Shifting paradigms

Are we beginning to see a major paradigm shift, steadily moving away from the prevailing physicalist, materialist.mechanistic mindset?

Integral theory is one attempt to move beyond any narrow,exclusive views of reality proclaimed by representives of science, religion, philosophy, spiritual traditions or whatever. Jennifer Gidley writes about integral thinking and the evolution of consciousness here

There are periods in human and cultural evolution when humanity passes through such fundamental transformations that our reality shifts and new patterns of thought are required to make sense of the unfolding human drama . . . The profound transformation we are now witnessing has been emerging on a global scale over millennia and has matured to a tipping point and rate of acceleration that has radically altered and will continue to alter our human condition in every aspect. We must therefore expand our perspective and call forth unprecedented narrative powers to name, diagnose, and articulate this shift… Integral philosopher Ashok Gangadean in the opening quotation encapsulates what many integral theorists have been voicing over the past decade. It is this integral research on emergent movement(s) of consciousness that I am referring to as the evolution of consciousness discourse This research points to the emergence of a new structure,stage(s) or movement of consciousness that has been referred to by various terms, most notably, post-formal integral and planetary.

Jude Currivan says that instead of big bang we have the big breath. The “outbreath” that gives rise to the physical unverse. Matter and energy are the products of information. The physical universe is in-formed as she puts it.


She discusses her views here in “Restating and reunifying reality: Our in-formed and holographic universe”.


This is part of an annual Mystics and Scientists conference promoted by The Scientific & Medical Network


The metaphor of the big bang conjures up images of a destructive explosion leading to chaos. But we should imagine the universe as a birth of order and organisation and this is more in keeping with a breathing process by which we communicate compositions of song, poetry and prose. Evolution is the creation of order out of chaos.


So are we seeing a movement to a more integrated, holistic understanding of reality where, rather than being a mere by product of a particular arrangement of matter, consciousness plays a primal, central role? The cosmos is breathed into existence, the out-breathing Word, the Logos, creates the living universe. Consciousness is the alpha and omega.

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425 thoughts on “Shifting paradigms

  1. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Cast your mind back to when you were a 6 month old baby. you will remember nothing about it but you will know that your awareness was very limited compared to what it is now. You have a higher level of awareness than you did back then.

    Indeed I remember nothing about that period including at what “level of awareness” I was operating. Nevertheless, I think I can see what you’re driving at. I maintain that this is something very different from your Gandhi versus Pol Pot example, which I took to address moral development. This is also very, very different from interspecies differences in cognitive abilities.

    Dazz had introduced into the discussion a quote from Steiner’s book
    How Is Knowledge of the Higher Worlds Attained?

    In this book Steiner explains that if anyone is to make progress along the path to this higher knowledge it must involve improving one’s moral conduct. Higher knowledge entails higher morals. In thinking about this we are looking towards a future path that our evolution could take. But we can also look backwards to see the path that evolution has taken up to this point in time. It is a path in which living beings progress in their awareness and conscious knowledge from having minimal awareness to the present time where we exist with our level of knowledge of ourselves and the world.

    Overall, I am getting the impression that a “higher form of existence” is the term you use for everything you aspire to plus the kitchen sink. That’s fine, just don’t expect people to understand what you mean from a handful of wishy-washy metaphors.

    I am trying to be clear and precise in this discussion but I don’t always find it easy. But some of my arguments seem to have been clear enough to have been argued against with thoughtful criticisms. As long as some of my arguments have been understood in this way then I am satisfied.

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  2. faded_Glory:

    CharlieM: And I totally agree and have said previously that there are animals that far outclass humans in specific areas. If you so wish you can pick any animal you like, make a list of all that you think it is aware of and we will compare it to what we can agree the average human is aware of.

    Maybe we can agree on one thing. There is vastly more to reality than any earthly creature, including humans, have awareness of.

    This human awareness you speak of needs a bit of unpacking. Individual persons may be aware of more things than an individual dog, but a major reason for that is that a person is usually part of a human civilisation and, through learning and education, posseses a body of knowledge vastly greater than they would ever have been able to collect on their own. In a way, a persons awareness is the combination of his own individual awareness and the cumulative awareness of millions of others, acquired over thousands of years.

    Where humans got a clear edge is in having developed systems to record and retrieve information and experience, allowing them to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge that they can tap into when needed. A dog has to figure out most things on its own.

    Perhaps individual humans are more like ants, individually most of the time not all that significant, but collectively capable of building vast structures, physically and in the case of humans, intellectually too.

    And yes, obviously there are many things we are not aware of. Trying to figure out more is a never-ending pursuit.

    You make some good points.

    Humans have an advantage over other animals in our capacity to learn, store and communicate vast amounts of information; and to have individual creativity far in advance of any other animal. We think of a crow as special because it can fashion and use a tool to hook food, but we see very little special in a human designing complex machine such as a computer.

    We are different from ants in that no single ant has knowledge of the structure that the colony is building, whereas there is usually an architect who does have knowledge of the building under construction.

    The wisdom of the ant is at the group level, the wisdom of the human is at an individual level. Certainly we build on the knowledge of others but history shows us that creative thoughts come from individuals.

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  3. PeterP:

    CharlieM: What about a sponge?

    What about them?More prudent is why gloss over examples, i.e., fish communicating with other species of fish for cooperative hunting ventures, to jump to sponges?

    So let’s include the fish. Would you say that these fish have a higher level of awareness than sponges? And what about the humans that have studied the fish and discovered these traits? How would you judge their level against the fish?

    CharlieM: Yes I’ll admit to having confirmation bias to some extent. This is one of the challenges I am obliged to overcome.

    Then you readily admit to having fooled your self (something we all do at some level) the question is do you ‘know yourself’ well enough to recognize ALL the instances fo confirmation bias and how they may lead you erroniously astray.This attribute of your presentations has been pointed out to you repeatedly but apparently to little fruition.

    We all make mistakes and hopefully we learn by them. And I do pay attention when I have been confronted by convincing counter-arguments. I don’t pay so much attention when I am simple told that I am wrong.

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  4. CharlieM: I am trying to be clear and precise in this discussion but I don’t always find it easy.

    In addition to higher awareness, higher consciousness and higher existence, you just introduced higher knowledge, higher morals and higher worlds. Let me suggest you start by replacing all instances of the word “higher” by something less nebulous.

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  5. PeterP:

    CharlieM: Your use of the phrase “their physical reality” brings up a few questions. Is there an objective physical reality with regards to which “their” refers to the portion of it that they perceive?

    Charlie, you interjected ‘awareness of physical reality’ into the conversation. Instead of asking me what it means why not expalin what it means to you. Others have also asked for clarification from you on the topic.

    It was the use of the word “their” in the phrase “their physical reality” that I thought worth discussing.

    Do we each have our own reality?

    Is there such a thing as an objective physical reality separate from the observer? Historically modern science has accepted that this is the case. But quantum mechanics threw a bit of a spanner in the works.

    But what about physical reality? Do we count the meso-level as physically real, or the micro-level? Or are they two aspects of the one physical reality? And here it gets tricky deciding what we mean by “physical”. The micro-level can be seen as physical only by extending its meaning beyond that which is directly observable and measurable.

    There are contradictions between levels of observation. The meso-level deals with such things as solids, liquids, gases, and their properties. The micro=level deals with fields and forces, the concept “solid” is meaningless here. So do we actually touch any solid, or rather than direct contact is there a gap due to repellent forces as in that between two like magnetic poles? I believe that touching, physical contact, is real. Through the meso-level we can experience physical reality. What about the micro-level? When we delve into the level of bosons and quarks we are studying a level that transcends the physical.

    I believe the use of the word “their” is justified because we all see things from our own perspective and so whatever we are looking at it will be from our individual point of view. “Seeing” reality involves both the senses and the thinking mind.

    CharlieM: Well we do know that we can and do enter their environment in order to study it.

    Do we study it from ‘their’ perspective or ‘ours’? Is it possible to study ‘it’ from the organisms perspective? While we might be able to detect some of the same things other organsisms detect does it mean the same to us as to them?

    Even between ourselves as humans we can only study things from our own personal perspective. But even although the senses convey separate perceptions to our unique position, through thinking we make the combinations that bring us closer to reality. We progress from “seeing” with the senses to “seeing” with the mind.

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  6. Corneel:

    CharlieM: I am trying to be clear and precise in this discussion but I don’t always find it easy.

    In addition to higher awareness, higher consciousness and higher existence, you just introduced higher knowledge, higher morals and higher worlds. Let me suggest you start by replacing all instances of the word “higher” by something less nebulous.

    Higher awareness: more extensive apprehension of the world around us

    Higher consciousness: a consciousness that knows itself in relation to the perceived outer world

    Higher existence: The reality within which living beings exist whether they know it or not.

    Higher knowledge, knowledge that comes relatively closer to apprehending reality than the lower knowledge that it is compared with. For example those who have the knowledge that one is a self among other selves is higher than those who lack this knowledge.

    Higher morals: Greater selfless love as exemplified by figures such as Christ.

    Higher worlds: The experiential worlds of advanced beings. So fish experience a higher world than sponges.

    I hope this makes my thoughts a little clearer for you.

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  7. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: I would say that this gives some indication of what I mean by levels of consciousness.

    Your example seem to contrast what we would not consider conscious with what we would consider conscious. There’s no hint of levels there.

    I’m sure everyone who participates here know of different levels from personal experience.

    I cannot recall any personal experience of not being conscious.

    Imagine you are attentively concentrating hard on some topic you are trying to understand. Now imagine you are day dreaming, your mind is wandering without much directional input on your part.

    Would you say that you were experiencing the same level of consciousness in both instances?

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  8. CharlieM: Would you say that you were experiencing the same level of consciousness in both instances?

    Obviously it is not the same consciousness, in the sense that what I am conscious is different. But you are still not explaining “level”. So I have no way of comparing levels.

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  9. Kantian Naturalist:
    I have no objection to the idea that there are different degrees or kinds of consciousness. I recommend Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy for those who enjoy working their way through a text. I’m sure Thompson has all sorts of video lectures on line. I’ll be teaching some of it in my philosophy of mind class this spring.

    Thanks for the link I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading about and listening to Evan Thompson.

    Arthur Zajonc gets an acknowledgement in the book you linked to. He has been the president of the Mind & Life Institute. He was also emeritus professor of physics at Amherst College and a director of the Center for Contemplative Mind.

    He advocates Goethean science as can be seen here

    “Molding of the ego,” or, to use the German word, Bildung, is central to Goethe’s understanding of science. The relationship between the observer and the observed is dynamic and inseparable. For Goethe, every attentive investigation entails the subtle but significant transformation of self. “Every new object, well contemplated, opens up a new organ within us.” Scientific discovery presupposes such a transformation of self. Each epiphany waits on the “new organ” required for that specific knowledge. It is this that separates the unseeing novice from the insightful scientist. Goethe’s approach to science emphasizes the perceptual encounter with the laws of nature and not their abstract or mechanical representation. Information can be found in books and databases, and the manipulation of equations is an important technical skill better done by software packages these days than by mathematicians. But the ability to “see” a law of nature is reserved for the human scientist. Here lies the thrill that makes it all worthwhile. If pedagogy would recognize the value of this view of science, then education would reconceive itself as transformation.
    Once we appreciate knowing as personal epiphany, the way is opened up for a reconciliation between facts and values, between science and spirituality.

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  10. CharlieM: Higher awareness: more extensive apprehension of the world around us

    This seems quite subjective and without a means to ‘judge’ or ‘evaluate’ where a individual stands in this regard. Seems you would need to know everything you don’t know in order to judge how much you do know. Too vague to be of any use.

    CharlieM: Higher consciousness: a consciousness that knows itself in relation to the perceived outer world

    More vague generalities. Fruit flies, amoebas, and humans all fit equally in your description. What criteria constitutes ‘conciousness’?

    CharlieM: Higher existence: The reality within which living beings exist whether they know it or not.

    huh? Who determines what a living being knows and doesn’t know? If you can’t judge what another organism knows of its ‘reality’ how can you determine higher or lower in regard to ‘reality’?

    CharlieM: Higher knowledge, knowledge that comes relatively closer to apprehending reality than the lower knowledge that it is compared with. For example those who have the knowledge that one is a self among other selves is higher than those who lack this knowledge.

    Can we agree that there are more things unknown to individual organisms, humans included, that is known? If yes, it appears to be an impossible criteria to make any determination of higher or lower knowledge. If no, how do you justify a list where all you list is the things you know without the list of things you don’t know? Is it possible to compare that ‘knowledge’ with other organisms ‘knowledge’?

    CharlieM: Higher morals: Greater selfless love as exemplified by figures such as Christ.

    Back to the subjective situation where who decides what is moral and what is not moral? Are morals black and white or mostly grey?

    CharlieM: Higher worlds: The experiential worlds of advanced beings. So fish experience a higher world than sponges.

    How do you know this is true? Is it possible to know what does the sponge experiences from the sponge’s point of view or the fish?

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  11. CharlieM: I hope this makes my thoughts a little clearer for you.

    I certainly appreciate the effort that went into this little glossary, but you have not been using the terms in accordance with those definitions. For example, when I asked you about the meaning of “higher forms of existence”, you offered the example of Ghandi versus Pol Pot.

    Comparing your definition:

    Higher existence: The reality within which living beings exist whether they know it or not.

    That doesn’t really make sense to me. More likely, you were describing higher morality then.You also said that “[h]igher knowledge entails higher morals”, but I don’t agree that follows. Someone with higher knowledge (= comes relatively closer to apprehending reality) can still be a total douchebag.

    I think you were using those terms in an offhand way to express your vision of personal development. I like the one about selfish love (trying that myself too). The others remain vague, I am sorry to say.

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  12. PeterP:

    CharlieM: Higher awareness: more extensive apprehension of the world around us

    This seems quite subjective and without a means to ‘judge’ or ‘evaluate’ where a individual stands in this regard. Seems you would need to know everything you don’t know in order to judge how much you do know. Too vague to be of any use.

    I know that I experience different levels of awareness on a daily basis. And I will take my inspiration from Socrates and say that the facts of the matter are the opposite of what you say above. It is because of what I do know that I can understand I know virtually nothing. Or to mimic Shakespeare: There are more things in heaven and Earth, Peter, than are dreamt of in our cognition.

    CharlieM: Higher consciousness: a consciousness that knows itself in relation to the perceived outer world

    More vague generalities. Fruit flies, amoebas, and humans all fit equally in your description. What criteria constitutes ‘conciousness’?

    Are you saying you believe fruit flies and amoebas have a consciousness that has reached the level of self conscious? Stand on a dog’s paw and it should demonstrate to you that it is conscious of pain. But it does not have a consciousness advanced enough to be able to objectively analyse after the event what had occurred. Embarrass someone and it is possible they will demonstrate their self-consciousness by blushing as attention focuses on them.

    CharlieM: Higher existence: The reality within which living beings exist whether they know it or not.

    huh? Who determines what a living being knows and doesn’t know? If you can’t judge what another organism knows of its ‘reality’ how can you determine higher or lower in regard to ‘reality’?

    I have already said that I know different levels of awareness from experience. I may not be able to imagine what it’s like to be some other organism. But I can judge that a blind cave fish has no knowledge of the colourful landscapes that give me great pleasure to experience the sight of, that a rhinoseros has no knowledge of neptune or uranus, or that a rattlesnake has no knowledge of the screech of a hawk circling above.

    CharlieM: Higher knowledge, knowledge that comes relatively closer to apprehending reality than the lower knowledge that it is compared with. For example those who have the knowledge that one is a self among other selves is higher than those who lack this knowledge.

    Can we agree that there are more things unknown to individual organisms, humans included, that is known?

    Yes. Why do you think I quoted Shakespeare?

    If yes, it appears to be an impossible criteria to make any determination of higher or lower knowledge..

    For the sake of argument let’s say that a particular quantity of knowledge is set on a scale from zero to one trillion. My unborn grandchild would sit at zero, my three year old grandson sits at x and I sit at y. I know that x is greater than zero and y is greater than x. And that there is vastly more knowledge to be gained between y and one trillion than the knowledge I have already gained between zero and y. I don’t need to determine the actual details of the distances along the scale, I am only required to know the relative positions of zero, x and y, whether one sits above or below the other.

    I know there are organisms with less knowledge than I have and as you wrote above we know that there is much more to be known than the amount held by me. Obviously I will have no idea of that which I don’t know but that doesn’t prevent me from knowing that it is there waiting for me to acquire it if and when I can.

    If no, how do you justify a list where all you list is the things you know without the list of things you don’t know? Is it possible to compare that ‘knowledge’ with other organisms ‘knowledge’?

    Not applicable.

    CharlieM: Higher morals: Greater selfless love as exemplified by figures such as Christ.

    Back to the subjective situation where who decides what is moral and what is not moral? Are morals black and white or mostly grey?

    Even if I believe that Christ set an impeccable example in moral conduct, my ideal would not be to act because that is what I think Christ would have done and I wish to follow his example. It would be because I decided it was the correct thing for me to do in the given circumstances. It would be my free act performed out of my own selfless love. That would be my highest moral aim. Whether or not I come anywhere close to achieving this is another matter. “Know thyself”

    CharlieM: Higher worlds: The experiential worlds of advanced beings. So fish experience a higher world than sponges.

    How do you know this is true? Is it possible to know what does the sponge experiences from the sponge’s point of view or the fish?

    We can study sponges to how they behave, how they react to stimuli. What sense organs do they possess? Do they have a differentiated nervous system needed to collate and interpret the sense data that is received? Do they show any indication of being self-aware?

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  13. Corneel: I certainly appreciate the effort that went into this little glossary, but you have not been using the terms in accordance with those definitions. For example, when I asked you about the meaning of “higher forms of existence”, you offered the example of Ghandiversus Pol Pot.

    Comparing your definition:

    Higher existence: The reality within which living beings exist whether they know it or not.

    That doesn’t really make sense to me. More likely, you were describing higher morality then.You also said that “[h]igher knowledge entails higher morals”, but I don’t agree that follows. Someone with higher knowledge (= comes relatively closer to apprehending reality) can still be a total douchebag.

    Dazz had linked to a chapter in the book “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds And Its Attainment” by Steiner and I was responding to that.

    It is true that someone can gain vast amounts of knowledge and be a total douchebag. But as Steiner advised the true way to higher knowledge must be accompanied by an equivalent raising of one’s moral standards. Someone who acts selfishly is acting in ignorance, and ignorance is the opposite of knowledge. Their actions are focused on themselves, they wish to benefit from them and have no consideration for how these actions affect others. But this addiction to self gratification makes them slaves to their desires and they wouldn’t knowingly wish to enslave themselves. Anyone who acts in selfless love, expecting nothing in return, acts in freedom.

    I think you were using those terms in an offhand way to express your vision of personal development. I like the one about selfish love (trying that myself too). The others remain vague, I am sorry to say.

    So you find the way that I use all of these terms to be vague except for one where you quote the opposite of what I wrote. Well at least I tried 🙂

    I’d say that personal development is a very interesting and important issue. No other organism has such individual freedom to be able to control the course of their life than the human being. This is a novelty in evolution. For the main part other organisms can do nothing but follow a course which has been laid out for them from the beginning of their lives.

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  14. CharlieM: So you find the way that I use all of these terms to be vague except for one where you quote the opposite of what I wrote.

    Oooops. unselfish love is what I meant.

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  15. CharlieM: But this addiction to self gratification makes them slaves to their desires and they wouldn’t knowingly wish to enslave themselves. Anyone who acts in selfless love, expecting nothing in return, acts in freedom.

    We’ve been through this. Your aspiration to act in freedom is a desire as well. Everything we do is informed by our desires, but that doesn’t mean we are not free.

    CharlieM: No other organism has such individual freedom to be able to control the course of their life than the human being.

    Yes, we humans are pretty smart and that gives us some perks. I don’t think that means we are “higher” though.

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  16. There is a video of a conversation between Rupert Sheldrake and mark Vernon titled, “Imagination and Unfolding Reality: Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogue 53” here

    Now I realise that some will see the name of Sheldrake and so ignore it on the grounds that, according to them, he talks a load of nonsense. But I’ve linked to it anyway.

    Vernon does most of the talking and he speaks about Barfield, Steiner and the evolution of consciousness. Interestingly Sheldrake says that he finds some of what Vernon says to be vague. And they do have differences of opinion. But Vernon is a much more accomplished communicator than I am, so I thought I would add the link.

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  17. Corneel: Oooops. unselfishlove is what I meant.

    I’m glad to hear you’re trying the above and not its opposite 🙂

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  18. Corneel:

    CharlieM: But this addiction to self gratification makes them slaves to their desires and they wouldn’t knowingly wish to enslave themselves. Anyone who acts in selfless love, expecting nothing in return, acts in freedom.

    We’ve been through this. Your aspiration to act in freedom is a desire as well. Everything we do is informed by our desires, but that doesn’t mean we are not free.

    Yes but I’m not talking about my aspiration to act which would precede the act. I’m talking about the act itself. The decision and the action are two separate acts.

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  19. Corneel:

    CharlieM: But this addiction to self gratification makes them slaves to their desires and they wouldn’t knowingly wish to enslave themselves. Anyone who acts in selfless love, expecting nothing in return, acts in freedom.

    We’ve been through this. Your aspiration to act in freedom is a desire as well. Everything we do is informed by our desires, but that doesn’t mean we are not free.

    Yes but I’m not talking about my aspiration to act which would precede the act. I’m talking about the act itself. The decision and the action are two separate acts. But we have the potential to act in freedom without even thinking about it.

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  20. Corneel:

    CharlieM: No other organism has such individual freedom to be able to control the course of their life than the human being.

    Yes, we humans are pretty smart and that gives us some perks. I don’t think that means we are “higher” though.

    i am wondering in what context you would use the word higher or related derivatives of high? Would you say that a running cheetah could attain a higher speed than any human? Would you say that there are highly skilled mathematicians among the posters at TSZ? Would you call Einstein highly intelligent?

    Can you think of any area or any ability where you would class humans at a higher level than other organisms?

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  21. CharlieM: i am wondering in what context you would use the word higher or related derivatives of high? Would you say that a running cheetah could attain a higher speed than any human? Would you say that there are highly skilled mathematicians among the posters at TSZ? Would you call Einstein highly intelligent?

    Higher speed = greater speed, highly skilled = very skilled, highly intelligent = very intelligent.

    Higher existence = ????. Higher consciousness = ???. Higher worlds = Nepal?

    Higher often means “more” or “greater”. You tend to pair the word with nouns where that doesn’t immediately make sense to me.

    CharlieM: Can you think of any area or any ability where you would class humans at a higher level than other organisms?

    Sure, lots. That’s not the point. The issue is whether those abilities indicate that humans as a species are “higher up” in evolution. You believe we are, I say we are not.

    The “higher/lower” lingo in biology has its historical roots in the scala naturae, where all organisms were ranked on an ever-ascending ladder. That idea has been dismissed a long time ago, and talk of higher / lower organisms is discouraged because it continues to confuse people (see Erik’s comment in this thread for example). All extant organisms have climbed equally high, and each of them excels at something.

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  22. Corneel:

    CharlieM: i am wondering in what context you would use the word higher or related derivatives of high? Would you say that a running cheetah could attain a higher speed than any human? Would you say that there are highly skilled mathematicians among the posters at TSZ? Would you call Einstein highly intelligent?

    Higher speed = greater speed, highly skilled = very skilled, highly intelligent = very intelligent.

    Higher existence = ????. Higher consciousness = ???. Higher worlds = Nepal?

    Higher often means “more” or “greater”. You tend to pair the word with nouns where that doesn’t immediately make sense to me.

    Yes I agree that language is a problem. We constantly speak in metaphors and obviously we are having a problem of communication between what I am trying to signify and your interpretation of my attempts.

    I’d like to find at least some points where we agree. Do you agree with me that no matter how objective we think we are being we cannot escape from the fact that we observe and study everything from our own human perspective and what’s more each from our own personal point of view?

    Do you agree with me that there is a divide between experiential reality and reality in and of itself? Do you agree with me that we experience different levels of consciousness?

    Feel free to ask me similar questions about what my position is relative to your point of view.

    CharlieM: Can you think of any area or any ability where you would class humans at a higher level than other organisms?

    Sure, lots. That’s not the point. The issue is whether those abilities indicate that humans as a species are “higher up” in evolution. You believe we are, I say we are not.

    I agree that if we are comparing species in relation to levels we should try not to be vague, we need to be specific about what levels we are talking about. And here I’m happy to use “greater” as well as “higher” 🙂 Human creativity and use of resources for practical purposes is vastly greater than any other species. We are the only species to attain such a high level of self-consciousness and intra-species communication.

    But another important difference between us and other organisms is not found by comparisons at the species level. It can be seen by comparing how individuals relate to the species to which they belong. Specimens within the human species demonstrate much more self expression and individuality than individuals within any other species.

    The “higher/lower” lingo in biology has its historical roots in the scala naturae, where all organisms were ranked on an ever-ascending ladder. That idea has been dismissed a long time ago, and talk of higher / lower organisms is discouraged because it continues to confuse people (see Erik’s comment in this thread for example). All extant organisms have climbed equally high, and each of them excels at something.

    And Darwin who was a very good observer of nature had no trouble distinguishing various levels. Although he saw the difficulty in trying to define higher/lower.

    From “The Origin…”

    The embryo in the course of development generally rises in organisation: I use this expression, though I am aware that it is hardly possible to define clearly what is meant by the organisation being higher or lower. But no one probably will dispute that the butterfly is higher than the caterpillar.

    He calls attention to the fact that:
    The sutures in the skulls of young mammals have been advanced as a beautiful adaptation for aiding parturition, and no doubt they facilitate, or may be indispensable for this act; but as sutures occur in the skulls of young birds and reptiles, which have only to escape from a broken egg, we may infer that this structure has arisen from the laws of growth, and has been taken advantage of in the parturition of the higher animals.
    The skull of vertebrates is formed in such a way as to allow for its distortion when passing through the birth canal even before the stage of evolution where it was required had been reached. These “laws of growth” just so happened to allow for the appearance of large brained creatures like ourselves. Just like the pentadactyl limb allowed for the appearance of skilled manipulators of materials such as ourselves. And bipedal posture freed these pentadactyl forelimbs so they could be put to creative use without the requirement to act as support or organs of movement.
    He finishes with:

    Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

    I might say that from so simple (relatively) a beginning as the fertilised egg a multitude of forms of cells and organs most beutiful and wonderful have and are being developed. As above so below, the whole reflected in the parts.

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  23. CharlieM: Do you agree with me that no matter how objective we think we are being we cannot escape from the fact that we observe and study everything from our own human perspective and what’s more each from our own personal point of view?

    Yes, but since we are aware of this, I think we have a decent shot at minimizing biases that result from that.

    CharlieM: Do you agree with me that there is a divide between experiential reality and reality in and of itself?

    Yes, but I believe that’s irrelevant. What good is reality we cannot experience?

    CharlieM: Do you agree with me that we experience different levels of consciousness?

    Yes.

    CharlieM: Human creativity and use of resources for practical purposes is vastly greater than any other species. We are the only species to attain such a high level of self-consciousness and intra-species communication.

    Sure, I agree. But I still believe all this is subjective. It is us deciding these things matter (and that’s fine)

    CharlieM: I might say that from so simple (relatively) a beginning as the fertilised egg a multitude of forms of cells and organs most beutiful and wonderful have and are being developed. As above so below, the whole reflected in the parts.

    Talking of reflections, we humans are the only ones who have developed art. How sophisticated and great we are.

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  24. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Do you agree with me that no matter how objective we think we are being we cannot escape from the fact that we observe and study everything from our own human perspective and what’s more each from our own personal point of view?

    Yes, but since we are aware of this, I think we have a decent shot at minimizing biases that result from that.

    So you agree with the maxim, “know thyself”?

    And this is a good thing because by this we become aware of our own faults and prejudices. As Rabbie Burns said in “To a Louse”, “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!”
    (Oh, would some Power give us the gift, To see ourselves as others see us!)

    If we were all as objective and scrutinising about ourselves as we are those with whom we differ then we might have a more tolerant society.

    CharlieM: Do you agree with me that there is a divide between experiential reality and reality in and of itself?

    Yes, but I believe that’s irrelevant. What good is reality we cannot experience?

    I’m asking about objective reality, not that which is of benefit to humans. And I would not use the word “cannot”. What I do not experience today I might experience tomorrow.

    CharlieM: Do you agree with me that we experience different levels of consciousness?

    Yes.

    AS long as we describe these levels in any terms other than higher and lower 🙂

    CharlieM: Human creativity and use of resources for practical purposes is vastly greater than any other species. We are the only species to attain such a high level of self-consciousness and intra-species communication.

    Sure, I agree. But I still believe all this is subjective. It is us deciding these things matter (and that’s fine)

    And we are the only creatures on the planets that do make these types of conscious decisions on what does and does not matter. Someone may decide they want to make a fortune selling plastic utensils because their personal wealth matters more to them than the health of the planet. What humans decide in this regard can seriously affect the life of the entire planet.

    CharlieM: I might say that from so simple (relatively) a beginning as the fertilised egg a multitude of forms of cells and organs most beutiful and wonderful have and are being developed. As above so below, the whole reflected in the parts.

    Talking of reflections, we humans are the only ones who have developed art. How sophisticated and great we are.

    We produce works of art in order to externalise our inner feelings in the same way that we publish scientific works in order to externalise our thoughts. We may be the only creatures to consciously produce work of art. But comparing the forms and structures produced by other creatures with human art, these can surpass our artworks in that which we find beautiful and which can affect our feelings and emotions.

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  25. CharlieM: If we were all as objective and scrutinising about ourselves as we are those with whom we differ then we might have a more tolerant society.

    Haha, that should be TSZ’s new masthead.

    CharlieM: I’m asking about objective reality, not that which is of benefit to humans. And I would not use the word “cannot”. What I do not experience today I might experience tomorrow.

    Using higher consciousness?

    CharlieM: AS long as we describe these levels in any terms other than higher and lower

    I knew you were going to say that. Let me explain: Higher and lower is fine, as long as you are being clear what you mean by that. I’ll gladly concede that I am not very aware of my surrroundings when I am slumbering or that rainworms do not have a very rich inner life. It’s just that I am not sure what you mean when you say higher consciousness.

    CharlieM: What humans decide in this regard can seriously affect the life of the entire planet.

    Given our decisions in these matters, I am not sure that means we are higher evolved.

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