Education: Life and Consciousness:


The Nature of Thought – Part XVII


by Mr. Iain Kirkaldy-Willis,

Naturalistic Philosopher

Canary Islands, Spain


I cannot stress enough how serious the quest for who we are really is. Since all the articles in this series are about who we are, anyway, I will press forward with that in this one, too.

But, one or two provisos, first, ....


..., yes, I'll admit that the material I have been presenting is highly critical of science. This is, however, not about methodology or knowledge. After all, indigenous peoples' approach to life is also empirical. What is at issue is the use to which we put the technology that stems from science.


..., whenever articles mention indigenous peoples, it is a reference to very different stream of humanity. The ways of indigenous peoples, their empirical approach towards the nature and meaning of life and their styles of life are at the opposite pole to ours. Ours is of the mind, intellectual – the pursuit of science to make known the Unknown, grapple with Infinity, interpret the unexplained, to scale the Absolute down to some manageable human size (matters that are by very definition, impossible, since it is mental activity). It is powerful stuff, nevertheless, for it inspires the technology that weaponises nations, industrialises even agriculture, and feeds consumer culture, sustaining and enlarging upon a way of being that is inimical to Life, all in the name of a concept (making the world a better place).


The other stream's approach, borne of the nature of human intelligence, is intuitive, based in experience, the science of looking at life for what it is, where one is in it, relating to that and fashioning one's ways, accordingly – experiencing life directly and living so, in response.


However simple or complex any one or other indigenous life-style may be, common to them all is a vision of creation, of who they are, where they fit in the scheme of things and how it all works, so letting them be at home, right there at the heart of what is their world. (N.B. Please, talking of indigenous people, one is looking at a stream of humanity whose ways are as different from those of other cultures, tribal societies and nomadic folk, as they are from our ways and style of life.)


..., the background to the separateness of these two streams is ancient. In earlier articles I mentioned a train of civilisations, in one place and another on Earth, that have come and gone, culminating in the global civilisation of our times, which inherits the same traits that had those earlier ones rising and falling, buried at its core. In doing so, a cataclysm reckoned to have scarred the human psyche (which is considered to have brought this about in the first place) was also referred to. Here and there across the planet, the lives of indigenous (or first peoples, as they are sometimes called), were untouched by this.


Well, that is enough of that. Let's move ahead! 


Ecology tells us that if we contaminate the air, the water and the soil, we poison ourselves. By the same logic we could say, that if we care for the world, we benefit ourselves. We consider ourselves to be rational beings, that that is our distinguishing characteristic. Yet our behaviour does not bear this logic out and we conduct ourselves in a way that is to the contrary. Herein, lies the problem, for it is this default mode we are in, which has brought about the critical state of affairs on Earth, to a head, in these times.


I would like to devote this introduction to this article to following through on this. Pursuing the logic just outlined above, we could say that, if the inventiveness of the human mind is distinctive, instead of human activity fouling nature it could as easily be applied to nurturing life. However, in matters scientific, our thinking is fundamentally flawed. Take environmental science, for example. At a deeper level, ecology says we are inextricably members of the living organism that is Earth, not the crown of creation. Yet, there it is tracking the degradation science and technology in human hands is causing, depending on the use of state of the art equipment of that very science and technology to do so. (Ironic is it not that to investigate what is going wrong, we have to hone, improve and enlarge on the technology that has done it!) So, where are probing, questioning and challenging the premises and values of the life-style which has provoked degradation through its dependence on this science and technology?


Physical science is evidence-based. So, in the continuous flow of data concerning environmental issues, there is ever the need to revise the scenarios and models – scenarios quickly out-moded, models that are inadequate – in the face of the increasingly rapid stream of data the science gathers. We are ever being given reconfigurations of CO2 levels and global warming, for instance, that indicate that issues such as polar and glacial melt are on an accelerating trajectory. The implication is of global warming being unstoppable, let alone reversible.  (2018's evidence from Antarctica, for instance, references a previously unrecognised melt of ice from beneath, due to warmer seas, that is hastening break-up to an unprecedented extent. While the warmer, ice-free Arctic Ocean has warmed the atmosphere to an extent that has made for unheard of winter rain, which is accelerating the melting of Greenland's ice cap.)


Investigating, recording and collating the incremental incidence of ever more devastating forest fires, glacial and polar melt, desertification, deforestation, loss of arable land, species extinction, and so forth, merely catalogues what is taking place, overlooking the fact of their being manifestations of the order of life as we know it disintegrating. (...and that does not include the systemic collapse that is taking place in the global ocean, which is 99% of Earth's habitable space). Scientific reasoning is that, if we can sort out what is going wrong, we can think matters through to an approach (and/or technology) that will solve the problem, without doing anything about why it is so. However, in its entirety, the environmental change underway world-wide is a juggernaut  on the roll, chaos unfurling before our eyes, as systems get strained to their limit and collapse, and the order that sustains life as we know it unravels. We are on the slippery slope on the other side of the point of no-return! 


This should be no surprise. In 1969, UN Secretary-General U. Thant warned a Full Plenary Session of the precariousness of the situation, as it already was then. In 1972 there was a general gathering of the concerned across a wide spectrum in Stockholm to come to grips with the environmental aspect. In the United States a report was drawn up to brief key people in the Administration, such as the President, on the impact of environmental changes already well underway, positing scenarios and identifying implications with regard to national security. And, on the basis of the evidence already extant, The Ecologist Magazine drafted A Blueprint for Survival to confront the issue.


Well, disorder has become the world order.


The unbridled advance of technology has overtaken our capacity to regulate the consequences, let alone control them! From the likes of climate and ocean change to nuclear proliferation, economic crises, resource depletion, waste and contamination, pandemics and pan-resistance, the consequences of genetic engineering, persistent mass poverty, geo-political upheaval, trafficking and cybercrime, the issues are increasingly more complex.


This matter is in the hands of a cadre who are today´s reincarnation of “the keepers of the order”, institutions, not people, that uphold “the order-of-the-times”, a global order this time that has emerged from the millennial progression of nations coming and going, civilisations rising and falling, a super-order that holds us all in its thrall. Serving in their respective institutions, those in business, trade and commerce uphold this global, 'super- order'. Their moneyed power and status cliques pursue vested interests that prey on the planet and its populations. Criminal activity appropriates technological innovations and loopholes in the law to advance pernicious anti-social activities. The clamour for infrastructure, regulation and counter-measures to provide checks and balances for any of this adds to the way nation-states become increasingly top-heavy, to the extent that they are capsizing under the weight of the agendas that climb on board. The endless spin of politics, turning truth whichever way it wills, gives no guidance. In the realm of human affairs this mirrors what is happening to the global environment.


Our arrogance towards the community of being to which we belong chokes it and threatens our place in it, for, in our entanglement with the rest of life, when we contaminate the world around us, we are harming ourselves. The human intellect's having broken bounds is what lies behind all this. Consuming every mind it inhabits with its fervour, it no longer serves who we are as human beings. Firing up every gangster, politician, lawyer, investment banker, religious cleric, fraught homemaker and slum-dweller, dictator, scientist, philanthropist, professional, CEO and ordinary citizen, each in pursuit of private and professional  goals, it just will not let go. A veritable maelstrom of agendas that counter one another has been forged, rending the social fabric in tatters and bringing the world down about our ears.


As damaged goods, we are not the victims of something that has happened to us. Humanity has done it to itself!


It is end time, for here we are, each of us cocooned in our everyday lives, where the larger proportion of the world's people is eking out an existence in ever-deteriorating circumstances. Whilst, elsewhere, every additional app for a smart phone, every extra household gadget, every new mechanical and electronic device, every fresh fashion and food fad, every subsequent technological development producing the likes of wind generators and solar panels and the on-going elaboration of products in the market-place to tickle consumer fancy compounds the trials and tribulation of the planet, with further expenditure of its resources and the additional exponentially greater harm that goes with that. Those of us who have the benefit of it cannot conceive of surrendering this style of life, let alone how to do that. While those who do not have it, dream of achieving it. (The obvious implication is that it would be up to someone else to fix things, whatever that means!)


How such mental fervour feeds the fevered, frenetic societies that stress us out never registers. We do not recognise our participation in what has come to pass. We do not face the burden of guilt each of us bears simply in living on Earth, now. Our societies neither apportion blame, nor do they have the structures for ministering to the grief that other people, and life in general, suffer at our hands. So, the matter plays out in virtual space. The players, ever changing, conform to defined roles; respond to situations the game puts them in, given sets of circumstances, some eventuality or other; their moves defined by options prescribed within the parameters of a game whose rules are constantly changing – and then they go home to their private lives and routines, until the next session!


There are scientists looking at the impact of CO2 emissions, others at agricultural run-off, ocean dead-zones, dying reefs, polar melt, species extinction, changing weather patterns, climate change, and so on, and on. None of them are happy with what they see. We know that because, for all their hesitancy about making projections on a larger scale, they say so. Yet few there are who will put into perspective the likes of crisis in the global ocean that is leading to the polar and glacial melt promoting rising sea levels; insect die-off threatening catastrophic collapse of nature's eco-systems; micro-plastic waste's congesting every form of life and all places on the planet, and the fact that half of all plant life and 83% of wild animals have already disappeared at the hands of a form of life that represents but 0.01% of all living things (see The National Academy of Science´s  2018 Bulletin), let alone speak out about it.


So, here is this explosion of human activity to provide more and more, for more and more people on the planet, more and more of whom want it, more and more of them moving to live in cities that rely upon ever-improving science and technology for their infrastructure and services. All of this is supposed to be accomplished in more `friendly´ ways that necessitate greater expenditure and more and more of the planets resources, burdening the global environment ever more, thereby, driving its systems to the limit, to the extent that they are collapsing with who-knows-what consequences. The industrial and urban landscapes we forge are not fresh pastures. So, living in terms of how such environments devastate the natural world, we are not dignified human beings adjusting to changing countryside. We are a crippled species trashing its world. We no longer know who we are, or what we are here for. We have lost our connection with Life.


This is not necessary! So when are we going to snap out of it?


Could one perhaps say human activity has misappropriated science? I think not, for they are locked on each other. Science and technology need one another for plundering the planet for the materials for the mass-production of the goods for consumer society, quantum computing, global scale communication, energy, transport and travel networks, on-going sourcing and use of fossil fuels and creating renewable energy infrastructure, the development of AI and 30m telescopes, genetic engineering, urban planning and construction, industrialising food production, and so on. So, when science and technology in human hands are doing the opposite of making the world a better place, yes, the assumption that they are for human good is suspect. In the circumstances, it becomes a glib self-justification for scientists indulging in doing anything that occurs to them, which brings us back to the runaway intellect with all the harm it causes. It is not that we should not be scientific. As I said at the outset, indigenous peoples are very scientific. The trouble is what we do with it.


So, are we really saying that what science and technology do does not make the world a better place? I think so, for we cannot square that belief with the fact that, whatever the benefits may be, they are part and parcel of the global environment's being inexorably degraded through human activity's application of them. Even in the human realm, science and tech merely seek to eradicate endemic health issues, such as the incidences of cancer, dementia, diabetes and childhood disorders now manifesting themselves on a world-wide scale that is out of all proportion to anything previous, instead of coming to grips with how these maladies are manifestations of the ills of society. If it was to really be for human betterment, wouldn't science be confronting how such infirmities are the biological and social expression of psychological conflicts that reveal the real problems that haunt our lives, engineer our genetics for the worse and deform our societies?


Oh dear! How can one discredit a background of hundreds of years of investigation and discovery in the field of science that have made for life, as we are living it in these times, let alone encompass the evidence that substantiates how damaging it is?


Well, never mind, the situation is not impossible!


Of course it is not easy for our noses to be rubbed in how we have personally and culturally entered this cul-de-sac!  There may not be any way to reverse the matter (which is after all what going past the tipping point means). But it is possible to snap out of it and recover who we are, in the fullest sense.


We are mindless of intellect's being but one faculty in a human make-up that is more than the sum of its parts. In the world, as we have engineered it, intellect is at work overtime and we are enslaved to that. That is not necessary!  We are more than the sum of the brains and brawn, the flesh, fluids and such of the human form of life that is ours. So, let's focus, here, then, on that 'being stuck' in the default mode of the intellectual activity that has engineered the world to being as it is (with no sign of respite in sight) which so thoroughly stops us from being fully human.


One way and another, the articles in this series have continuously looked at intellect, intelligence, the difference between them and what their relationship is.  Our identity is not confined to just being individual intelligences served by the bodies they inhabit, with the brains that orchestrate the functions thereof on our behalf. It is qualified by everything else within the community of being that embraces us, for, in the scheme of things, there is no 'in-here' or 'out-there'. We are all one. That is what being human belongs to, the framework within which we exist, the field in which we are embedded. That is how important being who we are is.


This article's 2-image/text series focus on this. The first is a stark statement of what intellect driven human activity has brought about. The second series goes on from there, for we have simply got to find out who we really are, come to terms with that and live accordingly.


For correspondence with the author, contact: Bibliotheque: World Wide.




Presentation A

Presentation B



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