Reason, Religion and Ecology
republished 11/15/14, originally published in Oct 2012
Reason is based on linking evidence to form a valid explanation. There is no evidence that a god exists. There are no answers to prayers, there is no supreme being ever seen or heard. The Universe may be infinite but no one knows for sure, but it’s much greater than any religion ever said. The big bang is only one explanation for how the universe was created, but its based on evidence. Astronomers and now physicists are finding evidence that may point to still other explanations. That’s the nature of science, theories explain facts until new facts are not explainable with the earlier theory. Science is a continuous discovery process. Religion, in contrast, offers no evidence, and assumes mythical beings exists who no one has ever seen or perceived. It’s a static view which cannot be challenged.
There may be new explanations for the construction of the Universe, but they will not ever be supernatural as claimed by religion. Religion and science cannot coexist in explaining natural phenomena, with one exception, the study of hallucinations induced by propaganda and repetition, particularly on young forming individuals before they have the capacity for critical thinking. And no church teaches critical thinking.
So Where Does Religion Improve Civilization?
So far religions of the world, the traditional religions, for example, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, seem just ways to divide up humanity for competition and yet they carry useful historical information and all have their different, but frequently, overlapping rules for living. Even the schisms within the particular religions have led to competition which easily escalates into violence. Scientific cosmology differs significantly with all these religions so could unite humanity by providing a common cosmology. But this idea is resisted almost universally by those who carry past traditions as a prerequisite for their particular constellation of beliefs and myths.
Science does not care directly for the poor as do many religions, yet is this not just a recruitment strategy? Feed them and convert them to my belief system. Still, there is some relief to misery and suffering, which should be the goal of all belief systems, right? I wish it were so stated but alas, this idea does not resonate in any religion unless one sees Buddhism as a religion. It, however, seems a bridge between philosophy and a religion, rather than just a religion. Maybe my definition of a religion is limited by the nature of my knowledge of the major religions.
This could be so as I grew out of Catholicism into science as a belief system.
The pageantry, songs, myths, poetry, art, and architecture derived from the religions seem a statement of belief adorned by the imagination, which is truly amazing with one exception. The exception is major, however. Does art serve recruitment and maintenance of control over people, or does it truly elevate people to perform noble deeds? Does science do this, in contrast? At times I wonder, considering how scientists serve the military, giant corporations who ruin the biosphere and exploit natural resources without consideration of the future.
Maybe science and religion both carry reflections of the good and the bad of human nature and what we as humans must do is evolve first in our knowledge and place our history in perspective to this knowledge.
What Kind of Knowledge Could Unite Humanity?
Humans are animals and share many characteristics with animals, plants and microbes. To deny this is to deny our senses, our historical record and all the recent knowledge derived from the last 100 or so years of biological knowledge. Science is broad and encompasses biological information, but biological knowledge goes beyond just science in the traditional meanings of science. The growth of scientific knowledge has arisen from the physical to the biological which truly dominates all knowledge now as we have come to understand how the Biosphere functions and how we fit into the Biosphere.
Ecological Awareness Could Unite Humanity
Ecology is the study of how life interrelates with non-life. The Biosphere encompasses all life, for this discussion, life on Earth. This life is derived from the non-living components of the planet with some regular inputs from the cosmos, especially the local star we call our Sun. We are really made of star dust as Neal Tyson so poetically portrays humans. We are made of the same elements we find in stars as judged by our knowledge of how different elements affect light which reaches us across immense distances and time. This awareness is the output of human discoveries in astronomy, which incidentally, has been obtained by the devoted and expenditure of lives of scientific saints like Galileo who risked their lives and actually gave their lives up for their discovered truths. This parallels the saints of the traditional religions.
Bismark, the famous German leader, said to unity humans one must influence them to acknowledge a common enemy. We have this enemy and He is us. This was the theme of the famous book, Lord of the Flies which was also made into a movie of the same title.
The Enemy is US
Us here is not an abbreviation for the United States as many in the world believe to the point of sacrifice of their lives, although they may be justified in this belief by our political/industrial/religious/media complex and its promulgated beliefs and consequent behaviors. We project a violence in all these realms which the world recognizes but which we fail to recognize ourselves.
In the broadest sense the enemy is humanity in its relentless, mindless exploitation of the planets resources to the point of threatening human existence.
Merely the nuclear arsenals of the world, particularly the arsenal of the United States, threatens the Biosphere. A mere 100 nuclear bombs could vaporize the living world by shutting out the sun with dirty particles in the atmosphere. This scenario was developed over 50 years ago and has not yet been internalized into national policies to limit and eliminate nuclear weapons and their supporting electric power generation systems, which number in the hundreds. Nuclear power is the most dirty of all the power sources available for electric generation, by far. Just the major waste product, plutonium, with a half life of 24,000 years tells that story. The recent ongoing Fukushima catastrophe should demonstrate again how bad the threat this technology exhibits.
Population Control is Taboo
Have you recognized that no politician has endorsed any measures to limit population, with only one exception: China. China has had a one-child policy for decades now. Maybe this is because it is not a democracy. China is a modern day oligarchy, which is defined by rule by an elite.
Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos), meaning “a few”, and ἄρχω (archo), meaning “to rule or to command”)is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who pass their influence from one generation to the next.
Throughout history, oligarchies have been tyrannical (relying on public servitude to exist) or relatively benign. Aristotle pioneered the use of the term as a synonym for rule by the rich, for which the exact term is plutocracy, but oligarchy is not always a rule by wealth, as oligarchs can simply be a privileged group, and do not have to be connected by bloodlines as in a monarchy.
The United States, in contrast to China, is evolving toward an Plutocracy. Economic power is concentrated in fewer and fewer, almost unknown hands. The plutocrats are basically unknown. They exert their power by domination of the political system through public media, with one exception so far: the internet.
If the democracy of the United States’ can be saved from its slide into plutocracy it will be through the internet as the main media sources, TV, newspapers and publishing are all now dominated by personal and corporate bodies. These, in turn, manipulate the government through political appointments over the civil service, judicial and executive branches, even the military, now transformed into a mercenary institution. This is, and was, done by domination of the electoral processes, including districting, corruption of voting methods, methods of debating issues and policies, electoral college, and advertizing expenditures. This has created a military/industrial complex previously warned about by D.W. Eisenhower in his parting speech.
Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows people to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.
The term originates from the Greek: δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”, which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (kratos) “power”, around 400 BCE, to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens.
A democratic government contrasts to forms of government where power is either held by one, as in a monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy or aristocracy. Nevertheless, these oppositions, inherited from Greek philosophy, are now ambiguous because contemporary governments have mixed democratic, oligarchic, and monarchic elements. Karl Popper defined democracy in contrast to dictatorship or tyranny, thus focusing on opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a revolution.
Several variants of democracy exist, but there are two basic forms, both of which concern how the whole body of citizens executes its will. One form of democracy is direct democracy, in which citizens have direct and active participation in the decision making of the government. In most modern democracies, the whole body of citizens remain the sovereign power but political power is exercised indirectly through elected representatives; this is called representative democracy. The concept of representative democracy arose largely from ideas and institutions that developed during the European Middle Ages, the Age of Enlightenment, and the American and French Revolutions.
The Hope of the Internet
It could all be different, however, if there were a deep and comprehensive attempt at moving toward a true democracy, which could be facilitated by communications across the internet. But democracy demands a good public educational system as alone, public elections can be dominated by demigods. G.W. Bush was a good example of a demigod, with his cadre of psychopaths. A political demigod tells you what you want to hear, not the truth, nor a vision for a beneficial future.
An imagination experiment carries this idea by a universal voting scenario example. Today it is possible to have all candidates for all elections listed by name and governmental organization. All funding measures and legal proceedings could be similarly listed with votes tabulated via independent computer systems. We can, for the most part, now assure most people that voting systems can be made secure, as financial systems make this claim every day. Sure there will be cheaters but the possibilities are good for universal participation. All ballots could be available on public and private computer screens, for example, along with a voting system to track votes.
No country has yet instituted such a system but nescient voting and listing systems are in effect, but they are not yet integrated nor as reliable and secure to warrant confidences. The debacle of compromised voting demonstrated so aptly by the plutocratic manipulations which brought us G.W. Bush and the now incessant wars should never be forgotten in pursuit of such a universal voting and electing system.
I still have hopes, although they are tarnished by the past presidential election debacle. How much does your politician cost?
William Olkowski, PhD.
Dr. William Olkowski is a specialist in Integrated Pest Management and Biological Control of Insects and an active Environmentalist, gardener, teacher and perpetual student.
His books include “Common Sense Pest Control” and “The Gardeners Guide to Least Toxic Pest Control” and the Integral Urban House, among others. His publications include other books, scientific papers, government reports, book reviews, technical pest control manuals, and more extensively, articles in the “IPM Practitioner” and “Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly for over 25 years.” His blog covers book reviews on health, ecology, parasitology, medical entomology, among others, essays, movie reviews, personal poems and rants. A website includes many of his published scientific papers, paintings, poems, and project reports. He has consulted with the EPA, NPS, AID, NIH, private businesses and city, county and state agencies about least toxic pest control. He is familiar with various ecological social organizations from starting non-profit organizations, and is proud of helping to start the first recycling centers in the US, the first ecology center (in Berkeley), and the Farallones Institute, Antioch College West, and a small farm based school for educating disadvantaged young women. Now based in Santa Barbara, CA, at email@example.com.