I expect you, like the rest of us, worry about the condition
of the earth and all the creatures on it.
No, that sounds tame.
What I see terrifies
Let me say it clearly: I see that everyone who follows the kind of life-pattern
that sets humans apart from the rest of the biosphere, with some kind of special
permission to use the world any old way we see fitand that means almost
everyone now living, including you and medoes not help the planet survive.
Instead, we make things worse. We court species suicide and extinction.
All the programs we propose to remedy our self-destructiveness seem either
ineffective or actually harmful in ways we didn't expect. We act like medics
putting band-aids on wounds gushing blood.
What to do?
I suggest that we need to find new ways to SEE the problemsSEE what
we do, and the consequences of what we do. Our established thinking-and-speaking
patterns keep leading us back into the established boxes. We can't rely on
our familiar ways of analyzing what we need to do; we can count on them to
lead us to save the whales and kill ourselves-and-the-planet. We need somehow
to get outside of our traditional frames of reference and our usual assumptions
about "what works" and "what doesn't work."
As one of the most difficult problems, we must face the fact that that as
we currently practice science, scientific "advances" don't much alter our
self-destructiveness. In fact, what currently passes for "science" works against
the long-term survival of the planet.
Not because scientistsor even "some scientists"'ARE' bad people,
who don't care about the earth.
Not because they 'ARE' too stupid to think of the consequences.
Instead, we have to recognize that even the best scientists simply DON'T KNOW
HOW THE WORLD WORKS. Our mathematics, quantum theory, relativity, biological
theory, and the various human psycho-social sciences leave a crucial factor
out of account. I have disclosed it, and found ways to take it into account.
Biologists don't know how to tell whether something LIVES or not. In the late
1930's and 1940's, they declared it IMPOSSIBLE to define key terms such as
; and after about a decade of discussion, "forgot"
(repressed) that they had done so. Today, a vast majority of biologists regard
living organisms as elaborate "mechanisms"; and so, on principle, they cannot
tell a walrus from a wristwatch.
So how can they possibly show us how to support ALL life on earth? Simplethey
can't. They don't know what to do to remedy our self-destructiveness any better
than the least scientific among us; but they suffer from a terrible handicap:
they think they do.
Well, don't I sound like a smartass? And how do I know all this? Over the
course of more than thirty years, I have worked out ways to think outside
the standard patterns. I DO have a principled, testable way to tell whether
or not something lives. I have framed this theory of biology as a formal mathematical
theory. It includes a theorem which spells out what a "system" has to DO for
us to regard it as living
. And so I know one thing other scientists
THE EARTH ITSELF OPERATES LIKE A LIVING SYSTEM.
No, I don't mean the "Gaia complex" or any other kind of mysticism. In its
observable functioning, the earth itself demonstrably satisfies the conditions
spelled out in my theorem. So if we want to continue living here, we must
come to treat the earth as a whole, living system, and treat ourselves and
the rest of the living organisms as functioning, inter-dependent parts of
the earth. To do that, first we have to know how to recognize a living organism
when we meet oneand I do know how to do that. Then we have to teach
these skills to the rest of the biologists, along with the politicians, and
the remainder of the people on the planet as well. And we don't have very
much time to get started doing it. I know how this works, and I know how to
Will you join me?
C.A. Higartner, MD