Is Culture a result of the evolution of justice?

Society write large and culture in specific, is the result of a myriad of social contracts  written into our biology. As is the justice they need. The arc of our evolution has long bent towards the justice of “laws” fittest for team survival. We bred ourselves, by artificial selection, to internalize and feel strongly about social rules. This is the primary mistake of social darwinism which purports “survival of the fittest” under the vaneer of indidivdualism.
Christopher Boehm in Moral Origins concludes, after intensive analysis of 50 representative hunter-gatherer cultures, that our ancestors likely experienced a “radical political change,” evolving from a hierarchic “apelike ‘might is right’…social order,” to become more egalitarian. About 250,000 years ago, their survival became a team sport because chasing big-game toward teammates was much more productive than solo hunting. But only if profit-sharing was sustainable. Even with fit teammates hunting needs luck (e.g. 4% success today). Then, as now, the logic of social insurance solved team problems by sharing profits and risks. This is the same process that transformed wolves into dogs. Productivity gains in interdependent teams radically changed our evolution. Cooperators thrived. As did teams with the best adapted sharing rules, provided they were well enforced.
Boehm says all surviving hunter-gatherers enforce law-like social rules to prevent excessive egoism, nepotism, and cronyism. They use rebukes, ridicule, shame, shunning, exile and execution (typically delegated to close male kin of the condemned, to avoid inter-family feuding). For example, meat isn’t distributed by the successful hunter but by neutral stakeholders. Excessively dominant alpha-male behavior—like hogging more than a fair share of meat—is punished by “counterdominant coalitions.” If the strong abused their power they were eliminated, in a sort of inverted eugenics. Resisting injustice and tyranny are universal traits in today’s hunter-gatherers. They likely run 10,000 generations deep in our prehistory.
Social punishment created powerful selection pressures. Self-control becomes the lowest-cost strategy for avoiding social penalties. Shame and guilt likely evolved as mechanisms for internalizing the logic of team rules—a social contract written into our biology. We intuitively recognize what is considered punishable. And often punish ourselves. Cultures configure shame and guilt system triggers differently. But rules balancing short term individual selfish gain with longer-term or team interests are more evolutionarily productive. Thinking of our evolved urges as irresistible is a deep error, since self-control, especially relative to social rules, has long been needed for survival (see “evo-irresistible error”)
Our ancestors bred themselves to be team players. They used intelligently directed artificial selection of good cooperators as mates (“auto-domestication”). Bad cooperators were less likely to be selected for, or successful at, the hugely costly and highly collaborative business of raising long helpless offspring.
Justice, wrote Hesiod, poet of the ancient Greek masses and Homer’s rival, was “Zeus’s greatest gift” to us. Greatest or not, without it human nature wouldn’t be what it is. And we wouldn’t exist. This same process that gives rise to justice also gives rise to Altruism and I will even go so far as to suggest that, it is so powerful as to overcome what richard dawkins calls “the selfish gene” and in doins so,  gives rise to homo-sexuality.
If viewing evloution through the lens of “survival of the fittest” it is possible to calculate the relative fitness of certain genes, such as the occurence of  altruistic gene within and among groups. Consider a group of relatives that are socially interacting with each other. Some are altruistic and others are not. We don’t keep track of genes that are identical by descent. Instead, we calculate the effect of the altruistic act on the frequency of the altruistic gene within the group of relatives. The altruistic gene is at a selective disadvantage within the group. The only way for the altruistic gene to evolve in the total gene pool is if groups with more altruists contribute more to the gene pool than groups with fewer altruists. Because both altuism and variations in non-reproductive sexuality result in pro-social behavior, there would be stronger coheasion in groups that exhibit these behaviors which results in higher evolutionary sucess under harsh conditions over long periods of times, which are common during ecological disasters such as ice ages, or doughts and other causes of food scarcity.  There is certiainly something to be said for behaviors being evolved by culture first and biologically second.
altruism-genes

Why does beliving in non-duality matter ?

 

“We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness.” — Albert Einstein
“In our quest for happiness and the avoidance of suffering, we are all fundamentally the same, and therefore equal. Despite the characteristics that differentiate us – race, language, religion, gender, wealth and many others – we are all equal in terms of our basic humanity.” — Dalai Lama (on twitter)
The belief that everything in the universe is part of the same fundamental whole exists throughout many cultures and philosophical, religious, spiritual, and scientific traditions, as captured by the phrase ‘all that is.’ The Nobel winner Erwin Schrodinger once observed that quantum physics is compatible with the notion that there is indeed a basic oneness of the universe. Therefore, despite it seeming as though the world is full of many divisions, many people throughout the course of human history and even today truly believe that individual things are part of some fundamental entity.
Despite the prevalence of this belief, there has been a lack of a well validated measure in psychology that captures this belief. While certain measures of spirituality do exist, the belief in oneness questions are typically combined with other questions that assess other aspects of spirituality, such as meaning, purpose, sacredness, or having a relationship with God. What happens when we secularize the belief in oneness?
In a recent series of studies, Kate Diebels and Mark Leary set out to find out. In their first study, they found that only 20.3% of participants had thought about the oneness of all things “often” or “many times”, while 25.9% of people “seldom” thought about the oneness of all things, and 12.5% of people “never” had thought about it.
The researchers also created a 6-item “Belief in Oneness Scale” consisting of the following items:
  1. Beyond surface appearances, everything is fundamentally one.
  2. Although many seemingly separate things exist, they all are part of the same whole.
  3. At the most basic level of reality, everything is one.
  4. The separation among individual things is an illusion. A particle is just the segent of a wave that is detected, it isn’t the whole wave. Time is continuous, it is the measurement we use that is not. Do not mistake the measuring stick for the object being measured; in reality everything is one.
  5. Everything is composed of the same basic substance, whether one thinks of it as spirit, consciousness, quantum processes. In neo-Buddhism this is reffered to as Information or quantum information, that which differentiates an up quark from a down quark.
  6. The same basic essence permeates everything that exists.
Those who scored higher on this scale were much more likely to have an identity that extends beyond the individual to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, nature, and even the cosmos. In fact, a belief in oneness was more strongly related to feeling connected with distant people and aspects of the natural world than with people with whom one is close! Also, while a belief in oneness was related to actual experiences of oneness (“mystical experiences”), there was no relationship between a belief in oneness and feeling closer to God during a spiritual experience.
In their second study, the researchers looked at values and self-views that might be related to the belief in oneness. They found that a belief in oneness was related to values indicating a universal concern for the welfare of other people, as well as greater compassion for other people. A belief in oneness was also associated with feeling connected to others through a recognition of our common humanity, common problems, and common imperfections. At the same time, there was no relationship between a belief in oneness and the degree to which people endorsed self-focused values such as hedonism, self-direction, security, or achievement. This means that people can have a belief in oneness and still have a great deal of self-care, healthy boundaries, and self-direction in life.
Implications of a Belief in Oneness
People who believe that everything is fundamentally one differ in crucial ways from those who do not. In general, those who hold a belief in oneness have a more inclusive identity that reflects their sense of connection with other people, nonhuman animals, and aspects of nature that are all thought to be part of the same “one thing.” This has some rather broad implications.
First, this finding is relevant to our current fractured political landscape. It is very interesting that those who reported a greater belief in oneness were also more likely to regard other people like members of their own group and to identify with all of humanity. There is an abundance of identity politics these days, with people believing that their own ideology is the best one, and a belief that those who disagree with one’s own ideology are evil or somehow less than human.
It might be beneficial for people all across the political spectrum to recognize and hold in mind a belief in oneness even as they are asserting their values and political beliefs. Only having “compassion” for those who are in your in-group, and vilifying or even becoming violent toward those who you perceive as the out-group, is not only antithetical to world peace more broadly, but is also counter-productive to political progress that advances the greater good of all humans on this planet.
I also think these findings have important implications for education. Even if some adults may be hopeless when it comes to changing their beliefs, most children are not. Other beliefs– such as a belief that intelligence can learn and grow (“growth mindset“)– are extraordinarily popular in education these days. However, I wonder what the implications would be if all students were also explicitly trained to believe that we are all part of the same fundamental humanity, actively showing students through group discussions and activities how we all have insecurities and imperfections, and how underneath the superficial differences in opinions and political beliefs, we all have the same fundamental needs for connection, purpose, and to matter in this vast universe.
Perhaps now, more than ever in the course of human history, we would benefit more from a oneness mindset.

Five Ways to Use Your Anger More Effectively

We all get angry from time to time. Even the most enlightened of us would be lying if they said they didn’t. Anger is often a natural response to horrific situations. For example: the only moral response to innocent people getting bombed, whether by military action or terrorist action, is anger.

anger

The question is this: is your anger controlling you (lizard brain), or are you controlling it (evolved mind)? Are you merely a puppet to the emotion of your anger, or are you able to turn the tables and become the puppeteer? Are you a victim of your emotions or a hero with emotional intelligence?

Most of us act the way we feel. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. We do have a choice. With enough discipline we can feel the way we act.

For example: we can “feel” afraid but “act” courageously. Similarly, we can “feel” road rage but “act” calmly. With enough practice we can eventually feel the way we act, even in response to something as extreme as terrorism.

Through such emotional alchemy, transforming anger into a higher emotion really is a choice. The key (as with the following five ways) is practice, discipline, and making emotional intelligence a habit.

As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

1) Transform anger into strength

“In almost every bad situation, there is the possibility of a transformation by which the undesirable may be changed into the desirable.” ~ Nyanaponika Thera

Anger can give you profound strength: in mind, body, and soul. It’s your responsibility to focus your anger enough to harness this strength. Focused anger becomes sacred anger. But this first requires honoring the anger for what it is, and for where it stems.

We too often suppress our anger, or avoid it, or pretend we’re not mad. But such suppression festers and all too often leads to a blowup farther down the road. In order to avoid such a blowup it behooves you to put your anger into focus.

Put it under the microscope of your emotional intelligence. Analyze it. There is passion in anger. And where there is passion, there is love. And where there is love, there is strength.

So when it comes to anger, choose diligent effort over uncomfortable depression, or even comfortable suppression. Negotiate with your anger in order to transform the passion at its center into strength. Embrace it. Accept it. Wrestle with it, gently. Dance with the fire. Then waltz it into something worthwhile. If it burns you up, rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

Life is too short to live it second-guessing your passion. Be fierce. Work persistently despite the anger that seeks to burn you. There’s almost always strength hidden there.

Like Deepak Chopra said, “The secrets of alchemy exist to transform mortals from a state of suffering and ignorance to a state of enlightenment and bliss.”

2) Transform anger into exercise

anger2“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ~ Mark Twain

That passion at the center of anger can also be transformed into powerful energy: Qi, Prana, Pneuma, Mana. Use it in the park, in the arena, in the field of play. Twain said anger is an acid? So be it.

Transform that acid into fuel. Use that fuel for the fire of becoming a better version of yourself. Use it in your kung fu. Use it in the gym. Use it playing sports. Burn it out of you so that it doesn’t burn you out.

Whatever you do, don’t keep the acid of your anger bottled up. You are a sacred vessel and acid erodes even sacred vessels. Put it in your vessel’s fuel tank instead, and then burn baby burn!

Spar with it. Shadow box it out. Better yet, shadow box with your inner shadow. Now that is some meta-catharsis, right there.

3) Transform anger into art

Facit indignatio versus: My anger creates my verses.” ~ Latin poet, Quintilianus

Again, the key to alchemizing anger, is harnessing the passion at its center. This most definitely applies to transforming anger into art. Anybody who has ever read poetry by Sylvia Plath can attest to that. Or almost any philosophy written by Friedrich Nietzsche, for that matter.

Or just gaze upon Picasso’s Guernica and tell me he didn’t paint that with a focused rage against the ignorance of war. Or take Banksy’s political art for example, charged with righteous anger against tyrannical oppression.

Transforming anger into art is a kind of rage enlightenment: a self-actualized creativity discovered through the channelling of anger into a heightened state of awareness, where rage becomes a fire that cooks things rather than burns them.

With just the right amount of focus, at just the right temperature, the passion at the center of anger can, and often does, get turned into some amazing art. And there’s absolutely no reason why you cannot do the same. Forget talent. Forget genius or giftedness or skill.

So what if others can do it better? Nobody even has to see it. Create art with all of your passion. Channel your deepest anger into art, and watch in amazement as it alchemizes into soulful poetry.

Like Nietzsche powerfully said, “Of all writings I love only that which is written with blood. Write with blood: and you will discover that blood is spirit.”

4) Transform anger into civil disobedience

“Love does not imply pacifism.” ~ Derrick Jensen

anger3Use your focused anger like a surgeon’s scalpel slicing open the Achilles Heel of the violent and immoral system that has been propped up over you without your consideration. Use your focused anger like Jesus flogging bankers in the New Testament.

Jesus saw an immoral system unfolding before him, so he dug deep, tapped into his righteous anger, and practiced civil disobedience despite the orthodoxy of the time. There’s no reason why you cannot do the same.

As Howard Zinn said, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.”

Deep, focused anger can be a boon of sacred energy if we learn to use it wisely and courageously. This kind of sacred anger lifts us up and compels us to empower the powerless despite the powers that be, or to inspire the poor despite the overindulgent rich.

The type of focused anger that would rather live a life of uncomfortable freedom than a life of comfortable slavery. Such anger is sacred precisely because it instils in us an unstoppable courage.

The kind of courage that declares to the overreaching powers that be, “I will not stand idly by while you decide who lives and who dies. I am unstoppable; another world is possible. And I will do everything in my power to build it, whether you approve of it or not.”

5) Transform anger into a good sense of humor

“Smile though your heart is aching.” ~ Charlie Chaplain

sun wukong FKWhen it comes down to it, anger is a silly emotion. It’s a base emotion, like jealousy, fear, or sadness. In the grand scheme of things, anger is petty. It’s crude and primitive. Unless, of course, we are able to use it as a tool for our more advanced mind.

And the best way to achieve an emotional state malleable and flexible enough to be able to use anger as a transformative tool, is to practice and to cultivate a good sense of humor.

A good sense of humor flips all scripts. It transforms “the jokes on me” into “so what, it’s funny.” Powerful stuff. In fact, a good sense of humor is so powerful that it is the only thing more powerful than power itself. I mean, a good sense of humor is immune to power constructs. It subsumes them.

It transcends power precisely because it is able to laugh at power and not take things too seriously. A good sense of humor takes nothing too seriously, especially not power. And when the passion at the heart of anger is effectively transformed into a good sense of humor, the person cultivating it is truly a force to be reckoned with.

No power in existence can stand in the way of a person with a good sense of humor. No authority. No king. No queen. No government. No army. No God. Not even death. Because a good sense of humor laughs it all away. It’s all water off a ducks back, and you’re the duck! Such sacred laughter puts all things into proper perspective. It’s all an illusion. It’s all a game.

But, and here’s the rub, it’s a sacred illusion. It’s a sacred game. And you are the infinite player interdependently playing it all out. The cosmic joke becomes self-actualized. You’re no longer the butt-end, nor will you ever be again, for you have attained the almighty rank of The One Who Laughs.

Like Alan Watts said, “Life is a matter of oscillation. Life is vibration. The question is: how are you going to interpret that. Is it tremble, tremble, tremble; or is it laugh, laugh, laugh?”

 

By: Gary Z McGee

A Biased Mind Cannot Grasp Reality

This weeks sermon comes from the Dalai Lama himself.
I am extremely delighted to attend this inter faith seminar on the Preservation of Religious Harmony, Co­existence and Universal Peace organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), Ladakh group. Thank you very much for the detailed explanation of the association’s history, activities, objectives and their relevance in the present century. I have nothing to add on what the speakers said earlier. But I would like to say a few things.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the Shia Mosque in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India on July 27, 2016. (Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL)

We are now in the twenty ­first century. The quality of research on both the inner and physical world has reached quite high levels, thanks to the tremendous stride in technological advancement and human intelligence. However, as some of the speakers said before, the world is also facing a lot of new problems, most of which are man­-made. The root cause of these man­-made problems is the inability of human beings to control their agitated minds. How to control such a state of mind is taught by the various religions of this world.

I am a religious practitioner, who follows Buddhism. More than a thousand years have passed since the great religions of the world flourished, including Buddhism. During those years, the world had witnessed a lot of conflicts, in which followers of different religions were also involved. As a religious practitioner, I acknowledge the fact that different religions of the world have provided many solutions about how to control an agitated mind. In spite of this, I still feel we have not been able to realise our full potential.

I always say that every person on this earth has the freedom to practice or not practice religion. It is all right to do either. But once you accept religion, it is extremely important to be able to focus your mind on it and sincerely practice the teachings in your daily life. All of us can see that we tend to indulge in religious favouritism by saying, “I belong to this or that religion”, rather than making effort to control our agitated minds. This misuse of religion, due to our disturbed minds, also sometimes creates problems.

I know a physicist from Chile who told me that it is not appropriate for a scientist to be biased towards science because of his love and passion for it. I am a Buddhist practitioner and have a lot of faith and respect in the teachings of the Buddha. However, if I mix up my love for and attachment to Buddhism, then my mind shall be biased towards it. A biased mind, which never sees the complete picture, cannot grasp the reality. And any action that results from such a state of mind will not be in tune with reality. As such it causes a lot of problems.

According to Buddhist philosophy, happiness is the result of an enlightened mind whereas suffering is caused by a distorted mind. This is very important. A distorted mind, in contrast to an enlightened mind, is one that is not in tune with reality.

Any issue, including political, economic and religious activities human beings pursue in this world, should be fully understood before we pass our judgement. Therefore, it is very important to know the causes. Whatever the issue, we should be able to see the complete picture. This will enable us to comprehend the whole story. The teachings offered in Buddhism are based on rationality, and I think are very fruitful.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses the congregation including representatives from different religious groups during a service of prayer and reflection at Westminster Abbey in London, England, on June 20, 2012. (Photo by Ian Cumming)

Today, a lot of people from different religious backgrounds are present here. In every religion, there are transcendent things that are beyond the grasp of our mind and speech. For example, the concept of God in Christianity and Islam and that of wisdom truth body in Buddhism are metaphysical, which is not possible for an ordinary person like us to realise. This is a common difficulty faced by every religion. It is taught in every ­religion, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, that the ultimate truth is driven by faith.

I want to emphasise that it is extremely important for practitioners to sincerely believe in their respective religions. Usually, I say that it is very important to distinguish between “belief in one religion” and “belief in many religions”. The former directly contradicts the latter. Therefore, we should resolutely resolve these contradictions. This is possible only by thinking in contextual terms. A contradiction in one context might not be the same in the other. In the context of one person, a single truth is closely associated with a single source of refuge. This is of extreme necessity. However, in the context of society or more than one person it is necessary to have different sources of refuge, religions and truths.

In the past it was not a major problem because nations remained aloof from each other with their own distinct religion. However, in today’s close and inter-connected world there are so many differences amongst various religions. We must obviously resolve these problems. For example, there have been a lot of religions in India for the past thousand years. Some of them were imported from outside whereas some have grown in India itself. Despite this, the fact is that these religions have been able to coexist with each other, and the principle of Ahimsa has really flourished in this country. Even today, this principle has a strong bearing on every religion. This is very precious and India should really take pride in it.

Ladakh has been a predominantly Buddhist area ‘for so many centuries. But other religions such as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism have also flourished here. Although it is natural for the people of Ladakh to have attachment to and love for their own religions, yet this place has a very peaceful environment with no major problems of religious intolerance. During my maiden visit to Ladakh, I heard elderly Muslims using the phrase “community of sangha” in their speeches. Although such phrases are not found in Islam, yet a reference of this kind invokes a lot of trust amongst the Buddhists. Therefore, people from different religious background in Ladakh are very close to each other and live in harmony.

As far as the Muslims are concerned it is appropriate for them to have complete devotion to Allah while praying in the mosques. This is also the same with Buddhists who are completely devoted to the Buddha when they pray in Buddhist temples. A society, which has many religions should also have many prophets and sources of refuge. In such a society it is very important to have harmony and respect amongst the different religions and their practitioners. We must distinguish between belief and respect. Belief refers to total faith, which you must have in your own religion. At the same time you should have respect for all other religions. This tradition of believing in one’s own religion and having respect for others is in existence in Ladakh since your forefathers. Therefore you do not have to invent it. The most important thing at the moment is to preserve and promote this tradition. I would like to thank all of you for working hard regarding this and request you to continue to do so in the future.

If a harmonious relationship is established amongst societies and religious beliefs in today’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural world, then it will surely set a very good example for others. However, if all the sides become careless, then there is a danger of imminent problems. In a multi­ethnic  society  the biggest problem is that of between the majority and the minority. For instance, in the capital Leh, Buddhists constitute the majority of the population whereas Muslims belong to the minority community. The majority must consider the minority as their invited guests. The minority, on the other hand, should be able to sensitise with the majority. In other words, both sides should live in harmony. In order to sustain this harmony, both sides should not take lightly the sensitive issues between themselves. Indeed, the majority should pay attention to and appreciate the views and opinion of the minority. Both sides should discuss and clearly express what they think about the other’s view and opinion. The minority, on the other hand, should be careful about where the sensitive issues of the majority lies and express whatever doubts they have in their minds. If problems are resolved in such a friendly manner; then both sides will gain. Suspicion of each other will only harm both communities. Therefore, it is very important to live in harmony and analyse where the opinion of the other lies. The best way to do this is to engage in dialogue, dialogue and dialogue.

This originally appeared on His holiness’s website.

The Dalai Lama has started his European tour, and right from the start he tackles many current issues.

It is rare to hear a religious leader mention quantum mechanics as much as this one, and his emphasis and explanations were surprisingly in depth without requiring previous knowledge of Buddhist literature. This is the most down-to-earth Q&A session I have heard from a religious leader at least decade. The topics ranged from old age, sickness and death, technology and conflict. Issues that seem to dominate some areas of life. There is a constant process of relating current scientific knowledge  to ancient Buddhist ideas that are at the core of the religion, which keeps the teachings relevant to current specifics, which sort of puts it in the cutting edge of religious development. A large part of that process is clarifying some of the more vaguely defined aspects of Buddhism with what he calls “Critical reasoning” which appears to be a combination of critical thinking skills with the overlay of compassion in all aspects of life. His approach to religious and ethical beliefs emphasize  the ways people are the same is vastly more important than the small beliefs that make them different. He answers practical questions such as the meaning of life while first emphasizing that no matter what we do, it will have a limit. Lifespans may be measured in hundreds or even thousands of years if the technology expressed is developed, however we should have no illusions that there is not a limit. With this in mind, it is important to have many perspectives which are firmly rooted in critical thinking skills, which are biased for compassion above all else, when deciding how to treat others. This is how to live life regardless of religious belief. While not expounded on very much, it appears that knowing that there is an end means there will also be new beginnings. Those new beginnings are in some ways, in essence, the reincarnations of the process that creates life. Which he does touch on, as being evolution.  So we should show compassion, not just on the personal scale but also on the global scale. At one point he does make a interesting point that, even suppose people lived for a thousand years, who would want to live on a planet ravaged by climate change? Turned into a desert or something else. There are in fact several references to climate change and has integrated it into Buddhist ethics while crediting ancient origins of Buddhism in India. Along with the pervasive message that dealing with climate change is a part of our responsibility to each other, and amid an rise in very tragic human rights violations. He remarks that all major religions, even some Buddhists in Burma, and calls out Aung San Suu Kyi by name. For not condemning and violence.  He also mentions that religious strife is a huge problem. People need to live in harmony, he makes several references to humans as “social animals” and so we should act pro-socially, especially towards people of different beliefs. There is even a point where he mentions demilitarization.  This summary really doesn’t do it justice. It was one of the most engrossing talks and meshing between secular approaches to self-development and re-prioritization of certain ethical values over others to deal with a myriad of issues facing people the world over today. He touched on purpose not being static, but something that grows out of analysis of out problems with critical thinking skills. By applying compassion to interactions with others and dedicating you life to something greater than yourself, which helps others, will lead you to a path of fulfilment and everyone’s path is different. A lot of surprisingly practical advise and quite a few questions were religious in nature from his panellist Selma Boulmalf who is of muslim faith, Which allowed for several direct questions which demonstrated the deeper differences between Abrahamic religions and Buddhism and a few other eastern religions. It was a rare occasion because he described the belief in heaven as “Useful” to give hope for people who do not understand the complexities of Buddhism. He only tangentially referred to the difference in motivation being that, for those who believe in an afterlife that is somewhere beyond earth, their earthly goals are about reaching that destination and whatever hoops are required to do that. The difference being that in the belief system of reincarnation, the individual can expect to end up right back on earth. Thus the spiritual motivation is to make earth a better place, because the individual benefits from that when they are re-incarnated, and the circumstances of reincarnation are wide and varied which is why compassion is so important, because it’s hard to know if you are dealing with a soul you were attached to in a past life. In a way, both Buddhism and Abrahamic religions are believing that souls return to earth. The primary difference being that in Buddhism, Karma takes effect on earth and not in the afterlife, though sometimes it happens in the next life.  He did so in a way that simultaneously emphasized several times the importance of religious harmony. Several times he used India as an example of religious harmony in a melting post. Many of the other panellists did not self-identify, but offered highly secular views. There were also some representatives from Singularity U whom brought up technology and ethics. One thing that was interesting is that he also emphasized religious harmony towards atheists as well, as there’s is simply a different belief system, That is all in just the first session.

See the first session here:

The seconds session starts with a panel with Richard Greer who representing the International Campaign for Tibet. They cover several of the issues facing tibet specifically. He is also careful to highlight issues that face both India and china related to climate change, and that is something they can see mutual benefit for. Then he proceeds to give a talk on why compassion is necessary in our troubled world. Which covers many topics related to compassion.

A little while after that talk ends, there is another one given by Thupten Jinpa, who is often seen translating for the Dalai Lama, which he has done for the last 30yrs. He offers some of his insights into compassion in his own words.  He provides insight into how he is able to take the teachings of the Dalai Lama into his everyday life of a father of 2 living a modern life, including things like social media. He coverts many topics, including his work with stanford on training compassion cultivation. He does spend time covering the difference and importance of intention (dentological philosphy)  on motivation. While still using that philosophy within a consequentialist framework. to ensure aspects of both are practiced. Which is followed by a engrossing Q&A session.

There are still more sessions planned, as this is only the beginning of his european tour. The version of buddhism practied by the Dalai Lama, tibeten buddhism shares many of the aspects of applying secular concepts to buddhism that neo-Buddhism does.  In many ways it is sort of the upstream version of neo-Buddhism, the primary difference being that neo-buddhism seeks to emphasize intigratation future states of technology and how those will change individual relationships to the world.

Agree to Agree

Sometimes the most vicious fights occur over the smallest differences. Brutal battles have pitted Catholics that kneel in prayer against Protestant sects that stood before the same God. There’s a (possibly apocryphal) story from the U.S. House of Representatives about a senior politician explaining that internal conflict between Congressional chambers was more important than fights between Republicans and Democrats. “Republicans aren’t the enemy,” the Democratic old timer says in one version of the story. “Republicans are the opposition. The Senate is the enemy.”

The scientists and activists working to reverse climate change are no different. The infighting can be savage.

It may be a tautology, but “at the most basic level, anyone interested in addressing climate change knows we have to limit greenhouse gas emissions,” said Noah Kaufman, an economist at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. The problem is, those who share that goal disagree about the best way to pursue it.

The roughest head-knocking has been between the energy wonks who think we should use whatever power sources necessary to eliminate emissions — nuclear, biofuels, carbon-capture — and those who think renewable energy is the only answer.

The science historian Naomi Oreskes accused James Hansen, the well-known NASA climate scientist, of engaging in “a new form of climate denialism” for saying the world needs nuclear power. Tisha Schuller, an environmentalist who came to think fracking could help reduce emissions, received regular death threats. Activists even distributed pictures of her children. The fights rage on social media, and recently they spilled into the courts.

In November, Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford researcher, renewable-energy champion, and a 2016 Grist 50 member, sued a group of scientists for publishing a critique of an influential paper he had written laying out a path for the United States to run purely on renewables. (He later dropped the suit.)

“People tend to either agree on the goals, or on the means — if you want to get something dramatic done you have to agree on both,” said Jane Long, a senior consulting scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and one of the researchers who critiqued Jacobson’s paper. “I think the kind of changes we contemplate isn’t the kind we can accomplish without alignment of both goals and means.”

Amid all this rancour, it’s easy to forget that all these people are on one side of a climate fight; they agree about more than they disagree.

“Even though [the debate] consumes a lot of my time and other people’s time, it’s sort of beside the point,” Jacobson told Grist. “I’d say there’s no disagreement on 90 percent of our plans.”

So where’s the common ground among all these scientists, academics, and advocates who care about climate change? What are the things that we’re going to need no matter what path we take? Here’s a rundown of broad areas of agreement. Consider it a checklist — or rather, a to-do list — for climate hawks.

You pollute, you pay.

How much do you have to pay to use the atmosphere as a dump for greenhouse gases? For most people and businesses, it’s totally free. Make polluting expensive, and it would cut the amount of greenhouse gases people spew.

“We should all be able to get behind tech-neutral policies to reduce greenhouse gases,” Kaufman said. You could do that by putting a price on carbon — as some 40 countries from Denmark to China have done — or by regulating pollution, punishing companies for releasing methane into the atmosphere. Either one encourages the development of better technologies without causing a fight over exactly which technologies should win.

Grist / Alexandros Maragos

It’s a pattern that runs throughout history. People assume they can pollute for free until the pollution builds up and becomes a serious problem. Then — under duress — they start paying for the trouble. Consider regular old trash. When neighbors live far apart from each other, they can toss garbage out the window without worrying about the consequences. But it’s a different story in cities.

In 1866, New York City told residents they needed to stop the “throwing of dead animals, garbage or ashes into the streets.” Soon, New Yorkers started paying to get their waste picked up. Without a free pass to pollute, the carriage operators who had been leaving dead horses in the streets were at a disadvantage when a new technology came along that didn’t produce piles of manure and leave carcasses behind. At the time, nobody worried that this new horseless carriage would dump carbon into the air. But today that carbon is piling up.

Putting a price on carbon emissions is the same as charging people for the dead animals and ashes they toss into the road. A tax or a regulation curbing emissions would have the same result, Kaufman said. Both would raise the cost of polluting and also raise the rewards for any modern-day Henry Fords developing revolutionary technologies.

Make everything run on less energy

For the better part of human history, creating light often meant tons of work and environmental damage. In the past, people managed to get their light by burning beef fat, storm petrels (a fatty seabird), and sperm whale oil. These were really crappy, inefficient, polluting ways of getting illumination. (It would have taken me at least 10 storm petrels to write this piece, I’m guessing.) Modern LED lights, by contrast, require a tiny trickle of electricity.

It wastes a lot of energy — not to mention birds — if you have teams of workers slaughtering storm petrels, drying them, sticking wicks down their throats, and delivering them to markets. Improving efficiency means cutting out that wasted time and money.

The United States wastes 70 percent of the energy that powers it every day. That’s a massive amount of energy just waiting to be tapped. A more efficient way would use more energy without emitting more carbon.

“I don’t think anyone disagrees that efficiency will help,” Jacobson said.

The most obvious example is gas mileage. Back in 1950, the average car could travel 15 miles on a gallon of gas. By 2010, it could travel more than 23 miles on that same gallon. Cars could get a lot more efficient, still — for every 20 gallons you put in the tank, only five gallons turn into the kinetic energy moving the car; the rest gets wasted as heat. Other obvious steps: replace incandescent light bulbs, insulate homes, get low-gas-mileage cars off the roads. And much else.

“Radical efficiency improvements make it easier to address the climate problem,” said Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway. On this, Peters mused, “I suspect we all agree.”

More sun and wind

In 1977, solar photovoltaic panels were for wild-haired inventors and eccentric millionaires. Back then, the cost of buying a one-watt solar panel was $77; today the cost has fallen to 30 cents. Year after year, the price of solar has cratered faster than the experts predicted. The same is true, to a lesser degree, with wind energy. In many places, wind and solar are simply the low-cost option, which means that building more can save money and also reduce emissions.

Grist

There was general agreement among all the climate researchers I talked to that it makes sense to switch to renewables when it’s the cheapest carbon-free option. The fierce disagreement comes when they talk about paying for renewables when they’re more expensive than, say, nuclear power. Jacobson and a few other scientists think that going 100 percent renewable is the cheapest option. But the majority of researchers think that it would get very expensive to build enough renewables to power the entire country through the darkest days of winter.

“I’ve heard people arguing for 50, 60, 80, and 100 percent renewable,” said Melanie Nakagawa, who worked on climate policy in the Obama administration and now heads up climate strategy for a growth equity fund for climate-related technology at the investment firm Princeville Global. “At some point that percentage matters from a policy perspective,” she explained, but worldwide we’re not close enough to any of those percentages to chill the renewables market. Renewables — mainly hydropower and biofuels — currently account for 10 percent of the country’s energy needs.

Electrify (nearly) everything

Back when President Obama was in the White House, it was Kaufman’s job to go through the various climate plans and scenarios coming from different parts of the executive branch and make sure everyone in the administration was up to speed. He noticed that all the plans to reduce emissions advised plugging a lot more of the country into electricity.

Electricity currently powers a quarter of the U.S. economy. The other three quarters are cars and trucks using gasoline, factories using quadrillions of British thermal units to forge metals and refine petroleum, and buildings heated by gas or propane.

Switching more of these cars and furnaces to run on electricity would allow us to tap into low-carbon energy from renewables and nuclear plants. A little over 1 percent of cars on the road run on electricity right now. To have a shot at keeping global warming under 2 degrees C — the goal set in the Paris Agreement — 10 percent of cars on the road would need to be electric by 2030, according to one scenario plotted by the International Energy Agency.

Grist / Martin Pickard / Getty Images

It’s part of a two-step recipe for eliminating emissions that has become almost a cliche among energy wonks. Step one: Add more low-carbon electricity (solar, nuclear, hydro, wind) to the grid. Step two: Electrify everything.

“There’s broad agreement that we need to dramatically expand electricity to transportation and industry,” said Trevor Houser, climate and energy expert at the research firm, the Rhodium Group. There are some debates around the edges about just how much electrification is practical — maybe not everything — but the consensus is mighty broad.

More electric storage and transmission

Electricity has no shelf life. Unlike a can of tuna that can spend years in hiding, electricity needs to be bought the moment it’s made. Make more electricity than people want at any particular moment, and you can cause fires. Make too little, and you can cause brownouts. That’s why big batteries are so appealing. But even the giant batteries that Tesla is buildinglook tiny if you consider the amount of storage we need to keep the lights on when the sun goes down.

People are trying all kinds of crazy ideas to store energy. They’re forcing air into underground caverns then using the breeze to power turbines when it comes gushing out. They’re using excess electricity to drive trains full of rocks up a mountain, then recapturing some of that energy when they come back down.

If someone figures out a way to extend the shelf life of electricity on the cheap, it will help in every carbon-cutting scenario, whether it’s 100 percent renewable or 100 percent nuclear.

The other way to handle the mismatch between electric supply and demand is to send electricity farther afield. If it gets really windy in Wyoming, and the turbines there start producing too much juice, the state could send that extra electricity to big cities in California.

Well, it could if a major power line connected the two states.

“The transmission system we have today wasn’t built to get to zero carbon,” said Dan Kammen, Director of Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “Those power lines don’t go to the best wind areas in the mountain states, they don’t go to the best solar areas in the Southwest.”

Most clean-energy scenarios rely on new transmission wires to connect the places with too much electricity to the places with too little, balancing things out.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, High-Voltage Direct Current Transmission Report

More research

Everyone I talked to agreed that the government should be spending more money researching the most challenging problems that stand in the way of weaning ourselves off carbon. It might help to think of climate change as a national security issue, many of them say.

A few years ago, Constantine Samaras, who studies solutions for climate change at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, pointed out on the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog that the government budget doesn’t treat climate change like a true threat. “In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the R&D budget for counterterrorism grew to almost $2.7 billion in 2003,” he wrote, more than a 500 percent increase in two years. The research and development budget for energy technology and climate change was flat. “We correctly reacted to counterterrorism with enhanced R&D after 2001,” Samaras wrote. “Yet on energy and climate change we’re effectively just muddling through.”

Where should research money go? There’s widespread agreement that we should look into a low-carbon solution for air travel and trucks making long-distance hauls. That appears to be where the agreement stops. When I asked what else deserves funding, I heard a long list of options including advanced nuclear reactors, fusion, and turning air into liquid fuel. The consensus fractured.

Looking forward

Ideally, climate and energy experts could sit down and hash out a consensus on a master plan that would, say, allow us to build only the power plants we really need. But experimentation, failure, politics, and infighting seem to be inescapable elements of any ambitious human endeavor. Success is forged in the crucible of conflict, I guess.

But if we get too wrapped up in these captivating fights — all over how we produce electric power — we’ll miss some big opportunities. “We’d be better off if we took some of the creative energy expended on that debate in the power sector and applied it to other sectors — which, by the way produce 75 percent of the emissions,” the Rhodium Group’s Houser said.

That’s exactly the issue: These disagreements concern just a quarter of the pollution problem that’s driving climate change. The sooner we can agree on a way forward, the quicker we can move on to the rest of the problem. And there’s so much agreement among these experts already: They all are trying to cut greenhouse gases, and would like to put a price — or a penalty — on emissions. They’re all for efficiency, electrification, storage, and better power lines. They support renewables that bring down prices. They all want more money to start working on the next generation of innovations.

So … Kumbaya, right?

Not quite. We can’t simply bury the divisive debates. But maybe we can make those debates more fruitful. The EDF’s Long thinks it would help if we stopped talking so much about specific technologies — 100 percent renewable versus nuclear reactors — and started talking more about the things we need those technologies to do: generating heat, supplying inexpensive energy, delivering electricity that can surge on and off to in fill the gaps.

“If we do that, people will be able to see better that there are problems with every choice,” Long said. “So what poison do you pick?”

And like that, sidestepping one debate plunges us into another one, just as crucial and inescapable. Still, the people on all sides told me that, as they debate their choice of poisons, they’d rather not choose poisonous rhetoric.

By 

Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie Buddhist Temple, Lhasa, Tibet

Academic publishing is broken. Here’s how to redesign it

The world of scholarly communication is broken. Giant, corporate publishers with racketeering business practices and profit margins that exceed Apple’s treat life-saving research as a private commodity to be sold at exorbitant profits. Only around 25% of the global corpus of research knowledge is open access, or accessible to the public for free and without subscription, which is a real impediment to resolving major problems, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Recently, Springer Nature, one of the largest academic publishers in the world, had to withdraw its European stock market floatation due to a lack of interest. This announcement came just days after Couperin, a French consortium, cancelled its subscriptions to Springer Nature journals, after Swedish and German universities cancelled their Elsevier subscriptions to no ill effect, besides replenished library budgets. At the same time, Elsevier has sued Sci-Hub, a website that provides free, easy access to 67 million research articles. All evidence of a broken system.

[Source Images: Paperkites/iStock, hynci/iStock (pattern)] 

The European Commission is currently letting publishers bid for the development of an EU-wide open-access scholarly publishing platform. But is the idea for this platform too short-sighted? What the Commission is doing is essentially finding new ways of channelling public funds into private hands. At the same time, due to the scale of the operation, it prevents more innovative services from getting a foothold into the publishing world. This is happening at the same time as these mega-publishers are moving into controlling the entire research workflow–from ideation to evaluation. Researchers will become the provider, the product, and the consumer.

A global community to coordinate and regain control–to develop a public open-access infrastructure–of research and scholarly communication for the public good is long overdue. The issues of governance and ownership of public research have never been clearer. Another isolated platform will simply replicate the problems of the current journal-based system, including the “publish or perish” mentality that perverts the research process, and the anachronistic evaluation system based on corporate brands.

Researchers are still forced to write “papers” for these journals, a communication format designed in the 17th century. Now, in a world where the power of web-based social networks is revolutionizing almost every other industry, researchers need to take back control.

 

The European Commission has called for full, immediate open access to all scientific publications by 2020–something often mocked for being unrealistic, and that current growth trends suggest we will fail to achieve. But it is unrealistic only if one focuses on the narrow view of the current system. 

If we diversify our thinking away from the superficial field of journals and articles, and instead focus on the power of networked technologies, we can see all sorts of innovative models for scholarly communication. One ideal, based on existing services, would be something much more granular and continuous, with communication and peer review as layered, collaborative processes: Envisage a hosting service such as GitHub combined with Wikipedia combined with a Q&A site such as Stack Exchange. Imagine using version control to track the process of research in real time. Peer review becomes a community-governed process, where the quality of engagement becomes the hallmark of individual reputations. Governance structures can be mediated through community elections. Critically, all research outputs can be published and credited–videos, code, visualizations, text, data, things we haven’t even thought of yet. Best of all, a system of fully open communication and collaboration, with not an “impact factor” (a paper’s average number of citations, used to rate journals) in sight.

Such a system of scholarly communication requires the harmonizing of three key elements: quality control and moderation, certification and reputation, and incentives for engagement. For example, it would be easy to have a quality-control process in which instead of the closed and secretive process of peer review, self-organized and unrestricted communities collaborate together for research to attain verification and validation. The recklessly used impact factor can be replaced by a reward system that altruistically recognizes the quality of engagement, as defined by how content is digested by a community, which itself can be used to unlock new abilities within such a system. The beauty is that the incentive for researchers switches from publishing in journal X to engaging in a manner that is of most value to their community. By coupling such activities with academic records and profiles, research assessment bodies can begin to recognize the immense value this has over current methods of evaluation, including its simplicity.

How will we fund scholarly publishing? Well, it’s a $25 billion a year industry: I’m sure libraries can spare a dime. Making a more just system of scholarly communication open-source means that any community can copy it, and customize it to suit the community’s own needs, driving down costs immensely. Furthermore, initiatives such as the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS) or a recent proposal for libraries to set aside just 2.5% of their budget to support such innovative systems, offer paths forward. The possibility is real for creating something so superior to the present system that people will wonder how publishers ever got away with it for so long.

All of the technology and traits to build a hybridised scholarly commons infrastructure already exists. It is up to academic communities themselves to step away from their apathy and toward a fairer and more democratic system for sharing our knowledge and work. That is, after all, what research is all about. The question of publishing reform is not theoretically or conceptually complex. The future of scholarly communication depends more on overcoming social tensions and the training to defer to a powerful system embedded in global research cultures than on breaking down technological barriers.

Members of the academic community ought to hold themselves accountable for the future of scholarly communication. There are simple steps that we all can take: Many have already done so:

Sign, and commit to, the Declaration on Research Assessment, and demand fairer evaluation criteria independent of journal brands.This will reduce dependencies on commercial journals and their negative impact on research.

Demand openness. Even in research fields such as global health, 60% of researchers do not archive their research so it is publicly available, even when it is completely free and within journal policies to do so. We should demand accountability for openness to liberate this life-saving knowledge.

Know your rights. Researchers can use the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Rights Coalition (SPARC) Author Addendum to retain rights to their research, instead of blindly giving it away to publishers. Regain control.Support libraries. Current library subscription contracts are protected from public view by “non-disclosure clauses” that act to prevent any price transparency in a profoundly anti-competitive practice that creates market dysfunction. We should support libraries in renegotiating such contracts, and in some cases even provide support in canceling them, so that they can reinvest funds in more sustainable publishing ventures.

Help to build something better. On average, academics currently spend around $5,000 for each published article–to get a PDF and some extra sides. A range of different studies and working examples exist that show the true cost of publishing an article can be as low as $100 using cost-efficient funding schemes, community buy-in, and technologies that go a step further than PDF generation. We can do better.

Use your imagination. What would you want the scholarly communication system to look like? What are all the wonderful features you would include? What can you do to help turn a vision into reality?
It is feasible to achieve 100% open access in the future while saving around 99% of the global spending budget on publishing. Funds could be better spent instead on research, grants for under-privileged students and minority researchers, improving global research infrastructure, training, support, and education. We can create a networked system, governed by researchers themselves, designed for effective, rapid, low-cost communication and research collaboration.

Scholarly publishers are not just going to sit back and let this happen, so it is up to research funders, institutes, and researchers themselves to act to make a system that represents defensible democratic values, rather than rapacity.

Jon Tennant is a palaeontologist and independent researcher and consultant, working on public access to scientific knowledge. He is based in Berlin, Germany. This article was republished under a Creative Commons license from Aeon. Read the original here.

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