History and Nature

World News - Sept. 1, 2014

What must be done? …

To answer this question pragmatically, we need to listen to science, and science is telling us that we have to alter our energy culture and control population growth if our relationship with the planet is to remain sustainable.

The underlying message here is that nature is an integral feature of history; a feature that cannot any longer be ignored in the unfolding of the historical process. From now on, human history cannot be told or understood without also understanding nature and our effects on the natural environment that we ultimately depend on for our quality of life and survival.

That we feel separated from nature in the historical process is an illusion. That the illusion persists, despite everything we know, is mainly thanks to the efforts of power to maintain the farcical image that places civilisation outside and above nature. Nature has never played a part in the explanation of history because, once it did, the exploiting classes that wield power would have had to forfeit many of its reasons for holding onto that power. Very much of wealth’s property, for example, was accumulated by claiming a natural right to property through someone’s labour, passed down through the ages via inheritance. The truth is, nature is not something that anyone can hold a natural right to. The natural rights are nature’s own.

In the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance, nature was made by God and obeyed His laws, which was an easy way of saying that nature had to obey the laws of the churches and kings who represented God on Earth.

The Age of Enlightenment offered a new, clear explanation of history based on reason and liberty. But again, nature is largely ignored by the powers governing civilisation. Not even in the enlightenment was science allowed to have its say to explain the historical process. History gradually became something to say about the masses; a class struggle. When a revolutionary force grew, it still lacked the common-sense insight that inexorably linked the fulfilment of human progress to the world and its ecosystem, undoubtedly vital for our existence here. For the bourgeoise revolutions of the 19th century and the omnipotent force of capitalisms that accompanied them, nature was little more than an inexhaustible source of wealth that had to be exploited to the full. We are now experiencing the beginnings of the tragic consequences of that kind of thinking.

Now, things are different; we have ecology, a science that explains nature and our absolute dependency on its well-being. The damage done to the environment by our anti-natural and anti-human historical process is now evident … and it’s time to rewrite our history books and put that evidence into real consideration.

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IF WE ARE ALONE …

X-FILES-i-want-to

We are either alone in the Universe, or we’re not alone. Until formal contact with an extra-terrestrial life-form is established we can only affirm that: Intelligent life exists beyond the planet Earth or it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, we can statistically try and calculate what the possibilities of life existing beyond Earth are, and yet … does it matter? Well, if a positive, progressive energy can be generated by the conclusion, then yes, it does matter.

*

This week, the media have been latching on to a recently published article from Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute that argues the case that statistically we are most probably alone in the Universe.[1]

The article in question, by Sandberg, Drexler and Ord, called “Dissolving the Fermi Paradox” adds very little to arguments already put forward by Ward and Brownlee in their Rare Earth Hypothesis formulated nearly twenty years ago. Despite this fact, the media have picked up on the FHI paper as if it were a totally new discovery, proving that we must be very much alone.

New or not, the Rare Earth Hypotheses argues that the astrophysical, geological, chemical and biological combinations needed to create the cocktail for the evolution of intelligent life is so complex and needs to be so precise that our own existence is a freak stroke of luck, and that the accident we are is so special and fluky that it is very doubtful that is has been repeated anywhere in our Universe.

Yet, should we now assume this hypothesis as definitive? And if we do accept it, can this ‘we are alone’ perspective be beneficial for humanity in any way?

*

There is an X-Files episode (Redux, the first episode of season 5) in which the hero, Fox Mulder, is in a motel room watching a video of symposium featuring astrophysicist Carl Sagan amongst other, in which the question of the existence of life beyond Earth is being discussed. The actual symposium was held in 1975 and was joint sponsored by NASA and the Boston University.

In this conference, it was argued, in a proclamation by Richard Berendzen, that “the amount of stars in our galaxy alone is so staggeringly large, to the order of 1011 or more; the probability of stars having planetary systems is so high, perhaps half; the probability of those planetary systems might be comparable with our own and that the stars have some kind of ecosphere … suitable for life and it’s not too hot, not too cold … it begins to lead to the sorts of conclusions … that life must exist in the Universe and it must exist quite abundantly.”

Carl Sagan then affirmed that the most optimistic estimates about the number of civilisations there would be in the galaxy is in the order of a million.

Once it had been established unanimously that civilisations had to exist in the Universe, all of the speakers at the symposium expressed the view that contact with an advanced civilisation would have to be positive and enlightening for humanity. With the exception of the scientist and Nobel Prize Winner, George Wald. Wald began his speech with a positive affirmation of life in the Universe, like the others, but ended with a very sobering reflection. The tone of his voice suddenly drops into a melancholy register and he confesses that: “I can conceive of no nightmare as terrifying as establishing such communication with a so-called superior … advanced technology in outer space.” For Wald, such an encounter would be: “The degradation of the human enterprise.” He then went on to describe this enterprise: “One of the greatest of human enterprises is our understanding; something that men have sweated out to the greater dignity and worth of man, and to see the thought that we might attach us by some umbilical cord to some more advanced civilisation, science and technology in outer space, doesn’t thrill me, but just the opposite.”

What Wald is warning us of here, is that an encounter with a superior civilisation would rob ourselves of our purposiveness. And what is implicit in this argument is that humanity could have no meaningful place in any world populated by superior beings, because all our understanding would suddenly be rendered obsolete; and, as such, the human race would itself suddenly become obsolete.

What Wald is describing here, is our reason for being, which is encapsulated in our understanding.  

 

Reflecting on this point, and on our own civilisation at this point in time, we have to conclude that our own lives are very much alienated from this meaningfulness which is our understanding of things, and this displays the tremendous decadence of our system.

But what Wald’s observation also tells us is this: That if we are not alone, it is best to believe that we are alone.

*

If we are alone it imbues humanity with a tremendous responsibility – the obligation to be sapiens; to understand; to develop the human enterprise toward the fulfilment of knowing; to enjoy the meaningful pursuit of becoming knowledgeable; and, through this understanding, participate in the very Being of the Universe.

The Universe can only really exist in a qualitative way, if there is a conscious entity within that Universe that understands that It does exist. The homo sapiens is the species that knows and reflects on that knowledge. Whether or not we are the only species that knows in this Universe, believing that we are fills us with a powerful, driving purposiveness.

Embedded in this purposiveness is a duty to prolong existence in time and increase the quality of that existence, through progress.

And, in order to do that, we have to overcome the deep, nihilistic decadence that infects our civilisation today.

But again, we run into another paradox, because the human enterprise of understanding necessitates the exploration of the possibility of discovering other intelligent life-forms, even though there is a possibility that we may encounter civilisations so superior to ours that our meaningfulness in the Universe will be totally diminished.

However, perhaps this paradox is false. When we do have the technological capabilities to encounter other civilisations the dilemma would no longer have relevance for we ourselves would be advanced enough to communicate on a partnership level with the other civilisation. Likewise, if Ufologists are right, and we are being visited by extra-terrestrial civilisations already, these civilisations are wise enough to disguise their presence from us, precisely in order not to destroy our purposiveness.

[1] SEE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/27/aliens-exist-survival-universe-jim-alkhalili

https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/25/probably-intelligent-life-universe-depressing-study-finds-7657344/

 

 

 

SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: Part Three: In search of the scientific self-consciousness

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THIS ARTICLE IS A CONTINUATION OF SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY:

PART ONE: OBSERVANCE AND WHY REVOLUTIONS DON’T SUCCEED pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/science-versus-industry-part-one-observance-and-why-revolutions-dont-succeed/

PART TWO: THE REVOLUTION WE NEED https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/science-versus-industry-part-two-the-revolution-we-need/

“An emerging, better society cannot be born and cannot function without its own scientific self-consciousness”

“Man is, by his nature, incapable not only of comparing facts and deducing some consequences from them, but even simply of observing them carefully and remembering them reliably, if he does not immediately connect them with some explanation.”

“…science leads to foresight, and foresight allows us to regulate action.”

— August Comte

 

These observations by August Comte now point us toward the first battlefield of the revolution that needs to come.

Every day, in our global culture, science provides its insights and foresights into what can, could, should and must be done. Nevertheless, the, on the one hand, regulatory and on the other hand inventive and creative action that should be stimulated by scientific foresight is either slow to come about or never eventuates at all. This is because, between the thought and the act resides the market. Before any technological answer to our problems can be put into effect it must first prove itself to be the most profitable option. If there is more money to be made in milking the old technologies the market place will do so. If the final eradication of a disease threatens a profit-making industry, then the final cure will be repressed.

In this way, an untamed science becomes the enemy of industry and industry becomes the great enemy of humanity.

From industry’s point-of-view, scientific forecasts and data very often demand increased regulations which means more expenditure, the prohibition of certain uses in manufacturing, or even the prohibition of certain very profitable products (lead in petrol, many unhealthy food additives, or additives in consumer items that cause addiction are some examples of science tampering with the freedom of the market-place).

The last century has been dominated by a war between industry and science in the form of corporate and industrial censorship, manipulation and counter-sciences (bogus scientific reports paid for by industry to debunk authentically objective scientific reports). What has been so ardently proclaimed as the great age of technological advancement, has also been the great age of anti-science.

The Catholic church’s persecution of Galileo for his scientific heresies is very easily matched by the attempts to debunk theories of global climate-change. And the results of industry’s persecution of science in this technological age will be far more tragic than the church in the Renaissance.

Likewise, the military-theological society that created the first atom bomb, preferred to remain deaf to the foresight of physicist’s like Einstein that developed the theories that allowed atomic fusion to happen in the first place.

With these two examples alone, we can get an impression of the extent of anti-scientific foresight and criminality that the last hundred years has been capable of.

The dystopia toward which our society seems to be running is not the fault of science, but rather it has come about through the disregard of scientific foresight, carried out by the self-interested power of the industrialists and militarists.

Comte saw a need for a new kind of scientist: generalist rather than specialist, capable of working in all the main branches of scientific knowledge, but equally the social sciences, in order to harmonise all knowledge, form knowledge into a unified system, connecting all the elements of the new system together, and developing them into a position where it could play a leading moral role.

For the necessary change to come about, for the imminent revolution needed to change the suicide-direction that humanity is running along, a scientific self-consciousness must triumph over industry; and it must happen now!

 

SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: Part Two: THE REVOLUTION WE NEED

scientific revolution

THIS ARTICLE IS A CONTINUATION OF SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: PART ONE: OBSERVANCE AND WHY REVOLUTIONS DON’T SUCCEED pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/science-versus-industry-part-one-observance-and-why-revolutions-dont-succeed/

 

Comte believed that only advanced “scientific prevision can avert or mitigate violent revolutions.”[2] What he did not mean when he said this, was that the scientific prevision should be invented in military projects and reactionary wars of rivalry.

But if this is what he didn’t mean, what did he mean? How could a scientific prevision have made our world a better place than it is today?   …

To answer this question, we firstly need a political imagination which is observant of the ways that science can be used positively (i.e. non-superficially and non-militarily). This kind of imagination does not currently exist on any significant political level, in any “significant” nation states, either on the right or the left. This absence only makes the importance of deeper and long-range political thought more urgently necessary. This science-supportive imagination would fuel a positive, purposeful political approach that would make visionary schemes possible. Such schemes would not be industrial because their purposeful aims cannot be corrupted by profit-making needs and remain pure.

We are NOT saying that science has not produced marvellous things with industry, but that it could have produced much better, more human-enriching things if it had not been enslaved to the creativity-numbing limits imposed by the marketplace.

Schooling in this kind of science needs to be nurtured through fantastic and boundless Utopian thinking with a strong idea that we are embarking on a purposeful and limitless journey. The kind of ideas we need are those of futures in which interstellar travel is the norm; in which poverty, war and disease are abolished; in which even death is abolished, and humans will have a chance to live and learn eternally; in which humans have an advanced spiritual connection with the Universe; and in which the ecological destruction of the planet has been reversed. A positive eschatological view of the end of times, in which the descendants of humanity will become the guardians of an ever-expanding cosmos; using knowledge and incredible technologies to work with the physical nature of the Universe in order to prevent its death.

These fantastic ideas exist. It is not hard to conceive of an amazing destiny for humanity’s descendants, but our nihilistic and capitalist system does very little to take the leap into the area where science is seen as a truly transforming power for humanity. By being absorbed into the marketplace, science, like art, loses its seriousness and becomes a mere tool for profits.

The purposeful political imagination needs to imbue science with a humanistic logic and an observance of authentic human development and empowerment, free of the tremendous prejudices heaped against science by the capitalist system in favour of superficial consumerism. Corporate bodies are self-interested. Profit is their authenticity, but also their profound handicap where expectations of making a better world are concerned.

Once it is disassociated from military power and the restrictions of profit-making demands, science becomes the disinterested tool through which humanity can properly understand itself and subsequently develop its own real path towards fulfilment.

 

Of course, this is a radically new reassessment of the real tendency of civilisation, and yet, people have been crying out for it ever since August Comte began to raise these questions in the 1820s. Not that we want to resurrect Comte’s formulated system, or any Marxist formulas either, the immediate and most pressing crisis facing the whole of humanity at the moment is our ecological one and it is toward the enforcement of a definitive solution to our great existential problem that our purposeful political observance must first be aimed.

To put into effect the solutions to this crisis, science and technology are indispensable; the economy is not. If we must dismantle the capitalist marketplace to save our planet and save humanity, then let us make that sacrifice. It is quite simple: We have the problem A. The problem is caused by B. Only by eradicating B can we solve the problem of A.

Our problem is that the ecosystem that maintains life on Earth is being eroded away by the effects of a civilisation based on the superficial aims of production and growth. Superficialities are the lifeblood of our economic system and their superfluity is dragging our superficial civilisation to an absurd, unnecessary end.

The superficial aims of industry have been linked quite effectively and falsely to the noble ideas of freedom and democracy.

Of course, Wealth is reluctant to surrender the measliest millimetre of the profit-making machine it calls civilisation. Wealth will believe in its principles of constant growth, even though the consequences of this ideology are Apocalyptic. Very much of the profits nurtured by the system of growth are spent on maintaining a constant stream of propaganda that reinforces its ideology and defends it as the lifeblood of our world – even to the extent that profit-growth becomes more important than the ecosystem itself.

Gradually, however, the real enemy starts to reveal itself, and we begin to see (because science tells us) that the lifeblood of our system is a cancer. We are ill, and we need some serious painful therapy if we are to avoid a very ugly, and also very painful, premature death.

Before we can direct our mission toward Utopia, we must first undergo the therapy needed to save us from a grizzly death. This therapy will be the next, inevitable revolution. The form of the revolution depends on us, but two things are imperative: it has to take place as soon as possible, and, to succeed as a revolution (and escape the military-theological system[i]) it needs to bring about a non-violent change. Here, we want to replant Comte’s statement on science with an adjustment: not only can scientific prevision avert or mitigate violent revolutions, it can also propagate non-violent change at a revolutionary level. 

Violent revolution has to be averted at all cost, but the revolution itself is absolutely necessary.

The longer we postpone the therapy, the more painful it will be – the more likely it will be bloody, and the less likely it will be of providing any successful result.

It is time now for a great social reorganisation to take place, under the benevolent eye of science and the progressive will of creativity. Let the revolution begin!

TO BE CONTINUED …

[i] For an explanation of this, see part one: pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/science-versus-industry-part-one-observance-and-why-revolutions-dont-succeed/

SCIENCE VERSUS INDUSTRY: Part One: OBSERVANCE, AND WHY REVOLUTIONS DON’T SUCCEED

 

Science

“When a new system comes into existence, its intellectual basis, the results of science, is to be found in a new principle of trust, and then the critical epoch is over.”

— August Comte

The positivist philosopher, August Comte, believed European history could be read as a long transition that displaced the military-theological feudal system.[1] The description is very simplistic: there has been an evolution towards high-tech industrial developments powered by science, but the military-theological structures that have always maintained power and control are still there. In fact, they seem to be getting stronger rather than diminishing.

Comte, like most positive thinking in the last two hundred years, based his optimism on science, but he envisaged the power of science to be operating in tandem with industry, and this was his mistake. For science to be a positive, transformative agent on human society it needs to be in control of that transformation: it must control industry rather than being a mere tool for profit-making. Science today is merely a submissive puppet in industry’s rapacious game of accumulation and domination.

In Comte’s defence, he himself was fully aware of how easy it was for feudalism to make a come-back after a progressive revolution, for he had already seen how quickly the retrograde power of Napoleon’s dictatorship was able to install itself after the Revolution. Because of that, he thought very deeply on how a post-revolutionary regression to the military-theological system could be avoided.

Firstly, Comte reasoned, political imagination had to be observant. And what Comte meant by being observant was that it must be conscious of what it needs to look for and what it needs to fear.

Here we find a reason to explain why Comte, despite our need for positive political thinking, has been largely ignored by theorists – for to be observant in Comte’s sense of the word would imply that the political imagination of any revolution would be conscious of any retrograde thinking that could give credence to the military-theological power base embedded within the same revolution. What Comte assumed was that that power base had to have been vanquished by the revolution, but that never happened, and never will happen whenever the success of a revolution is seen as dependent on military force rather than passive surrender. If the force of the system can only be vanquished by a greater force, the force will only be substituted by more force and this creates a snowballing effect that amplifies the basic problem itself. Likewise, an observant revolution can never take place through Parliamentary-political processes. The congressional politics of our current representationally-democratic systems can never really be observant because they can never truly liberate themselves from the kind of power they are supposed to be vigilant of.

Comte’s argument is therefore correct – but unrealistic. After the French Revolution failed a new revolution was needed and came via Marx and the spirit of the proletariat. The communist regimes were vigilant, but half-heartedly. Where communism was largely effective in escaping the theological paradigm, it could do nothing to escape the militaristic, and hence the theological returned in the communist regimes through the dogmatic personality cults of its military dictators.

The Second World War, and the subsequent arms race of the Cold War, gave industry and its faithful tool science, a fertile field for cultivating and accumulating enormous wealth. The Cold War was a conflict between military-theological-industry (and science) and military-antitheological-industry (and science), in which the real winners were Industry and the Military; and science was always their faithful hound.

Likewise, observance became a vigilance of rivals (on the industrial plane) and their theological or antitheological enemies (on the theological plane). Then, with the collapse of the antitheological, the communist threat was very quickly replaced by a new global power: the guerrilla/military-theological feudal power that is Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or Isis.

In Comte’s terms, positive progress has not only been thwarted by not being allowed to move forward at all, it is in danger of collapsing right back into feudalism. The observance of industrial rivals is still a first priority, but the vigilance of the capitalist system has another annoying fight with terrorists to contend with. Terrorists and other militants fighting a guerrilla war to reinstate feudalism as another kind of military-theology. Force breeds more force, and the neo-feudalism we see spreading through central Asia breeds another kind of feudalism in other parts of Asia, America and Europe. What Comte called feudalism, we now call populism.

There is of course nothing positive or forward moving toward human fulfilment in any of our current power-struggle scenarios.

What has failed to take place in order for Comte’s optimistic plan to unravel itself, has been the lack of prevision in science, or the lack of scientific criteria in the development of political programmes that have abused science for military and profit-making purposes.

Comte believed that only advanced “scientific prevision can avert or mitigate violent revolutions.”[2] What he did not mean when he said this, was that the scientific prevision should be invented in military projects and reactionary wars of rivalry.

But if this is what he didn’t mean, what did he mean? How could a scientific prevision have made our world a better place than it is today?

We will try and answer those questions when we continue in Science versus Industry: Part Two.

pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/science-versus-industry-part-two-the-revolution-we-need/

[1] See Mike Gane, AUGUST COMTE, Routledge, p.31

[2] Ibid, p.33

OVERCOMING OUR AGE OF NIHILISM: METAPHYSICS & SCIENCE

universe

Nietzsche said that nihilism is reached when “all one has left are the values that pass judgment – nothing else.” A Nihilistic Age is, therefore, an age when everyone is held accountable for their actions without taking any higher purposes into consideration, because there are no common higher purposes. It is a tragic age. It is our age.

The Nihilistic Age needs to be overcome if humanity is going to progress and any Superman-leap over the Last Man that is blocking our way[1] must be via an injection into values: a vaccination which will see clear, irrefutable purposeful-values that cannot be judged – being beyond judgement, because they are true.

 

In the dialectics between the two-sided judgement that is passing values, the weak will perish. For that reason, Power (which in our society is Wealth) constantly recreates these black and white arguments. There can only be one winner, Power (Wealth) itself. This Nietzsche understood, but he failed to see the way over the dilemma; failed to see that blocking the way on the tight-rope was Power itself, and that to become the Superman, the hero had to leap, not only over the Last Man, but over Power itself. Going beyond good and evil means going beyond the judgement-passing values created by Power; going beyond the separating fundamentals of identities, so deeply rooted in human cultures. This also implies a going-beyond our misapprehension of our human nature. Division and competition is deeply rooted in our Power/Wealth forged psyches – but so are so many other types of psychological traumas fetishes and complexes. The fact that they are there, does not mean that we cannot overcome them.

But how?

To begin we must question our own identities. This means we must question the failed concept we have of ourselves as a species: question our own status as Humans. Throw the term out of the window, it is too splattered with failures and pessimism. Embrace a new clearer definition of our species: we are the Sapiens-Sapiens part of larger genus of all Sapiens beings in the Universe. We are those that know ourselves, capable of understanding the very Universe itself. This is an optimism that does not currently exist.

The way out of pessimism is optimism, but optimism itself is a very dangerous thing that has created many irrational, cruel regimes.

Any enduring optimism, therefore, must itself be rooted in meaning; in an answer to the metaphysical problem of Why?. But this raises another conundrum, because the problem of the metaphysical why is that its answer must always also be metaphysical, unprovable and a question of faith. Or at least, that is what we have been led to believe from the professionals in metaphysics; the monotheistic religions. Theirs is a messianic optimism: the gift from he who dares pronounce himself to be in possession of truth. The fact that we have had two millennia of believers demonstrates the thirst we have for optimism, which is the thirst created by the dry, hot sun of pessimism.

Optimism has been rooted in meaning, but by doing so we have also perverted metaphysics by infecting it with the mythological. This was Plato’s strategy when he created the myth of the Noble Lie[2], and that Noble Lie was itself born out of a deeply pessimistic belief in the uniqueness of intelligence – only the philosophical caste can be capable of truly understanding the metaphysical; as for the rest of them, let them eat myths.

So, if we have to root optimism in meaning, we need to ask ourselves what is the nature of that meaning? We must look at the quality of the meaning: a quality that has to be gauged according to the measuring stick of truth. But how can we approach any demonstration of the metaphysical truth if the metaphysical can’t be demonstrated?

Firstly, by admitting our limitations, that the metaphysical truth can only be an approximation until we have developed our physical understanding well enough to unveil the authentic, physical nature itself. By unveiling the truth in the grey cloud of the metaphysical, what we do in fact is kill the metaphysical component of that truth. The concept of the metaphysical truth is valuable however, because it points the sciences in meaningful directions of investigations, in order to uncover authentic purposeful directions for our Sapiens-Sapiens species to take.

In this approximation-to-truth, we have a positive stance in itself: in a belief that through investigation and the development of technology, authentic meaning can be uncovered. To embrace this in a positive way, we must assume that through thinking, observing and discovering (or, in other words, through the scientific process), we will uncover the meaning of the Universe.

 

As for the inherent dangers embedded in the truth-seeking optimisms, the danger that it will collapse into a dogmatic proclamation of a truth now found, when, in reality, nothing certain has been uncovered at all, is palliated by science’s inherent scepticism.

In scientific terms, reality can only be what we think we know, but while science still operates, or while there is still a need for science, then what we know is always open to being questioned. It is the constant questioning of what is, converting what is into what it seems to be with a sceptical suspicion that it might be something completely different, that gives science it dynamism and power. Science can only uncover whilst it is obsessed with the desire and need to search. Science, per se, does not interest itself with the metaphysical why?, and yet the scientific process is always working towards uncovering that why.

Science evolved out of the Greek philosophers’ metaphysical questions, and those same metaphysical questions have never been fully extracted from science.

 

So, for our Nihilistic Age to be overcome, we need to inject values with purposeful-truths; truths that should be derived from science and scientific investigations of philosophical or metaphysical questions of why.

[1] The Last Man (der letzte Mensch): Nietzsche introduced the concept of the Last Man in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra, as the antithesis and antagonist of the Übermensch , the Overman or the Superman. The last men are a herd-like species: tired of life, taking no risks, and seeking only comfort and security; the Overman on the other hand has a clear vision of progress, but needs to overcome the Last Man if he is to advance. In TSZ, Nietzsche created a short parable describing a funambulist crossing the rope of human evolution between animal and the Overman. On his way, an imaginary clown, or demon, comes out behind the tight-rope walker and leaps over him, causing him to fall. By taking Zarathustra into consideration, our image here images the tight-rope with the lazy Last Man perched in the middle, so one must jump over him before one can cross the rope and progress in an evolutionary way.

[2] Plato brought up the idea of the Noble Lie in the Republic. It revolved around the necessity to create a myth which would convince the people of a natural division of classes in society, created by the gods.

REALITY AS A PURPOSEFUL LIE

The mystic philosophers were right when they told us that reality is elsewhere, but they were wrong in claiming that our ultimate delusion came from a lack of spiritual insight; our alienation from reality is a psychological and social delusion created by our tendency to perceive reality in lies.

In essence, however, even this delusional tendency to believe things that cannot be proven, may be a necessary element for any positive human view of reality.

Science gives us a view of reality that goes beyond the narrow confines of the world that we perceive. In this way, science is an attempt to uncover the delusional nature of our lying perceptions. The real is not really what we see and feel.

Nevertheless, scientific objectivity clashes with our attempts to forge a positive view of our place in the cosmos. Ultimately, scientific truth is nihilistic. Vanity of vanities. Everything is headed to an inescapable thermal death. All things will come to an end. There is no ultimate purpose to the Universe.

But does an acceptance of this ultimately pointless reality do humanity as a whole any good? Science tells us how insignificant and ultimately pointless we are in the Universe. The result is nihilism and a depression that bleeds down through the entire fabric of contemporary, nihilistic civilisation. Live the moment. Reality is ephemeral. And so, religion has to be saved or even restored. We need hope, don’t we? Even if that hope is a blatant lie.

But even religions are essentially nihilistic as far as humanity goes. For religions, reality is elsewhere, in the Paradise after death. And so we ask: Why is reality so negative? Why is truth so grim?

A positive view of historical human reality can only be truly comprehensible to human beings from the point of view of humanity itself. However, this statement implies an anthropocentric view, which most scientists now reject as biased; and because of that consider it to be unrealistic.

But, does this mean that in order to be realistic we have to forfeit any positive view of humanity?

In actual fact, science itself gives us a way out here; for there is cosmological data that points to a sentient-life purpose evolution of the Universe. Data exists that explains how the self-organising of the Universe was able to create conditions for organisms so complex that they can comprehend that same organisation.[i]

In order to determine reality without deluding ourselves in lies we need to look at the debate that scientists are having on the idea of a purposefully determined cosmos. In this argument the science that has to be allowed the most authority is cosmology. So, what do cosmologists and other physicists really think about the idea of a deterministic Universe; one that implies that we are evolving purposefully towards an ultimate goal?

Some scientists, like cosmologist Martin Rees and the physicist Paul Davies, are in favour of the idea of purposefully orientated evolution, whilst almost any quantum physicist would argue against the anthropocentric view, in favour of indeterminism. Nevertheless, arguments can be found, that take a middle ground. And perhaps it is here that we can resolve the debate.

We think this middle ground has been nicely described by Dan Pipono:

“There is no meaningful difference (between determinism and indeterminism). Suppose at some moment there is some kind of undetermined probabilistic event and the universe forks in one of two ways. Then mathematically we can describe the situation in two distinct ways A and B: (1) we could say that after the fork, the universe is either in state A or state B. The universe is non-deterministic because we don’t know which of A and B it is going to be before the fork. OR (2) the universe is in a state that consists of two pieces, A and B, each of which contains a copy of us. The universe is deterministic but appears non-deterministic because we don’t know which of A and B is the one that contains us. Some people will use Occam’s razor in this situation. Some will use it to argue for (1) because a universe with just A or B is simpler than a universe with both A and B. Some will use it to argue for (2) because often (2) is mathematically simpler than (1). I can’t see any way of distinguishing (1) and (2). In practice I’d use whichever is more convenient for whatever I’m trying to do.”[ii]

Like Pipono and Occam, we argue that reality needs to be viewed according to what is most convenient to what needs to be done with that reality. And what we, as humans, need to question is what is the most convenient reality for humanity; a purposeful state or a nihilistic one? If we still cannot, with true scientific certainty, resolve the debate in favour of either purpose or nihilism, which view of reality is ultimately more convenient for us; for our survival and progress?

 

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

[ii] See Dan Pipono https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-evidence-for-and-against-determinism

Cosmic Will (science versus religion)

The growing process, from the single fertilised cell to the adult form of a biological entity with all its necessary parts, internal organs and external limbs and sensors, is developed with such incredible attention to detail and accuracy that one cannot help but feel such a process is being directed: that is seems to have been willed.

“Willed by God,” insist the religious. But what would God will such a thing for? “Ah, the Lord works in mysterious ways that we are capable of understanding.” Yet, that conclusion only turns the problem back to the start again. If we want to escape nihilism we have to understand purposiveness, and to appreciate authentic and universal purpose we must tackle the purposiveness inherent in the Universe itself.

If we surrender to a belief that we live in a Universe that has a purpose, but one that we are incapable of ever understanding, then that is just as nihilistic an attitude as the belief in a Universe that has no purpose at all.

Fortunately, for understanding purposiveness, life displays purposeful organisation. In fact, everything about life seems to be directed toward some purpose. Not only that, the inanimate universe has its own purposeful direction as well, the extremely complicated process of the creation of life and its evolution into sentient beings; beings that are capable of asking what the ultimate purpose of the creation of intelligent life can possibly be.

This is the key question of all metaphysics – and subsequently it is inherent in all philosophy and science as well; and all religions, of course. Nevertheless, in the case of religion, once God with a capital G has been found, it gives up the chase and sinks into the nihilism buried in the idea of “God’s mysterious will”. An end-point to all argument that protects its power through unquestionable dogmas. Religious power depends on maintaining its mystery.

THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE COSMIC WILL

However, if a cosmic will exists, where is it? If something is organising the Universe, where is it?

Once candidate could be gravity. Gravity has a very peculiar way of organising things: it makes things clump together, although that same homogenising process also enhances chaotic perturbations and creates another ordered kind of heterogeneity. Gravity is also a correcting agent against the destructive laws of thermodynamics; instead of disintegrating matter it creates structures that grow with time. While most hot objects become cooler if they lose energy, self-gravitating systems grow hotter. So, without gravity the Universe could never have created conditions for intelligence life in the Universe, but does that mean that it itself is the force that actually directs its own purposiveness?

If we were to mythologise this, we could resurrect the old concepts of the good and evil forces that rule over us and determine our lives: Thermodynamics is therefore a kind of Loki, bent on the nihilistic disintegration of his unloved father’s creation; whilst Gravity is like Thor, trying to preserve it. In this Asgard of cosmic will, Electro-magnetism becomes a kind of demi-god. Its power is short-ranged and local whilst Gravity has an influence on astronomical dimensions.

Gravity is the great organiser of the Cosmos: and to create life and subsequently sentient, sapiens beings, the Universe needs to be organised.

THE SEARCH FOR PURPOSE: SCIENCE VERSUS RELIGION

The deeper we go in our scientific understanding of the Universe’s creation and self-organisation, the closer science and mythology, and even religion, seem to be. But there is an enormous difference. Science takes nothing for granted, whereas religion takes everything for granted. Science, like philosophy, insists on a need for constant questioning, whereas in religion the questioning is retarded and manipulated in order to suit its own dictatorial needs and desires.

In other words: if we truly desire to understand God or the Cosmic Will, then it is imperative that one does so through scientific or philosophical processes rather than religious ones. Through experiment and calculus rather than prayer. The Alchemists were, and the cosmologists and sub-atomic physicists are, much closer to knowing God than any Pope.

CAPITALISM AND INNOVATION

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We tend to associate innovation with capitalism. Capitalism is a dynamic system and the incentives for making huge profits from patents have inspired many great inventions and innovations. However, it is often said that innovation would not happen without capitalism and that society would be a more backward place. How true is that? Just how necessary, if at all, is capitalism to innovation?

If we look closely into the market place we start to see instances of the opposite happening. In many cases, innovation is actually retarded by the market. One example is the way that corporations delay product releases until the most potentially competitive and profitable date arrives. Once the ideal machine is invented, an inferior version of it is released at first, and it may take a decade before the original ‘ideal’ product is actually up and fully running to its full potential in the market place. But by then there could be a much better product out there. In this way, technology under capitalism is always loping behind its real potentials.

If to this system of staggering we add the notion of pre-programmed obsolescence, then what we see is a massive waste creating machine that is supposedly geared to giving us what we want whilst ensuring that the quality of what we want is sadly lacking. Why can’t we really have what we desire and need, which is a good product that will not be obsolete two years after buying it?

But even this slogan that capitalism only gives us what we want is perniciously misleading. So much necessary technology has never been produced because there was no profit to be made from them, or, the maximum profit was to be made somewhere else. Clean, hydrogen-fueled cars could have been manufactured eighty years ago, if the profit to be made in petrol was not so lucrative. In the question of car motors what was at stake were the profit margins, not clean air. Capitalism is a system of waste, enormous, unnecessary and dangerous waste.

Clean-energy technology development is loping at least thirty years behind where it could and should be. Here we see how capitalism is completely antagonistic to necessity. But progress has to be intrinsically linked to necessity. Because of this capitalism has to be suspect of actually working in a non-progressive or even anti-progressive way.

In terms of innovation, the greatest achievements we have made in the last century would have to be those made in the space race. They were achievements made with public, not private money. Capitalist innovations have so often be nurtured through the breakthroughs made by state promoted projects, especially military ones, that, rather than a great innovator, capitalism is really just a very clever parasite.

PURGATORY AND ANTI-HUMAN HISTORY

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If human history is the description of human progress towards fulfilment, then the real historical process has not yet begun. Instead of an unfolding toward a better world for all of humanity we are immersed in a process geared unto the satisfaction of the greed of power. True human fulfilment, or the procedure towards it, only exists in our fantasies and our projections of Utopias.

When I immersed myself in the historical archives of Spanish libraries, to start research on my novel Purgatory, now more than twenty-five years ago, I was conscious that I was not creating a work of historical fiction so much as opening a door towards the human historical dream within a background of anti-human history. In the 16th century the Terra Australis was such a dream: a potential paradise on earth that could, once it was discovered, redirect humanity towards real human fulfilment. Or, at least, that the journey itself towards this “impossible” and unreachable Utopia would take us there.

It is no accident, therefore, that the first of the three Spanish attempts to reach the Terra Australis Incognita (what we now call Australia) was inspired by an alchemist. The alchemists knew that human fulfilment could only be realised through science. From the alchemist’s point of view, the myth of the Fall is inherently misunderstood – it is not the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which has caused human perdition, rather it is the discovery of that fruit that will allow for human salvation as Humanity living in harmony with the world. Knowledge and the technology that is the fruit of that knowledge, will bring humanity back to the Earthly Paradise as Humanity.

Purgatory, then, is a fictional recreation of that historical dream, spawned with a deep conviction that the Utopian dream is important. Perhaps it is the only guide humanity has. But it is also important that we understand that the magical processes of the alchemists were ignorant attempts at what can now be achieved through science.

The human historical process only begins when humanity starts to move toward the Paradise on Earth, a process that does not come through prayer but through the advancement of knowledge and the power of creative thought.