Tag Archive | "evolution"

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Consolation, Trust and Empathy in Animals

Posted on 23 April 2016 by Jerry

Recent research points to shared capabilities among all mammals for consolation, trust, and empathy. It appears from the various studies that animals from prairie voles, highly monogamous zebra finches that mimic the stress state of their partner, and chimps all make friends, trust, and empathize with others.

A research study reviewed in the Science magazine, January 22, 2016 issue showed that prairie voles (rodents) exhibit a consoling response when other voles (cage-mates) in their environment are showing stress. An abstract of the study said “Consolation behavior toward distressed others is common in humans and great apes, yet our ability to explore the biological mechanisms underlying this behavior is limited by its apparent absence in laboratory animals.” This study was conducted using laboratory animals.

The study goes on to observe that the prairie vole, “greatly increases partner-directed grooming toward familiar conspecifics (but not strangers) that have experienced an unobserved stressor, provide social buffering. Prairie voles also match the fear response, anxiety-related behaviors, and corticosterone increase of the stressed cage-mate, suggesting an empathy mechanism.”

Frans De Waal, PhD was a co-author of this study that was conducted at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He said, “Scientists have been reluctant to attribute empathy to animals, often assuming selfish motives. These explanations have never worked well for consolation behavior, however, which is why this study is so important.” Consolation behavior in the voles is when one animal experiences a calming contact with a distressed colleague.

Chimpanzees base their friendships on trust of a familiar animal. The Max Planck Institute conducted this study at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. It found that opposed to common wisdom, the Chimpanzee environment is not filled with aggression, conflict, competition and dominance.

Chimpanzees are given a choice of using a friendship or “trust rope” or a “no-trust rope” to access food. An article appearing in the January 15, 2016 Christian Science Monitor described the research by stating “The no-trust rope yields immediate access to food that the chimp doesn’t particularly like. But if the chimp pulls the trust rope, a box of high quality food – chimpanzee favorites like apple and bananas – moves to its partner. The partner eats half, but is then faced with a decision.

The article continues by stating “A ‘trustworthy’ chimp will send the other half of the food back to its partner, while an ‘untrustworthy’ chimp will keep the food for itself.” Chimps “were significantly more likely to share with friends. So friendship, like many supposedly human concepts, may be deeply rooted in evolutionary history. Individuals with friends live longer, have more children and [have] lower stress-levels.”

Yet another research effort looked at Zebra finches who mate for life and consequently have a very close partnership with with their mate. Research shows they enjoy a great sympathy between each other. For example, the research as reported in the December 11, 2015 issue of Science magazine showed that a female, only exposed to stress in the birdcall of her mate, would shift her physiological state to match her partner’s level of stress.

At the same time research into the human brain shows consistency in the physical reaction to a highly altruistic act. Research shows that empathy-based altruism is characterized by a connection from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to the anterior insula (AI) that also invokes connectivity to the ventral striatum. This format in the brain always represents altruistic behavior.

The innate quality of caring for one another appears to cross all higher organisms from mammals to rodents to birds. Empathy and sympathy appear to be universal and something ingrained or genetic within everything. We need to realize this is an aspect of human beings that we need to accentuate. We should use these higher impulses as the standard to endorse a human being as having value. These are the impulses we should look for and reward in our leaders and ourselves.

Use the following links to gain additional information or access the original research that was used to write this article.











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Beyond Animal, Ego and Time: Chapter 16 – Transcending Egocentricity, The Significance of Insignificance, Intervention Opportunities, Index and Sources

Posted on 08 July 2013 by Jerry

(Note: This is the final posting of chapters and sections of the book Beyond Animal, Ego and Time.  For those of you who have read the book or portions of it, I invite you to comment, criticize or question.  I hope you found useful information and that the ideas were thought provoking.)


The last imperative to revisit is the requirement to insure evolution continues. We previously discussed the three paths of progress in evolution: physical, intellectual, and emotional. Of these three, the path of evolution with the greatest velocity is intellectual. This is because intellectual evolution is accelerated by the exponential growth of knowledge and thought and not bounded by the time necessary for physical change. When you add past ideas and information to an expanding body of knowledge and thought produced by an ever increasing human population you have an unprecedented opportunity for the evolution of intellect and insight.

We acknowledged we might not perceive evolutionary advancements when they occur and cited our recent recognition of self-awareness in other animals. With the complexity of life in the modern world it is difficult to always be sensitive to what is occurring around us. To be vigilant and recognize evolutionary progress when we encounter it, we must come to the task with a certain openness and receptivity. We must bring the right analytical perspective. As much as we can benefit from a new thought, holding on too long to an old one can handicap us.

An example of this is the casual way many people use the notion of “survival of the fittest.” British economist Herbert Spencer is credited with first use of the phrase “survival of the fittest” to represent his characterization of Darwin’s process of natural selection. Over the years even Charles Darwin embraced the phrase as shorthand for natural selection. Unfortunately when people try to apply the thought in their daily life it limits their perspective and leads them to misconstrue the lesson of evolutionary progress.

This is most obvious in business. The phrase calls to mind imagery of one animal besting another. Many business people generalize this concept, using it to justify a different standard of morality. They use it to rationalize setting aside their normal personal moral standards so that they view the world of business as dog-eat-dog where it is expected and encouraged that the strong and knowledgeable take advantage of the weak and uninformed. Their conclusion that anything goes in business becomes the basis of primitive behavior of the past. People who see a world where this view is acceptable cloak themselves in misunderstood science as they strive to recreate the jungle around them. They have obviously missed the point.

Evolution provides a continually changing and improving definition of “the fittest”. The image of the most aggressive animal in the jungle is backward looking. Evolution looks forward and defines the fittest human being as the one who can demonstrate mastery in the present and future. The fittest today are those who exhibit an ability to work with and lead others. They have achieved the greatest level of consciousness and prescience by establishing future directions and taking actions that produce the greatest good for the greatest number. Evolution is a forward moving process that propels life and human beings to ever-higher levels of greatness and accomplishment.

It is difficult to precisely describe characteristics of the future “fittest” human beings because in large measure we will only know them when we see them. We can get a sense of the type of attributes they will have by looking at the people we honor and whose memory we hold most dear. We remember those who demonstrate concern for the welfare of strangers: Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, and Oscar Schindler. We honor people who articulate higher human ideals and lead great change to improve the human condition, often with great personal sacrifice: Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. We learn from individuals who advance our knowledge and increase the probability of our survival in the future: Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, Werner Heisenberg, and Francis Crick. We revere those who advance human belief and inspire us to be better people at peace with the rest of humanity: Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus Christ, Confucius, and Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah. These are the people we honor and remember. They possessed the attributes that made them the fittest of their time and epitomized the kind of people and actions to which we aspire.

We previously observed human thought is at its best when it rises to the highest levels of abstraction. This occurs when it is most productive in reaching for the greatest truth. The ability to abstract an idealized state to which we can direct our action is one of our most advanced intellectual capabilities. It is where we should be looking to see successive breakthroughs in our intellectual evolution.

Abraham Maslow died in 1970. Some people suggest that had he lived longer he would have added to his Hierarchy of Needs. The Hierarchy reflects an exclusively egocentric view of human consciousness. It approaches all levels of need from the individual’s perspective and fails to recognize any higher level of consciousness, one that transcends the individual. It is intuitively obvious that when the individual’s needs have been fulfilled in full measure there is a likelihood they will look beyond themselves to the welfare of others.

It can be observed, however, that many people recognize and respond to the needs of others and they do this without having achieved complete fulfillment of their own needs. This can be seen in the sizable charitable giving of human beings. Many economists, behavioral scientists and cynics question the motivations of those who donate because they sincerely believe human nature is unequivocally self-serving. They argue that charitable giving is motivated by a donor’s expected utility where they derive personal benefit immediately or in the future from the donation. Examples discussed include donating to the creation of a park where the individual will enjoy its benefits or supporting medical research from which he or she may benefit in the future. They also cite the donor’s opportunity to derive benefit from the act of giving either because the size of their donation enables them to the advance their social status or they receive a “warm glow” from making charitable contributions. They may experience this feeling of enhanced self worth even when no direct social benefits are forthcoming to themselves or the beneficiaries of charitable giving are far away.138

The greatest opportunity for us to see this charitable behavior as something other than self-serving occurs when the beneficiaries of the donations are unknown to the donor and little opportunity exists for personal recognition. Examples of these kinds of donations are those made in response to the December 26, 2004 Tsunami as a result of an earthquake in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Another example is donations given to provide disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

As a result of the 2004 Tsunami, an estimated 229,866 people in some fourteen countries were listed as killed or missing by the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery 2005.139 Humanity reacted to this tragedy by donating to its victims. Not counting the assistance and donations from governments nor funds donated by individuals outside the United States, for which there is inconsistent recordkeeping, donations principally from U.S. citizens amounted to $1,874,949,705 in cash and in-kind gifts.140 The comparable figure donated in response to Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $3,574,031,029.141

It is hard to argue that all of these donations are strictly self-serving. The scale of the contributions and the fact that many were made over the Internet, which is an almost anonymous donation medium, suggest there is another cause of this human response. When we identify the types of people we honor and remember we find a common thread that indicates that we recognize and assign the greatest value to behavior and achievements that provide benefit to others, and more particularly to strangers.

It is time to recognize evolutionary development of a new level of consciousness that extends beyond self-serving behavior. We need to add another Being need on Maslow’s Hierarchy, a need for Transcending Ego and manifesting a genuine concern for others. Even if, in order to side step an unnecessary debate, we must satisfy the skeptics by ascribing a “warm glow” of self worth to those who achieve Transcendence, so be it. It is still time to recognize the development of this new level of consciousness and intellectual ascendance.

The most intuitive way of thinking about this transcendent level of the hierarchy is to see it as a mirror image, only inverted, of the original hierarchy in terms of the needs of others. In this view, providing for the physiological needs of others has the greatest urgency, followed by satisfying their safety needs and, in turn, their belonging and esteem needs and ultimately their self actualization. This would seem to be supported by a history of charitable giving where the greatest outpouring of support has occurred when the physiological and safety needs of others are threatened.

There is one final thought that continues to handicap the evolution of human consciousness. That thought occurs when we believe the superficial differences between human beings somehow divide us into meaningful groups. The ongoing perception and definition of difference is the principal root cause of the “Them Versus Us” dichotomy that has contributed to the human history of discrimination, hostility, persecution, slavery, war, and genocide. This belief that somehow one group of human beings is fundamentally different from another and therefore inherently better or worse may be the single most destructive belief people have held onto since our most primitive days.

A wide intellectual acceptance of the theory of evolution exists that holds that all life forms are related. By implication, all human beings are related. This generalized relationship for many people is not direct enough to dispel their ongoing belief in meaningful differences. It is not explicit enough to persuade them to accept all human beings as peers and equals.

Part of the reason this exaggeration of differences persists is the less than certain knowledge of human ancestry provided by archeology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology. A number of fossil discoveries appear to consist of the early human species that inhabit various places on our evolutionary tree. These include Australopithecus anamensis, Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo sapiens.142 As new specimens are discovered whether on the island of Flores (Homo florensiensis)143, in a Siberian cave (Denisovans)144 or somewhere else, debates continue amongst paleoanthropologists as to which came first and which is in direct line of ancestral succession leading to humans.145 While these ongoing debates have kept alive the thought that the differences between us are significant they all fall somewhere on the human family tree. Unfortunately archeology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology will remain subject to individual interpretation, disagreement, and uncertainty for the foreseeable future.

The unraveling of the human genome in molecular genetics however gives us additional scientific insight that is more precise in defining human relationships. Two independent research efforts have used the nucleotide sequences of alleles and their rate of mutation over time to trace ancestry and population migrations back through the generations. “Dividing the total number of genetic differences between two populations by an expected rate of mutation provides an estimate of the time when the two shared a common ancestor.”146 One effort has been undertaken over a number of years is by Dr. Douglas C. Wallace and his colleagues at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. They use mitochondrial (mt) DNA to create a genetic history.147 (mt)DNA is passed in tiny rings of genetic material in the female egg cell from the mother to offspring with no recombination. This gives a pure maternal genetic history unaffected by male genes. Another effort by Drs. Peter A. Underhill and Peter J. Oefner of Stanford University has analyzed the Y chromosome to trace ancestry through the male population.148

The result of these two efforts was to establish “that the root of the human phylogenetic tree occurs in Africa … and that eastern Africa may have been an ancient source of dispersion of modern humans both within and outside of Africa.”149 Further, the data in these studies trace human ancestry back to a single male and a single female in the relatively recent human history. The mitochondrial data trace our origin to a single female that existed in Africa between 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. “The tree is rooted in a single individual, the mitochondrial Eve, because all other lineages fell extinct.150 The study of the Y chromosome similarly traces our lineage to a single male, the Y Adam, who lived approximately 270,000 years ago.151

As with any scientific conclusion no absolute certainty exists. Indeed there are some who disagree with these findings. Some paleoanthropologists offer an alternative to this Out of Africa conclusion that is the Multiregional View. It suggests the evolution of modern humans began when Homo erectus spread throughout Eurasia approximately one million years ago. There is a third or Compromise hypothesis that combines elements of these two distinct viewpoints.152

These offered alternatives notwithstanding, the weight of scientific evidence indicates all human beings are closely related. Supporting this conclusion is the intellectual framework of evolution, archeological fossil record, our identical anatomical structure, knowledge that humans share 99.9% of the same genes153, and our collective lineage traced back to the same individual female and male ancestors who lived less than 300,000 years ago.

For these reasons we have to allow perceived human differences to slip away as insignificant and inconsequential. Then and only then can we fully acknowledge and embrace our collective human kinship. While we each are individuals with unique life experiences, we are the same. We each benefit from or fall victim to the human condition.

As we look around us we can find countless others that are less or more fortunate than ourselves. We see victims of the accident of origin who are born into environments that have the inherent dangers of starvation, disease, or warfare. We see people with life disabling medical conditions where each day is a stark reminder of their mortality. We see mental illness where the difficulty of day-to-day life or the blight of chemical imbalance or dependence has driven people away from reality. We see impossible circumstances that overwhelm a personal ability to overcome.

We also see people who are born to great wealth or have encountered fortunate circumstances in their lives. There are those who have found the great love of their life and those who have been set on a course that led them to great accomplishment. There are those who are unknown and those who have great celebrity. What we all share is the human condition. We all have high points and low points in our lives. In this we are the same.

This knowledge should lead us to know we are not alone. When we look outside ourselves to all of the other billions of people who are alive at any given moment, we see but one predicament, we are each but one of billions. We were all born, will live and die as a part of the life process. Each of us tries to find the best paths between our births and our deaths for our loved ones and ourselves. In this we are the same and it must bind us together. When we understand the profound shared reality we must feel empathy for one another. This empathy is what enables us to care about the quality of each other’s life experience and encourages us to act to help others when and where we are able.

There is much to do.


Afterwords: The Significance of Insignificance


Paradoxically our individual, objective insignificance in an infinite universe gives us the freedom to attempt to do things of significance. As one of the over six billion people alive today who will exist for probably no more than seven or eight decades within the three plus billion years that life has been on the planet, it is difficult to argue that any of us is capable of doing anything in our lifetime that will be significant. This recognition of our inherent, almost certain, insignificance is intimidating and distressing.

In a counterintuitive way however, this insignificance liberates us. Unbound by the burden of seeking to be significant we are free to try and influence the course of events and stand up to forces in our environment that are doing the things that are counterproductive to the future of humanity and life. If we fail to influence future direction we will end up being no less significant than we would have been anyway. If we succeed in influencing the future toward a more beneficial outcome in even a tiny way, we will bring a measure of significance to our existence way beyond that which we would otherwise have achieved.


Addendum – Intervention Opportunities


The following is a representative list of organizations actively pursuing issues including global climate change and the ozone hole, nuclear disarmament, synthetic biology, disaster and refugee relief, upgrading the quality of life experience, and biological diversity. These and other similarly focused groups would welcome your support and active involvement. Investigate thoroughly since each organization has its own approach to their mission with some groups being much more aggressive and militant than others.

Many of the organizations listed are actively involved in multiple issues. Find the right approach and organizations for you. These and other groups represent a way for each of us to take up the mantle of Guardian and make a difference in the course of our planet’s future. They represent a place to begin or expand our action.




Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

257 Park Avenue South

New York, NY 10010

Tel: 212 505-2100



Greenpeace International

702 H Street, NW

Washington, DC 20001

Tel: 202 462-1177



Natural Resources Defense Council

40 West 20th Street,

New York, NY 10011

Tel: 212 727-2700





Arms Control Association

1313 L Street, NW, Suite 130

Washington, DC 20005

Tel: 202 463-8270




(International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War)

66-70 Union Square, Suite 204

Somerville, MA 02143

Tel: 617 440-1733



NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative)

1747 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 7th Floor

Washington, DC 20006

Tel: 202 296-4810



Trident Ploughshares

42-46 Bethel Street,

Norwich NR2 1NR

United Kingdom

Tel: 0845 45 88 366



Union of Concerned Scientists

Two Brattle Square

Cambridge, MA 02238-9105

Tel: 617 547-5552



War Resisters League

339 Lafayette Street

New York, NY 10012

Tel: 212 228-0450






431 Gilmour Street

Second Floor

Ottawa, ON K2P 0R5


Tel: 1-613-241-2267



Human Genetics Alert

Unit 112 Aberdeen House 22-24

Highbury Grove, London N5 2EA

United Kingdom

Tel: 020 7704 6100



Organic Seed Alliance

PO Box 772

Port Townsend, WA 98368

Tel: 360 385-7192



SYBHEL Project

Center for Ethics in Medicine

University of Bristol

3rd Floor, Hampton House

Cotham Hill

Bristol BS6 6AU

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)117 331 0720


email: sybhel-project@bristol.ac.uk


Synthetic Biology Project

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20004-3027

Tel: 202 691-4398



The Center for Food Safety

660 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, #302

Washington DC 20003

Tel: 202 547-9359



The Institute of Science in Society

29 Tytherton Road, London N19 4PZ

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1908 696101

Contact: Julian Haffegee





International Red Cross

ICRC Headquarters in Geneva

International Committee of the Red Cross

19 avenue de la Paix

CH 1202 Geneva

Tel: ++41 (22) 734 60 01



Medecins Sans Frontieres

(Doctors Without Borders)

Rue de Lausanne 78

CP 116 – 1211

Geneva 21


Tel: +41 (22) 849.84.84



Oxfam International Secretariat

Suite 20

266 Banbury Road

Oxford OX2 7DL

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 47 2602

UK 0300 200 1300



The International Rescue Committee

122 East 42nd Street

New York, NY 10168 USA

Tel: 212 551-3000






Equality Now

PO Box 20646

Columbus Circle Station

New York, NY 10023

Tel: 212 586-0906



Genocide Intervention

1200 18th Street NW, Suite 320

Washington, DC 20036

Tel: 202 559-7405



Global Fund for Women

222 Sutter Street, Suite 500

San Francisco, CA 94108

Tel: 415 248-4800



Heifer International

1 World Avenue

Little Rock, AR 72202

Tel: 800 422-0474



Human Rights First

333 Seventh Avenue,

13th Floor

New York, NY 10001-5108

Tel: 212 845-5200





Animal Welfare Institute

900 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20003

Tel: 202 337-2332




(American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

424 E. 92nd Street

New York, NY 10128-6804

Tel: 800 628-0028



Compassion in World Farming

River Court,

Mill Lane,

Godalming, Surrey,


United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1483 521 950



Farm Sanctuary

P.O. Box 150 Watkins Glen,

New York 14891

Tel: 607 583-2225



PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

501 Front Street,

Norfolk, VA 23510

Tel: 757 622-7382



The Humane Society of the United States

2100 L Street, NW

Washington, DC 20037

Tel: 202 452-1100



The National Anti-Vivisection Society

53 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 1552

Chicago, IL 60604

Tel: 800 888-NAVS

312 427-6065





Center for Biological Diversity

P.O. Box 710

Tucson, AZ 85702-0710

Tel: 520 623-5252



Global Crop Diversity Trust

c/o FAO

Viale delle Terme di Caracalla

00153 Rome


Tel: +39 06 570 55142

+39 06 570 53324






abstraction, human thought and, 72–74, 187

acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), 128

affection, needs for, 100

Africa, human phylogenetic tree and, 191–192

agriculture, genetically modified organisms and, 149–150

AIDS. See acquired immune deficiency syndrome

Alpha Centauri System, 43

America and Cosmic Man (Lewis), 14

American Clean Energy and Security Act, 126

amines, 21

amino acids, 21

Anderla, Georges, 64

Ångström, Knut, 118


cycle of life, 178

farm cruelty and, 179–183

human reaction to, 178–179

self recognition and, 178

tools, use of, 57–59

Antarctic, ozone levels, 110–111

Aristotle, 30, 118

Armstrong, Neil, 127

Army-McCarthy Senate hearings, 137

Arrhenius, Svante, 118

art, emotional development and, 78–79

atomic bomb, invention of, 127

Australopithecus anamensis, 190




complex reflex, 66–67

knowledge-based cosmology and, 4

Behringer, Richard, 52


early stage of human civilization, 9

knowledge vs., 11–12, 81–82

belongingness, needs for, 100

Big Bang, 20, 32

billiard ball hypothesis, 35

biogenic sphere, 24–26

Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), 150

birds, tools, use of, 57

Birks, J., 135

Bohr, Niels, 36–37

Bolshevik Party, 136

Bornean Orangutan, 57

bosons, 28–29

Broglie, Louis de, 37

bromine, 112

bromochlorodifluoromethane, 112

bromofluorocarbon compounds, 110

bromotrifluoromethane, 112

Buddha, 30

Bush, George W.

Russian threat and, 140

SORT, 134


California Institute of Technology, 66

Capitalism, 137

carbon dioxide (CO2), climate change and, 117–119

cells, memory and, 45–46

Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety, New York University, 75

CERN. See European Organization for Nuclear Research

CFCs. See chlorofluorocarbons

chain reflex, 66

charitable giving, motivation of, 188–189

Chen, Shaohua, 104

Chernoybl-4 nuclear reactor, 139

chimpanzees, tools, use of, 58–59


CFCs and, 115

communism, changes and, 140–141

nuclear weapons, 133, 138, 138–139

poverty line, 105

chlorine atoms, 112

chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), 110–112

chromosome, 45–46

climate change, 105–106, 110, 117–131

Climate Stewardship Act, 126

Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, 126

Cocconi, Giuseppi, 42

The Cognitive Animal (Gallup, Anderson, Shillito), 59, 63

cognitive dissonance, 11

Cold War, 133–134, 136–140

Collins, William, 125

Colman, Robert, 125

Communism, 136–138, 137

The Communist Manifesto, 136

complex reflex, 66–67

compound lens microscope, 27

Compromise hypothesis, 191

compromises, government and industry, 165

conditioned reflex, 65


beliefs vs. knowledge, 11–13

failure to address, 12–13

segregated societies and, 11–12

contextual reformation, 173–174

cosmology, knowledge of universe and, 16–17

Crutzen, Paul, 110–111, 135

Cuban Missile Crisis, 138

cyclic universe, 32



Damasio, Antonio, 74–75, 77–78

Darwin, Charles, 24, 63, 186


inevitability of, 19

of organism, life information and, 53

reanimation and, 91–93

decision making

consciousness, emotions and, 74–75

self awareness and, 65–68

democracy, 137

Denisovans, 190

deoxyribonucleic acid. See DNA

Department of Biological Anthropology, Cambridge University, 58

Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, 50

Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas, 52

Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, 52

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (Damasio), 74

Descartes, René, 56

deterministic system, 35–36

Development Economics Research Group, World Bank, 104

Diamond, Jared, 165

differences, between humans, 189–193

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), 22

death of organism and, 48–58

genetic engineering and, 148

matter, memory and, 45

mitochondrial, 49, 191

nuclear, 49

physical evolution and, 70

Dobson, Gordon, 110

Dobson unit, 110

“Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy, 13

Drake, Frank, 42

Duke Energy, 127

DuPont, 110



earth, age of, 71

egocentricity, transcending of, 185–193

Einstein, Albert

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and, 38

light, study of, 36

matter, energy and, 19

simultaneity and, 23

Ekman, Paul, 76

Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act, 126

electron microscopy, 51


quantum mechanical theory and, 37

wave function and, 37

emission reduction, 126–127

Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, 191

The Emotional Brain (LeDoux), 75


art and, 78–79

centering of, 173–175

consciousness, decision making and, 74–75

evolutionary development and, 72–79

origin of, 76–77

empathy, self awareness and, 62–64

Engels, Friedrich, 136

entanglement, quantum, 38–39

environment, humans, impact on, 109–116

esteem, needs for, 100

European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), 28

European Union, 137


aggregate level, 88–89

of emotion, 72–79

of intellect, 72–74, 185

one-to-many-to-one progression, 88

physical, 70–71

survival of the fittest, 186–187

extraterrestrial life, probability of, 42–43



farm animal cruelty, 179–183

fermions, 28

Flannery, Tim, 110–111, 112

force carrier particles, 28–29

fossil DNA, study of, 48–58

Fourier, Joseph, 117–118

France, nuclear weapons, 133

free will, 35

Freon, 110

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 12



Gaia, 128

galaxies, 29

Gallup, Gordon G., Jr., 62–63

Gautama Buddha, 30

generation, measurement of, 130

genetic engineering, 70–71, 147–150

genetically modified food, 149–150, 158

genome, 45–46

Germany, nuclear weapons, 135–136

glasnost, 139

global climate change, 105–106, 110, 117–131

global village, 14

Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, 126

Global Warming Reduction Act, 126

God, singular life form and, 92

googol, 31

googolplex, 31

Gorbachev, Mikhail, 139–140

Gore, Al, 122

gorillas, brain and, 63

Great Pyramid of Khufu, 127

Green Revolution, 125–126

greenhouse gas reductions, 126

The Guardian (newspaper), 156

Gulick, Steve, 58

Guns, Germs & Steel (Diamond), 165

The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (McLuhan), 14



Hadron, 28

Halon-1211, 112

Halon-1301, 112

halons, 110

Haywood, James, 125

HCFC-22 (hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22), 115

Heisenberg Indeterminacy Principle, 37–38

Heisenberg, Werner, 37–38

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, 37–38

Helios, 43–44

Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow), 98–106, 170, 187

Hiroshima, 133

HIV. See human immunodeficiency virus

hologram, 47

Homo erectus, 190, 191

Homo ergaster, 190

Homo florensiensis, 190

Homo genus, 71

Homo habilis, 57, 190

Homo heidelbergensis, 190

Homo rudolfensis, 190

Homo sapiens, 190

first appearance of, 71

uniqueness of, 55–68

homosexuality, American military and, 13

household wealth, 104–105

Hubble space telescope, 31

Human Genome Project, 46

human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), 155


ancestry, 190–192

body, elements of, 54

development, equality of, 162–163

intervention, future and, 161–167

phylogenetic tree, 191–192

thought, evolution of, 72–74

uniqueness, 53–68

Hume, David, 30

Hurricane Katrina, 2005, charity and, 188

Huygens, Christiaan, 36

hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22. See HCFC-22



imperatives, in belief system, 94–96

implications, in belief system, 94–95


CFCs and, 115

nuclear weapons, 133

inductive reasoning, 32–33

infinity, universe and, 30–33

innate reflex, 65, 66

instinct, 8

intellect, evolution of, 8, 72–74

interaction, with others, 175–177

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), 122–124

International Geophysical Year, 119

International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), 149

intervention, future and, 161–167

intuition, emotion and, 77–78

investigatory reflex, 66

IPPC. See Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

ISAAA. See International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications

isolation, beliefs, conflict and, 11–12

Israel, nuclear weapons and, 133



Jansen, Zacharias, 27

Japan, nuclear weapons, 136

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 155

Jones, Jim, 12

Jurassic Park scenario, 86–87



Kasner, Edward, 30

Keeling, Charles David, 119

Kennedy, Donald, 125

Kennedy, John F., 127

kindness, 177

Klaus, Vaclav, 140


belief vs., 81–82

human differentiation and, 68

quantifying of, 64

Koch, Christof, 66–67

Korean War, 138

Krings, Matthias, 49



language, human differentiation and, 68

Large Hadron Collider (LHC), 28

Law on Cooperatives, 139


capitalism, abuses of, 137

climate change and, 126–127

farm animal cruelty and, 179–183, 182

LeDoux, Joseph, 75

Lenin, Vladimir, 136

leptons, 28

Lewis, Wyndham, 14

LHC. See Large Hadron Collider

life, beginning of, 20–23

life experience, enhancement of, 169–183

life matter, 25

light, study of, 36–39

Lindeman, F.A., 110

livestock, cruelty and, 179–183

living matter, 25–26

love, needs for, 100

Lovelock, James, 128



MacArthur, General Douglas, 138

Macquarie University, 110

MAD. See Mutually Assured Destruction

magnetic field, planet and, 29

magnetism, 91–92

Manning, Martin R., 125

Mao Tse-Tung, 138

mark tests, self-awareness and, 60–61

Marx, Karl, 136

Maslow, Abraham, 97–103, 102, 187

mass spectrometry, 51

matter particles, 28

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 48, 58

McLuhan, Marshall, 14

McMaster University, Hamilton, CA, 50

Medvedev, Dmitry, 134


encoding and, 84–85

living matter and, 45–54, 83–84

transfer of, past into present, 85

meteorites, 21, 29, 41

methane (CH4), 128–129

microscopes, 27–28

Millennium Development Goals, UN General Assembly, 106–107

Miller/Urey experiment, 21

mirror tests, self-awareness and, 60–61

mitochondrial DNA, 49, 191


first life on planet, 21–22

manufactured, grown, 151–152

Molina, Mario, 111

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1987, 112, 115

Morgan, Dave, 58

Morrison, Philip, 42

The Moscow Treaty, 134

Mote, Philip, 125

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY, 155

Multiregional View, 191

mutation, genetic modification and, 70

Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), 134



Nagasaki, nuclear bomb, 133

National Academy of Sciences, 149

natural selection, 24, 186

Nature (Molina, Sherwood Rowland), 111

Neanderthal, genetic analysis of, 49–51

New START. See New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), 134

New York University, 75

Newton, Isaac, 36

Nisbet, Euan, 129

Noonan, James, 50

North Korea, nuclear weapons and, 133

North Pole, ozone hole, 112

nuclear disarmament, 144–145

nuclear DNA, 49

nuclear weapons, 133–146

nucleotides, synthetic biology and, 152



Obama, Barack, 134

October Revolution, 1917, 136

Oefner, Peter J., 191

On the Origin of Species (Darwin), 24

one-to-many-to-one progression, 24

opposable thumb, 57

optical microscopy, 51

origin of life experiments, 20–22

Out of Africa model, 191

Oxford University, 110

ozone, 110–111

ozone hole, 109–116



Pääbo, Svante, 48–50

Pakistan, nuclear weapons and, 133

Pask, Andrew, 52

Pavlov, Ivan, 5, 65–66

People’s Temple Agricultural Project, 12

peptide nucleic acid (PNA), 151–152

perestroika, 139

philosophy, 9–10

phylogenetic tree, 191–192

physical evolution

genetics, human science of, 70–71

random mutation, genetic modification and, 70–71

selective breeding, 70–71

The Physical Science behind Climate Change (Scientific American), 125

physiological needs, 98

Planck’s constant, 37

PNA. See peptide nucleic acid

Poinar, Hendrik, 50

poliovirus, genetically engineered, 156

politics, global climate change and, 125–126, 147

polymerization, 21–22

poverty rates, 105

prefrontal cortex, self awareness and, 67–68

present moment, 171–173

Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, 182

primates, tools, use of, 58–59


extraterrestrial life and, 42–43

future events and, 40–41

mathematics of, 39–40

past frequency, 40

time and, 40

proportionality policy, weapons and, 142–143

prosperity, world, 106

Protestant Branch Davidians, 12

Proxima Centauri, 43–44

Putin, Vladimir, 134, 140



quantum mechanics

deterministic universe and, 36

development of, 39

entanglement, 38–39

quarks, 28

A Quest for Consciousness: a Neurobiological Approach (Koch), 66



Randerson, James, 156

Ravallion, Martin, 104

reanimation, death and, 91–93

recollection, 174–175


chain, 66

complex, 66–67

conditioned, 65

innate, 66

investigatory, 66

of self-defense, 66


belief, supernatural and, 3–4

definition of, 10

remote projection, 174

Renfree, Marilyn, 52

Revelle, Roger, 119

ribonucleic (RNA) acid, 22

Rowland, F. Sherwood, 111

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 111, 118

Rubin, Edward, 50


New START, 134

nuclear war, U.S. and, 135

nuclear weapons, disarmament, 144

threat of, 140–141



Safe Climate Act, 126

safety needs, 98–100

Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 104

Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA, 149

Sanz, Crickette, 58

Schrödinger, Edwin, 37

Science magazine, 125

Scientific American magazine, 125

scientific knowledge, systems of thought and, 10–11

scientific method, 32–33

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 119

secular institutions, beliefs, conflict and, 11

selective breeding, 70–71

self awareness, 59–65

animal kingdom, humans and, 69–70

decision making and, 65–68

empathy and, 62–64

prefrontal cortex and, 67–68

self, consciousness of, 72–73

self-actualization, 101–102

self-defense reflex, 66

Seventh Day Adventist Church, 12

sheep-human chimera, 149

simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), 155

simultaneity, Einstein and, 23

singular life form, optional future and, 89–96

Sirotta, Milton, 30–31

SIV. See simian immunodeficiency virus

smallpox virus, 156

SORT. See Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty

South Africa, nuclear weapons and, 133

South Pole, ozone hole, 112

Soviet Union

Cold War and, 138–139

disintegration of, 140

nuclear weapons and, 133

Spanish Flu virus, 155–156

Special Theory of Relativity (Einstein), 23

Spencer, Herbert, 186

Stalin, Joseph, 138

Standard Model of particle physics, 28

Stanford University, 191

stars, first formation of, 20

State University of New York, Stony Brook, 156

stimulus, response and, 65–66

Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), 134

String Theory, 33

Styrofoam, 111

survival of the fittest, 186–187

synthetic biology, 70–71, 147, 150–159

systems of thought

development of, 10

scientific knowledge and, 10–11

Szilard, Leo, 127



Taubenberger, Jeffrey, 155

telescopes, 27

teraelectronvolts (TeV), 28

TeV. See teraelectronvolts


abstraction and, 72–74, 187

human, evolution of, 72–74

systems of, 10–11

thumb, opposable, 57

time, tense of, 170–171

tools, use of, in animals, 57–59

Topolanek, Mirek, 140

totalitarianism, 136–138

Township-Village Enterprises, 141

transcendence, of ego, 189

Trinity test nuclear explosion, NM, 133

Tsunami 2004, charity and, 188

Tyndall, John, 117–118



ultraviolet (UV) radiation, 110, 111

uncertainty, universe and, 35–44

Underhill, Peter A., 191

understanding, search for, 7–17

United Kingdom, nuclear weapons, 133

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 122

United Nations General Assembly, 106–107

United Nations, nuclear weapons and, 145

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, 104

United States

global climate change and, 125

nuclear weapons, 133–135

use of power and, 141–142

United States Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, 155

United States Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, 155

United States Congress, greenhouse gas reductions, 126

United States Department of Agriculture, 150


cyclic, 32

fundamental nature of, 27–28

galaxies, 29

infinity and, 30–33

inner, investigation of, 28

perceptual levels and, 29

structure of, 33–34

University of Nevada-Reno, 148–149

University of Tokyo, 149

uskoreniye, 139

UV radiation. See ultraviolet radiation



VH Bio Ltd., 156

Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 1985, 112, 114

Vindija Cave, Neanderthal bones and, 49–50

viruses, risks of, 154–155

visualization, 175



Wallace, Douglas C., 191

Warren Jeffs, 12

wealth, household, 104–105

The Weather Makers (Flannery), 110

weather models, 120–121, 122

“What-is-it?” reflex, 66

WHO. See World Health Organization

Wildland Security, 58

Wilson, Allan, 48

Wimmer, Eckard, 156

WMO. See World Meteorological Organization

World Bank, 104

The World distribution of Household Wealth (UN), 104

The World Distribution of Income: Falling Poverty and…Convergence, Period* (Sala-i-Martin), 04

World Health Organization (WHO), 156

World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 122

World poverty line, 104

worldview, 13–15



Young, Thomas, 36



Zanjani, Esmail, 148








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48Collected Statements about Animals, Science, http://eden.rutgers.edu/~djsamson/animal.htm

49Robert Anton Wilson, Four Trends That Give Me Hope, 1989. http://rawilsonfans.com/articles/hope/htm

50Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Lectures on the Work of the Cerebral Hemisphere, Lecture One, 1924, From Experimental Psychology and other essays, published by Philosophical Library, New York, 1957

51Ibid, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.

52Ibid, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.

53Ibid, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

54Christof Koch, A Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach, Roberts & Company Publishers, March 2004.

55Ibid. Christof Koch

56Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Harper Perennial, November 1, 1995.

57Ibid. Antonio R. Damasio.

58Joseph Ledoux, The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life, Simon & Schuster; First Edition, March 27, 1998.

59Paul Ekman, Facial Expression and Emotion, American Psychologist, Vol. 48, No. 4, pps 384-392, April 1993, 1992 Award Addresses.

60Demis Hassabis, Carlton Chu, Geraint Rees, Nikolaus Weiskopf, Peter D. Molyneux and Eleanor A. Maguire, Decoding Neuronal Ensembles in the Human Hippocampus, Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 7, pps 546-554, March 12, 2009.

61Ibid, Antonio R. Demasio.

62Edward N. Zalta, Principal Editor, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Epistemology, December 14, 2005, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology.

63Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok, A Cyclic Model of the Universe, Science, May 24, 2002, Vol. 296. No. 5572, pp. 1436-1439. DOI: 10.1126/science.1070462

64Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, Third Edition revised by Robert Frager, James Fadiman, Cynthia McReynolds, Ruth Cox, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987.

65Xavier Sala-I-Martin, The World Distribution of Income: Falling Poverty and  … .Convergence, Period, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. CXXI, May 2006, Issue 2.

66James B. Davies, Susanna Sandstrom, Anthony Shorrocks, Edward N. Wolff The World Distribution of Household Wealth, United Nations University, World Institute for Development Economics Research, Discussion Paper No. 2008/03, February 2008.

67The Millennium Development Goals Report, United Nations, New York, 2007.

68UN Report Points to Serious Shortfalls in Development Aid: Millennium Goals in Jeopardy, Secretary-General Warns, United Nations Press Release, July 2, 2007.

69Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006

70Ibid, The Weather Makers, p214.

71The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995, Press Release, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, October 11, 1995.

72Ibid, The Weather Makers, p217-218.

73Keith Bradsher, New York Times, Air conditioners batter the ozone layer, San Francisco Chronicle, page A5, Friday, February 23, 2007.

74Spencer Weart, The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect, Text of an essay in the web site “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart,

75American Institute of Physics, http://www.aip.org/history/climate. 22 pages, May 2006. For an overview, see The Discovery of Global Warming, Harvard University Press, 2003.

76Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, Chaos in the Atmosphere, June 2007, http://www.aip.org/history/climate/chaos.htm

77The IPCC: Who Are They and Why Do Their Climate Reports Matter?, Global Warming, Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/the-ipcc.html.

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79IPCC, 2007, Summary for Policy Makers. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, www.ipcc.ch

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83Donald Kennedy, Editorial – Climate: Game Over, Science, Vol 317, pg. 425, July 27, 2007.

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95Paul J. Crutzen and John W. Birks, The Atmosphere After A Nuclear War: Twilight At Noon, Ambio, Vol.II, no. 2-3, 1982, p. 114.

96Beyond Deterrence: A Global Approach to Reducing Nuclear Dangers, Chapter 2 Global Roles of Nuclear Weapons, The Henry L. Stimson Center, www.stimson.org/n2d2/?sn=n22001110723.

97Press Conference by President Bush and Russian Federation President Putin, White House Press Release, Brdo Castle, Brdo Pri Kranju, Slovenia, 5:30 PM local time, June 16, 2001.

98Karen Travers, Bush to Putin: ‘Cold War Is Over”, ABC News Report, June 5,2007

99Vicky Hu, The Chinese Economic Reform and Chinese Entrepreneurship, Lecture, May 2005, X Jornada d’Economia caixaManresa l’esperit emprenedor, www.uoc.edu/symposia/caixmanresa/jornataeconomia/2005/eng/vicky_hu.pdf

100Erik Stokstad, Experts Recommend a Cautious Approach, Science, Vol 303, January 23, 2004, page 449.

101Scientists create animals that are part-human: Stem cell experiments leading to genetic mixing of species, MSNBC, Associated Press, April 29, 2005.

102Ko Kobayakawa, Reiko Kobayakawa, Hideyuki Matsumoto, Yuichiro Oka, Takeshi Imai, Masahito Ikawa, Masaru Okabe, Toshio Ikeda, Shigeyoshi Itohara, Takefumi Kikusui, Kensaku Mori & Hitoshi Sakano, Innate versus learned odour processing in the mouse olfactory bulb, Nature 450, pps 503-508, November 22, 2007.

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105U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply, CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety, August 2006, www.fda.gov/Food/Biotechnology/Announcements/ucm109411.htm

106Rick Weiss, Biotech Rice Saga Yields Bushel of Questions for Feds: USDA Approval Shortcut Emerges as Issue, Washington Post, Monday, November 6, 2006, page A03

107Marc Gunther, Attack of the mutant rice, Fortune Magazine, July 2, 2007, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/07/09/100122123/index.htm

108Margaret Mellon, Jane Rissler, Karen Perry Stillerman, To USDA: Deregulation of LLRICE601, Letter from the Union of Concerned Scientists, October 10,2006, www.ucsusa.org/food_and _agriculture/solutions/sensible_pharma_crops/ucs-comments-on-deregulation.html

109 Aris A., Leblanc S., “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.”  Reprod Toxicol (2011), doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.004



112Steven A. Benner and A. Michael Sismour, Synthetic Biology, Nature Reviews/Genetics, Volume 6, July 2005, p. 542.

113Daniel G. Gibson, John I. Glass, Carole Lartique, Vladimir N. Noskov, Ray-Yuan Chuang, Mikkel A. Algire, Gwynedd A. Benders, Michael G. Montague, Li Ma, Monzia M. Moodie, Chuck Merryman, Sanjay Vashee, Radha Krishnakumar, Nacyra Assad-Garcia, Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch, Evgeniuya A. Denisova, Lei Young, Zhi-Qing Qi, Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro, Christopher H. Calvey, Prashanth P. Parmar, Clyde A. Hutchison III, Hamilton O. Smith, J. Craig Venter, Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome, Sciencexpress, www.sciencexpress.org, May 20, 2010, 10.1126/science.1190719.

114Genesis redux, The Economist, May 22, 2010.

115Holger Breithaupt, The engineer’s approach to biology, EMBO reports 7, 1, 21-23 (2006), doi:10.1038.sj.embor.7400607, http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v7/n1/full/7400607.html.

116Lawrence Fisher, The Race to Cash In On the Genetic Code, New York Times – Business Day, 8-29-1999, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/29/business/the-race-to-cash-in-on-the-genetic-code.html

117Gary Stix, Owning the Stuff of Life, Scientific American, February 2006, pps 76-83.

118Synthetic Biology, postnote, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, January 2008, Number 298, www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_offices/post/pubs.cfm.

119Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (2010, June 8). Government funding for synthetic biology on the rise. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 4, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100608092108.htm

120Synthetic Biology Influencing Development, Lloyd’s Emerging Risks Team Report, Version 1, July 2009, http://www.lloyds.com/the-market/tools-and-resources/research/exposure-management/emerging-risks/emerging-risk-reports/science/synthetic-biology

121Mary Carmichael, How It Began: HIV Before the Age of AIDS, Frontline PBS, May 30, 2006, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/aids/virus/origins/html

122Jon Cohen, The Hunt for the Origin of AIDS, Atlantic Monthly, Medicine, October 2000, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/10/the-hunt-for-the-origin-of-aids/6490/

123Jonathan B. Tucker, Raymond A. Lilinskas, The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology, The New Atlantis, A Journal of Technology and Society, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-promise-and-perils-of-synthetic-biology.

124Elizabeth Pennisi, Virology: First Genes Isolated From the Deadly 1918 Flu Virus, Science, March 21, 1977, Vol. 275. No. 5307, pp. 1739.

125Eckard Wimmer, The test-tube synthesis of a chemical called poliovirus: The simple synthesis of a virus has far-reaching societal implications, EMBO reports (European Molecular Biology Organization), Rep. July 2006; 7(SI): S3-S9.

126Cello, Jeronimo; Paul, Aniko V.; Wimmer, Eckard, Chemical Synthesis of Poliovirus cDNA; Generation of Infectious Virus in the Absence of Natural Template, Science, Vol. 297(5583), August 9, 2002 pp 1016-1018.

127James Randerson, Science Correspondent, Lax laws, virus DNA and potential for terror, The Guardian, Wednesday June 14, 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1796805,00.html

128Julie Wakefield, Doom and Gloom by 2100, Scientific American, July 2004, pgs 48-49.

129Jocelyn Kaiser, Synthetic Biology – Attempt to Patent Artificial Organism Draws a Protest, Science, Vol 316, June 15, 2007, page 1557

130Carolyn Y. Johnson, Accessible Science: Hackers aim to make biology household practice, The Boston Globe, September 15, 2008. http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2008/09/15/accessible_science?mode=pf

131Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, W.W. Norton & Co.; July 11, 2005

132Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, in a speech at the Wilson Center Director’s Forum in a series sponsored by the Wilson Center’s Foresight and Governance Project, March 6, 2001.


134Table of State Humane Slaughter Laws, Michigan State University College of Law, 2006, www.animallaw.info, www.animallaw.info/articles/ovusstatehumaneslaughtertable.htm#top.

135FSIS Directive 6900.2 Revision 1, 11/25/03, United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

136Farm Animal Statistics: Slaughter Totals, The Humane Society of the United States, citing statistics provided by the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, August 22, 2009.

137Initiative 07-0028 California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, http://ag.ca.gov/cms_pdfs/initiatives/2007-07-11_07-0028_Initiative.pdf

138Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami, Philip Brown and Jessica Minty, William Davidson Institute Working Paper Number 855, December 2006.

139Ibid. page 4

140Tsunami Relief Giving, The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, http://philanthropy.iupui.edu/Research/Giving/tsunami_relief_giving.aspx

141Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief Donations, The Center on Philanthropy atIndiana University, http://philanthropy.iupui.edu/Research/Giving/Hurricane_Katrina.aspx

142Early Human Phylogeny, Human Ancestors Hall: Tree, Smithsonian Institution, http://anthropology.si.edu/humanorigins/ha/a_tree.html

143Archaeology and age of a new hominin from Flores in eastern Indonesia, M. J. Morwood, R.P. Soejono, R. G. Roberts, T. Sutikna, C. S. M. Turney, K. E. Westaway, W. J. Rink, J.-x. Zhao, G. D. van den Bergh, Rokus Awe Due, D. R. Hobbs, M. W. Moore, M. I. Bird & L. K. Fifield, Letters to Nature, Nature 431, ppgs 1087-1091, October 28, 2004.

144Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia, David Reich, Richard E. Green, Martin Kircher, Johannes Krause, Nick Patterson, Eric Y. Durand, Bence Viola, Adrian W. Briggs, Udo Stenzel, Philip L. F. Johnson, Tomislav Maricic, Jeffrey M. Good, Tomas Marques-Bonet, Can Alkan, Qiaomei Fu, Swapan Mallick, Heng Li, Matthias Meyer, Evan E. Eichler, Mark Stoneking, Michael Richards, Sahra Talamo, Michael V. Shunkov, Anatoli P. Derevianko, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Nature 468, pgs 1053-1060, December 23, 2010.

145African Skull Points to One Human Ancestor, Ann Gibbons, March 20, 2002, ScienceNOW

146Theories on Modern Human Origins and Diversity, Smithsonian Institution, http://anthropology.si.edu/humanorigins/faq/Encarta/diversity.htm

147Whole-mtDNA Genome Sequence Analysis of Ancient African Lineages, Mary Katherine Gonder, Holly M. Mortensen, Floyd A. Reed, Alexandra de Sousa, and Sarah A. Tishkoff, 2006 Oxford University Press for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

148The Human Family Tree: 10 Adams and 18 Eves, Nicholas Wade, New York Times, May 2, 2000, http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/science/050200sci-genetics-evolution.html.

149Ibid, Whole-mtDNA Genome Sequence Analysis of Ancient African Lineages

150Ibid, The Human Family Tree

151The Y Chromosome and the Origin of All of Us (Men), Svante Pääbo, Science, Vol. 268, May 26, 1995. Page 1142.

152Ibid, Theories on Modern Human Origins and Diversity, Smithsonian Institution

153Lauren Crowley, Human Genomics: Our Shared Inheritance, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.item&news_id=2150



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Genetically Modified Sexual Aptitude

Posted on 02 June 2013 by Jerry

Comparison between genetically modified and natural salmon.

Comparison between genetically modified and natural salmon.

Scientists are afraid of a genetically modified new species that disrupts the natural ecology by crowding out and starving competing species.  One that grows faster than a wild organism, becomes bigger and breeds indiscriminately spreading its aggressive characteristics.

Rather than promoting diversity which science shows is good for evolution, it significantly reduces variety.  It increases ecological dependency on a single species creating greater risk if something were to happen to that newly dominant species.  This is how we have population crashes of a species and the collapse of its ecology.

This risk, the viability of the fishing industry, and human health are major reasons over 59 retailers selling natural fish in over 4660 stores announced they will not sell the genetically modified AquAdvantage® Salmon even if approved by the Federal Drug Administration.  These grocery chains include well-known companies such as Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, H-E-B, Giant Eagle, and Meijer.

These and other retailers are now also reacting to a new Canadian study recently released by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society.  Reporting that AquAdvantage® Salmon easily breed with brown trout and they also show the salmon hybrid’s “competitive dominance” over other, natural, brown trout.  This would indicate that both natural brown trout and Atlantic salmon are at risk of declining stocks due to this aggressive genetically modified hybrid.

While AquaBounty, the company responsible for the GM fish, indicates it will only raise sterile fish even the FDA admits that up to 5% of the fish will be fertile.  When discussing future large-scale production, which AquaBounty hopes represents millions of fish, this 5% will be tens of thousands of fertile fish.

We have been following the AquAdvantage Salmon developments in various posts on this blog for months.  The significance of this salmon is that if the FDA approves it for human consumption and sale, which appears likely, it will be the first genetically modified animal to itself be introduced into the food supply.  All previous genetically modified foods have been largely plants that have been mainly modified to be impervious to various manufacturer’s herbicides or pesticides.

There is high certainty that if this fish is approved, many other genetically modified animals for which FDA approvals will be sought will follow it rapidly.  Besides concerns there is no labeling requirement to identify these GM foods, the FDA unfortunately is in dire need of a significant updating and modernization.  The FDA is today operating under animal drug requirements designed for the testing and regulation of feed additives and animal vaccines.  Their required testing is not designed to study the long-term effects of human consumption or the ecological damage that genetically modified animals can cause.

The present reality of genetically modified foods, plant and animal, must be recognized.  The long-term ramifications to our ecology and health must be studied before further GM organisms are taken out the lab and introduced into our food supply and environment.  The risks are too big and far-reaching to not be studied.  While not popular with businesses, environmental impact assessments in other situations protect the environment and human populations.  A comparable study methodology must be imposed on these newly proposed GM products.

Use the following links to obtain further information:






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Beyond Animal, Ego and Time: Chap 7 – An Evolutionary Imperative, Chap 8 – Life’s Optional Future, Chap 9 – A Positive Life Experience

Posted on 13 March 2013 by admin

I’ve decided to serialize my book on this website.  As an incentive to readers to return to the site, each month I will post at least one Chapter of the book until the entire book is posted.  Go into the Archives to “Beyond Animal” for earlier chapters.  The book provides context for the blog, clearly explaining the underlying philosophy and identifying critical issues of our time. I believe that Chapter 8 is a pivotal chapter which sets the stage for the remainder of the book.


An Evolutionary Imperative

Scientists have identified the human brain’s highly developed right prefrontal cortex as potentially responsible for self awareness, empathic emotion, and significant contribution to conscious thought and decision making. These attributes are among the most highly evolved of life. While apparently a result of the brain’s physical evolution, intellect, which includes thought, knowledge, and consciousness, has its own path of development. Intellect also informs emotion contributing to a third area of further evolution. It has led to a higher order of emotions beyond the primitive feelings of fear and aggression. Higher states of emotion include insight into shared circumstance (empathy), recognition of vulnerability to negative events (sympathy), and optimism about future outcomes (hope).

To understand the future potential of life we must look at evolution as the most powerful process guiding its development. Anticipation of future advancements may help us recognize when they occur and position us to contribute to their development. We must admit, however, that we may not be aware of them when we experience them.

For example, the rest of the animal kingdom cannot perceive our development of self awareness nor understand how different it makes us. Consider how recent it was that we learned other animals are also self aware. This should cause us to pause when we encounter life behaviors or characteristics we have never seen before. Since we consider ourselves at the pinnacle of evolution our understanding may be key to future progress. For these reasons we will look further at physical, intellectual, and emotional evolution.

There are at least three forces influencing the progress of physical evolution. The first is random mutation and resulting genetic modification. This occurs when alteration of a DNA sequence results from errors during replication or repair of DNA. Other changes take place through recombination of DNA sequences as a natural result of cell division. They often have no apparent effect until an environmental event selects and favors the change. Even small genetic alterations can have significant impact because they can exist over long periods of time and combine with other unseen mutations until environmental change makes their effect and existence apparent.

The second force shaping evolution is selective breeding. There is an inherent genetic and biological drive within animal species to select breeding mates that exhibit preferred characteristics. This mate selection is based on factors generally specific to the species such as physical stature, dominance, and plumage. Well documented in the animal kingdom, this behavior is also apparent within humans. Mate selection within human kind has a wider set of criteria which can include intelligence, personality, or can be the result from the often inexplicable emotion defined as love. Beyond selective breeding within species, we have practiced selective breeding of agricultural crops, livestock, and pets for centuries. We have done this to produce characteristics we value.

The third force impacting physical evolution came into existence within the last fifty years. This is the human science of genetics, more specifically genetic engineering and its successor synthetic biology. The tools are now in place to alter the genetic code of any life form at will by using the largely cut and paste technology of genetic engineering. This science has led to a multi-billion dollar, worldwide industry seeking to profit from conscious human alteration of the genetic code of numerous existing life forms and new alien life forms it seeks to create.

Random mutations, selective breeding and thoughtful genetic engineering will undoubtedly prove beneficial in a changing environment. To have the widest possibility of beneficial change, broad diversity of species is desirable. When confronting the impending extinction of a living species, most people only consider the utility of the species to human beings. This is a shortsighted view. In the history of life there have been species other than Homo sapiens that have been the dominant life forms of their time. While ours is a privileged present position, evolution and changing circumstance may favor another. Only the right choices and actions will secure our continued leadership of life.

To put human life in perspective, science considers the age of Earth to be about 4.5 billion years. Life is thought to have come into existence some 3.5 billion years ago. The Homo genus or branch of life leading to Homo sapiens is believed to have begun 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago with modern humans first appearing around 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. While we egotistically assume our position as dominant species will continue indefinitely, such may not be the case. It is generally thought we can survive catastrophes that have befallen previous dominant life forms. We may not be able to survive our own actions. As the preeminent species of conscious decision making we may make a disastrously wrong decision, wait too long to correct a bad decision or just fail to decide to do the things necessary to insure survival.

As it has been in the past so it may be in the future. We do not know if there will be a future ascendency of another life form as the dominant species. Not knowing what life must do to insure its survival, we should view all species within the collective gene pool as potential contributors to the future sustainability of life. When we balance the value of our actions to preserve a species from extinction against the costs of doing so, we must consider that any loss of diversity will diminish the possibility that life will survive.

A note of caution, diversity as a result of natural processes has been tested and refined over billions of years by natural selection. As will be discussed in Chapter 13 on synthetic biology, entrepreneurs now have the ability to bypass the protections offered by the slow and steady process of natural selection. They have the ambition, if not the present ability, to create entirely alien life forms that would never and could never evolve naturally on our planet. Our knowledge of the potential risks is so limited and their possible effects so extreme, it may be doubtful this diversity is desirable.

The second domain of evolution is intellect or advances in human thought in all of its various forms. Intellect is one of evolution’s greatest outcomes. With intellect has come the ability to reason or the power of comprehension, inference, or thought especially in orderly rational ways. With reason has come science and the knowledge humanity now possesses. If we accept Pavlov’s view that curiosity is instinctive, curiosity coupled with human intellect has produced all of our scientific breakthroughs. Breakthroughs have been the result of this burgeoning intellect and knowledge base. They give humans extraordinary control over their environment. They also extend their life spans and lessen human suffering.

The power and progress of human thought has been discussed by countless philosophers. Descartes who spoke of it as a proof of existence itself asserted “I think, therefore I am.” Hegel with his theory of the dialectic cited a thesis giving rise to its own antithesis and an ultimate synthesis as the way thought advances.

With the evolution of intellect has come abstraction or the ability to see a quality apart from an object. This has led us to define and classify categories that only have existence in thought. An example is the consciousness of self. It gave us recognition of our own existence and the concept of “I”. With intellect, this consciousness has been raised to progressively higher orders of thought. From “I” came recognition of “We” as the individual perceived the connectedness and relatedness of other human beings and life forms. This progressive abstraction of relatedness brought concepts of nation, race, species and the aggregation we call life itself. These successive levels of consciousness represent the best evolutionary progress of intellect.

The greatest advance of human thought occurs when it rises to the highest levels of abstraction. This level of abstraction is most productive in reaching for the greatest truth and common good. It was from the higher states of consciousness that founding fathers of the United States wrote the Declaration of Independence. The thoughts and phrases, “all men are created equal” and “unalienable Rights” and “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” continue to have profound effect beyond their nation of origin. From an equal level of abstraction, that of a “Community of nations” came a movement to create the United Nations.

The ability to abstract an idealized state to which we can direct our action is one of our most advanced intellectual capabilities. These are examples of the power of thought to shape the destiny and future of humanity. Others could be identified from the systems of thought developed and refined in the fields of science, philosophy, and religion. This evolution is as important as the physical evolution with which we are most familiar. This intellectual evolution will undoubtedly produce more knowledge, more insights, and higher levels of consciousness. As stated at the outset of this book, we have learned that greater knowledge and understanding increase our ability to shape and impact our surroundings to better support our lives. As it is true for our individual and collective lives, so it is also true for all of life.

As observed, intellect informs emotion which has led to a higher order of emotions beyond primitive feelings such as anger and fear. Higher states of emotion include those based on insight into shared circumstance (empathy), recognition of another’s vulnerability (sympathy), and optimism or pessimism about future outcomes (hope or despair). Anyone who has experienced pride at a significant human accomplishment such as our landing on the moon or whose eyes have welled with tears at a wedding or marveled at the sheer beauty of classical music has experienced a higher order emotion. Anyone who has donated to disaster relief in response to catastrophic human hardship or has administered first aid at the site of an accident or has affirmed a relationship “until death do us part” knows the force of a higher order of emotion to commit us to action.

Emotion is the third path of evolutionary development. The behaviors it elicits have long been a source of controversy amongst philosophers and scientists. It has been much maligned, as intellect and its byproduct, reason, have been elevated as the ultimate human capability. Emotion has often been referenced as primitive, inferior, unreliable and something that must be conquered and controlled by reason. Most often viewed as separate capabilities, much research has been devoted to reason and emotion attempting to identify and pinpoint specific sites or regions of the brain responsible for each.

Research involving neurological patients whose social behavior had been altered by various types of brain damage has shown processes in the brain and throughout the body are more complex and interdependent than once believed. It indicates consciousness, decision making and emotion are intertwined.

One significant proponent of this view is Antonio Damasio, the M.W. Van Allen Professor and head of Neurology at the University of Iowa. In his book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, he observes that brain damaged patients who are unable to process emotion also suffer impairment of their ability to make rational decisions about everyday problems.56 While reasoning and logic skills are shown when patients identify alternatives to be considered in decision making, their ability to resolve an analysis and decide is impaired. Damasio attributes this impairment to the lack of emotional evaluations that provide crucial input to decision-making.

“I propose that human reason depends on several brain systems, working in concert across many levels of neuronal organization, rather than on a single brain center. Both ‘high level’ and ‘low-level’ brain regions, from the prefrontal cortices to the hypothalamus and brain stem, cooperate in the making of reason. The lower levels in the neural edifice of reason are the same ones that regulate the processing of emotions and feelings, along with the body functions necessary for an organism’s survival. In turn, these lower levels maintain direct and mutual relationships with virtually every bodily organ, thus placing the body directly within the chain of operations that generate the highest reaches of reasoning, decision making, and, by extension, social behavior and creativity. Emotion, feeling, and biological regulation all play a role in human reason.”57

Further support for this view is provided by research in cognitive neuroscience, an interdisciplinary approach to investigating the nature of thought, which has increased our understanding of the interaction of various parts of the brain to produce an emotional experience. Joseph LeDoux at the Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety at New York University, in The Emotional Brain cites the interaction of subcortical structures, the amygdala, hypothalamus and brainstem, and the cingulated cortex and the prefrontal cortex as the source of an emotional experience.58 These parts of the brain work in concert for example to enable us to feel fear when we see a stranger approaching in a dark alley. Involvement of the cerebral cortex enables us to recall similar circumstances in the past and recognize the danger in the present. Based on our memory of bad past experience, our sub-cortical structures enable us to reflexively experience an increased heart rate, tensing of our muscles and perspiration.

A fundamental question about emotions has been their origin. Are they innate and somehow hardwired as a result of evolution or are they taught and a product of the cultural environment? If a product of evolution and hardwired in the human being, they should be universal across the human species irrespective of culture, language or ethnic background. Paul Ekman, a noted clinical psychologist, focused on observable facial expression looking for commonality across widely diverse cultures.59 His research documents distinctive universal facial expressions for a small list of basic emotions: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment. The research results are somewhat less clear for other emotions such as contempt, surprise, and interest.

Ekman observes this list of “universal” emotions is far shorter than lists most theorists identify and is a much smaller number than the various words that describe different emotions. This suggests that beyond basic emotions resulting from evolution, a different phenomenon is taking place to account for the other emotions human beings report they experience. He speculates there may be emotions not related to specific facial expressions or that grouping emotions into families may offer an explanation or that a number of emotions share one facial expression. It seems likely there may be another explanation, that where physical evolution leaves off, intellect, experience and memory take over.

These findings suggest a small number of evolved emotions serve as a foundation for an intellectual, emotional, and experiential feedback loop that expands the variety of our emotions. It defines a common emotional platform within each human being. We can conceive of coequal intellectual and emotional contexts for each of our experiences that we commit to memory as we live our lives.

An example will serve to illustrate this. As a father runs beside a bicycle, he holds the handle bars and seat steady during his daughter’s first bike riding experience. Sensing the child is ready, he pushes off launching her on her own. At this moment she takes control of forward motion as all of her faculties concentrate on maintaining balance. Her intellect is engaged as she concentrates on the actions she is performing. Her major physical sensory systems record her instinctive reactions as she steers, pedals and maintains her balance. Her emotions surge with her simultaneous fear of falling and thrill of accomplishment. After the initial awkward and scary moments she proceeds to ride around the parking lot for awhile as her dad says “I knew you could do it” congratulating her on the accomplishment. Fear gives way to happiness as the child experiences pride.

There are intellectual, emotional and sensory memories created by this experience. The point of the example is that multiple dimensions of every experience are committed to memory and exist for future recall and use.60As we gain knowledge and further insight, we refine memories creating additional layers of nuanced information and emotion for future recall.

Damasio sees intuition as a sort of shorthand memory of past circumstances. He writes, “Emotion had a role to play in intuition, the sort of rapid cognitive process in which we come to a particular conclusion without being aware of all the intermediate logical steps. It is not necessarily the case that the knowledge of the intermediate steps is absent, only that emotion delivers the conclusion so directly and rapidly that not much knowledge need come to mind.”

He further observes “that the quality of one’s intuition depends on how well we have reasoned in the past; on how well we have classified the events of our past experience in relation to the emotions that preceded and followed them; and also on how well we have reflected on the successes and failures of our past intuitions. Intuition is simply rapid cognition with the required knowledge partially swept under the carpet, all courtesy of emotion and much past practice.”61

When we began this discussion we stated that intellect informs emotion. Our self awareness and ability to project how we would feel if circumstance that happened to another happened to us creates feelings of empathy and/or sympathy for another. At the core of this emotional reaction, which does not appear in Ekman’s universal emotions, is the intellectual recognition that human beings share similar circumstances. While it can be argued empathy and sympathy may be an extension of sadness, the sadness is informed by intellect to represent a higher state of emotion.

Emotions play an integral role in our lives. They have enhanced survival as we have evolved. They are inseparable from experience, intellect, and decision making. They moderate our behavior as they affect our decision making. As our intellect, knowledge, and consciousness evolve so do our emotions. Much of what we know is learned. This is also true of what we feel. Just as the parent congratulated the child on the accomplishment, the parent taught the child to feel pride. We are not as conscious of the need to teach children to experience higher emotions and yet they are as crucial to our continued evolution as the higher states of intellect that enable them.

When exploring human uniqueness we observed our ability to learn vicariously without personal experience is a key human attribute. Experience of art in all its forms contributes to the emotional development of children. Story telling by the written word or in movies provides a vicarious way to experience emotion. It can convey insights that inform emotions and can trigger feeling an emotion not felt before. The beauty of art and music can lift the spirit and raise emotional consciousness.

Parents must recognize that while art can move emotion forward, it can also create regression to more primitive emotional states. While the beauty of art should be sought, gratuitous vicarious violence on television and in movies can move anyone’s emotions to a lower evolutionary level. If a child sees violence, it must be understood through a parent’s lens of interpretation and explanation.

Above all, we must look for evolutionary progress because it can originate anywhere and from anyone. Evolution after all is blind to the humble origins of a patent clerk who conceived of E=MC2, to the physical infirmity of a Cambridge astrophysicist who enlightened us about black holes and the universe, and to the sexual orientation of a musician who moved the emotions of 33 million people bringing us the biggest selling song in history, Candle in the Wind. We cannot predict the origin of future breakthroughs or who will be responsible. For this reason we must help others achieve their full potential and be open to their contributions to future progress.


Life’s Optional Future

Life and its evolution are extraordinary. Up to now we have spent considerable time identifying basic assumptions to be used in the foundation of our new cosmological perspective. Our investigation of the physics of the universe, life, human uniqueness, and evolution will help us reintegrate our knowledge with our beliefs. We can now draw on these basic assumptions and speculate about future possibilities, as we build the next tier of our belief system.

To do this we must move our focus from knowledge to belief and from what has occurred in the past to what is possible in the future. We advance from the more certain to the hypothetical. As with the articulation of any hypothesis, we define an area of future study posing a new question that once asked launches new investigation.

While all knowledge is based on belief, its categorization as knowledge implies a higher justification,62 such as verification through repeated experimentation or corroborated occurrence as reported by multiple observers. For this reason, knowledge has a higher standing than belief which has not necessarily passed all of the tests to which knowledge has been subjected. A belief is more of a hypothesis. While it may be highly supported by logic, reason, and experience, it does not have the same force and credibility as knowledge.

Similarly, documented events that are known to have occurred in the past have a higher level of certainty than those that are predicted to occur in the future even if they are highly probable. While multiple observers can disagree on the description of a past event because of different perspectives or interpretations, the event is still more certain than that which has not yet happened.

Our objective is not to diminish the value of beliefs or possible future events but merely to recognize the transitions we are making. Beliefs are after all often a precursor of knowledge. We previously identified that new knowledge is frequently the answer to a question that has not been asked before or has been posed but not answered over the centuries. When acknowledging the possibility of a future occurrence we stimulate the human consciousness to think about the possible future event and how it might be accomplished. This in turn is often the first step toward realization. Without the belief that human beings could someday fly and the act of imagining that future possibility, there would have been no airlines to dramatically shorten travel to any place on Earth. In this way beliefs and future possibilities are inextricably tied to human progress.

As we work to construct new hypotheses, our tentative conclusions should seek to be logically consistent and answer basic questions of the meaning of life and human purpose. As we attempt to project known physical processes forward in time, we explore possible future states that challenge our sense of normalcy, increase our intrigue with that which is not known, and stimulate our imagination. We must look for inspiration and an individual vision that provides motivation to sustain a new direction.

To borrow a thought from an old riddle, if two galaxies collide and there is no astronomer or physicist to perceive the collision, is it really happening? Scientifically the answer is yes, the galaxies still collide. If there is no life to perceive it however, there is no awe, no majesty, no wonder, no appreciation or interpretation of the event. Beyond life and its animation, we bring meaning and feeling to an inanimate universe.

This is why we are moved emotionally in the classic movie Blade Runner when the Rutger Hauer character, Roy Batty, the combat model and leader of the renegade Nexus 6 Replicants, is dying after having saved Rick Deckard, Harrison Ford, from falling from the roof of a building. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” He accepts his fate with a sad smile and his final line, “Time to die”. Without his witness, experience, and interpretation of those events, they have no meaning. Beyond this movie character, it is our life and witness that brings quantitative and qualitative richness and gives meaning to all that surrounds us.

What if Roy’s memories are not lost with his death? What if his memories, and ours for that matter, are indelible, permanently etched on life’s matter so they can be recalled after death when Roy’s and our matter is once again reintegrated into a living system?

To reiterate briefly, we know life’s matter has memory at the person and organism level. The trillions of cells composing each of us have knowledge of us. This cellular knowledge includes the estimated 20,000 individual genes that account for what the Human Genome Project identified as over three billion base pairs.

Beyond genetic information, we remember the knowledge we’ve learned and our experiences because they are stored or encoded somehow on the matter within us. This includes the thousands of faces and places we remember for many years in our lifetime. Sometimes when people cannot remember the details of a past event hypnosis is used to help them recall those details. This is because the memory is there but is blocked from immediate recall.

We are uncertain about the mechanisms that create memory and how our memory is encoded. We also do not know what levels or layers of our matter participate in the storing of this information. It is generally accepted that memory takes place at the cellular and molecular levels and involves neuron cells which are specialized to pass signals to other cells through chemical and/or electrical synapses or specialized connections between those cells. Both the pre-synaptic and postsynaptic sites contain extensive molecular structure that link the two cellular membranes together and carry out the signaling process.

We know memories are encoded at the cellular and molecular levels in the body. We cannot see individual atoms because they are thousands of times smaller than the light waves we can see using our eyes. Even though we can’t see them, with a scanning tunneling microscope we can use an extremely sensitive probe to feel around the outside of solid materials and perceive the bumps that are made by the individual atoms. Computer imaging software can turn these bumps into an image representing the surface of the solid and individual atoms lying there and the patterns they form. Since we cannot see them however, we do not know if and how atoms and/or particles participate in storing our experiences.

It is not reasonable to assume that because we lack the tools for perception at the atomic and particle levels that no storage of memory takes place there. It is reasonable to assume the encoding of memories occurs at the smallest levels of matter in the body and that as with the hologram, the equivalent of interference patterns are etched on atoms and particles. We assume therefore that memory occurs at all manifestation levels of matter; cellular, molecular, atomic, and particle.

Given technological advances and our recent scientific experiences of retrieving information that was once thought lost from living and once living material sources, it is possible our life memories and genetic code are indelibly encoded on our matter. There is a reasonable possibility that when matter is incorporated into a living system the encoding of experience and knowledge is irrevocable. We know our bodies are composed of elements whose atoms are stable, which in turn are composed of stable particles. Stable atoms and particles have lifetimes that last into the billions of years. This would make the knowledge and memory of life endure perhaps forever.

We assume therefore that matter is irrevocably changed by participating in a living system with its knowledge and memory indelibly encoded or etched on its constituent parts. To this assumption we must add our knowledge that genetic material from fossil bone fragments when inserted in the cells of another living organism can be replicated as its cells divide and multiply. In addition, we know that genetic material from the 100 year old remains of the extinct Tasmanian tiger has been shown to perform normally when reintegrated into a living system.

Our assumptions and the facts we know about once living matter being reintegrated into living systems, such as bacteria and mouse embryos, lead us to recognize a very significant possibility. It is possible that all of the life matter retained in the biogenic sphere that surrounds our planet has the opportunity for future reintegration with a living system. One can imagine living organisms ingesting, growing, and incorporating matter from their surroundings into their life system and obtaining a random mix of the once living matter’s past life experiences.

We can conceive of a coherent thought or memory being transferred from the past into the present. This is possible if our experience is etched on our matter in a way similar to a piece of a larger hologram. If this were so, each increment of matter retains in miniature a representation of the entire image or in this case memory from a specific perspective.

Without knowledge of how memory is stored a more likely description of what is recalled of past life experience is tiny fragments of unrelated experience or emotions. When one considers all of the many millions of different organisms that are contributing matter and the many different types of living organisms that are receiving matter, it would seem the impact would be minimal. Possibly the memory of an emotion is more easily transferred to the new living system than a coherent thought or complete memory. This might be because it is inherently less complex and more easily translated. In any case, this need not change the reality that the encoded knowledge and experience exists and can be retrieved and utilized by its new life system.

This new thought, that life’s indelibly etched knowledge, experience, and memory can be recalled and used by future life forms of which it is a part, becomes a key assumption of our new cosmology. These three assumptions that matter has memory, the life memory is indelibly etched on matter and survives the death of the organism, and that once-living matter can be reintegrated within a living system to “live” again, are key underpinnings of one of the four major imperatives discussed in the second half of this book.

Of course they also raise a number of questions that take us into more speculative areas about what may be possible. The first question that comes to mind is will it someday be possible to recreate living examples of extinct animals? Would a Jurassic Park scenario be possible?

In the example of our mouse embryo reintegrating genetic material from an extinct Tasmanian tiger, it was the existing life system of the mouse embryo that incorporated and enabled the tiger’s genetic material. In another example, discussed in the chapter on Synthetic Biology, genetic material that was fabricated in a laboratory was inserted into a living bacterial cell. The cell accepted the new genetic material, changed the cell’s fundamental nature, and went on to divide and multiply naturally. In both cases, the existing living organisms were critical to the success of the experiments.

The complexity of a Jurassic Park scenario is daunting. Its biggest barrier is that no one has successfully initiated the beginning of new life in a laboratory. This is not to say it will not be possible some day. We certainly have indications it is or someday will be possible to decode the extinct animal’s genetic code and create the necessary genetic material in a laboratory. Spontaneously bringing it to life may remain the hard part. In the nearer term it is more likely the genetic code may be integrated into an existing living system under conditions similar to those of our two examples.

A second question that comes to mind takes us back to Roy Batty, our fictional combat Replicant. If after Roy’s death we were able to keep his matter from dispersing into the environment and mixing with other matter or could spontaneously bring it to life in a newly initiated living system, would Roy’s consciousness be restored? Would his memories be intact? Would Roy “be there” again? If this were true for Roy, could it be true for us as well? This question takes us into a fundamentally more speculative direction.

Our three assumptions are sufficient to provide a basic level of support for our new cosmological system. The assumption that today’s life experiences may survive in matter’s memory and have an impact, if only emotionally, on future life gives support to the thought that we should care about the quality of today’s life experience because of its potential future influence.

It is not our intention to minimize the importance of caring in the present about the quality of the human condition. We should all be motivated to reduce suffering, increase individual opportunity, and raise the human standard of living in order to provide the greatest good for the greatest number in today’s world. This recognition of future effects from our life experience only increases the urgency of working towards creation of a better life today for all living creatures.

For those readers who enjoy pushing the envelope of imaginative thinking, the following material projects life’s process forward in time and provides what may at first appear to be an unsettling description of a future evolutionary development that may change life as we know it. This possibility has significant implications for how we live our lives in the present and how we think about life’s future.

We have described the process of evolution as a one-to-many-to-one progression. Our simplified view is that one individual has a mutation that creates a new trait that enhances survival under changing circumstances. That individual survives and passes the trait to many individuals through reproduction. In a subsequent generation another of these individuals experiences a new selected mutation which is passed through procreation to many surviving others.

This cyclic path of evolutionary progress contracting to a single individual with a new mutation followed by expansion to many new individuals through reproduction is the way in which life evolves. This process began with a first organism capable of multiplying itself, passing on genetic information with the ability to vary its characteristics over time and evolve into other forms of life. This evolutionary process is repetitive with countless small incremental mutations having occurred over billions of years.

At life’s beginning the first life entity had multiple unique characteristics in addition to being the first mover of the only sustainable life process of which we are aware. At its initiation, it contained all of the sustainable life matter in the universe.

While we have described the evolutionary process for advancing mutated change through natural selection at the individual level, it is possible the process is also at work at an aggregate level. Life began with all life matter concentrated in a single organism. It divided and produced countless generations that followed. At an aggregate level, life’s future evolution may initiate a contraction back to a singular living organism. It will contract to a form containing all of the life matter of the universe. In this way life’s evolution may have a cyclic nature similar to a cyclic universe that some scientists propose, a universe that has undergone a series of implosions or contractions to a point of maximum density and reversals initiating a next sequential big bang.63 Thus, life may expand from a singular organism to many organisms only to again contract to a singular organism.

This possibility of life’s future contraction to a singular organism stimulates the imagination. We can conjure up all sorts of thoughts by imagining the physical shape of this future organism. Our tendency is to think about it in the context of what is familiar. But this would be wrong. This type of thought imposes constraints that must be rejected if we are to be open to the full range of possibilities.

For example, we currently perceive and interpret life as a largely physical phenomenon. Intellectually we know life represents both manifestations of existence, matter and energy. But our predominant perception and area of study has been of our material nature. This may change over time. We can conceive of a future developmental path of an expanded intellect and consciousness with a greater emphasis on energy rather than matter. This is not to predict what is unknowable but rather to open our thoughts to a range of possibilities beyond the present reality. As we think about the future we must set aside the familiar and assume a time when a singular life form may be unique to our experience. It will bear little resemblance to the first single life form or anything we have seen since. It may have neither a physical form nor a scale which is familiar.

We have previously explored the possibility and probabilities of events in the universe. We identified a set of tests to use when evaluating future probability. The probability of life’s future evolution to a single life form once again involving all of the life matter of the universe can be assessed using the tests previously identified. The first test is one of possibility. We observed that in order for an event to be possible it must be consistent with the physical laws of the universe. The ultimate test of possibility is previous occurrence. The evolution of a future singular life form passes this test since the first living organism contained all of the life matter in the universe.

The second test is one of frequency. If an event happens with great frequency, it will have a greater probability of recurrence. The presence of all life matter in a single life form has to our knowledge only happened once in the past. While this does not detract from its possibility in the future, it does not enhance its probability.

The third test to be considered is time, specifically the time allowed for an event to take place. We have asserted the infinity of the universe. This means that, if we assume life’s prolonged survival, there is an unlimited amount of time within which the singular life form can evolve. There is enough time for the evolutionary process to complete a larger aggregate cycle. While this does not insure the future life form will develop, it does increase its probability.

The final test is whether the event is naturally occurring or has an increased likelihood because of human intervention. The evolution of the future singular life form benefits from both possibilities. It can evolve naturally as a result of the evolutionary process and/or it may result from some measure of human intervention. This latter possibility of our intervention may be one of the greatest determinants of future evolutionary development. We are the most unpredictable variable that may affect future events.

For better or worse, we are the wild card that may through our actions determine the ultimate success or failure of life. Our ability to imagine a perfect outcome and then direct our efforts and seize opportunities to realize that outcome is presently unmatched by any other known life form. The probability of a future evolution to a singular life form is significantly increased if we choose it as our ultimate desired outcome.

To extend our speculation should such a life form develop it will be of great significance to every human being since all of life will be a part of it, including each and every one of us. Composed of our aggregate life matter, it will contain the totality of information, knowledge, memory, and experience of each of our individual lives. With the animation and awakening of its consciousness all of us would once again be integrated into a living system and life embodiment. With its awakening, each of us would achieve transcendence beyond the suspended state we call death. Not only would we be integrated into a new single living being that is all of life, we would share its collective identity.

In this sense, the matter of life would be broadly analogous to the material in a magnet. Once magnetized, it has memory of its magnetic state. If one heats a magnet to a high temperature, its magnetism disappears as its individual atoms are so thermally excited that they become randomly oriented and lose the attractive characteristic of magnetism. When the magnetic material cools to below its Curie point however, the atoms spontaneously line up and reestablish their magnetism.

In an analogous way, inanimate matter in the universe becomes involved in the life process. Matter is fundamentally altered by this experience. At death, when the once living matter is no longer a part of a life process and is dispersed into the biogenic sphere, its memory of its participation in life becomes dormant. If this matter is once again incorporated into a living system as was the Tasmanian tiger’s DNA into a mouse embryo, its knowledge of itself and memory of its past life experience is restored. Like a magnet restores its fundamental magnetism, reanimation of life matter revitalizes its dormant knowledge, memory, and experience.

If and when this occurs, our reanimation and awakening would for each of us be instantaneous. In the beginning of this book we described death as the cessation of the life embodiment that contains matter and energizes it to animation. We observed that when the embodiment disintegrates, the matter and energy that constitutes physical existence disperses into the universe. Further, we said that with this disintegration and dispersion, individual consciousness of time and awareness of self cease.

At the moment of each death, awareness of self and the passage of time ceases. With the animation of the future single life form, time for each of us, now integrated once again into a life process, would start anew. No matter how long this evolutionary development takes, how many millions or billions of years will have passed since our individual deaths, for each of us the transition from the moment of our death to our reanimated life would be instantaneous. In this sense, if and when it occurs, from our individual and personal perspective we will instantly reawaken from death.

The final significance of this future life form would be that it would represent only the second opportunity for life to experience existence having many of the characteristics formerly defined and reserved for the supernatural existence of God. These characteristics are Omnipresence, Omniscience and Omnipotence. The perception and consciousness of time, the acquisition and understanding of knowledge and the willful exercise of power are exclusively life attributes. This life form would have the totality of the life experience. As such it would have all perception and consciousness of time, the totality of life’s knowledge, and would be the only entity in the universe to consciously exercise free will and power.

The possibility and potential of such a development raises questions about its initiation and our possible experience of it. There are several things we know. The first is that if it happens it will be in the distant future and we, as living individuals, will not be there to experience its transition. We will however, join its awakening. As it was with the first initiation of life, while it is tempting to imagine the awakening as an event occurring in an instant, it will most likely be the culmination of a long process of development and awakening. Let us remember that self recognition in human infants occurs after 18 months of life. Presumably this future life form will have similar developmental phases it must pass through before it achieves its full self awareness.

As it was the first time, there will be a requirement for a specific set of circumstances with a necessary amount of life material for it to happen. We know the life material necessary for its awakening is growing in the biogenic sphere, that thin layer of living and once living matter that encircles the planet and is imprisoned in its gravitational field. Each succeeding generation of all of life’s species contributes its life mass to the aggregate life matter surrounding our planet. We can imagine that the process may be analogous to the initiation of a self sustaining chain reaction that occurs when a critical mass of fissionable material is in place for a nuclear explosion. There may be a threshold critical mass of life matter that must be reached in order for the aggregate evolutionary cycle to complete. We know the evolutionary process is at work. We do not know its stage of development or nearness to completion. Because we will be integrated into this new entity we will know if and when a future single life form achieves consciousness.

We can only speculate about what we individually will experience if and when it comes into existence. It will be a sentient living being. It will obviously benefit from the consciousness contributed by the experience of higher life forms which include human beings. It will represent life’s most advanced, evolved state. It will have self awareness and an identity. It will have intellect and personality. It will have feeling and emotion. It will have the total knowledge and memory of each of our individual life experiences.

We must look at how we exist now to gain insight into what it may be like to be a part of this new entity. We know our lives are not static. We have trillions of cells in each of our bodies. These cells are active during each instant of our existence. There are approximately 100 billion neurons or nerve cells in the human brain. These cells and neurons elsewhere in the body are continuously receiving and sending impulses from and to other parts of our bodies and the environment. With the average world life span of a human being at about sixty-six years we have 24,090 days of existence. Each day we record a different set of thoughts and experiences. Each day some of our cells divide and some of them die. It is as if we are a new person each day.

Yet, while we are new each day, we are also the person we have been in all of our previous days. We are a composite of who we have been at each instant of our existence. Just as the person we were yesterday no longer exists but in our consciousness of ourselves today, we as individuals as a part of a future single life form will exist in its consciousness of itself in all of its previous lives. Its memory of us however, may be even more acute and vibrant for while we lose cells and matter from our bodies throughout our lifetime, it will have all of our matter within its embodiment. For this reason it may know us more than we know ourselves.

Every cosmological and philosophical system has implications about what people should and should not do in their lives. Some of these implications assume the force of imperatives in that certain actions are absolutely required by the belief system. Implications and imperatives are about positive outcomes and negative consequences. Action in accordance with beliefs has positive outcomes and failure to act in accordance with them creates negative consequences. A belief system which does not or cannot serve as the basis of behavior loses its justification. In evaluating a belief system, its implications and imperatives are as important as the original beliefs.

The direction and form of evolution in the future by definition involves distant events. At this point these events are nothing more than desirable potentialities. We have limited knowledge of what must take place for them to become a reality. We can, however, define the broad outlines of four major implications for us which assume the stature of imperatives when we decide to accept and pursue the course of evolution we have identified. These four imperatives must be satisfied if our chosen path of evolution is to be fulfilled.

The four imperatives are that:

  • life’s evolution must continue,
  • life’s collective experience must have a preponderance of positive experiences,
  • life must be protected from threats,
  • human beings must intervene in the course of events and insure the achievement of the first three imperatives.

The future developments we’ve identified will represent significant thresholds of life’s evolution. The only future that matters in an inanimate universe is the future of life. Evolution is the most dynamic and important of life’s processes. Without life, all that happens in the universe is irrelevant. The first imperative is that life’s evolution must continue. As discussed in Chapter 6, life’s consciousness must evolve to the highest state of awareness possible.

Future life will have access to the collective life experience that has gone before. Its view of reality will reflect the positive and negative influences of those past life experiences.

The second imperative is that the collective life knowledge and memory must have a preponderance of positive experience to counteract negative influences. This will insure the future single life form will have a positive and optimistic outlook on reality.

Without definitive knowledge of the timing of evolutionary development, our reintegration into a living system could occur at any time in an infinite future. The third imperative is that life must be protected so it has sufficient time for its evolution to continue and complete. If our universal life is allowed to disappear, it is probable that no future evolution will take place.

Life must continue if it is to fulfill its potential. There are a series of threats looming over humanity that must be addressed to assure life’s continuance. These include the ozone hole, global climate change, nuclear weapons, and synthetic biology.

The fourth imperative is that the achievement of the first three imperatives requires human intervention and direction. We individually and collectively have a choice to make. We must choose the possible evolution of which we can conceive as our preferred outcome and dedicate our efforts to its achievement, fully accepting responsibility for the other three imperatives.

In the final analysis, those seeking a new cosmological and philosophical alternative have previously been skeptical of earlier belief systems. Their skepticism has driven them to keep looking and yet doing so will also keep them from unconditional acceptance of a new alternative. Understanding that there is always uncertainty associated with potential future events, skepticism is well founded. We cannot ask that anyone believe without reservation in the future evolution of a singular life form. We can ask however that they choose to believe with reservation. While this may seem too fine a distinction and an insignificant caveat, the choice to believe preserves the freedom to be skeptical while allowing action as if certainty has occurred.



A Positive Life Experience Imperative

As time passes, life and its evolution continue to grow the experience and emotion that is available to all manner of future life forms. We have spent considerable time assessing human uniqueness and evolution. As we are the greatest beneficiaries of evolutionary development of intellect, emotion, and consciousness, these traits will provide the greatest human contribution to the attitudes, opinions and sensitivities of a future life form. They will be a key determinant of its intellect, knowledge, emotions – especially higher order emotions informed by intellect – and its consciousness.

Just as life experiences shape our personalities by creating feelings of optimism or pessimism, self confidence or insecurity and hope or despair, so will our experiences affect future life. The question we must then ask is what will be our net contribution? Will we be a net positive or negative influence? Where are we starting from and what must we do in the future? We need to have a way of thinking about positive versus negative contributions and some form of yardstick with which to measure progress.

We find such a measure in the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow who was influential in personality theory. Maslow perceived a Hierarchy of Needs that determined the priorities of behavior in animals and human beings.64

He observed certain needs took precedence over others and only when they were addressed could an individual turn his or her attention to a higher order of need. For example, if a person is hungry and thirsty, satisfying thirst takes precedence over hunger. The reason is basic to life. While we can survive for a few weeks without food, we can only remain alive for a few days without water. By the same token, if something were to cut off our air supply, we would immediately put aside hunger and thirst in order to restore our breathing. In this hierarchy air, water, and food are three essential needs in Maslow’s most basic category of needs. He called them the Physiological Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was broken into five categories depicted in a pyramid structure. He assumed all human beings are born with these needs and that only once they have satisfied the more basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid, can they focus their attention on other needs. The levels of his Hierarchy of Needs are summarized as follows:

Physiological Needs:These are biological needs including needs for oxygen, food, water, and a stable and comfortable body temperature. They come first among all other needs because they are essential to all life. This basic category includes the need for activity, rest, sleep, to avoid pain, and have sex. Physiological needs are the first of four levels he saw as Deficit Needs. He defined these levels as consisting of things that when you do not have enough of them you have a deficit and you feel a need to fill the deficit. Conversely, once you have enough or have satisfied these basic needs they no longer motivate you.

Safety Needs:After physiological needs are met needs for safety become prominent. Adults are generally unaware of security needs except when perceiving threat. Children feel the need to be safe more often than adults. This can include an individual’s need for safe and stable circumstances, protection from perceived threats, and structure and order in one’s life. It can also be the need to counteract feelings of anxiety and fear by having a good job, savings in the bank, insurance, etc.

Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness:When needs for safety and physiological well-being are taken care of, needs for love and belonging emerge. Maslow mentions feelings of loneliness and alienation but this category also includes giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging. This need for a sense of belonging is when you feel the need for family, friends, and affectionate relationships in general.

Needs for Esteem: When the previous classes of needs are met, needs for esteem surface. These include self-esteem and the esteem one perceives from others. Maslow cites two tiers. A lower tier is other directed and includes a need for status, recognition, reputation, and fame. A higher tier is self directed and manifests needs for self-respect, confidence, achievement, mastery, independence, and freedom. The latter needs are in a higher tier because once you have satisfied them, they are harder to lose.

Maslow sees the first four levels of his pyramid of needs as survival needs. In his view even belongingness and esteem are essential to health. According to Maslow all of these needs are built into human beings genetically. He believed the fulfillment of them is instinctive. He used the term homeostasis to describe the state we are seeking in our lives or a stable state of equilibrium and balance where all of the survival needs are reasonably met and we no longer have to think about them. He also recognized that when survival is threatened people can regress to lower level needs. Even successful people feel threatened in periods of economic downturn and they regress and focus on lower level needs.

Needs for Self-Actualization: When all other needs are satisfied needs for self-actualization emerge. Unlike survival needs, Maslow referred to this category as consisting of growth or being needs. He believedthat once these needs are engaged they do not shut off like survival needs. The need for self-actualization continues and even grows stronger as the individual begins to satisfy it. He referred to self-actualization as a person doing what they were “born to do.” This is when people are most creative and productive and have a sense they are achieving at their full potential.

For further definition of self-actualization Maslow studied a group of high achieving individuals. He used a qualitative method called biographical analysis to identify characteristics indicative of self-actualization. In addition to 12 unnamed people he knew whom he felt were self-actualizers, he studied John Adams, Albert Einstein, Alduous Huxley, William James, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Schweitzer, and Benedict Spinoza.

He identified a list of qualities that were characteristic of the people studied and offered them as indicative of self-actualized people. These included a need to be reality-centered, problem-centered, to have a perception of difference between ends and means, have a sense of humor that is not hostile, humility and respect for others, strong ethics, human kinship, and creativity. In addition, he identified special driving needs of self-actualizers. These are needs that have a profound effect on behavior. These included a need for truth, goodness, beauty, uniqueness, completion, justice and order, simplicity, playfulness, self-sufficiency, and meaningfulness.

Maslow recognized that in order to be self-actualizing the individual has to have all of their lower needs taken care of to a considerable degree. He reasoned that if you are hungry you will be looking for food. If you feel your safety is threatened you will be on your guard. If you are lonely and isolated you will be trying to make friends. If you have low self-esteem you will be defensive. In other words, if any of the lower needs are not significantly met, you will not be able to be fully self-actualizing or trying to realize your potential.

Maslow felt that given how difficult life is in the modern world only a small percentage of the world’s population was truly able to spend most of their time being self-actualizing. Maslow at one time estimated this percentage of the world’s population at two percent. This observation serves as a basis on which Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be useful in our investigation.

We will not take Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs too literally. We recognize that individuals respond to needs as they perceive them and not necessarily in the order in which Maslow identifies them. We will accept his broad premise that lower order needs for survival typically take precedence over every higher order need as well as the more intellectual, being needs. We will use his construct as a way of evaluating whether net positive or net negative experiences contribute to the aggregate human life experience.

If we assume, as Maslow did, that overall success in life will satisfy survival needs along with achieving self-actualization, we can look at selected world economic criteria as indicative of the continuum of the human condition. We will look at per capita income and household wealth of the world’s population. We will assume people in poverty and those with limited means spend most of their time trying to fill their survival needs and that those with higher incomes and wealth have a greater likelihood of being self-actualizing. This should give us a broad yardstick to measure our balance of positive and negative life experience. We will further assume that people living exclusively in their survival needs have a net negative life experience and people who are self-actualizing have a net positive life experience.

A study entitled, The World Distribution of Income: Falling Poverty and . . .Convergence, Period*, written by Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, and published in the May 2006 issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics defines the World poverty line as income that is less than $3 (US$) per day or $1,140 per year.65 This conclusion is supported by Chen and Ravallion (2004) of the World Bank who reconcile the World Bank’s use of $1 worth of daily consumption with Sala-I-Martin’s $3 of daily income. Shaohua Chen is a Senior Statistician in the Development Economics Research Group of the World Bank and works for Martin Ravallion who is the Director of the Development Research Group. All three agree, that of the World’s roughly 5.6 billion people in 2000 for which we have data, 1.2 billion, or just over 21% of them had income that fell below the World poverty line.

Another useful measure with which to look at the World’s population in terms of freedom from survival needs is household wealth. Household wealth is defined as net worth or the value of physical and financial assets less liabilities. The assumption holds that households with accumulated wealth are less subject to adverse events which may negatively affect income such as ill health or unemployment since they have built up a financial cushion to help them through tough times. Accordingly they are less likely to worry about survival needs and should therefore be more self-actualizing. For this look at the human condition we use data from a paper entitled, The World distribution of Household Wealth published in 2008 by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research.66 The findings of this study and the previously mentioned income study are summarized in the previous table.

The report states, “According to our estimates, adults required just $2,138 in order to be among the wealthiest half of the world. But more than $61,000 was needed to belong to the top 10 per cent and more than $510,000 per adult was required for membership of the top 1 per cent. The entrance fee for the top 1 per cent seems surprisingly high given the group has 37 million adult members. Furthermore, the figure refers to the year 2000 and is now likely to be considerably higher, especially when measured in US dollars.” The report continued, “The wealth share estimates reveal that the richest 2 per cent of adult individuals own more than half of all global wealth, with the richest 1 per cent alone accounting for 40 per cent of global assets. In contrast, the bottom half of wealth holders together hold barely 1 per cent of global wealth.”

These statistics paint a discouraging picture of the world’s distribution of income and wealth. More disturbingly, using the Hierarchy of Needs, these statistics imply a majority of the World’s population is primarily engaged in satisfying survival needs and has very limited opportunity for self-actualization.

Data from past studies show that even though much progress remains to be made, the trends are encouraging. For example, poverty rates measured by the $3 per day poverty line have declined significantly since 1970 when it was estimated that over 46% of the world’s population income fell below this level. The 21% of the adult population with less than $3 of income per day in 2000 is low by comparison and represents better than a 50% reduction of the world poverty level in the last 30 years. Significant progress has been made especially in some of the world’s most populous and poorest countries. For example China in the last decade has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese above this poverty line.

While the trend lines are positive and show a steady decrease in the world’s poor, we know these positive trends are threatened by economic downturns and the looming specter of climate change. Worldwide food shortages and the forecasted significant rise in the Earth’s average temperatures threaten the improving state of well being. The gravest threats posed by global climate change are in the very regions of the world that have the greatest poverty. These regions include Africa, Asia-Pacific (excluding selected wealthy Asian countries), India and Latin America. They all possess the least resources with which to withstand the negative effect of rising world temperatures on agriculture and the availability of fresh water (see Chapter 11 on global climate change).

It is estimated that climate change will put almost 50 million additional people at risk of hunger by the year 2020. By that year agricultural output in developing countries is projected to decline by 20 percent with, for example, land suitable for wheat production becoming almost non-existent in Africa by the year 2080.

While short term trends may be turning positive only to be slowed by a worldwide economic crisis, the long term macro trends offer some hope. Since records have been kept humanity has had a steady march toward a more positive state of the human condition. Poverty rates have declined, medical care has improved, life expectancy has increased and in innumerable ways human beings are better off today than their forebears. The human condition has improved to such an extent that many now believe it is possible for human beings to dramatically reduce world hunger and raise the collective standard of living to reduce poverty to a manageable level.

Of greatest significance is that the steady march towards a higher state of world prosperity is no accident. A conscious movement has emerged among the world’s wealthiest countries to attack world problems of hunger, poverty, and disease. That beneficial view is held by the forward thinking citizens of those countries. Representative of this trend is the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of eight Millennium Development Goals in 2000 for world progress by the year 2015.67 These goals, each of which has specific objectives associated with them, are broadly identified as follows:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

To underscore their commitment to the achievement of these goals the developed nations of the world pledged .7 percent of their gross national income (GNI) to development aid in support of these Millennium Development Goals. As of 2007 only five of the world’s developed governments had met or exceeded the .7 percent GNI donation threshold, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.68 Many of the identified goals will not be achieved. Critics will point to the small amount of money that has been committed, the developed world’s failure to fund even at a low level of commitment, and the present worldwide economic downturn. Nevertheless, the identification of these objectives and imagination of a world that has solved these problems is truly historic. It represents one of the highest states of human consciousness and one of the most profound levels of human aspiration.

This aspiration is a landmark in human history. It represents an unprecedented level of optimism about the progress which humanity could achieve. It is important because of the opportunity it presents to ultimately create a net balance of positive over negative life experience. We can now imagine a world where the majority of people have survival needs largely met, poverty, hunger and disease are controlled and most human lives contribute positively to the collective life experience.

In the first chapter of this book we identified questions people ask when thinking about life and death. Those questions included “Do we somehow determine our fate in death with our actions in life? Are different afterlife outcomes dependent on how we live our lives?” We now have the new context of our contribution to future life in which to think about these questions. We perceive a forthcoming life form as a natural culmination of the evolutionary process. It represents for each of us another opportunity to be in a life process where we bring to this future existence all of the experiences and identity of our first life. We know this future existence will be different from the former in that we will all experience it together. This creates a new dependency.

While our first life experience was largely individual and singular, the future will be shared and collective. As a net positive or net negative existence, it will be dependent on the aggregate life experiences that are brought to it. We know in a present human history filled with hunger, poverty and disease, the collective human contribution will be negative. We also know we can change this outcome. We can commit ourselves to the elimination of poverty and hunger, the reduction of disease and can over time create an opportunity for progressively increasing numbers of self actualized lives. With a long term sustained commitment and effort we can insure a future collective existence where net positive experiences overwhelm negative influences.

As humans we must recognize our shared community and the interdependence of our future well being. We must accept individual responsibility for our collective future. An enlightened few amongst us must decide to alter the course of the many to create a world where all people rise above the tyranny of day-to-day survival and experience self-actualization. Only in this world can evolution progress to where each person has an opportunity to contribute to the larger life awareness and where each life makes a positive contribution to the future collective consciousness.

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Empathy’s Possible Source and Observations

Posted on 20 February 2013 by Jerry

Researchers continue the exploration of the von Economo neuron and its connection to higher states of self awareness and consciousness.  At one time these neurons were thought to be exclusive to the part of the brain where empathy and self awareness reside in large brained animals; people, great apes, Asian elephants, whales and bottlenose dolphins.  These animals have shown self awareness in the mirror and mark tests.

Von Economo neurons have recently been found in macaques, a type of Old World monkey, and zebras.  This result coincides with the third incident seen recently where a giraffe mother refuses to leave the body of her dead calf.  Another giraffe mother spent more than two hours splaying her legs and licking her recently born but dead calf.  Of interest is the isolation of these mothers at these times for they are normally with other females rather than by themselves.  

This type of demonstration, known as nurturance care-giving behavior, is very similar to that seen in self aware animals such as chimpanzees and elephants.  It raises the question of whether zebras have an understanding of the circumstance of death.  Further supporting their uniqueness, other recent research shows that when von Economo neurons die off, in a rare form of dementia, people can no longer relate to others.

Beyond bottlenose dolphins, common long-beaked dolphins have recently been observed in a group showing great empathy as they try to help a dying member of their pod.  The research contains dramatic photos of a dolphin designated as EC08001, being assisted by five of its companions who attempted to support its body so it could breath and not sink in death to the bottom of the ocean. 

The research contains a photo with an explanation stating “Five long-beaked common dolphins are supporting EC08001 by assuming a raft-like formation with their bodies.  One animal, positioned in the center of the formation, rolled over on it back (belly up).”  In another picture, “A long-beaked companion dolphin tips the head of EC08001 upwards to help it breathe.”  A final picture is of “The carcass of EC08001 is floating vertically and exhibiting rigor mortis.  The helper dolphins continue to try to stimulate the dolphin by nudging its head and body.”

These instances of common long-beaked dolphins and zebras should add to the human realization that more of their fellow animals often are capable of the depth of understanding and emotion to which human beings are subject.  This serves as a sober lesson for us who have seen the film “The Cove” which documents the routine killing of dolphins by Japanese fishermen in a small cove located near their home town.  We begin to understand the full fear, pain and sadness experienced by our fellow creatures.

Use the following links for more information:


http://www.cell.com/neuron/ (search for “Von Economo Neurons in the Anterior Insula of the Macque” and select Summary)





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