is that of a New England clipper-ship captain. His home office is perched in a wooded neighborhood and has the pleasant feel of a lived-in tree house, the floor strewn with books and papers and gadgets.

LAWLER: There are few people today who talk about science and spirituality in the same breath without criticizing one or the other. You are an exception.

KELLY: My larger agenda is to bridge the technological and the holy. These are not two words that most people normally associate with each other. It is going to be a long conversation to bring
them together.

LAWLER: Is this what you mean when you describe yourself as a “techno transcendentalist”?

KELLY: Right.

LAWLER: But can you really imagine Thoreau multitasking on a BlackBerry? How do you relate transcendentalism to technology?

KELLY: I don’t mean transcendentalist in a monkish or hermitlike way. I mean transcending in the sense of connecting to a state of awareness, of living, of being, that transcends our day-to-day life. It’s not a withdrawal, it’s an emergence. And tools can be used.

LAWLER: Or misused.

KELLY: There’s been a lot of chatter about information overload recently. It is true there’s something different about this [modern] environment in our day-to-day and minute-to-minute awareness. What it means and what we should do about it is really not so clear.

I acknowledge the fact that multitasking and BlackBerrys and iPods and Twitter can be distracting. But we don’t really have the option of ignoring it. The proliferation of devices is necessary to learn new things. And the cost of learning new things is an avalanche of fragmented information. We just have to learn how to live with it.

LAWLER: But don’t we get to choose?

KELLY: It’s not that we don’t have the option to remove ourselves. This phase of cultural evolution, in which we are growing and discovering, requires this tide of twenty-four-hour information. I think it’s necessary and good that there will always be an opt-out option. We want to encourage that diversity, but it will always be a niche. Barring some disaster, society is not going to become a world where everybody stays at home writing poems and reading one long book after another without interruption.

LAWLER: Where is the transcendentalism in this view?

KELLY: The roots of technology go deeper than just human culture. They weave and string all the way back to the Big Bang. Technology is an example — like life and intelligence — of an extropic system, a system that feeds off entropy to build order. And not just order, but self-amplifying order of exploding complexity and depth. Extropic systems create even more entropy in the process — that is, energy runs through the system at a faster and denser pace. This is the definition of self-sustaining systems like a living organism. There’s continuity from the beginning of the universe, which is expanding out and creating space to allow diversity to flourish.

What we have is a long-term trend of increasing diversity, complexity, and specialization — all characteristics of self-sustaining systems. That could be a galaxy or a sun or intelligence. The resulting density of power is technology. I use the term “the Technium.” A galaxy is a system composed of individual technologies, complex enough to have its own self-sustaining qualities including self-preservation. It is self-perpetuating and self-increasing. You could say that humans are the sexual organs of technology — that we are necessary for its survival. But it has its own inertia, urgency, tendencies, and bias.

LAWLER: Other than to reproduce, what is the purpose of these systems?

KELLY: These systems are evolving evolution. They are increasing degrees of freedom. And this is the theological part — we have the infinite game. The game is to extend the game, so that the game will keep going. The game is to keep changing the nature of change. And that infinite game is my view of holiness. You play the game not to win, but to continue to play to make room for all expressions of truth, good, and the beautiful. You are opening up the world to possibility. Every child born on Earth today has some particular mixture of genes and environment, of capability and intelligence to unleash. The game is about trying to educate that individual into a position where they can maximize their potential and possibility. And technology is the instrument.

LAWLER: You have spoken about what would have become of Beethoven if he’d been born before the invention of the piano . . .

KELLY: That helps me think about the people born today who may be missing some technology that would allow them to be their best. That’s what technology is in the larger sense — the discovery of potential and possibility.

LAWLER: But tools are not creativity.

KELLY: At a deep level, the act of discovery and the act of creation are identical. The steps that you would take to find something are exactly the same steps you’d take to make something. So you can say that Edison discovered the light bulb and Newton invented gravity.

LAWLER: Wendell Berry might say that is all well and good, but technology doesn’t change the essential nature of humanity. It doesn’t make us better people.

KELLY: I disagree with Wendell. We have created our humanity. And I think our humanity has been created by technology. Our humanity is defined by things we have invented. Like the alphabet. Our culture is one thing we’ve created. But I also think there has been an evolution of morality. Culture and cultural inventions are part of the Technium — they are technologies.

LAWLER: But the Ten Commandments were likely tribal rules passed on orally long before they were written down. It was just the medium that changed.

KELLY: Language is part of the Technium too. And language allowed us to structure laws and rules, our ideas of inherent fairness and sense of right and wrong. These are associated with society and culture and all that Wendell is concerned about. And they were developed over thousands of years. Our humanity is actually a result of the invention and the distribution and the enhancement and growth of the Technium.

LAWLER: Man the Toolmaker — it’s an old concept. Surely we are more than toolmakers.

KELLY: But I don’t think the Technium is only about humans. It’s a type of learning. It’s a type of expression. It’s a type of possibility.

The Technium works as an ecology. Just as evolution has a longterm direction as we look 4 billion years into the past, so technology increases complexity and diversity, with increasing power.

LAWLER: So technology is part of evolution or God — that which drives the universe?

KELLY: Exactly. Some people call this the Great Story. Roving preacher Michael Dowd talks at churches about this alternative creation story. It is about evolution through God, that which started from nothing, grew into particles that gained mass and complexity, and then clumped into molecules and then became dust and planets and so forth. And technology is the latest variety.

LAWLER: So the Technium is one of the ways in which the universe is getting to know itself? And by increasing complexity, the universe becomes more self-aware?

KELLY: Exactly. I think of God as the intelligence of mind that is increasing the complexity of the universe.

LAWLER: That makes me think about the way new ideas appear to spread almost simultaneously. Five thousand years ago humans suddenly began living in cities from Egypt to India. There was something in the air. Is this the Technium at work?

KELLY: Simultaneous invention is actually the norm for science. That’s why we have patents. I’m not talking about the supernatural. Inventions never happen in a vacuum. Every idea requires the support of four or five other ideas. There’s a necessary subset of other surrounding inventions that are required. As they appear, the new idea becomes more obvious. It’s an ecological growth. There are two kinds of changes that we see in nature. One is developmental and one is evolutionary. And the developmental changes are fairly predictable in a certain sense. We know what the pattern is and I can map your developmental trajectory very clearly. You go from fetus to child to adolescent. I may not know what kind of teenager you’re going to be, but I can say you’re going to be a teenager. A lot of what we see in culture right now is developmental, not evolutionary.

LAWLER: But we can’t say that about human culture — we don’t know where it is going.

KELLY: We don’t, but only because we’re ignorant. I’ve looked at the sequence of discoveries and inventions around the world to see whether they follow generally the same sequence, and it seems that they do. Certain things you discover first. The moment a planet decides to wire itself up, to connect everything to everything, is an inevitable developmental stage in civilization. It is a stage like puberty or metamorphosis — pick your biological analogy.

LAWLER: I’m struck by an analogy you make between nature and the Technium — that technology also needs pruning. You pull the weeds in your garden or you won’t get vegetables.

KELLY: This is husbandry. You are not your garden’s puppet master, pulling each leaf off the tree. You train it in a general direction. The work is still being done by the tree. We are tending the garden of technology, moving things around, noticing a plant coming up here that would do much better in the sun over there. Or it needs a little more fertilizer. You don’t control it.

The banning of genetically modified organisms in Europe is a typical response these days. GMO critics instead would like us to use fruit produced through genetic gambling, which is what natural breeding is. If genetic gambling came along now, it would never be permitted. It’s all mutation, all random. The point is we’ve never had control. We get the best results by doing a little bit of training and pruning and letting things unroll.

LAWLER: So where does evolution come in?

KELLY: It’s very hard to unravel what is evolutionary and what is developmental. My suggestion is that evolutionary change is unpredictable, while developmental change is not.

LAWLER: There is a lot of fear around the pace and impact of technology. It is all happening so quickly. Isn’t fear of weapons of mass destruction, genetic modification, and advances in nanotechnology prudent and reasonable?

KELLY: That’s a good question and I may not have a very good answer for it. There’s no single source of this fear — it can be as simple as discomfort with change. And for all our talk about the need for change, people resist it — particularly if we are comfortable in the moment. Change brings discomfort.

LAWLER: So how can we cope with the increasing pressure to change?

KELLY: We’re now in a new regime of information. For hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years, the manner of change on an individual’s soul and life was very minimal. That fostered appreciation for continuity and enduring values, and that persisted even though new inventions came along. Those inventions diffused slowly and generally didn’t happen within a single life span. That changed with the coming of science, and with that came increasing prosperity and a dramatic rise in population in the last two hundred years. The pace of change within an individual lifetime accelerated. One consequence was the invention of science fiction, part of a large-scale investigation of the future. It became a survival tactic.

LAWLER: You have said that the next century marks the great identity crisis of our species.

KELLY: Wendell is probably right that we aren’t really wired very well to cope with this. But I have no problem thinking that human nature will change, that we will change human nature, that we will engineer human nature amid this rapid change. The nature of humanity has been changing all along, but until now very slowly. And as I was suggesting earlier, part of the nature of humanity is wrapped up in our own inventions — it is, in fact, our own invention. Each time we make an advance in artificial intelligence, we redefine who humans are. Each time there’s a discovery in science related to intelligence or even the animal world, we redefine who humans are. At one time we defined ourselves as the toolmakers. Now we find out that termites and birds use tools, so we’ve redefined what it is to be human.

LAWLER: Are we moving toward something that shuts out the past, or is there a place in which low-tech tradition and high-tech science can meet?

KELLY: We generally reinterpret our older selves, rather than discard them. Right now we’re very biological; we’re very meatbased animals. We have the benefit of a very highly evolved sensual body. So whatever improvements we make, I think very few people would really want to evolve out of their bodies, though they may want to better the body. We contain 4 billion years of evolution, and it’s not a matter of casting that off completely. It’s a matter of reinterpreting it and enhancing it.

LAWLER: Already people are talking about designing babies for specific traits. Technology often starts with the best of intentions — to ensure a healthy child — then deteriorates into thorny and even nightmarish scenarios. In India now, you can go to a clinic to ensure you have a boy rather than a girl. The long-term implications — lots of male teenagers and few females — are horrific.

KELLY: My suggestion is not to take the technology away, but to educate those making the choice. What we want is greater choice. And these choices are always bound up in politics. I don’t think technology is neutral. But the proper response to bad technology is not to stop it — to stop thinking — but to have a better idea.

LAWLER: You go so far as to say that it would be immoral for us to put prohibitions on technology. Are there any exceptions to that?

KELLY: I haven’t been able to find any. What we want to do is find the proper home for technology. Technologies are like children. They’re often asked to do things that they’re incapable of doing, don’t really want to do, are ill suited to do. We need to find the right place for technology. DDT is actually a very good insecticide for eliminating malaria — used judiciously around the house, it’s very effective and does not cause much harm. Spraying it on 25 zillion acres of cotton is terrible. So you find the right home for that technology.

LAWLER: You could argue Rachel Carson did that for DDT, but only after a long struggle. How do we create a conversation, a structure, for making such decisions?

KELLY: Conversation is the correct word. Our current default is to not proceed to the next step until you can prove no harm. That doesn’t work. You have to use inventions to evaluate them, to
see them in action. Their consequences in the very complicated world are impossible to simulate. You have to have constant vigilance, to re-evaluate constantly. If they don’t work out, you don’t prohibit them, you move on to something else better.

LAWLER: What if they discover that this Diet Coke I’ve been drinking will increase my chances for cancer? Are you saying it should not be banned?

KELLY: It should not be prohibited for several reasons. One is it may only cause cancer in people who have some subset of genes. It may not have an effect on other people. Before we prohibit it for everybody, we have to find out what’s going on. First we need your DNA, and then we need constant twenty-four-hour self-monitoring. This idea that every five years we go for a checkup, well then of course people are going to get cancer from drinking soda. Most people will be lucky if they have their blood tested once in their life. We need noninvasive, constant information about our bodies so that we can determine right away whether something we drink has an adverse effect. The proper response is not to ban something — the proper response is better technology. If there is something wrong with aspartame, modify it. Find a new home for it.

LAWLER: What if you have a company that has spent millions developing and producing the chemical, and they hire lobbyists to argue for its widest possible use? Look at the tobacco or alcohol industries. And scientists with a financial stake in the system have been used to justify wide use of toxins. You make a logical argument, but one that leaves out the reality of the marketplace. Where’s “the conversation”?

KELLY: We need a more sophisticated system. That is why we are locked in a binary pattern — it is either approved or prohibited. There is the option of education — to take an approach to life that is more scientific.

LAWLER: Does that mean that if enough people have access to the data on chemicals, and could understand it, they could pressure a company to make a different choice?

KELLY: I haven’t thought about this until this moment. Let’s say a study finds the substance causes cancer, that it is really bad. Then the question is, what changed since the time of approval? Maybe you have to drink it every day for five years, so it is an issue of dosage. So what is a better dosage? And you could decide to use a different dosage or use something else instead. And you could use the substance for something else that would not cause harm.

LAWLER: How do you factor in human complexity — the corporate executive who wants a profit, the researcher who is more concerned with creating than monitoring? Such motivations can overwhelm scientific logic. Look at tobacco smoking — you can say it’s a bad idea, but people do it.

KELLY: I’m not talking about just the market solving problems. I’m assuming there is government to regulate. What I am proposing is that you have more choices than approving or prohibiting. When you have more choices you can have a more sophisticated response. I think prohibiting tobacco is the wrong idea, because we’ll get the same result as with Prohibition. But obviously you don’t want people addicted to smoking. We need to find the right home for tobacco.

The market and science and education can provide more creative solutions. Consider marijuana. The medical use of it here in California is interesting, because we are trying to find the right home for it.

LAWLER: So do you support funding bacterial warfare, for example, since it expands our knowledge?

KELLY: No. I would prohibit technology that kills people, for sure.

LAWLER: But you are against prohibiting use of technology.

KELLY: So nuclear weapons are okay, but using nuclear weapons is not. Take the AIDS virus. It’s nasty, bad stuff, but we can use the mechanism of a virus infection for good. You hijack it and use it for gene therapy. The technology of viral infection is okay. There is a way we can redeem a virus to make it into something good — but not if you prohibit the research.

LAWLER: You are walking a fine line — prohibitions for certain areas, but no blanket prohibitions.

KELLY: I think funding new ways to kill people is not a good use of technology. The same discoveries, however, can be used for better purposes. I’m not actually a pacifist. I believe that there should be restraint, but not necessarily killing. Killing is a binary response we fall back on, but there are other options.

LAWLER: How do you reconcile faith with logic and reason?

KELLY: There’s always the question of how the universe began. Then you ask, what was before that? Either you believe that it goes on and on by itself or you believe that there’s some ultimate
being which caused it. Both of those views are logically unsatisfying. Either could be true, but not both. And neither is provable. You come down to faith. Faith for me is simply experiential. My faith is that God unleashed creation as a way to know himself, to express and fully manifest his fullness. Our job as creatures of this creation is to surprise God. We’re co-creators in a certain sense — we have a divine spark in us. We have the same attributes as the creator of the universe, which is that we can create something. We can make something out of nothing in our small world. God has bestowed sparks of his creativity in the right places so they will surprise him. He’s allowing us to make something from our free will that maybe he would not have thought of making.

LAWLER: So we’re instruments of the divine?

KELLY: Right. Going back to the infinite game, the goal is to keep the game going for the purpose of maximizing the potential of this creation. We create other beings and other worlds. In so doing, we eventually discover different views of God, of the universe. Our own minds are incapable of comprehending the universe as a whole; we’re just too small and limited. But we can create other worlds, and technology gives us a sure hand to do so.

LAWLER: That feels so ineffable, so unquantifiable.

KELLY: My experience with God is no different than my own experience of my own consciousness and reality. Descartes’ observation is that in the end, the only certainty we have that we exist is that we think. But if we look at consciousness, it evaporates when we attempt to translate it into bits. The nature of consciousness is still a total riddle.

LAWLER: Why is there such a lack of sophisticated conversation between religion on the one hand and science and technology on the other?

KELLY: The only place we see it is among the theologians of our day, the science fiction authors who tackle the big questions. Religions appeal to tradition, to people who are afraid of change. But at the same time the Catholic Church has proved remarkably adaptable over two thousand years. There is a blockheaded rejection of evolution among Christian evangelicals, which has been tremendously harmful. It has turned a religion that was at one time at the forefront of science into an antiscience stance. I have little glimmers that in another generation or two, this will change. When it comes to climate change, for example, there has been rapid change toward recognizing the problem.

LAWLER: You are leaving out the spate of books by scientists which dismiss and even mock religion.

KELLY: There are fundamentalist atheists, just as there are fundamentalist Christians. The real conversation will happen in the middle and not at the extremes.

LAWLER: But how do you kick-start a more mature debate?

KELLY: My view of technology as holy is a minority view. Right now, technology is either the devil, or, if it’s embraced, it’s called neutral. Nobody is saying that it’s divine. An alternative view is not going to sweep the country overnight. It will require people smarter and deeper than me to work it out. Right now I’m a church of one.

Andrew Lawler lives in Maine and writes for Smithsonian, Discover, and Science among other publications. For more about Kevin Kelly, go to his website.

Comments

  1. > Our current default is to not proceed to the next step until you can prove no harm. That doesn’t work. You have to use inventions to evaluate them, to see them in action.

    This is oversimplifying. For example there are strict regulations of genetic modification of organisms, because an accidental release could be catastrophic. Catastrophes have already occurred as a result of ordinary breeding and introductions of non-native species, like the African bee scenario. Precaution is essential with new technology, as the impact can be rapid and vast.

    Nowhere in this discussion did I hear about the impact what we are doing is having on the rest of creation: the other species of plants and animals that are going extinct in the path of our technological swath.

    I don’t separate the natural from the artificial, all is natural at a basic sense, so I can see technology as sacred. But not “more sacred” than the earth that gave birth to us and a billion other creatures, who seem to have been forgotten by the majority of the world’s people.

    Do we want a virtual world with no wild animals, plants? All zoos and gardens, and factories and vast factory farms? Who in the plugged in world will even care if they can go to the movies and see gorgeous worlds in 3D?

    plb

  2. Every operation of nature and the systems of civilization is governed by natural forces. These natural forces have been operating for eons. They have a degree of self organization and self regulation that we have been unable to emulate. Our technology has only been able to make use of natural forces, often unwisely. Future technology may make better use of the remaining irreplaceable natural material capital. That, however, would require widespread understanding that has yet to emerge.

  3. Mr. Borst has it right. Kelly’s term “gambling” refers to natural evolution in a changing environment, which does not occur
    with genetically modified plants.
    We need the pollinators to keep a “natural” store of living matter, in this case fruit trees, especially in the wild.
    I’m sure Kelly would answer that if one genetically modified specie of crop were to be totally destroyed, technology would quickly develop another. I find this quite laughable.

  4. This conversation (Kelly and these Orion readers) is what the world needs. I’m resubscribing.

    By the way, I agree that we need more sophisticated ways of steering technology than government and business currently provide, and I think open standards organizations, such as the Open Geospatial Consortium, my client, are one solution. We’ve entered the information age. Information is about communication. Communicators need common sets of symbols. Standardization is a process to agree on the sets of symbols. The consensus process in many of today’s standards organizations engages users of technology with producers of technology in dialog that solves some of the problems inherent in simple market competition.

  5. Re: We’ve entered the information age.

    I think information has been freely available since the newspaper, the broadside and the tract. Being a beekeeper, I know that 100 years ago beekeeping journals came out weekly; now they are monthly with a 2 month lag to print. So we turn to the internet for the most up to the minute news. That, and the private lines of communication, which have been active since the advent of the courier.

    No, the problem is the enemies of information: dogma, ideology, apathy, and myopia, to name a few. People by and large seek entertainment and resent the intrusion of new and thought provoking ideas. In my field, the trend is to stay alert to the new, be ready to shift gears, be ahead of the curve.

    As far as values goes, where before, people latched on to ideals and then fought for them, I think the new world requires people to seek and understand new ideas — then learn how to explain and promote them. Nobody wants the new shoved down their throat. It is obvious that the world is changing rapidly, and IT IS hard to keep up. Stay tuned; stay focused!

    plb

  6. This conversation seems astonishingly biology-free. What likelihood is there that if we just keep experimenting whatever sustainable systems that exist on earth in the year 2100 will include and/or be hospitable to human life?

  7. Joan’s right. But ecology and genetics are about information. Steve Talbott’s Netfuture.org newsletter has migrated from information technology to science to biology. I think his perspective is valuable in thinking about these things. Web services and genes are invocations. Web services are contained in a little world of our own making. But in genetics, we are like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice tinkering with invocations of the real natural world that we don’t understand nearly well enough.

  8. > This conversation seems astonishingly biology-free

    I assume you are talking about the original interview, because the comments here have been squarely centered on biology.Anyway, whatever we *think*, reality has a way of going differently. Its own way, one might suggest. None of us can predict how it will or won’t go.

    I believe we could go on for centuries in the direction of factory food, urbanization, etc. but who’d want to? Aside from the moral aspect of exterminating various species and trashing the womb from which we came, there is the simple aesthetic question: who wants to live in an artificial world?

    Maybe beaches, and mountains and wild life will seem like a luxury we used to be able to afford, back in the 21st century. I don’t want to see that happen, but I believe the only way to prevent it is to awaken people to the beauty and wonder of it.

    Then they will WANT to keep it, will in fact make personal sacrifices in order to keep as much of the original world intact for future generations. I hope.

    plb

  9. I am an historian by trade, so agree that even before the printing press, we learned of innovations. Yes, the internet is a wonderful tool, and I use it. However, new ideas are not always better ideas any more than innovation is better than the old. By choice I spend many hours teaching children and adults about the values of the natural world. Even though we may be able to manipulate parts of it, humans are animals so are part of this natural world and dependent upon it. I do try to read the latest science/technology articles, but am more interested in a sustainable environment, clean potable water, food for all, population growth. Technology may be able to provide help, but I don’t believe it to be “our savior.”

  10. > new ideas are not always better ideas any more than innovation is better than the old

    Hi. I used to think (back in the sixties) that Nature could heal what we have done to her, if we reverted to some more primitive life style.

    I am afraid we have passed the point of no return for that. (See Bill McKibben’s End of Nature). So I think that new ideas will be required, if only to rectify the last century’s “new ideas”.

    I don’t worship the new, but I think that creativity is part and parcel of nature, evolution, and who WE are. Creation is all about new; or at least, renewal.

    plb

  11. I agree (read all, as far as I know, that McKibben writes)I should have said not “necessarily” better. I find that in this country most people act reactively instead of looking forward for possible problems. I was somewhat surprised many years ago when I found that as a “liberal arts” person, I was outhinking the MBAs at the company I worked for at the time on economic matters. I had been schooled to realize that when solving one problem one has to envision further problems that will arise from that “solution.” I agree with you re creativity. I’m very interested in the new energy technologies, especially solar, not interested in building a better mousetrap which will use more energy, just because we can do it.

  12. I am interested in the lack of mention of the vital role that compassion plays in enabling the state of science to exist (sharing, inquiry, reflection, etc), which in turn enables language, the arts, civics and all we know as civilisation to exist. Link this to Kevin’s statement:
    “What we have is a long-term trend of increasing diversity, complexity, and specialization—all characteristics of self-sustaining systems. That could be a galaxy or a sun or intelligence…A galaxy is a system composed of individual technologies, complex enough to have its own self-sustaining qualities including self-preservation. It is self-perpetuating and self-increasing….These systems are evolving evolution. They are increasing degrees of freedom…”
    What does this say about America? It is increasingly a monolithic culture in which power and wealth are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. Copyright, electronic surveillance and fear further reduce diversity daily. A few psychopathic corporations rigidly control all markets. All systems increasingly rely on one technology- the addictive use of mineral oil. Indeed mineral oil is symbolised as energy – and there is no greater denial of diversity and complexity than this. Worse – energy, power, fossil fuels and Bulk-generated electrical products are all symbolised as the same. Our grand parents knew of electrical phenomena. We only know of electricity and this does not exist.
    This is profound evidence of a vast lack of science and a dis-information age. By Kevin’s definition America (and my country Little America, sometimes known as New Zealand) does not have self-sustaining qualities, including that of self-preservation. Why not? Perhaps we lack compassion.
    Re the global spontaneous eruption of ideas and technologies. We should not undervalue the role of changes in Earth’s climate. And in our petroleum driven culture it is hard for us to imagine how humans have walked thousands of miles propagating ideas. And imagine you are an archaeologist in the future studying the great complex of motorways and tall buildings that suddenly sprung up in the twentieth century. If all fossil fuels were gone this eruption of technology would seem magical.
    Here’s a thought: Technology is most holy for the person who most fully enjoys compassion.
    http://www.bonusjoules.co.nz

  13. Evolution is natural forces slowly at work on Gaia in a proven, self-organizing and self-regulating manner. The development of civilization, Tityas, is by technology manipulating natural forces with little self organization or self regulation because it is driven by that intangible, money

  14. There is no doubt that the information explosion comprises a vast amount of twaddle with a little knowledge thrown in and wisdom drowned out by the noise. It is not new knowledge we need. It is understanding of the oldest. Natural forces control everything that happens in Gaia and in Tityas. They have controlled the evolution of Gaia for eons. Our technology just uses these natural forces in Tityas in a willy nilly fashion.

  15. > Evolution is natural forces slowly at work on Gaia in a proven, self-organizing and self-regulating manner.

    Isn’t anyone going to respond to this? That isn’t the definition of evolution.

    > It is not new knowledge we need. It is understanding of the oldest.

    Hmm. Are you sure? What is the oldest knowledge, anyway? Our ancestors were hunters, hunted the mastodons to extinction as I recall.

    If you mean Buddhism, Buddhism teaches that there is not good and bad, there is just the One. We make it good and bad by identifying what we like and do not like.

    Nature has no plan, no morals, no qualms about kill or be killed. It’s survival of the fittest and if the fittest is Ebola Virus, so be it.

    We are still in the minority here, friends. The bulk of the living world is bacteria, insects, slime and plankton. They were here first.

    plb

  16. Although we see continual patterned structures such as fractals, this does not mean there is a “consciousness” toward a rational process of evolution in Nature. Every day there are chance mutations which are mostly rejected because not viable in the present environment. Read J. Weiner’s book , “The Beak of the Finch” and you will see present day change through adaptation which created a new specie of that bird. The science books we read in school are written after the fact of a “discovery, and the authors want to show order and logic that lead to the result, whereas the discovery is often by accident, or as some on us would say by way of serendipity. I tend to believe in chaos rather than order being the norm. Yes plb, Nature will be here long after we are gone as a specie. I’m sure you have read “The World Without Us.”

  17. I’m worried about “agreeing on a set of symbols.” Once that happens, we’ve carved out a Rushmore, and once we get used to those faces, it’s hard to see alternatives. Of course no communication without symbols; but with hardened symbology, no possibility? What you see is determined by what you assume will be there, by the paradigm of your culture. Even plural paradigms may not lead to holiness.

  18. Henry, I agree about the danger of hardened symbology. And I agree with Denis about “vast amount of twaddle” on the internet. And I fear the NSAs of the nations. But without information technology standards, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. A n d i t i s i m p o r t a n t t o r e m e m b e r w e d e p e n d o n s t a n d a r d order in our phonemes and letters, which are also information technology.

  19. Getting back to Kelly’s original thread,, is technology sacred, worthy of worship, the logical outgrowth of Evolution?

    In 1950 [the year I was born] Julian Huxley stated:

    “The ideologically most important fact about evolution [is] the fact that the human species is now the spearhead of the evolutionary process, the only portion of the stuff of which our world is made which is capable of further progress, or indeed of any large-scale evolutionary change at all.”

    ?

  20. … and if the only “rule” of evolution is survival of the fittest, then isn’t anything that happens the inevitable outgrowth of the evolutionary process?

    Or — will we intervene to protect the less fit, the plants and animals that are destined to fall under the force of unbridled human activity? And isn’t this compassion, stewardship, the products of wisdom (which is also a product of evolutionary process).

    Without information, no learning. Without learning, no wisdom. Without wisdom, no hope.

  21. Thanks; nice demo of the value of standards! But it’s also a demo of our urge to find each other, which we can only accomplish together (Buber’s “between”)…. Not sure how that relates to the topic; but Blake enjoined us to “distinguish between states, and individuals in those states,” and to prefer “minute particulars” to generalizations. (“For everything that lives is Holy,” he said, generalizing!) Abstraction kills, but it enables communication. What a bitch. Maybe there’s more than one kind of communication.

  22. Peter, we are stewards. In 1968 I discovered Teilhard de Chardin in the stacks at the Univ. of Wis. Madison library. See in Wikipedia his notion of “… the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point.” This rings even truer to me now than it did then. Now I think it has to do with the power of networks, power realized in people who “interoperate” through shared symbols and people who creatively evolve symbols and create new ones.

  23. Maybe the notion of stewardship is what Huxley meant by humanity as the spearhead of evolution — maybe. But I think I’d disagree with him. Even the steward can be superceded. Embracing technology, even in a stewardly way, may not be religious. Of course, neither is (organized, abstract) religion religious.

  24. I think there are many kinds, and more and more kinds, of communication. 1968 was the year I read Blake, too. I’m sure the tension between focusing on particulars (Steve Talbott again) and abstractions is what keeps us on Yeats’s upward gyre.

  25. Well, there’s an interpenetrating downward gyre, too, isn’t there? (I’d forgotten about that image.) Too much damn poetry!

  26. Huxley’s statement is 60 yrs old. We’ve discovered a lot more since then about “humanity.” The Neanderthals existed as a specie for 10,000yrs using the same old technology. Of course they were superceded by their relatives from Africa who continued advances in technology. I don’t believe that evolution is fueled by “survival of the fittest,” but rather adaptation and co-operation in which each one finds its own particular niche.

    Maybe a new technology will emerge that takes us away from the impersonality of the computer, texting etc. to a place with human interaction which is important in making and keeping us “human.”

    Give me the poets any day!!!

  27. Well, technium, okay. But to my mind it already exists, has existed for a long time and has now simply gone digital.

    Humans succeeded (so far) because at a time of rapid climate change we learned how to externalize adaptation. We took adaptation out of the evolutionary realm and invented a unifying structure that facilitates adaptation. We call this unifying structure
    ‘culture’, technology is a vast area of this confusing field of human knowledge, skills, attitudes, stories, tools, toolmaking and craft that enables our species -more than any other- to adapt and survive in the more environments than any other. Human culture -of which technology and Mr. Kelly’s technium- are extremely important parts, is like humanity’s ‘coral reef’. It is vast now and we reap the benefits of the diversity of this reef whenever we face new problems, new challenges. We have been creating it since we first learned how to leave behind us cultural objects that survive beyond the lifetimes of individual member of the species. For this reason, language is one of our most distinctive skills, and ‘teaching’ is the primary and distinctive use to which it was first put and for which it is essential. Pictures and carved objects were good first starts, but after language comes everything else. It enables a fundamental change in the way our species transfers knowledge, skills and culture. No other primate actively ‘teaches’. All primates imitate their parents. A few primate-parents demonstrate real skill-tranfer lessons. But no primate parents reinforce these lessons by repetition, breaking the skills into discrete steps, discussing what is to be learned and then assessing and rewarding the performance of specific tasks. Mr. Kelly’s beautiful idea of the technium begins in the ‘cyberspace’ of a Hominid parent’s brain. We have now extended that noetic space electronically and exponentially, making it as real, or perhaps more real but certainly more appealing than our ordinary physical reality. (Who wouldn’t choose to live on Pandora?) But the technium is simply the next generation of culture. It’s not actually a reinvention of what already makes us distinct and adaptable. It’s just a power saw to people who have been using hand-saws for thousands of years. Well, okay dammit, I’m all for power saws.

  28. How extremely sad. A person who would rather live in a “virtual” reality rather than his own “physical” world.

  29. > A person who would rather live in a “virtual” reality rather than his own “physical” world.

    Avatar is a work of art, no more and no less, just as the first cave painting was a work of art, not more nor less.

    The robin’s nest, the honey bees’ comb, the orchid, the clouds, and the slime mold are also marvelous creations, like art.

    These are aspects of the Whole World, not more nor less. I love the world outside my doors and the one on the inside, too.

    plb

  30. Referring to Giles preferring to live there not Pandora as a work of art,it is most certainly that.

  31. > Referring to Giles preferring to live there not Pandora as a work of art

    And yet, why not live surrounded by beauty, whether it is nature’s art or human created? I am always saddened by the deadness of most human created environments: schools, factories, eateries, highways– all mostly artless and sterile. We could make our towns and cities things of beauty, a complement to the natural attraction of forests, windswept prairies and but we don’t.

    Is it that people in cities don’t want beauty because they are deadened themselves, or are they deadened by the bleak environments? There are beautiful cities and hideous ones. These become virtual environments, too. I wonder where the line exists between “reality” and the lives most of us live.

    Is not all of this real? Everything that happens to us, happens as “an experience” which is colored by who we are, perhaps dictated by what we already know. It is hard to tell where I end and the world starts. Pretty much it’s just a line in the sand that I draw.

    plb

  32. Have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the interesting, informative comments, but must sign off now. Need to go to the woods with my dog and cellphone – one living matter the other a technological tool. I leave you with my morning thoughts written in Haiku.

    Time, the thief passes
    stealing minutes and heartbeats
    flowers bloom and wilt

    Black shadows, like ink
    spreading across the landscape
    grey winter arrives

    Caio

    M

  33. fetishizing technology like this reinforces the idea that the richness and diversity of our experience (as well as our general quality of life) is somehow dependent on the development and utilization of physical technologies (specifically those technologies that are system dependent, ie they are made possible by certain social arrangements).

    we forget and even deny the reality of the various spiritual and/or autonomous technologies (those accessible and fully reproducible on the individual level) as well as the basic nature of the universe and consciousness to make possible the infinite beauty of experience that is present and accessible always everywhere.

    cuz it’s all beauty right?

    so if we can see that beauty is not necessarily dependent on our technologies, or even that the technicum is not necessarily dependent on physically complex and industrial manifestations, we can be more free to honestly weigh the costs and benefits of the current technological system.

    and one would have to be pretty far removed from reality to see that the spectacle of modern technology has already cost both humyns and the non-humyn community far too much to have any degree of justification.

    life is beauty. it can manifest in the waste, pollution, energy use, and cancer of the laptop and the internet or it can in the moonlight, naked in the field, eating dried hawthorn berries and listening to the wind. we can either pay for the former with the lives and life of the earth, or choose and endless array of latter options, ones that require nothing more than awareness.

  34. I’m wondering about the “we” Kelly keeps referring to in the article. Not everyone has access to technology. There are plenty of uneducated and or impoverished people here on earth. Where do they fit in to this technology and evolution bit?

  35. > life is beauty. it can manifest in the waste, pollution, energy use, and cancer

    Hmm. Must have a different definition of beauty than I use. I don’t see anything beautiful in waste, pollution, energy use, and cancer. Chernobyl, anyone?

    plb

  36. peter. oil sheens can look pretty. as can rust on old industrial machinery. the experience of dealing with cancer can encompass beauty. beauty can manifest in whatever. what i am saying is that even if one can find beauty in the movies, or online, or in dealing with cancer, or in those awesome crystals that formed on the inside of the reactors during meltdown (yes, they are pretty, i have seen them), it does not justify the costs.

  37. > what i am saying is that even if one can find beauty in the movies, or online … it does not justify the costs.

    What costs? To whom must we justify ourselves?

    plb

  38. Kevin Kelly had said a lot to his readers for decades, this latest represents an evolution of many very thoughtful observations and responses to change. I like to think scenarios like his certainly illustrate a do-able future, loaded with risk and uncertainty but do-able. I am more frequently overwhelmed with visions our culture is creating that are clearly not do-able. Thanks Orion for printing this interview and exchange. Great old poem by great old Robinson Jeffers:

    Bixby’s Landing

    By Robinson Jeffers

    They burned lime on the hill and dropped it down
    here in an iron car
    On a long cable; here the ships warped in
    And took their loads from the engine, the water
    is deep to the cliff. The car
    Hangs half way over in the gape of the gorge,
    Stationed like a north star above the peaks of
    the redwoods, iron perch
    For the little red hawks when they cease from
    hovering
    When they’ve struck prey; the spider’s fling of a
    cable rust-glued to the pulleys.
    The laborers are gone, but what a good multitude
    Is here in return: the rich-lichened rock, the
    rose-tipped stone-crop, the constant
    Ocean’s voices, the cloud-lighted space.
    The kilns are cold on the hill but here in the
    rust of the broken boiler
    Quick lizards lighten, and a rattle-snake flows
    Down the cracked masonry, over the crumbled
    fire-brick. In the rotting timbers
    And roofless platforms all the free companies
    Of windy grasses have root and make seed; wild
    buckwheat blooms in the fat
    Weather-slacked lime from the bursted barrels.
    Two duckhawks darting in the sky of their cliff-hung
    nest are the voice of the headland.
    Wine-hearted solitude, our mother the wilderness,
    Men’s failures are often as beautiful as men’s
    triumphs, but your returnings
    Are even more precious than your first presence.

  39. “what costs?” pollution, habitat destruction, the rendering of individuals into “resources”, the alienation that accompanies overspecialization, absurd energy use, cancer….

    “to whom must we justify ourselves?” to the community of life that makes up your own, to the species and other spirits who must suffer and die to bring use all our wonderful and empty gizmos and doo-hickies. to yourself, who deeply knows the imbalance inherent in this civilization whether your ego will acknowledge it or not.

  40. To Dire:
    Nothing that exists, exists apart from Nature. Nature is the source of all life and energy, so how could there be anything that’s Not Nature? The only thing that is unique about human beings is their capacity for imagination. They imagine themselves apart from nature, superior to nature, independent of nature. But they aren’t.

    Everything we have created has been from the raw materials of nature. Everything we have done has been within the laws of nature. Of course, the bottom line is this: only a fool would foul his own nest. Oh, and don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

    It boils down to what kind of world do we want? A glass, steel and electric one? Or one where the breeze blows in and you can smell things alive and growing. One where people are starving while others stuff their faces? Where animals can live their whole lives without seeing a person?

    YOU have to choose what matters. But don’t truck out your doom and gloom absolutes. That kind of talk betrays the fact that you haven’t thought very deeply. The more you think about it, the less certain you’ll be, I’m sure ; )

  41. Thanks for Robinson Jeffers poem. I immediately thought of Shelley,s “Ozymandias.” You’ve given me the urge to re-read Jeffers. Don’t have any of his work at home , but will start at the library.

    M

  42. I am puzzled by Kelly’s connection of “specialization” with “self-sustaining”: “What we have is a long-term trend of increasing diversity, complexity, and specialization—all characteristics of self-sustaining systems.” Although it’s true that various species have specialized, over eons, to inhabit particular niches, our own specialization — and I use this in terms of the types of work we do — has pushed us farther apart from one another, making it difficult to talk across specialties that, I don’t believe, can be sustained over the long haul. This type of specialization, unless we find ways to bridge the gaps, leads to less resilience and more vulnerabilty(-ies).

    Further, Kelly says: “These systems are evolving evolution. They are increasing degrees of freedom. And this is the theological part—we have the infinite game. The game is to extend the game, so that the game will keep going. The game is to keep changing the nature of change. And that infinite game is my view of holiness. You play the game not to win, but to continue to play to make room for all expressions of truth, good, and the beautiful. You are opening up the world to possibility. …The game is about trying to educate that individual into a position where they can maximize their potential and possibility. And technology is the instrument.”

    I don’t agree that technology necessarily opens up possibilities. It may open some, but it shuts others out and it shapes people toward particulars types of possibilities and particular outcomes. We all learn differently, after all. And if education relies mostly on one way of learning — visual, aural, or spatial — then education leaves out swaths of people who don’t fall into a prescribed category of learner. I fail to see how the systems Kelly refers to are “increasing degrees of freedom.”

    Where is freedom, say, for the person who wants to grown corn organically when his corn patch abuts a neighbor’s whose corn has Bt engineered into its DNA? Why are we so often inclined to equate “freedom” with “freedom to” instead of “freedom from”?

  43. Leigh wrote:
    >I don’t agree that technology necessarily opens up possibilities. It may open some, but it shuts others out and it shapes people toward particulars types of possibilities and particular outcomes.

    Hi
    I think you are the first here who has grasped the implications of what Kelly is saying and rearticulated it in a coherent manner.

    The central issue is of course, what is the impact of what I DO upon YOU. If you are crying that my GMO is contaminating you garden, I believe that is a legitimate complaint.

    However, I may believe I have the right to grow this type of food, and claim that it is better because it does not require pesticides sprayed on it, which will poison you, while the GMO product has proven safe so far.

    So it boils down to democracy, where we discuss the issues openly (not cloaked in proprietary secrecy or scientific mumbo jumbo). We try to examine all sides, the real and potential impact and reach a compromise.

    For me it is not the what but the how

  44. Peter Loring Borst wrote:
    “However, I may believe I have the right to grow this type of food, and claim that it is better because it does not require pesticides sprayed on it, which will poison you, while the GMO product has proven safe so far.

    “So it boils down to democracy, where we discuss the issues openly (not cloaked in proprietary secrecy or scientific mumbo jumbo). We try to examine all sides, the real and potential impact and reach a compromise.”

    Hi, Peter.

    Are you speaking theoretically? Certain GMO crops actually require MORE spray, not less, which is a sort of crop zero-sum game (game, indeed, to use Kelly’s word!). And while we may try to get information about safety and side effects from corporations that claim proprietary secrecy, the profit-drive “science” (is science in service of profit really science?) zooms past us “layfolk” and condescends to us, as if we have no right to question the legitimacy of such “technologies” and cannot question them, because we don’t have the proper specialty, you know, a degree in genetics or what have you. We won’t know, maybe for eons, the effects of such genetic roulette.

    The “old” way of doing things — natural breeding — undoubtedly was also a form of genetic roulette: What did the early agriculturalists LOSE from developing crops by selecting out larger seedheads as they begain to domesticate wild plants? What possibilities did they close off?

    When we begin crossing the DNA of unnrelated species, I believe that presents too large a risk.

    We are insane if we believe we have “control” over genetic engineering. There are simply too many variables at work to be sure of any outcome. Besides, does anyone ever ask the plants, animals, viruses or bacteria whose genes are being used what THEY want?

    From Kelly: “We are tending the garden of technology, moving things around, noticing a plant coming up here that would do much better in the sun over there.” No, we do not control it, which is why certain wild plants come up wherever they want to. If the conditions (temp, length of daylight, moisture) were not right for them, they would not make their appearance. This differs, of course, for the ones we intentionally plant (annual vegetables or perennial fruits), where we take on the responsibility of ensuring proper moisture, light, etc. Even then, we very little control.

    We humans are perhaps the ones we most need to “prune” and “train.”

    I suppose that is the major issue that I have with technology and “science” in service to profits: The hubris is the proverbial stick in the eye. But one good thing that may come of all of this is the sheer undeniability that we are all connected, inter- and intraspecies.

    The “what” and the “how” are equally important. As are the “who” and “who benefits” and “who and what gets left behind,” etc.

  45. To Leigh

    I will put my cards on the table. I am a scientist who grew up in the sixties. I went from being a anti-society rebel to what I am now, a liberal pro-science pro-environmentalist. You may not understand that there can be such a POV but scientists can love Nature too. Many of us went into science for that reason.

    My question, however, is HOW will we as a society decide what is right for all of us? Will it be a matter of me describing the benefits of Genetic Engineering, you describing the risks and then we end in a stand-off?

    ?

  46. Peter,

    You have posed the right question. I think the answer is not to be provided by government or industry, but by NGOs that involve representatives of all stakeholder groups (even flora and fauna) in consensus processes that yield results that government and industry abide by: very much like open standards development organizations. My reference point is the Open Geospatial Consortium, which I have served in staff and consultant roles since 1994. I see the OGC as the predecessor of a new species of organization that arises to help humanity steer technology. Technological growth is a function of markets, and the world is beginning to see that that technology and markets are NOT self-regulating. They are part of a complex system that is at a tipping point where a new order will emerge. Steering technology requires some new social complexity.

  47. To Peter re: the “How”:

    I suppose neither you nor I will decide; the decision will be made for us, through accretion of decision upon decision, made by anyone and everyone…scientists, corporations, lawmakers, regulators, consumers, technophiles, and technophobes.

    I mean, if we had known, in about 1840 or so — or earlier, say, the 1500s — what petroleum and coal would bring, would we have NOT used these energy sources? Would we have, courtesy of the precautionary principle — which, to my knowledge — had not been articulated at the time, been hesitant to jump in? Were it not for motorized transportation, would you be here today? I know I would not — at least not in my present form!

    I am not a scientist and I am not antiscience, but science, you must admit, has its own epistemology, its own way of viewing the world, its own limitations, and that comes through in the various hypotheses that scientists pose and in the means they use to experiment. And in this way, science, like a novel or a court trial, can only get at certain aspects of the truth, never the “whole” truth. Science that has given us a closer knowledge of where we come from, science that shows us how amazing our body is, science that begins to help us understand the countless interactions and feedback loops among various systems, and science that shows us how little we know, how little we may ever know — that, we need.

    But science that serves profit has an epistemology all its own, do you not agree? Imbued by the scent of profits, that kind of science seems to me to be easily skewed. I mean, it’s kind of like saying that journalists are objective. There has never been any such thing as objectivity in the news; you open a story with a fact…why open with that particular fact as opposed to any other? Because it’s most important. Most important to whom?

    I think it’s critical, too, that we distinguish between science and technology. The two are too often considered the same; they are not. Aspects of life that science uncovers, of course, can be used in the development of technology, but they are not the same and should not be lumped together.

    And, yes, Peter, I can understand there CAN be such a POV as yours. I have a good friend who’s a hydrologist and whose opinion it is that we should not be engineering food crops, but who supports stem-cell research. There are as many POVs as there are humans.

    My understanding of GM food crops is that they are NOT safe. They are a result of a mode of thinking that reduces everything to its parts and purports to examine the minutiae and “predict” from those examinations what will happen to the whole. Pure Descartes. The irony, which I can’t help but again allude to here, is that the problems (masquerading as solutions, but creating other problems) yielded by that sort of reductive thinking are the very things that may, finally, get humans to understand that we are all connected — that everything is connected to everything else.

    We’re still stuck with HOW to decide: I believe Derrick Jensen, maybe in Endgame, spoke about the concept of “defensive rights.” What this basically gets back to is the precautionary principle. That is what I would be inclined to use to make such decisions. But, then, I’d probably be in the minority, be accused of “holding up evolution.” Still, we are living with nearly a century’s worth of “innovations” that didn’t adhere to any principle other than “we can, so we should.” Every being, from plankton to whales to Inuit mother, lives with this legacy. And they certainly didn’t have the democratic opportunity to vote for the people who decided that DDT would be helpful, or PCBs. I didn’t get to decide; I was born yet. And if your coming of age was in the 1960s, you didn’t get to decide, either.

    So, what do you think, Peter?

  48. Leigh writes:
    > My understanding of GM food crops is that they are NOT safe. They are a result of a mode of thinking that reduces everything to its parts and purports to examine the minutiae and “predict” from those examinations what will happen to the whole. Pure Descartes.

    Actually, genetic engineering resulted from the same line of inquiry that lead to the discovery of genes by Mendel, DNA by Watson, Crisk, and Rosalind Franklin, right on up to the present day with many women leading the field. Genomics is a closer understanding of evolution, heredity and the programming of cell development than we have ever had before.

    Insofar as capitalism is concerned, you have to admit that it is a natural outgrowth of the processes of nature. There are very few examples of real cooperation in the natural world. There are many examples of symbiosis, but far more instances of parasitism, predatory behavior, and ruthless treachery.

    Many of the most beautiful things on earth have survived and prospered due in part to luck and in part to skill in avoiding being noticed. That has been my way up until now, but I have come out to try to engage people in a discussion about science and technology that is based upon understanding and not fear of the unknown, or even fear of the past which has been very bad, in many cases.

    I have stated before that there can be no going back. Evolution is what happens. It is the product of a vast number of forces. It cannot be stopped by any means, but it can most certainly be influenced. All species are influencing the evolution of themselves and others all the time.

    Our role as intelligent people, you and I, is to discuss these things and decide together where we should go together. In doing so, we created a conversation that others will have as well and the future will be the outcome of thoughtful decisions, not blind faith in science, or religion, or politics.

    plb

  49. Peter writes:
    “Actually, genetic engineering resulted from the same line of inquiry that lead to the discovery of genes by Mendel, DNA by Watson, Crisk, and Rosalind Franklin, right on up to the present day with many women leading the field. Genomics is a closer understanding of evolution, heredity and the programming of cell development than we have ever had before.

    “Insofar as capitalism is concerned, you have to admit that it is a natural outgrowth of the processes of nature. There are very few examples of real cooperation in the natural world. There are many examples of symbiosis, but far more instances of parasitism, predatory behavior, and ruthless treachery.”

    Although I cannot disagree about the continuuum of Mendel to present-day genetic crop modification — again, it’s reductionist in its approach, doesn’t allow for the “plasticity” with which organisms respond to their environments — I vehemently disagree that GMOs (if by “it” you mean GMOS, not capitalism) are a “natural outgrowth of the process of nature.” Interspecies swapping of DNA/RNA does not occur, cannot occur, without human intervention.

    As for safety, see as one example the American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s position paper on GMO foods at
    http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html.

    Also, I think we often, as a species, find what we’re looking for. So, as one who is skeptical of a positive outcome of a reductionist approach to just about anything, this sort of “science” doesn’t sit well with me. By the same token, Peter, if you go looking for lots of examples in nature of “parasitism, predatory behavior, and ruthless treachery,” you will find plenty of them. (Would not “luck” and “skill” be part of a species’ response, over time, to environmental changes? If so, are these really “luck” and “skill,” which suggest something speedy in the first instance and conscious choice in the second?)

    I suggest that we open ourselves to examples found in nature of cooperation. Take the human digestion system as one: Without the multiple types of “fauna” found there, we would not be able to sustain ourselves nutritionally. The so-called “bugs” benefit from what we eat (assuming what we eat doesn’t perturb their balance and open up space for overgrowth of, say, C. albicans, etc.) and we benefit by their breaking down our food so that our systems can access what’s there. Our soil could benefit, too, if we used what we metabolized and excreted not as “waste” but as “food” for multiple others whose lives depend upon further breaking down what we cast off.

    I think “fear” or concern about GM foods is not at all misplaced, especially when you see the merry-go-round between lawmakers who are supported by the industry and regulators who in one election cycle work for the industry and in the next are appointed to oversee it. That is not the sort of democratic process that you appear to support.
    Leigh

  50. Some recent scientific studies on lab. animals shows that genetically manipulated foods have a negative, dangerously negative, affect on the digestive system.
    How can “capitalism” be a natural evolutionary process of nature? All economics systems are man made, so are part of “culture.” Furthermore, not all “capitalism” is the same.

  51. Leigh writes:
    > I suggest that we open ourselves to examples found in nature of cooperation.

    I am have been a beekeeper for 35 years and I am intimately aware of the nature of cooperation. Recent studies show that the bees may not be “cooperating” at all, but may be under coercion from the queen via powerful pheromones which regulate their behavior.

    > I think “fear” or concern about GM foods is not at all misplaced

    No, and those of us working in the field (yes, me) are acutely aware of the concern and the fear. That is one reason I have undertaken this conversation with you, because you have the intelligence and compassion to carry it forward, as do I.

    > Interspecies swapping of DNA/RNA does not occur, cannot occur, without human intervention.

    Here you are in error. Up to 8 per cent of the human genome is viral RNA. There is mounting evidence of epigenetic effects between species which may be facilitated by rna transference. Certainly speciation itself is an example of natural changes in the DNA coding of organisms.

    But beyond that, the general public does not understand that genetic modification does not involve the insertion of genes from one species into another. It is done by coding new strands of genetic material which is synthesized from raw nucleotides.

    There aren’t bacteria genes in corn. The corn has had its genetic structure altered with synthetic genetic material which expresses toxins that make the corn poisonous to bugs. These new genes are based on the coding of the bacteria, but are not *from* other species.

    This is how evolution happens: the dna mutates, is recombined, new traits appear and if they are harmful, the organism quickly dies. If they are beneficial the organism, be it corn, beans, fruit flies or streptococcus, will begin to get an edge over its peers and become the dominating form. Etc.

    Peter

  52. > How can “capitalism” be a natural evolutionary process of nature? All economics systems are man made, so are part of “culture.”

    Humankind was created by nature. How can anything we do be NOT nature? Where does not nature stop and artifice begin? Do you know?

    Anyway, capitalism is an economic system that is based upon acquisition and in this way it is not different from the hawk killing the mouse. (And the virus killing the hawk)

    Nature has many examples of cooperation, but chaos and competition are its underlying theme. Which I don’t find problematic at all. See: The Red Queen’s Race http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Queen

  53. Peter writes:
    “There aren’t bacteria genes in corn. The corn has had its genetic structure altered with synthetic genetic material which expresses toxins that make the corn poisonous to bugs. These new genes are based on the coding of the bacteria, but are not *from* other species.

    “This is how evolution happens: the dna mutates, is recombined, new traits appear and if they are harmful, the organism quickly dies. If they are beneficial the organism, be it corn, beans, fruit flies or streptococcus, will begin to get an edge over its peers and become the dominating form. Etc.”

    I understand what you are saying about the human genome. But when you create Bt corn…you are engineering the corn to express the ‘cidal effect of Bt. You, as the scientist, are choosing which genes to copy and use. The genes themselves are not choosing…unless, of course, you believe they are choosing you as a proxy to act on their behalf — and I can certainly see why people would feel that way.

    If the corn were ever to combine with Bt “voluntarily,” then I can’t help but think it would do this over a very, very long time (if ever) — or, as a result of environmental pressures that would cause Bt to benefit corn AND vice versa. So, if growers want to “help” their corn resist various insect predation, why not just use Bt in their fields? Could it be because it costs too little (relatively speaking), can’t be patented, etc.?

    Further, I fail to see why everything has to be a war or a battle. We, Homo sapiens, do not on the whole benefit from the constant escalation of this kind of war between our food crops and the things (fungi, insects, viruses) that prey on them. It gets more and more costly and — who knows? — we could be engineering our own end. But then, maybe that’s what’s needed. I’d like to think otherwise.

    So, Peter, what fired you up about science to begin with? Why did you choose to become a scientist? What field or fields do you work in?

  54. From Peter: “Anyway, capitalism is an economic system that is based upon acquisition and in this way it is not different from the hawk killing the mouse. (And the virus killing the hawk)”

    Really? How is it no different? ‘Splain, please.

  55. I am wondering if it is helpful to this discussion to define what we mean when we use the “science” and “capitalism” symbols.

    For instance:
    Is science a way of thinking that produces an amoral body of knowledge, also called science?
    Is science a profound moral state of being, the requisites for it being sharing, inquiry, inclusiveness, reflection and the other qualities of compassion?

    Sample application: Does science still exist when a psychopathic corporation controls and uses the genetic knowledge of organisms in ways that prevent sharing, inquiry and reflection on that use?

    Is capitalism a way of acting and trading governed by an amoral body called The Market?
    Is capitalism a profound moral state of being and trading, the requisites for it being sharing, inquiry, inclusiveness, reflection and the other qualities of compassion?

    Sample application:
    Can a nation be described as capitalist if 10% of the population own 71% of the wealth, the top 1% control 38% while the bottom 40% own less than 1% of the nation’s wealth; a few private corporations control most of the nation’s commerce and receive vast Government subsidies; and most of the nation’s wealth is derived from waging war on other nations?

  56. To Dave McArthur:

    Great framing questions regarding “science” and “capitalism.”

    Science is a product of the people who “do science.” No one person — scientist or otherwise — can study everything; there just aren’t enough years in a lifetime. So, a scientist narrows his scope. Maybe she focuses on the causes of red tide or how PCBs have ended up in the fat of polar bears. Or maybe she focuses on making better pigments to be used in paints…or a better way of developing polymers for specific types of plastics. The point is, the scope is dictated by the person’s interests, which are part of whatever she has been exposed to and stimulated by.

    And I distinguish between NGO- or taxpayer-backed science and corporation-backed science; even the former are limited by what they focus on.

    Where science is done in service to a corporation that has a higher level of “personhood” than even you or I, even the corporation’s shareholders have, we must admit that that’s a ton of unchecked power.

    The U.S. does not have capitalism; we have a hybrid. Science and our hybrid system have this in common: They are as much (if not more) defined by what they leave out as what they include. And when you’re dealing with corporate structure and science in service to corporations — and to go back to Kelly, the technological products developed, marketed and sold by corporations — the main thing that gets excluded is context.

    Without context, there is no space for “sharing, inquiry, inclusiveness, reflection and the other qualities of compassion” that give meaning to our lives.

  57. Leigh writes:
    > So, Peter, what fired you up about science to begin with? Why did you choose to become a scientist? What field or fields do you work in?

    In my teens I wanted to find out what is nature, what is a natural person. I spent years looking into it. I realized that I would have to have a job that connected me with nature, so I became a beekeeper. As time went on, I realized the scientific side of it interested me much more than the money making side. So I left commercial beekeeping and went to work at a research lab. Gradually, I became more interested in science and left the bees to work in a lab that does research into the genes connected with human reproduction. I work on a daily basis with animals and DNA. What we do is highly regulated, in order to safeguard the public from any conceivable harm that could come from what we do. We may feel that the potential for harm is low, but we comply with regulations that assume that the risk is high, and we do it willingly in order to be responsible citizens.

    Most of the food that is being consumed in this country has been genetically modified in some fashion. I am not aware of a single disaster in this field, whereas I can describe numerous catastrophes that have occurred as a result of the traditional methods of breeding and moving plants and animals around the world.

    I believe in the utmost precaution not only because it’s responsible, but because we need to gain the respect and confidence of people in regard to what we are doing. However, I will point out that China and other countries are moving full speed ahead with genetic research, so it will happen one way or another. I would rather it happen here under close scrutiny than in a country where life has much less value.

    Insofar as the impact of what we do is concerned, it is true that we cannot predict the outcome of the scientific method which is to leave no stone unturned. As to where the money comes from, I understand the objections raised about corporate and military funding of science.

    But research is extremely expensive and money has to come from people that stand to get some sort of return. Would you fund this kind of research? Who should decide what gets funded and what doesn’t?

  58. As a high school student and having grown up in the digital age, I have known nothing else than the rapidly changing, constantly improving, forever curious technology that seems to dictate our lives. Yes, as Kelly has pointed out, we have the option to “opt-out,” but “we don’t really have the option of ignoring it.” Students have now developed into digital multitaskers – listening to Pandora, chatting on Facebook, and checking out the funniest videos on YouTube all while writing an essay or doing math homework and still receiving passing grades. As humans evolve, or technologically develop, it is nearly impossible to stand aside and watch their peers embrace advancement and continue onward. It’s a process of natural selection. One must adapt to their environment or struggle to survive.

    I understand the restrain to let technology envelope our culture, but it is too late. Now the problem is focused on whether of not to set limitations and restrictions on technology. I agree with Kelly’s stance that people-killing technology should be prohibited, while other forms should be given a rightful home, but aren’t there other ways that technology can kill people beyond that of physical death? Yes, superbugs and nuclear weapons can reap havoc and decimate populations, but of what effect does technology have on a person’s mental being? As social networking booms, a person may still continue connectivity to other human beings, but loses the experience of physical interaction. Being able to manipulate genes to create the child of your dreams eliminates the awe and surprise of childbirth and no longer creates children, but perfectly manufactured machines. Humanity loses its basis of being human.

    Technology is incapable of being tied down and refuses restraint. If humans could receive better education and be able to understand the effects such advances has, then technology might not appear as The Untamable. But I pose the question: Is technology creating smarter humans or simply dumbing us down as not to respect such education and fact?

  59. Peter,

    What do you mean when you say, “Most of the food that is being consumed in this country has been genetically modified in some fashion”? Do you not consider the Starlink corn episode just one sign of disaster or potential disaster? (Cows, by the way, are meant to eat grass, not grain.) And, outside the States, the ongoing disaster of Roundup cotton in India? The cycle of debt, collapsing yields, and farmer suicides? Is this not a disaster?

    Aside from the incursion — sometimes accidental, sometimes intentional — of exotic opportunists (Brazilian pepper in Florida, Asian carp in Midwestern waterways, African bees that have escaped from Brazil are now spreading across the Sunbelt, etc.), what are the “numerous catastrophes” resulting from traditional methods of breeding?

    Also, unless you can publicly convey the “utmost precaution” that’s being taken — and you must do this with an audience of lay people who have some grasp of genetics — then you’re swimming upstream. I don’t see that “utmost precaution,” because I’ve heard or read about any number of cases where things that were not supposed to happen, happened. Until we can kick the hubris habit, we’ll continue to see these things and the “sides” involved will become even less able to converse.

  60. Peter,

    The scientific method does leave a number of stones unturned. Any human venture must, because there simply isn’t enough time, money or minds to be put any one thing. So, where does the money come from?

    As Lance McKee earlier noted that he sees the Open Geospatial Consortium as a new species of organization that can help, perhaps the “Community Supported…” fill-in-the-blank model is also another “species” that can offer an alternative and inject accountability and responsibility into the equation much more effectively than the present structure encourages — or permits.

    You got interested in science because you wanted to be close to nature. We need many more citizen naturalists, many more people just willing to go out into their neighborhoods…observe, count, experience the world through their senses, and share that with others.

    We are losing naturalists probably because there’s not much money in it, so why should it be supported? And yet all of our instruments, our measuring devices, which are expensive, inject a high wall between us and what’s going on around us all the time. The other senses, including our intuition and feelings — which cannot be quantified — are just as valid and we are born with them, so they are in a way “free.”

  61. Christina M asks: “Is technology creating smarter humans or simply dumbing us down as not to respect such education and fact?”

    The answer probably has to be open-ended and depends on how you define “smart”: Maybe some become smarter, others not so much, depending on their focus and how they use technology. If the technologies of communication make us feel more atomized, more out of touch, then maybe we rely on them less. Same with an “old” technology: TV. Don’t you get tired of all the images zooming around, the same “experts” always invited to talk? Why don’t they invite people like YOU to appear on their shows? Could be because they don’t know how to sell anything out of what you’re saying, because you’re willing to question technology, so you’re probably willing to question their ads about how great (and plentiful) natural gas is, or the side effects they run on about with their statin drugs.

    You ask deep questions. I think there is a kind of death other than physical. It grows from disconnections, fragmentation. The more of the natural world we lose, the less we have Others against whom to define ourselves, the more we lose touch with our fundamental “who-ness.” Maybe the answer is, because the technology(-ies) are not going away, treat them as you would rich food and don’t partake of them all the time.

    And just to show you this is nothing new, check out the essays by Saul Bellow: “The Distracted Public,” and “There Is Simply Too Much to Think About,” found in that technology, older than TV, a book entitled, “It All Adds Up.”

    BTW, how do you define “smart”?

  62. I don’t think that technology has a direct affect on human’s intelligence – or how “smart” humans are if Christina was using the words interchangeably.

    From what I understand Kelly to be saying is that technology is directed and minimally maintained by us, but is mostly evolving and developing on its own, following a natural path of development. Like how he mentioned that across the globe the technological advancements in separate civilizations show similar patterns. This supports that the Technium is a phenomena of it’s own and shows unique behavior in it’s growth. So looking at it this way humans are not becoming smarter or dumber for that matter because of our dependence or use of technology, but only the way we learn and become smarter.

    I think also as technology evolves our very definition of intelligence changes similar to how Kelly said that humanity is redefined with the evolution of technology. As our tools and creations serve changing purposes, society also shifts to fulfill those purposes. For example today you could say that much of our technology is created to better connect people and share information whether it be social or scientific. So therefore our definition of “smart” is one who is easily able to use these technologies to share their own version of intelligence.

  63. Leigh,

    I guess I define “smart” as being able to distinguish where human ends and technology begins.

  64. Technology has a definite effect on human intelligence!

    Idea reported in “Smart World” by R. Ogle: Mind is NOT contained mainly in an individual’s head. It is in culture, including dances and slide rules and TVs. Consider, too, McLuhan’s ideas, e.g., alphabets degraded/amplified oral traditions. Vocabularies of fifth graders have declined significantly since TV. Read Joseph Chilton Pierce’s “Magical Child”…oooh… I see on wikipedia that he’s written lots since I read that! I missed those because I left a job in early childhood education to work in the computer world: Capitalism made me do it, I suppose. But see how the Web makes me smarter! Understanding the effects of technology on child development, learning and mind is a critical issue. Consider what we’ve learned about the brain’s plasticity, how use shapes brain physiology. Teens today are 6 times more likely to be depressed and anxious than during the great depression. We need more science here!

  65. To Christina:
    I guess I’m not all that smart…I often find myself wondering, did I dream something, did I THINK something, or did I read it somewhere? This, to me, indicates that I can’t necessarily distinguish where I begin and end and where what I come into contact with (whichever technology) begins and ends. It gets a little blurry.

    We can’t assume that we are not shaped by technologies (tool-extensions of ourselves) or that we do not also influence them. I’m glad, though, that we can choose how much of any one technology we want to use. At least for now.

    To Lance: I saw that story this week referencing depressed and anxious teens. How will more science play a role? Someone like Richard Louv would say it’s because they need to get outdoors more and have direct sensory experiences there, experiences perhaps enabled by a car or GPS, but unmediated experiences. I agree with him. Direct experiences in nature and curiosity have saved me many a time, as a child and as an adult. Better than drugs…and I don’t think it has any side effects, except maybe positive ones.

  66. Leigh,

    re: How will more science play a role?
    Yes, kids need to get outdoors, but a feral child lives outdoors and never matures. Cognitive psychologists and educators are only beginning to understand the different kinds of learners and the deep effects of media. I hope that science-guided policy will end commercial TV and perhaps most TV for children. Advertisers apply and even develop knowledge about attention, semiotics, chld behavior and adult/child relationships. We’re apes: The flip side of chimpanzees’ capacity for empathy – knowing another’s feelings – is their capacity for exploiting other chimps.

  67. Leigh writes:
    > You got interested in science because you wanted to be close to nature. We need many more citizen naturalists … We are losing naturalists probably because there’s not much money in it, so why should it be supported? And yet all of our instruments, our measuring devices, which are expensive, inject a high wall between us and what’s going on around us all the time.

    Reply:

    We almost connected here. You can see how science is a logical outgrowth of the child’s interest in nature, but then you qualify it suggesting only naturalists study nature. All scientists are studying nature, that’s all we do, because everything is nature.

    The second part is a bit specious. I wear glasses to read; without them I can’t do it. Are my reading glasses a wall or a window? Is Hubble erecting a wall between me and the stars?

    How can the understanding of genetic recombination be erecting a wall? Ignorance is the wall and scientific inquiry breaks down ignorance. I think your concern about the ethics of science is misplaced. It is the lack of conscience and compassion that worries you. I agree 100% that science absolutely must have an ethical component.

    Scientists are not different from the rest of society in this regard, there are callous ones and some conscientious ones. There people who focus only on personal profit and gain — and there are those whose motives are actually decent and they care greatly about the consequences of their actions.

    If I am in science to broaden understanding and do good works, why on earth would I partake in actions that perpetuate myth and ignorance? Why would I do something that had the potential for great harm?

    Everything humans do is inherently risky; as intelligent people we have to weigh the risks and move forward knowing we are liable to be wrong. But to stop inquiring or to stop others from doing their work out of *fear* is a critical mistake, IMHO.

  68. Lance writes:
    > But see how the Web makes me smarter!

    The human mind has always been collective, it’s never about what I know but what WE know. But moving on, how “smart” we are is evidenced by what we DO, not what we think.

  69. Mr. Kelly has a much rosier perspective on the innate abilities of the average citizen and the sharp points of the universe, as shown by history, than I happen to have. He might want to come down out of that treehouse someday, or dial back on the high-grade.

    Cheese on rice! The point I’d make to him if we were bending elbows together is that the pace of the thing allows no vetting for unintended consequences. It happens before you were even aware that it was a possibility. Before you know it, you are Curly Howard, building yourself into a cage of pipes to stop that pesky plumbing leak, finally giving up by drilling a hole in the floor to let the water out. Technology, abetted by what Mr. Berry terms “Maximum Capitalism” has beat us onto the rocks and shoals too many times to count. Does that mean we all turn into neo-Luddites? I don’t think so, but holding up some kind of Pynchon-esque Church of What’s Happening Now as the next big thing in human evolution strikes me as so funny that I feel the need to cry.

  70. Way to go Ploughboy. This King Midas stuff was beginning to get to me.

  71. Technology is all around us, and therefore there is no way that we can ignore it. Even in a remote village in India there is an Internet café in which for only a few rupees. As a teenager in the Internet age I am constantly surrounded by technology. For example, in my house we have two televisions, four computers, wireless Internet, three cell phones, three DVD players, and so much more. In the fifties you would think my family had 20 children and had made a fortune for having this many things. In actuality, I live in a middle class family, and right now there are three people living in my house. This is an example of a family that is rooted in technology. Kelly is right when he states that technology is a tool that can be used, we use the televisions to watch the news and learn what is going on in the worlds, as well as enjoy some entertainment by watching a movie or a show.

    Peter has stated earlier in these comments that “People by and large seek entertainment and resent the intrusion of new and thought provoking ideas.” As we look around our world we see people searching for answers, for remedies to diseases, for answers to solve world hunger (Miss America has been searching for that for years), and so much more. There is a thirst for knowledge in our country, and in our world. New ideas are appearing everyday, and rather than resent them, most people that I have seen try to embrace them, or fund them. How many times have there been commercials on television for St. Jude’s Children Hospital asking for funding? Or how many times have we seen the missionaries on TV asking for people to fund a child? These are just a couple examples of how new ideas are not being resented, and rather being embraced.

  72. And I’m not talking (well, O.K., ranting….) about better forms of radio, which is just about all the internet/cellphones/blackberries/i phones are, if you really want to strip it down. That might be what some think Kelly is so enraptured by, but I don’t think so. What I think really makes him go all warm and squishy inside for is the bio-engineered, genetically modified and a.i. wonders of his Brave New World. Have you heard!? Asbestos is the miracle insulator!

    Look, the fable of the forbidden fruit is as old as it is for a simple reason: We get it wrong waaaaaay more than we get it right in this world. Always. I’d be the first to cruise off to the Orion Nebula in my warp drive vehicle, if that is what Kelly is jazzed about, and I understand the need for a mortal man to push back against this life’s time limitations, but I hardly see man’s invention of toilet paper, or even the starship, as something to elevate to a level of transcendence. If anything, it just shows how spiritually bankrupt we are as a culture. I mean, shoot, my heroes have always been the ones who saw no need to get all hung up on the mere fact that language existed, and got more satisfaction in what the language was able to express on thoughts beyond the human physical condition. Kelly would seem to think that “Zen and T.A.O. Motorcycle Maintenance” is really a repair manual.

    Dude, it is just stuff you’re talking about. Really neat and cool stuff, don’t get me wrong, but of the kind you can’t take with you. Right there is where your “religion” fails to deliver.

  73. Right On!! Plowboy.

    Don’t have time to write any more as I want to/need to get out there among the trees, the lizards, the deer and on and on…..

  74. > Kelly would seem to think that “Zen and T.A.O. Motorcycle Maintenance” is really a repair manual.

    Yeah, well, have you read it? What is it, if not a repair manual for the human spirit? And a road map to a healthy relationship with technology … in fact, he makes fun of people who use technology without knowing anything about it, who bitch and moan when it breaks down … which it does, often as a result of their not knowing anything about it …

    plb

  75. P.L.B….Maybe a bad example, yeah. I have read it, sure. Like most readers I’m sure, I have to admit it was tough going. It is somewhat of an ink-blot document, by my recollection 30 years later, but what I recall most about it is that technology was just the springboard issue…and that it was no techno-worshipping treatise.
    Kelly seems to think (and I may be missing his point) that you don’t need to go deeper to understand the human condition, just look at what neat tools he uses.

    Another point I think that bears discussion is the confusion Kelly seems to have to crib from J.H. Kunstler) between what is technology and what is energy. The two are not interchangeable. There is a lot of that going around these days. Much of what Kelly points to as the sine qua non of humanity may only have the illusion of permanency. Is so, what does that mean for his theory of transcendence? For me, it means that not only can you not take it with you, you might not even be able to have it here before too much longer.

    Wade

  76. Kelly is correct. We can’t ignore technology. Our generation, the Millennial Generation, have grown up in the midst of iPods, Pandora, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and other social networking and mentally diverting technology. Technology is present in everyday life, from waking up to music on my iPod to typing essays on my school laptop. Since technology is so ever present, can we ever truly run away from it? Kelly says, “I acknowledge the fact that multitasking and BlackBerrys and iPods and Twitter can be distracting. But we don’t really have the option of ignoring it. The proliferation of devices is necessary to learn new things. And the cost of learning new things is an avalanche of fragmented information. We just have to learn how to live with it.” But the question I have to ask myself is this: is “learning to live” with technology killing our interpersonal relationships and, inadvertently, our transcendentalist view of the world?
    Let me explain: I have about 200 friends on my Facebook profile. I talk to maybe 20 of them on a regular basis. However, when I return to school the next day and talk to one of those people, or I go on a trip and I see one of those people, it is really hard to talk to them because I have already said all that I need to say to them. We speak our mind to them on the internet and then when we see them face to face, we have nothing to talk about. This is how technology kills our interpersonal relationships; it could potentially cause us to hide away in our rooms, “facebooking” but not physically talking to people.
    As for the transcendentalist part: to clarify, I am defining “a transcendentalist view of the world” as the belief that humans are capable of “out of body experiences” and that the material universe is inconsequential to our capabilities. Being a transcendentalist, from what I understand, is being one with your surroundings. Personally, if I were to “be one” with my surroundings, I would choose nature over city. Nature is peaceful, quiet, and, where I am from, untouched by man. To achieve this level of transcendence, you would need to expel technology from everyday life; otherwise it would just get in the way. Imagine this: you are meditating in a peaceful glade and all of a sudden, your cell phone goes off. Having technology completely interrupts the transcendent experience.

  77. I see your point Rita…but they said the same thing about the telephone….and the telegraph before that. I think they were wrong about those technologies, and I think the tendency to hype these kinds of systems as “game changers” is by those with a stake in their outcome. We’ve coupled a fundamental belief in the technological solution to aggressive global capitalism. The result is bound to not be pretty.

    If you step back from it, and look at it objectively, have your synapses and muscle fibers rearrange themselves because you Facebook? It might seem that way at times, but I’m doubtful. I am 51 y.o., and not exactly an early adopter of anything. But, I’m no technophobe. I use all kinds of gadgetry in my work and in my leisure….and I just don’t get that big a charge out of it. It hasn’t changed me in any fundamental way that I can tell. I’m not alone either.

    At this moment in history we’re just enthralled by our stuff as we always are on occasion. The zeitgeist of the times was summed up for me once in a Dilbert cartoon panel: “See how small my phone is..” BFD.

  78. > Let me explain: I have about 200 friends on my Facebook profile. … technology kills our interpersonal relationships

    Let me explain: I have met about 200 people discussing honey bees on the internet. I am now down in Florida meeting them in person and we are having the time of our lives. Technology brought us together. We feel as if we know each other before having met, and now when we email we will have a face and a voice to remember. probably will be more likely to call each other on the phone instead of email.

    If you think about it, it started with the telegraph, what, 150 years ago? It was all dots and dashes then, now it’s 1s and 0s. The computer converts the letters back and forth for us. And if you really think about, your own mind is converting your ideas into words which your fingers type. Even your own language is a technology that is far advanced beyond the barks and whimpers and tail wagging of “man’s best friend”

    Even the bee language, as beautiful as it is, and which is a system for translating direction, distance and quality into symbols that other bees understand and translate back so that they *know where other bees went and what they did there* — all they can ever say, we can say in *one sentence*

    Technology is nothing more nor less than a physical projection of the human mind. There is nowhere else we could be right now than here: the future can go any of an infinite number of ways, even within the strict confines of nature’s laws.

    Basically you all have two choices: be part of creating the future, or watch us do it.

    plb

  79. As a teenager of the Generation Y, technology has always been a part of my life. I cannot imagine not having access to computers, internet, cell phones, texting and iPods. Even though most people use these tools on a daily basis they are not necessary for us to go on with our life. Kelly mentions, “I acknowledge the fact that multitasking and BlackBerrys and iPods and Twitter can be distracting. But we don’t really have the option of ignoring it. The proliferation of devices is necessary to learn new things.” I agree with Kelly that these gadgets can be distracting, however it is difficult to disregard them. Although, not all types of technology are “necessary” or essential in order to learn new information or skills. Do we need cell phones to learn? Do we need social networking sites to learn?

    New technology is not a preeminent solution. It can be beneficial, however technology has also led to numerous perilous instances. Abduction, verbal and sexual abuse, murder, and identity fraud have occurred due to social networking sites and the internet. Technology in general can also extract a person’s valuable time. According to Business Week a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation survey revealed that, “Fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds average nearly 6 1/2 hours a day watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Net.”

    We should not be so dependent on technology that we are unable to function without it. I am not merely referring to individuals but also businesses, governments, cities, and countries. For example, the lack of technology in Haiti has made it difficult for us to assist them. Their lack of communication methods, transportation, and medical equipment has impacted relief efforts. Technology should not define who we are today.

    Technology such as, email, online chatting, and texting are convenient to connect and keep in contact with friends, although I would not go as far as calling them “holy.” Certain aspects of technology are surely useful tools in order to assist us in learning, in researching, reading news, making reservations, blogging or banking. There are both pros and cons to advances in technology.

  80. Jennesa > Abduction, verbal and sexual abuse, murder, and identity fraud have occurred due to social networking sites and the internet.

    Thanks for joining in! I want to say right now that your point of view is respected and welcomed into this discussion. Please stay with me for a second. The things that you listed are NOT due to the internet. These types of things have been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. The history of humankind is predominantly violent, bloody, and sick. You simply cannot blame the technology for bad things people do.

    Technology is a fancy tool. It’s like a spear. A primitive could use a spear to knock coconuts out of a tree, to catch fish, to take down an elephant, or to kill his neighbor. We can use the tools we have (internet) to shop for cheap shoes, to buy a car, to fool teenagers into inappropriate relationships, to hack into secure bank networks, AND to report on all these things so that more people are aware of the potential for great benefit and the potential for great harm. (sorry about the run-on sentence).

    Nothing is sacred in this world, friends. We make it sacred by loving and revering it. I regard the sea, the hills and the woods as sacred. I love the night birds, streams, and things that live in them. People are a tad bit harder to love, because of the sick things they do. But they do these things because they are sick inside, and I have compassion toward them, and hope that they find god and get healed.

    For me there is no line where nature stops. All things come from nature, even us, even our brains, hence — even our tools, technology, our weapons, our sickness and its remedy.

    Thanks again for contributing, you are thinking these things through, that is the only path to understanding.

  81. Rita, you stated that “technology kills our interpersonal relationships,” making technology out to be our downfall, something that is going to leave mankind friendless and loveless. However, if you look at our lives, the lives of teenagers, who have grown up in the midst of technology and cannot imagine a world without Internet, you don’t see people who are slowly loosing their ability to have relationships. We communicate with our fiends as much as ever, whether it be physically talking to someone or texting them. Technology does not kill, but encourages relationships. Texting someone or posting on their wall may not seem like a relationship in the old fashion sense, but the way we form relationships has changed. Technology has advanced and we have evolved, we still can form relationships by physically talking to people but we can also build on and form these relationships through texting and Facebook. Today people even fall in love through the Internet, dating websites may have a stigma attached to them, but they have had numerous success stories.

    The way people interact and the way the world works has changed due to technology. It can be used for bad and terrible things, but it in itself is not bad. As Peter said it is just a tool, it’s up to us how we use it. It is all a matter of control and balance, mindlessly surfing the net or choosing to read a book. If you need quiet and meditation time, go for a hike and leave the Blackberry at home. It is up to us to know where to draw the line and let technology benefit, not damage us. Technology is necessary for success; our world runs on it, if we do not embrace it and use it, we will be left in the dust.

  82. Jenessa you stated, “Abduction, verbal and sexual abuse, murder, and identity fraud have occurred due to social networking sites and the Internet.” Haven’t all of these occurred before the Internet? Also you said, “We should not be so dependent on technology that we are unable to function without it.” That fact is though we are beyond that stage, for instance without the Internet I would not be able to comment on this subject. Our world runs on technology and has enriched our lives and made it for the most part easier.
    I agree with Megan’s statement “Technology does not kill, but encourages relationships. Texting someone or posting on their wall may not seem like a relationship in the old fashion sense, but the way we form relationships has changed.” It is true times have changed. I know my parents and older generations that don’t use technology as much think its ridiculous when I am texting my friends, but the fact is I wouldn’t be able to maintain a relationship with some of them if it weren’t for texting.
    Kelly says, “Technologies are like children. They’re often asked to do things that they’re incapable of doing, don’t really want to do, are ill suited to do. We need to find the right place for technology.” Technology is blessing to us all. It has a place in our society and is used to help us and entertain us in our society. There are some cases where technology is used in the wrong way such as designing nuclear bombs and chemical warfare. Kelly says we just need to find the right spot for our technology in our society and it should all work out for the better. Technology is integrated into our society too much to just get rid of it, so we should embrace it and make the best we can of all of this.

  83. I agree with almost everything Kelly has to say about technology in this interview. I think it is very true that “we don’t really have the option of ignoring it,” and that it is “the resulting density of power.” If someone today were to decide to ignore technology for the rest of lives, they would most likely fall behind in the development of mankind. I’m not saying that their life would be any less eventful or important than anyone else’s, but they probably wouldn’t leave much influence behind.

    I also agree with almost everything Kelly has to say about religion. Although I am an atheist, I realize that people will most likely practice religion until the end of time, and I enjoy Kelly’s open-minded version of it. Many religions have had a negative effect on the world, but I think one that is accepting to the theory of evolution as well as the beauty of technology could only have a positive effect. Kelly states that “there is a blockheaded rejection of evolution among Christian evangelicals, which has been tremendously harmful. It has turned a religion that was at one time at the forefront of science into an antiscience stance.” I think that calling out an entire religion is a bold thing to do, but I’m glad that he does it. The fact that many religions, including the Christian evangelicals, choose to ignore the facts behind the theory of evolution only add to my list of reasons for choosing to be an atheist. I think that if everyone was as accepting as Kelly claims to be, then the world might be more successful at coming together as a whole. I know that religion will probably never cease to exist, but i hope that the struggle between religions will someday end.

    The only thing that Kelly said that bothered me was part of his reply to Lawler’s question, “So we’re instruments of the divine?” Part of Kelly’s response was, “Our own minds are incapable of comprehending the universe as a whole; we’re just too small and limited.” I don’t know if he meant that we are incapable of creating a technology that can comprehend the universe as a whole, or if he really thinks we can’t because we are too small and limited. I disagree that our minds that are incapable of comprehending the universe. That is like saying a baby is incapable of comprehending the world. As a baby, of course it is, but if it is given the chance to grow into an adult, it will eventually gain consciousness of the world. I’m not saying that this is definitely happen to humankind in terms of universal knowledge, but we shouldn’t be told, or believe, that it is impossible.

  84. > The only thing that Kelly said that bothered me was “Our own minds are incapable of comprehending the universe as a whole; we’re just too small and limited”

    This may bother you, but it is most certainly a fact. We aren’t even capable of comprehending the earth, let alone the Universe. There is nothing wrong with being small and limited. But the Universe is huge and limitless. Not only can we not comprehend it, who needs to? It is a wonderful thing that there is a great mystery behind every thing we think we “know”.

  85. I agree with Kelly that technology is an important aspect in our society, as well as the fact that it is indeed what got us to where we are today. Simply put, technology is the tool that we, as humans, use to continue our evolutionary journey. Along these same lines, Kelly tells us “The game is to extend the game, so that the game will keep going. The game is to keep changing the nature of change.” But what if, at some point, we go too far? We make too many changes?

    Kelly claims that by continuously reinventing our world, our society, and our use of technology we are “opening up the world to possibility.” I however, agree with Leigh’s statement that “It (technology) may open some (possibilities), but it shuts others out.” Given, technology has opened to us many amazing possibilities. Computers, Internet, cures for diseases and viruses that used to kill thousands, prosthetics, and many other technological advances as well. But, the use of technology has also opened the door for many dangers to enter our world as well. Nuclear weapons, genetic engineering (designer babies, cloning, etc.) and global climate change to name a few.

    Obviously, we cannot get rid of technology. It is everywhere, from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the computer I am typing on. I am certainly not saying we should get rid of technology; it is a very important resource when used properly. However, we cannot continue to expand, create and change at the rate we have been. We must instead find a way to balance our need for discovery with the knowledge that if we do not regulate our experiments, we will eventually destroy our planet, our home.

    I would like to leave you all with one final bit of information to thing about. If and when human kind is eradicated from this earth, it will go on without us. We however, cannot go on without this earth.

  86. As a teenager living in the 21st century, I have grown up surrounded by technology. I have never known anything other than a world influenced by technology and I don’t expect that fact to change. It is human nature to continue to grow and expand and create, all the while pushing the boundaries of what is possible and what isn’t.

    Jenae, I have to disagree with your statement: “However, we cannot continue to expand, create and change at the rate we have been.” We should continue to expand our horizons. No one has ever found a cure to a disease by being satisfied with a treatment. Technology is supposed to help us reach our full potential. Kelly says, “That’s what technology is in the larger sense—the discovery of potential and possibility.” Why should we slow the rate of progress when we have only begun to examine the potentials of technology?

    Kelly says, “No. I would prohibit technology that kills people, for sure,” after he says, “The proper response is not to ban something—the proper response is better technology.” This self-contradiction leads to the sense that even he is unsure of how technology should be regulated. Technology can always be used to kill people, and banning a certain use of a product won’t work. Yes, this dangerous technology can be used safely, but not everyone plans to use it that way. Kelly says, “I’m assuming there is government to regulate,” but haven’t governments become corrupt before? We can’t blindly put our faith in a government, and simply expect them to make it work. Just as it is human nature to push the boundaries of possibility, it is also human nature to break the rules.

  87. Rita you said, “technology kills our interpersonal relationships; it could potentially cause us to hide away in our rooms, “facebooking” but not physically talking to people.” Before the beginning of technology I’m sure the ancient cavemen had to huddle together to keep warm, but then fire was made and they didn’t have to huddle together anymore they had that nice warm fire to keep them warm. Did that wreck their relationships? I think not. It’s the same with the internet networking and texting. It may not be human but it’s still really good. These are great tools when people are far away from each other. You don’t have to wait months or even years to talk to someone; you can talk to them whenever you want. Technology doesn’t distant humans from each other, it connects them. I have a hard time believing that you find it difficult to talk to people, face to face. On the matter of meditation and interruptions it’s a lot easier to get rid of the technological interruptions then it is to get rid of the physical interruptions. If someone talks to you in person you can’t just say, I’m meditating go away. Well you could, but that’s considered rude, but if it’s say a phone call or a text message you could always silence your phone and have some lame excuse such as, I’m busy at the moment. With technology always having been there all our lives it’s not as if it’s suddenly causing the earth to stand still with its presence. It’s always been there, plus everyone likes the new technology, better cameras, ipods, cars. No ones complaining about all the new vaccines that save lives. The main point is technology is awesome. As Kelly said “Each time we make an advance in artificial intelligence, we redefine who humans are. Each time there’s a discovery in science related to intelligence or even the animal world, we redefine who humans are. At one time we defined ourselves as the toolmakers. Now we find out that termites and birds use tools, so we’ve redefined what it is to be human.” Technology is what defines us. From how we talk down to what shoes we wear. It’s made humans unique from the other species of the world.
    Jenae you said “what if, at some point, we go too far? We make too many changes?” We couldn’t make to many changes that could be that devastating, we could sure do with some great advances in technology right now. With the earth running out of resources to give us, it is important for us to advance in technology as quickly as possible to a point where we no longer need those limited resources. Technology has already found alternative energy sources and easier ways to grow plants fast, with the least amount of damage, and it’s helped many other things too. Technology has discovered a way to transport matter from one place to another, although on a very small scale. I am waiting for the day when we can apparate like they do in Harry Potter. That would be the ultimate eco. friendly way to travel. Although that could even be used badly. Technology has and always will be used either for the improvement of the environment around us, or for bad, or for even worst. The cavemen even before fire could have picked up a rock next to them and killed someone just as someone today could take their little super duper technology skills and kill someone by means of a bomb or they could even still pick up a rock. It’s just like little kids playing in a sandbox. At first they just had the sand. They could build castles or they could throw sand at each other. Then given a few toys such as shovels and buckets they could use those to help build their castles or they could hit each other with them. I don’t believe that technology could be extremely dangerous. Anyone has and always will be capable of inflicting pain and harm on other people it doesn’t matter if they use the shovel or the sand. Technology should improve and we should improve along with it. I agree with Kelly and I like his open mindedness, but I also agree with Cory G. someday with the help of technology someone will be able to comprehend the universe. People have gotten past bees and helicopters even though they defy all rules of physics, they should be able to get past the vastness of the universe.

  88. Megan, you stated, “We communicate with our friends as much as ever, whether it be physically talking to someone or texting them. Technology does not kill, but encourages relationships.” However, a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that some of the more technological generations are more at risk for obesity, aggressive and introverted behavior, and depression. It shows that people replace more of actual human interactions and relationships with virtual relationships. These virtual relationships cause them to feel even lonelier despite being constantly connected through some form of technology. So although this may not be the case for everyone, technology is not always beneficial to human relationships.

    This is one situation in which technology is misused to create a negative result. Technology, though, is a creation by man, for man, and when used in the right way can be very beneficial. Kelly states, “It’s about trying to educate that individual into a position where they can maximize their potential and possibility. And technology is the instrument.” When used as a tool as Kelly says, not a replacement, technology can help cure dangerous diseases, allow us to have this conversation right now, or connect us instantly to world issues. A recent news report from ABC News announced that Americans have donated over 10 million dollars to help Haitian earthquake relief through text messages alone.

    There is no way to stop the advancements of technology. It is what helps continue to propel us into the future, promoting learning and innovation. Plowboy mentioned earlier, “my heroes have always been the ones who saw no need to get all hung up on the mere fact that language existed, and got more satisfaction in what the language was able to express on thoughts beyond the human physical condition.” He is absolutely right. As long as we recognize that technology is solely an implement, not a substitute, it will continue to be beneficial to humanity.

  89. > There is no way to stop the advancements of technology. It is what helps continue to propel us into the future, promoting learning and innovation.

    Yes, there is. Some ideas are never pursued due to lack of funding, predatory business practices, and outright censorship. What am I talking about? I may have a brilliant idea, but it costs millions of dollars to bring it to fruition and nobody believes it will work. End of story. Or my company is really on to something, Microsoft offers me a million dollars for it, and shelves it because it obsoletes something of theirs. Or, for example, stem cell research was set back decades by the Bush policies.

    Finally, even Kelly acknowledges there are some “advances” that are downright evil. What possible merit is there in pursuing biological warfare? We already have enough nuclear weapons to finish the human race. Do we need to poison them as well?

    Well, one use for biological weapon research is to study how to survive it, I suppose, but that is a pathetic way to get your research funded. I would rather see the money go to a cure for aids, instead of a treatment for man-made diseases and poisons.

    And yet, the future may be in the research that will be required to undo all to so-called advances of the 20th century, and restore the planet to some semblance of health. Or, we may already turned down the pathway which leads us to a planet that is irrevocably transformed into a f-ing factory farm, with the all consequences such a reality holds for us. God help us.

    plb

  90. I am a teenager who has grown up in the age of technology. Even though technology has been present in my life since the day I was born, I have grown up to appreciate nature and all it has to offer. I have never had a TV, and didn’t get a computer until 7th grade. My weekends would be spent hiking, canoeing, skiing, swimming, and everything that would get me into the outdoors. Now I often miss those days when I didn’t care about technology, when I didn’t depend on the Internet and my computer every day. Though I am grateful for technology, I don’t want to lose the appreciation of nature because of it.

    I agree with Jenae when she said, “If and when human kind is eradicated from this earth, it will go on without us. We however, cannot go on without this earth.” Because of technology, we have the power to destroy the earth and everyone in it. I am not trying to criticize technology. No one can argue with the fact that it has been very beneficial to humans. I agree with what Kelly said about how we need to try and find a place for every type of technology where it can be used in helpful, not harmful, ways. But I also consider myself foolish for wishing that could actually happen. There will always be technologies that can be used in harmful ways, and because of this, I do not go as far as to consider technology “divine” or “holy.”

    In the interview, Kelly said, “I acknowledge the fact that multitasking and BlackBerrys and iPods and Twitter can be distracting. But we don’t really have the option of ignoring it. The proliferation of devices is necessary to learn new things.” Although I agree that we cannot ignore technology, I disagree that it is necessary to learn new things. There are many things that can be learned from peers, family, and the outdoors. Technology can help us learn, but it is not the only thing that can do so.

    Jana said that, “With the earth running out of resources to give us, it is important for us to advance in technology as quickly as possible to a point where we no longer need those limited resources.” If we keep advancing in technology, we will eventually replace everything with it. That is not something that should happen. If our lives were taken over by technology, we would lose a lot of the beauty in life. For example, skiing on the Wii is nowhere near commensurate to actually skiing. Following a workout DVD is nothing like hiking to the top of a gorgeous mountain. We need to have somewhere to go when the technology becomes too overwhelming, and for that reason, we need to find that critical balance between technology and nature. There are still places we can go to be free of technology, and I hope we do not lose those places. We should use the technology that w have, but use it in moderation.

  91. The Internet and technology in general has always baffled me so much that I cant even think about it for very long without becoming completely lost and confused. If you have ever tried to understand how amazing such a thing is that we can immediately communicate and share information in so many ways you will understand what I mean. The Internet is an intangible thing and things that we cannot physically see or hold are often revered to as magical or holy in our misunderstandings. The Internet is in no way holy but at times it does seem magical. When people don’t understand the way something works they often revert to claiming it is a higher source. I am in no way saying that you guys don’t understand, (that would be quite hypocritical of myself seeing as how I am completely lost.)

    As a teenager I am daily immersed in new technologies, as it is a requirement for everyday high school life. I have grown to love and respect the unknown possibilities of technology but I have never thought of it as any thing more than a tool for learning and entertainment. This new way of thinking about technology is very interesting but I’m not convinced quite yet to start worshiping my computer.

    Through all of these comments there seems to be a common idea that is; technology and innovation are unavoidable. Now I am starting to doubt that. Technology is not unavoidable or unstoppable its just that people depend on it so much they cant think straight and cant see past how seemingly wonderful it is. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and the opportunities it provides but I can see the other side of this as well and it seems that a lot of people are scared of it. As wonderful as technology can seem there is scientific evidence of its detriments like the one Kayleen mentioned. If we keep these detriments in mind we don’t need to stop this free-for-all that we call innovation. We just need to know how to use it in moderation and know when to stop. Until the negatives of technology start to outweigh the positives there is no need to limit it quite yet.

  92. Kelly explains that technology is important and can’t be ignored. I agree, some technology is necessary for the gathering of pertinent information and future discoveries. Although there are some pieces of technology that can be avoided, like cell phones. Yes I know that cell phones can be very useful but like Rita said when you are trying to find peace and your cell phone rings, everything is ruined. I understand the necessity of getting a hold of people while they aren’t at home, but sometimes the use of cell phones can just be disruptive. Rita also said that, “technology kills our interpersonal relationships,” I think that she is somewhat right. I walk through the halls of my school and people always have their phones out, friends meet just so that they can sit in a circle and text each other, I personally think it is pathetic, especially when you look at how young some of them are.

    Kelly talks about how technology is essential for future inventions and discoveries, he is all for technology, except when it is designed to kill. Peter’s comment toward Jennesa > Abduction, verbal and sexual abuse, murder, and identity fraud have been going on for hundreds and thousands of years and it is NOT due to the internet.
    I understand that this sort of thing has been going on and yes it is due to the sickness of humans, but the Internet and technology has made these acts easier and more common during this age of new technology.

    Technology goes both ways, it has its perks and faults, but so does everything people have today. Everything that man has created can easily be used innocently or as a weapon. Take a pencil for an example, a child can be learning to write their name with it, and a killer can be using it as his weapon choice. So back to what Kelly says that the only technology he is against is the technology designed to kill. Well anything can be used to kill; it just depends on how our human brains interpret these tools. I agree with Peter that there are some pretty sick people in this world, but there are plenty of innocent people too.

  93. > I understand that this sort of thing has been going on and yes it is due to the sickness of humans, but the Internet and technology has made these acts easier and more common during this age of new technology.

    I hear this sort of thing over and over. That the modern age is sicker and more dangerous than ever. There is absolutely no evidence that this is true; probably more evidence of the opposite.

    I think you should look into history more deeply and you may realize that human life has always been dangerous, and human beings have always mistreated each other.

    If anything is different it is the speed at which we find things out. But this is easily equalled by the speed at which we forget about it.

    plb

  94. Lanier writes:
    “Culture is to become precisely nothing but advertising.”

    Jeez, when was it not? Most of the outward appearances of nature, like plumage, songs, and dancing are mating signs, signs of vigor.

    See recent writing on tattoos and biosemiotics.

    Is there anything new under the sun?

  95. Right you are Peter…but with one big difference, I think. That would be the difference between what your hopeful Bird of Paradise (or your inked 20 something…) is advertising, and what we wind up flogging on our blogs. One is vital to procreation, and the other is just mo’ stuff. So, when you strip it right down, Kelly’s “religion” is nothing thicker than one individual trying to self-justify his indulgences by passing them off as all to the greater good. Calling it evolution doesn’t make it so. Even if you publish it in a slick like Wired.

    That is, if I really understand WTF he’s really getting at. After several passes through that interview, I’m not even really sure at this point. But, far be it from me to get hung up on the lack of lucidity in any denomination’s message….it hasn’t held any of them back, it would seem, mine included. I’ll only get twitchy about it should he come to me via direct mail with an offer for technological absolution in exchange for a donation to his building fund.

  96. > the difference between what your hopeful Bird of Paradise (or your inked 20 something…) is advertising … One is vital to procreation, and the other is just mo’ stuff …

    I don’t know if Kelly is paired off yet … I am

  97. I have followed this long string of postings with interest. Forgive me if I repeat a challenge to Kevin Kelly’s fundamental belief.

    “Technology is an example—like life and intelligence—of an extropic system, a system that feeds off entropy to build order. And not just order, but self-amplifying order of exploding complexity and depth.”

    Is Kevin’s notion of technology a bit similar to the notion of the “selfish gene”? We are simply agents for genes to perpetuate themselves and agents for technology to sustain and amplify itself. At best I see these notions as valuable ways of making us mindful of the powerful role both genes and technology plays in our lives. It can, for instance, be humbling and revealing to learn how genetic forces drive our behaviour. With this knowledge we can better understand the flows and surges in emotions we experience at various times in our lives. The question is do we become subservient to this knowledge or can we transcend it to live in greater wisdom and harmony with all?

    There is some evidence supporting the notion we can transcend our egos, our genes and our technology. For instance the Buddha 2500 years ago anticipated this discussion and developed techniques enabling individuals to test this possibility of transcendence. I suggest the Conservation Principle of Energy is the greatest work of art ever created by human beings. It is a most wonderful and wise guide to reality. (In one sentence it manages to speak of the incredibly bounteous nature of energy and the fact that energy continually transforms.)

    No other physicist or psychologist in recorded history seems to have understood the Principle so well plus described the incredible capacity of humans to deny its truths plus provided description of the perils of denying it (experienced as suffering) plus provide the technology to transcend our egos and all their denial.

    It seems to me the Buddha provided us with the techniques for experiencing complexity on an unsurpassed scale. Our modern fMRI, particle accelerators and other very sophisticated devices have only confirmed the insights of the Buddha into the nature of mind-matter.

    Here is another way of looking at it: regions that embraced these ancient insights developed relatively complex systems for conserving fresh water, minerals, soils, forests etc. By contrast our Anglo-American culture has adopted increasingly primitive systems that have destroyed over one third of our soils and much of our forests and water quality while creating unprecedented vast pollution of all kinds in just a couple of centuries. Our society is largely based on the use monolithic technology designed to destroy global mineral oil resources within about five generations. We destroy mineral oil at least twenty times the rate that regions who adopt these ancient insights do. Our systems are fundamentally “slash and burn” on a global scale and in the process we destroy immense possibilities, which is contrary to Kevin’s hypothesis.

    In other words technology is manifest in us in most shallow, rigid ways that deny complexity on scale. Our technology reflects our possible lack of compassion, which people like the Buddha argues is the stuff that enables humanity. Thus for all our talk of technology being holy the reality is we are estranged from our planet and universal principles, despoiled and made desolate by our technology.

  98. Footnote to above comment and thank you Leigh (comment 57 Jan 12, 2010). You wrote,
    “Science is a product of the people who “do science.” No one person—scientist or otherwise—can study everything; there just aren’t enough years in a lifetime. So, a scientist narrows his scope. Maybe she focuses on the causes of red tide or how PCBs have ended up in the fat of polar bears. Or maybe she focuses on making better pigments to be used in paints…or a better way of developing polymers for specific types of plastics. The point is, the scope is dictated by the person’s interests, which are part of whatever she has been exposed to and stimulated by.”

    That is what my teachers taught me science is over 45 years ago and that is what our recently revised NZ National Education Curriculum Framework still teaches. Officially 1-3% of us graduate as “scientists”, the remainder of us fail to graduate thus and become non-scientists who do not “do science”. Over the decades the flaw in this became obvious to me. I became aware we are all born into the state of being called science, even as we are born experiencing the state of non-science. In particular I noticed this intriguing phenomenon: the elite of people deemed to be “scientists” quantifiably evidence less science in their total life styles than the average person on this planet. They tend to be most in denial of the Conservation Principle. They tend to be experts in a small field and be quite unwise generally.

    In this they are a product of our education system, which is designed to destroy our appreciation of the wondrous complexity of life – and to sustain the shallow, monolithic and destructive way technology is manifest in our culture. You can see how a National Education Curriculum Framework based in compassion might look like at

    http://www.bonusjoules.co.nz/Sustainability Principle/NZ Curriculum .htm

    Science is experienced as a moral state of being that enables sustaining language, arts, technology and civic practice. Click on each science area for elaboration.

  99. > Is Kevin’s notion of technology a bit similar to the notion of the “selfish gene”? We are simply agents for genes to perpetuate themselves and agents for technology to sustain and amplify itself.

    I have read and reread Dawkins, but I don’t buy it. I think reality is much more fundamental. Once life emerged, it has been trying in a multitude of ways to sustain itself. DNA is just part of this.

    Whatever it is, it does not want to die. Hence, it has evolved into a multitude of ways of being alive. Even intelligence is a product of all this, and this intelligence is looking at itself, wondering what it is.

    There is no real reason why we couldn’t go to other planets and colonize them with earth life, other than maybe it’s not a terribly good idea. Kind of a stupid one, if you ask me.

    Pete

  100. Jana H. says, “On the matter of meditation and interruptions it’s a lot easier to get rid of the technological interruptions then it is to get rid of the physical interruptions. If someone talks to you in person you can’t just say, I’m meditating go away. Well you could, but that’s considered rude, but if it’s say a phone call or a text message you could always silence your phone and have some lame excuse such as, I’m busy at the moment.”

    This is one issue that has grown out of our communications technologies. It gives us a “crutch” that lets us bypass the real problem and solution(s). In the early stages (phone, e-mail, etc.), you couldn’t NOT pick up. Now, you can and it’s OK.

    But the real problem is lack of comfort or confidence in oneself at setting and respecting boundaries. Say the person meditating is comfortable enough in her own skin to say, “I beg your pardon, but what I’m doing now is important to my well-being. Please come back in 20 minutes, then we can talk.” The same would be true if the approaching person is comfortable enough to recognize that the meditator will not be meditating forever, respect that person’s boundaries, and return later with the question…or maybe, having thought about the question, finds an answer on her own.

    Of course, we can use our responses to communications technologies (or transportation technologies, etc.) as a sign of what our needs are as people and how we can go about having them met — what we may need to do to adjust, adapt, or forego altogether, if it comes to that.

  101. Peter,

    Perhaps I should have phrased what I said differently. Naturalists study the whole. Scientists in other fields study parts of the whole. Of course, it IS all nature.

    Re: glasses, you compare apples with oranges. Taxpayers don’t bear the direct cost of my glasses; taxpayers share in the costs of the Hubble. I can understand the operation of my glasses; though I love the images the Hubble provides, I understand little about its operation. Even with glasses, the technology is still far removed from me: I lack the materials, skills, and tools to make my own pair. So, there actually is a wall of separation, unless I really happen to like my optometrist! ;-]

    Hubble images are available to the public. But are the operations of a chemical-cum-agribusiness corporation transparent to us? If it’s possible to communicate directly with plants and plant spirits — many people have had such experiences — then shouldn’t the scientists at this corporation ask the plants’ permission before they perform experiments? But then, science since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution has excluded individual, personal, unmeasurable experience. And those scientists who’ve utilized their own such experiences in their work have pretty much kept that to themselves so they didn’t have to risk their colleagues’ disdain.

    “If I am in science to broaden understanding and do good works, why on earth would I partake in actions that perpetuate myth and ignorance? Why would I do something that had the potential for great harm?”

    What if I don’t know what I don’t know? What if I’m so ignorant that I don’t know that I’m ignorant? Should I then be allowed to proceed, say, with recombining genes? Should you trust me to do that?

    Scientists often fail to factor in context. I understand they have to do this in order to simplify what it is they’re studying. But at some point, they have to broaden their focus, place what they’ve studied into the larger context, and that changes things. I posit that the tinier the subject of study (genes, say), the broader the context needs to be.

    The reasons given for genetic engineering of food crops or people are specious. “Improvement” is often cited. But “improvement” upon or of what?

    If I say, “We have too many pests in our fields. They’re eating all the corn. We need to get rid of them.” That invites a quite different examination (and potential solution) than if I say, “We sure do have a lot of worms. Why are there so many (accepting that there will be some)? Could it be I have too many of one type of species growing here? What are the niches being exploited by the worms?” Etc.

    If I think — and I’m using the word “think” intentionally here, as opposed to “feel” — that I can isolate myself from this or that, then I’m just perpetuating the eternal problem (alluded to and mentioned by others here) of separation, that I’m separate from you, from nature, even from myself. That idea leads to ignorance, which then reinforces separation…and I’m caught in an ongoing cycle, unless something disturbs the pattern and I change.

  102. Leigh said:
    > If I think that I can isolate myself from this or that, then I’m just perpetuating the eternal problem (alluded to and mentioned by others here) of separation, that I’m separate from you, from nature, even from myself.

    I agree

  103. > If someone talks to you in person you can’t just say, I’m meditating go away. Well you could, but that’s considered rude

    If you meditate you will soon see that most of human behavior is rude. Not one of your friends would fail to see the value of silence, and any one who didn’t would not be worth having as a friend.

    If you meditate you will appear different to others and man, they hate that. Get used to appearing different, get used to being different.

    Gaze back at them and show them you are compassionate toward their ignorance. Teach by example, they will learn only what they are ready for, no more.

    Then turn inward and see that life goes on within you and without you.

  104. Dave McArthur says: “There is some evidence supporting the notion we can transcend our egos, our genes and our technology.”

    Indeed, Dave, I feel that our only hope for not getting “booted off the island,” is exactly this. To paraphrase one of my permaculture teachers, Dave Jacke, “It’s about being ECO-logical, not EGO-logical.”

    And to link your two comments, energy is the Great Unifier, is it not? I so very much wish that ecosystems analysis formed the basis of our education — our MASS education; in some schools, it may do this — here in the States. How we design for energy flows (which includes water and food, of course) determines what we get. And this all originates with our cosmology. If we see ourselves as separate, then we end up with a bunch of disparate parts that don’t connect, don’t cooperate, in fact, work against themselves, and then draw more energy, rather than conserve it, create more entropy, not less. I support our current smorgabord of communications technologies. We need to “get it while it’s cheap” (relatively speaking) and learn as much as we can.

    So, I hope to spend some time at your site there. The link did not work, so I took out the /Sustainability part and went to the main.

    Thank you, Dave!

  105. I find it interesting that the general public seems quite certain of what science does and does not study, and the attitudes and bias with which science narrowly views and defines the world.

    When, in fact, scientists have a much broader view of the universe than the general public does, and they are, as a whole, interested in everything — not just the exploitation of nature for profit. Here’s an example:

    “Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise” by Antoine Lutz, et al

    Recent brain imaging studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have implicated insula and anterior
    cingulate cortices in the empathic response to another’s pain.

    However, virtually nothing is known about the impact of the voluntary generation of compassion on this network.

    To investigate these questions we assessed brain activity using fMRI while novice and expert meditation practitioners generated a loving-kindness-compassion meditation state.

    PLoS ONE | http://www.plosone.org
    1 March 2008 | Volume 3 | Issue 3 | e1897

  106. “I thoroughly support universal free access to research. The wonderful thing about ideas is more people being exposed to more ideas leads to still more ideas.”

    — Dr. Richard Smith, former Editor of the British Medical Journal, member of the PLoS Board of Directors

    http://www.plos.org/

  107. Leigh wrote

    “And to link your two comments, energy is the Great Unifier, is it not?”

    It does appear that without energy no thing happens. Energy is perhaps the greatest paradox we experience. Each of us extremely intimate with it but no one knows what energy is. Every one is in some way or another on a continual search to understand the nature of energy, for some degree of awareness of the nature of energy is essential to our survival.

    I tend to define energy as “the potential of the universe(s)”, understanding that only a trace aspect of that potential is manifest in any moment. And of the potential that is manifest only a trace amount of energy is actualised.

    The trick to survival is reflecting and living in harmony with this reality. The question is, “What is this great reality?” As mentioned no one knows but over millennia humans have crafted some great principles that offer us a useful guide. Possibly the prime guide is the Conservation of Energy Principle. It contains great messages that are rarely unpacked in our schools, including the notions that energy is so bounteous it can be considered a constant and it constantly transforms.

    These messages are rather inconvenient for us, including our teachers, for it is a consistent reminder of our mortality and our need to be stewards of resources. Take all the textbooks out of our classrooms that confuse energy with one of the forms it can take (e.g. mineral oil) and our shelves would be bare. We live in grand denial of the Conservation Principle.

    The point is whenever we symbolise energy as a form we immediately deny the Conservation Principle and reduce the potential that can be manifest. We are denying transformation/change plus our roles as stewards. We immediately tend to put ourselves at peril. So I tend to say “Energy is”. That’s the greatest affirmation I can make. That’s the best way I can see of conserving our wonderful “energy” symbol.

    We are exquisitely and incredibly capable of self-deceit and this denial. That is why I developed the Sustainability Principle of Energy as method of psychoanalysis that enables us to transcend our ego and recognise our denial of the Conservation Principle.
    http://tinyurl.com/6x53rn

    There is though a great unifier, if not The Great Unifier, of which you speak. That is the experience of compassion. In that state we are enabled to transcend our egos, reflect honestly, inquire and experiment with most open spirit, be inclusive, communicate and share and, in general learn. I suggest that is the experience of the state of science and this enables the development of language, arts, civics etc. In this state we are most unified with all.
    Hence the Compassionate Curriculum Framework
    http://tinyurl.com/29ofnq

    The implications are profound. For instance copyright is hostile to the state of science, being exclusive and lacking sharing. Thus anyone who works for a corporation using copyright necessarily destroys the state of science we are all born into. (This may seem extreme until you note that that a century ago the USA seemed to have created a great source of wealth with copyright and now its people are the most indebted on the planet. Also the majority of great discoveries could not have occurred with copyright. They require an openness of spirit, even if it is the openness to recognise seeming serendipity.)

    Which brings me to the discussion of “smart” technology that has occurred in this string of postings. I am careful to differentiate between “smart” technology and “intelligent” technology. For instance there is much talk of our electrical potential in terms of “smart grids”, “smart metering”, “smart appliances” etc. For nearly one hundred years New Zealand communities using democratic structures owned freehold their local electrical grids and its intelligence. Every local citizen had a vote in how their local grid and its intelligence were used. Then in the 1990s North American interests (via Harvard Electricity Policy Group, TransAlta, Utilicorp, Arthur Andersen and Co et al) forced New Zealand communities to divest either their grid or its intelligence to them. Now not one of the previous sixty communities owns the intelligence of its local grid.

    Before the “Electricity Industry Reforms” communities could use their local intelligence to make wise uses of their electrical potential, including demand control and energy efficiency programmes of all sorts. Citizens could hold two-way conversations via the grid, albeit with less “smart” technology. Now they have no effective voice – the new “smart” technology is controlled and used by the bankers to serve their short-term profit interests and arguably our national grid is the least coherent it has been in a century. The imperatives for Bulk-generated electrical products dominate with resulting increases in pollution, waste and poverty.

  108. Whoops -fell off previous posting

    Thus I differentiate between “smart” technology and “ intelligent” technology – the former being amoral and meaningless while the latter involves the existence of democracy and science. And thus I tend to grade technology like electrical grids on an intelligence- incoherence continuum. See primitive unedited example:
    http://tinyurl.com/ybscahf

  109. > It does appear that without energy no thing happens. Energy is perhaps the greatest paradox we experience. Each of us extremely intimate with it but no one knows what energy is…. So I tend to say “Energy is”….

    Are you trying to say energy is everything? What is not energy? If energy is everything, then where does conservation of energy come in? How can “everything” be conserved or not conserved? Is energy not the one thing we need to get from somewhere else? Why do we eat, breathe and seek out the sun, if not to obtain more energy to replace that which is continually leaving us? WHere does it go?

  110. Peter,

    What do the scientists you know revere? Is everything an “object” to be studied? What if things don’t want to be studied? What if they just want us, humans, to sit, ask if it’s OK to observe them, then observe them using ALL of our senses, even the unmeasurable ones, and to revere them and hold sacred their intrinsic worth, their right to just exist?

  111. I see a lot of blurring in this discussion between what I see as two distinct categories. These are: Energy and technology. As I mentioned before, I think that there is a lot of that going around these days.

    And to define the terms I’m using a little better…

    “Energy” in this context, to me, is what goes in your gas tank, burns in your furnace and is radiated by our sun….doesn’t need to be hydrocarbons, but in our industrialized world, it most usually is.

    Kelly, as far as I can tell, doesn’t make any mention of, or draw any distinction between, this energy and his point of focus of his techno-Calvinist manifesto. I think that is a key failing.

    Why? Well, his interview fails to note that ALL of the wondrous technology he is enraptured by would swan dive if you pulled the plug. Us clever little monkeys, for all of our gee-whiz gadgets, can’t make energy. We have to get it from the present day sunshine, historic sunshine, wind, waves, the earth in the form of geo thermal or from atomic properties. Each energy source requires very sophisticated technology to capture and harvest, but we don’t have any ability to manufacture it, and never will. What we are also very slow to understand as a culture is that our ability to tap these energy sources economically on a scale that justifies the effort is proving to be very doubtful.

    Now, I’m all for psychic “energy”, and that seems to be where most of this discussion is pointed, and I’d be the last to tell you that something of that nature isn’t available to the individual if he looks at the world right..but it ain’t gonna juice the internet or fuel up your flying car.

    So, I guess that what I’m believing is that if our technology is (as Kelly says) our evolution, and technology is dependent on energy, we are looking at a large discontinuity in that evolution…and soon. Kelly’s “game” might just be a forfeit.

  112. Anybody pick up on this? From Kelly: “Technology is an example—like life and intelligence—of an extropic system, a system that feeds off entropy to build order. And not just order, but self-amplifying order of exploding complexity and depth. Extropic systems create even more entropy in the process—that is, energy runs through the system at a faster and denser pace. This is the definition of self-sustaining systems like a living organism.”

    Isn’t the definition of a self-sustaining system one in which energy cycles more slowly and creates less entropy, not more, with more (and diverse) species getting a “bite at the apple,” enabling the system to maintain more order (stability)?

    Also, how does something “feed off entropy”? This may go back to what someone else here said about the conflation of technology with energy…they are not the same; technology depends upon energy for its development and operation…technological devices’ conversion of energy sources (crude, coal, nat gas) allows them to run, and once converted, the energy turns into an unusable form (heat, for example).

  113. Exactly Leigh. (We must have posted at about the same time, noting the same thing.)

    The fly in Kelly’s technium bag balm is that all the technology in God’s big ball of beeeswax is not going to suddenly,spontaneously or by design, start sustaining itself as an “organism” for our use, pleasure and evolution. ER on EI rules the universe. It is not just a good idea, it’s the law!

    In other words: You can go stand in the sun all day, but you are not going to be able to plug yourself in and power your laptop. IF that is along the lines of what Kelly proposes….well, he is one gone cat, I’ll give him that.

  114. Did you see, Plowboy, there’s a community built around “extropianism”? Have a Blackle-see! I haven’t spent enough time there to really know enough about it, but I agree with you about EROEI. Guess that makes me an Entropian!

  115. Leigh on Jan 20, 2010
    > What do the scientists you know revere? Is everything an “object” to be studied? What if things don’t want to be studied? What if they just want us, humans, to sit, ask if it’s OK to observe them, then observe them using ALL of our senses …

    We revere life, the beauty of it, the mystery of it. But we also seek to understand how it works, especially when things go wrong.

    I am focusing on the honey bee malady. We want to know why they are sick. I also am interested in how they communicate via fragrances.

    But you must realize, I love nature, and science for me is an outgrowth of that love. It is never a substitute for it.

    I was never able to support myself by walking in the fields watching the bees; life is full of compromises.

    I admire the person who has not dirtied his hands in commerce (see the writings of H D Thoreau). It’s just that I am not that man.

  116. Peter,

    I know what you mean about compromises; it’s hard to live uncompromisingly in a compromised world. It’s hard to heal in a world that’s wounded.

    “But we also seek to understand how it works, especially when things go wrong.” This depends on one’s ideas of what’s “wrong.” What appears to be “wrong” to you may be to me simply a symptom of an imbalance. I can use the “wrong” as a sign to study what balance (or the closest thing to it) looks like. I can then take steps to reright the imbalance.

    The more “responsibility” we are willing to take on to intervene in various systems, the more labor involved, the more money (almost always), the more entropy created…the more unstable the system becomes. Examples abound, including honeybees, the Industrial Canal in New Orleans, the monocultures we call lawns, making cholesterol out to be something we need to fear, when what we should be aware of are the stressors that cause inflammation prompting the need for cholesterol as repair-agent. Also, I think where we differ is that the older I get, the more content I find myself being when something just works well. I don’t need to know the “why” behind compassion meditation. That it makes many people feel a sense of calm in an incredibly disruptive world is good enough for me. Am I ignorant for not seeing — or delving to see — other applications of such research?

  117. Friend Leigh,

    We are very close to seeing eye to eye. You see, I spent 6 years wandering the USA as an observer, not working (much), gaze wide open.

    Then, I settled on an “occupation” much as Thoreau became a surveyor, in order to work outdoors in the fields and woods.

    You say: “Am I ignorant for not seeing—or delving to see—other applications of such research?”

    Of course not. I understand that the scientific mindset is not for everyone. I also write music, and I NEVER want to know why or how it happens.

    As to what is wrong, of course this is subjective. But when organisms are dying suddenly and prematurely, like the white nosed bats, scientists see it as their role to figure out how and why.

    In the absence of our work, hucksters and superstition will fill the void. Because people DO want to know why they feel bad and what will make them feel better.

    Lucky charms, prayers, snake oil and moonshine were all created for this. Somebody is always there to sell you what you think you “need” and resupply when it doesn’t work.

    Real scientists, however, make NO promises, and are prepare to reevaluate everything at any time. Our take on the world is provisional at best. And this is not a sign of amorality, but humility — in a way

    I understand your desire to gaze in wonderment, with no thought of why or how. That is where joy is!

    But do you understand how a man can be passionate about discovery? About taking things apart to see how they are made?

    It made me appreciate that the smallest cell is more complicated and more wonderful than the most complex thing a human has ever designed and built.

    My best
    Pete

  118. Dear Peter,

    You ask, “But do you understand how a man can be passionate about discovery? About taking things apart to see how they are made?”

    Of course, I can! Life is a continual flux between seeing the forest as a group of trees, vines, shrubs, ferns, fungi and on down, observing how they fill one another’s needs…and between seeing each of these individually. We all do this in our daily lives (I hope); it’s how we learn what our niche is, what our needs are, the things we can and cannot tolerate, who our antagonists are.

    “It made me appreciate that the smallest cell is more complicated and more wonderful than the most complex thing a human has ever designed and built.”

    I’m glad to hear you say this. But many scientists — it appears — take this bit of knowledge and proceed to use this little bit to do things that are not advisable. It’s important to understand that we can be ignorant of our own ignorance and then walk in humility. And of course, we have to ask, What is knowledge? Even if we know something, really know it, knowledge is not static. It’s ever-changing. Just as we are. And this should inspire even more humility. But then, I probably represent the tortoise standing in the middle of Evolution Road…either holding up traffic (as if!) and unaware that I’m about to get run over (most likely!)

    Thank you,
    Leigh

  119. Leigh writes:
    > But many scientists—it appears—take this bit of knowledge and proceed to use this little bit to do things that are not advisable.

    Actually, we have come full circle. If you go to the original article this is the chief dilemma that was raised by the interviewer and dodged by Kevin Kelly.

    We all agree that some things are so wrong they should never be done, like using humans to test nuclear weapons. We all agree that some things are harmless, like trying water at varying pH levels to see how it affects plant growth.

    The problems arise when we get into gray areas like using animals to test drugs or cosmetics. Then, the problem gets more difficult as we try to address the issue of how these ethical questions are to be debated, decided, and implemented.

    That is the issue I had hoped to discuss from the start. It is not a simple matter of “I think such and such is wrong and I want it outlawed.” You may think that but you will have to persuade enough people to get your law passed and then you may have to battle all over again to get enforcement of your law, here and then abroad.

    That takes a bunch of courage, perseverance, and money.

    Peter

  120. Peter asks
    “Are you trying to say energy is everything? What is not energy? If energy is everything, then where does conservation of energy come in? How can “everything” be conserved or not conserved? Is energy not the one thing we need to get from somewhere else? Why do we eat, breathe and seek out the sun, if not to obtain more energy to replace that which is continually leaving us? WHere does it go?”

    The Conservation Principle of Energy states that energy is conserved and transforms – it is manifest in myriad, myriad transient forms. In other words energy is, by its very nature, conserved. It is sustained. It is renewed. It is generated. Energy is.
    It is common in our culture to deny this. We say humans can conserve and generate energy and there is stuff called “sustainable energy” or “renewable energy”.
    This grand denial of change/transformation generates nonsense or, if you like, non-science. See my index of symbol uses expressing denial and acceptance of our role as stewards amidst universal change:
    http://tinyurl.com/ntcb5z

    In acceptance we say humans can conserve and generate forms or resources and that some forms are far more or less renewable and sustainable than others. We are each manifest forms of energy, of the universal potential. We are each part of the universal transformation. We “eat, breathe and seek out the sun” so we can transform forms in ways that enable our own form to exist. Every form is a unique, transient, local balance of the activity or flows, which is energy. We are born with the knowledge of how to combine and transform forms such as air, sunlight, soil and minerals in ways that sustain our human form. Then, usually by about 100 years, this knowledge too passes and our human form is no more. We may have passed our knowledge on through our genes through our children before the knowledge in our own genes disappears. We may have passed other sustaining knowledge using a range of symbols – legends, myths etc. The water that has passed through us still remains. The stardust we know as the carbon atoms of our bodies still remains until it too is transformed as a similar process occurs in our galaxy. Energy still is but in myriad different forms.

    Plowboy wrote

    And to define the terms I’m using a little better…

    “Energy” in this context, to me, is what goes in your gas tank, burns in your furnace and is radiated by our sun….doesn’t need to be hydrocarbons, but in our industrialized world, it most usually is.”

    Yes, in Anglo-American societies the “energy” symbol is typically equated with hydrocarbons, mainly fossil fuels. A small change in the rate of extraction of mineral oil or its price gets daily headlines. We never get a headline that property speculators have just destroyed the solar potential of a city by a large amount. A Google on the “energy” symbol reveals this equation is the dominant Anglo-American use of it.

    This is evidence of a classic case of denial of the Conservation Principle in which people fatally confuse a form with energy. The confusion is endemic. Thus it is easy to predict the premature demise of our societies amidst war and misery. We are also a menace to societies that do not make this error.

    For a start this use of the “energy” symbol denies the ephemeral nature of fossil fuels and we use them as though they are as bounteous as energy. Secondly such denial enables us to exclude our awareness of all but the “gas tank”. We conveniently forget that the petroleum in the tank is of little use and we consume considerable resources transporting it. Our awareness does not extend to the carburettor, with which we mine the atmosphere, and to the exhaust pipe, with which we dump our toxic byproducts into the atmosphere. It is at the carburettor that combustion is enabled and we can begin to make use of the resources.
    Energy is manifest in all these forms – the mineral oil, our technology and the atmosphere. We can use them so they sustain us and we can use them so they destroy us.

  121. > The Conservation Principle of Energy states that energy is conserved and transforms – it is manifest in myriad, myriad transient forms. In other words energy is, by its very nature, conserved. It is sustained. It is renewed. It is generated. Energy is.

    This is an example of circular logic. You have said nothing. Sorry

  122. Dave, those are provocative points you’ve made. It shows me that even an agreed definition of what is at the crux of this jist can be elusive.

    (You’ve also given away your age…..I too can remember when cars actually had carburetors!)

    And I don’t deny that the human/universal/power energy you describe is real. I’ve seen it in action too many times to be skeptical of that. My point is only that there is accessible energy of the conventional kind, and then there is the stuff harder to get at, harder to move, harder to see at work. Sure, in the strictist sense, it is (like it says on the soap bottle) ALL ONE!!

    I have a friend who’s always said that we should pray as we fill our tanks in recognition of the ancient marine lifeforms that gave it up for our gasoline.

    To wrestle this back on topic, I’d just reiterate my original point that Kelly’s evolution through technology assumes unlimited, accessible energy of the conventional kind. Ain’t gonna happen. Well, only maybe not on the arc that he probably envisions.

  123. > I’d just reiterate my original point that Kelly’s evolution through technology assumes unlimited, accessible energy of the conventional kind.

    Honestly, nobody knows how much energy is available for human consumption.

  124. Peter, that would be true, though I’m not sure how relevant a plan, theory, or a religion like Kelly’s would be if one of its precepts is “assume unlimited availability of accessible energy in this system.” Put “or any civilization” on that list too.

    I mean, sure…would be nice. I could dream you up all kinds of cool stuff with those boundaries. (or lack of them. Perpetual motion, anyone?) Fact is, we already did. Just pull out some old Popular Mechanics from up in the attic and see all of that bounty….courtesy of unlimited, cheap, conventional energy. So, how’s that worked out for us so far? How’s it likely to work out for us in the near term? For any that would pay attention to the outcomes, we’ve proven to ourselves by now that those kinds of techno-fantasies come at a dear price, if they come at all.

    I’d also counter your statment with, “pretty much, we do.” At least as much as we need to know to get busy on making other arrangements. What you are nibbling at is what others have described as the Jimminy Cricket approach to energy: Wish for it hard enough and it will show up. If I could dabble in your field just a second…the bees you study are fueled by plant sugars in concentrated forms, am I right? If the clover crop fails in their necka, I doubt that they would continue business as usual on the hope of some “just in time” substitute showing up. In that regard, we are a lot dumber than bees.

    Wade

  125. Me: Honestly, nobody knows how much energy is available for human consumption.

    Plowboy: I’d also counter your statment with, “pretty much, we do.”

    OK, you’re on. How much?

    Pete

  126. Plowboy: If the clover crop fails in their necka, I doubt that they would continue business as usual on the hope of some “just in time” substitute showing up.

    Oh, and what do you suppose they do?

    Pete

  127. How much: Less than half of what there once was.

    What do they do: Umm, die?

  128. > How much: Less than half of what there once was.

    > What do they do: Umm, die?

    I don’t know if these are serious answers. Half of unknown is unknown. Yes, they die.

    Tropical bees, on the other hand, migrate.

  129. Peter wrote

    “The Conservation Principle of Energy states that energy is conserved and transforms … In other words energy is, by its very nature, conserved. It is sustained. It is renewed. It is generated. Energy is.
    This is an example of circular logic. You have said nothing. Sorry”

    Thank you for the challenge Peter. I was attempting to describe an essential quality of energy by describing it from a number of viewpoints. I refer to the probable quality that it cannot be created or destroyed. In other words, energy is.
    Here is the logic:
    We live a dance between a sense of connection with all and a sense of separation and alienation from all. Part of our psyche thrives in connection and profound stillness amidst the activity. Another part, our human ego, experiences inherent threat in the reality described by the Conservation Principle of Energy. Our ego generates sensations of fear and alarm at the possibility of its demise if we are indeed mortal beings. Our egos thus create elaborate systems of denial of change, of the universal potential.

    This process of denial assumes its own chaotic logic into misery. For example we start saying humans can and must “save energy”. Why must we save energy? It stands to reason – “energy is running out”. What will happen then? We will have an “energy crisis”. What then? Well, that is too horrible to think about…

    (Quick hilarious thought experiment: If humans can save energy in a universe described by the Conservation Principle where are they going to store this saved energy?)

    Modern corporations are projections of this element of psychosis that resides in us all. First of all the merchant bankers controlling them have redefined energy as their particular product. Thus they endeavour to create associations in us of their product having the ultimate vitality. While they have plenty of product for sale they encourage us to use it in addictive ways as though it is as bounteous as energy. However at times excess demand over supply affects their profits and suddenly we are told we “must save energy” because there is “an energy crisis”. Thus they maintain addictive response in us, encouraging us to experience deprivation in the temporary absence of their product. If the absence is permanent we sense a great lack of meaning in our lives as we have been conditioned to seeing no other options, for “energy”, the potential of the universe(s), is/was that product. In the worst cases of addiction the individual or society self-destructs.

    In denying change we also deny our roles as stewards amidst the universal flux. For instance, first we speak of the need to “save energy”, then to “save the planet”, then to “save the climate” and so on. In each case we are blaming the universes for problems usually generated by our own abuse of the systems that sustain us. We don’t say “My use of energy/the planet/the climate etc puts us at greater risk”. We are in denial that energy/the planet/the climate etc is larger than us and will persist in our absence.

    I detect similar denial in Kelly’s belief that technology has a life of its own. It seems a short step to saying, “Technology made me pollute and shoot my fellow human beings to prevent an energy crisis”.

  130. > (Quick hilarious thought experiment: If humans can save energy in a universe described by the Conservation Principle where are they going to store this saved energy?)

    Pardon me for saying so, but I believe you are trying to bury us under an avalanche of words. Many of these terms have been completely redefined by you to the extent that *I don’t know what you are talking about*. If that places me in a state of denial, well, shucks, I deny it.

    But maybe we should talk in plain English. How is a wood pile NOT an example of energy I have stored for my own use later? Or a jar of honey, for that matter?

    plb

  131. Your woodpile and jar of honey are useful forms of energy. As forms they are transient and limited and need be conserved. They are two options amidst myriad possible options. They are brief manifestations of energy and are not energy. Yes, it is a paradox. And of course the communication of the experience of paradox is beyond the capacity of word systems such as plain English.

  132. > They are two options amidst myriad possible options. They are brief manifestations of energy and are not energy.

    OK, so what other kind of energy is there apart from that which I am talking about

    > Yes, it is a paradox. And of course the communication of the experience of paradox is beyond the capacity of word systems such as plain English.

    That’s just a disclaimer you are using for not being able to explain yourself.

  133. Peter, yeah, I’m serious about those answers.

    The thing about net remaining energy availability…. and I’m talking about hydrocarbons here…is that the you only know by looking back at total production declines to know that you’ve passed some kind of peak. Saying that there is “less than half of what there used to be” is even worse news when you understand that the energy availability was never equally distributed within the whole. (I’m sure that you know all this, btw, but want to make the point for those who don’t.) We cherry picked the easy oil/gas for a long time. The sweet, shallow crude from politically stable areas is gone/going fast. We’re left with the rest we passed over on the first go-round.

    Another under appreciated point is that nobody is ever going to pump the last barrel of oil in the ground..we’re only going to pump to the point that it costs a barrel to produce a barrel. Then…game over. (Yeah, they die.)

    Wade

  134. > you’ve passed some kind of peak. Saying that there is “less than half of what there used to be” is even worse

    I’m sorry, but I don’t know where these assumptions are coming from. In the past, we cut down all the trees in the USA to commence the industrial revolution. Then we switched to coal. When oil was discovered, it was preferred to coal. By the way, there are immense quantities of coal left. Oil, too, may exist in huge amounts, beneath the sea.

    Of course, obtaining all these types of energy has been an ecological disaster, which probably pales in view of what may be to come.

    Geothermal energy would be a great boon, since it uses the nearly perpetual heat that lies under the earth’s surface. I think that is a far better prospect than solar power, but unfortunately, unless you live in Iceland, it’s pretty impractical.

    Renewable fuels like vegetable oil and corn ethanol are attractive in principle, but in fact are expensive and a shocking waste of food products.

    There may be a bioengineered oil seed crop in the future, many folks are working on it. Of course, conservation and lowering consumption is essential but with 7 billion people going on 14 billion, more food and fuel has to be made.

    I think there are new forms of energy to be found and used; I’m not including psychic and cosmic energy, however.

    plb

  135. Amongst petroleum geologists, it is old news. I’d refer you to The Oil Drum site. Punch in Hubbard’s Peak in your search engine and you’ll be able to read about it for days. “The Long Emergency” by James Howard Kunstler, a frequent contributor to Orion, is a good primer. Jim also hosts a very insightful web site….ignore most of the doomer loons that post commments, and stick to reading his content, and you’ll be better off.

    Let’s put it this way: We “may” be able to run the interstate highway system on the atomic properties of used bubble gum. But, it is exactly that kind of wish-upon-a- star dreaming that gets in the way of realizing that the Happy Motoring era is grinding to a halt and to getting down to mapping real solutions before it is too late. Kelly (and dare I say you too Peter?) seems to want to not face the inevitable. Well, he (and you) have lots of company.

    Wade

  136. I really don’t want to debate how much oil there is, but it only took me a minute to come up with a counter argument to the peak oil hypothesis:

    Commodities trader Raymond Learsy, author of Over a Barrel: Breaking the Middle East Oil Cartel, contends that OPEC has trained consumers to believe that oil is a much more finite resource than it is. To back his argument, he points to past false alarms and apparent collusion. He also believes that Peak Oil analysts are conspiring with OPEC and the oil companies to create a “fabricated drama of peak oil” in order to drive up oil prices and profits.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the above but it demonstrates the fact that there are convincing arguments on all sides of us.

  137. > Kelly (and dare I say you too Peter?) seems to want to not face the inevitable. Well, he (and you) have lots of company.

    Well, plowboy, you sure know how to take it down a notch. Can’t we discuss this with out labeling each other as denialists? I merely stated that the amount of oil is unknown, the potential to develop new sources of energy is not without precedent. I am facing all of this the same as you by virtue of the fact that we are discussing it. Have you ever had a discussion where you weren’t on one side or another? That would be me. I am finding out.

  138. Peter and Plowboy Wade,

    We often have to make do with the information available to us at any given time. Even if we could tap all the under-ocean reserves that may (or may not) exist, the lack of and high cost of drilling infrastructure, the increasing lack of knowledgeable people (with petroleum engineers retiring), and the location of future deep-sea rigs will likely drive up the price even more, putting oil (and its byproducts) beyond the reach of many millions, including me.

    With a 30-year or so lag between combustion and the feedback cycles’ effects on climate, we have other reasons beside shrinking supplies to cut back and find other ways of working.

    That said, I find that I can no longer read much Kunstler. He’s given up on the ‘burbs, which is where most of us live. I agree that we can give up on transportation to and from the suburbs, but many suburbanites have smallholdings that could be intensively gardened. In fact, this is where we must go or we’ll face food shortages. Some time ago, I let this freak me out. Now, I just roll with it, am learning as much as I can about how to take care of myself and my neighbors. I don’t really see any other alternative. Do you?

    Also, I agree with Plowboy here…I don’t see a future in technofantasies, the kinds of things Kelly supports. That said, we do need more information, say GIS-based info, about our watersheds, forests, etc., to enable us to make good, local decisions, to see how things fit together, how to protect the whole.

  139. > Also, I agree with Plowboy here…I don’t see a future in technofantasies

    WTF? Are you referring to my suggestion of high yield oil crops? One man’s brilliant vision for the future is another’s technofantasy.

    I would rather have a hopeful view of the future (I do have kids, and they are all about technology) than to wallow in gloom & doom.

    I have watched enough sci fi to have a very clear picture of the apocalypse.

    plb

  140. Sorry Peter, I don’t mean to jam you into a box without knowing your thinking better…and the point of that comment was to try and draw you out on this issue. At least now, if you hadn’t before, you’ve considered an alternative outcome.

    One fact I think you should be aware of though, before you dismiss the theory as an OPEC scam: The top two countries from which we import oil are not OPEC members.

    But, I think I recognize in your responses something I had seen in my myself 10 years ago when I set out to educate myself on this subject. It really strikes to the core of a belief system that is as intertwined with out identity as a culture as anything can be. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had something to note about this process. Not to flog this pony again, but Kelly looks to be still stuck in the first stage of grief, if he has any awareness of it at all.

    Leigh, I agree that sometimes Kunstler gets wearisome for his one note song….but then again, I realized that at some point I don’t need to hear his message anymore. I get it. There are plenty out there though that haven’t ever considered what is most likely to come. For them, Kunstler and others like him serve a very prophetic purpose, I think. As for the negative aspects of the message, well, I think that that all depends on how you respond. Sounds like you’ve absorbed the news and acted like the responsible adult you probably are. There is a need for a whole lot more of ones like you, especially at the leadership level in this country, I think.

  141. Wade > At least now, if you hadn’t before, you’ve considered an alternative outcome.

    Good grief. I would suggest reading comment 121 and maybe all of the others. Do I seem like an establishment puppet? Is it because I declared myself a scientist that I am to pigeon-holed as a myopic booster of human superiority? Do I have to sacrifice one of my children to prove that I do not worship humankind, apart from nature? Would it help if I spelled it hewmynkynd? Men are not some aberration, we are god’s children as much as the birds and bees. The question I keep coming back to is how can we discuss this without taking sides? Is YOUR mind made up so firmly, that you can’t question YOUR conclusions?

  142. Uh….I was trying to bring the discussion back to what we think about Kelly’s unique belief system Peter, not what I think about you, or what you think about me. Really, I wouldn’t expect you to give a furry rat’s posterior about what might get me up in the morning, and I reciprocate. If my parenthetical aside to you gave you another impression, that is completely my fault.

  143. > Really, I wouldn’t expect you to give a furry rat’s posterior about what might get me up in the morning, and I reciprocate.

    Cool. Now, where were we?

    Pete

  144. I dunno. I guess I’m just not too enamored with Kelly’s take on life and religion. I might have spent too much time already pondering it…and what I’ve probably concluded is that it doesn’t hold up well, at least not under my scrutiny.

    Wade

  145. I think we have to separate out the debate about what is natural and not, since that leads nowhere — from what is ethical and not.

    This is what matters, how will we decide as a society what technology is WRONG to pursue, and will we enforce our beliefs.

    Obviously, the government is pursuing immoral technology, and many private companies feed at that trough.

    However, the Universities are quite sensitized to ethical concerns and at least have opened dialogue and implemented safeguards.

    plb

  146. I guess that I’m a fatalist Peter, probably from reading too much history.

    Mary Shelley nailed it all those years ago. As I said before, the forbidden fruit is as old a story as it is for a reason. I wish that we humans were capable of organizing an answer to anything as large and important as the moral application of technology. If we were, we’d probably also be capable of tackling the other “biggies.” Alack and alas, I’ve seen nothing to indicate that we can. The nature of the whole thing can be reduced down to what results when any parent of young children says to one of them, “Don’t touch that…”

    Wade

    We are going to step in it, because we always have. I joke sometimes that our only hope of turning us off this course is have Jesus’ return, or the saucers land, one….preferrably both at the same time.

  147. > I wish that we humans were capable of organizing an answer to anything as large and important as the moral application of technology.

    But we have to! Look, humanity has proceeded thus far with little in the way of planning and discussion as to where we are headed. That’s what this conversation is about.

    I could make a very strong scientific case that human beings and the rest of nature could strike a fair balance; but that balance point was passed several centuries ago.

    So the new question is not how can we live with nature the way we found it, but how can we live without ruining it. Because, as we all agree, we have to have a healthy planet to live on. It is already sick in so many ways, but it is not critically ill.

    We have definitely reach the state in the evolution of consciousness where we can clearly see what we have done as a species, what good and harm we are capable of, and that the need for conscious living and planning is inescapable.

    There are at least 3 types of people: 1) full steam ahead, damn the consequences; 2) proceed cautiously, weighing risks, benefits, include as many people in the decision process as possible, but don’t stifle growth and innovation; 3) human beings ruin everything they touch, leave me out of this, it’s too late, it’s your problem.

    (Many other ways of thinking, this is a gross oversimplification, I know that)

    I don’t believe you nor Leigh or anyone else is in the third camp, though we all feel that way at times.

    Pete

  148. Ethics in Science and Engineering National Clearinghouse (Beta)
    http://www.ethicslibrary.org/

    Over the past several years, the National Science Foundation’s Office of Integrative Research sponsored a project at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to create an Ethics in Science and Engineering National Clearinghouse (ESENCe).

  149. From Peter: “WTF? Are you referring to my suggestion of high yield oil crops? One man’s brilliant vision for the future is another’s technofantasy.
    “I would rather have a hopeful view of the future (I do have kids, and they are all about technology) than to wallow in gloom & doom.”

    Huh? I wasn’t referring specifically to any oil seed anything, so I find it interesting that you picked this out yourself.

    To return to the principles of permaculture: Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share…and just ecology in general: Where is there a place or space in a healthy ecosystem for monocultures, Peter? Anyone growing food (or “energy crops”) on a mass scale will tell you that you that, if you don’t have enough hands to do the work, you end up with straight lines, instead of curvy edges, large groups of same-species plants, etc., rather than polycultures.

    I’ve written about corn ethanol. Very little corn, of course, ends up as corn for us and not cattle feed or HFCS in soft drinks, etc. BUT how is large-scale oil seed, esp. if bioengineered and PATENTED, going to help us?

    By “technofantasies,” I mean anything that is inherently LARGE, CENTRALIZED, FARAWAY, too PRICEY for most people to afford, and most of all, doesn’t take into account energy returned on energy invested. Such is the case with corn ethanol a little less so with oil seed crops turned into biodiesel.

    So, please, no need to say “WTF?” to me, especially if we’re trying to keep a civil dialogue going.
    Thanks.

  150. From Peter: “So the new question is not how can we live with nature the way we found it, but how can we live without ruining it. Because, as we all agree, we have to have a healthy planet to live on. It is already sick in so many ways, but it is not critically ill.”

    Actually, some areas are critically ill. This shows up in lack of species diversity or inability of certain animals to breed or exhibit proper parenting behavior, the presence of ova, say, in fish testes, etc.

    So, for me the question is not just, How can we live without ruining it? But also, What do we, as intervenors in this system, as the ones who’ve played a huge role in creating imbalances, need to do in order to help restore it to health? How can we serve as co-healers of Earth? For we are all patients and we are healers, here. And scientists — to continue the metaphor — can serve as our “diagnostic equipment” by showing us, Hey, here are the long-term effects of using PCBs, this is what happens when statins or hormones are execreted into centralized sewer systems, here is what happens when an ecosystem dependent upon fire goes for years without fire, and ultimately, here’s what happens to all of us when we believe we are separate from everything else.

  151. > no need to say “WTF?” to me.

    Please accept my apology, I guess I thought it was Plowboy who was placing me in the technofantasy world. Which, given what I have said, would seem unfair to me, though not implausible. Anyway, you’re right. No need.

    Insofar as the planet being critically ill, I don’t know. You are right in saying some places are, although we have had desertification, flooding, viral plagues, famines, since the beginning.

    But lets say we agree that human activity is inherently harmful, what next? Suicide? Voluntary asceticism? Or do I jet about the world preaching conservation and preservation?

    Pete

    ps. Sorry about the tone before, I will temper it down.

  152. Peter, your optimism is shared by me on most days. I tend to get off-track when I fail to remind myself that the typical sphere of influence of any average individual is very, very small. And really, an example is all we can give others anyway. We ‘mercuns won’t be pushed, and that is for damned sure. That example though, in small circles, can have profound results, but those results are often too meager to satisfy people of large ambitions. Still, integrity for integrity’s sake is never to be counted out.

    I think that at the moment, measured against our point in the history , or possibly against my own chronological age (I never know for sure)things seem particularly dire. I look around and talk to others, and they seem to sense this also. We seem to scurry from one side of the listing ship to the other. Our panic for our own well being is only equaled by the vitriol we’ll fling at others who dare to question our strategy for a solution. Not a pretty picture. Not a pretty picture at all.

    If there is one supreme hope that floats out there right now, it might be that more and more people every day seem to pick up on the example.These things are never obvious while they are happening, but I don’t think I kid myself when I perceive an ever so slight tip in the balance towards a sustainable future.

    Those of my age and older had a moment of their own…and the majority cashed it in for personal indulgence and comfort. The present generation coming of age just might not find anything worth cashing it in FOR. There is a certain exhiliration to be found in that, for them. They just might get it right.

    Wade

  153. > Those of my age and older had a moment of their own…and the majority cashed it in for personal indulgence and comfort.

    I guess I already tipped my cards on that, but in case not, I was born in 1950. I was a rebel without a cause, then I was a total anarchist. Then raised a family, you know the rest of the story.

    But here: voluntary poverty is one answer to this question. Another is teach by example. Finally, vote. Vote for people who say they care about the environment and then make the SOBs work for us and get it done.

    Pete

  154. From Peter:
    “But lets say we agree that human activity is inherently harmful, what next? Suicide? Voluntary asceticism? Or do I jet about the world preaching conservation and preservation?”

    Do I get a choice “D” here, Peter? Does human activity need to be “inherently harmful”? The problem is, we’ve not, at least as a collective, learned our niche, and we each have a personal niche and we all have a collective niche. I don’t think suicide or asceticism work (although I’ve often wondered whether suicide is some kind of evolutionary strategy…I would like to believe it’s not, because it seems so extreme, but I don’t know).

    Learning one’s niche is a lifelong journey, so it’s not a matter of providing a quickie answer. In fact, niche analysis resists the quick. So, I guess I would say we need slowness, and lots of contemplation, self-contemplation, group-contemplation. But for those of a certain niche, that’s anathema.

    Where does this leave us?

  155. Well, I’m only 8 years younger, so I’m right behind you.

    Dimitri Orlov made a very funny observation not long ago. He also pitched the very logical conclusion that reduced consumption was the answer. But at what level? The answer was another question: “What would it take to satisfy a woman?” No, that is not a anti-feminist stance. It is an equal opportunity jab at the folly of human nature and the drive to sustain the species. Yep, we are back to the bouncing dragon fly on the string again….but aren’t we always?

    Any man who sees his primary job to be the provision of the creature comforts to his wife and children knows the truth of that statement. Nothing increases a man’s own over all consumption than the drive to select and secure a mate. Self imposed poverty is a luxury only a bachelor is likely to pull off. Alone.

    Wade

  156. From Plowboy Wade:
    “If there is one supreme hope that floats out there right now, it might be that more and more people every day seem to pick up on the example.These things are never obvious while they are happening, but I don’t think I kid myself when I perceive an ever so slight tip in the balance towards a sustainable future.”

    Could just be the circles I travel in, but I find a great deal of strength in knowing there are more and more people questioning, for lack of a better phrase, “separatist values,”…the kind that have given rise to much of what is unhealthy in our culture. Most days, I’m just grateful to be learning how I can live differently. And most days, no one asks me anything. But when they’re ready, they may see my example and ask away. It will be very important at that time not to adopt an “I’m greener than you” attitude, which would only reflect back those “separatist values” just referenced.

    As for the direness, sure, the situations are dire. (I’ve been told to plan, in my plantings, for extreme heat and cold tolerances.) But I — we — only have so much energy; better to learn how to live differently than spend energy worrying we’re running out of time.

  157. From Plowboy Wade:
    “The answer was another question: “What would it take to satisfy a woman?” No, that is not a anti-feminist stance. It is an equal opportunity jab at the folly of human nature and the drive to sustain the species. Yep, we are back to the bouncing dragon fly on the string again….but aren’t we always?”

    This is funny, but kinda silly. Why would Orlov make such a blanket statement? Not all women are into heavy consumption. Does this mean such women also would be “de-selected,” that is, not attractive to males in any procreative sense? Or…are such people, male and female, likely to need less, hence need to earn less, hence less entropy-creating (they’re cycling energy more slowly perhaps), and therefore, overall, more sustaining of the species as a whole? And what if these folks have no offspring? Then what does that indicate?

  158. Peter wrote
    > They are two options amidst myriad possible options. They are brief manifestations of energy and are not energy.
    OK, so what other kind of energy is there apart from that which I am talking about
    > Yes, it is a paradox. And of course the communication of the experience of paradox is beyond the capacity of word systems such as plain English.
    That’s just a disclaimer you are using for not being able to explain yourself.
    Looking back I realise I enjoyed a considerable state of science as a child roaming the hills, lakes and forests and playing in the streams by my home. My days were filled with inquiry, experimentation, careful observation and deep reflection. Then I went to school and that state was systematically destroyed. One seminal moment in that destruction process occurred when I was 12. I had to suddenly break my day up into “science” and other ways of thinking (English, French, Social Studies etc). Another seminal moment occurred when I was 15. Our “science” teacher informed us that light is both quantum and continuous. He could not explain how this paradox could be. Over the next few years a series of “science” teachers confirmed this paradox of light exists. When I asked how could this paradox be, none could answer and some became very impatient and dismissive of me. By about age 20 I concluded I was a complete and abject failure at “science”.

    Then in my mid 30s a seminal moment occurred in my recovery of the state of science. A drawing teacher instructed us to draw the negative space of a chair. Initially the notion of drawing what the chair was not seemed impossible. He just said “Don’t think about it, just do it”. So we did and as if by magic the chair materialised in most startling truthful form on the page. It was a great aha moment in which suddenly I experienced what a legion of “science” teachers could not communicate with words and “logic”. This experience of the phenomenon of paradox was further enhanced as the drawing teacher bade us mark on the page all of the subject that was not light and suddenly the page lit up in most truthful way.

    At the time I became very angry at our education system, especially at “science” teachers, as I realised how they had deprived me of so much and disempowered me so. Now decades on that anger has evaporated as I revel again in the rich experience of the state of science. I now see our education system and “science” teachers as products of our violent and amoral Anglo-American culture in which science is viewed as a way of thinking and body of knowledge, bereft of morality, and the domain of a tiny elite called “scientists”. I now understand science is a moral state of being, we are each scientists and non-scientists to some degree and understanding paradox enables us to experience the state of science to a much greater degree. That is why openness, generosity of time and reflection are vital requisites for the state to occur.

    As mentioned the act of drawing can enable us to embrace paradox. Playing music can too as one listens to the silence from which the sounds emerge. I note your interest in bees. I too owned beehives for two decades until some greedy person imported the varoa mite to New Zealand.

    A wonderful experience of paradox is to sit beside a hive and allow the gaze to rest about twenty meters into the sky in the main flight path of the bees. It is about this point we can first detect an incoming bee. Look for nothing at this point and suddenly everything happens. Incoming bees suddenly pop into existence, outgoing pop out of existence. Be kind if your mind attempts to deny you the experience, as it most certainly will. Treat any interruption as a useful reminder to bring the focus back to that gentle point of the unseeing gaze. After a short period of this meditation one becomes aware of an exquisite, magical dance occurring as the bees pop in and out of existence. This is the Conservation Principle of Energy in action. This is the quantum theory of electrons come alive.

    Another wonderful experience of paradox is to gaze upon the hive. At once it is a teaming mass of individual bees and it is a coherent intelligent unit.

    Enough words – paradox is for experiencing eh (Smile)

    PS If you want to enjoy an alternative education curriculum take the time to visit the Compassionate Curriculum Framework – in this framework science is a moral state of being that enables civilisation to exist.
    http://tinyurl.com/29ofnq

  159. I think it is more a comment about men’s preconceptions about what lengths he needs to go to tilt the competitive balance. He’s talking in very broad generalities, of course. There are some real valid observations to be made though about the consumptive habits of men living alone vs. those with expectations of companionship. To a lesser degree, they hold true for all people. Other than basic biology, I don’t know why this would be so. Perhaps living alone is instructive on what you truly need to be happy. Maybe it is a lack of drive for familial security. I know that when I was living as a bachelor on my own for 12 years I was very content with a whole lot less. Marriage and two children quickly showed me that physical uncertainty or discomfort, when funds were available to remedy it, is not seen by my wife as something to aspire to. Self denial is all well and good when it is just you, your dog and your unheated apartment. Judging from many conversations with my male peers, that is a common male impression on the unavoidable outcomes of marriage.

    Wade

  160. > So, I guess I would say we need slowness, and lots of contemplation, self-contemplation, group-contemplation. But for those of a certain niche, that’s anathema. Where does this leave us?

    Well, I am impressed by the length of the discussion so far. Some folks blurted out a few invectives and moved on. A few stayed and the posts have seemed to me to increase exponentially in thoughtfulness.

    If I honestly didn’t think I would learn something here every day, I wouldn’t come back. I honestly want to know what other people, especially young ones, think the future holds for them.

    > Does human activity need to be “inherently harmful”?

    Maybe. Sometimes it seems that way. I guess I accepted a long time ago that it might be so but that I would try to find “good work” and walk upright, believing that I am doing the best I can with what I have been given to know.

    Peter Loring Borst

  161. From Plowboy Wade:
    “Marriage and two children quickly showed me that physical uncertainty or discomfort, when funds were available to remedy it, is not seen by my wife as something to aspire to. Self denial is all well and good when it is just you, your dog and your unheated apartment.”

    And what if it’s the female who’s concerned about physical “fitness” and how “fit” she may or may not be for what’s to come (e.g., the possibility, even likelihood, that some day, the heat will not come on, because there just won’t be any)? When I lived alone in an apt, I could tolerate 55 to 58. I found the heat set-up distastefully wasteful (and so, got a little heat off the “waste” heat from the hallway) and didn’t use the heat. With my S.O., we keep it set at 64…in a larger space. I still layer up, but I know I could “go lower” and wouldn’t mind. I would prefer to, actually, but I don’t want to be a stodgy stooge in this relationship, so I have to temper my asceticism (?). I have no moral ground here, though. I know mountains are being leveled, streams buried, water polluted to provide some of this heat. I would prefer to live on current sunlight, but don’t have the funds to make that happen. What to do?

  162. > I now see our education system and “science” teachers as products of our violent and amoral Anglo-American culture in which science is viewed as a way of thinking and body of knowledge, bereft of morality, and the domain of a tiny elite called “scientists”.

    Human culture as a whole is violent and amoral, why single out one particular group? Science is not viewed as amoral, we are held accountable for our actions.

    Scientists try to be objective, but science carries its own bias. It’s questionable whether any human being can really be objective, nor is that really even desirable.

    Better to be subjective but in a way that views things from the perspective of all of us, rather than as me, or my group.

  163. Peter, you wrote:

    “Human culture as a whole is violent and amoral, why single out one particular group? Science is not viewed as amoral, we are held accountable for our actions.”

    I am wondering if you have understood my discussion of our use of the “science” symbol – if you do then I am not sure you would have written the above statement. I am suggesting we are all born into a state of science and also one of non-science. Our lives are a dance between these two states. The generation of civilisation occurs in the former and the destruction of civilisation occurs in the latter.

    Yes, this is a radical use of the “science” symbol in our current Anglo-American society. It is based on a wide range of observations too detailed to post here. My use of the “science” symbol retains its original meanings to “split rend or cleave” whereas perhaps your use is the “Main modern (restricted) sense of “body of regular or methodical observations or propositions … concerning any subject or speculation” is attested from 1725;” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Science

    I am concluding this modern use is very convenient as it, with other symbol adaptations, enables and reflects the excesses of the Industrial Revolution. For instance, about this period the “dominion” symbol ceased to have associations with stewardship and instead became associated with the right to control and exploit. Thus in the 1800s the lands, forests and peoples of New Zealand became a Dominion of the empire of Great Britain. Our forests have since all but vanished, our soils are nearly destroyed and all easily extracted minerals are gone in this dominion.
    My use of the symbol acknowledges that as mortal forms we are split apart from all, even as we are of all. We have knowledge of this separation that sustains us as mortal beings even as it reminds us in painful ways we are ephemeral and can only reflect reality (the universal change in which we are stewards) in most fractured way. I have concluded it is compassion that most enables us to transcend this paradoxical condition, for within it resides all the requisites required for the state of science to exist.
    So I do not conclude “Human culture as a whole is violent and amoral” but rather there are aspects of every individual human being and of every human culture that are violent and amoral. Each human being retains some elements of psychopathy and psychosis and these are reflected in the wider society, as are our elements of sanity. Some individuals and societies experience the state of science and thus sanity more than others.
    For example, the people of India destroy our extraordinary and most wonderful resource of mineral oil at the rate of about 2 barrels a day per thousand people, those in China about 5 barrels and most humans somewhere within that range. We Anglo-Americans destroy it at over ten times that rate and are in the forefront of promoting the most wasteful uses of the resource globally. The extreme degree of our psychosis is evidenced our complete confusion of the “energy” symbol with mineral oil – and no more so than by our “energy experts”/ “energy scientists”.
    I have devoted much of the past decade to searching for ways of communicating the nature of energy and climate processes in scientific ways. This too caused me to review our use of the “science” symbol. I have observed how our “scientists” can have considerable expertise of, for example, the thermodynamics of industrial uses of combustion of fossil fuels or of climate processes. I also observed how they are able to compartmentalise this knowledge from their general lifestyles, which involve disproportionately high rates of destruction of resources and sustaining balances.
    Indeed a wide range of statistics indicates “the community of scientists” * per capita destroy valuable mineral resources at least twenty times the rate of the average human being. I see this as a syndrome and the dissonance between their walk and their talk is revealed in the lack of science in their use of symbols.
    *Note – not my term. It is commonly used by those who describe themselves as a “scientist”.
    Contrast the above so-called scientist with the person who says “I do not know how a car works or why my electrical heater glows with heat or how that atmosphere works. I do know that if I and the other 6.7 billion human beings on this planet each drives a car, flies in jets, lives alone in a large house and burns our remaining fossil fuels on scale then civilisation will collapse. Hence I do not own a car, fly in jets, live in a large house and burn minimal fossil fuel”.
    My use of the “science” symbol acknowledges that, if their assumption is true, then this person, on balance, enjoys a far greater state of science than the person who owns cars, flies jets etc. The evidence supports their hypothesis. They walk the talk and are symbols of harmony.
    Compare say Al Gore who speaks with great authority of climate processes and calls for us to generate fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere even as he models the extreme generation of carbon emissions. His language reflects his dissonance. The movie “An Inconvenient Truth” is the perfect ad for car and jet use and the rejection of stewardship in favour of Carbon Trading. I publicly predicted its release here in New Zealand would result in greater car and jet use plus the adoption of Carbon Trading. All three occurred in the aftermath.
    My use of the “science” symbol also acknowledges the possibility that our capacity to learn a language is born of a very considerable state of science. It involves millions of exquisite experiments, involving myriad factors, the inclusion of all the sounds of every language known to humans this last 50,000 years and a very high degree of compassionate observation and reflection. By comparison, while the development of Newton’s laws of physics or Einstein’s Theories of Relativity each involves thousands of observations and significant paradigm shifts this is relatively minor compared to those that occur during the development and propagation of language in individuals.
    Yes, this is another avalanche of words. Enough. If Orion is interested in more it has my email and website. Enjoy the experience of science. Thanks for all. Smiling.

  164. Re: Right Livelihood

    Yes, Peter…this is one aspect of the Eightfold Path, in Buddhism.

    To bring this back around to technology and trying to live uncompromisingly in a compromised world, I posit that the more technologies we have, the more likely we will allow them to shape our lives, the more we all become alike and the less likely it will be (or already is) for Thoreauian types of people to emerge. (And Thoreau did not come from humble means, did he? Were he to do today what he did back then, he’d be arrested for vagrancy, no doubt.) I guess the point is, yet again, we are all connected, and it’s impossible to to achieve “right livelihood” these days, to do the kind of work that isn’t causing someone somewhere to suffer.

    Do you disagree? If so, do you have an example of someone who has achieved this and can maintain it?

    Leigh

  165. Friend Leigh writes > And Thoreau did not come from humble means, did he?

    His family was not well to do, no. You may be thinking of Emerson, who Thoreau worked for as a handyman. Henry and his dad ran a pencil factory. Henry supported himself as a surveyor, as well. He was widely sought after for that work because, as he said, he spent more time roaming the woods than the owners of said woods. No, Henry was no vagrant, but he never owned much. Books, hiking boots, a wooden flute.

    > it’s impossible to to achieve “right livelihood” these days, to do the kind of work that isn’t causing someone somewhere to suffer.

    > Do you disagree? If so, do you have an example of someone who has achieved this and can maintain it?

    I was thinking about this question even before you asked it. For ten years I participated in an online discussion group dedicated to Thoreau, so I am a tad familiar with him. I believe he pondered right livelihood and lived it.

    The other person who comes to mind is Jiddhu Krishnamurti. I was thinking of him when I said you might jet around the world teaching. The issue is not how much or how little fuel we burn, but the use to which we put it. He owned almost nothing and would go wherever he was invited to speak.

    In terms of clarifying human thought and putting it into perspective, he did more than any man that ever lived. Why his name is not more widely know, I can’t say.

    To which I would add people like Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and so on. But it is important to realize that they did not imitate but rather they believed in what they did and did great things. I think this is the best lesson. One must do what one thinks is right, and realize one may never know if it is right. To me that is the only faith worth having, the faith that if one does the best one can with what one knows, that despite the fact that the fruits of your action may never appear to you, you did the right thing.

    Peter

  166. Dave writes:
    > I am wondering if you have understood my discussion of our use of the “science” symbol – if you do then I am not sure you would have written the above statement

    It surely must have occurred to you by not that I simply don’t agree with 90% of what you have said. And I vehemently disagree with redefining common words. If words are to mean anything in conversation, that have to be used in the conventional way, not redefined willy nilly so as to constitute some obscure jargon that is “understood” only by the initiated. Sorry

  167. Right Livelihood Award recipient of 1993

    Dr. Vandana Shiva is trained as a Physicist and did her Ph.D. on the subject “Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory” at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

    Time Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as an environmental “hero” in 2003, and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia.

    Among her many awards are the Order of the Golden Ark, Global 500 Award of the UN, Earth Day International Award, and the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace.

    Shiva also serves on the boards of many organizations, including the World Future Council, the International Forum on Globalization and Slow Food International.

    Quotation
    “The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralising and monopolising power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice and peace. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative.”

  168. Here’s a slightly different take on all this:

    We are cultural network nodes. Our minds are actually not in our brains so much as they are in the “smart world” around us. (See Richard Oggle’s book “Smart World”.) I know only a little about the science of networks, but I see tremendous potential in e k s t e n d i ng our written communication digitally just as alphabets extended our phonemic communication. The Internet gives us access to many more thought spaces than we could otherwise connect to, providing us with a rich set of resources for analogy-making and problem solving. Vandana Shiva must appreciate the value of the growing variety in thought spaces available to a growing number of people.

    Socrates believed writing diminished us. My high school math teacher thought hand calculators would diminish us. I think commercial TV diminishes us. I also think that what we are learning and sharing about media effects and network effects – and meditation and brain function – will enable coming generations to understand and better apply these tools to deepen rather than flatten our experience. McLuhan and others have opened the door. Now we can begin the journey.

  169. ‘idea spaces’ are not ‘real’, that they do not interact autonomously, but only through the mediation of a human mind. It is human minds that are exposed to unique sets of ideas and connect them together. While the ideas may be out there in human artefacts such as books, websites, machines, artworks etc, it takes a human mind to put them together.

    Lock a whole lot of books in a room and see how many ideas they come up with. Clearly none since books are simply a means of passively storing knowledge and it takes a human to ‘activate’ that knowledge.

    While network theory may deal with abstract relationships between nodes and their connections, when applied to the real world, these nodes are ‘things': people, species, businesses, servers, power stations, cities, communities, chemicals whatever, not abstractions such as ‘idea spaces’.

  170. From Peter: “One must do what one thinks is right, and realize one may never know if it is right. To me that is the only faith worth having, the faith that if one does the best one can with what one knows, that despite the fact that the fruits of your action may never appear to you, you did the right thing.”

    Maybe this is true for many people, Peter. But there are certain charismatic people who believed they were doing what was right and ended up some of history’s most renowned mass murderers. And a lot of what they believed was right involved “improving” humans, or even landscapes (reengineering rivers and such or asking the land to do more than it could to attain some five-year quota). I’m sure you could approach any coal exec and he would say he gets up every morning knowing he’s doing what’s right, because what his company does makes us a little more “energy independent” (which is about as ludicrous a phrase as there is). This is why it’s important to have an ongoing conversation with oneself about what one does, how one sets intentions, and the like, and to try to view oneself through multiple other lenses. This has the effect of slowing one down, in contrast to what much of technology today enhances — and enforces — which is speed.

  171. Leigh writes:
    > But there are certain charismatic people who believed they were doing what was right and ended up some of history’s most renowned mass murderers. …

    > This is why it’s important to have an ongoing conversation with oneself about what one does, how one sets intentions, and the like, and to try to view oneself through multiple other lenses.

    So, are you saying if Hitler was more self-reflective he wouldn’t have done those things?

    I think what I was saying is exactly what you are saying, inasmuch as we are now viewing ourselves through multiple lenses.

    My chief point is that one cannot wait until one is sure one is right, to act. Sometimes we must believe in ourselves and proceed, not knowing.

    The necessity of resisting or over-throwing fascists, racists, and dictators is a completely separate issue, one which H D Thoreau, Gandhi and King have eloquently discoursed upon.

    plb

  172. Leigh writes:
    > it’s important to have an ongoing conversation with oneself about what one does … and to try to view oneself through multiple other lenses

    Perhaps ten years ago I was pretty sure about what is and isn’t natural, how right and wrong should be defined, etc. However, through conversations as this one, I gave that all up. So discussion has made me see more broadly, but with less certainty

    plb

  173. Peter,

    To be self-reflective implies being in touch with oneself, including one’s wounds, and taking steps to heal them. I don’t know enough about Hitler’s childhood; I know more about Stalin’s. He was deeply wounded as a child, which is not to make an excuse for his actions (for which there is no excuse), but to show what happens when a highly wounded person, who maintains his wounds, attains that much power.

    Though I agree that we cannot always wait until we are sure, I also believe there are numerous situations — often fostered by technology, economics, surrounding social structures — where we should be more cautious and less quick to act.

    Something that William Blake noted comes to mind: “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.” In other words, whether it’s technology, money, or our influence on others, we do need to be cautious in how we act, and think about the effect we have on others, no matter the size of our circle.

  174. > what happens when a highly wounded person, who maintains his wounds, attains that much power

    I agree that it is our first duty to become healed, because a person in pain usually inflicts pain on others in proportion to how much he or she is suffering.

    Yet, is it possible to heal any and all wounds? Or do we sometimes have to go forward with the pain and bear it, taking extreme care not to pass it on?

    Taking this back to technology, hasn’t modern science helped alleviate suffering more than it has cause it? We have brought food and water to those who had it not, and vanquished such plagues as polio and small pox.

    There remains much to be done, it almost seems wasteful to discuss it.

    plb

  175. Peter noted that “idea spaces” are abstractions, not things, and they connect only through individual’s thoughts and communications. Very true. But all words are abstractions, and how helpful it is to have all these words, including new words, like “idea-space”!
    “Brain science” is an interesting idea space, and “brain plasticity”, too. Studies show meditators’ brains change not just while meditating, but over time. Brain plasticity adds new juice to the “nurture” side of the nature vs nurture discussion. This science should help us help wounded persons and help children be more themselves. But Peter (and political conservatives, too?) are right, I think, about individual responsibility, and doesn’t brain plasticity add something new that needs to be accommodated somehow in “individual responsibility”?

  176. > It’s naïve to caricature scientific disputes as battles between “industry” and the “public interest,” as if bureaucrats and activists didn’t have their own selfish interests (and wealthy, powerful allies like trial lawyers). Too often, corporate conflict-of-interest accusations have been used as smear tactics to silence scientists who ended up being correct. — JOHN TIERNEY
    January 25, 2010 NY Times

  177. From Peter: “Or do we sometimes have to go forward with the pain and bear it, taking extreme care not to pass it on?”

    Of course. But sometimes, speaking for myself, it’s hard NOT to allow myself to become overtaken by my own biases. To take your example about compassion: What if I don’t see “smallpox” or, say, any of the latest permutations of influenza as an “enemy” as many are wont to do? What if I see these as, awful-sounding as it may be, as having intrinsic value, a right to exist just as any other lifeform here?

    “…hasn’t modern science helped alleviate suffering more than it has cause it?”
    Depends on the suffering and who’s doing it, unfortunately. I may disappoint you by saying this, but I think much of science has been used to “solve” problems created by the misuse of various technologies. And this appears to be a circle now, where the “solution” to a problem creates more problems to be solved, the need for more money and labor to throw at the problem.

    To borrow one of Kelly’s examples — one that I find preposterous — take DDT. Rather than use a broadspectrum, unknown-to-nature biocide, we humans could have assessed our role in growing mosquito populations, taken steps to change that, and also encouraged more of the creatures that make meals of mosquitoes rather than relying on something so deadly, and persistent. But the assessing may take longer, may “tax” our brains and our underdeveloped feeling-sense more. Plus, doing those kinds of things doesn’t make anybody money, even though in the long run, it would save more human lives — and the shenanigan-effects that scientists see in the environment would not have been present because of DDT and its byproducts, that is, avian species, mammals and aquatic species would not have been harmed.

  178. From Lance: “But Peter (and political conservatives, too?) are right, I think, about individual responsibility, and doesn’t brain plasticity add something new that needs to be accommodated somehow in “individual responsibility”?”

    Wouldn’t someone who recognizes that s/he’s been wounded also take stock of the effects s/he has had on others and then take steps to make amends? Even if the person can do “no more than” say, I’m sorry for what I did? Of course, in this culture, when one admits something, the “victim,” depending on the sort or person he or she is, may begin seeking compensation beyond the “mere” “I’m sorry; I acknowledge what I did to you was wrong.” That creates its own set of problems.

    And what creates “victims” anyway? And who maintains “victimhood”? Am I a “victim” if the personal info I post on a social networking site gets used against me? Or, have I just not taken the time to assess what the ultimate purposes or goals of such a site may be and then made a decision to use the services — or not use them — accordingly?

  179. Leigh asks, “And what creates “victims” anyway?” Answer: Cruel fate and others’ sins, and our unwariness or willingness. Cultural evolution, per Kelly, I think, led us from literal bondage to 9-5 and from robbery to customer relations. From simple monkeys-in-a-group to simple monkeys-in-group now bound in a web of symbols-as-things-that-we-respond-to-on-a-deep-level-as-if-they-were-real. And they are real because we collectively make them real. Science is the Great Consensus Process, the arbiter of what is real. I think Steve Talbott’s focus on “qualities” is about founding science on our senses and not letting our symbols and calculations displace our human “touch”.

  180. Leigh writes:
    > What if I don’t see “smallpox” or, say, any of the latest permutations of influenza as an “enemy” as many are wont to do? What if I see these as, awful-sounding as it may be, as having intrinsic value, a right to exist just as any other lifeform here?

    Well, my favorite author’s brother died at as a young man from tetanus, and Thoreau himself succumbed to TB. I was cured of TB and I’m innoculated against tetanus.

    I caught Polio the year the vaccine was made available (too late for me). I have been vaccinated against everything else, including H1N1.

    I simply do not share your point of view on this one, Leigh. I view it as extremist and lacking in perspective. No living creature willingly succumbs; survival is life’s hallmark.

    Did anyone see the movie “Stage Beauty”? Billy Crudup is trying to teach Claire Danes how to “act”. She says:

    “I always hated you as Desdemona. You never fought! You just died, beautifully. No woman would die like that — A woman would fight!”

  181. Lance,

    You’ve hit on something here that I have not been able to express, namely, the lack of human “touch” (feeling sense, if you want to call it that) in much of what passes for life.

    I have felt this way for a long time, but not articulated it. Most recently, I have felt this way about “healthcare” — that we somehow “know” what healthcare is, but we don’t, because we don’t have frank discussions about health. HealthCARE depends on a good understanding of health and how to maintain it. We won’t solve the issues surrounding “healthcare” if we don’t understand what health is and don’t even talk about what it means.

    What way do you see out of this (and other) problems?

  182. Peter,

    I did not expect you to share my point of view. I do agree that no one willingly succumbs to anything. Often, when all else fails, it’s only “will to survive” that keeps someone going.

    But I don’t agree that my point of view is “extremist” or “lacking in perspective.” We all share in the fate of Earth and Earth could be trying to rein in our kind, Homo sapiens, for various reasons. I don’t believe I’m looking at this superstitiously, as you may think I am, so much as I see all of our systems as being out of balance, and diseases — illness — is part of the healing process.

    I cannot say how I would react were I faced with life-threatening illness. But I would hope, really hope, that I would not rely on things that are inherently lethal to anything that makes up the biosphere, including myself, other people and other organisms. So much of what people have developed, under the auspices of scientific medicine, kills other species, so that we can continue to “live.” I do not want the responsibility of having to exercise that kind of authority.

    I’m curious to know, Peter, what, from your perspective, is the significance of disease?
    Leigh

  183. Leigh: I cannot say how I would react were I faced with life-threatening illness. But I would hope, really hope, that I would not rely on things that are inherently lethal … I’m curious to know, Peter, what, from your perspective, is the significance of disease?

    Me:
    Surely you have taken an antibiotic at one time or another? Most antibiotics are purified toxins that bacteria produce in their effort to kill other bacteria.

    Bacteria are the most common life form and they are constantly at war with each other. If you get a bacterial infection, it can kill you. More people died in the US Civil War from infection than any other cause.

    That all ended with antibiotics. Of course, the bacteria are fighting back and many are resistant to the current antibiotics.

    You are right in saying that health is something other than the absence of disease. We can harbor all sorts of bacteria without ill effect. When a person’s life force is weakened by any number of things, including old age or injury, these organisms can prevail, causing sickness.

    But, to me, disease causing organisms are
    pests. To me they are no different than weeds in my garden, or mice in the cellar. I love to see mice in the wild, and weeds covering hillsides. But when they are in competition with me and my food supply, they have to go.

    I think all organisms have a right to try to survive. But this survival is a battle, and I intend to survive as long as I can, even if it means killing other creatures. In that, I am no different than they are. So be it

    Peter

  184. Leigh writes:
    > I cannot say how I would react were I faced with life-threatening illness.

    Me:
    Actually, we face these every moment. Our immune system is on a constant search and destroy mission.

    “T cells are a type of white blood cell that is of key importance to the immune system and is at the core of adaptive immunity, the system that tailors the body’s immune response to specific pathogens. The T cells are like soldiers who search out and destroy the targeted invaders.” http://www.medterms.com

  185. Lance writes:
    > Science is the Great Consensus Process, the arbiter of what is real. I think Steve Talbott’s focus on “qualities” is about founding science on our senses and not letting our symbols and calculations displace our human “touch”.

    Honestly, just how do you suppose science does one single thing without symbols and calculations?We can’t communicate at all without symbols. We can’t take two steps across the floor without calculations.

    After a week of discussing what is and isn’t real, what is and isn’t natural, not one person has clearly shown where the natural ends and the unnatural begins, where the real is and where it isn’t.

    If evolution produced humankind, then this too (what I am doing) is a product of evolution. And evolution has always been the result of a competition between a million forces going in different directions.

  186. Peter writes, “… not one person has clearly shown where the natural ends and the unnatural begins, where the real is and where it isn’t.”

    To me, it’s clear that everything is natural. To me, it’s clear that everyone’s world is different. So I think our secret personal understandings and also our shared understandings are a mix of approximations and analogies, and our perception of reality has two essential parts: one part cultural and the other part artificts of our senses and brain and their interweaving with our other bodily systems.

    I like the foregoing discussion about a kinder and gentler kind of science more in tune with imagination, but I admire scientists who have endured the rigors of the current academy and mastered some domain of knowledge. I respect mathemeticians. I am suspicious of capitalism, but wonder what will replace it as a way of marshalling resources to do technology projects, I wonder how those projects will be selected. It’shardtoworkthingsoutinsuchshortposts.

  187. Lance:
    > I like the foregoing discussion about a kinder and gentler kind of science more in tune with imagination

    Me:
    Yes, me too. But the way I see it, there are almost as many people working in this way as the other, product oriented science.

    In the bee research field, at least half the people are studying things like pheromone communication, navigation, nutrition and honey bee health.

    This is non-exploitative research aimed at extending our understanding of other creatures, how they experience their world, and how to help them maintain their health in an increasingly unhealthy world.

    The more we understand and appreciate biodiversity, the more willing we will be to make sacrifices in our own life styles to spare and protect the lives of our fellow creatures and their worlds.

    Peter

  188. From Peter:
    “We can harbor all sorts of bacteria without ill effect.”

    Indeed, we probably need bacteria more than they need us! They’re working for us right now…in our guts.

    “Surely you have taken an antibiotic at one time or another? Most antibiotics are purified toxins that bacteria produce in their effort to kill other bacteria.”

    I have in the past and I try to avoid them. They long should have been reserved for extreme cases. But they are misused, which is why, as I recall reading, penicillin resistance began to appear just 25 years after its introduction. And, if I’m not mistaken, the life cycle of more recent antibiotics has been much shortened because of the antibiotic resistance among various bacteria.

    “But, to me, disease causing organisms are
    pests. To me they are no different than weeds in my garden, or mice in the cellar.”

    What is a pest or a weed, except something living where you don’t want it to live? Some people say that plants (“weeds”) come when they are needed, but that we — humans — don’t always recognize them. I could view the lambsquarter in my garden as a “weed” or I could see it as assisting soil to recover from long abuse.

    I suppose this sounds weird to you, Peter, but I find that in the last year, I’ve come to feel that I no longer look upon survival as a battle. I need to cooperate with what’s out there. In ecological thinking, competitors are mutually harmed by their competition. Cooperation produces the most benefits for all concerned.

    So, you would answer the question about the significance of disease as just that diseases are pests in and of themselves, nothing more. But yet you do mention a weakened life force…what if by bringing out the “big guns” against disease-causing organisms, you continue to weaken a person’s life force? Who “wins” in that case?
    Leigh

  189. Leigh writes:
    > I suppose this sounds weird to you, Peter, but I find that in the last year, I’ve come to feel that I no longer look upon survival as a battle.

    Not weird at all. Nothing you or any of the others have said sounds weird to me. We all have valid points of view, and I get the impression this fact is acknowledged by all who are still in this discussion. (the others went off in a huff)

    So the question is: do our concepts of right and wrong cause conflict among us? Does your refusal to indulge in modern medicine bother me? Does my acceptance of killing as part of living bother you? Will I try to force people to get vaccinated? Will you try to force people to stop raising animals for food?

    Can we agree to disagree on what may be very closely cherished values? Surely we agree on the evils of war, imperialism, and genocide. But how about diversity in human behavior? For you to be right about what you believe, must I be wrong? Can’t we all be right?

    Is democracy merely majority rule and survival of the fittest, or does there need to be a “better” democracy that nurtures the beautiful, encourages alternate lifestyles, fosters diversity?

    Surely this is a greater good than to simply live right. There must be freedom to live in as many ways a possible, so long as one is not exploiting the weak, the innocent, and the naive.

    Perhaps the greatest thing we can do with our voices is to call out on behalf of those who have no voice. I believe we are in agreement on this point, even as we disagree on which life forms should be protected and which are fair game (as it were).

    Peter

  190. From Peter: “So the question is: do our concepts of right and wrong cause conflict among us? Does your refusal to indulge in modern medicine bother me? Does my acceptance of killing as part of living bother you? Will I try to force people to get vaccinated? Will you try to force people to stop raising animals for food?”

    This is not necessarily about “right” or “wrong,” so much as how the effects of our actions perturb living systems and cause them to become unbalanced — and also narrow the range of choices. Along the lines that all of us “live downstream,” I don’t see that I have much of a choice now in avoiding toxics (whether chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc., or even other natural metabolites that humans or animals excrete, even if I’m only subject to parts per trillion or less) when I do what I need to live, which is to drink water. I cannot NOT drink water; I cannot NOT breathe air. There is no choice. But chemical companies, pharmaceutical mfts and others, including federal, state and local lawmakers, make this choice for us every day. I don’t enjoy not having a “say” in this activity, which does not benefit my health (or the health of many other species).

    That said, I personally do not feel comfortable telling (dictating) to anyone that they should forego toxic medicine, if they believe that that’s what’s needed to save their lives. I don’t see that as my right. And as one who anticipates working with people in the health field in the future, I want to avoid passing judgment on people; passing judgment will not help them become healthy and will not help me to help them heal. So, I guess, this particular quandary is mine, but also belongs to those who are willing to acknowledge their participation.

  191. I’m really enjoying this discussion and wanted to add some thought. Lawyers’ first question in the interview was ‘There are few people today who talk about science and spirituality in the same breath….and Kelly responded with “My larger agenda is to bridge the technological and the holy.” Leigh stated (179) “hasn’t modern science helped alleviate suffering more than it has caused it?” Granted, the benefits of technology are great, but overall the planet upon which we depend for life is dying. I consider technology holy in the sense that we are continually, exponentially discovering the miracles of creation; at best we discover, even at a molecular, DNA levels, how perfect nature is. Technology has dabbled in all aspects of creation but is no where close to replicating the biota of the earth. Technology or the sciences have such a detrimental impact on the earth and climate because of a very disconnected population, relying on technology. Climate change and environmental impacts are a function of the number of people on this planet times their consumptive habits. This discussion includes ‘how one sets intentions’ (Leigh 177), including one’s wounds, and taking steps to heal them (Leigh 179). Healing can be energy…can it not? “Yet, it is possible to heal any and all wounds?”(Peter 180). I’m changing the object of healing here intentionally. Stephan Harding in Animate Earth discusses his insecurity and vulnerability in the scientific world when he “attempted to speak of the Earth and of the living beings that inhabit her not merely as objects, but as subjects, a feelingful beings”…I argue that technology, physicists in particular, are very close to proving Stephan Harding’s “Animate Earth” concepts. Let’s introduce the concept of spontaneous healing, the power of loving thought; one example “What the Bleep”. Leigh’s comment (184)”Wouldn’t someone who recognizes that s/he/s been wounded also take stock of the effects on others and then take steps to make amends.” My thoughts jump to Stephan Harding’s “feelingful beings” and our dilemma that the earth is in crisis as a result of many people’s consumptive habits. We realize the earth is wounded; In my ideal world, I hypothesize the earth can be healed collectively and with a whole bunch of change at home. I mostly agree with the quote by Dr. Shiva (173) “The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralizing and monopolizing power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice, peace”… A sustainable planet must start with the actions and loving intentions of the individual not just monopolizing powers; Introspection of our contribution to planet collapse, Intent to make a difference, and Integration or rediscovery of our source of sustenance: warmth from what the sun delivers daily and food from our soils . “Dave McArthur (169) discussed (our loss of integration with our source of sustenance)with topics of dominion and stewardship, vanished forests and depleted soils. I support Kelly’s technology as holy only for ‘extending the game to make room for all expressions of truth, good, and the beautiful.’

  192. > Leigh stated (179) “hasn’t modern science helped alleviate suffering more than it has caused it?”

    Nope, Leigh didn’t say that. I was the culprit

    Pete

  193. > Let’s introduce the concept of spontaneous healing, the power of loving thought

    The problem with discussing faith healing as the people for whom it didn’t work are around to talk about their experience with it.

    Pete

  194. whoops, that should have read:

    The problem with discussing faith healing as the people for whom it didn’t work are not around to talk about their experience with it.

  195. To follow up on Janet Smith’s comments, one thing sorely missing from all of this is the concept of love. To the extent that technologies (of various sorts, not just communications, but transportation, health, etc.) distract us from what may be our chief role here on Earth — to love — then we see the reduction in the health of all biota, the reduction in choices for creating healing, even reduction in the amount of personal energy we have to give to ourselves in finding our bliss (to quote Joseph Campbell) or in helping our loved ones and others with whom we share this beautiful place.

    Why “feeling sense” and “faith” are — I don’t want to say “anathema” to scientists, because many do rely on feeling sense, faith and imagination to jump-start their discovery process or to solve problems, but I struggle for a more appropriate word — challenging for scientists is because these are not in themselves measurable. And I don’t think Janet is talking about “faith healing” here, Peter. I think she’s talking about the power of conscious, focused energy that people can bring into the world. But to do so often requires us to do deep work on the wound of separation, the idea that we are separate one from another and that everything can be considered “objects” for study. Many scientists recognize that placing “objects” into context is necessary for understanding. I don’t think we can understand genes without placing them into context, just as we cannot understand chimps without understanding the ecosystems in which they live.

    To really love something (someone), to feel compassion for it (for them), is to imbue it (them) with context.

  196. From Peter: “The problem with discussing faith healing as the people for whom it didn’t work are not around to talk about their experience with it.”

    Again, I’m not sure Janet Smith means “faith healing” per se, Peter. Regardless, the people who are healed without intervention from conventional medicine may not want to talk about the whys and hows and dissect all that. They may just be grateful that they are well and not be too concerned about making it “repeatable” and “reproducible.” Most healing, from what I know, is not “reproducible” in any sense. One thing works for someone. That same thing may harm someone else who tries it.

  197. > To follow up on Janet Smith’s comments, one thing sorely missing from all of this is the concept of love.

    I have been involved in this discussion for three weeks now and I can tell you that the statement above is false. I can only suggest that your anti-science bias may be preventing you from seeing that scientists love life, nature, and humanity as much or more so than everyone else.

    Signing off
    Pete

  198. Peter, Please don’t sign off; you have anchored this entire discussion. I would like to relate a bit of my background that is very analogous to your history. I have also divided my career between the sciences and a more nature specific career , however, I delved into the sciences first, specifically dedicating over a decade to chemical engineering. In the early 1980’s I reprocessed nuclear fuel in Idaho and then a MS in Chemical engineering at University of Wyoming; my mind is highly ingrained in mathematical thought and differential equations. Since 1991, I have been a landscape contractor. People loved my flowers while I was in graduate school and I ended up with a career out of doors, primarily residential landscapes. My passion is growing native landscapes from seed and connecting people to the environment (hopefully organic food sources too) outside their door; not so far removed from bee keeping. Leigh mentioned (196) “This is not necessarily about right or wrong, so much as how the effects of our actions perturb living systems and cause them to become unbalanced….live downstream…. toxics”. I also follow the field of endocrine disruption in which Theo Colburn in Our Stolen Future revealed an inverse relationship (inverted U) between endocrine disruption and synthetic contaminants; smaller doses of toxins can result in greater health effects. Amazingly, The article “A Conjointed Fate” in the same issue of Orion as “Tending the Garden of Technology” revealed the effects of radiation on insects “are best captured not by the official linear curve…, but by a supralinear curve, which registers far higher effects at low doses. Two very independent research fields point to lesser toxins are far more damaging. We are back to technology’s role in revealing health issues (all biota) These two articles together in the same issue of Orion give even more depth to this discussion on technology. Leigh, I appreciate your gentle insights; you are helping me to let my thoughts evolve. I am not particularly focused on faith healing, but realize my scientific training alone falls very short in trying to solve the environmental crises presented to us today.

  199. Peter Said (193)The more we understand and appreciate biodiversity, the more willing we will be to make sacrifices in our own life styles to spare and protect the lives of our fellow creatures and their worlds.

    Absolutely; I couldn’t agree more!

  200. > Since 1991, I have been a landscape contractor.

    My wife is a gardener at a public botanical garden. She won’t spray anything, and is not a fan of big science.

    > Leigh, I appreciate your gentle insights

    Me too. I was a vegetarian for many years and tried to do no harm (ahimsa). Now, I do what I do consciously, with as much caring as possible.

  201. Peter said: My wife is a gardener at a public botanical garden. She won’t spray anything, and is not a fan of big science.

    Gardening; I view it as remarkably powerful, a place of connection and a good teacher. It’s where we need to be so how do we get back there? I recognize the intrigue of technology, but technology seems insatiable in that it is always advancing and changing. Technology is the epitome of a disposable society whereas gardening and nature has many self regulating methods, such as bacteria, to deal with it’s growth from season to season. I have been quite caught up in technology at times of my life, but it is no substitute for what nature offers, not to mention food supply. Interesting Essay in Orion “Am I Still Here”, 2009 contrasts Nature and the Blackberry with Thoreau’s essay “Walking,” “that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least-and it is commonly more than that-sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all woody engagements.” Nature always seems to be one step ahead of us.

  202. I signed out because I have an eight-classroom school to strip and clean and grounds to prepare for the new school year next week. Also my diplopia makes writing a painful experience. I will break my schedule to observe that I agree with Janet’s observation.
    Peter wrote 203:
    “ To follow up on Janet Smith’s comments, one thing sorely missing from all of this is the concept of love.
    I have been involved in this discussion for three weeks now and I can tell you that the statement above is false. I can only suggest that your anti-science bias may be preventing you from seeing that scientists love life, nature, and humanity as much or more so than everyone else.
    Signing off
    Pete”
    I have suggested the requisites for a person to experience the state of science are: inclusiveness; collegiality openness and sharing; inquiry; honesty and trust; generosity of time and reflection. All these qualities are required if a hypothesis is to be subject to rigorous scrutiny and experiment and if we are to be open to serendipity, from which some of our greatest hypotheses and insights have come.
    Tell us which of the requisites are not necessary for the state of science to exist.
    And are not these requisites the qualities of compassion, the state in which we are most able to know love?
    I am wondering if the bias that Peter perceives is of his own making? From my point of view I read these postings as reflecting an acknowledgement of the state of non-science that exists in us all – including Peter. This is not to be “anti-science” as Peter believes. This is to be honest and inclusive of possibilities. It certainly does not preclude us from acknowledging the possibility that people who call themselves a “scientist”, as Peter does, also “love life, nature, and humanity as much or more so than everyone else.” It certainly does not preclude the state of science that also exists in people – including Peter.
    When I first began to question our contemporary use of the “science” symbol I used Google’s algorithms to reflect the dominant uses of the symbol in our contemporary culture. My hypothesis was if the state of science is prevalent in our society then I should get no answers to variations on the question, “How many scientists are there in the USA? NZ? Australia? UK?..”
    Most of those answering this question are self-styled “scientists” and their consensus seems to be that less than 1% of us are “scientists”. I also note often other replies point out that the question is unhelpful because, for instance, if we can inquire, experiment and analyse with diligence, as we all do on occasion, then we are exhibiting the characteristics of science. The fact I question Peter’s use of the “science” symbol in a slightly systematic way is evidence I may enjoy the state of science a little.
    And I do this is despite the fact that the New Zealand education system evaluates that I and 99% of the population are non-scientists. Its managers claim our education system rates very high in global measures of the communication of science to students. At the same time, according to their own use of the science symbol, less than 1% of us graduate as “scientists”. I struggle to see how science prevails in this situation.
    And if we evaluate levels of science on their terms by measuring how it is manifest in the level of sustainable behaviour of our eduction system’s graduates then the system is clearly a massive failure. So perhaps it is helpful to entertain this possibility of endemic failure and ask questions of our current use of the “science” symbol. My hypothesis is that rigorous analysis will show the vital and sustaining role of compassion in our lives.
    In kindness and in a hurry, as there is much entropy to be reversed at my school if it is to be a sustainable dwelling.

  203. Thoreau’s essay “Walking” is an excellent introduction to his writing and thought. Thoreau expressed most of the ideas that have surfaced in this discussion, and he did so 150 years ago.

    He warned that the scientific method could lead one to take things apart and lose the beauty of the living whole. Yet he maintained a keen inquisitive scientific mind and was a sharp observer of nature.

    There is always mystery in life; the more we study, the more knowledge we acquire, the more we realize that the world is vastly more complex than we ever thought it would be.

    Kelly challenges people to see technology and invention as the logical continuation of humankind’s fascination with exploring the potential of this world.

    In this, we are hardly different from nature herself. Nature has created millions of different organisms, millions of different ways of experiencing the world. We have done nothing so amazing as that, but invention is what we do.

    Some people may be content with what they have, but most people are not. People tend to be acquisitive, and there are always others that are ready to sell them what they want.

    I think the acquisition of knowledge about how the world works is one of the more worthwhile of acquisitive activities, and it doesn’t fill my house up with junk.

  204. Peter,

    Glad you are still with us! I don’t understand why you would say that I have “anti-science bias.” I am generally opposed to the sort of thinking that reduces a living being to its component parts and then uses a fragment to determine how the whole organism operates, based on what’s observed in that fragment. How is this “anti-science”? the work of many scientists (McClintock, Margulis, among them) reflects the notion (they might say “fact”) that we are not separate from our ancestors (bacteria) nor from our environment.

    Yes, you did speak about your love for many things. But I was referring to love as an overall concept. If we agree that our role as humans here is to love, then it would seem that anything that gets in the way of that…we should carefully consider whether we’ll allow it into our lives.

    And I agree with you here: “I think the acquisition of knowledge about how the world works is one of the more worthwhile of acquisitive activities, and it doesn’t fill my house up with junk,” even though I feel that we owe it to ourselves and our children, our children’s children, etc., to let our hearts lead (our feeling-sense), not our heads, and in that way, learn to be content with what we have. (Of course, I speak as a well-fed, if not well technologically provisioned, Westerner, and my idea of contentment is probably going to be different from someone who lives in Bangladesh.)

  205. Leigh writes:
    > I don’t understand why you would say that I have “anti-science bias.”

    I am sorry, I guess I didn’t realize it was you writing, and I just reacted to the words without the context. Given the context, no, I don’t think you are anti-science, in the sense of science being the study of life and the world. Nobody I know is against this.

    Many are against us getting further and further from the earth: the soil and plants, the animals and all. But I wonder what it is that I am doing as a scientist that is preventing them from experiencing nature. In terms of acreage, this nation is still mostly rural.

    I live in the Finger Lakes region and it really bothers me that the lake shores are all private property. But there are tons of wild places nobody goes because they aren’t interested in mucking about in swamps or thickets.

    Leigh continues:
    > Yes, you did speak about your love for many things. But I was referring to love as an overall concept. If we agree that our role as humans here is to love …

    You are speaking to someone who grew up with the Beatles, who went to San Francisco in the 1960s, who thought the whole world was going to change, we wanted to Give Peace A Chance.

    But no, I don’t agree that our role is to love. Life is much better if it is lived in love, but I am afraid I don’t believe we have a role to play. We make our lives into the lives we want. I am deep down an artist, so to me, my role is to make my whole life into a work of art.

    In the final analysis, I conclude that our world view ares aesthetic, subjective in nature. We want the world to be aesthetically satisfying. A paved over steel and glass world is sickening to me. But I am just one person, why should my view mean more than the next person?

  206. Leigh beautifully summarized my thoughts when he said “I think she’s talking about the power of conscious, focused energy that people can bring into the world. But to do so often requires us to do deep work on the wound of separation, the idea that we are separate one from another and that everything can be considered “objects” for study.”
    Peter said “But no, I don’t agree that our role is to love. Life is much better if it is lived in love, but I am afraid I don’t believe we have a role to play.”

    I read Ismael years ago by David Quinn…it is a story about a gorilla and this story clearly reveals how people are so different from all other species on this planet in that they want to use technology to save their own species. Let’s hypothesize that people are on this planet to learn a lesson, and I think love plays a part in the solution to our lessen. Technology is part of the game “so that the game will keep going” as Kelly said. Many indigenous cultures have lived in harmony with the earth just as other species on this planet and then there are humans dictated by “the Technium” which Kelly describes as the resulting density of power.I think Kelly actually contradicts himself in the discussion of the Technium as he states both that it is a resulting density starting at the beginning of the universe and also states that “humans are the sexual organ of technology-that we are necessary for its survival”. Humans are not necessary for the survival of the earth; collectively we are destroying it. I hypothesize that the Technium is the lesson, that humans (indigenous cultures exempt) are here to learn. Kelly even mentions in his last comment …”technology is either the devil”. I think I just said that both the theories of creationism and evolutionary theory are correct. I believe in love and technology, the game, to help us learn that objects are also animate.
    But right now I am pre-coffee and maybe some caffeine will knock some sense into me.
    Janet

  207. Janet writes:
    > Leigh beautifully summarized my thoughts when he said “I think she’s talking about the power of conscious, focused energy that people can bring into the world.”

    But I am afraid here we veer off into the realm of faith and religion. I don’t dismiss the value of this any more than I dismiss the value of art, music or cuisine.

    However, from a scientific perspective religion holds no water. There is a term in science called a “valid hypothesis” This is one which fits the facts most effectively. If I can produce another scenario which fits the facts, I have falsified it. Religion and faith is the most easy thing to falsify.

    For example, I had an imaginary pal as a child. My hypothesis might be he’s real but anyone could show he was imaginary since only I could see him. Now the fact that other people have imaginary pals, proves only that others have imagination, not that there is some real pal behind all these sightings.

    The same applies to supreme beings and universal moral codes. Many people have these but they are wholly created by us, according to the scientific method. According to the aesthetic point of view, all of these forms of human experience are totally valid. If we regard them as products of the human mind, this does not diminish them one jot.

    In fact, the scientific method is a product of human minds as well, but can be independently verified. Insofar as religion, music and art are concerned, the experience is entirely subjective and non-verifiable, regardless of whether many have the same sort of experience

  208. I will probably shock you, Peter, but I have to say that science itself is subjective. No moment in time is repeatable; all is fluid. So, every moment of every experiment is different, and every experiment can be influenced by what is brought to it — by the goal(s) of the experiment, by the equipment used, by the attitudes of researchers, even what they had for breakfast.

    I realize that asserting that science is subjective is a bit like trying to “prove” or “deny” the existence of God. In fact, science today occupies a place in Western cultures much like the Church during the Inquisition. We’re not to question its legitimacy, right? Just as I maintain an intellectual agnosticism regarding the existence of God (my heart, of course, feels differently), I imagine I’ll probably have to maintain the same stance with respect to science and its validity. I have been both blessed and harmed by scientific findings and related technological developments.

    And although scientists probably don’t like it, much writing and much philosophy borrow metaphors from science. So, if, in order to study things “objectively,” science must break things down into parts, what does that say about the foundation of science? Where does it leave our language? Our metaphors? (No, it’s not the responsibility of science to answer for such things, but there is a deep interplay between science and language.)

    Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution, wrote: “Each factor is meaningful in the tangled web of interrelationships, but ceases to have any meaning when isolated from the whole. In spite of this, individual factors are extracted and studied in isolation all the time. Which is to say that research attempts to find meaning in something from which it has wrested all meaning.”

    But science itself exists by breaking things down; it is the “nature” of science to examine the components of a given thing, to see how something works. (Goethe: “An organic being is so multifaceted in its exterior, so varied and inexhaustible in its interior, that we cannot find enough points of view nor develop in ourselves enough organs of perception to avoid killing it when we analyze it.”)

    So, how do we “study” without harming? How do we understand while maintaining the whole? Can we?

    Janet Smith alludes to indigenous peoples. Can we agree that they did not have “science”? They did have many gods and spirits. Was their way of life lacking because they didn’t have science? Of course, we can never know that. Because their moments were different from ours.

    Scientists, I think, set out with a healthy skepticism when they approach any claim. Science itself requires this sort of skepticism. But science is not the “whole” and cannot really, on an individual basis, tell each of us how we are to experience the world. It may sometimes be able to answer the “how,” but the rest of the blanks are up to us to fill in.

  209. Friend Leigh writes:
    > I will probably shock you, Peter, but I have to say that science itself is subjective.

    Naw, I don’t shock easily. Anyway, I agree with you. Anything that we do as humans is inherently subjective.

    But some things are verifiable, reported as true by independent observers. Like the green flash at sunset on the Pacific Ocean.

    My best
    Peter

  210. Moving right along

    > Consciousness, in the Buddhist tradition, cannot be held as merely another object of knowledge, a thing to be known, because it is not located in time or in space.

    > Consciousness cannot be discovered through common scientific strategies. Only presence—being conscious of being conscious of something—allows one to realize what consciousness is.

    > And this can only be discovered by an exploration in the first person. “The ego is not the owner of consciousness; it is the object of consciousness” (Sartre, 1960).

    Charles Genoud, On the Cultivation of Presence in Buddhist Meditation

  211. Leigh quoted Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution, wrote: “Each factor is meaningful in the tangled web of interrelationships, but ceases to have any meaning when isolated from the whole. In spite of this, individual factors are extracted and studied in isolation all the time. Which is to say that research attempts to find meaning in something from which it has wrested all meaning.”

    I approach both technology and religion topic in light of Fukuoka as well as the school of cause and effect. The thread of religion runs trough the Kelly’s article on technology. Can we extract one human from the race, breaking down into parts,and continue the discussion of how people contribute to environmental degradation; No. Could we add Budda’s consciousness -being conscious of being conscious of something—and make progress toward healing the planet: yes. Each person, religion and technology is part of the tangled web of interrelationships. A good example for discussion is the scientific findings in the Orion article “A Conjoined Fate.”The deformity of insects from very low levels of radiation was much greater than from higher radiation levels. Only highly developed technology or science can determine this. A nuclear facility is not created for the purpose of a few people; it is a product of societies proclaimed need for electricity. At what point does the individual consciousness own their part of this damage? Language and communication plays a big role here. I would say everyone in this country, of sound mind (?), knows the issues of environmental damage but we fail to assume responsibility or act. Perhaps when the ego is is “the object of consciousness” will be make progress.

    Janet

  212. > we fail to assume responsibility or act

    Hmm. A lot of very conscious caring people are paralyzed by doubt.

    Can one person make a difference? Of course.

    What can one person do? Start with one thing that you believe will make a difference.

    How will I know if it helps? You won’t. Do it anyway!

  213. Peter, Apparently I have to establish myself as one who walks their talk. I am not a fan of the ‘blame game’,and I am very interested in philosophical, constructive dialog (language) and solutions.
    I would like to refer you to an article published in New York times last week titled “Chilled by Choice”. Leigh mentioned (165) turning the heat down to 55 to 58. Well, I can come home to a house with sub zero temperatures and not skip a beat. I have for 4 years traveled every three months (600 miles round trip) to participate in an Emerging Contaminates non-profit group named CREEK: A very powerful group of professionals mostly from the Denver area. I am in the middle of a trial by Jury in which I feel my freedom of speech was violated because I blew the whistle on our Town applying herbicides in our “Organic Park”; I personally know at least 5 people with weak immune systems who could have died had they entered the park that day. Yes, I pick my battles! There has been a reference somewhere in this discussion about a man who laid down and died….a woman would have fought. I consider myself a warrioress; I fight for the rights of Nature, only a healthy planet supports a healthy population. The past two years, all of my spare time and money has been dedicated to raising chickens for egg production (gone because of the jury trial) and goats for milk and cheese. This is not easy as I don’t own my own acreage. A warrior fights for power, his own ego. A warrioress fights in the name of nurturing for nature; we need more of them and their voice needs to be heard.

    With Regard,

    Janet aka Planet Janet

  214. > This is not easy as I don’t own my own acreage.

    I do. I have four acres, 90% of which which is used only by Nature for her own purposes, whatever they may be.

    plb

  215. Leigh’s comments 214 resonate deeply with me. That “all is fluid” is in profound accord with the Conservation Principle of Energy. That “science itself is subjective” is in profound accord with the Uncertainty Principle of Energy, which suggests we are participants even as we are observers.

    And I agree that “
    In fact, science today occupies a place in Western cultures much like the Church during the Inquisition.”
    I still recall a strange sense of unreality I experienced as a child when stern Roman Catholic nuns and priests lectured us that non-Catholics (like my own very good father) could never go to heaven and when they abused me as being possessed by the devil because I dared ask “If Cain killed Abel that only leaves Cain and who could he marry to have children?” I lived on a farm and knew about sexual intercourse and propagation.
    Similarly a series of “science teachers” lectured me that “scientists are objective”. That same sense of unreality would come over me, for I could not understand how anyone could even think human beings can be objective. Even without a knowledge of the Uncertainty Principle I sensed the dangers of such a belief.
    The paradox is it is only when one acknowledges one’s incapacity to be objective that we begin to be able to be objective.

    In further paradox we have the person who describes him or herself as a “scientist” because he or she has considerable expertise of some aspect of existence, for instance, the thermodynamics of the atmosphere or of “black holes”, and yet he or she leads a general life that is in profound denial of both principles. Their neighbour who never imagines describing his or herself as a scientist is able to live in great acceptance of these great guiding Principles. Who experiences a greater degree of science in their lives?

    The common feeling of unreality of these two experiences stems from the fact that the stern nuns and priests and the “science” teachers spoke with such certainty about their beliefs, whether it was the belief that only through the RC Church can anyone know redemption or the belief that it is “scientists are objective”.

    I am wondering if at this point “And although scientists probably don’t like it…” Leigh falls into the trap of language that he implicitly warns us of and thus leads us into needless confusion. Implicit is the notion that some (few) people are scientists and the rest of us are non-scientists. What is the difference when a “scientist” and a “non-scientist” use “ a metaphor from science”? Does the metaphor change it’s meaning and become “non-science”? The answer to this question must be yes according to this use of the “science” symbol.

    Confused? I am. And so is the majority of the population who graduate from our schools systems saying, “Oh I was never very good at science” or “I was always scared of science at school.”

    Leigh is left asking, “Where does it leave our language? Our metaphors? (No, it’s not the responsibility of science to answer for such things, but there is a deep interplay between science and language.)”

    I will not deconstruct this statement. I will simply agree there is a deep interplay between science and language. If one assumes that science is a state of being then the interplay of science and language is so complete they tend to become as one.

    I define a symbol as a quantum of shared crystallised meaning. Symbols enable life for they enable sentient beings to survive and procreate. A language is a system of symbols that enables a being to communicate meaning such that the welfare of the species is enhanced. Examples are the dances of bees, the words of humans and the use of pheromones. All involve attempts to reflect reality (the universal change) and when the symbol use fails to accurately reflect reality the being dies. We see this with our bodies as the quality of the knowledge and meaning in our DNA deteriorates. We see this with societies as the quality of knowledge and meaning of words deteriorates.

    We are seeing this deterioration in the popular uses of prime symbols such as “science”, “power”, “energy” etc in our Anglo-American culture. All these uses tend to deny stewardship/change. The meaning of the science symbol has been reduced to convey the notion that science is a way of thinking that is the domain a select few rather than a universal state of being that we all enjoy to some degree. This is, of course, very convenient for the rich elite who make large profits off the amoral technology uses generated by this culture.

    Recall I quoted etymonline.com
    Main modern (restricted) sense of “body of regular or methodical observations or propositions … concerning any subject or speculation” is attested from 1725; in 17c.-18c. this concept commonly was called philosophy.
    Traditionally the “philosophy” symbol has been associated the systematic and critical inquiry into the meaning of existence, including a search for universal laws. Translations include “the loving of knowledge”. Inherent in this is the notion that philosophy is a state of being. It is more than a way of thinking for the thought process can never communicate paradox – paradox has to be experienced to be truly understood.

    So Leigh writes, “But science itself exists by breaking things down”

    This is true if you only associate the “science” symbol with thinking and some special body of knowledge out there called science that is an existence unto itself. However if you associate the symbol with a state of being with the requisites I have described then knowledge becomes an intimate, profoundly moral and dynamic experience. Even as we examine a component of the universe from one point of view our experience of compassion keeps us mindful there are myriad valuable points of view of that component. We can experience the paradox that one is all. And in that mindfulness of variety we remain inclusive of all possibilities and thus our inquiry can be more profound.
    Peter wrote (172) “And I vehemently disagree with redefining common words.” “ I have often received this response from self-styled scientists – notably from those who are perceived as experts on climate processes. For instance, they say there is nothing wrong with their use of the “greenhouse” symbol, it works perfectly well and everyone knows what it means. Apart from the fact that there is considerable evidence suggesting this is not true I find it unsustainable to say that we should not continually review our use of symbols so we conserve their maximum potential in a changing world. Symbols too are a paradox – they reflect meaning even as they generate meaning. We are our language and to the extent we experience the state of science then our use of symbols sustains us. To the extent we experience the state of non-science our use of symbols puts us at risk. The gift is to be able to acknowledge both elements in us so we are each better philosophers, or as ancient cultures said, lovers of wisdom.

  216. From Janet Smith:
    “A good example for discussion is the scientific findings in the Orion article “A Conjoined Fate.“The deformity of insects from very low levels of radiation was much greater than from higher radiation levels. Only highly developed technology or science can determine this.”

    Where I live now, Janet, is near the Chesapeake Bay, and just last evening I attended a talk by a hydrogeologist with the state Geological Survey. In our county, there’s a NW to SE line along which are some incredibly high radium levels. But, scientists would not have uncovered these high levels except for the fact that someone tested samples right away…radium isotope 224 has a half life of about three and a half days. The samples used to be collected quarterly, but were batched and not analyzed in time to catch this, so the levels were always w/in US EPA guidelines. When tested while radium 224 was present, the levels were off the charts. And this radium occurs naturally. It’s a known carcinogen, but one that people can process out of their well water; it acts similarly to calcium.

    My point is, it was all in the timing of the analysis. And it seemed something of a fluke that it was caught.

    It brings up a question: At what point do we ever have “nothing”? I don’t think we can ever get to “nothing” just as we can never get to infinity. So, we rely on “what’s detectable,” and then, “what’s harmful.”

    So, the “game” — to borrow Kelly’s word — seems to be much about scientists keeping up with technologists (and vice versa). I consider a Berkey filter to be a “technological device.” I wish I didn’t need it, but it’s an artifact of a centralized water and wastewater system that, while “sanitary,” leaves much to be desired. I would love for us not to have to rely on such systems, but can we avoid them when there are so many of us?

  217. Janet writes:
    > Peter, Apparently I have to establish myself as one who walks their talk

    I respect that, but my point is that we can never know if the work we did helped one jot. It may appear so to you and I, but only time will tell. We may spend our lives on the “wrong” course.

    For my part, I have spent the last 3 years trying to “figure out” why bees are dying off in record numbers. Ironically, honey bees are not native to the Americas. So should I be trying to save them or let nature take its course?

    plb6

  218. From Janet Smith: “At what point does the individual consciousness own their part of this damage?”

    Janet, what does “own” look like in the day to day? How shall I “own” up to my responsibility in the leveling of mountains in Appalachia? Would it mean getting rid of the computer I’m now typing on?

    Or, from another angle, how much does intention tie into this question? I feel enhanced by these discussions and hope that I’m giving back as much as I’m receiving. My “intention” is to provoke thought and stimulate my own…and though it may be “bookish” for now, in the long run, it will play into how I live.

  219. From Janet Smith: “Well, I can come home to a house with sub zero temperatures and not skip a beat.”

    How do you do this? I was able to get to 55 to 58 w/o running any heat, but I lived in a large apt complex. I think some of this is just training oneself. I don’t like the word “training”…maybe accommodating oneself to the conditions? I can’t help but think that people who do this, like you perhaps, develop better flexibility and are better able to cope with extremes (not just temps, but any extremes). What do you think?

  220. From Dave McArthur: “This is true if you only associate the “science” symbol with thinking and some special body of knowledge out there called science that is an existence unto itself. However if you associate the symbol with a state of being with the requisites I have described then knowledge becomes an intimate, profoundly moral and dynamic experience.”

    I don’t disagree with you, Dave, but I guess I’m talking about the paid profession of science. What you are talking about here is something that many indigenous peoples have done for eons. It’s not just “intimate, profoundly moral and dynamic,” though…it’s also spiritual. And unique to each person, even as there are similarities among experiences, at least the ones I’ve read or heard about.

  221. From Peter: “For my part, I have spent the last 3 years trying to “figure out” why bees are dying off in record numbers. Ironically, honey bees are not native to the Americas. So should I be trying to save them or let nature take its course?”

    No! Keep going! I think much of the native/alien discourse is bogus. I’m not talking about intentionally introducing nonindigenous species here, but who are we to say they should or shouldn’t be here? Dandelions aren’t “native” either, nor are apples. And while many people want to kill dandelions, I’d say, Just go ahead and eat ‘em…add ‘em to your winter soup!

    Besides, Peter, to speak again of love, you appear to truly love bees, so you probably couldn’t stop, even if you tried.

    And another thing: You say we don’t really have a role, but if, to rest on Brian Swimme’s notion that humans consciousness allows the Universe to become conscious of itself, then I think that work needs to continue. I have assisted a beekeeper a few times and there was nothing else that came close to that feeling (it was not a sound) of a just-opened hive; it felt like a roar.

  222. Leigh asked…”how do I do this?” Here’s the Why: I kind of got caught up in an ambitious project on a stone building and ended up living in an uninsulated stone structure, although very aesthetic, couldn’t really be heated, nor could I sell it. So here I am, an eternal optimist. I have been asked if I thought I was an extremest; my answer was no. A reformist, yes. Clothing is absolutely key; very warm,dry boots. If it is extremely cold, I am quite comfortable wearing the -100F Sorel winter boots that have a thick rubber sole. I have used various other clothing to keep my core body warm. I don’t wear a hat. The ‘training’ aspect mentioned in the NYTimes article was from Peter Hacket who is a physician and head of the High Altitude clinic in Telluride. I do give my body credit for being able to acclimatize; I have many times walked into a warm room and felt like I was having a “hot flash”; in part I was overdressed. I never allow myself to get even temporarily chilled because I come home to a cold house or wake up to a cold room. I can light a fire, the heat primarily goes out the uninsulated 12 foot ceiling, but sometimes I choose not to. I can sleep comfortably at almost any temperature with two hot water bottles and down comforters as needed. In the morning and during the day I can generally run around, even at 10F, and be comfortable. But when the sun goes down, and my energy reserves from a goods night rest are gone, 55F can seem bone chilling. Evening hours are the hardest hours for comfort. Freezing pipes are a real issue; heat tape, dripping faucets and an available propane torch. Fear is perhaps the greatest obstacle; after 8 years of living here, I actually find comfort in knowing I can adjust quickly and live in the cold. This has nothing to do with being tough; I am comfortable and don’t like being uncomfortable. Remember Russia/Ukraine gas war last winter? Humans adapt quickly to the newest of technology, i pods, computers, etc, and I am always amazed at our inability to adapt backwards to living conditions that were standard just several generations prior.

    If I sit in a hot tub, I can warm my core body temperature so that I can be comfortable in a cold room in the evening. A sauna performs the same function. I tried starting the winter without running hot water; brutal,couldn’t do it. The water out of the faucet must have been 40F.

    Janet

  223. Leigh said ‘I consider a Berkey filter to be a “technological device.” I wish I didn’t need it, but it’s an artifact of a centralized water and wastewater system that, while “sanitary,” leaves much to be desired. I would love for us not to have to rely on such systems, but can we avoid them when there are so many of us?”

    Oh Yes, indeed!

    I would love to have a Berkey Filter; I think it, or comparable, should be a part of every residence. Boy, we shouldn’t get started on waste water systems; I composted my human waste the entire first year I was here because I am so opposed to using drinking water for waste disposal. It was the best compost, in over 20 years of composting, that I ever produced. One of my favorite essay of all time is on Mahatma Gandhi, titled “Sacred Water”, A reflection of defecation and development. Resurgence Magazine, UK #246. You think people have fear of the cold…..nothing compared to fear of human waste, e-coli. I have to include these quotes from this article on Ghandi. “Enoughness and Development cannot possibly co-exist consistently within the same economic and moral landscape or mindscape”…..”Gandhi
    transformed defecation and urination into matters of profound political and economic importance, deserving the deepest philsophical and spiritual investigations.”

    Our human waste is an absolute unrealized asset in this country but because it is so feared, odorous. Culturally it is a taboo; it will probably never become a resource. It could be the ultimate organic, local fertilizers. The only way to address this unrealized asset is to reveal that if any community looses its water resource, there is not a procedure for dealing with human waste. We have a precedent case in Salida, Colorado, in which the community shut down due to loss of water supply and salmonella contamination.

    Leigh said “It brings up a question: At what point do we ever have “nothing”? I don’t think we can ever get to “nothing” just as we can never get to infinity. So, we rely on “what’s detectable,” and then, “what’s harmful.”

    What a good question. The EPA continually addresses this question. I am actually proud of the EPA right now for taking a stance on greenhouse gas emissions but politics should probably stay out of this discussion. I do feel it is relevant to point out that most of EPA’s limitations on ‘pollution’ are based on mimimums. But, as I mentioned earlier (204), greater impacts on endocrine disruption can occur in inverse relationships, U-shaped curves. Same with radiation exposure in “A conjoined Fate”.

    Janet

  224. Janet writes:
    > Our human waste is an absolute unrealized asset … Culturally it is a taboo; it will probably never become a resource.

    I worked at Cornell’s Waste Management Institute for several years and I can tell you that human sewage is not something I would ever want on my property. It is full of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and contaminants of all sorts.

    Dumping it into the ocean was prohibited years ago, it’s so bad. But they can spread it on farm fields where cows graze so the stuff works its way back into milk products.

    But back to my four acres. What should I do with it? Should I cut down the trees (more than 20 different species) and burn the wood to save a few dozen barrels of oil? What about all the creatures who live there, foxes, racoons, songbirds, etc.?

    Or should I cut it down and give it away to people who have no fuel? Maybe I should clear the woods and plant the ground. I could grow wheat or corn, maybe feed myself and a half dozen families.

    Speaking of families, I could cut the wood, build houses for a couple of dozen homeless families. But alas, this area isn’t zoned for that high density, we have no sewers out in the country, and that’s too much shit to handle with normal on-site septic system.

    I could cut the timber, sell the land, and give the money to GreenPeace. Or I could leave it the hell alone. Which of these is right? Who will tell me? Can I figure it out myself?

    I say I can, and I have. You may say I am wrong, and I might even agree with you, but then what? Should I do what you think is right instead of what I think is? That would be an abdication.

    Insofar as the Universe becoming conscious of itself, what a grandiose notion. It is enough for us to become conscious of the consequences of our own actions, that’s hard enough.

  225. Peter said, “I worked at Cornell’s Waste Management Institute for several years and I can tell you that human sewage is not something I would ever want on my property.”

    Peter, I assume you are talking about the waste stream of a combination of human waste diluted in water, black water from our showers and sinks and any combination of permitted industrial waste? Is that right?

    Janet

  226. Leigh,
    Janet, what does “own” look like in the day to day? How shall I “own” up to my responsibility in the leveling of mountains in Appalachia? Would it mean getting rid of the computer I’m now typing on?

    Great question….for the morning. I do appreciate being involved in this discussion with all members very much; …Leigh said “My “intention” is to provoke thought and stimulate my own…”…

    yes!. I believe dialogue is very powerful and constructive in and of itself; a gift of language.

    Janet

  227. Peter said, “I worked at Cornell’s Waste Management Institute for several years and I can tell you that human sewage is not something I would ever want on my property.”

    Peter, I assume you are talking about the waste stream of a combination of human waste diluted in water, black water from our showers and sinks and any combination of permitted industrial waste? Is that right?

    * Right. I wasn’t talking about the pure holy shit of celibate vegetarians

  228. From Peter: “Insofar as the Universe becoming conscious of itself, what a grandiose notion. It is enough for us to become conscious of the consequences of our own actions, that’s hard enough.”

    Grandiose? Perhaps. But if Swimme is onto something, it should inspire in each one of a deep reverence for this place, a deep love, and a willingness to act with the utmost responsibility toward our home. Indeed, awareness in general (not just of the consequences of our actions) may be our highest calling. What makes us different from other animals is that we can refuse to become aware. We risk hurting ourselves and others when we do so, but we have that choice.

  229. From Janet Smith: “I am always amazed at our inability to adapt backwards to living conditions that were standard just several generations prior.”

    Me, too, Janet. I think this may be the greatest challenge for us.

    From Janet: “Our human waste is an absolute unrealized asset in this country but because it is so feared, odorous. …It could be the ultimate organic, local fertilizers.”

    From Peter: “I worked at Cornell’s Waste Management Institute for several years and I can tell you that human sewage is not something I would ever want on my property. It is full of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and contaminants of all sorts.”

    I agree with Janet — and with Peter, too, though the presence of these things depends on the kinds of people you’re dealing with. I have good friends in Central VA who do humanure composting and they’re thinking seriously about prohibiting anyone who may be on pharma drugs from, well, you know. Joseph Jenkins, who wrote the bible on this subject, says a lot of these things can be broken down. Probably not the heavy metals, but then the point would be to fertilize plants that can break down the metals, not necessarily food plants, but ornamentals.

  230. On sewage sludge:

    Trish Holden, an environmental microbiologist at UC Santa Barbara, said contaminants in the environment, whether in biosolids or water, are a threat to public health.

    “We have antibiotics all over the place, and pharmaceuticals are not effectively removed in wastewater treatment — this is a huge health issue and it hasn’t been studied enough,” said Holden.

    She said the public does not understand the enormity of the issue or its own culpability.

    “We flush drugs, medications and harsh chemicals down the drain and toilet every day — there’s only so much a wastewater treatment facility can handle — we’re all in this together,” Holden said.

    Striking the right balance between protecting human health and the environment with the potential cost of added regulation is the central concern of all local sanitation agencies, said John Correa, general manager of the Ojai Valley
    Sanitation District.

    “There’s a shampoo that’s used to kill lice and the active ingredient is one of those things that doesn’t come out of the water — it’s a proven toxic chemical that can’t be removed in a treatment plant,” Correa said.

    The only way to keep such products out of the environment, Correa said, is to stop using them. “We need to be doing everything we can to get them outlawed.”

    In 1995, he said, his water district got an $18 million, 20-year state loan to upgrade its treatment plant. “If you give me a new mandate, who will pay for it?”

  231. > good friends in Central VA who do humanure composting and they’re thinking seriously about prohibiting anyone who may be on pharma drugs from, well, you know.

    Doesn’t this sound even slightly absurd to you? Suppose someone wants to use my toilet, I ask them what medications they are on, what cosmetics they wear, what sorts of water have they been drinking? If they don’t pass the test, they have to go ten miles into town and find a gas station? Or knock on the neighbor’s door. Her restroom rules are more lax than mine

  232. Getting back to the original article

    Q: How do you relate transcendentalism to technology?

    KELLY:

    I mean transcending in the sense of connecting to a state of awareness, of living, of being, that transcends our day-to-day life. It’s not a withdrawal, it’s an emergence. It’s not that we don’t have the option to remove ourselves. This phase of cultural evolution, in which we are growing and discovering, requires this tide of twenty-four-hour information. I think it’s necessary and good that there will always be an opt-out option.

    The roots of technology go deeper than just human culture. They weave and string all the way back to the Big Bang. There’s continuity from the beginning of the universe, which is expanding out and creating space to allow diversity to flourish.

    What we have is a long-term trend of increasing diversity, complexity, and specialization—all characteristics of self-sustaining systems. That could be a galaxy or a sun or intelligence.

    Pete:

    This is similar to what Leigh suggests, that intelligence is somehow similar to the Universe, that deep reverence somehow leads to right action. I beg to differ. I possess deep reverence of the earth, but the moon and stars less so.

    I feel that right action requires very close study of the real world, not so much the “big picture”. Again, I suggest that each person tackle one real problem and spend all their energy on that.

    The whole business about turning down the thermostat and all is fine, but it’s an infinitesimal drop in the bucket, and frankly a bit vain. Besides, my house plants wouldn’t appreciate it one bit.

  233. From Peter: “Doesn’t this sound even slightly absurd to you? Suppose someone wants to use my toilet, I ask them what medications they are on, what cosmetics they wear, what sorts of water have they been drinking?”

    Well, he was somewhat joking about this, but only up to a point. Obviously, because such things (drugs) would be excreted and one would eventually use manure to fertilize an area where food crops would be grown, I would have the same concern as my friend. I know they don’t use drugs. But, then again, even “natural” substances (alas, I’m tired of the natural-versus-unnatural debate), such as hops, have hormonal implications (esp. for men)…beer doesn’t all necessarily get metabolized, so some of those hormones are excreted and you can’t tell the diff between synthetic and “natural” in such a case.

    Again, I guess it gets back to making the best you can with the knowledge you have at any given time.

  234. From Peter: “I feel that right action requires very close study of the real world, not so much the “big picture”. Again, I suggest that each person tackle one real problem and spend all their energy on that.”

    I don’t think this is an either/or, all/nothing proposition, Peter. My “real world” encompasses all that has come before me and including me…our evolution, the evolution of our non-human ancestors, our stories, our mythologies, our explorations, our uncoveries of processes we had no idea existed before someone set out to investigate — or stumbled upon them or beheld them through patient observation, our divergent cosmologies, the big pictures, the small snapshots, what’s picked up by microscopes, by telescopes, by our own feeling senses.

    Also, for some of us, it takes half a lifetime, even a lifetime to find the “problem” we want to spend our energy on. It’s all part of the whole (and the holiness) of life. And what’s a “drop in the bucket” to one person may be someone else’s deluge.

    I think deep reverence of the whole CAN lead to right action, but this plays out differently in every person. My point is, to the extent that we participate in the Universe’s becoming self-aware, then we a have an awesome responsibility here. This is not meant to guilt anybody into right action or cause anyone to turn away out of a feeling of futility, but just to become aware: Admire the beauty in a sunrise, look at a hunk of granite and notice the lines and imagine the forces and pressures it took to create the rock, take heed of when a fellow person is suffering and see if there’s something you can do to help, even if it’s just a smile.

    There’s enough room for as diverse a number of “right action(s)” as there are people and lifeforms on this planet.

  235. Leigh writes:
    > the Universe’s becoming self-aware

    You see, this is a sticking point for me. Does aware “know” what it is? I don’t think so.

    And just what is aware, anyway? Is a thermostat “aware”? It knows the temperature and turns the furnace on and off for you.

    I submit awareness = life. Life is something very different from electricity. Machines may be smart but they aren’t alive.

    Alive is what I am talking about when I talk about awareness. Any living creature that is trying to stay alive is aware at their own level.

    Maybe you could program that into a machine but it would just be a simulation of life and not life. Hence, not aware.

    plb

  236. Let me put it this way, I hold in my hand a 20 million year old bee encased in amber. I am impressed that the sap is 20 million years old but the fact that I am looking at a creature from 20 million years ago blows me away.

  237. From Peter: “Let me put it this way, I hold in my hand a 20 million year old bee encased in amber. I am impressed that the sap is 20 million years old but the fact that I am looking at a creature from 20 million years ago blows me away.”

    If I were holding that in my hands, I’d be blown away, too, Peter. Then you’d have two “awarenesses” feeling aware of their being blown away.

    So, maybe this is a little too precious, but it’s also deadly serious and fun at the same time. Why deadly serious? Because this awareness/self-awareness is what leads us to participate, to live, to give a damn about species other than ourselves. Why fun? Because to build on what you’ve said, each life is a partial canvas just waiting for us to finish the work of weaving more canvas while at the same time, figuring out our subject, and then representing that subject in a way that, foremost, pleases us and then, we hope, by pleasing us, pleases others. I submit that when we are aware and aware of our own awareness, we feel more connected to everything and everyone around us. That’s exciting. It holds our interest and (usually) keeps us from making harmful mischief.

  238. Peter said: “The whole business about turning down the thermostat and all is fine, but it’s an infinitesimal drop in the bucket, and frankly a bit vain. Besides, my house plants wouldn’t appreciate it one bit.”

    Nope, the plants don’t like it. I lost an extraordinary Christmas cactus the first winter in my stone building. I didn’t turn the thermostat down, I turned it off. In fact the furnace is not even in the house any more.

    On human waste, Peter what are you going to do with your human waste when the water supply fails; fortunately you you have 4 acres so this could be relatively easy, so for the sake of discussion lets assume you live in a populated area like the rest of America. I must note also that most water supply systems in the country are sorely outdated and failures are frequent.

    Janet

  239. Peter said ““There’s a shampoo that’s used to kill lice and the active ingredient is one of those things that doesn’t come out of the water — it’s a proven toxic chemical that can’t be removed in a treatment plant,” Correa said.”

    Rural septic systems and the majority of municipal waste treatment facilities are designed to remove solids and have a residence time for degradation of biological hazards. These waste streams are extremely diluted with water; adding to the complexity and cost of chemical separation. Chemical separation of toxins, pharmaceuticals, industrial wastes, personal care products involves a great deal of expensive technology.

    If we were to consider water the blood of the earth, a substance with essence, life force and essential for all living things, why do we shit in it. Water has been proven to have memory.
    The problem is first most cultural, secondly unethical.

    Our barriers to the solution to the problem; attitude, fear, entitlement is clearly evident in your comments and representative of most Americans.

    Janet

  240. > what are you going to do with your human waste when the water supply fails; fortunately you you have 4 acres so this could be relatively easy, so for the sake of discussion lets assume you live in a populated area like the rest of America.

    I live in a populated area. I live ten miles from Cornell University, one of the biggest in the world. Most of the people I know have wells and septic tanks onsite. What is the question, really? Do I think the water supply of the nation is going to fail? How can I answer such a question?

    When NYC was settled there were no water mains and no sewers. They finally decided on a public water supply in order to have water to fight fire. In those days hardly anybody drank plain water because it was usually unsafe due to bacteria.

    Years went by before sewers were added. Waste was removed by haulers, out to Long Island, no doubt. So, water is not required to process sewage. It is simpler this way but realistically, sewage COULD be a closed system with the water being recycled. The fact that our potable water and waste water systems are connected is inconvenient but not insurmountable.

    In my house, the laundry water just goes into the woods instead of into the septic system. I know enough about plumbing where I could easily create a separate water system using surface water for the toilets showers, and laundry. The well water could be reserved for uses such as drinking, cooking, etc. where pure water is essential.

    Insofar as cities are concerned, that’s a job for the city planners. Gray water systems are already being piloted in drought stricken areas of the west. But these are advances in technology, not a return to the world of outhouses, night soil collectors, and giving kids beer to drink because water isn’t safe.

  241. Peter, I think you should investigate the failures of septic systems placed close to wells that supply drinking water; it is a national problem. You should also have your water and your neighbors water tested for e-coli, etc. Most of these issues are getting swept under the carpet, people just look the other way, because there is not an easy fix. We haven’t addressed herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers in well water.

    I can give you the names of several professionals, hydro-geologist or environmental geologist if you need to talk with people who dedicate their lives to the topic.

    Janet

  242. Janet writes:
    > I think you should investigate the failures of septic systems placed close to wells that supply drinking water; it is a national problem. You should also have your water and your neighbors water tested for e-coli, etc.

    This is the last note I am going to write on the subject of sewage! Do you think we haven’t done those things? Do you think I don’t know what I am talking about? Why would you think that? You may lay awake at night worrying about pure water and where the shit goes, but I don’t.

    Our well is 90 feet deep into bedrock, and the leach field is obviously downstream from it. We are not hillbillies out here. I don’t drink water from the lake like they do in town. Their sewage is “treated” and the water goes into the lake, and they drink it. It IS a closed system, which is what is needed to prevent waste of water.

  243. Janet:
    > Water has been proven to have memory

    Your idea of proof must be pretty lax, Janet Planet

    > Research published in 2005 on hydrogen bond network dynamics in water showed that “liquid water essentially loses the memory of persistent correlations in its structure” within fifty millionths of a nanosecond. — “Ultrafast memory loss and energy redistribution in the hydrogen bond network of liquid H2O”. Nature 434 (7030): 199–202.

  244. Leigh writes:
    > I submit that when we are aware and aware of our own awareness, we feel more connected to everything and everyone around us.

    May you always walk in the light, my friend. Bless you

  245. To Janet and Peter:

    Janet’s right about the problem of contaminated wells from septic systems. Maryland has a big push on to upgrade the systems of private homeowners.

    I grew up in Florida and it wasn’t but a few years after I left home that testing of my parents’ well revealed saltwater beginning to intrude. It was easier for them to convert to municipal for both incoming and outflowing supplies. The local governments have been good about requiring people to used “reclaimed water” for watering outdoors, but they persist in permitting all kinds of residential and other construction. And ag plays a part, too, as anyone knows — with all the sinkholes developing because of pumping to save citrus and berries in this recent extreme winter.

    I am not opposed to people composting their own feces/urine, but I view it much in the way I view on-site power generation: 1. You need to know what you’re doing 2. You need to be involved in what you’re doing every day…in other words, you have to take responsibility. And therein lies the rub: With regard to feces, the vast majority of folks are fecophobic and not willing to take that on. As for the disease aspect, I can agree with Peter; it could be a problem. But look at other countries where the conditions aren’t so sanitary. People’s internal microbiome adapts. Then again, I forget the stats, but the number of people who die from waterborne disease is outrageous.

    More relevant, at least in terms of water conservation here, would be a good look at the water footprint of all we consume: tea, coffee, wine, beer, foodstuffs. I was shocked at how much water coffee and tea utilize — from the growing to the processing to the transporting, not just the water I use to make them.

  246. Leigh writes:
    > they persist in permitting all kinds of residential and other construction

    This is sort of a roundabout way of saying that the local governments are unwilling to prevent people from buying and selling property, which they own, and which they believe they have the right to build on as they see fit.

    What you mean is: you think the local governments should be regulating growth, and they don’t. They don’t because they want the tax revenues.

    Not that I don’t agree, but tell it like it is

  247. From Peter: “What you mean is: you think the local governments should be regulating growth, and they don’t. They don’t because they want the tax revenues.”

    I wasn’t going there, Peter. But if we must…this is where “regulators” could take some pages from Mama Nature’s Lesson Book. That area has long been too dependent on tourism. When it’s just tourism (sales and other taxes) and residential taxes, that makes for booms and busts, something it seems as though Florida would have learned through the 20th century. That cycle cries out for management of all resources, because eventually there’s nothing left and then you won’t even have tourism or residents. (Of course, to see a geologic map of Florida, with its shifting coastlines, is to grasp the notion that nothing is permanent.)

  248. I just spent a week in Orlando. They were having a water crisis, having pumped way too much water out of the ground to mist orange groves in an attempt to prevent frost from damaging the trees. Huge sinkholes were starting to open up. They also have these types of sinkholes in Arizona.

    Humans seem to wreck the environment wherever they go. Up here in the north we used huge amounts of fuel to stay warm. Down there where it’s warm enough, they suck all the water out of the ground.

    I have long been of the opinion that the world was better off when there were millions of people instead of billions. But this is what we have now. Somehow the solutions to our problems have to be in advancing, not retreating.

    I have read enough SCI FI to know how bad it’s gonna get. Let’s write a different story together. A future that gets better, not worse. If you don’t believe in it, don’t have kids. I had three, so I guess I am part of the problem.

    plb

  249. From Peter: “Let’s write a different story together. A future that gets better, not worse.”

    How would this story begin?

  250. Leigh, I am going to try to formulate an answer to what does ”own” look like in the day to day? The context of this comment was (217)

    Can we extract one human from the race, breaking down into parts, and continue the discussion of how people contribute to environmental degradation; No. Could we add Buddha’s consciousness -being conscious of being conscious of something—and make progress toward healing the planet: yes. Each person, religion and technology is part of the tangled web of interrelationships. A good example for discussion is the scientific findings in the Orion article “A Conjoined Fate. “The deformity of insects from very low levels of radiation was much greater than from higher radiation levels. Only a highly developed technology or science can determine this. A nuclear facility is not created for the purpose of a few people; it is a product of societies proclaimed need for electricity. At what point does the individual consciousness own their part of this damage?

    There is a great deal of fear associated with nuclear power, the invisible. I think much of this fear is derived from Hiroshima and the bomb although we are willing to use radiation in the name of medicine, healing, and that is accepted. I have been asked: What do I think of Nuclear power? (I worked in the reprocessing field) and I have said many times: The day we turn off our light switches is the day we don’t need it.

    Our first step in ‘own’ in the ‘day to day’ is introspection. Let’s take climate change for example. We are in the wake of the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference. As an end user (me) of gasoline for transportation, fossil fuels for warmth, fossil fuels to manufacture appliances, computers, etc, can President Obama, representing America, regulate green house gas emissions without telling me I can no longer regulate the temperature in my house with a thermostat (fossil fuels) or I can no longer drive my warm car while listening to the radio? At this point (in our American lifestyle) it is a false expectation that legislation or government officials can effect change in our environmental collapse without the participation of each individual. In the prior administration, every time I filled up my gas tank, I effectively said , go George, go.

    I respect America for its freedom of choice, freedom of speech, a country that is for the most part highly unregulated. Our government cannot solve our environmental problems through regulation without creating a sense of oppression. Satish Kumar’s title in the welcome of the newest Resurgence magazine is “Liberty is Natural’, “An oppressive government is fiercer and more to be feared than a tiger.”—Confucius.

    Energy has been the wheels of commerce, along with Kelly’s Technium, that has created an incredible lifestyle for this country but at a cost of dependency and disconnection from nature. We must own that Climate change is the cumulative product of each individual times the consumptive habits of each of those individuals and the only solution to our “planet crisis” is to empower each individual with the tools necessary to comfort our planet as she supplies our very sustenance for life. Population growth on the planet is a given so that means we must individually reduce the burden on the planet by all of the choices we make.

    A focus of energy efficiency still relies on fossil fuels which in the day to day has proven itself a problem. A concept of energy optimization would include parameters that protect our environment, our waters, our climate, our health; i.e. the web of life. These parameters include redefining comfort, reevaluating infrastructure availability 24/7 which is not a true solar economy, fear of the cold, fear of germs, change, sense of entitlement, ego, etc. Exclusion of these parameters is why the Copenhagen Climate Conference was not a success. At this point no policy or government institution can affect the change we need because it relies on the collective effort (own) of all citizens to redefine their lifestyles, freely.

    What we own on a day to day basis starts by redefining our energy limits to what the sun delivers daily, energy derived from food grown in the soils in our back yards and the first layer of insulation is on the body, then we are making inroads to lifestyles that *integrate* with the planet and when her needs are met, so will our needs be met. Technology is dominating our lifestyles; we need to reestablish a balance with nature.

    Janet

  251. For me it began at Walden Pond. From there to Sand County, Silent Spring, and the Gaia Hypothesis. Where it goes is where we take it

  252. At this point no policy or government institution can affect the change we need because it relies on the collective effort (own) of all citizens to redefine their lifestyles, freely.

    and

    “An oppressive government is fiercer and more to be feared than a tiger.”—Confucius.

  253. > What we own on a day to day basis starts by redefining our energy limits to
    what the sun delivers daily, energy derived from food grown in the soils in
    our back yards and the first layer of insulation is on the body, then we
    are making inroads to lifestyles that *integrate* with the planet and when
    her needs are met, so will our needs be met. Technology is dominating our
    lifestyles; we need to reestablish a balance with nature.

    What you are describing is a completely arbitrary set of criteria that you have determined to be “correct”. In this you are simply a fundamentalist of one. Which is even more extreme than most fundamentalists because they usually at least attempt to build a consensus. Do you really expect anyone to take such a point of view seriously? You would have us live in houses that are zero degrees Fahrenheit, wearing a blanket?

    ?

  254. Here is more radical thoughts….relating to language. If language involves the ability to speak and write, it should also involve listening.

    On listening; is the earth trying to communicate that she is suffering? or do we use suffering in the context of humans only? Various technologies, infrastructure and associated lifestyles now prohibit us from listening.

    On a heated home; I challenge that the isothermal home, in which we are very comfortable and probably wearing Bermuda shorts and t-shirts in the winter (exaggerating for the sake of discussion) is a key element in what isolates us from Nature. Other technology such as the TV or computer also increases how much time we spend in doors. A great book on sustainability targeted the advent of glass as something that isolates us from nature; we sit inside, looking out, and think we are enjoying the out of doors….not quite true. The isothermal home has the same consequence. A toilet in the home, so we don’t have to deal with our waste, contributes to our disconnect with natural process of life; defecation and the natural return of this resource to our environment.

    If we had an outhouse, that also could feed our soils, so we grew incredible food in our back yards, or if we warmed ourselves in the sun on chilly mornings, would we be in an environment in which we could listen to the earth. I do agree with you by the way, Leigh, on the potential hazards of human waste.

    I have spent almost two decades working in the residential landscape; a standard lifestyle is leaving a warm house, through a warm garage, to a warm car, to a warm office, to a warm grocery store and back home again. Not exactly natures example of seasonal cycles and diversity. While at work, the landscape contractor came to mow the lawn, trim the shrubs and the garbage man took the food packaging to the dump.

    Residential landscapes are a completely unrecognized resource and mostly a chemical depository. The resident is not held accountable for the same things that corporations are held accountable for; double standard, very limited sense of personal responsibility with what we do at home.

    If we started growing our own food, our health would greatly increase, we would be less depressed,. If we optimized our living environment so that the sun warmed our house for evening hours
    using an inexpensive thermal panel, we could help a tight finance budget during a recession.

    William McDonough, architect, in Cradle to Cradle talks about closed systems and applies his theories of healthy work environment at corporate levels. If we to start with this smallest unit, the residence, and a home owner capable of introspection, intent and the purpose of the home is not just shelter, but includes food production, recycling into the landscape, food storage, ….this is how the story begins; an ‘animate earth’.

    Janet

  255. Peter said: “Do you really expect anyone to take such a point of view seriously? You would have us live in houses that are zero degrees Fahrenheit, wearing a blanket?”

    I believe I have expressed my respect for freedom of thought.

    Part of the way I live started with a premonition while driving on the front range; people freezing to death in the cracker jack style homes, constructed 10 feet apart, very small windows. I know for a fact, that these homes during a four day power outage such as in ice storm, will reach outdoor temperatures within 24 hours of loosing electricity or natural gas. We have become so dependent upon reliable infrastructure that we are not prepared to weather the storm.

    I do admit that I am sympathetic for the earth as well as these people who fail to be prepared.

    Diversity in the way we heat our houses and knowing how to dress for real warmth may save your life and it also protects our national security to be prepared individually in the event of any catastrophe.

    Up to you.

    Janet

  256. > If we started growing our own food, our health would greatly increase, we
    would be less depressed,

    I already addressed this. I have a four acre woodlot. Are you suggested I clear cut it, and plant something? You know, farming was tried in upstate NY.

    They moved on because in our area the soil is so full of rocks you can’t till it. Around here farmers use huge plows and plow right through the rocks to plant corn.

    But what about the birds, foxes, wild flowers and trees? Why should I displace them to plant four acres of corn? Hey, we’ve tried growing some vegetables and herbs, but around here, the deer come right down to your house and eat everything.

    The only way to keep them away is with a ten foot electric fence. I know, because I know people who have them and people that don’t and the ones that don’t lose a lot of what they grow.

    Of course, maybe I should plant enough so the deer and the coons and the woodchucks can all share it with me.

  257. oopps…I should have signed that comment:
    Janet aka
    fundamentalist of one

    ….grin

  258. Peter said “I already addressed this. I have a four acre woodlot. Are you suggested I clear cut it, and plant something? You know, farming was tried in upstate NY.”

    I don’t suggest reinventing the corporate agricultrual wheel that did not respect natures example of diversity.

    If I had four acres, I would consider chickens and goats. I have some of the best fresh goat milk in my refrigerator right now; I can send you a picture of Butters and her baby born January 12, named Pinto Bean. I doubt pictures can be submitted on this discussion page.

    Mostly, growing food and naturally is setting intention.

    Janet

    I have tried for 20 years in the field of landscape contracting to re-establish native vegetation after disturbance; almost impossible.

  259. From Janet: “What we own on a day to day basis starts by redefining our energy limits to what the sun delivers daily….”

    Janet, I could not do this now, even if I tried. I, too, live beyond my daily allotment of sunlight, even though I’m not a “gadget” person, am conscious of turning off lights not being used, unplugging adapters, etc. I want to be able to live this way — it’s the most just way I can imagine — but I’m not sure how. Even if I got PV panels — parts of them are still made from ancient sunlight. I guess there’s not much sense in trying to be a purist when it comes to energy, save our own self-generated/generating foci and intentions.

  260. Peter,

    I think Janet is onto something here. This is not a fundamentalist approach. Who knows what future materials engineering developments hold that will really allow people to set their own personal thermostats, based on what they’re wearing. Where I used to work, we would freeze in the winter — and in the summer, the AC was so low, many of us still needed heaters just to be comfortable. This isn’t to bash my employer so much as to say, we worked in a very poorly designed, energy-inefficient building, built at a time when fossil fuels were cheap and deemed to “last forever.”

  261. From Peter: “Are you suggested I clear cut it, and plant something?”

    No, don’t cut it…work with it. Use some permaculture design principles that can feed you and them — and realize that “they” (the critters” won’t be interested in everything. Yeah, there’s some up-front protection required while getting such things established. Cutting down the forest for a monocrop is not what we’re talking about. You can grow more kilocalories in a forest setting than you can with ag, anyway. Might you have to adjust your palate? Perhaps. But solutions tend to involved a little give, a little take.

  262. From Janet: “I have tried for 20 years in the field of landscape contracting to re-establish native vegetation after disturbance; almost impossible.”

    Part of the skewed thinking of H. sapiens is NOT recognizing that disturbance is an ongoing, inherent part of evolution (by making that part of our understanding, we’re better able to adapt to disturbances when they happen). And “native” will only work if other beings don’t step in that, somehow, better fill the niche(s) created by the disturbance.

    I have a great distaste for multiflora rose (“multideplora” rose, a friend calls them). They were brought here from Asia to serve as a natural livestock barrier. That didn’t work. Now, they’ve colonized many places here in the Mid-Atlantic. Anymore, I think, Why bother trying to get rid of them? Their hips are just as good for Vitamin C as other roses. So, I’m getting over my distaste. But that doesn’t mean I especially like them. Goats would, of course!

  263. Janet writes
    > I have tried for 20 years in the field of landscape contracting to re-establish native vegetation after disturbance; almost impossible. … If I had four acres, I would consider chickens and goats.

    So here I have four acres which been untouched for 100 years. How do I know? First, no stumps. But beyond that, I have looked at aerial photographs at Cornell University.

    My woodlot and the adjacent 100 acres have not been logged in that time. It is fairly easy to tell what’s been logged.

    Recent evidence of course, is stumps and snags everywhere. But in our lot there are several giant oaks and a very large magnolia.

    And you think I should fence off the four acres and let a bunch of goats ruin it? This woods is the same woods where I kept a few bee hives until a bear tore one to bits.

    Maybe, just maybe, I think the bear should be able to have my woods for his own personal hangout. I bet he would love the goats.

    Pete

  264. Janet writes:
    > I know for a fact, that these homes during a four day power outage such as in ice storm, will reach outdoor temperatures within 24 hours of loosing electricity or natural gas. We have become so dependent upon reliable infrastructure that we are not prepared to weather the storm.

    Yes, well, we have ice storms here and I have been without power for several days in winter. Our house is brick with living space in the basement. We do OK, burning wood, but the well pump is electric so that’s a bit of a pisser.

    However, I have water stored, and food, and a camp stove and all that. So “we” aren’t as unprepared as you think. I have a friend who keeps several months worth of food and fire wood ready to hand.

    At the University where I work, they have their own electric supply, water supply and a coal fired heat plant that pipes steam to the buildings in winter. In the summer they draw 40 degree water from the bottom of the lake to cool the buildings.

    Imagine the hew and cry from the locals when they proposed to take water from the lake! In the many years that we have been doing it now, there has been no detectable effect on the lake.

    The water is so cold, that it can go up the hill and all over campus and run back into the lake without raising the lake water even a miniscule fraction of a degree.

    That was a technological fix which eliminated the air conditioners, filled with freon, and substituted cold water from the earth, a perpetually available source.

    This lake is extremely deep. There are places along the shore where it just drops off hundreds of feet. The fishermen stand at the edge and cast into the deep water for large mouthed bass and who knows what lurking below.

    Unfortunately, the lakes are polluted with agricultural waste so you aren’t supposed to eat these fish more often than once a month

  265. Peter said “I already addressed this. I have a four acre woodlot. Are you suggested I clear cut it, and plant something? You know, farming was tried in upstate NY.”

    Janet said “I don’t suggest reinventing the corporate agricultrual wheel that did not respect natures example of diversity.”

    Peter: I meant in the 17 and 1800’s. The settlers cut down all the trees in this area and tried to farm it. It wouldn’t work. The soil is too rocky, spring comes too late, it’s either too wet to plant, or if you get a good crop started the rain stops and nobody around here has enough water to irrigate anything. The only thing that is planted in these parts is field corn and hay, to feed to milk cows. And those businesses are marginal at best.

    You see, there are some areas that are good for farming and some that just flat aren’t. That’s why we have *evolved* a modern system of growing crops where they do well and moving them around the world to where the people are that want to eat them.

    I don’t see anything the matter with this system. It has been in place for thousands of years. There was the Silk Road, and then vast shipping routes, world travel and exchange of food and raw materials.

    Can you imagine Italy without tomatoes, England without tea, me without coffee? The countries of the world shared these things long before the advent of corporate agriculture. Corporate agriculture did not create the food system we have, the system we already had created corporate agriculture

  266. Leigh, I realize my ideals fall short of what I can do today also; what is key is realizing we must start the transition, not just in energy as the object, but in the reconnection to our food supplies, which will reconnect us to nature.

    We must have diversity at home when it comes to fundamental life support systems; this could be the absolute subject of the stimulus program….no one would be left behind and there is much talk about local economies. What cannot be done at home is supported by the community or water shed.

    We must break away from the attitude that the government (infrsstructure) should do it for you, rather what we can do for our communities…….

    Colorado’s unemployment funds are gone. Food stamps have almost doubled in the past year on the western slope. At a minimum, people can off-set tight finances through diversity in their food and energy supplies; but we fail to do so like in the days of the victory gardens. We have become so dependent that collapse is a real possibility. It takes at least five years to build soils.

    I have seen road closures shut off our food supplies; three years ago on Christmas eve, I-70 was closed and produce isles from Glenwood Springs to Ridgway were empty. I was absolutely humored; no one is listening……this was on Christmas eve. Two years ago, the highway from Paonia to Glenwood Springs was closed for three months. This is what I am referring to as listening to the earth and her gentle messages. We no longer act as if we were an superior species.

    The Technium is the devil in the respect that it has isolated us from nature; The Technium is part of the game in the scientific aspects that proves species loss, environmental degradation, etc.

    In contrast, there are many indications that grass roots movements for food production are growing. See chickenlaw.com.

    Permaculture….good comment!

    I see suburbia as such an unrecognized key resource for survival; we have water supply and highly developed soils because we have over watered our bluegrass lawns for so many years. Vacant houses due to mortgage collapse could be barns, heated garages could grow hydroponics, courtesy strips could be orchards of fruit trees, alleys could be chicken runs on one street and raspberries on the next, etc.

    eternally optimistic

    Janet

    Janet

  267. From Peter: “Are you suggested I clear cut it, and plant something?”

    No, don’t cut it…work with it. Use some permaculture design principles that can feed you and them—and realize that “they” (the critters) won’t be interested in everything.

    Oh yes they will. We have wood chucks, crows, wild turkeys, hordes of deer, and of course, my friend the bear. The raccoons, squirrels and probably rats, get into my compost pile and eat most of the good stuff.

    But look, don’t you guys get it? I am leaving these four acres alone! What greater sacrifice is there than that? I could make a lot of money off of the wood. I could raise goats and chickens, and save a lot of money on food. I choose to leave the woods alone, and let nature have it to her own purposes.

    I am just thankful that my neighbors own about 100 times as much as I do, so my 4 acres butt up against an unbroken woodlot that is almost one square mile.

  268. I am sorry to belabor the point, but here is something that I do that I think has immense value. But I don’t suggest that YOU do it.

    I don’t suggest that “if everybody would buy x number of acres and leave them the hell alone then the world would heal itself without our incessant fiddling with it”

    I just do it and leave it at that. nobody has to know

  269. Leigh, I am glad you turned me on the One Straw Revolution. The point of view expressed in it sort of fleshes out this discussion. For example:

    It is said that Einstein was given the Nobel Prize in physics in deference to the incomprehensibility of his theory of relativity. If his theory had explained clearly the phenomenon of relativity in the world and thus released humanity from the confines of time and space, bringing about a more pleasant and peaceful world, it would have been commendable. His explanation is bewildering, however, and it caused people to think that the world is complex beyond all possible understanding. A citation for “disturbing the peace of the human spirit” should have been awarded instead.

    Of course, I don’t agree with one word. Einstein is one of my heroes.

  270. Peter says, “But look, don’t you guys get it? I am leaving these four acres alone! What greater sacrifice is there than that?”

    Yes, Peter, I do “get it.” But I also understand that we need to work with, rather than even separate ourselves from, wildness/wilderness (the term itself is indicative of a sort of separation). Now, would I use goats there? Probably not. Maybe a pair of rare breed sows that could be forest foragers…but only intermittently and only to create a minimal disturbance in the ground/understory. Of course, this would depend on the goals for the place.

    As for firewood, you could encourage species amenable to coppicing and then cut as you need wood (e.g., locust is one that works well in the Mid-Atlantic; not sure about there).

    Or…you could continue: “I choose to leave the woods alone, and let nature have it to her own purposes.” I can favor this as well.

    As for growing food and trucking it all over the place, we don’t have the energy to continue that. And the way ag is structured now, it’s like everyone’s taking in everyone else’s laundry. Just look at the stats on broccoli grown in the U.S. and Mexico and how much gets exported/imported into both. It’s silly. If we just traded what we grow in surplus naturally, that’d be a different story. I don’t mean commodity crops, either. Why should Africans grow corn? Why shouldn’t they grow crops their land has evolved to grow? We shouldn’t be growing corn on the Plains ourselves, given how much water gets sucked out. England doesn’t grow tea. We don’t grow coffee in North America, though we can grow substitutes for both, but again, that would require palate changing.

  271. From Janet:
    “I see suburbia as such an unrecognized key resource for survival; we have water supply and highly developed soils because we have over watered our bluegrass lawns for so many years….”

    If I had my ‘druthers, Janet, the suburbs would produce much more of our food. You can do a lot in a small space…and it would remove some of the pressure on closer-in places where stands of trees could be grown (like Peter’s, though I don’t know how close his is to the suburbs…or even if there are those sorts of pressures there).

    We really need to create more “edge” effects in large and small ways, edges being places where, like estuaries, diversity is much greater.

    Depending on soils, you can use Yeomans’ Keyline method (chisel plow and plant deep-rooted N fixers, doing this to progressively deeper levels) to build soil in three years…crop soils, that is. Where I live, I use sheet-mulching (an ongoing experiment) and am not sure how quickly that will work. I’m planning to use cover crops this year and rotate those on a very small scale. Yeomans’ method relies on cutting or grazing deep-rooted nitrogen fixers. Cutting or grazing kills them and you get an explosion of microbial activity in the soil, hence the building.

  272. > We don’t grow coffee in North America

    It’s grown in Mexico. They can bring it to me on horseback. I am prepared to pay extra.

    Pete

  273. Alright, we have pretty much laid out three diverging positions. Let’s say that one of our readers was to come forward and say:

    Janet. Leigh, and Pete have presented strong arguments from each POV. What should I do now?

    How would you answer that question?

  274. Peter,

    My bad about the coffee/Mexico–forgot it’s grown there, but nevertheless…We are all addicted to something.

    As for this:
    “‘Janet, Leigh, and Pete have presented strong arguments from each POV. What should I do now?’
    How would you answer that question?”

    I would have to say, “It depends.” On the person’s circumstances, where they live, the resources they have or lack and many other variables. So many answers/solutions depend on the site and the person in question. I could say, Well, So and so, why don’t you compost your own crap? Even assuming So-and-so has an interest, then my next question would be, Do you have access to clean sawdust (not from pressure-treated wood)…or enough leaf litter? You need the dry material for composting. Even more fundamental, Is this something you will want to do long-term? Or, is there too much work involved?

    One thing I see in any suggested solution is that a person’s willingness to take on some extra work, to forego some convenience, needs to be factored in. So, for me to suggest that you could plant edibles of some sort on your four acres, I would need to know whether you’d be willing to invest in materials (fencing) to protect them until they are large enough to escape, say, browsing from deer. If not, it just contributes to the waste stream: wasted materials, wasted labor/energy.

    If someone can handle indoor temps below what constitutes comfortable for most of us, then that person should take that on…and yes, as you’ve said, typically, it will go unacknowledged. What’s important is that the person in question feels good about what s/he is doing and that it’s not causing others harm (other people…family members, for example, or other species, such as house plants whose aesthetic qualities cannot go unacknowledged).

    The biggest problem confronting us is our feeling that we are separate. A subset problem of this is that we are not “right” with energy/energies. I have to question whether we’ve ever been. To what extent have we been able to live on daily sunlight — even before we began burning wood, which is not daily sunlight? Even using draft power…it takes time for animals to build muscle. So, maybe I’m trying to straddle a bizarre divide here.

    Then again, our designs really suck, Peter. Grain agriculture is one example. Unless we can sustain our soils, we’ll eventually run out. Same with water. My goal for myself is to minimize imports and exports of fertility off the place I live. To start, I’m importing horse poo that I can get for free (still have to use gasoline to get it, though). I’ve got to challenge myself to plant the right stuff that will capture the sun and help me maintain fertility/improve the soil. I think it can be done, but don’t quite know how for my set of circumstances and this particular place. The experiment is fun and I’m learning. Not sure what could be better than that.

  275. Don’t know if we will hear from Janet again. My answer would be — listen to the stories, search your heart, do what you feel is right, don’t worry about what others think, keep an open mind.

  276. Leigh said; The biggest problem confronting us is our feeling that we are separate.

    I would like to see you expand on this thought Leigh; separate from each other, as communities, spiritually?

    I am less interested in “what we do” and more in how did we get here; we must understand the limitations that keep us from changing. How does technology play a part in our disconnect from nature, separation? I have thought about this a great deal.

    We haven’t discussed collapse in this discussion, nor do I recall the 2012 or Mayan calendar topics.

    janet

  277. I agree with you, Peter. I get tired of much of the “greener”washing that goes on. Competition should be left for games (not the kind Kelly speaks of, but artifice)…they, too, can yield benefits as when students compete to see who can develop the most energy-conserving house, etc. Plus, each person’s situation is different. I do want to hear about what others do for I may be able to adopt their technologies and adapt them to my circumstances.

    Kind regards,
    Leigh

  278. Janet,

    Maybe there’s an ecology of separation that stretches back through our ancestors. It may not start with the self, but it takes hold there (see Jung or see Robert Bly’s take on the human shadow) and then expands out and ebbs back…then you get feedback loops with reinforcement positive or negative, depending on how you react to what happens to you and how others react to your reactions and so on.

    Separation w/in the self can manifest as gross lack of respect for oneself (one’s health and well-being) or in a perfectionist attitude (the idea that you must save the world) or as treating oneself too harshly.

    In and of itself, technology can bring us closer, help us heal the rifts. Without the technology of clothing, for instance, we would not be able to experience the seasons year-round, wouldn’t be able to note changes taking place, discern what’s normal in a given time of year from what’s not. But it can be used otherwise…all of the technologies that fill our houses can keep us from going out of doors, if we allow them to.

    And so far as I know, there’s yet no technology that induces us to get up off our duffs and head out — save the beauty of the world itself and that’s incentive enough, I think, though I’m in a generation that had a lot of first-hand contact and hours spent outdoors, alone, observing. I feel sad for younger people because they’ve been exposed to more of the “distractive” (time-extractive) technologies and more pressure is on them in schools to get jobs rather than to gain knowledge and enjoy Earth.

    Also, science and the technologies it uses to observe various phenomena is proving over and over that there is NO separation between us and anything else here.

    About “collapse”: What can I offer? No matter how much I learn, I know that I, too, am just as susceptible as anyone else to any problems or catastrophes that befall us. But gaining knowledge is the best hope we have, in such situations, of being of service to others and to ourselves.

    As for the Maya or Armageddon and such…I see the former as part of a cycle and a cyclic understanding of time and nature; the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions are linear, not cyclical. Collapses (or “disturbance,” if you prefer the ecologically appropriate term) have always happened and will continue to. The issue today is one of scale. With so many things mass-produced and available to so many, that makes for a rather steep place to swing down from.

    It’s only recently that I’ve stopped feeling as though I can oppose suffering in any effective way. Suffering’s always been part of the human experience. What bothers me most is what we do to other species — wild, not domesticated species — as they really have chosen to “opt out” but cannot effectively do so; their fates are intertwined with ours. So, even though they have intrinsic value, what we do inevitably affects them, often in a negative way, but not unilaterally. Some species we inadvertently give a leg up. Others, like the dusky seaside sparrow, die out. But their deaths — I think — are sadder for us than for them. There will be extinctions, Janet. The question is, What do we do with that? With our feelings about them? With our reactions toward them? Can we actually prevent what’s already been set in motion?

  279. > Maybe there’s an ecology of separation that stretches back through our ancestors.

    Well — yeah. Don’t you remember Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden? Isn’t that what this discussion is all about?

    Having learned who we are and what we are capable off — can be a curse, or a blessing.

  280. From Peter: “Well—yeah. Don’t you remember Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden? Isn’t that what this discussion is all about?”

    I’m not drawing on Biblical metaphors, Peter. And who says they got “kicked” anyway? Self-selection is more like it! In reality, it probably came about from the mutation involved in acquiring complex language systems and maybe mistaking signs for the things they represent.

  281. Leigh writes:
    > I’m not drawing on Biblical metaphors, Peter. And who says they got “kicked” anyway?

    I was just joking, Leigh. But I have always thought the Biblical Fall from Grace was an apt metaphor. The animals don’t agonize over stuff they way we do, having not opened Pandora’s Box (more metaphor).

    The question remains: Now that we are self aware, and realize that knowledge is power, will we use that power for good or evil?

    Frankly, I don’t think I have really tipped my hand all the way, but now I shall.

    I think that we need to preserve vast tracts of wild nature in order to maintain the integrity of the earth. Therefore, we must change our whole process of fuel and food production.

    I think genetic engineering and nuclear power are the way we will do this. Sorry

    Peter Loring Borst

  282. From Peter: “I think genetic engineering and nuclear power are the way we will do this. Sorry.”

    Why apologize? And to whom?

    We disagree on both counts, here. You probably know that.

    But I’m curious to know: Why do you see these two technologies as the keys to changing “our whole process of fuel and food production” with the impetus being the maintenance of earth’s integrity?

  283. > Why apologize? And to whom?

    To my fellow Thoreauvians who came to a different conclusion. They view me as a turncoat. Wrong side of the revolution, and all. Thanks to Wallace Kaufman for straightening me out.

    > Why do you see these two technologies as the keys to changing “our whole process of fuel and food production” with the impetus being the maintenance of earth’s integrity?

    We all agree that modern agriculture and the process of coal removal, oil extraction, etc. are devastating to the earth.

    By radically increasing food production through genetic engineering we can use less acreage for farms and more acreage for wildlife preserves (no humans allowed, unless naked and on foot)

    By using nuclear power, specifically fusion — not fission, we can provide electricity without coal or oil, which are non renewable and polluting.

    By the way, I know all the arguments against these, because I opposed them for decades. But I am afraid this is the way we are headed and it would be better to help ensure oversight and safety than to stick head in sand.

    JMHO

  284. Leigh:
    > Why apologize? And to whom?

    Right. I do not believe I am wrong in this, and I respect your and Janet’s positions. I don’t think you are wrong, either.

    It’s just this is the point where they usually start flinging tomatoes. Thanks for not!

    Pete

  285. Nice Leigh, I will check into the ‘take on the human shadow’.

    On clothing, Leigh said “Without the technology of clothing we would not be able to experience the season’s year round….all of the technologies that fill our houses can keep us from going out of doors, if we allow them too. “
    Exactly! The isothermal house…….fed by fossil fuels and a thermostat is one of the technologies that isolates us, separates us from nature, our concept of comfort. We don’t make progress primarily due to fear of the cold; we have forgotten how to be comfortable indoors without the thermostat. We no longer as a society have the innate sense of seasons and when it is time to plant seed, harvest, collect wood for winter warmth.
    I love your comment …..”no technology that induces us to get up off our duffs”……
    In the sense that technology separates us from our sustenance, our airtight insulated homes, it is the devil. This article by Kelly is all about the Garden of Technology….Garden of Eden….where we need to be headed.
    Peter…I like the term self-selection! Yes, you are on the right track when you say we must change our whole process of fuel and food production.
    But it goes even deeper….. Janet said (107) ….. “I’m changing the object of healing here intentionally. Stephan Harding in Animate Earth discusses his insecurity and vulnerability in the scientific world when he “attempted to speak of the Earth and of the living beings that inhabit her not merely as objects, but as subjects, a feelingful beings”…I argue that technology, physicists in particular, are very close to proving Stephan Harding’s “Animate Earth” concepts. Let’s introduce the concept of spontaneous healing, the power of loving thought; one example “What the Bleep”. Leigh’s comment (184)”Wouldn’t someone who recognizes that s/he/s been wounded also take stock of the effects on others and then take steps to make amends.” My thoughts jump to Stephan Harding’s “feelingful beings” and our dilemma that the earth is in crisis as a result of many people’s consumptive habits. We realize the earth is wounded; In my ideal world, I hypothesize the earth can be healed collectively and with a whole bunch of change at home. I mostly agree with the quote by Dr. Shiva (173) “The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralizing and monopolizing power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice, peace”… A sustainable planet must start with the actions and loving intentions of the individual not just monopolizing powers; Introspection of our contribution to planet collapse, Intent to make a difference, and Integration or rediscovery of our source of sustenance: warmth from what the sun delivers daily and food from our soils .”
    We must identify what limits us from change; the human elements of fear, comfort, entitlement, ego, lost sense of personal responsibility. The laws of cause and effect no longer apply because many layers of technology has interfered.
    We are ‘separate’ ……..Leigh mentions ‘Maybe there’s an ecology of separation…..Can you add to this Leigh?
    Is technology the lesson?
    Is love, not just among humans but for the animate earth, the lesson?

    Janet

  286. Electricity (Nuclear Power); not essential for survival, but it is necessary during our period of transition to minimize chaos, inefficiency.

    Genetic engineering will work if humans can find nutrition in outdated electronics.

    The day we loose electricity because a solar flair has disabled all electronics, is the day we go outside into the light. I just hope the birds are still singing on that day and there is fruit on the vine.

    Peter, I have to bust you…finally……you have played the game of devil’s advocate so well. It has resulted in some great discussion for Orion’s blog.

    Janet

  287. > Is love, not just among humans but for the animate earth, the lesson?

    Dunno, but I love how it sounds.

    Actually, I am a hopeless romantic. I would rather love the earth and be cradled in her arms, than to have to USE her for any purpose.

    But that is our lot: we live at the expense of other life forms, either by eating them, burning them, living amidst them.

    I respect anyone who tries to reduce their footprint. But there will always be footprints where there are feet.

    We should figure out a way to wrap this up, we’re almost to 300 posts ; )

  288. Peter, Leigh, it’s been a lot of fun, we’ve covered some ground.
    Maybe we’ll meet in Orion’s next issue.

    Janet

  289. Peter,

    On what do you base the assumption that we’ll radically increase food production through genetic engineering? The same limiting factors (sun, soil composition, water and others) are present, even with GMOs. And so far, the track record has not been great. Yields have not been what they were projected to be; farmers are using more biocides, not fewer; and the control of GMOs lies with the few, not the many. Food (including seeds) needs to lie within the commons. I can think of no worse way to die than starving to death…and we in the States are often malnourished, and that’s its own set of problems, but part of the larger issue of food production and what gets grown, what gets purchased.

    The way things are right now, we rely on too few foods. We need to be heading the other direction, expanding our caloric diversity. That’s the sort of thing that can be done with permaculture. And you can grow food in the wild; in fact, such places are more calorically productive than ag lands.

    You are right about oversight, though. I understand when our friends in St. Louis backed off developing GMO wheat, Bayer in Germany and other countries (China) began experimenting. Now, the St. Louis folks are putting their hat back in the ring and are on track to release something by 2018.

  290. From Janet: “The laws of cause and effect no longer apply because many layers of technology has interfered.”

    They still apply…we just don’t see causes or effects as clearly. And, yes, technologies do allow us to avoid confronting the things we need to. And maybe technology can provide a fix? What if there were something that happened every time I flipped a switch that reminded me how many square inches/feet (or some understandable measure) of diverse habitat was being blasted to oblivion in Appalachia? And when I turned off the light, that let me know how many flying squirrels disappeared because of my actions hundreds of miles from where they live? Can we get that kind of interconnectivity going? Would that help?

    I don’t think the “lesson” is any one thing for all of us. We each have different things to learn. We’re as different as snowflakes.

  291. From Peter: “…we live at the expense of other life forms…”

    Yes, we do. And we need to ensure that we, too, are players by being more generous with them, by minimizing our take and ponying up more of ourselves — better designs that slow entropy and improve fertility all around and reinforce the recognition that there really is no “us”, no “them”…just “we.”

    How’s that for a close, Peter?

    Thanks to you and Janet, Lance and Dave…and many of the young people who commented here. Been thought- and feeling-provoking.
    Leigh

  292. Leigh writes:
    > And you can grow food in the wild; in fact, such places are more calorically productive than ag lands.

    Leigh, I first read Euell Gibbons’ “Stalking The Wild Asparagus” in high school. I ate wild foods before it was cool. I became a beekeeper, sold honey for a living for many years.

    I have no quarrel with what you say. I have simply gone on to another sort of life than that. My occupation now involves switching genes off and on in living animals.

    This is not to say that what I do will have earthshaking consequences one way or another. I am excited to be part of the exploration of what is essentially another world.

    It’s the world of nature, same as the woods behind my house. There is much to be learned everywhere you look. Some things maybe we shouldn’t do. I am no longer certain where the lines should be drawn.

    It’s a conversation we could have had, but I confess have run out of steam on this one, need to move on. Anyone who has interest in discussing this further, is welcome to email me.

    Pete

  293. What is Galileo doing tonight? My hope would be that the great man is resting in peace and that his head is not spinning in his grave.

    How, now, can Galileo possibly find peace when so few leaders and experts speak out clearly and loudly regarding whatsoever they believe to be true about the distinctly human-driven predicament that could soon be confronted by the family of humanity which results directly from the unbridled overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species now overspreading the Earth and threatening to ravage the planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit? Many too many leaders and a predominant coterie of experts are choosing to remain silent.

    Where are the leaders and experts who are willing to openly support science that is being presented in solid scientific evidence and validated empirical data? Look at the dismaying disarray in which we find ourselves now and how far we have to travel in a short time to move the human community away from precipitating some unimaginable sort of global ecological wreckage.

    What would the world we inhabit look like if scientists like Galileo had chosen to adopt a code of silence? In such circumstances, Galileo as well as scientists today would speak only about scientific evidence which was deemed by the super-rich and powerful to be politically convenient, religiously tolerable, economically expedient, socially correct and culturally prescribed. Galileo and modern-day scientists would effectively breach their duty to science and humanity to tell the truth as they see it, as best they can report it. If science does not overcome silence, then everything the human community believes we are preserving and protecting could be ruined.

    Perhaps there is something in the good reports of scientific evidence by members of the Orion community regarding what could somehow be real about the world we inhabit that will give Galileo a moment of peace.

  294. where is the poetic, the contemplative aspects of reality. technology cannot create love, respect, and compassion/empathy between peoples. so where does that leave us?

  295. Paul,

    The poetic, the contemplative aspects of reality are everywhere in nature. I really appreciate hearing your train of thought; it’s exactly what we need more of.

    I have this hunch that humans are to be cured of ‘technology’ and our addiction to it. Technological advances, with all of it’s detrimental effects, do also continue to expose the miracles of life on the planet we live on, depend on for our very sustenance.

    When the industrialized portion of man can have love, respect, and have compassion/empathy between not only people, but an animate earth and all her inhabitants, then we are headed for a very positive future.

    The first step is contained in the essence of your thought.

    Janet

    technology cannot create love, respect, and compassion/empathy between peoples. so where does that leave us

  296. Dear Friends,

    If it turns out that your path to knowledge is NOT somehow on the correct track, then I fear all we claim to be protecting and preserving will be lost. Yes, I believe you are right in noticing humanity’s desperate need for a more adequate, mutually shared understanding of reality.

    Sincerely,

    Steve

  297. The idea that techies would like to get in on the juice that spirituality has today in some circles reminds me of the complaints some native american elders have voiced that the white man having stolen their land and most of what they had, now want to steal there sacred culture too. The idea that “high tech” and its priesthood (one of them claims God is a great super computer) want to be given spiritual status would be laughable if it were not so sick and totally predictable. When egos reach a certain size, they feel they can now swallow the universe.

  298. Maybe Kelly feels we should worship him and his techie buddies for upgrading the images on the wall of Plato’s cave to HD and 3D?

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