There’s an old joke about a man who falls off the Empire State Building. As he passes an office window on the way down, someone shouts, “How are you going?” and the man answers, “I’m okay so far.” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t laugh at the punchline the first time they hear the joke, but there’s also a wince thinking about the thud that awaits the man at the end.
Science has been okay—so far—in explaining how nature works, riding the crest of success for several centuries now. But the thud is near at hand, as outlined in a very readable, perceptive online article titled “The Blind Spot,”jointly written by two physicists, Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser, and a philosopher, Evan Thompson. The blind spot referred to in the title has been of tremendous but hidden importance in your life.
The blind spot refers to science’s rejection of consciousness as a key factor in describing reality. Rigidly adhering to a belief that it holds the key for explaining everything, science hasn’t seen its own blind spot—or taken it seriously, with a few exceptions—and therefore the vast majority of working scientists don’t hear the thud that awaits them. The authors of the article do, and they go right to the heart of the problem. As they view it, science has been wrong on two counts. The first is the belief that science can accurately and objectively describe the real world as it exists. The second is the belief that physical reality is all that must be accounted for.
Paige Harbour is a university student who assists me as an editor and in social networking. She is also an astute observer of these times and a brilliant thinker and writer who has her hand on the pulse of the generation born around the beginning of this millennium. I've asked her to write a guest newsletter. — John Perkins When COVID shut down my college campus my school bag was shoved deep into a closet. After more than a year of quarantine and confusion it is still filled with past assignments, printed worksheets ready for the recycling bin. It surprises me how far-away my pre-pandemic memory is situated – these assignments are now hardly recognizable to me. One of these papers was a ten-year plan, meant to be finished for a sociology class, still a blank page.
That semester had involved taking an environmental sciences course; an activity that can be summarized as three months of terrible news. News about all the ways in which humanity had profoundly damaged our only home, news about how all the wrong people were going to suffer immeasurably for these crimes against the planet. We sat listening, cycling through rapt attention and total dissociation. Massive extinction events, cataclysmic fires, rising tides. Threads of synthetic fabric and splintered plastic fragments are in the ground, the water, the food we eat. Did you know Iceland now holds funerals for melting glaciers? It felt as though the world was dying, yet I was expected to continue living.
In 1967, I was learning the technique of growing cells in plastic culture dishes at the University of Virginia. There are two fundamental steps in the process: Step 1) Creating a suspension of isolated single cells to be inoculated into a culture dish; and Step 2) Creating culture medium, the fluid environment in which cells grow.
Starting with embryonic muscle tissue, digestive enzymes are used to breakdown the connective tissue matrix of the muscle, which frees individual cells. In the enzyme-saline solution, the released free cells are spun down in a centrifuge tube forming a pellet at the bottom of tube. The cell pellet is resuspended in fresh culture medium and a sample is pipetted into each culture dish. The suspended cells settle down, attach to dish’s surface, and begin to grow. The cultured cells live in a fluid environment referred to as culture medium. Growth medium is the laboratory version of blood, the fluid environment that cells live in within the body.
The notion that human beings walk, talk, think, and do things because our brains control us is an argument that has been around for decades. It replaced the religious argument that the soul is what drives us or some divine spark ignited by a divine creator.
Now the average person accepts that the brain is a machine analogous to a computer, and when we believe that we have free will, we are mistaken. This view suggests we are like brain puppets driven by the mechanical operation of neurons. Robbed of free will, we only have to go a step further to see that even being conscious is an illusion. As long as the machine-brain is in charge, anything else we tell ourselves is just a story.
Yet the flaws in this argument have been pointed out many times.
In 1958, Francis Crick, co-founder with James Watson of the DNA genetic code, defined the concept referred to as The Central Dogma. This dogma described how the organizing information in biology represented a one-way flow from DNA > RNA > Protein.
The Central Dogma provided the foundation for the principle of Genetic Determinism, the belief that genes “determine” the character and quality of our lives. While I taught this concept to medical students for over a decade, it was only after I left academia that I looked-up the definition of Dogma: A belief based on religious persuasion and not scientific fact. At that moment I realized I had been teaching religion in medical school.
When confronted with the real definition of dogma, Crick responded, “I used the word the way I myself thought about it, not as most of the world does, and simply applied it to a grand hypothesis that, however plausible, had little direct experimental support."
The main point is that The Central Dogma, a hypothesis that was never tested, has been repeated so consistently over the last 60 years that people have bought it to be a scientific fact. This dogma has always been an unverified “suggestion.”
Hello Dear Friends, Cultural Creatives & Seekers Everywhere,
The video in this article is a rerun from a previous article. Why play it again? The message is even more relevant today.
Over the past several weeks, the public was offered a momentary break from the never-ending onslaught of news of a world in chaos and upheaval. Global attention was temporarily focused on the exploits of gazillionaires Jeff Besos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk. Each of these individuals, representatives of the top 1% of the top 1% of the world’s wealthy, have invested their riches in creating their own space-flight companies. To demonstrate for the public their trust in their own efforts, Besos and Branson strapped themselves into rockets and blasted-off into space.
A strange fact that nobody seems to act upon is this: The body you see in the mirror isn’t your real body. The image you see is of a solid physical object, stable and fixed like a table or chair. But in reality your body is fluid, constantly changing, filled with numerous spaces, and the host of trillions of bacteria. All of this is more you than the you see in the mirror.
The old saying, “What you see is what you get” doesn’t fit our bodies. Consider the billions of cells that die and are replaced every day. They are like the bricks in a house that vanish while building remains intact. If you accept this as the truth, modern medicine is challenged at the core, because medical students are taught to treat the body they see. You might even say that in most cases they are taught to treatonlythe body they see.
The model taught in medical school is common to all the sciences. It is known as naïve realism. What makes it naïve is the assumption that the world delivered by the five senses, but especially the visible world of objects, is enough to describe reality. In other words, “What you see is what you get.” Develop the most powerful microscope you can imagine, and you will see what Nature is all about.
2020, the year of the global pandemic, was in many ways an urgent wake-up call for humanity – demonstrating perhaps more clearly than ever that our conventional models of reality are deeply out of sync with the real world. The confused and incoherent responses to COVID-19 highlight the inadequacy of our collective sense-making and governance systems. But the pandemic might be just the catalyst for a profoundly disruptive and unstable decade. Driven, on one hand, by a convergence of complex global crises, from climate change to economic instability, from food scarcity to mental health as our current world order begins to fall apart; and on the other, by the cascading impacts of disruption to every sector of the economy as a new order emerges. Never has the need to understand the underlying processes of change that drive these extraordinary occurrences been more acute and consequential.
This speaks to a much deeper problem than recognised by conventional analysts – that our underlying models of thought and reality are increasingly out of touch with the interconnected complexity of global systems. If we are to successfully navigate the coming decades of crisis and disruption, then, we require not merely technocratic external solutions applied as a kind of ‘band aid’ to these mounting challenges, but rather a fundamental reset of how we think and see these challenges in the first place.
The metaheuristic of reductionism
At the core of the problem is a reductionist model of the world that has outlived its usefulness. Although reductionism as reflected across society has indeed enabled huge progress such as enabling incredible medical advances, the model is not adequate to the current crises, and now has become our biggest impediment.
With the heightened promise and potential threats of artificial intelligence (AI) constantly in the news, people have become more deeply confused. Should they welcome the AI revolution or fear it? In either case, robotics and super-computers march ahead with inexorable momentum.
There are warnings from top-level scientists about a future in which computers become so advanced that they will leap into autonomy. Freed to make their own decisions the way humans do, AI machines conceivably might create catastrophes like starting a war. On a more mundane level, robotics has steadily replaced humans in many jobs.
Of course AI is also touted as a huge advance, yet the irony is that the direst perils of AI are already here, in the form of our own human intelligence. We feel intuitively that we have natural intelligence, not the artificial kind. After all, nobody built us from mechanical parts. We lead emotional lives; we are capable of insight and self-reflection. Despite these things, however, the human mind is deeply artificial in many ways, and the negative connotations of the word “artificial”—fake, lifeless, illusory, mechanical, arbitrary—apply to everyday life.
Various scientific fields over the course of history have hoped to master Nature for the benefit of humankind. At the top of the heap right now is artificial intelligence (AI), which has allied itself with the technology of robotics. Between them AI and robotics are having a sizable impact on the work force as more and more jobs get automated. Advocates of AI are both supremely optimistic and nervous. Both relate to the possibility of a super-intelligent machine that would far surpass human intelligence.
If you are an optimist, this so-called Singularity, as the hypothetical machine is called, would become self-improving. Its software would become free of human constraints, and in a “runaway reaction,” it would keep improving its knowledge and the technology that knowledge creates. The result would be a revolution in human civilization—or its demise. The worriers are nervous that the Singularity could initiate global war on its own, or perhaps turn on us as its inferior and deal us some other kind of fatal blow, for the good of life on Earth.
We’re living in a golden age for brain research, which could revolutionize how we think, feel, and behave. Thanks to advanced brain scans like the fMRI, brain activity can be localized and even the most precise activity pinpointed. For example, researchers can spot the minuscule area in the visual cortex that, when damaged, prevents a person from recognizing faces, including his own.
Now the goal of neuroscience is to map the brain’s 100 billion cells and perhaps a quadrillion connections down to the tiniest detail. But what will we use the map for? One obvious area is medicine. The more we know about what goes wrong in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, the closer we get to a cure. But the highest good would be to reinvent the brain.
“Reinvent” isn’t an exaggeration. Ten thousand years agoHomo sapienshad evolved the same genetic array that modern people inherit, which includes the same brain structure. But in the intervening millennia since then, there arose reading, writing, advanced art and music, mathematics, and science. Each advance required a new relationship between mind and body.
Human beings reinvent the brain as we go along, day by day. You are doing it right now. In short, the brain is a verb, not a noun. It is reshaped by thoughts, memories, desire, and experience.
If genes and a fixed structure of brain cells told the whole story, it would remain a total mystery why a cave dweller after the last Ice Age should have just the right complement of neurons to discover gravity or write a symphony. Now we realize that the human brain is far from fixed, at any level. New brain cells are being formed throughout life; trillions of connections between neurons are developed; and the genetic activity inside each neuron is dynamic, responding to every experience and every stimulus from the outside world.
With the decline of organized religion and a decades-old drop in church attendance, people have largely made their spiritual life into something private and personal. The rise of meditation and yoga attests to this. But it is hard to fix your sight on a spiritual goal if you don’t believe in heaven from the Western perspective or enlightenment from the Eastern.
Looking around at the tone of modern life, I think an important goal is worth seizing on: the divine feminine. Being scientific, rational, and technical, secular society seems to have less time for values that Carl Jung would have included in the feminine archetype, that religions cast as goddesses or a motherly figure like the Virgin Mary, and which most of us identify with our mothers growing up.
But at a deeper level, the divine feminine represents certain values that human beings have long cherished. Half of human nature is represented by the feminine in both sexes, as reflected in the qualities of the ancient Greek and Roman goddesses.
When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.
The way we eat has changed the planet. In this simple idea, which few of us consider when we go to the grocery store, lies immense hope for the future—if we pay attention. On the medical front a large number of people accept the notion, once thought of as a fringe belief, that “you are what you eat.” The decisions you make today about what you eat will have a huge impact in your future health. Food plays a decisive factor in modern lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and all the damaging side effects related to the epidemic of obesity in this country.
The next step in our growing awareness expands on the same idea. The next bite you take adds to the health of planet Earth or pushes it a tiny step toward deterioration. Unconscious eating is bad for the environment. Conscious eating puts the planet on the road to renewal and wellness.
No matter how life began on Earth—there are still some huge gaps in our knowledge about that—it seems indisputable that the universe set up the conditions for life. But a radical twist has now been offered by the prominent stem-cell biologist Robert Lanza and theoretical physicist Matej Pavšič in their deliberately startling new book,The Grand Biocentric Design. As Lanza bluntly declares in the book’s introduction, “Life is not a product of the universe but the other way around.” Lanza calls this theory “biocentrism,” which he introduced in his 2010 book of the same name.
On the face of it, saying that life created the universe is preposterous as long as the Big Bang and all the accepted steps leading to the creation of Earth are true. Yet what if they are just the assumptions of a current scientific model or paradigm? By definition a paradigm shift calls into question the rock-solid assumptions on which the previous paradigm rests.
The culture medium, environment, the chemistry. Yes, not the genes. We said the genes control us. I say, No, wait. They were all exact same genes so the difference between muscle, bone and fat cells was not determined by the genes, they all had the same genes. It was determined by the environment. Now look in the mirror and what do you see back? An individual entity. You see yourself as single individual, human entity. It’s a misperception of a singleness for this reason. Here’s the true bottom line. You are made up to fifty trillion cells. Your body is a community. The cells are the living entity. When I say your name or I say Bruce, that’s a name I give to a community of fifty trillion cells. The cells again are those single living entity. Here’s the point. Jokey but fun and true. You are skin covered petri dish. Underneath your skin are fifty trillion cells growing in this petri dish.
You probably already know that Albert Einstein, who won a Nobel Prize for Physics, and was famous for his theory of relativity, which revolutionized our understanding of space, time, gravity, and the Universe, was a genius. But did you also know he was quite the philosopher?
Einstein wrote that the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the Universe a friendly place?’
He explained that, “ if we decide that the Universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that is unfriendly and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process.”
When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily. - Deepak Chopra
The global pandemic has disrupted everything we call normal life. The disruption has been so catastrophic that there is fear among experts that this is only a “starter pandemic.” COVID is less infectious than the measles and less fatal than SARS. Instead of using this fact to stoke fear, we can do a great deal to heed COVID’s wakeup call.
A new way of looking at life itself holds out hope and optimism, because the popular image of deadly viruses assaulting humans like microscopic aliens is incorrect. Microbes are the very basis of life. We interact with them constantly, and much more than 99% of the time life is enhanced. Every advanced life form, including us, has microbial DNA woven into its own genome. A vast colony of bacteria known as the microbiome together with viruses (the virome) and fungi (the mycobiome) that inhabit every animal’s digestive tract, and when it comes to mammals, the microbiome not only makes digestion possible, but it connects us to the planetary biome—the totality of viruses, bacteria, and fungi that truly rules the earth.
As we go about everyday life, we are embedded in a mystery no one has ever solved. The mystery was voiced by one of the most brilliant quantum pioneers, Werner Heisenberg: “Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” (There are variants of the quote that use “reality” for “universe,” and the remark has also been attributed to other famous scientists, but the gist is always the same.)
If we take this remark seriously, it turns out to be truer today than it was in 1900 when the quantum revolution began and the revolutionary new theory of quantum mechanics was put together. How can reality be stranger than we could possibly think? Look at the framework of your life. You pick up your morning coffee, and instantly you are acting in space and time. Your perception of the cup in your hand depends upon the five senses as communicated through the brain. You can think about anything you fancy as you sip your coffee.
These might not seem so mysterious, but there is one mystery after another nested inside everyday experience. Science can reach no consensus on the following:
• Where did time come from? • Why do properties of physical objects have their origin in invisible waves of probability of observation? • Where does a thought come from? • How did matter transform into mind? • Is consciousness solely a human trait or is it everywhere in the universe?
It is very rare that human beings have a chance to rethink our place in Nature. The modern world is the fruit of a worldview that has placedHomo sapiensreigning supreme over all other life forms. This worldview seems only right and proper to the vast majority of people. In the course of just a few weeks, however, over seven billion people’s lives changed for the worse. Economies were halted, global transportation and supply chains were shut down to a crawl, and hundreds of millions of jobs were lost. More money has been lost globally than in any other moment in history. Amid the shock and panic, the catastrophe of COVID-19 has prompted some radical rethinking. Can a new and better world emerge? Not unless our worldview changes, because in many ways the virus isn’t a mindless primitive life form ravaging us, “the most superior life form on the planet”. Nor did Nature strike back to punish us. Something deeper is going on. To see what it is, we need to consider a worldview based not on humans-as-supreme, but on life-as-supreme.
If you find yourself living in a troubled world, what should you do? The question is as old as recorded history, but over the millennia only three basic answers have emerged. If you find yourself living in a troubled world, you should A. Turn to God or the gods, B. Place your trust in science and rational thought, or C. Renounce the world and retreat inward.
These answers have practical outcomes, which is why we have cathedrals, space programs, and monasteries. But what if none of the three time-honored answers works anymore? That’s the general situation most modern people find themselves in, and so they retain a diluted loyalty to old answers in the absence of a better one. For example, most Americans do not believe the creation story in the Book of Genesis, but neither do they completely believe Darwinism, telling pollsters that in some undefined way God enters into evolution despite the view among evolutionary scientists that Darwin’s theory is completely valid.
The third option, retreating from the world, is actually the one most of us have chosen more or less automatically. We lament the state of the world but spend every day occupied with our personal affairs. If you do nothing to improve the world, you are for all intents and purposes reliant on your own thoughts and actions. A higher authority or proven worldview is irrelevant.
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