If humans can exercise control over consciousness with the methods, tools, and technologies of neuroscience, maybe we can make “better humans” who will not go extinct. That is of course not the kind of thinking Charles Eisenstein likes to indulge because it is more of the old story of separation-and-control that led humanity to its present crises. I get it. I appreciate his call for discarding that story. I empathize.
There are biological sciences that can alter our species with genetic engineering. An improved humanity might face down the extinction crisis. The possibility of a new improved human through bio-engineering is at hand. Check out the discovery of CRISPR here:
The human mind can be improved, I think we can agree. Neuroscience as a solution to the extinction crisis facing homo sapiens provokes me to ask – Who would I trust to possess this knowledge and apply it to save humanity?
And so we come again to a question of Power and who should exercise it.
One understands why humans desire so strongly and persistently to be in the loving care of an omnipotent being (“God”). That desire underlies a great deal of the pre-modern religions and traditions that Science has often arrogantly dismissed as immature thoughts of humans who lacked scientific culture.
I would argue strongly that religion is not a childish phase humanity can grow out of, but that is a debate for another day. The question now is about who should make decisions over the direction humanity should take as we confront the extinction crisis with our awesome sciences. There simply is no answer to the quandary of power in the wrong hands. What agency would you trust with godlike power?
It was Albert Einstein, genius of physics, who declared “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Science is our creation. It can be our destruction. The nuclear weaponry now in the hands of humans is the example from which we must learn, and it discourages optimism.
I simply know no person, nor can imagine one, whom I would trust.
The Multiverse hypothesis
Again, another brief remark about a bit of pop culture now very popular due to three feature films, two with Marvel superheroes – Spiderman and Dr. Strange – and one titled Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. If there is a multiverse, we can sigh and turn the page on our species if we are about to go extinct in this particular universe. There are many other universes where we are a better, more compassionate and wise species, and we do not make the errors we have made. There, the species has a better story with a happier ending.
The personal corollary to the multiverse thesis is, there are other yous in those other universes. Each choice, each turn at a fork in your life path, can theoretically be the origin of another version of you and the history you would make.
Does this multiverse possibility comfort you? Not me, particularly.
Past-was and future-will Self
Here is another bit of flotsam thrown up by social media on my imagination’s shore to provoke me to a comment: “The person you once were and the person you are becoming are not the same person.” Seems right: your personhood is complicated. Read it again, savour the paradox within the surface meaning. You are one person; you are many persons – inside one consciousness.
If an individual self can change by intention, there may be reason to think our species can change with deliberate alteration of what we are. Science can offer tools and technologies to make our plans practical, to manifest a design into reality.
But, in the case of transforming my Self, the author and power of the plan is me, no one else. I trust me, and I like that ‘I’ am the one who designs my changes. In the case of our species, as I said, I trust no one to be in charge over our transformation.
Or rather, I simply cannot conceive of a single person nor institution of scientists or politicians – no me and no we -- who merit such trust.
Soul and Role
I began the essay describing the idea of a soul incarnating from across the Veil.
I am approaching an end so I will take a turn inward and ask the reader, do you have a sense of your soul’s unique destiny and identity? Do you feel you were born with a purpose and a role no one else was born to? This is a pretty common idea.
Do you have an answer to the question of why you are here, alive in this reality? Do you want a sense of meaning for your life? Charles Eisenstein addresses that here in a very brief video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjdrFr8iJB8
This is no time or place to open the topic of meaning in any detail, so what follows is a very condensed capsule on the matter.
Gravity is a “fact”. What is its meaning? Not its definition --- its meaning. Homo sapiens is a species that possesses consciousness. Consciousness seeks and finds meaning. Read here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/to-feel-meaningful-is-to-feel-immortal/
Fact and meaning are distinct categories. Science offers facts, not meanings.
Gravity is a scientific fact. The science of physics studies it, measures it, and promulgates Laws about it; Newton was the first modern mind to subject it to study and won his reputation as a genius... But did you know that Isaac Newton was also an alchemist as well as a physicist? Check this out. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton%27s_occult_studies
Is soul a fact of equal scientific validity as gravity? No. But Newton was a founding father of Science. Surely such a one would not indulge in the fantasy of alchemy.
Why would a scientist of genius taint scientific purity with a “pseudo-science” like alchemy? -- one rushes to ask. Well, Ger and his ilk rush to ask. The answer is, Newton possessed religious faith. Religion offers meaning. Religion is not an inferior childish form of science. It nurtures spirit. Newton valued that.
So when I asked you reader, whether you want a sense of meaning in your life, I was being sneaky. I was putting in a disguised critique of the claim of some folk, like my pal Ger, that science is sufficient in itself for explaining the human condition.
I disagree. I personally want more than science, which is why I am agnostic about it.
Conclusion: “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” -- Max Ehrmann
I think Ehrmann erred. It is not clear that there is any “should” in how the universe is. My not understanding the universe is beside the point. I know of no reason why I should believe the universe has a purposeful design it unfolds “as it should.”
This is an end, not a conclusion. I have offered a lot of information and the appendix offers a great deal more, and I have advanced some opinions, personal feelings, and a great deal of unverifiable conjecture and hypotheses, but not a coherent argument.
I am not attempting to educate so much as to empathize. Life is hard, and I have come to believe through my life experience that there are a lot of things in the human condition best left as unanswered questions.
Bewilderment is a noble and intelligible attitude to this world where we live -- where we came to be, as a ‘being’/soul/ person. Agnosticism is not-knowing, from the Greek words an [not] and gnostos [knowing].
For my part, being content with the many things I don’t know is becoming easy and comfortable. It was not always so, and my age has much to do with that. I recognize more and more what falls into the category “not-known-by-me”, whereas I resisted mysteries as a younger man.
Agnosticism as I practice it, as I recommend it, is not deliberately embracing ignorance. It means accepting that doubt about what I think I know is wisdom. And wisdom is a good place to end.
my friend GH to me on Facebook:
“This clearly demonstrates that he [Charles Eisenstein], and anybody else who supports these views, does not understand the essence of science or of what the scientific method was invented for and why it has continued to be the foundation for the pursuit of perceptive reality. Imagination is part of the scientific process. Does he seriously think that astrophysicists (and other scientists) don’t think about UFOs and other unproven imaginations?
His comments about the secretive and discretionary information release nature of politicians as some kind of a recent phenomenon is ridiculous. And clearly demonstrates that he doesn’t understand the essence of being a successful politician, i.e., do anything you have to do to get, and stay, elected. Does he seriously think that historical politicians, going back to even early Greece, always behaved in a full disclosure mode? Is this how a reputable historian thinks?
Honestly Charlie, I don’t understand why you, a well-educated and intelligent person who claims to be a historian, are so afraid of being your own voice instead of posting such unbalanced, even unknowledgeable (as these comments clearly are), echoes of others.”
myth and truth
Basic information, research:
Health and brain – self-help:
Emphasis on disability:
CBC Ideas program:
Astrology and attacks on it by Western Science
Entire book PhD thesis on pdf in re: defending astrology from scientific attack:
An astrologer hiding his practice at NASA:
Chinese sciences and Western science
Short essay on East and West:
Essay on Chinese science in New York Times, very highly recommended:
Nyugen Ba Thanh
“Let’s explore this ‘demographic fate’ hypothesis beyond our sky. If trillions and trillions of stars and planets appear and disappear obeying the same laws of physics, do smart species everywhere follow one same demographic pattern? Unless they’re immortal, all alien societies should have a measurable median age. Does that rise as their societies modernise?
What if high median age concludes the natural life cycle of all intelligent species?”