Saturday, March 8, 2008

Corporate Predators

Last Friday I attended the premiere of "Burning the Future", a documentary with which an old friend is associated that provides a disturbing overview of how corporations are raping the environment of West Virginia, Kentucky and other states by cutting off the tops of entire mountains and destroying the land, killing wildlife, and poisoning the water. Here is the trailer:

This harkens back to an earlier blog entry speculating that corporations are literally the dominant life forms on the planet. That they are also predatory is no longer in question, as this film shows -- the big problem is that since they are basically etherial and virtual life forms they permit their human components to function without conscience.

Interestingly these life forms worship science and materialism as the highest value, so that their efforts induce their human components to act in a way that is pro-science, and against their conscience. The quality of conscience has atrophied in the "humans" that speak and act on behalf of these corporate monstrosities.

Unfortunately their actions also affect the livelihoods and lifestyles of millions of other humans, who must turn off their consciences in order to go along with the choices that these corporations manifest and promote through the corporately controlled mass media.

In the Q&A following the premiere the film maker made a point that in all of the CNN debates among candidates this issue was never raised, and even global warming was barely mentioned and never addressed with specificity (as a result of coal mining, for example). At the same time "Clean Coal" was a major sponsor of the debates.

Finally it is my view that the most imminent ecological disaster facing humans and all life on the planet currently has not been addressed with any sense of alarm since the days of Jacques Cousteau. The pollution and death of our oceans is almost certainly a condition from which our species will never recover and is no longer a matter of conjecture or debate. The fact that our beaches are spoiled is the least of our problems. When the reefs and sea lifeforms are dead we will starve and perhaps most profoundly higher life forms (cetaceans) will also become extinct.

Life will go on but homo sapiens may not survive. There may be some justice in that, since it is homo sapiens who triggered the evolution of the corporation -- basically a soul-less entity that is having disastrous effects on all life on this planet.

(Please see "Thoughts on the Holocaust" - February 11, 2008 in Archive)

It may well be as some have speculated that corporations and other similar institutions are harbingers of our (de)evolution into less conscious life forms like ants and bees whose identity is no longer individualized but manifest in a hive or colony.

Perhaps that is what Life has in store for us because of the threat we pose, in our corporate and institutional structures, to the totality of life on earth.

While we may see technology and the Internet, for example, as evolutionary quantum leaps forward, to the extent that they enable the continued atrophy of individual conscience and compassion, these aspects of "progress" may well result not in human empowerment, but in the control of the masses by the most venal and power hungry among us.

If that happens, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hijacking Intelligent Design

Since 9-11 it is commonly asserted that fundamentalist Muslims have “hijacked” their religion from presumably more reasonable and mainstream believers in their faith.

Anyone who has followed the news in science recently might say exactly the same thing about the concept of Intelligent Design, and once again the culprits are fundamentalists who have co-opted a set of beliefs, in this case scientific findings, to virulently promote their own narrow interpretation.

Particularly in the fields of quantum physics and genetics, there is an increasing awareness on the part of scientists that natural phenomena cannot be explained or predicted without taking into account the presence of an underlying mental component. Heisenberg and even Einstein first introduced these concepts in physics; in genetics the implications are more subtle.

We are increasingly told about the genetic code; the genome (which is the code underlying an individual or species) has been sequenced (interpreted as a series of alphabetic letters) and at the TED conference in Monterey last year, geneticist Juan Enriquez described the apple as “an application.” When it receives enough energy from the sun the apple “executes” its code (just like a computer program) and falls from a tree.

If you’ve ever worked with computers you’ve had an experience that points to what this means (and I acknowledge that scientists are uncomfortable with the notion of meaning). You’re working on a new computer program or application, or even installing a peripheral, and it doesn’t work. You reread the manual or maybe even call a help desk, and the problem gets solved – and here’s what happens: You realize that the computer was right.

What you then realize is the device or the program functioned exactly as it was supposed to, but you misunderstood something in the instructions. The malfunction was not some random event – when you understand it from a higher perspective it makes total sense from the vantage point of your new understanding. When you can align yourself with the system that conceived the program or device, suddenly everything about the incident becomes clear – it is no longer seemingly random – it is the obvious result of comprehensible intelligence.

This is precisely the current predicament of science. As it tries to decipher nature its findings are incomplete, but in every nook and cranny they point to something unmistakable – previously the province of mystics and pantheistic religions – there is an unmistakable order, a plan and symmetry at work in nature.

But when they venture forth with these findings the results are not pretty.

Ben Stein is addressing this issue in an upcoming film, “Expelled the Movie”, in which he asserts that scientists who question some of the theories of Darwin are being expelled from universities and ostracized by their peers for being religious kooks. This is of course a frightening prospect; if findings can be empirically verified they should be allowed into science and if alternatives to Darwin’s theories are rational they should be taught.

But it’s a false conundrum. The problem isn’t Darwinism or even Evolution – it’s the issue of what originally started the ball rolling. Strict scientists believe that random acts like lightening could have triggered evolution and hence life is a random event with no meaning or mental component at work. Mystery solved.

But is it? Some geneticists claim they are years away from creating life in a test tube – but have they? It seems so far they have only created one life form from another.

If their scientific colleagues who are brushing up against the evidence of paradox in the form of a mental or intelligent component at work in nature are being unfairly banished from their positions as scientists, that is an absurdity that results from only one thing – the fact that this concept which is entirely legitimate for scientific exploration has been hijacked by fundamentalists in this country.

They want Intelligent Design taught in schools as a theory of the existence of God – essentially an anthropomorphic construct with obvious problems. We do not know anything about the existence of a God, much less which God is the right one, or what His or Her motives may be.

But we cannot allow earnest scientific investigation into a mental component of nature to be torpedoed by such a fundamentalist interpretation when it may yield immense breakthroughs in the area of medicine, space exploration and fields as yet unforeseen.

The finite human mind seems incapable of accepting an effect without a cause, and yet science is coming up against that paradox inside the atom and at the edge of the known universe. Scientists like Mani Bhaumik, inventor of Lasik and author of “Code Name God” have already begun to compare and even reconcile findings in their fields with ancient religious theories – but totally within the context of accepted scientific discovery. But such scientists do not necessarily contend, and in fact Bhaumik would surely not believe, that locating the presence of intelligence in nature proves that the earth was created in less than a week, or that a puppet master was pulling the strings in the universe or directing the lives of individuals on this planet.

Freeing ourselves from the constraints of this dichotomy, between limiting the scope of scientific inquiry or accepting beliefs based only on faith, is very likely a key to the next great quantum (pardon the pun) leaps in both science and health and we must grant our greatest minds the freedom to explore nature in its fullness, even if it leads to the conclusion that far greater minds exist.