The Jewel of Reality: Spirituality 2.0

There comes a point at which living in reality is the spiritual prerogative.

Actually, this has been the gradual process of human progress in general. The “Enlightenment” era or Age of Reason in the 18th century was a radical shift away from monarchy, religious tyranny, and their roots in irrational superstition.

No, God did not decree that your rich royal family should rule over the peasants in perpetuity.

No, you do not get to legislate from the pulpit and rule your country based on the authority of wild and wooly scriptures written two thousand years ago by hallucinating desert nomads who thought they were chosen by God.

Nor do you get to torture people in the most inventive and grotesque ways for the sin of not professing belief in your doctrine or for making evidence-based claims that contradict it.

What most Americans fail to appreciate —because it is not sufficiently emphasized in the education system, is that the seeds of American democracy, the constitution and bill of rights were sown in this radical step away from religious power and toward a system of rule based in a philosophy of equality and reason. Sure —there was still slavery and colonialism and inequality for women, but the spirit of the enlightenment kept moving us in the direction of these freedoms emerging as it continued unfolding.

Problem is we have had a massive backlash: the religious right has revised history to make it seem as if the founding fathers desperately wanted the United States to be a “Christian nation,” in which everyone is armed to the teeth, the poor have to fend for themselves and the invisible hand of the free market belongs to a prosperity-gospel Jesus.

For our part, the liberal spiritual community has bought into its own revision of history, in which enlightenment values ushered in the tragic loss of magical reality. The story is basically that before we got all white-man-sciencey people lived in harmony with the Earth and one-another and had access to psychic powers, visits from angels and a connection to our true nature —which of course is pure light and love.

The only problem is that this time never existed.

Pre-Enlightenment Europe was a religious chess board upon which the power players moved the pawns of scientists, philosophers and ordinary people from one torture chamber to another while ordering holy wars and bathing in wildly disproportionate wealth. These same figures were busily colonizing the rest of the world in the name of Christianity, slavery and empire.

Similarly, the situation for indigenous cultures pre—Enlightenment (and even pre-15th century colonialization) was hardly Utopian. Tribal life ruled by superstitious beliefs is, as it turns out, a brutal affair. Rigid gender roles, authoritarian hierarchy, sacrificial ritual, harsh initiation rites, wars with other tribes and a social system based in violent enforcement.

Any doubts about this, check out Steven Pinker’s analysis of the steady decline of violence in human history leading to what is in fact the most peaceful era in our existence:

Of course the Enlightenment brought with it a fresh round of violence, exemplified most bloodily by the French Revolution —but the key difference between the Western democracies and say, the Middle East lies in this powerful transition that forever changed the West and has yet to happen elsewhere.

Islamic jihad is an explicit rejection of Enlightenment era values. We will rule our land (and would like to rule the whole world) based on our stone-age religious text. We will have governments controlled by religious clerics. Life is about a supernatural order and how God decrees we should live. The West is completely lacking in morality because it does not follow the fundamentalist letter of our scriptures. The West is in allegiance with Satan because of its liberal attitudes toward women, sexuality, education, science and art.

The Enlightenment never happened in the Middle East.

Theocracy, burkas, public hanging of gays, stoning of adulterers and holy war over who gets to control the sites where the anticipated arrival of the next messiah is prophesied bear witness to the stunted growth of these societies. Of course, American imperialism in the oil-rich region has done great harm and this should not be overlooked. Rapture-ready Christian groups pushing hawkish agendas to bring on the second coming by unleashing Revelation via WWIII have added fuel to the burning oil fields as well.

But, dear liberal spiritual friends—don’t forget why there is this huge cultural divide.

Don’t forget the values and freedoms that we take for granted and are woven into the fabric of Western history.

Don’t forget that separation of church and state, equal rights, freedom of speech, artistic freedom, respect for science even when it is at odds with scriptural revelation, democracy and sexual liberation are all massively positive steps forward.

Above all, don’t buy into the fallacy that to have a meaningful spiritual life you have to regress into superstitious mythic literalism or magical thinking and reject science, reason and the very Western freedoms that allow you to dabble in Eastern spirituality and idealize ancient cultures.

There comes a point at which living in reality is the spiritual prerogative. This is where psychology is a step forward from religion, where reasoned philosophy is a step forward from superstitious metaphysics and where scientific method is a step forward from supernatural beliefs.

It is a post-Enlightenment spiritual principle to value inquiry into what is actually true over wishful thinking. It is a post-Enlightenment spiritual principle to value reasoned critical thinking over buying into superstition. It is a still relatively new spiritual idea that the human being is sacred, that biology and physics are sources of awe and wonder and that the natural world is divine in-and-of-itself.

Let’s celebrate reality—it is far more rewarding than outdated fantasy and regressive romanticism. Let’s meditate on being more grounded, more integrated and more existentially honest, because  the jewel of reality starts to shine with precious and poignant meaning the more we give up the plastic baubles that we think we can’t live without.

Comments
30 Responses to “The Jewel of Reality: Spirituality 2.0”
  1. Philip Steir says:

    A jewel of an essay here. Well said Mr Walker. Really enjoyed reading this. Reality is a powerful tool for moving forward…in every direction. I think reality might just be the most excellent and desirable place to experience some spirituality. Thanks for writing this gem.

  2. M D S says:

    Toulmin’s book “Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity” does a good job telling the other side of the story. http://books.google.com/books/about/Cosmopolis.html?id=6bYgQ26xGXMC

    The Enlightment wasn’t all bad, but contrary to Pinker’s statisical pipe dream, the 20th century was a nightmare brought about by the attempted rationalization of life. If the ecological and social crises of our times are any indication, the Enlightenment project failed miserably.

  3. julian walker says:

    they are not any indication. what you refer to is the crisis of overpopulation, pollution, unbridled capitalism, and negative side-effects of rapid technological advancement – none of these suggest that we would be better off living under monarchical rule, theocratic control, feudalism and pre-scientific superstition.

    what it rather “indicates” is that evolution is imperfect and we still have many problems to solve despite the fact that more people than in any other time in history are free to pursue life, liberty, love and happiness.

  4. Thanks, Julian…

    “separation of church and state”… I wish it were true! We are still a Christian nation, with religion spreading through so many facets of government and power.

    What is “regressive romanticism?”

    And while we may be freer to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, these “joyous” pursuits are indeed causing the demise of the natural systems that support life on Earth….i.e., mindless recreation and industrial progress. the latter, made possible by science, is no small problem yet to solve…it, and its ramifications, are the major global issues facing our times…life or death.

    While we may be closer to reality and certain personal equalities than pre-enlightnemnet times, we are perhaps further away from preserving our future as a species than at any other time in history (climate change, global warming). I have to agree with, at least in good part, MDS’s saying, “If the ecological and social crises of our times are any indication, the Enlightenment project failed miserably.”

    The indicators that M D S points out, which you call “overpopulation, pollution, unbridled capitalism, and negative side-effects of rapid technological advancement” are enough to indicate significant failures of the Enlightenment, considering that we are teetering on the edge of environmental collapse. As I mentioned in my last article, “I like to remind people that without a healthy, relatively unpolluted ecosystem, our spirituality can’t amount to much.” In the same way we cannot overlook the freedoms we have in this country (good reminder you make), we likewise cannot forget the fundamental pillars of life as the health of our environment, for which scientific invention and the Enlightenment have allowed us to invent pollutants. And let’s not forget about Fukushima still steaming away across the oceans, affecting us in many yet to be seen ways.

    So, I think it is by no means a closed discussion if we would be better off living under monarchical rule, theocratic control, feudalism and pre-scientific superstition. (which we sort of still are, despite the appearances of our democracy, supposed separation of church and state [creationism entering classrooms] and ability to privately “own” land). Indeed we are living under versions of all these systems and we have the environmental side-effects to deal with as well…

    Your thoughts?

    • julian walker says:

      yes american politics is still heavily influenced by religion, but remember the unity of church and state that made possible the spanish inquisition and makes possible the taliban and you might pause….

      “regressive romanticism” is what it sounds like: a romantic notion that we should regress to an earlier stage of history because (supposedly) things were somehow better or more spiritual then – it is linked also to the idea that the problem with being human is that we are rational and have all these messy feelings and it would be better to be like animals earlier in the evolutionary chain or like children because they are more “pure.”

      again – freedom from church control, superstition and death by various things like smallpox and polio is not something we can trade off against the problems of science and technology being unethically used in certain cases. the logic is flawed.

      in other words, just because certain applications of science have led to environmental problems does not either mean that a) science is a bad idea or that b) pre-scientifc reality was a better place to live.

      *importantly*: we will use science to solve our environmental problems or they shall not be solved!

      MDS statement that the enlightenment has failed miserably because of our ecological situation is a mistake in reasoning.the enlightenment led to democracy. democracy has led to the greatest period of freedom for the greatest number of people than in any time previously. democracy has continued to become more and more inclusive of women, all races etc…. it is the greatest social/political system ever on the planet and the reason that the west is the place people from all over the world seek to immigrate to…

      anyone who has lived in a non-democratic country (like me in south africa) would have a lot to teach westerners who poo-poo the enlightenment and romanticize pre-enlightenment times.

      the ecological problems we face do NOT have their genesis in the enlightenment! think about it, what is the argument…. that if only theocracy, monarchy and superstition had continued to reign over europe then we wouldn’t have developed technologies that have negative ecological side effects?! come on.

      as for the supposed “social crises” – more regressive romanticism i think…. there are more free societies on the planet than ever before and the more the world is freed from religious, monarchical and dictatorial tyranny the better life gets for everyone.

      furthermore – (as the pinker talk demonstrates) the world actually gets less violent with every passing decade; even though it is still a bloodbath in so many places! also statistics show that the less religious (and by definition the more steeped in post enlightenment philosophy) a society is, the better its social systems (care for the poor, healthcare, equal rights, absence of capital punishment, good drug rehab, low rates of homelessness etc) the less violent crime, less war with other nations and BETTER ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS!

      the best examples are the scandanavian countries which are all around 80 – 90% atheist, highly educated, amazing social and environmental programs, highest level of green candidates in office etc…

      the biggest polluters and most violent are also the most religious: america and the middle east.

      america is an interesting blend of ancient greek/enlightenment/secular values and middle eastern/religious/tribal ideology.

      it is more accurate to say the failure of the enlightenment to fully take hold in america is a big reason why we continue to see similar problems here as in other countries still mired down by religion.

      look at western europe too – highly atheist, good science education, better social programs, strong democracy, high green representation therefore better environmental policies etc…

      it is a 100% red herring that the enlightenment is to blame for ecological crisis and or supposed social problems – thanks for motivating me to spell this out more clearly!

  5. julian walker says:

    also jack religion is not technically “spreading through so many facets of government and power” it has always had massive influence and the idea that it should have less influence is what is spreading…. in other words we are not in a time of more and more religious influence on government and power but of less and less – even though it is still too high! :)

    • splitting hairs…i did not intend what you correct, but thanks for the illumination…just meant that religion pervades government….as it always has (your addition), yes…and it “should” have less is true….but does it? Depends where on earth we are talking about, aye?

  6. julian walker says:

    thanks yolanda! look forward to meeting you too. :)

    yes – and if i wrote a book on the matter there were a great many things i would not ignore!

    this article is about a very specific misperception in the western spiritual zeitgeist. namely that western post enlightenment values are anti-spiritual and a romanticizing of pre-enlightenment times.

    i want to reply firmly but kindly that there is absolutely nothing racist or anti-dark skinned about pointing out that theocracy continues in places where massive cultural transitions like the enlightenment have yet to happen.

    there is a difference between prejudice and making an argument for why we are better off post theocracy and monarchy than parts of the world that have yet to benefit from such transitions.

    it is always sad and disappointing to me when pointing out such things is equated supporting racism or prejudice. this is often based in a PC/relativist stance that is too afraid of offending to acknowledge basic truths.

    you are obviously someone who is well versed in history and foreign affairs, so i assume this is not your intention.

    there is not a bone in my body that abides racism or prejudice. i grew up in apartheid south africa, marched in protests, was part of the first small group of white men to ever refuse military service at 18 years old and fled the country knowing i would be sentenced to six years in prison if i stayed behind.

    to criticize the cultural and religious systems in place in the middle east that oppress the people in the region is no more racist than it would have been to criticize the south african government during apartheid, or indeed to critique the history of post-colonial revolution in africa and the problem of tinpot dictators and how difficult it is to transition to a healthy democracy after years of colonial oppression, or acknowledge the eruption of brutal tribal black-on-black violence that erupted in 90’s after apartheid ended.

    there is a difference between critiquing an oppressive state or religious tradition for specific reasons and being prejudiced against human beings.

    it may indeed be pro-human, pro-woman and pro-middle eastern to be anti-burka.

    in answer to your rhetorical question: this awakened heart feels deeply for people with the misfortune to be born into religious and political oppression. this embodied mind finds that people in cultures that drive a dualistic wedge between spirit and flesh, body and soul, the sensual and the sacred are suffering under a tragic fragmentation.

    i can respect the individuals in these situations while simultaneously a) pointing out that it is in real human terms, substantively better to live in cultures were this is less the case, where (imperfect but vastly preferable) post-enlightenment values have been more fully enacted and b) hoping and wishing for them that they may one day have the freedom for which so many are longing, fighting and dying.

    the basic truths i refer to in the above article are simple, and are not directed at anyone except my dear fellow western spiritual seekers:

    science is not a threat to integrated adult spirituality.

    pre-scientific times should not be idealized and romanticized as if they are the location of an ancient, exotic, supernatural truth that has been lost.

    the enlightenment led to the kind of democratic freedoms that even make it possible for westerners to be exploring multiculturalism, postmodernism, and spiritual philosophies and practices from other traditions.

    my desire with the article is to point out that very often privileged western spiritual seekers romanticize the past and look to the ancient and exotic in search of magical spiritual truths deemed somehow more enlightened than icky western, scientific, psychological, egalitarian knowledge – and that this is often a very ironic mistake.

    sorry if that didn’t come though clearly enough – i know it is a loaded topic!

  7. Philip Steir says:

    Outside of science…progress is simply a myth. This is a subversive truth.
    The Enlightenment through science did prove that humans can be good by leaving ignorance behind.
    But science today is proving that being a good person is a matter of chance.
    The left (where I go to church) has become doomed through unfettered tolerance and cultural relativism. The right are the biggest polluters, the most religious and have always been the home for greed, power and male dominance…but now it’s a friendly fascist failed utopian imagination.
    Humans cannot save the world, but there lies the hope. It does not need saving.
    Happily humans will never live in a world of their own making.
    Darwin was a genius… there is no progress in the world he revealed.

    http://bigthink.com/postcards-from-zizek/good-thinking-is-good-questioning?utm_source=Big+Think+Weekly+Newsletter+Subscribers&utm_campaign=8ac1e02794-Sun_6_24_Zizek6_18_2012&utm_medium=email

    • julian walker says:

      dude! and then you throw to slavoj zizek!? ;)

    • Evolution is not progress? Has it not moved along rather nicely without the light of science? Or is homo sapiens sapiens a bad mistake?

      Humans cannot save the world, and it needs no saving? Explain, please…

      Humans will never live in a world of their own making…Huh? To what degree? Are we not already?

  8. julian walker says:

    oh – and glad you have been enjoying the past 18 months! appreciate the positive feedback too.

    yes, indeed – the middle east had some amazing times in terms of their scientific/philosophical/architectural/literary peaks.

    my parents lived for about 8 years in the south of spain and learning about the the period before the “reconquista” – and how muslims, jews and christians worked together during the dark ages to translate ancient greek and roman texts, make advances in astronomy, mathematics, architecture and medicine etc was amazing!

    the watershed moment of the enlightenment still stands for me as the defining moment where the west took a massive step forward in terms of the humanistic values that make the kind of spirituality that inspires me possible.

    i am (as you point out) painting with broad strokes here, but see the idea of the human being as sacred, of nature as sacred and of the kind of inquiry exemplified by scientific method and reason as being the movement toward not only democracy but a more sane understanding of reality and our place in it.

  9. Thanks for the well-versed response, Julian. Appreciate it very much. I am not as versed in history as you seem to be and piecing together cause and effect of the different periods, so if what you say is true, I am learning. And, I dot romanticize previous times in history carte blanche, thankfully, as holding such fantasy does prevent us from appreciating all we do have. I’ve also lived abroad in Mexico and experienced a taste of the enormous injustices of South Africa, so hats off to you and putting our problems into perspective.

    For clarity, regarding: “that if only theocracy, monarchy and superstition had continued to reign over europe then we wouldn’t have developed technologies that have negative ecological side effects?! come on.

    I am not saying this but merely pointing out the heavy dark side of science, or/and the implementation of science. Sure, it’s how people and nations use tools and innovation, BUT it is still true that previously we did not have the tools to destroy the planet, even if disease were less prevalent. And I do not know the statistics, though you allude to some, but I do wonder if we and our planet are healthier today than 200 or even 100 years ago. We may live longer, but how to measure quality of life and the intangible threats to our psyches. And the massive poisoning of vast stretches of the environment, still, could not happen without science, EVEN THOUGH it is not science that does it, but humans….but still. So, I don’t think we should be blind to consequences of science and technological innovation, and just because it is not technology/science’s “fault” for the current enviro crises, we cannot just forget about it, throw up our hands, and say well there is nothing we can do about corrupt people, or, more relevant to this discussion, that science should not be more limited in its reign. Sorry, but if the means and the nearness to destroy the quality of life on the planet, if not the whole planet, is here and the means are technology and science, then we need to change both…point in fact, Fukushima was not (arguably) in the hands of evil people per se (though they were negligent in safeguards and upkeep), and the mere existence of nuclear physics created this possibility for massive planetary destruction.

    So, I think we need better people, better ethics, deeper spirituality, and if we don’t know how to handle the toys of our innovation, that they be put away until we do—the stakes are too high…but unfortunately the big kids in office are running the show.

    Thanks for your response; I shall read it again. And you are welcome for the opportunity. ;)

    J*

    • Philip Steir says:

      An axe can chop wood for fire… and then murder an innocent rival.

      Humans think they are free, conscious beings, when in truth they are deluded animals.

      Religions are just attempts to be rid of a freedom humans have never even possessed.

      Conservatives long for traditional values and look to the past for better days. Yet they are so blind to the economic necessity of new vices.

      There will most likely be another, bigger, meaner September 11 that will prove it doesn’t matter how secular the world is becoming…war and religion will always be intertwined.

      Muslim terrorists like Al Qaeda have put a big question mark on what progress really means.

      Humans will soon be committing genocide over water.

      Outside of science progress is simply a myth.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Robert_Malthus

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/books/edward-o-wilsons-new-book-social-conquest-of-earth.html?_r=1&ref=edwardowilson

      • julian walker says:

        i hear you man.

      • Human beings are not conscious? But just deluded animals?

        I believe we invented the definition of “conscious” to describe this capacity of our minds, so how could we not be conscious, if we invented the term to describe our awareness?

        It’s like saying the sky is not blue, no?…when we invented the term blue to describe it as such. We could have called it red, but then red would have to mean blue! So, to say we are not conscious is akin to saying that we have no skin, when skin is the word we use to describe the stuff over our bodies.

        • Philip Steir says:

          Jack,

          How far is truth susceptible of embodiment? -that is the question, that is the experiment.
          Nietzsche

          You’ve done this exact thing before. Take one word of an essay and focus on it and become deluded. Because you took one word personally… you missed the rest of the party.
          Here…You didn’t bother to look at all the other bumper sticker like sentences that I wrote in Julian’s comment box and see what might have been happening. There is a subtle aspect of significance there…going on in all the sentences which you missed.
          In your swiftness to find fault with something….and react… without feeling or thinking clearly….you left out the first part of the sentence in your criticism. “Humans think they are free….” Very important as the next few words like in poetry…work with those first words in creating a meaning…message as in all the other sentences I wrote.

          What is so perfect …is your use of the idea that the sky is blue because humans invented the word blue to describe it. You are awesome!

          Exactly… this is how humans are deluded animals. The sky is not blue…whether we call it that or not. Blue skies are really only an illusion….much like our thinking we are free and that we are conscious beings. The sky only appears blue on clear sunny days, the sky above looks bright blue it is not. The atmosphere which you think you are seeing is not really blue. It’s an illusion of light. Visible light is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes can see. Light from the sun or flashlight, car headlight may look white, but it is actually a combination of many colors. We can see the different colors of the spectrum by splitting the light with a prism. The spectrum is also visible when you see a rainbow in the sky. The blue color of the sky is due to Rayleigh scattering. As light moves through the atmosphere, most of the longer wavelengths pass straight through. Little of the red, orange and yellow light is affected by the air. The absorbed blue light is then radiated in different directions. It gets scattered all around the sky. Whichever direction you look, some of this scattered blue light reaches you. Since you see the blue light from everywhere overhead, the sky looks blue but it is not. It is an illusion… much like our being conscious is.
          But since you failed to notice that my sentences were laced with irony you took the middle part of the sentence on it’s own…and focused on it only… which is what left you deluded to the irony. Also…to state that humans are conscious beings in the way my sentence was arranged is to say that the sky is blue even at night, during a sunset, a day filled with storm clouds, dust particles etc…it is much like conscious thought…depending on your location, the weather, and many other things it changes rapidly.
          The colors blend continuously into one another. Like our conscious minds. But we are only aware of a small fraction of what is there.
          Science shows that being conscious is a variable…not a constant. Most of everything in our days….and lives goes on without our conscious awareness. Nearly everything we perceive in the world comes not from conscious observation but from unconscious scanning. You missed the irony because you didn’t read that sentence in context with the other sentences I wrote. You also missed the meaning because you didn’t include the first part of the sentence. “Humans think they are free” . Did you choose to be born? Can you choose to stay conscious when you sleep? Can you choose to never die or grow old? Both science and Buddhism understands that as conscious subjects we live nearly illusive and at best fragmentary lives.
          You took the middle of the sentence personally…I think you might want to have that looked at by a specialist.
          Read the Nietzsche quote again and look up the word irony as well. Oh yeah…and google what “color the sky is at night.”

          • I know the sky is not blue, Philip…it was to illustrate a point, which you missed (and which I will not explain again as I have done in the past) in your fault-finding. ;) I know that everything we see is an interpretation by our brains, but that is reality as we know it, as is consciousness. I am not looking for fault; when I find it I take note! You are quick to assume, sir, as usual, and make silly statements. And if we are deluded animals then where is the capacity for compassion, self-reflection and ethics for animals? cheers…

          • “Both science and Buddhism understand(s) that as conscious subjects we live nearly illusive and at best fragmentary lives.

            But I thought we are not conscious? ;)

          • Our interpretation of the world is technically an illusion, but it is somewhat useless to think about it as such. When get beyond elementary Vedantic and scientific positions, we can speak about the world in common sense terms. Try cutting your finger off, killing a rabbit for dinner, or driving your car off the cliff…then report to me your findings of how illusory life is. When we get over the illusion part of life, we can get over the illusion that this really matters, and get into what does really matter and means to us, practially.

          • Philip Steir says:

            Jack,
            you may be well learned in TCM but you are unaware of certain literary techniques. You obviously reacted again ….without reading the Nietzsche quote or looking up the definition of the word IRONY.

          • Philip Steir says:

            Jack,

            I keep pointing out to you that you’re leaving out the first part of my sentence and attempting to find something wrong with just the middle section. Again read what I wrote not what you are imagining it says. And don’t take it personal.

            “Humans think they are free, conscious beings, when in truth they are deluded animals.”

            I’m not as articulate as Sam Harris but how about this…..

            “Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control.
            We do not have the freedom we think we have.”

            Sam Harris — Free Will

            Btw…the irony is….. The sky is blue on sunny days and so is the ocean.

          • Suri_k8 says:

            Well, Sam Harris is not to be entirely trusted as he is clearly biased in favor of eastern philosophy it makes me wondef if hes not starting to mix neuroscience with eastern philosophy in his latest books. I think he is losing his objectivity.

    • julian walker says:

      don’t get me wrong – there is a lot we should do about finding ways to have science be enacted ethically – it is just that identifying the problem (corrupt/unethical people not “science” per se) is an essential element of attempting to solve it!

      also, any discussion of the problems with science and technology should not leave out the ways in which they have immeasurably improved human life.

      and yea absolutely i am with you – ethics + science, just as ethics + business and ethics + politics is ESSENTIAL – and a grounded sane spirituality can be one way of fostering this…

      • Julian, of course: “also, any discussion of the problems with science and technology should not leave out the ways in which they have immeasurably improved human life.”

        I was just saying that even with the amazing advances of science/technology, the tools of science are still beyond the threshold for sanity, as they have the capacity to destroy the planet, and even seriously injure it (as we now see in the world with BP Spill, Fukushima, nuclear weapons, pesticides, plastic in the oceans), intentionally or unintentionally, which is a reality, despite science’s advances. It’s a double-edged sword, like Philip alludes to, and like war and religion, will likely always be this way. So, because a lack of ethics/corruption will always be, I think we can consider limiting science/innovation because corrupt/evil people will always exist to use the innovations inappropriately, even if they do so innocently and/or ignorantly.

        • julian walker says:

          i agree with all of this jack.

          the place is see this reasoning go awry is that it somehow conflates the problems of technology with science and reason and says that because technology has created new threats to the environment therefore somehow science and reason have failed the age of enlightenment was a wrong turn and we need a return to superstition, religious faith and truth claims based on no evidence and unreasonable beliefs…

          which is just ludicrous.

        • Suri_k8 says:

          What has destroyed the planet is our inability to understand clearly and anticipate the effects of new technologies, unfortunately sometimes the negative effects cannot be anticipated until you start using a technology….in which case only years of research will reveal the extent of the damage and its ramifications and then we can try to fix it ..example CFCs . Other times certain contaminants can be disolved naturally if they are emitted in moderate quantities but then if billions of people start emitting them then the natural systems just cant get rid of them effectively and they start to acumulate … so bottom line …. our environmental issues are extremely comlplex and most of them are interconnected with events and human habits that go way , way back in time .

          Our environmental crisis didnt start with the enlightenment, actually it has its origins in part in our natural instincts …Can we restrain our natural instinc to procreate ? Well , a lot of people can but seems like the majority can not . Just one example.

          Science is the lovechild of two such instincts , curiosity and our ability to solve problems by the use of tools .
          Could Marie Curie have anticipated that exposure to radiation would kill her daughter ?
          Science and technology evolve just like species do , sometimes we find the way to unleash certain forces for which technoloogy has not yet evolved the tools to understand and control them .
          Agriculture is one of such forces … agriculture completely changed the world …the dawn of agriculture is one of those things that goes way , way back in time that has a direct relationship with our environmental crisis . Just another example .

  10. julian walker says:

    Philosopher Peter Singer on Ethics, Evolution and Moral Progress

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91UQAptxDn8&feature=plcp

  11. Suri_k8 says:

    Forgot to say , although it wouldnt be entirely accurate , if people want to blame something for our current environmental and humanitarian crisis they should blame the dawn of agriculture since the acumulation and storage of food made it possible for economic specializaton to happen and well the rest is history…literally.
    Guns Germs and Steel and Collapse:Why societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond are two excellent books that cronicle the whys and hows of the success of western societies , and the collapse of diferent societies around the world respectively.
    In Collapse , Diamond tells the story of how very complex societies have collapsed for several reasons but environmental degradation played a mayor role in the mayority of collapses…a great example Easter Island …the islanders destroyed in its entirety the forest that used to be there in order to get wood for cooking and to transport the huge statues called moais that they constructed…And they also ate to extinction all species of birds and other animals that inhabited the island …..conclusion…you dont need technology in order to destroy the planet..you just need humans.

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