Archive for May, 2012


A Scientist

I was going to call this “A Man of Science” but this applies to all scientists and I couldn’t find an appropriate phrasing. A scientist has a field of expertise, and this field has usually developed through the scientist attending university moving into research, writing papers – even a book, and then being recognised as an expert. Effectively this scientist has become immersed in a field of study, and propogates that field of study by their way of life – papers lectures etc.

All of this is reasonable until you begin to question the context of this field of study. I am thinking of someone I know who would qualify as this type of scientist. He has become immersed in his field of science and the way he applies it. He is a strong man so this immersion is complete and shuts out those who don’t accept it. He appears not to have questioned axioms, and delivers his scientific knowledge unquestioningly. For most people he is extremely sure, and he brings that assuredness into his personal life where people admire his confidence and the assured way he deals with life and his family. I do hear him fend off inconsistencies such as chi with barbed wit and determined challenges, dismissing chi as non-existent and suggesting that those who exercise using chi somehow gain physical strength by “swatting flies”. A past master of this barbed wit is Richard Dawkins. His dismissal of religious understanding is completely destructive, and his popularity amongst intellectuals merely creates barriers to understanding rather than using his intelligence to develop a wider agreement.

I compare such scientists to thorn bushes. A thorn bush is strong and impenetrable. In its life its branches grow spouting more thorns that protect it. In a detached way a thorn bush appears isolated often distanced from other plant life in deserts or other barren surroundings, yet in reality this bush is an integral part of life itself. How does the thorn bush grow? In Nature. Underground its roots require water, its minimal foliage takes water from the atmosphere, and its breathing is as much a part of plant life as any plant. So whilst the thorn bush might profess insularity it is part of what Thay calls interbeing (For Thich Nhat Hanh, nonviolence is a natural and necessary part of Buddhist religion. To understand his teachings, then, one must start with the most basic religious foundation: “In Buddhism the most important precept of all is to live in awareness, to know what is going on…to be aware of what we do, what we are, each minute.” When we are totally mindful—in direct contact with reality, not just images of reality—we realize that “all phenomena are interdependent…endlessly interwoven.” This is the foundation of Nhat Hanh’s approach, not only to nonviolence but to all of life. He calls it the principle of “interbeing.”).

So what is the knowledge of the scientist? Even though s/he might be immersed in a particular discipline that discipline fits into a whole sphere of knowledge with integrated disciplines – an interbeing of knowledge. Whilst the scientist might focus attention narrowly that is a choice, an approach to learning, Whilst the scientist might be considered innovative within her/his field the reality is that the branches of the thorn bush are growing but the thorn bush still remains isolated. It is this separation that I characterise as important to much that is science.

But in truth this is not the way Capra sees science. In chapters 2 and 3 he describes a systems approach that perceives science as overarching networks that he calls “Web of Life”. This fits in with the deep ecology he described in Chapter 1, and that I have called ONE planet; it is not inconsistent with accepting ONE planet as axiomatic, but without asking I couldn’t say whether he would accept ONE planet in this way.

So if science is developing towards ONE planet where is the problem? The problem lies not with the direction of science but the direction that is imposed on it. Fundamentally systems thinking is an anathema to the 1%. The 1% likes a mechanistic model, a model of separation. This atomism allows business to create a plant and products that yield profits. But then it doesn’t have to be responsible for futher consequences. I see this most obviously in the production of plastics. Science discovered the flexibility of using plastics, and business designed plants for productivity and profit. Over the decades as these plastic products have worn down there have been environmental consequences such as the gyra (see clip).

Once environmentalists determined that produced plastics were creating these problems they sought solutions. Unable to budge the 1% from their sole focus on profits the environmental lobby seeking some sort of solution targetted ordinary people in the hope that these people would improve the environment. But that approach can never be a solution whilst business continues to churn out all these plastics. So whilst a significant proportion of people have developed an environmental conscience concerning plastics the global environmental problems just worsen. World forums such as COP17 could seek solutions but rather than deal with the problems the 1% refuse to let go of their profits. To effect this the 1% have promoted climate-denial institutes such as Heartland, whose ambit is to promote the notion that the environmentally-damaging policies of their businesses are not causing “global warming” – and that they are not responsible for any damage that their policies in the past have caused. This is the exact antithesis of systems thinking in which responsibily lies with the totality of the systemic consequences.

What is worse in the case of plastics is that the problem can only be solved by business, because plastics are not biodegradable (like natural products such as made from wood). Plastics can only be recycled by production plant, and business as opposed to local authoritoes are the only people with the finance to create such plants. All that local authorities can do is remove the eysores from one neighbourhood – and create eyesore landfills containing the plastics. These landfills are on the increase as are the numerous gyras.

Not only does business refuse to clean up the plastics they also ignore the alternative recyclable solutions, here are some examples.

The way the 1% dodge their responsibility for the environmental damage connected with plastics is atomistic thinking. Basically they examine their own little thorn bush, and determine that they need to do such-and-such to make a profit, and then they use their power and influence to blame everyone else.

Here is a bit of systems thinking that deals with plastics. It is a recognition that we are all part of ONE planet. It uses existing infrastructure, marginally increases the cost (thus excusing the 1% from participation), but would be clearly beneficial. The atomistic approach that is in place, for example with regards to bottled water, is that the 1% misuse government authority to go in and take the water they need from wherever they choose. Then they build plant to make the plastic bottles and then deliver the bottles to their supermarkets for sale. This is an atomistic process that enables them to make their profits, disadvantages the communities they collect the water from, cause lung disease where they are making the plastic bottles and leaves the bottles to be dealt with “by society” after they have been consumed. If it wasn’t so common place we would look at this process and wonder how we could have allowed it.

Note here, drinking water from plastic bottles is not a healthy option, and I don’t recommend it.

Given that we wish to continue consuming bottled water, what do we do? This requires an examination of the system which includes the consumer, sanitation, and the bottled water business. Once consumed the bottles are in refuse or in plastic bottle banks. The sanitation department takes the refuse and sorts it – this is an additional cost. The refuse is divided up into refuse that can be disposed of sustainably, paper products that can be used for recycling, plastics that can be stored awaiting collection. The sanitation department provides collection points where business can collect this “refuse” and business would collect it as part of its routine for delivering to the supermarkets. The materials for recycling are then delivered to plant where the new item for sales is manufactured. Here is a clip that talks of the potential of plastics:-

It is described as malleable but it is not malleable for you or I, however business can make anything if they invest in plant. So if business invests they can profit from recycling in coordination with sanitation and the consumer. As it stands at the moment, if this system were to be introduced business would get their puppet government to develop the new sanitation aspects, they would use the media to impress upon people the need for recycling and charge them more taxes, raise prices because of the increased costs due to recycling, and then make huge profits from the new plant and the new recycled resources. But by a system approach these additional costs would be shared as would the increased profits from the recycled manufacturing.

With a systems approach based around ONE planet we have an equitable solution, under the 1% approach the problem is denied until we are forced to act, then they take advantage of politics to profit from the outcome. System solutions exist but no matter what approach is offered the 1% can exploit, again pointing to a recognition that paradigms are not the solution when you are dealing with the 1%.

I have another example of a system that works, or at least I think it did. I had a friend who managed a company with a turnover of approx 1 and a half million a year. According to him, and I have no reason to disbelieve him, he worked hard as did his team of workers. In the end he was shattered and retired in his 50s to build a castle in the sky. Now I don’t know how ecologically sound his product was, and from that point of view how his production fitted into the wider system, but it sounded a fair system to work for based on mutual interest, respect and compassion. This man called himself a capitalist – as would many, but he was just running a small business. He made a reasonable living, worked too hard as probably did his workforce, but together they made it work. Within the business itself exploitation was minimalised.

Compare that with a transnational whose structure is based on coercion and exploitation. The transnational is run by the 1% but at all levels of management there is coercion based on career structure. If the middle and upper echelons of the transnational wish to progress they have to exploit the people under them on the ladder. The people employed in the factory are never encouraged to have loyalty, and they know there will be none in return – if the workers don’t accept exploitation, the low wages and try to unionise then the transnational moves its plant to another country. And who ensures that? The immediate manager, and if there are doubts the manager is pressurised up the ladder. 1% transnational companies function on coercion and exploitation, an approach that lacks a system that can work sustainably. It matters little to the 1%, they cut and run. That is the system, atomistic exploitation whose only guide is the profits of the 1%.

Contemporary science has begun to alter the axioms of science, and one example is Capra’s Web of Life. But even if science does alter this “worldview”, does it have any real impact on society? How connected is this new scientific knowledge to the reality of daily life? Clearly 1% influence is more powerful than that part of the scientific establishment that is recognising a systems approach. It is almost a clash – the atomism of the 1% and the systemic development of knowledge of ground-breaking science such as Capra. How do these forces exist together? That is the question that governs any paradigmatic change.

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Paradigm

Capra begins the next section of Web of Life with discussion of the word paradigm. Starting from Thomas Kuhn’s definition as applied to science Capra expands it [p5]:-

“to that of a social paradigm, which I define as “a constellation of concepts, values, perceptions, and practices shared by a community, which forms a particular vision of reality that is the basis of the way the community organizes itself. ”

As Matriellez, I described one of the four dominating aspects of education as the corporate paradigm. Capra’s adaptation of Kuhn’s defintion would apply very well to this corporate paradigm “a constellation of concepts, values, perceptions, and practices shared by a community, which forms a particular vision of reality that is the basis of the way the community organizes itself. ” It doesn’t need any alteration, it fits as a perfect description of the way things are except for one important caveat, the Mandtao caveat, that ought to be included:-

“a constellation of concepts, values, perceptions, and practices shared by a community, which forms a particular vision of reality that is the basis of the way the community organizes itself but whose totally dominating influence is the increased profits of the 1%.”

No wonder science is embraced by the 1%, they sugar-coat reality for the benefit of the 1%. Where is the genuine understanding of what is without a recognition that the paradigm profits the 1%. It is the same as saying we live in a democracy without saying the Mandtao caveat “democracy whose totally dominating influence is the increased profits of the 1%.”

He goes on to describe the mechanistic view of life, Newtonian Cartesian paradigm, as disappearing. Because he does not include the Mandtao caveat it appears reasonable to see this change from the mechanistic view as feasible, but with the caveat we can understand the failure of science to embrace the changes he so eloquently described in his earlier books. In his scientific paradigm he considers developing awareness, but with the caveat one has to ask “will the profits be affected?” And that is difficult to answer. If his awareness change demands a sustainability pre-requisite then such a change is in direct conflict with 1% profitability to such an extent that the 1% has established a think tank whose specific purpose is to promote climate change denial.

To be fair to Capra, I could interpret the rest of the chapter as tacitly including the Mandtao caveat. He promotes deep ecology as described by Arne Naess (I came across him when I relived my 20-something ecosophy – amusing). This deep ecology is a more elucidated version of the ONE planet page in which humanity recognises itself as integrated with all being – as opposed to shallow ecology which sees a separation and natural resources to be used in a “nice” way.

Capra also drew an interesting distinction between holistic and ecological [p6]:-

“A holistic view of, say, a bicycle means to see the bicycle as a functional whole and to understand the interdependence of its parts accordingly. An ecological view of the bicycle includes that, but it adds to it the perception of how the bicycle is embedded in its natural and social environment – where the raw materials that went into it came from, how it was manufactured, how its use affects the natural environment and the community by which it is used, and so on.” I have a particular beef about plastics. The plastics industry produces an excessive amount of plastics, and leaves government to clean them up (discussed here). This is complete dishonesty because the only way they can be cleaned up is for business to build plant that can recycle the plastics. The gyra and other plastics eyesores (as discussed in “Tapped”) are completely caused by the 1%, and with all the will in the world the 99% cannot do anything about it because plastics requires plant to convert them – despite the efforts of the industry spokespeople to blame the 99% and government. Because of my beef about plastics I say that ecological disposal of manufactured items needs to be part of the ecological outlook (I have no doubts at all that Capra was including this ecological disposal in his “and so on”).

I choose different words than ecological. I consider that the businesses of the 1% need to be accountable for the environmental damage they cause, and by accountable I mean that they must pay. It is ludicrous that in Tapped the water spokespeople were allowed to blame the local councils for the failure to provide sufficient collection points for their plastic bottles. It is not up to the local council to provide collection points, it is up to the businesses. Furthermore those businesses also need to provide plant where these plastics can be converted into other useful plastic items. Once created plastic does not biodegrade as does wood or other natural products. The plastics become an eyesore causing environmental damage because they have been created by business. It is up to Bill Gates to build factories that recycle the polystyrene, not anyone else. This is the benefaction that community responsibility requires, not usurping Africa with Monsanto GM seeding.

Here the problem lies with the legal, social and scientific axiom concerning the environment. Our legal system is controlled by the 1% but it tries to give the appearance of compassion, and occasionally judges risk the wrath of the 1% control and dish out environmental settlements. But throughout these legal processes the lawyers funded by the 1% tie up the legal process with law, case law, previous settlements and so on. There are many scenarios where Erin Brockovich fights for the rights of people and the planet against big business; in the movies the person who wins is miraculously portrayed, in real life there are few legitimate cases that are actually won. This is because the fundamental basis on which the law is fought is the Mandtao caveat, the protection of the 1% and not the genuine axiom of ONE planet, Capra’s ecological imperative.

Here we have the underlying problem. Our system is based on the 1%, the Mandtao caveat “whose totally dominating influence is the increased profits of the 1%”, and not on ONE planet. ONE planet needs to be applied across the board, our law, our economy, our science and our society. To be civilised means to be in harmony with ONE planet not creating technology that allows the continued domination by the 1%. This is the reality of discussing paradigms. Token changes from mechanistic world views might rock the world of science but if our whole system does not change this basic axiom there is little chance that such paradigmatic scientific change will be anything other than whistling in the wind. How far along this road did Capra go?

Understanding 1% awareness


“But this realization has not yet dawned on most of our political leaders. The recognition that a profound change of perception and thinking is needed if we are to survive has not yet reached most of our corporate leaders, either, or the administrators and professors of our large universities.” [p 4]

On the same page as worldview at the beginning of the first chapter is the above quote. Again I find this an irritating academic quote. Occupy brought into focus the terminology of 1%, but bourgeoisie was not a new idea. Whilst there was a clear recognition that the corporatocracy was powerful Occupy has changed that focus into a recognition that Wall Street controls government.

But in truth these realisations are not new. Yet throughout we continue with the academic rhetoric of not “dawning on our political leaders”. This is compromise, it is the compromise forced on academia, a compromise that many academics readily accept, that the problems we face are a lack of awareness on the part of and branch of the 1%. And why do they present things in this way? To maintain the false delusion that academia can change with awareness, that academia is not controlled by the forces now known as the 1%.

Awareness hasn’t reached the corporate leaders, administrators and professors. Absolute rubbish. When awareness reaches these people, mostly they walk in the other direction. A typical example of their response “what can we do about climate change?” Since Capra wrote this book (1996), these same scientists have been bought off and afre providing us with denial science. Is this awareness? Absoultely not, it is money. They keep their jobs if they get funding, and where is the funding? In the dastardly lies of the 1%.

In Free to have a worldview?, I said much the same thing – the 1% control the knowledge through funding. Similarly they control awareness though funding and influence. Our academics learn to control aspects of their minds, and in that control they do not open their minds to knowledge but close them off – close them off so that their perspectives can be funded. Of course they do not present this delusion as awareness, and maybe even for some their blinkered vision triggers an exclusion mechanism where they eschew all that is true or all that is too difficult to do anything about. In reality all they are saying is that I will only seek knowledge where the funding will allow me to go.

There is of course a negative aspect to my continually raising this point, and that is aversion. When the point is raised once the mind might engage with it, when it is raised several times the mind reacts emotionally and rejects it – aversion. So should I continue because of this aversion? And the answer quite simply is this – what is the truth? Does funding control knowledge? Yes. is the search for knowledge fettered by funding – by the 1%? Yes. If academia is to be considered the institution that searches for knowledge, does it need to recognise this funding reality and do something about it? Yes. Is the discomfort of aversion a necessity?

Absolutely. Consider the post-hippy compromise years. Throughout society, especially including academia, there have been a sprinkling of these hippies whose message of the 60s and 70s could have opened us up to a wiser future. But they compromised. They said that they will work from the inside to seek a solution. And what happened? Their energies were used by the system to give the system greater credibility. The system never compromised. Of course there were token victories along the way, but in the end they were unwilling captives of the system.

Do I point the finger at Capra or others and blame them? Absolutely not. How they lived their lives is their decision. I point the finger at myself, of course. I made myself ill fighting. I love teaching and I had to retire early – although I teach a bit now. I can say about myself, I gave the system credibility when the students gave the system credibility because of my dedication. And what about the system as a whole? How much has this system benefitted from the outpourings of wisdom that was the undercurrent of the 60s and 70s? It is worse, far worse. War continues unabated, science through drone technology now makes war more easily accessible to the 1% and its politicians because the people of the metropole don’t have to die. The 1% tell us we have a financial crisis whilst they increase their profits and syphon off more funds into their personal bank accounts. People lose their homes whilst they add zeroes to their Cayman contents.

And science talks about awareness, it was never awareness it was always intentional exploitation of scientists who choose to wear blinkers.

So what should science do? What one name is associated with Hiroshima? Truman who gave the order. No Oppenheimer who invented it. Scientists, are you to blame? If you continue to wear blinkers and accept the channeling of knowledge into the profit-making ventures your funding defines, then you are to blame.

But then what, science, is your course of action? Can we walk away from the search for knowledge? Absolutely not. What can science do? That is so hard to answer, and is an individual decision. But honesty has to help. And to describe the problem as an issue of corporate, political and administrative awareness is not honest.

Can we find knowledge without funding? Perhaps genuine science needs to say that we will search for knowledge without funding. Who can know? But Fritjof, awareness is not the problem.

Updated almost immediately:-

After finishing this blog I ate and began listening to HHDL’s Consciousness in a Single Atom. Almost the first thing that hit me was Richard Gere saying “Because I am an internationalist at heart one of the qualities that has moved me most about scientists is their amazing willingness to share knowledge with each other” [CD1 Prologue 1 of 2 – 3.26 mins]. Whilst I don’t accept this is true of 100% of the scientists, and whilst this willingness to share becomes less so as science becomes increasingly dominated by the need for funding, I do not take this quote as a refutation of my argument. When one can observe that, given this genuine desire for the search for knowledge and its sharing does exist, the body of knowledge that makes up science has narrowed and has become focussed on technology, then we can assess that this narrowing is because this technology is a platform for profit. Given that scientists desire to share knowledge this shows that the dominant force of discovery is not the scientists’ search for knowledge but the influence of the 1% in its channelling towards profit.

He concludes the section on p4 with:-


“A sustainable society is one that satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of future generations.” This, in a nutshell, is the great challenge of our time: to create sustainable communities that is to say, social and cultural environments in which we can satisfy our needs and aspirations without diminishing the chances of future generations.”

This is in direct conflict with the interests of the 1%. How can sustainability work with the singular corporate motivation of increasing profit leading to increased personal wealth of their CEOs? Whilst this conflict does not negate the purpose of this book, it does indicate a cloistered solution, one that is academic and not relevant to daily life.