Dec 2, 2018

Punctuated biological and social evolution?


What is the future for humans and the environment? Will average global temperature continue to rise? Have we passed the tipping point? There are now more body mass of humans and domestic vertebrates than all wild vertebrate animals on earth! In a few years there will be more plastic than fish in oceans and most coral reefs could be gone! Is it “natural” that a handful of billionaires own more wealth than the bottom half of humanity (i.e. more than 3.6 billion people)? What hope is left a sustainable earth ecosystem? What does it take to actually change things? Please share you views after you read these and other questions below.

Will the newly elected President of Brazil help dismantle the last “lung of our earth” (the Amazon rain forest)? With rampant capitalism and human drive for survival, has the world increasingly become dog-eat-dog world? The technology does prevent massive starvation that used to kill 20-40% of people in any one region over a short period of time (as used to happen in in the Middle Ages in Europe). And what of technology that is now so advanced that even a student at the level of my master students in Biotechnology can engineer a human, a deadly disease that can kill millions, or a cure for a certain cancer? Rapidly improving healthcare and biotechnology allows us to quickly deal with epidemic viruses and bacteria before they start. But is this compensated for by environmental maladies leading to skyrocketing suicide rates, depression, learning deficits, congenital birth defects and cancers?

I am over 60 years old and have spent all my life learning, helping others to learn (I do not say teaching), writing, doing charity etc. I have met over 100,000 people and my views and activism reached hundreds of thousands more via writings, media appearances, public lectures etc. Yet I still feel like I know so little about how the world works now let alone how it should work. I do strongly believe in cooperative revolutionary thinking so I offer here a short list of the above questions and others below to prompt a collective brainstorming.

In my travels around the world (so far 48 countries), I see so much injustice and so much suffering. I see democracy actually on the retreat as increasingly those with money can hire the best minds and media to engineer public opinions and voting. Fear has been the biggest weapon which allowed elites to get massive growth in security to keep the masses down. The masses are agitated but the elites think they can manage that like they did with the “occupy movement” and the “black lives matter movement” in the US. The French government is now “dealing” with the massive protests and the Israeli elites and security services hope to deal with mass demonstrations of hungry refugees seeking to return to their homes and lands. Increasingly billions of people are becoming superfluous to the systems: they just do not need these masses. What will people do when 99% of jobs today (of carpenters, doctors, nurses, shop keepers, teachers, lab technicians, service personnel, taxi drivers) are eliminated as automation takes over? People like Tom Friedman and Yuval Noah Harari wrote books articulating how things are now and their views of some issues but I believe they suffer from two main flaws:

They are guided by the notion of superior smart humans who “deserve” to be in charge of human development. They still suffer from notions of “orientalism” (see Edward Said’s book by that name): identifying with the dominant European history they fail to connect to times when civilization came from places like Ancient Mesopotamia, Persia, China, and Egypt. Elitist authors offer no recipes for sustainable environment/ecosystems other than orientalist views. Should we not listen to the native people and take nature into account?  

While believing in social Darwinism, they forget that biological Darwinism had a transformation with the modern synthesis and beyond. For example we understand now things like jumping evolutionary change which can create novel complex structures with minimal genetic changes (this is called punctuated equilibrium or macroevolution). This results genetically from creation of new pathway using existing genes. In social evolution we also see punctuated equilibrium as change can be slow for a long time and then something revolutionary happens. See for example (Guastello 2013. Chaos, catastrophe, and human affairs: Applications of nonlinear dynamics to work, organizations, and social evolution. Psychology Press; Somit, A. and Peterson, S.A. eds., 1992. The dynamics of evolution: the punctuated equilibrium debate in the natural and social sciences. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.; Gould, S.J., 2002. The structure of evolutionary theory. Harvard University Press).Are ideas like Marxism, Darwinism, Relativity, Internet, and amplifying DNA by PCR causes of punctuated social evolution in the same way as genetic “macro” mutations causes of punctuated biological evolution?


Can few people change the world? The Cuban revolution started with 82 individuals and the computer and biotechnology revolution with even fewer! We are always in awe of human creativity and ingenuity. But as the world has become globalized, what will new (intellectual) revolutions look like and can they happen in time to save the planet from the impending catastrophes like nuclear war or global irretrievable climate change? While we think local groups such as our nascent Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (palestinenature.org) and thousands of others around the world are good, what organizational structures are needed to start to foster such new more radical revolutions? Amnesty International and Greenpeace and the International Union for Conservation of Nature do very good work globally but will they be the source of the needed new revolutionary ideology that transforms the trajectory we see whether on human rights (witness Yemen) or the environment? Asking these questions may prompt a discussion and further questions that can lead us to map and work well or at least more efficiently for a sustainable future instead of a dog-eat-dog world that leaves the last dog/human to wonder “what happened”? Please give your thoughts on this blog:

12 comments:

  1. Hi Mazin and all... One good step: Adopt the worldview of No More Enemies -- because as a social design, "enemies" is not only long obsolete, but has become lethal -- depriving people everywhere of the partners ("them") they need to solve vital shared challenges. Please see www.debreich.com - you can download the book (easy reading) in PDF at no cost.

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  2. Ah Mazin, all these evils stem from the unmodifiable imperative of corporate enterprise to maximize the next quarter's profit and the compulsion of all the world's states to uphold their ability to do so, at the cost of our happiness and blood. No organization or campaign which fails to recognize this can reap more than small or temporary reward. We must aim to overthrow the entire paradigm, build on the achievements of our Soviet and Chinese comrades, and study their errors (the foremost seeing communism as a distant goal while making all sorts of compromises) in order to avoid their total and tragic failure. See www.plp.org

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  3. Excellent post, pertinent, and raises serious questions.

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  4. Two words: indigenous knowledge. And within that, we get even more specific, traditional ecological knowledge. Indigenous and traditional cultures who have ancient longevity on the planet achieved that longevity through long histories of sustainability, often learned through failure. Western science is finally starting to recognize the wisdom of indigenous cultures who achieved that kind of sustainability, and incorporate their knowledge. It may be too little too late to overcome western hubris, but we shall see.

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  5. We have acknowledged the swamp of the imperium (the deep state) and the inability of the presidents to do the draining. Each year these millions of imperial agents not only in Washington DC but disseminated over the whole planet are waiting for their money (military, security, spy, surveillance agencies, cyberwar research, AI research etc...). The freshly elected president is generous and does not want to be petty. The amount appears exponential since the fall of the Soviet Union. The taxpayer of the whole planet takes the financial burden of the imperium sacrificing the "last lung of our earth". Collective awareness and elaborated strategies will be the "sudden" change.

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  6. Thanks Mazin. I remain astounded at human potential, while deeply dismayed about current realities. My view is that we live in an 'emergent universe'--at first there was only hydrogen, now take a look around-- Homo sapiens is charged with emerging into real intelligence. Apparently it's tough to pull off.

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  7. I and many others have been asking similar questions and thinking along similar lines ---basically from the 'complex systems theory' (or nonlinear dynamics) perspective ---- eg your citations of Guastello, and from a less mathematical but more biologically informed view, S J Gould, and the popularizations by Friedman and Harari.

    peterturchin.com , www.santafe.edu and
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1811.04502 are other examples (and there are 1000s more) .
    I view all of this as somewhat speculative and theoretical, and its mostly an academic thing--quite a few academic conferences on the subject, but those are reserved for experts.

    Interestingly, the academics participants in those often hold very different political/ideological views---some are right wing, pro-capitalist, free market entusiasts and believers in eugenics, superior people and master races, elites and little concern for nature or indigenous peoples and cultures; others (who go to same conferences and use same set of ideas from biology, physics, math, history) have exact opposite 'radical views'--often libertarian socialist, ecologists, anthropologists, etc .
    They all do in general hold the elitist view that only experts should discuss these ideas and go to conferences.

    (I have unsucessfully tried to get some progressive types to start something like your Palestine nature project---a small semi-academic project---except including more of a theoretical perspective via complex systems theory, as well as field bioogy/ecoogy, and some forms of activism---eg popular education, perhaps even some co-operative businesses. Most activists---both 'grassroots' ones, and ones in NGOs in my area have little interest in theory and think people should be 'organizing' and 'out in the street', or filing lawsuits, writing reports, etc.

    My view is if people spent a little more time organizing their minds we wouldn't have to have endless, often semi-incoherent protests.

    Activists have all this hi-tech computer technology to 'organize' but not the theoretical background to use it well. As Einstein put it 'we have a profusion of means and a confusion of ends'.


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  8. سنكون مرغمون على التغير للمحافظة على
    البقاء

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  9. What some of us lament here in the states is that we lack a charismatic leader, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lead us out of the desperate mess. But Senator Bernie Sanders and his Progressive cohorts (many of them newly elected) are proposing a Green New Deal for the country. It is my great hope that in this time of America's failed democracy, the GND will be a big step towards addressing catastrophic Climate Change.

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  10. previous comment was 86'd hmmmm

    Anyways rewrite: For me Amnesty International is nothing more than the original 'White Helmets' sorta. Beholding to the most heinous of agencies the US State Dept. And the world we would prefer is impeded by policy. "presidents come and go but Policy remains the same" V. Putin... we have to over come the Western Policy in order to implement the world we want to send our kids into.

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  11. Caro Mazin, osservando quanto accade in Europa, negli Stati Uniti ed in Medio Oriente, sono piuttosto pessimista per quanto riguarda la salvaguardia dell'ambiente e dei diritti umani in generale, ed in particolare per quanto riguarda i diritti umani dei Palestinesi. Prevale nel mondo occidentale una politica neoliberista e filoatlantica diretta dagli Stati Uniti che, anacronisticamente, pretendono di essere i guardiani dell'ordine mondiale e trascinano la Comunita' europea in una continua corsa al riarmo, creando sempre nuovi nemici come la Russia, l'Iran e la Cina, il Paese che minaccia la supremazia tecnologica ed economica degli Stati Uniti. Così seguono l'imposizione delle sanzioni all'Iran ed alla Russia, che la Comunità europea da buon vassallo seguirà, ed una politica energetica fondata ancora sui fossili con le conseguenze di un riscaldamento del pianeta che produce quelle alluvioni e siccità, quei disastri climatici che vediamo dovunque.
    Per quanto riguarda la situazione israelo-palestinese, vedo che purtroppo, a parte una minoranza di palestinesi ed ebrei israeliani, l'ONU, l'ANP e le diplomazie degli Stati continuano a parlare della necessità di trattative per due Stati indipendenti, Israele e Palestina, quando tutti coloro che conoscono la situazione sanno che non vi é alcuna trattativa di pace, alcuna possibilità di avere uno Stato indipendente palestinese per la presenza di oltre 800.000 coloni ebrei israeliani. Mentre Abu Mazen va in giro per il mondo, ora é in Italia, sostenendo la causa di uno Stato Palestinese, il governo Netanyahu continua la sua politica di colonizzazione di insediamento sottraendo sempre nuove terre palestinesi, continua la sua politica di apartheid dichiarando Israele Stato ebraico con Gerusalemme come capitale, negando e marginalizzando la storia e la cultura palestinese. Piano, piano, come scrive molto bene Jeff Halper nel suo libro "La guerra contro il popolo", i governi israeliani, maestri nel controllo delle popolazioni, grazie ad una tecnologia della sicurezza d'avanguardia ed alla diplomazia delle armi, commerciando con ogni tipo di governo, anche i peggiori, instaurano dei rapporti commerciali che poi si riflettono anche nelle risoluzioni Onu. Israele ha rapporti commerciali e di collaborazione con la Russia, la Cina e perfino l'Egitto, il Barhein, il Sudan, il Ciad, l'Arabia saudita, l'Oman, il Qatar, la Giordania, governi in tutto il mondo. Più passa il tempo e più si stabilizza l'idea che tutta la Palestina sarà sotto il controllo degli Ebrei israeliani e che ciò sia nella natura delle cose.
    L'uncia cosa che si oppone a che ciò avvenga é la straordinaria resistenza del Popolo palestinese, specialmente dei Gazawi, e la presenza di una Campagna BDS nel mondo che, contrastando la potente hasbara israeliana, contribuisce a spostare il consenso delle popolazioni, in contrasto con i loro governi, dalla parte dei Palestinesi.
    A mio parere, però oggi non si può più perdere tempo, che giova solo a Israele, con l'impossibile opzione dei due Stati ma occorrerebbe che tutto il Popolo palestinese unito, avvalendosi di giuristi internazionali ed anche del Rapporto ESCWA della Prof. Virginia Tilley e del Prof. Richard Falk sull'Apartheid d'Israele, richiedesse con forza la condanna da parte dell'ONU e della Corte Internazionale di Giustizia, dell'apartheid, della colonizzazione d'insediamento, dei crimini di guerra e contro l'umanità compiuti dai governi di Israele.
    Solo portando i crimini d'Israele dinnanzi al mondo si può porre fine alla colonizzazione, portare al centro dell'attenzione i diritti del Popolo Palestinese e puntare sulla soluzione più logica e più giusta : uno Stato comune israelo-palestinese, democratico, laico, con uguali diritti per tutti i suoi abitanti.
    Un cordiale saluto
    Ireo

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