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Finding Meaning In A Meaningless World

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This is the first in an occasional series on “deep science,” an attempted antidote to the prevailing “absent-minded science” I’ve written about in my book, Eco, Ego, Eros.

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Science has defined the modern era in many ways and is truly the reigning knowledge paradigm in the modern era, even if it’s not always acknowledged. The key features of modernity–specialization and technology–were made possible primarily by the remarkable development of scientific techniques and knowledge over the last 400 years, since the time of Galileo and Kepler.

But while science has brought us the modern world, in a very real and direct way, it has also brought us to a point where man’s perennial search for meaning is imperiled. This is the case because today’s scientific worldview seems to deny the importance of many inquiries that humans have perennially found important, including questions about our place in the universe, the nature of consciousness, and questions about God, purpose, and many other deep topics. And where it doesn’t deny the importance of such questions the answers it provides are increasingly dissatisfying and, frankly, depressing.

Scientific Materialism

Science is the basis for “scientific materialism,” the worldview shared by most of today’s scientists and philosophers. Scientific materialism holds, essentially, that the universe is nothing but matter and energy in motion; humans evolved through random processes, as did all life; and human minds emerged at some point in our species’ development as our nervous system became sufficiently complex.

Much of this is surely correct, but there are a number of problems with this worldview. For example, scientific materialism is unable to explain coherently when and why mind/subjectivity emerged. How far down the evolutionary ladder does mind extend? When did mind first appear in the universe? We shouldn’t expect science to be able to provide firm and specific answers to these questions because such answers are probably impossible to produce. But we should expect the intellectual architecture of our modern world to provide at least an outline of coherent answers to such questions. Thomas Nagel’s recent book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, makes a very similar point.

Is Today’s Science An “Absent-Minded Science?”

I’ve argued that today’s science is an “absent-minded science” because of this failure to adequately explain the role of mind in nature. The prevailing theory of “emergence” argues that mind simply appears with the development of sufficient biological complexity but no one today can provide a good answer as to when and why mind emerged when it did. These major questions remain unanswered within the materialist paradigm and its philosophy of “emergentism.” This inability to explain the most primary feature of reality for each of us — our own minds — seriously undermines the intellectual edifice of modernity.

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tambookPerhaps even more importantly, scientific materialism is, for most of us, an ill-suited foundation for our search for higher meaning in our lives. As human beings, we have an innate need for a life-affirming mythos. By mythos I don’t mean fantasy; rather, I mean we need a subtextual narrative that supports our sense of self and our place in the world. The more accurate this narrative is, in terms of its congruence with events in the external world, the better it works. Scientific materialism falls short in providing such a mythos because it denies the reality of much that seems most real to us. We have, with today’s scientific materialism, seen the pendulum swing too far.

The Copernican Revolution, which correctly shifted the center of our solar system to the sun away from our planet, has now gone too far in suggesting that there isn’t really anything special about us or our place in the universe. We are the product of random chance on a small backwater planet in a very boringly normal arm of a very normal spiral galaxy, so the conventional view holds. Independent of the grasping of ego, we can see that this worldview doesn’t provide much space for personal or higher meaning.

A key challenge of our time is to reconcile the truths and methods of modern science with this need for personal meaning.

Scientific materialism’s mythos was summed up well by the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg:

“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

If this is the case, why don’t we all just commit suicide? Well, we don’t because each of us has a personal mythos, despite the claims of today’s materialism, that justifies the space we occupy and the air we breathe.

We Are In Need Of A More Life-Affirming Worldview Than Scientific Materialism Can Provide

We are, it seems, in need of a more life-affirming worldview than today’s scientific materialism can provide. This new series of essays will flesh out my thoughts on 1) how science can and should change to become more scientific, but also 2) how a new type of science can act as the foundation for a new mythos to better sustain our psyches.

This is what I mean by “deep science.” A new deep science will be more scientific than today’s surface-oriented endeavour because it recognizes the internal aspects behind the world of surfaces that is the primary focus of today’s science. Deep science is also more holistic than today’s overly narrow science because it can help us more comprehensively describe the universe and its amazing contents, and allow us to create coherent and useful theories about these contents.

Ken Wilber’s Deep Science

Ken Wilber coined the phrase “deep science” in his insightful book The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. Wilber’s suggestions in this area are a great basis for additional inquiry. I will use Wilber’s framework as the basis for my own discussion in these essays, but will expand and amend upon his original outline.

The key point of Wilber’s deep science is that all scientific and spiritual inquiries — which are united methodologically in his deep science, at least in an overarching manner — consist of three strands: 1) an injunctive method, which is a set of how-to instructions specific to the field at issue; 2) data gathering, in terms of direct experience, through use of the injunctive method at issue; 3) community confirmation or negation of the data gathered. Wilber states in The Marriage of Sense and Soul:

The three strands of deep science [what I’ll call the “triple braid” from here on out] separate the valid from the bogus … helping us to separate not only true propositions from false propositions, but also authentic self-expression from lying, beauty from degradation, and moral aspirations from deceit and deception.

Future columns will explore some applications of the triple braid of deep science and will also flesh out how Wilber’s approach might be a useful and fair reconciliation of scientific and religious ways of viewing the world.

If we are to find a way out of the existential trap of scientific materialism, we need not reject science; rather, we should look deeper into scientific method and reexamine its foundations. This approach will have two major benefits: 1) we gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the physical world; 2) as a nice side benefit, we also find a worldview that is more conducive to the long-standing need for finding personal meaning in our lives.

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Tam Hunt is a philosopher and lawyer based in Santa Barbara, CA, and Hilo, HI, and a visiting scholar at UC Santa Barbara.

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Scientists Discover A New & Efficient Way To Turn Sunlight Into Fuel

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new process is able to effectively turn sunlight into fuel by combining natural processes and human made technologies.

  • Reflect On:

    With all of the emerging alternative energy sources that are becoming available to us, do we really need to be burning fossil fuels any longer?

The sun is a big burning ball of fire and thus, energy. Really, everything is energy. We already know that it is the light and warmth of the sun that gives life to every living thing on this planet. We have already seen an example of how the sun’s energy can be utilized to create power with the rapidly increasing use of solar panels, but researchers from St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, have now discovered a new way to utilize energy from the sun and turn it into fuel. Yes fuel — the type of fuel that could directly compete with fossil fuels.

The researchers used semi-artificial photosynthesis to explore new ways to produce and store solar energy. Using natural sunlight to separate hydrogen and oxygen including the use of a combination of biological components and human made technologies.

This research could revolutionize the way we are currently utilizing the sun for renewable energy production. Their method was able to absorb even more solar light than the natural process of photosynthesis. A paper, published in the journal Nature Energy described how the researchers were able to develop this process of unassisted, solar driven water splitting.

One of the authors of the study and PhD student at St. John’s college, Katarzyna Sokól said, “Natural photosynthesis is not efficient because it has evolved merely to survive so it makes the bare minimum amount of energy needed — around 1-2 percent of what it could potentially convert and store. “

One of the keys to this process is an ancient enzyme known as hydrogenase.

“Hydrogenase is an enzyme present in algae that is capable of reducing protons into hydrogen,” Sokól added.

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“During evolution this process has been deactivated because it was necessary for survival but we successfully managed to bypass the inactivity to achieve the reaction we wanted — splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.”

The process of mimicking photosynthesis in order to collect and store energy is something that scientists have been experimenting with for years. However, according to Sokól, the earlier technologies are not capable of scaling up to industrial models for a myriad of different reasons — either they are too expensive, or inefficient of use materials could also pose a risk to the environment.

The team took the approach to create an electrochemical cell, similar to a traditional battery, but based on the light-collecting biochemistry of a process called photosystem II. This was able to provide the necessary voltage that is required for the hydrogenase enzyme to do do it’s job and reduce the amount of hydrogen in water so that it can separate from oxygen and become the gas it was born to be.

Although this process may sound simple, connecting artificial systems with natural and organic processes has proved to be quite challenging.

“This work overcomes many difficult challenges associated with the integration of biological and organic components into inorganic materials for the assembly of semi-artificial devices and opens up a toolbox for developing future systems for solar energy conversion,” says, Erwin Resner, author and laboratory head.

There is much more research that needs to be done, but this is a huge and important step towards being able to fully utilize this method for an alternate fuel source.

“This could be a great platform for developing solar technologies. The approach could be used to couple other reactions together to see what can be done, learn from these reactions and then build synthetic, more robust pieces of solar energy technology,” says Sokól.

“It’s exciting that we can selectively choose the processes we want, and achieve the reaction we want which is inaccessible in nature. This could be a great platform for developing solar technologies. The approach could be used to couple other reactions together to see what can be done, learn from these reactions and then build synthetic, more robust pieces of solar energy technology,” she added.

Final Note

While this is certainly a plus in the direction of moving toward new energy systems, these technologies have advanced counterparts in the realm of zero-point energy that can make an even greater impact on humanity, without the need for sunlight.

The challenge? It has often been said that if ‘free energy’ like technologies come out prior to humanity shifting their consciousness enough to truly handle these technologies, we will in essence use them in the exact same way we do now: patent them, limit them and then charge people extensively for energy. This does not help to free the population, but only keeps it enslaved, and abundance limited.

Much Love

 

 

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

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Wi-Fi Security – Measures to Prevent Technology Enabled Crimes

Every Wi-Fi user must know how to adopt security measures that will prevent them from becoming victims of wireless technology crimes.

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Considered as one of the greatest advancement since the Internet, Wi-Fi wireless networking technology has given mobility to computers. People use wireless technology in the office, at home, and in public places. Unless Wi-Fi users adopt some sort of security, various problems can result when computers transmit unsecured information to one another.

Bandwidth theft, exposed e-mail messages, password or user name theft, and hijacked online identity rank among the top problems brought about by unsecured Wi-Fi transmissions. Every Wi-Fi user must know how to secure their computer.

Use WPA Instead of WEP Encryption

Encryption protocols are used to make network traffic more secure by encoding data packets that are transmitted thereon. Unfortunately, some wireless routers don’t have encryption enable or use the weaker WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy) security protocol.

It is well known that WEP security keys are easy to break and therefore network administrators should use the WPA or WPA2 protocols. Even if a router doesn’t support the more secure WPA or WPA2 protocols, WEP should be used; it is better than nothing.

Install a Firewall on Every Computer and Server

A firewall is the most basic and fundamental network security measure there is to secure wireless networks. While Wi-Fi routers can be used to extend the range of networks, they also make the network more vulnerable. A firewall will need to be installed on every computer to ward off security threats. This should be done even if the wireless router has a firewall installed on it.

Use Virtual Private Network (VPN)

B­asically, VPNs form a private network that uses a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users together. VPNs use authenticated links to make sure that only authorized users can connect to a network. It also uses encryption to make sure that others can’t intercept and can’t use data that travels over the Internet. Numerous websites offer both free and paid VPN versions. VPNbase is one of them.

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Reduce the Transmitter Power of Network Access Points

Part of the convenience of using wireless networks is the ability to access services remotely. This strength also becomes a weakness, because others can see, and potentially use the network as well, especially when a powerful transmitter/antenna is being used.

To limit how far outside the premises the wireless signal travels, reduce the power output of wireless antennas. This requires some tweaking to find the right setting, because reducing the signal output of antennas also reduces the network’s service delivery and quality.

Disable Remote Administration

WLAN (wireless local area network) routers often come with the ability for a network administrator to remotely configure the router. By default, this feature is usually turned off and should stay that way if remote administration is not absolutely necessary. While network administrators can usually set passwords, to secure access to the router’s control panel, leaving the feature enabled could leave the network vulnerable as well.

Remove or Disable Weak Passwords and Access Codes

Ensure that all default passwords and access codes that come preset on network equipment are changed or disabled. Access the router’s web interface and update all settings that have a bearing on network security. Be sure the use strong passwords as well.

Physically Secure your Wireless Network Equipment

Hardware devices typically come with a hard reset button. Making network equipment readily available to be physically handled by anyone who wishes to do so puts the network at risk. Secure all critical and sensitive equipment in rooms or equipment racks.

Don’t Broadcast the Network’s SSID

To allow for the easy setup of wireless clients, most wireless access points will broadcast the SSID (Service Set IDentifier), or network name. While broadcasting the SSID makes setting up wireless clients easier, it also makes WLANs visible to wireless devices that are within range, including those that are malicious. Turn off SSID broadcast to make the network invisible and more secure.

Simple Wireless Network Security

Ensuring that a wireless network is secure is an ongoing responsibility. Wireless network threats, such as those posed by hackers and viruses can be thwarted by some common sense approaches such as physically securing network equipment and using strong encryption methods and technologies. However, the most effective security measures are those that seek to cover all the known security vulnerabilities.

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
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Germline Genome Editing: Scientists Consider Altering The Genes In Babies Before They’re Born

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Soon we could be able to edit the DNA of unborn fetuses to prevent them from developing certain diseases.

  • Reflect On:

    Just because we can do something does it mean we should do it? At what point have we gone too far, should we just let nature take care of these things?

What was once something coming directly from sci-fi movies depicting the future, is now soon to be a reality — editing the genes in babies before they are born could help them live decades longer and reduce the risk of developing cancer, according to some controversial new research. This process is known as germline genome editing.

These DNA-editing tools, known as CRSIPR-CAS9, could be used to ‘make us more resistant to diseases of old age’ when used on egg and sperm cells, according to Dr. Roman Teo Olyink from the University of Auckland.

By altering just a few or even a hundred of the genes that typically code the conditions for heart disease, Alzheimer’s or arthritis, those unborn babies who would otherwise be at risk because of a family history of such disorders may be able to live longer and have more years being healthy, according to the research.

The greatest benefit of the gene-altering would be in the realm of developing cancer. An at-risk fetus would be half as likely to develop the disease and could live up to two decades longer if cancer was still to develop, the scientists claim.

Other scientists who are skeptical of this procedure feel that by editing a person’s risk of one disease, it could end up making them more susceptible to another. The gene editing also doesn’t account for the fact that poor health is often brought on by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Cancer Risk Could Be Significantly Reduced

Researchers looked at a collection of genes that affect a person’s risk level of developing certain conditions. By looking at which genes an individual has, their risk of developing certain diseases can be assessed. Then, they were able to determine whether or not someone who has a higher than average risk of developing a specific disease would have been less susceptible had they undergone the gene editing procedure before birth.

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Dr. Olinyk claims that the results would be dramatic and these people who had undergone this procedure would live healthier for longer and have a significantly lower risk of even becoming ill at all. “This research shows that we could potentially use gene editing to make us all resistant to diseases of old age. Cancers on the model show a very significant and lasting improvement,” he said.

How Much Is Really Genetic?

For something like Alzheimer’s disease where the gene is literally passed on to the next family members, this procedure could be hugely beneficial. But for other diseases that are only genetic if something triggers or awakens the genes to cause disease or illness, shouldn’t we be educating people on the role that environmental factors play in the development of disease?

In a way, this procedure could be taking away an opportunity to empower ourselves and get to the root cause of our illnesses, be they emotional or physical. The environments we live in, the food we eat, and our lifestyles all play a role in the development of disease, even if that disease is one that tends to run in our families.

I have heard before that most diseases that are considered genetic are only developed if we live a similar lifestyle as our parents and follow in their footsteps in regards to our diets. It’s only genetic if we eat like our parents. By just assuming that we will get sick or contract a disease because our parents did and their parents did is giving away our power to heal and stop the genetic cycle of disease from our families.

Other Issues Of Concern

If this technology can indeed be used to alter genes by removing ones that may cause disease or illness, then later down the road it can certainly be used to add genes with certain characteristics as well. Parents could choose what eye and hair color their children will have or how tall they will be. How many parents would strive to build the genetically perfect basketball player?

Is the ability to alter these genes taking things too far? Should we just let nature do it’s thing? Or is this technology becoming available to us now because we are advanced enough to handle it? What are your thoughts? We want to hear from you, comment on this post below and let us know what you think about gene-altering technology.

Much Love

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
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