Friday, June 30, 2006


I am a scientist and research and the search for fact and data has been drilled into me from the time I was very young. While growing up I also was very thin and small and had great deal of fear of other children who were larger than I was at the time. I had to learn to find ways of handling situations with aggressive people who I just didn't understand and whose behavior I just couldn't comprehend. I got over it... sort of. I grew up... but never forget the beatings and merciless ridicule. I developed a sense of justice, of fairness, of 'right/wrong' that has never left me. More than that, I wanted to understand why people do what they do... what makes evil and hate so much a part of the human condition?

In recent years, a movement to integrate the humanities with the natural sciences has developed in the scientific community worldwide and has come to be known as the Third Culture. This integration of psychology, sociology, history, and art with biology, physics, and chemistry has caused a great deal of controversy and in a way a kind of renewal in how we explain ourselves and our place in the Universe (I seriously suggest that you click the link and read about who is involved in this endeavor... the list is long and impressive). But more to my point, the influence of the Third Culture, my training in psychology and conseling, and the influence of Zen in my life began to give me some answers to those old questions about why humans do the evil they do. Two fundamental questions were finally answered for me:
[1] What is Evil?
Put as simply as I can state it, it is the lack of empathy. If one reads the interviews of the psycholgist who talked and intervied the Nazis at the first if the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials after WWII, he found after many hours of talks with these men that that was his inevitable conclusion... when you stop thinking of people as people and as "things" you not only make them loose their humanity but you allow yourself to loose your humanity as well. Once that abyss is fallen into, all actions no matter how heinous are possible. And so, this is how evil begins in the hearts of men.
[2] How do you conquer your Fear?
I have struggled with this all my life. My greatest weakness has been my sense of fear... fear of ridicule, fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, fear of offending people, fear of physical harm, and on and on and on ad nausium. But after my reading about the nature of the brain and what fear is (Why We Hate by Rush Dozier) and how it is such a primitive part of the brain, I began to understand what I had to do. The readings brought back to me the Litany of Fear that, as a child, I had read in the Dune series by Frank Hebert about facing your fears and that when they pass by "only I will remain." Today, I face projects and people with my fear under control and the Zen realization that we all meet our end ... accept it and move on; do what you can with the time you have alotted to you.

I have become convinced that only with these realizations that find their foundation in the rational, enlightened view that science teaches can humanity find it's salvation. And yet, fear has it's place. I recently went to see Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth on the topic of global warming. Was it a film that gave me pause to fear? Of course, that was an implicit part of the film's purpose but at the same time it put a fear into me that inspired me to put this blog together finally and hopefully engage in actions that will benefit my world. We are presently in a world situation that most Americans are very unfamiliar with and that is one of growing unease because our isolation due to geography is at an end... we have to deal with the rest of the world whether we want to or not. Uncertainty of this sort brings our the tendency of people to grope for whatever they can to deal with fear; faith, drugs, sex, politics, hate, and bigotry are unfortunate outgrowths of that groping. But we can also learn to deal with our fears by reason and logic so long as we come to recognize our failings and the limitations of the primitive parts of our brain structure left over from 4 1/2 billion years of evolution. So long as we are able to remember that blind faith and bigotry are outgrowths of tribalistic patterns of thinking that are detrimental to all around us, we can deal with fear as an outgrowth of these unconscious brain patterns. But with this recognition comes the challenge: "How do you get people to see their failings in a constructive way so that they will want to change?" This will be dealt with in future blogs (circumstances and time willing).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Welcome to my Universe...


I still consider myself a novice blogger, but having read many blogs and been inspired, I decided to move my blog to a spot recommended by a friend of mine (or as Mouse might say, "One of my hommies."). I am settling down here to a bit of "Underworld" soundtrack and considering how to explaing myself to anyone who might stumble upon this blog. In truth, I'm not entirly sure where to go with this blog except I feel a compelling urge to write about my Universe as I see it. A minor idosycrasy you may notice is that I capitalize "universe" since I consider it a proper noun. This may have to do with the fact that I am a deist and a soto zen buddhist and from that perspective the Universe is a living entity. As a scientist I find that I am very conscious of my tendency to anthropamorphize Nature (yes, I know, "nature" with a capital N) as so many of our founding fathers did (they were, after all, predominantly deists as well since they were of the Enlightenment). I am caught between this semi-animistic viewpoint and the reductionist, logical, experimental, and evidentiary point of view of science since I am also a physcial scientist. It is in these blog pages and entries that I hope to shed some light on my viewpoint as a gift (or a curse, its a point of view thing after all) to the Universe of which I am a part.

What sort of viewpoint? I hope a fairly logical and scientific point of view free of the pundantry of the typical political writings seen in far to many blogs today. The Shakyamani Buddha was supposed to have said, "The Universe is as you think." so that your state of mind determines your reality. This is true for how we view the Universe internaly but externaly we are better served with science in all it's seemingly cold, reductive glory because it is through science that we have achieved greater heights than any other creature yet seen on this planet. It is our capacity to learn, to question, to search, to experiment, and to see the Universe and understand a number of it's rules that has allowed me ( and you ) to see my ideas on a device that would have been considered 'magical' only two hundred years ago. But our technical capabilities have far outwieghed our social development and we suffer from primitive, tribalistic modes of thought that we are so prone to fall into unless we demand of ourselves a constant vigilance and make questioning a reflexive attribute so as to counteract our primitive, tribalistic thought patterns. Here, in this blog space, I hope to start to question.... for to question is to put oneself in the place where knowing ends and learning begins.

And so, I named my blog space "The Portal" in the hope that it might (just might) transport your mind to a different place or state of being and influence at least a few people to reconsider.... everything. Welcome to my Universe...