History and Science and Philosophy

"I thought that it was strange to assume that it was abnormal for anyone to be forever asking questions about the nature of the universe, about what the human condition really was, my condition, what I was doing here, if there was really something to do. It seemed to me on the contrary that it was abnormal for people not to think about it, for them to allow themselves to live, as it were, unconsciously. Perhaps it's because everyone, all the others, are convinced in some unformulated, irrational way that one day everything will be made clear. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for humanity. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for me."

(Extract from "The Hermit", 1973)
Eugene Ionesco



History is many things:

It is a list of significant events that have happened in the past including dates, places, what happened and why it was significant.
Click here for a timeline of over 1600 events in World history. For more go to Infoplease.

Click here for a Pictorial History of Man

It is stories of adventure and war and romance and politics and discovery and creative endeavors and also failures and death and plagues and famine and natural catastrophes. To read some of these stories just insert any key words from the timeline of history above into an internet search engine.

It is an understanding of the type of life necessitated by the needs of everyday living in various places and times. Think in terms of not only the needs of everyday life but of the state of public health and technology and life expectancy and frequency of violent death or death from disease.

It is a story of advances and setbacks both in man and in the world or universe as a whole.
It is a story of prehistory and the classical period and the dark ages and the renaissance and the reformation and the enlightenment leading to what we now call modern times but which in the future will be known by another name.

It is a "what if?" story. It invites imagination of possibilities of other worlds.

There are a few lessons of history that I think are significant. First is the realization that history is untrue and incomplete. It is only an approximation of what happened and it is colored by the perspective of participants and of historians. Remember that what is very significant from one perspective may very well be of little consequence from a different perspective. A private in the army was killed at the battle of Waterloo. That was very significant to his family and friends at that time. How significant is it to you?

Second is the realization that, contrary to popular belief, history is not necessarily a story of advancement of civilization. There is no higher power ensuring that our species will only improve. It can and, almost surely, will at some time decline and probably disappear. Declines have happened in the past and one result of the advances that have occurred is that we now have the instruments that can lead to our own demise.

Knowledge of history gives a sense of perspective necessary to understand why some things are. For instance, have you ever wondered why the keys on a standard keyboard are arranged as qwerty? You might especially wonder this if you are told that the purpose of the qwerty arrangement is to make typing inefficient. To understand this you will need to know the history of typing. It started with the invention of the typewriter which is a small machine with type keys that produce characters, one at a time on piece of paper inserted around a roller. It was invented in 1866 by Christopher Sholes.

The Sholes typewriter had a type-bar system and the universal keyboard was the machine's novelty, however, the keys jammed easily. To solve the jamming problem, another business associate, James Densmore, suggested splitting up keys for letters commonly used together to slow down typing. This became today's standard "QWERTY" keyboard. All evidence points to QWERTY being terribly inefficient. The most accessible row of the keyboard is the second, or "home" row. So it would make sense if the most commonly used letters in the English language were there, right? But that's not how QWERTY rolls. About 70% of words in English can be typed with the letters DHIATENSOR, yet only 4 of those 10 letters fall on QWERTY's home row. The letter A falls on the home row (the only vowel to do so), but it must be struck with what is for most typists the weakest finger, the left pinky.

The Dvorak keyboard, named for its inventor, Dr. August Dvorak, was designed with the goal of maximizing typing efficiency. For over a century, typists have been using the qwerty keyboard arrangement, a hack that was implemented to work around the mechanical limitations of early typewriters.

According to Dvorak, prior to World War II, researchers had found that after three years of typing instruction, the average typing student's speed was 47 net words per minute (NWPM). Since typists were scarce during the war, the U.S. Navy selected fourteen typists for a 1944 study to assess whether Dvorak retraining would be feasible. Dvorak found that it took an average of only 52 hours of training for those typists' speeds on the Dvorak keyboard to reach their average speeds on the qwerty keyboard. By the end of the study their Dvorak speeds were 74 percent faster than their qwerty speeds, and their accuracies had increased by 68 percent.

Dvorak estimated that the fingers of an average typist in his day travelled between 12 and 20 miles on a qwerty keyboard; the same text on a Dvorak keyboard would require only about one mile of travel. Dvorak believed that hurdling and awkward keystroke combinations were responsible for most of the common errors typists make

Most people learn to type on a qwerty keyboard. New typists learn the qwerty arrangement because that's most likely what they'll encounter on the existing equipment they'll be using; new equipment is standardized to the qwerty arrangement because that's what the vast majority of us know. Most people are reluctant to switch because they're afraid of how long it will take them to learn the new arrangement, and of the additional effort of having to switch layouts on all of the equipment they might encounter.

The main divisions of human history:
  1. Two million years of human evolution pre-history, paleolithic
    genus -Homo - Humans, neanderthals, homo erectus, and their direct ancestors - 2.5 million years ago
    species -(archaic) Homo sapiens - Humans - 500,000 years ago
    sub-species - Homo sapiens sapiens - Modern humans 200,000 years ago
    sub-species - Neurologically modern humans - 200,000 to 70,000 years ago
  2. Agrarian revolution about 12,000 years ago.
    The two greatest mistakes - Agriculture and property ownership
    The two greatest myths - God and monogamy.
  3. The study of science began about 6,000 years ago and continued until about 1500 years ago when it was slowed by religion.
  4. The Dark ages then lasted for about 1,000 years.
  5. The Enlightenment occurred about 300 to 500 years ago and continues until the present.

Most of the progress in science has occurred in the last 200 years.

Physical sciences
Einstein, Hawking, Maxwell, Tesla, Otto Hahn, Marie Curie, Paul Dirac, Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Carl Sagan, Faraday
Alan Turing, Mandelbrot
Biological sciences
Darwin, Mendel, Pasteur, human genome project, Richard Dawkins
Dorothy Garrod, Lewis, Mary, and Richard Leakey, Jane Goodall, Desmond Morris
Social Sciences
Freud, Jung, Kinsey
Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes.

Life on earth represented as a year.

One month represents about 383 1/3 million years.
One day represents about 12.6 million years.
One hour represents 525,120 years.
One minute represents 8,752 years.
One second represents 145.86 years.
Assume that this is the last second of December 31.

Jan. 1 - The Earth formed about 4.6 billion years ago.

Amino acids formed in a primordial soup to create the beginnings of life.

Jan. 20 to March 26 - 4.5 to 3.5 billion years ago - Chemoautotrophic prokaryotes use carbon dioxide and inorganic compounds

June 12 - 2.5 bya - photoautotropic prokaryotes - use CO2 and sunlight - photosynthesis

cyanobacteria produce bacterial mats

Life consists of bacteria and archaea.

June 12 to November 21 - 2.5 to .5 bya - Eukaryotic photosynthetic photoautotrophs. (have a cell nucleus confined within a cell membrane. The nucleus contains the cell DNA.) first chordates and first fishes.

November 22 to November 26 - 488 to 444 mya - First land plants - non-vascular Marchantiophyta (liverworts) and fungi and mosses were probably on land.

November 26 to December 7 - 444 to 299 mya - vascular plants - huge seed ferns, horsetails and Gymnosperm forests - oxygen levels highest ever due to prolific plant life converting carbon dioxide. First amphibians.

December 7 to December 11 - 299 to 250 mya - coal forests decline and are replaced by ferns, Pteridosperms, Ginkgos and Cycads. Primitive conifer forests with Cycad and fern understory. First reptiles.

December 11 - 250 mya - Dry climate eliminates coal forests. Dinosaurs appear.

December 15 - 200 mya - first mammals.

December 19 - 150 mya - first birds

10 days ago to 7 days ago - 130 to 90 mya - angiosperms appear and become dominate.

8 days ago - 100 mya - first primates

about 4 days ago - 50 mya - extinction of dinosaurs.

44 hours ago to 10 hours ago - 23 to 5.3 mya - general reduction of the boreal and tropical forests. Grasslands and savannas flourish.

3.5 hours ago - 1.8 mya - evolution of humans begins.

3.5 hours ago to 23 minutes ago - 1.8 mya to 200 tya - Homo Erectus - Behavorial revolution - home bases, family or other small social groups, tools, fire, hunting parties, clothing. Homo developed larger brains and became bipedal.

just over 16 minutes ago - 143,000 years ago - Last known Homo Erectus. Homo erectus displaced by Homo sapiens coexisting with Neanderthals.

less than 6 minutes ago - 50,000 years ago - Cognitive revolution - language and symbolic representations develop.

slightly over a minute ago - 10,000 years ago - Neolithic revolution. - agriculture develops. - domestication of plants and later, animals.

41 seconds ago - 6,000 years ago - recorded history begins.

13 seconds ago to 11 seconds ago - 2,000 to 1,600 years ago - a high point of culture and science.

11 seconds ago to 3 seconds ago - 1,600 to 500 years ago - the dark ages in Europe.

less than 5 seconds ago - 700 to 500 years ago - the beginnings of the Enlightenment.

Human evolution represented as a year.

One month represents about 150 thousand years.
One day represents about 5 thousand years.
One hour represents 208 years.
One minute represents 3.5 years.
Assume that this is the last second of December 31.

Models of various species of Homo (humans)

January 1 to November 21 - 1.8 mya to 200 tya - Homo Erectus - Behavorial revolution - home bases, family or other small social groups, tools, fire, hunting parties, clothing. Homo developed larger brains and became bipedal.

December 3 - 143,000 years ago - Last known Homo Erectus. Homo erectus displaced by Homo sapiens coexisting with Neanderthals.

December 21 - 50,000 years ago - Cognitive revolution - language and symbolic representations develop.

December 29 - 10,000 years ago - Neolithic revolution. - agriculture develops. - domestication of plants and later, animals.

December 30 - 6,000 years ago - recorded history begins. Urban revolution - city states arise.

10 hours to 8 hours ago - 2,000 to 1,600 years ago - a high point of culture and science.

8 hours to 2 hours ago - 1,600 to 500 years ago - the dark ages in Europe.

3 hours to 2 hours ago - 700 to 500 years ago - the beginnings of the Enlightenment.

20 minutes ago - 70 years ago - World War II.

3 1/2 minutes ago - 12 years ago - Sept. 11, 2001 - World Trade Center bombing.

Chart of Human Evolution

Homo erectus - adult female

The Agrarian Revolution

Anthropologist Elman Service presented a system of classification for societies in all human cultures based on the evolution of social inequality and the role of the state. This system of classification contains four categories:
  1. Gatherer-hunter bands, which are generally egalitarian.
  2. Tribal societies in which there are some limited instances of social rank and prestige (see Chiefdom).
  3. Stratified tribal societies led by chieftains.
  4. Civilizations, with complex social hierarchies and organized, institutional governments.

Below is my summary of ideas presented in the books "Sex at Dawn" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá and from "Hierarchy in the Forest" by Christopher Boehm

Originally small bands of humans began to invent weapons and those who were strongest and with the most weapons dominated the groups. Egalitarianism is a hierarchy in which the weak combine forces to dominate the strong. The egalitarian ethos is one that promotes generosity, altruism and sharing but forbids upstartism, aggression and egoism. Ridicule, criticism, ostracism and even execution are prevalent tactics used by subordinates in egalitarian societies to level the social playing field. So these groups became egalitarian.

Before the agrarian revolution small gatherer-hunter bands of cooperative and sharing people were limited in size by the food supply in the environment. These egalitarian bands operated by consensus and by following the leadership of a charismatic leader or leaders. There was no power structure because in the absence of a stratified social structure or an organized religion or the concept of private property there were no levers of power other than personal attractions and perceptions of security within the group. It was probably common as the size of a band increased slowly due to low rates of reproduction, probably supported in some cases by infanticide, that more than one leader might arise and this would lead to the band, at some point, splitting into two bands and going their separate ways.

This ensured both the homogeneity of the band and a plentiful supply of food because bands did not become too large to be supported by the nearby food supply.

If I am a member of such a band I am free to leave at any time and join another band, if they will accept me. My band also has occasional interactions with other nearby bands as we wander by accident or purposely into proximity. We share a lot in common with these nearby bands because in the past we or our ancestors probably were, with them or their ancestors, a part of a larger band. If due to disease or accident or other reasons our band decreases in size we may decide that we want to merge with another small band which has similar problems. As a result there are usually between twenty and one hundred fifty people in a band although we usually do not think in terms of numbers.

We are a social people. We share the fruits of the hunt together and we share sexual relations and when we are not hunting, sleeping or eating or snuggling together we talk and play together. We love to tell and listen to stories. These stories may be social gossip or the passing down of oral histories and traditions or stories of the gods which is how we describe the forces of nature.

We are a physically active people usually a matriarchal society. Our children are considered the children of the band and the children consider all the adults in the band as their parents. Although a child may have a mother who gave it birth, all men are considered as fathers and all women as mothers.

The agrarian revolution led to the development of the idea of private property because if I work to plant a crop or to domesticate an animal, then I have a proprietary interest in that crop or that animal. It belongs to me. With the concept of the ownership of property came the idea of disposal of that property on my death. This lead to the idea of property being inherited by my children. But how could I know which children were mine in a society of free sex? So came the idea of ownership of females and development of a method to control these females to assure my paternity and the idea of suppression of sexual promiscuity especially of females.

The idea of growing food and owning land and animals and people meant that people began to stay in one place and form larger groups leading to towns and cities. A population explosion began.

With the ownership and inheritance of property, societies were no longer equalitarian because some people accumulated more property (wealth) than others. This led to a complex social structure in society based on power which was, in turn, based on wealth. So society became rather than a free and equal association of like minded people, a structured civilization controlled by a chief or a king and a ruling class. Religion evolved from just stories we told of the escapades of the gods to a more organized structure of one powerful and controlling and angry paternal God who issued orders through special or favored people making up the priesthood.

So we traded our freedom for property and wealth and obesiance to Kings and Priests. Now we could own each other. We came to believe in religion and monogamy or polygamy usually meaning that the wealthier a man is the more wives he could have in his harem and meaning that some men now had unlimited sex and others had limited or no sexual relations, an unnatural state. Females were degraded to the status of slaves. Where once all food and shelter had been shared we now have people who are hungry and people who are homeless. We have become a more violent, greedy, jealous and warlike people who have to work harder and longer and we get less sex and less sleep so we have more mental and emotional stress in our lives.

The two main myths that we came to believe were that we were to be controlled by a god represented by priests and kings and that women were subservient to men and had inferior sexual desires and needs. This led to the deterioration of the human genetic pool as well as to poverty and over population which eventually led to widespread disease and destruction of the natural environment. Many accepted the idea that man is, by nature, monogamous which could not be further from the truth.

Once people had settled into towns their food supply was at the mercy of the weather. They depended on the annual harvest and, if it was not a good harvest, could anticipate hunger in the coming year. Also, because food was not equally shared, but was hoarded by some, the wealthy could survive or even thrive while others were starving.

The primary vehicle of genetic improvement was not during most of man's evolution, as in monogamy, competition for the best mate, but due to man's promiscious past, competition within the woman's reproductive tract between sperm from different men with the egg being fertilized by the sperm fittest to win the race and to match the physiological needs of her body. So monogamy limited the variety of sperm available for impregnation and together with a more limited diet and a generally less active lifestyle decreased the vitality of both the people and the genetic pool.

The changes in our life style and our diet caused us to have less healthy bodies with more heart problems, cancer, and diabetes among many other ailments. We eventually began to study science and, as a result, were able to use technology to improve our lives and give us more leisure time and medical advances to combat infectious disease and our other health problems. Our leisure time is often now used with much time spent sitting and watching screens, rather than in more active pursuits, in ways that sometimes lead to depression and obesity and lethargy.

The good and the bad results of the agrarian revolution.



The Enlightenment

Ideas from the enlightenment of the 18th century were a large part of the founding philosophy of the United States of America.

It was fostered mainly by the Protestant movement and the spread of ideas due to the invention of the printing press.

It was a thin trickle of thought which traveled through an era otherwise dominated by dogma and fanaticism. The 17th century was torn by witch-hunts and wars of religion and imperial conquest. Protestants and Catholics denounced each other as followers of Satan, and people could be imprisoned for attending the wrong church, or for not attending any. All publications, whether pamphlets or scholarly volumes, were subject to prior censorship by both church and state, often working hand in hand. Slavery was widely practiced, especially in the colonial plantations of the Western Hemisphere, and its cruelties frequently defended by leading religious figures. The despotism of monarchs exercising far greater powers than any medieval king was supported by the doctrine of the "divine right of kings," and scripture quoted to show that revolution was detested by God. Speakers of sedition or blasphemy quickly found themselves imprisoned, or even executed. Organizations which tried to challenge the twin authorities of church and state were banned. There had been plenty of intolerance and dogma to go around in the Middle Ages, but the emergence of the modern state made its tyranny much more efficient and powerful.

The Church insisted that it was the only source of truth, that all who lived outside its bounds were damned, while it was apparent to any reasonably sophisticated person that most human beings on earth were not and had never been Christians--yet they had built great and inspiring civilizations. Writers and speakers grew restive at the omnipresent censorship and sought whatever means they could to evade or even denounce it.

To illustrate the difference between the ideas of the enlightenment and those which had prevailed up until that time, here is a fictional conversation between a philosopher or thinker of the enlightenment and a religious cleric of medieval times.

Thinker: We cannot know with certainty what is right and therefore we must be tolerant of the beliefs of others.

Cleric: We do, of course, know what is right because we have the word of God as written in the Bible and its interpretation by religious clerics and scholars to tell us what is right and to keep us from wrong. We must convince others to believe as we do or we must eliminate them. Tolerance is heresy.

Thinker: We can use our minds and reason to determine what is right by the methods of science and experiment and evidence.

Cleric: That is arrogance in the face of God. We were put on earth to serve the will of God and to follow his commands, not to try to determine our own way.

Thinker: The way to determine the truth as in the guilt or innocence of one accused of a crime is to let both sides present their evidence and let a jury of the peers of the accused evaluate the evidence presented and determine the truth of the matter.

Cleric: Nonsense, God will tell us whether or not the accused is guilty by giving us a sign.

Thinker: Humans have the ability to use their reason to seek knowledge and to determine their own beliefs about life rather than be told how to think by the church or the state. Enlightenment means think for yourself!

Cleric: Man is an imperfect sinner and his only purpose is to fulfill the word of God. He must be led to do this by being subservient to the servants of God personified in the Church and he must have faith in the Church rather than rely on his own reason.

Thinker: All human beings possess the ability to be enlightened. In other words, humans are equal by nature. All humans are part of a “universal community” who share a single universal human nature. Differences among people are less important than their fundamental sameness.

Cleric: God gives special knowledge to clerics and Kings which gives them a natural dominion over other men.

Thinker: Humanity is progressing from immaturity, superstition, and slavery to maturity, reason, and freedom. Human history is therefore the story of progress in the human condition.

Cleric: Men are sinners who will drift further and further from the will of God unless held in line by rulers.

Thinker: Religion and politics should be separated. There should be no official religion. Further, one’s method of worship should be a private matter.

Cleric: Of course men should be forced by the church and the state to do what is right. Religion must guide the state to see that everyone worships as the Church dictates.

Thinker: The social organization of production and distribution becomes a central problem for enlightenment ideologies. A society’s well-being depends on how its economy is structured.

Cleric: Wealth belongs ultimately to the State, to God and to the Church. The economy should be controlled by these entities.

Thinker: Government and laws must be based on the consent of the governed.

Cleric: Government and laws must be as promulgated by the Church and God.

Thinker: Education and the widespread distribution of knowledge are a good thing that will help men to think for themselves.

Cleric: The only education and knowledge needed is that given by God through the church. Any additional education or knowledge would be arrogance and heresy.

Thinker: Men have rights given by nature.

Cleric: Men are servants of God and their lives are preordained by God.

Thinker: The potential of the mind of man is the supreme force in the universe.

Cleric: God is the supreme force in the universe.

Thinker: All aspects of the human and natural worlds are susceptible of rational explanation.

Cleric: Some mysteries are knowable only to God.

Life During the Dark Ages

excerpts of writings of Andrew Bernstein

One of the leading thinkers of recent decades in this field is the Dutch economist, Angus Maddison. According to Maddison's research, Europe suffered through zero economic growth in the centuries from 500 AD to 1500, often referred to as the Dark Ages. Maddison shows that for a millennium there was no rise in per capita income, which stood at an abysmally low $215 in 1500. Further, he estimates that in the year 1000, the average infant could expect to live to roughly the age of 24 years - and that a third would die in the first year of life. These are global estimates, with Europe showing no appreciable difference from the rest. Not surprisingly, per capita living standards show no dramatic increases until the 18th-century Enlightenment - the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

While other economic historians argue that some economic growth did take place in the late Middle Ages, they nevertheless recognize that the growth was of so minimal a degree that it hardly improved the horrifying destitution of the European masses. For example, the research of economist Graeme Snooks indicates that economic growth occurred in England in the six centuries between 1086 and 1688. If the average person in 1086 had about one-sixth the income of the average person in 1688, he or she did not have much. . . . English peasants in 1086 had little more than enough food to keep them alive, and sometimes not even that. Houses were crude, temporary structures. A peasant owned one set of clothes, best described as rags, and little else.

The superb French historian Fernand Braudel, writing about the pre-18th- century era, states that: Famine recurred so insistently for centuries on end that it became incorporated into man's biological regime and built into his daily life. . . . Braudel points out, for instance, that although France was, by standards of the day, a relatively prosperous country, it is nevertheless believed to have suffered ten general famines during the 10th century; twenty- six in the 11th; two in the 12th - and these are estimates that do not even count the hundreds and hundreds of local famines. . . . Even granting that there are severe difficulties inherent in estimating medieval living standards with any degree of precision, the conclusion must be that what was then considered relative prosperity was, by comparison to prior and later ages, utter destitution.

Further, European sewage and sanitation regressed back to primitivism during this era. Human waste products were often thrown out the window and into the street or simply dumped in local rivers. (By contrast, ancient Rome had been significantly more advanced: major cities of the Empire installed drainage systems to which latrines were connected - and the wealthy enjoyed such luxuries as indoor plumbing . . . even the indigent had access to public baths.) With the streets strewn with garbage and running with urine and feces - and with the same horrifying conditions permeating the rivers and streams from which drinking water was drawn - vermin and germs multiplied, and disease of every kind, untreatable by the primitive medical knowledge of the day, proliferated. Between 1347 and 1350, for example, the bubonic plague - the infamous Black Death - spread by the fleas that infest rats, ravaged Western Europe, obliterating roughly 20 million people, fully one-third of the human population. Norman Cantor, the leading contemporary historian of the Middle Ages, states: The Black Death of 1348-49 was the greatest biomedical disaster in European and possibly in world history. A Florentine writer of the era referred to it simply as the exterminating of humanity.

Finally, the early Middle Ages witnessed a stupefying decline in levels of education and literacy from the Roman period. In the endemic warfare of the period, human beings lost the skill of writing and, largely, of reading. In the time of Augustine's youth [4th century AD] . . . even a Christian got a reasonably good classical education. A few generations later, literacy was a rarity even among the ruling classes. For example, during the 8th century, Charlemagne maintained that even the clergy knew insufficient Latin to understand the Bible or to properly conduct Church services.

Andrew Coulson, a researcher in the field of educational history, points out that whereas the Greeks were fascinated by the natural world, taking pioneering steps in such sciences as anatomy, biology, physics, and meteorology, the Christians replaced efforts to understand the world with an attempt to know God; observation-based study of nature was, accordingly, subordinated to faith-based study of scripture. A decline in learning consequently afflicted every cognitive subject. What limited medical knowledge had been accumulated by Greek and Roman physicians was supplanted by utter mysticism. For example, St. Augustine believed that demons were responsible for diseases, a tragic regression from Hippocrates. Scientific work in general declined as interest in the physical world did. The overall result? From the standpoint of mass education . . . the medieval era was indeed a dark age. Despite isolated pockets of learning concentrated around the monasteries of Europe, the overwhelming majority of the populace was uneducated and illiterate.

Contributing to the educational debacle, in 529 the Christian emperor, Justinian I, ruling the Eastern Empire from Constantinople and holding that Greek philosophy was inherently subversive of Christian belief, closed all the pagan schools of philosophy, including Plato's Academy, which, for 900 years, had specialized in the teachings of its founder. To fully enforce his ban, Justinian forbade any pagan to teach. (Boethius (480-525), a Christian and the last serious philosopher for 350 years, had been educated in the great pagan schools.) As a result, nobody in the West would have the opportunity to study the achievements of Greek culture for six interminable centuries. As the eminent historian, Will Durant, observed: Greek philosophy, after eleven centuries of history, had come to an end.

W. T. Jones, the 20th century's leading historian of philosophy, succinctly captured the essence of the decline, and of Christianity's causal role in promoting it, when he stated: Because of the indifference and downright hostility of the Christians . . . almost the whole body of ancient literature and learning was lost. . . . This destruction was so great and the rate of recovery was so slow that even by the ninth century Europe was still immeasurably behind the classical world in every department of life. . . . This, then, was truly a 'dark' age.

The tragic truth is that from the fall of Rome until the Medieval Renaissance of the 12th and 13th centuries - a full six hundred years - Western Europe suffered through a period of material penury and intellectual deprivation when compared to both the Classical age that preceded it and the Renaissance that followed it.

By contrast, the 18th and 19th centuries witnessed the full flowering of the Industrial and Technological Revolutions. These were centuries not of Saint Boniface converting the heathens, and of minor improvements to windmills and water mills that still left men starving - but of James Watt and the steam engine, Thomas Edison and the electric lighting system, Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, the Wright brothers and aviation, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and industrial mass production of consumer goods - and, consequently, these were centuries of skyrocketing living standards and life expectancies. This was an era of tremendous intellectual and material advance. The 18th and 19th centuries were a period of extraordinary invention and innovation. The 8th and 9th centuries were not.

Philosophy seeks to answer five major questions: What is the nature of reality? How - by what means - do men gain knowledge of it? What is the nature of man? What is good - and what is evil? What is the ideal society? Religion, as a particular kind of philosophy, is an attempt to answer these questions.

Regarding reality, the essence of religion is belief in metaphysical dualism - that is, two worlds: the natural universe and a transcendent, more important world beyond it. Since there exists no observation-based means to access a higher world, it follows that, regarding important knowledge, faith in the infallible truths of a revealed text provides the foundation of cognition. Augustine's famous dictum that belief is the necessary basis of knowledge is representative of the religious approach. Writes one scholar: The main use of reason by the mature Augustine is unquestionably to understand what is already believed. Man is a metaphysical biped: his soul being of the transcendent realm and his body being of this one. A fallen creature beset with the sin of his ancestors, his earthly flesh is prone to lust and temptation, which his otherworldly soul must devoutly resist. The good is to place God first and foremost in one's pantheon of values, and to unquestionably obey His every command; the evil is to disobey. A proper society is theocratic - based on divine commandments as interpreted by the initiated spiritual elite: the clergy.

Religion, as an attempt to answer all the important philosophical questions of human life, is a species of philosophy, which is its genus. It is a faith- based, not a reason-based philosophical system. Religion can be (roughly) defined as: a philosophical system, based in faith, not reason, upholding the existence and supremacy of a transcendent God, who requires unquestioning obedience from the sinful human subjects He created and governs. Religion was the dominant, indeed, exclusive philosophical framework of the early Middle Ages, from the 6th century until, roughly, the 12th.

A precondition of science is the view that nature is fascinating, important, superlatively valuable - a conviction logically congruent with the secular understanding that nature is reality. This view is incompatible with the Christian belief that this world is debased and deficient, while the ideal lies beyond man's earthly grasp. Science begins with observation of facts, not the infallible pronouncements of a revealed text. Further, science (especially its offshoots of applied science and technology) rests upon the premise that rational beings are (at least potentially) good, that man's earthly life is of value, that knowledge is both attainable and desirable, and that men are worthy of elevated living standards. The idea that man should seek scientific advancement is incompatible with the assumption that men are creatures who are, in Augustine's pregnant utterance, foul . . . crooked . . . sordid . . . bespotted . . . and ulcerous, overwhelmingly (and understandably) condemned to perdition by an outraged deity.

Reason is an observation-based methodology. It does not begin with beliefs already accepted on prejudicial grounds, and then proceed to prove their truth. Whether studying man, the inner workings of his mind, germs, rocks, insects, atoms, the far reaches of intergalactic space, or anything else, reason proceeds from sensory observation by a method of logical thought embodying Aristotle's famed Law of Non-Contradiction: No existent can be both x and non-x at the same time and in the same respect.

Theology is the purest expression of rationalism in the sense of proceeding by logical deduction from premises ungrounded in observable fact - deduction without reference to reality. The so-called thinking involved here is purely formal, observationally baseless, devoid of facts, cut off from reality. Thomas Aquinas, for example, was history's foremost expert regarding the field of angelology. No one could match his knowledge of angels, and he devoted far more of his massive "Summa Theologica" to them than to physics.

Here is the tragedy of theology in its distilled essence: The employment of high-powered human intellect, of genius, of profoundly rigorous logical deduction - studying nothing. In the Middle Ages, the great minds capable of transforming the world did not study the world; and so, for most of a millennium, as human beings screamed in agony - decaying from starvation, eaten by leprosy and plague, dying in droves in their twenties - the men of the mind, who could have provided their earthly salvation, abandoned them for otherworldly fantasies.

A View of History

Development and views of the form and structure of political and economic power and their distribution in society.

In a period of time that we perceive as about 14 billion years there was change in the form and structure of the physical world of matter and energy in which several thresholds of change were reached. This led after about 10 billion years to a time about 4 billion years ago when the threshold was reached at which life developed on at least one planet orbiting a yellow sun in the Milky Way galaxy.

Life then developed and changed reaching a number of thresholds of change leading to the threshold about 2 million years ago in which primates standing upright and with more complex nervous systems leading to more complex brains than anything previously known appeared on this planet called Earth. This enabled abstract thought leading to the development of culture, language and technology.

The present peak of this development occurred about 200,000 years ago with the species Homo sapiens appearing. These primate animals congregated in small homogenous nomadic bands of up to about 150 individuals leading an existence of hunting and gathering using tools they had made and fire they had discovered.

As far as we can tell these were egalitarian societies in which the economic system was one of sharing providing for the physical, mental and social needs of all according to their needs and expecting contributions to society according to their abilities. In this world there was fear and suspicion of other species and other bands of humans which were unknown or very different than themselves and respect and caring for those of their band and maybe closely allied bands.

Leadership in these bands fell on those who were perceived to be stronger physically, smarter mentally, and/or with better social skills than others. If the perception then became that these leaders were abusing the power given them, the band had the power to replace them. Deviation from the norm, especially those deviations which might threaten the society, were punished by shunning, expulsion from the group or death depending on the perceived severity of the offense.

About 10 to 12 thousand years ago, with the discovery of agriculture, these nomandic bands settled down to living in one place with increasing populations leading to the development of villages, towns and eventually cities. This caused more anonymity due to larger populations.

Power, both economic and political, was then seized by small groups of those who were stronger, smarter and more ruthless and the weaker members of society became a class or classes of the unempowered. Power actually was held by the type of persons who would not have been tolerated in those earlier societies.

During this period of time, ending almost two thousand years ago, there were at least two societies, the Greeks and the Romans, who extended power to most of the whole group considered to be citizens, as opposed to unempowered non- citizens such as slaves and females, by means of a form of democracy in which power was determined by the will of the majority of the people at public meetings.

After that the, so called, dark ages descended on Europe in which power was believed to be given to Kings, nobles and religious leaders by a mythical higher power called God and people were taught that this was the natural order of things.

About five hundred to eight hundred years ago, a few began to question the prevailing beliefs and thus to question the divine right of Kings and the truth of religious beliefs. This enlightenment led in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to revolutions in America and France in which the ruling classes were overthrown and the ideal of democracy was instituted. Although slaves and women and non landowners were still excluded, other citizens were given the right to choose their leaders by popular elections. Generally the prevailing economic system was a capitalistic system of free enterprise.

Since then there have been a number of controversies and conflicts:

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers of the United States fought a war for independence from the English monarch and government. They based their revolution on the idea that any government was not legitimate which did not have the consent of the governed and they tried to establish a government in which the governed would have to give their consent on a periodic basis. This government also included the idea that there were fundamental rights of all which government could not violate. This was the "Bill of Rights" and an attempt to preserve certain rights for individuals and minorities which could not be pre-empted by rule of the majority. The Bill of Rights includes freedom for religion, speech, the press, and the right to assemble, associate with others and petition the government for a redress of grievances. It also protects the individual against unreasonable searches, seizures and warrants without probable cause and provides for due process of law before any person can be deprived of life, liberty or property.

During the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln the Civil War established that states could not secede from the Union and eliminated the institution of slavery and led to citizenship for former slaves.

Teddy Roosevelt was president of the United States early in the 20th century. Although a Republican, he was a progressive who believed that the world should be improved for future generations. He was active in conservation, especially in establishing national parks, and in breaking the powers of the ruling classes in favor of a "square deal" for labor.

Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States from 1913 to 1921, continued Roosevelt's progressive ideals and decided that women should be full citizens with the right to vote and, during his administration, an amendment to the U. S. Constitution was enacted giving women full voting rights.

Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were progressive presidents who believed that governments should be used to create a better life for all and who tried to increase equality of power taking from the rich and giving to the poor. They were fairly successful in doing this from about 1933 until the Reagan administration in 1980.

During President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union, he said the following:

"It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people - whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth - is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights - among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however - as our industrial economy expanded - these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all - regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

Ronald Reagan was a conservative president who rolled back many of the reforms of the progressives and his administration was successful in transferring much economic and political power from the people back to the oligarchs. This rollback was pretty much continued in subsequent administrations, particularly in the second Bush administration. He and George W. Bush both increased government spending and lowered taxes increasing the national debt mostly in order to transfer more money to the rich. George W. Bush also started a war in Iraq, supported by the congress due to a program of misinformation and fear conducted by the Bush Administration. The purpose of this war was to control the oil supply from Iraq and to use the guise of national security to transfer more money from the taxpayers to the rich.

In the progressive era, particularly from the 1940s to the 1970s, CEOs of major corporations generally felt that their duty was to do what was in the best interests of their workers, their customers, their shareholders and the general public. In the 1970s, 1980s and in subsequent decades that attitude changed to CEOs believing that their primary duty was to make profits for their shareholders and their officers and directors often at the expense of customers, workers and the general public. The idea was to transfer as much of the wealth of the nation as possible to the upper tiers of society. This effort has been largely successful. As a result much of the middle class has been destroyed. This was done, as much as anything, by the unempowerment of the worker union movement mostly done in the Reagan administration and by the gutting of regulations to protect consumers and workers and to regulate the financial sector and to protect the environment.


Does consciousness come from the cosmos?
Or does the cosmos come from consciousness?

Does math describe the universe?
Or is the universe math?

Entropy and Disorder

A way of describing entropy is to say that nature tends to produce disorder from order.

Clean your room and put everything in order and it tends to become disordered. Metal tends to oxidize (rust) and disintegrate. Wood tends to rot. Living things tend to become feeble and die. Rocks tend to become dust. Mountains erode away. Seas become filled with silt. Ice in a glass melts and the molecules disperse. Warm tends to become cold. Clothes become ragged. Fortunes decline. Water evaporates and disperses in the atmosphere.

In short, everything that is highly complex or organized requires the continuous addition of energy to stay that way.

Nature of Existence

Click here for a video of Big History (The History of the Universe).

In the beginning was the void and entropy reigned supreme. That means that whatever, if anything, existed then it was evenly distributed so that there was no distinction of time or place because everywhere and everywhen was exactly the same.

For some reason entropy decreased. They tell us it happened all at once in a "Big Bang". Since time is relative, I am not sure that the phrase, "all at once" is appropriate.

At any rate there exists an expanding universe which contains things of an increasing complexity in which entropy tends to increase but in which energy counteracts this tendency and produces, in a universe of chaos, islands of complexity or increased order. This means that there is the conception of time and place because everywhere and everywhen are no longer alike.

As man has developed science to try to understand the universe in which, he thinks, he exists, he has found that what seems to be true is actually much more complex than it seems.

First there is the problem of size or scale. It is easy to understand that if you are a beetle in horse shit then the world, from your perspective, consists mainly of horse shit. As man developed the capacity to see things on a micro scale such as the cells that make up living things or the elements that make up molecules and to see things on a macro scale such as the earth, the stars, galaxies and complex entities such as black holes which it was not obvious even existed, it became evident that man was much like the beetle in horse shit. I would argue that that beetle is unable to conceive of the elements that make up horse shit or of the skyscraper visible in the distance from the pasture in which he lives. This is not to say that the beetle is dumb. It is to say that he lacks proper perspective to understand. Maybe that is the definition of dumb :)?

It seems that the things which we perceive in this world do not even exist, at least as we see them. For instance, the solid door to your house is to a very large extent empty space with widely scattered nuclei of atoms and some electrons which are not really any place. The person who is your friend or spouse is actually just a collection of specialized cells living in an evolved symbiosis. The blue sky above you is actually just a thin shell of mixed gases around a planet composed of slightly more solid matter. The little stars you see in the sky are unimaginably huge and are themselves in a galaxy in which they are little more significant than the individual atoms in your door. Galaxies themselves may be little more than parts in some larger entity. The protons and neutrons in the atoms in your door are actually made up of vibrating strings or some such smaller entities and we have no idea what those are made of; perhaps some form of energy, but when you get down to that scale what does that even mean?

When Albert Einstein was a boy he was taught that there were two types of things in the world, matter and energy. He found that those two things could be converted one to the other, so they were not actually two things at all. He also found that the concept of time was incorrect and, it may be that time is a fourth dimension, or maybe it is simply an artificial construct and does not exist at all as we perceive it.

Anyway our perception is that the energy of the "Big Bang" produced matter mainly in the form of hydrogen, the simplest element, and in doing so decreased entropy to the extent that the universe was not homogeneous and thus time and place could be distinguished.

Gravitational attraction of hydrogen atoms caused them to come together into increasingly tight groups of coalescing gas clouds, progenitors of suns. Collisions of hydrogen atoms driven by energy produces helium and from that decreasing amounts of all the other heavier elements. Existence of these elements and energy in a primordial soup of chaos, causes islands of increased complexity in the chaos which are stars, planets and the other stuff which we think of as the universe.

At a smaller scale energy applied during a long period of time to this soup of elements gathered in planets can eventually produce amino acids and from those life can eventually arise due to random collisions and changes over time. Research "abiogenesis". Due to a process called evolution, which means that that which is able to survive and reproduce will and that which is not will not, life also becomes more complex leading to what we now perceive as the present situation. See also "symbiogenesis".

Life implies reproduction and some life evolved from asexual reproduction to sexual reproduction which, not only had evolutionary advantages, but also led to social relationships. These relationships evolved into the development of culture and social groupings which led to the development of religion and politics and economics and science.

Some would argue that this degree of complexity could not be the result of chance changes. But complexity amid chaos only requires time and change. Change is self evident once entropy is no longer one hundred percent ascendant and time is sufficient because it is relative.

Another idea is that the complexity of the universe is possible because the universe and its complexity is only an illusion and what we perceive is only a thought or dream in the consciousness of some larger entity.

"Buddha knows that nothing happening is real. We only think it is real. Close your eyes, sleeping, coma, alive, dead; it's the same thing. Finally at the end we will find a big nothing. All empty. Never to come back again. "

Another question involves the idea that since complexity is created by random events such as collisions of atoms, then it follows that whether a particular such event does or does not occur will change the nature of the ensuing universe or world. This means that it may be that there are an infinite number of worlds because each possible world caused by each such occurrence exists as much as any other world. This is the, so called, "Many Worlds" theory. For example, if you are in a car accident, you may or may not die. By the "Many Worlds" theory there exists a universe in which you did die and another in which you did not. For that matter there also exist worlds in which you fully recovered and others in which you are disabled in various ways. So it may be that the universe we perceive is only one of an infinite number of such universes.

Many Worlds

Horn of Time

So we are at a point in what we perceive as time and in space at what we perceive as a specific place. Behind us in time the universe contracts to a single point or to non-existence as in looking back through a horn of plenty and ahead of us in time it expands. And this particular horn may be one of an infinite number. And the universe may consist of more dimensions than we know and the space and time that makes up this universe may be curved or otherwise shaped by the masses within it in ways we have not yet imagined.


Warped Space

Click here and use the slider for a sense of the scale of the universe in perspective.







Click here for a video of the power of ten (relative scale).

This idea of prespective of size in space is best described in words by H. G. Wells in "A Short History of the World" as follows:

"If, then, we represent our earth as a little ball of one inch diameter, the sun would be a big globe nine feet across and 323 yards away, that is about a fifth of a mile, four or five minutes’ walking. The moon would be a small pea two feet and a half from the world. Between earth and sun there would be the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, at distances of one hundred and twenty- five and two hundred and fifty yards from the sun. All round and about these bodies there would be emptiness until you came to Mars, a hundred and seventy- five feet beyond the earth; Jupiter nearly a mile away, a foot in diameter; Saturn, a little smaller, two miles off; Uranus four miles off and Neptune six miles off. Then nothingness and nothingness except for small particles and drifting scraps of attenuated vapour for thousands of miles. The nearest star to earth on this scale would be 40,000 miles away."

"These figures will serve perhaps to give one some conception of the immense emptiness of space in which the drama of life goes on."

"For in all this enormous vacancy of space we know certainly of life only upon the surface of our earth. It does not penetrate much more than three miles down into the 4,000 miles that separate us from the centre of our globe, and it does not reach more than five miles above its surface. Apparently all the limitlessness of space is otherwise empty and dead."

Click here for a video of Big Time (The Scale of Time).

For the time perspective see a diagram of Geologic time at the following web sites:



Click here for a video of fractals.

After the above discussion about science and philosophy and the nature of the world in which we live and after further reading in the fields of physics, and chemistry and history of thought and quantum mechanics and astrophysics and mathematics and other webs of knowledge combined by some neurological process in what I take to be me, I realized that it may all be a matter of relativity as Einstein began to faintly glimpse. It may be that he simply didn't realize the implications of relativity.

I would argue that the basic questions; what is the nature of the world?, when did it all begin?, how? and others suffer both in the posing of the question and in the expectations of the answer from a lack of perspective both of what we are and where we are within the larger whole. The answer to all our questions may lie in realizing that its all a matter of relativity; relativity of such things as time and space but also of other things such as the nature of being, dimensions, worlds and things of which we are not even aware.

For instance, I read an example explaining part of Einstein's theory of relativity that to make a date it is necessary to specify a place to meet but also a time, thus confirming time as a fourth dimension. This led me to the following train of thought once I realized that this example depended entirely upon a number of assumptions that we all make without thinking because of our perspective.

Let's assume that I don't know anything. I don't know me and I don't know you. So our objective is to get aquainted. Therefore we decide to make a date to do so. Let's start with the assumption that we are beings in zero dimensions. Therefore, whatever or whoever we are, we exist in a situation where there is no differentiation of what exists. That means that we must meet at location zero because that's all there is. It also means that we do not need to meet to get aquainted because if we are in a situation of no differentiation then there is no difference between you and I and we do not exist as separate beings or actually do not exist at all.

Now let's assume that we are beings of one dimension. We decide to meet at 3. Since one dimension is a line it only takes one number for us to meet. However, this number assumes two things. It assumes that we both know the origin of the line and we are agreed on the scale or unit of measurement. So for us to meet we have to have, even in one dimension, a sense of scale and location.

If we are to meet in two dimensions, we would need two numbers, say 5 and 7, to get together. These also assume that we have an origin and a perspective as to unit of measure. Depending on who we are and how we see the world, our origin could be any place and our scale of the meaning of 5 and 7 could be anything from microns to light years or anything even smaller or larger.

Now let's go to the problem from our present perspective which we used to think was in a three dimensional world and let's examine the situation in detail. Since we are in the world we perceive, then we can assume that there is differentation in, at least time and space, and therefore there is differentation in us. I am not you and you are not me, so it makes sense that we might want to get acquainted and learn to know each other. I say, "I'll meet you at 610 Main Street at 3 pm on July 23, 2011." That makes sense to both you and I so we say, "It's a date." The word "date" to us in this context means a getting together and does not refer to a calendar.

You go to 610 Main Street at the agreed time and there is a problem. You can't find me. It seems that 610 main street is a skyscraper with many stories above ground and many levels below ground and it has many rooms on every level and I haven't specified my scale so you don't know whether you are looking for a human, an insect, a protozoa, or a godzilla. In other words you don't know my scale.

The point is that for us to meet we can only do so if we have already made a great number of assumptions about our meeting, so we are only able to meet if we share the same perspective. In the same way the answers to questions we ask, it would seem to me, depend on the perspective from which we start. So from our perspective we calculate that the "Big Bang" was 13.7 billion years ago. But that assumes a time perspective. If we say it was at the center of our expanding universe, then we are assuming one of many worlds and we are also assuming that time itself is constant and not relative as is space. I would submit that we have no basis for any of these assumptions. It may be that if we tried to approach the "Big Bang" the perspective of time and space would change just as our perspective does in diving into a fractal image so that before we even got to our objective both would change in scale so that our original answer has a different meaning. Therefore I conclude that, it may be, that there was no "Big Bang" simply because at that time and place, time and space had different meanings.

Saying this another way, we approach the "Big Bang" as a normal sized human but, as we do, our size becomes smaller or changes scale so that both space and time relative to us becomes bigger and therefore we are never actually able to reach our origin but time and space simply open out as our scale changes and we are always the same distance from our origin as when we started.

"How long is the coast of England?" "I don't know but I'll take this yardstick and measure it." Later I report to you that the coast of England is x yards long. You say, "Please double check that but this time measure it using this foot long ruler." I do so and since there are three feet in a yard I expect to get 3 times x feet. Lo and behold, I actually get quite a bit more than 3 times x feet. Students of chaos theory and fractals expected this. It turns out that the smaller the unit we use to measure the coast of England, the larger the length of the coast becomes. The same principal may apply to using science and measurements to obtain other information as in the discussion above.

Can a human pass through a concrete wall ten feet thick. NO!

Can a neutrino pass through a concrete wall ten feet thick. Not only can it pass through, but from the viewpoint of a neutrino the question is meaningless because there is no conception of a concrete wall ten feet thick. It's all a matter of perspective and scale and relativity.

In the scale in which we exist Newton's Laws described physics perfectly for a few hundred years. Then Einstein showed that Newton's laws only applied at our scale, that in other conditions such as nearing the speed of light Newton's laws gave close but not exact answers. Newton's laws may have been accurate to 15 or 20 decimal places but were not exact.

The Greeks said the smallest particle was an atom, then it became protons, neutrons, and electrons, then electrons and quarks, now strings. We thought the largest object was a mountain, then a planet, then a sun, then a solar system, then a galaxy then even larger.

It seems that we keep trying to define all questions and answers from our perspective never realizing that as perspective or scale changes the questions and answers may change too so that perfectly fine answers at one scale may not apply perfectly or, at all, at another scale and that the answer to everything, what Einstein called the unified field theory, may not apply if the scale changes by several orders of magnitude because that will give a whole new perspective to both the questions and answers.

It may be that the objects we see as galaxies are only individual cells in the body of some larger being and that for that being the time we count as a million years is as but a second.

Also look up references to and consider the Gaia hypothesis. Also note that if space is curved, maybe time is also.

The Mandelbrot Set

Click here for a recording of Alan Watts' talk about our image of the world.

Click here for a video of what caused the Big Bang.

The More Loving One

by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.


by Roie Philom

An essay in which we interview a few denizens of the known universe to find out more about them and get to know them better. It will be noted that these denizens are chosen as representatives of different scales and therefore perspectives. It would, of course, be possible to go to other scales to conduct such interviews, either larger or smaller, than the scales we have chosen. However, since we humans exist in a middle perspective, we have not learned enough about denizens of other scales larger than galaxies or smaller than atoms to interview them with confidence.

The questions are simple:


I am an atom.
I am a molecule.
tobacco mosaic virus
I am a virus.
Escherichia coli
I am a microbe.
I am a human, Homo sapiens.
Gaia or Earth
I am a planet.
I am a sun.
Milky Way
I am a galaxy.


I am an atom of the chemical element hydrogen. I am an electrically neutral atom containing a single positively-charged proton and a single negatively charged electron bound to the nucleus by the Coulomb force. Atomic hydrogen comprises about 75% of the elemental mass of the universe. (Most of the universe's mass is not in the form of chemical elements - that is, "baryonic" matter - but is made up of dark matter and dark energy.)

In everyday life on Earth, isolated hydrogen atoms (usually called "atomic hydrogen" or, more precisely, "monatomic hydrogen") are extremely rare. Instead, hydrogen tends to combine with other atoms in compounds, or with itself to form ordinary (diatomic) hydrogen gas, H2. "Atomic hydrogen" and "hydrogen atom" in ordinary English use have overlapping meanings. For example, a water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms, but does not contain atomic hydrogen (which would refer to isolated hydrogen atoms).

The H-H bond is one of the strongest bonds in chemistry, with a bond dissociation enthalpy of 435.88 kJ/mol at 298 K. As a consequence of this strong bond, H2 dissociates to only a minor extent until higher temperatures. At 3000K, the degree of dissociation is only 7.85%.

H2 = 2 H

Hydrogen atoms are so reactive that they combine with almost all elements.

The most abundant isotope, hydrogen-1, protium, or light hydrogen, contains no neutrons; other isotopes of hydrogen, such as deuterium, contain one or more neutrons.

Hydrogen is not found without its electron in ordinary chemistry (room temperatures and pressures), as ionized hydrogen is highly chemically reactive. When ionized hydrogen is written as "H+" as in the solvation of classical acids such as hydrochloric acid, the hydronium ion, H3O+, is meant, not a literal ionized single hydrogen atom. In that case, the acid transfers the proton to H2O to form H3O+.

Ionized hydrogen without its electron, or free protons, are common in the interstellar medium, and solar wind.

An electron shell may be thought of as an orbit followed by electrons around an atom's nucleus. The closest shell to the nucleus is called the "1 shell" (also called "K shell"), followed by the "2 shell" (or "L shell"), then the "3 shell" (or "M shell"), and so on farther and farther from the nucleus. The shell letters K, L, M, ... are alphabetical.

Each shell can contain only a fixed number of electrons: The 1st shell can hold up to two electrons, the 2nd shell can hold up to eight electrons, the 3rd shell can hold up to 18, and 4th shell can hold up to 32 and so on. Since electrons are electrically attracted to the nucleus, an atom's electrons will generally occupy outer shells only if the more inner shells have already been completely filled by other electrons. However, this is not a strict requirement: Atoms may have two or even three outer shells that are only partly filled with electrons.

The electrons in the partially filled outermost shell (or shells) determine the chemical properties of the atom; it is called valence shell.

Each shell consists of one or more subshells, and each subshell consists of one or more atomic orbitals.

The valence shell is the outermost shell of an atom. It is usually (and misleadingly) said that the electrons in this shell make up its valence electrons, that is, the electrons that determine how the atom behaves in chemical reactions. Just as atoms with complete valence shells (noble gases) are the most chemically non-reactive, those with only one electron in their valence shells (alkalis) or just missing one electron from having a complete shell (halogens) are the most reactive.

However, this is a simplification of the truth. The electrons that determine how an atom reacts chemically are those that travel farthest from the nucleus, that is, those with the most energy. As stated in Subshells, electrons in the inner subshells have less energy than those in outer subshells. This effect is great enough that the 3d electrons have more energy than 4s electrons, and are therefore more important in chemical reactions, making them valence electrons although they are not in the so-called valence shell.


Hydrogen, atomic number 1, has one proton and possibly one neutron in its nucleus. Since it has one electron and the inner or K shell can hold two then it is missing one electron from its valence shell. Oxygen, atomic number 8, has 8 electrons. That means that its K shell is filled with 2 electrons leaving 6 electrons for the L shell. Since the L shell can hold 8 electrons the oxygen atom is missing two electrons. When water forms from Oxygen in the presence of Hydrogen, one O atom combines with 2 H atoms thus filling the valence shells of all three atoms in the resulting molecule.

Elements are identified by the nuclei of the atoms of which they are made. For example, an atom having six protons in its nucleus is carbon, and one having 26 protons is iron. There are over 80 naturally occurring elements, with uranium (92 protons) being the heaviest (heavier nuclei have been produced in reactors on Earth). Nuclei also contain certain neutrons, usually in numbers greater than the number of protons.

Once the universe was created by the Big Bang, the only abundant elements present were hydrogen (H) and helium (He). These elements were not evenly distributed throughout space, and under the influence of gravity they began to "clump" to form more concentrated volumes. These clumps would eventually form galaxies and stars, and through the internal processes by which a star "shines" higher mass elements were formed inside the stars. Upon the death of a star (in a nova or a supernova) these high mass elements, along with even more massive nuclei created during the nova or supernova, were thrown out into space to eventually become incorporated into another star or celestial body.


I am a molecule, a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. One molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. I am a liquid at temperatures above 0 degrees Centigrade at sea level, and a gas or vapor at temperatures above 100 degrees Centigrade, and I often co-exist on Earth with my solid state, ice, and gaseous state (water vapor or steam). I also exist in a liquid crystal state near hydrophilic surfaces.

I cover 71% of the Earth's surface, and am vital for all known forms of life. On Earth, 96.5% of the planet's water is found in oceans, 1.7% in groundwater, 1.7% in glaciers and the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland, a small fraction in other large water bodies, and 0.001% in the air as vapor, clouds (formed of solid and liquid water particles suspended in air), and precipitation. Only 2.5% of the Earth's water is freshwater, and 98.8% of that water is in ice and groundwater. Less than 0.3% of all freshwater is in rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere, and an even smaller amount of the Earth's freshwater (0.003%) is contained within biological bodies and manufactured products.

On Earth I move continually through the hydrological cycle of evaporation and transpiration (evapotranspiration), condensation, precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea. Evaporation and transpiration contribute to the precipitation over land.

Much of the universe's water is produced as a byproduct of star formation. When stars are born, their birth is accompanied by a strong outward wind of gas and dust. When this outflow of material eventually impacts the surrounding gas, the shock waves that are created compress and heat the gas. The water observed is quickly produced in this warm dense gas.

On 22 July 2011, a report described the discovery of a gigantic cloud of water vapor, containing "140 trillion times more water than all of Earth's oceans combined," around a quasar located 12 billion light years from Earth. According to the researchers, the "discovery shows that water has been prevalent in the universe for nearly its entire existence."

Water has been detected in interstellar clouds within the Milky Way galaxy. Water probably exists in abundance in other galaxies, too, because its components, hydrogen and oxygen, are among the most abundant elements in the universe. Interstellar clouds eventually condense into solar nebulae and solar systems such as ours.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

I am a virus.

Virus particles (known as virions) consist of two or three parts: i) the genetic material made from either DNA or RNA, long molecules that carry genetic information; ii) a protein coat that protects these genes; and in some cases iii) an envelope of lipids that surrounds the protein coat when they are outside a cell. The shapes of viruses range from simple helical and icosahedral forms to more complex structures. The average virus is about one one-hundredth the size of the average bacterium. Most viruses are too small to be seen directly with an optical microscope.

The origins of viruses in the evolutionary history of life are unclear: some may have evolved from plasmids - pieces of DNA that can move between cells - while others may have evolved from bacteria. In evolution, viruses are an important means of horizontal gene transfer, which increases genetic diversity. Viruses are considered by some to be a life form, because they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection. However they lack key characteristics (such as cell structure) that are generally considered necessary to count as life. Because they possess some but not all such qualities, viruses have been described as "organisms at the edge of life".

About 5,000 viruses have been described in detail,although there are millions of different types. Viruses are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth and are the most abundant type of biological entity.

Escherichia coli

I am a microbe.

I am a single celled bacteria, a living organism. Currently, estimates of the total number of species of bacteria on Earth range from about 10 million to a billion, but these estimates are tentative, and may be off by many orders of magnitude. By comparison, there are probably between 10 and 30 million species of animals, the vast majority of them insects. The number of scientifically recognized species of animals is about 1,250,000. There are almost 300,000 recognized species of plants.

I live in the mucus of the a tube like structure used for transport of the waste products, which may be liquids, solids, or gases, of a larger multicellular organic being called a mammal. So I normally live in a moist, dark, airless environment of waste products and billions of other single celled organisms similar to myself but I am capable of surviving as a cyst on environmental surfaces for months.

My host beings give birth to living young of their species. I normally colonize a mammal infant's gastrointestinal tract within 40 hours of birth, arriving with food or water or with the individuals handling the child. In the bowel, I adhere to the mucus of the large intestine. I am the primary facultative anaerobe of the human gastrointestinal tract. (Facultative anaerobes are organisms that can grow in either the presence or absence of oxygen.)

I, of course, have no idea of the macro environment in which my host animal lives and am only familar with my micro environment.

I have a mass of 1 to 5 ten thousandths of a milligram and I am about about 2 micrometres long and 0.5 micrometres in diameter, with a cell volume of 0.6 - 0.7 cubic micrometers.

This corresponds to a wet mass of about 1 picogram (pg), assuming that the cell consists mostly of water. The dry mass of a single cell can be estimated as 20% of the wet mass, amounting to 0.2 pg. About half of the dry mass of a bacterial cell consists of carbon, and also about half of it can be attributed to proteins. Therefore, a typical fully grown 1-liter culture of Escherichia coli (at an optical density of 1.0, corresponding to ca. 109 cells/ml) yields about 1 g wet cell mass. (A picogram is .000000000001 grams.)

My small size is extremely important because it allows for a large surface area-to-volume ratio which allows for rapid uptake and intracellular distribution of nutrients and excretion of wastes. At low surface area-to- volume ratios the diffusion of nutrients and waste products across the bacterial cell membrane limits the rate at which microbial metabolism can occur, making the cell less evolutionarily fit.

Bacteria are prokaryotic organisms that reproduce asexually. Bacterial reproduction most commonly occurs by a kind of cell division called binary fission. Binary fission results in the formation of two bacterial cells that are genetically identical.

The ancestors of modern bacteria, like me, were single-celled microorganisms that were the first forms of life to appear on Earth, about 4 billion years ago. For about 3 billion years, all organisms were microscopic, and bacteria and archaea were the dominant forms of life.

Most bacteria have a single circular chromosome that can range in size from only 160,000 base pairs in the endosymbiotic bacteria Candidatus Carsonella ruddii, to 12,200,000 base pairs in the soil-dwelling bacteria Sorangium cellulosum.

Many bacteria such as myself have two distinct modes of movement: forward movement (swimming) and tumbling. The tumbling allows us to reorient and makes our movement a three-dimensional random walk.

A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes. The defining membrane-bound structure that sets eukaryotic cells apart from prokaryotic cells is the nucleus, or nuclear envelope, within which the genetic material is carried.

All large complex organisms are eukaryotes, including animals, plants and fungi. The group also includes many unicellular organisms.

Cell division in eukaryotes is different from that in organisms without a nucleus (Prokaryote). It involves separating the duplicated chromosomes, through movements directed by microtubules. There are two types of division processes. In mitosis, one cell divides to produce two genetically identical cells. In meiosis, which is required in sexual reproduction, one diploid cell (having two instances of each chromosome, one from each parent) undergoes recombination of each pair of parental chromosomes, and then two stages of cell division, resulting in four haploid cells (gametes). Each gamete has just one complement of chromosomes, each a unique mix of the corresponding pair of parental chromosomes.

The Archaea constitute a domain of single-celled microorganisms which have no cell nucleus or any other membrane-bound organelles within their cells.

Bacteria were also involved in the second great evolutionary divergence, that of the archaea and eukaryotes. Here, eukaryotes resulted from ancient bacteria entering into endosymbiotic associations with the ancestors of eukaryotic cells, which were themselves possibly related to the Archaea. This involved the engulfment by proto-eukaryotic cells of alpha-proteobacterial symbionts to form either mitochondria or hydrogenosomes, which are still found in all known Eukarya (sometimes in highly reduced form, e.g. in ancient "amitochondrial" protozoa). Later on, some eukaryotes that already contained mitochondria also engulfed cyanobacterial-like organisms. This led to the formation of chloroplasts in algae and plants. There are also some algae that originated from even later endosymbiotic events. Here, eukaryotes engulfed a eukaryotic algae that developed into a "second-generation" plastid. This is known as secondary endosymbiosis.


I am a human, Homo sapiens.

I am the consciousness of a living organism made up of about 10 trillion specialized individual cells organized in a symbiotic relationship and as such I am a home to more than ten times that many microoganisms including bacteria, fungi, and archeaea which live inside my body. Most of these live in my intestines although they also live on the surface and in deep layers of skin, in the saliva and oral mucosa, in the conjunctiva, and in the gastrointestinal tracts. They consist of well over 500 different species although 90% of them come from about 30 or 40 species. Some of these organisms perform tasks that are useful to me. However, the majority have no known beneficial or harmful effect. It is estimated that the organisms living in my gut have around 100 times as many genes in aggregate as there are in the human genome.

These microorganisms make up about 1 to 3% of my total body weight. About 57% of my total body weight is water.

My species evolved on a planet called Earth about one to two million years ago although in its modern or present form my species has only existed for about 200,000 years. (A year is the amount of time required for my home planet, Earth, to circle in an orbit around its sun.)

Living beings such as myself are able to reproduce themselves by means of a pattern contained in a zipper like double helix arrangement of four organic molecules. I am a mammal which means I have body hair and by sexual reproduction give birth to living young grown from a fertilized egg inside the body of the female of my species. These young are not precocious and must be nourished by milk provided by the female and protected by adults for an extended period of several years before they can survive and thrive on their own.

I am a land dwelling animal on a planet hospitable to life existing with about 1.7 million other species as follows:    
Category Species Totals
Vertebrate Animals
Mammals 5,490
Birds 9,998
Reptiles 9,084
Amphibians 6,433
Fishes 31,300
Total Vertebrates 62,305
Invertebrate Animals
Insects 1,000,000
Spiders and scorpions 102,248
Molluscs 85,000
Crustaceans 47,000
Corals 2,175
Others 68,827
Total Invertebrates 1,305,250
Flowering plants (angiosperms) 281,821
Conifers (gymnosperms) 1,021
Ferns and horsetails 12,000
Mosses 16,236
Red and green algae 10,134
Total Plants 321,212
Lichens 17,000
Mushrooms 31,496
Brown algae 3,067
Total Others 51,563

The species totals do not include domestic animals such as sheep, goats and camels. Nor do they include single-celled organisms such as bacteria.

My normal life span is generally from 50 to 100 years. If I survive my environment long enough I will eventually cease to exist or die due to deterioration of the cells and organs of my body due to age.

Human Characteristics

upright, hairless, opposable thumb - can climb trees and walk on the ground.
Tools & Food
can kill large animals, control of fire, making and use of baskets and pottery.
Large Brains
brain weighs 2% of body weight uses 20% of body oxygen and energy - requires longer childhood, less precocious, must learn culture.
Social Life
community sharing of food, child raising, building, memes, social networks both local and long distance.
Language & Symbols
painting, writing, speech, history and culture passed between generations.
Humans Change the World
by practicing agriculture and use of natural resources and building towns & cities

Gaia or Earth

I am a planet. I am the third rock from the sun, elliptical sphere shaped about 8,000 miles in diameter; one of eight planets with orbits around Sol which is a sun in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy.

I consist of a an outer silicate solid crust, a highly viscous mantle beginning 4 to 20 miles deep composed of silicate rocks that are rich in iron and magnesium relative to the overlying crust, a liquid outer core about 1,408 miles thick composed of iron and nickle, 1800 miles below the Earth's surface, that is much less viscous than the mantle, a solid inner core about 3,200 miles beneath the Earth's surface that is believed to consist of an iron- nickel alloy and may have a temperature similar to the Sun's surface, approximately 5700 K (5430 degrees Celcius) and a thin shell of water and soil on the surface extending from a low of about 7 miles below sea level to a high about 9 miles above. Above my surface is a thin layer of gases called the atmosphere. This atmosphere is made up mostly of nitrogen and oxygen with small amounts of argon, carbon dioxide and water vapor.

I have self regulating systems which sustain life on my surface. The Earth's spheres are the many "spheres" into which the planet Earth is divided. The four most often recognized are the atmosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere and the geosphere. As a whole, the system is sometimes referred to as an ecosphere.

I was formed about five billion years ago in a massive conglomeration and bombardment of meteorites and comets. The immense amount of heat energy released by the high-velocity bombardment melted the entire planet, and it is still cooling off today. Denser materials like iron (Fe) from the meteorites sank into the core of the Earth, while lighter silicates (Si), other oxygen (O) compounds, and water from comets rose near the surface.

A day of 24 hours is defined as the time it takes me to rotate on my axis and a year of 365 1/4 days is the amount of time in which I make one revolution around the sun.

"Earth system science embraces chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and applied sciences in transcending disciplinary boundaries to treat the Earth as an integrated system and seeks a deeper understanding of the physical, chemical, biological and human interactions that determine the past, current and future states of the Earth. Earth system science provides a physical basis for understanding the world upon which humankind seeks to achieve sustainability."

Gaia philosophy (named after Gaia, Greek goddess of the Earth) is a broadly inclusive term for related concepts that living organisms on a planet will affect the nature of their environment in order to make the environment more suitable for life. This set of theories holds that all organisms on a life- giving planet regulate the biosphere to the benefit of the whole. Gaia concept draws a connection between the survivability of a species (hence its evolutionary course) and its usefulness to the survival of other species. The Gaia hypothesis deals with the concept of homeostasis, and claims the resident life forms of a host planet coupled with their environment have acted and act as a single, self-regulating system. This system includes the near- surface rocks, the soil, and the atmosphere.

The Gaia hypothesis is sometimes viewed from significantly different philosophical perspectives. Some environmentalists view it as an almost conscious process, in which the Earth's ecosystem is literally viewed as a single unified organism. Some evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, view it as an undirected emergent property of the ecosystem: as each individual species pursues its own self-interest, their combined actions tend to have counterbalancing effects on environmental change. Proponents of this view sometimes point to examples of life's actions in the past that have resulted in dramatic change rather than stable equilibrium, such as the conversion of the Earth's atmosphere from a reducing environment to an oxygen-rich one.

After much scientific criticism, many elements of the Gaia theory are now considered within ecological science, basically consistent with the planet Earth being the ultimate object of ecological study. Ecologists generally consider the biosphere as an ecosystem and the Gaia theory, though a simplification of that original proposed, to be consistent with a modern vision of global ecology, relaying the concepts of biosphere and biodiversity.

Five principles:

  1. The Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological, and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts are complex and exhibit multi-scale temporal and spatial variability. The understanding of the natural dynamics of the Earth System has advanced greatly in recent years and provides a sound basis for evaluating the effects and consequences of human-driven change.
  2. Human activities are significantly influencing Earth's environment in many ways in addition to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Anthropogenic changes to Earth's land surface, oceans, coasts and atmosphere and to biological diversity, the water cycle and biogeochemical cycles are clearly identifiable beyond natural variability. They are equal to some of the great forces of nature in their extent and impact. Many are accelerating. Global change is real and is happening now.
  3. Global change cannot be understood in terms of a simple Cause and effect paradigm. Human-driven changes cause multiple effects that cascade through the Earth System in complex ways. These effects interact with each other and with local- and regional-scale changes in multidimensional patterns that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to predict.
  4. Earth System dynamics are characterised by critical thresholds and abrupt changes. Human activities could inadvertently trigger such changes with severe consequences for Earth's environment and inhabitants. The Earth System has operated in different states over the last half million years, with abrupt transitions (a decade or less) sometimes occurring between them. Human activities have the potential to switch the Earth System to alternative modes of operation that may prove irreversible and less hospitable to humans and other life. The probability of a human-driven abrupt change in Earth's environment has yet to be quantified but is not negligible.
  5. In terms of some key environmental parameters, the Earth System has moved well outside the range of the natural variability exhibited over the last half million years at least. The nature of changes now occurring simultaneously in the Earth System, their magnitudes and rates of change are unprecedented. The Earth is currently operating in a no-analogue state.


I am a sun. I am the star at the center of the Solar System. I am almost perfectly spherical and consist of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields. I have a diameter of about 1,392,684 km, about 109 times that of Earth, and my mass (about 2,1030 kilograms, 330,000 times that of Earth) accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Chemically, about three quarters of my mass consists of hydrogen, while the rest is mostly helium. The remainder (1.69%, which nonetheless equals 5,628 times the mass of Earth) consists of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon and iron, among others.

I formed about 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a region within a large molecular cloud. Most of the matter gathered in the center, while the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that would become the Solar System. The central mass became increasingly hot and dense, eventually initiating thermonuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that almost all other stars form by this process. My stellar classification, based on spectral class, is G2V, and is informally designated as a yellow dwarf, because my visible radiation is most intense in the yellow-green portion of the spectrum and although my color is white, from the surface of the Earth it may appear yellow because of atmospheric scattering of blue light. In the spectral class label, G2 indicates my surface temperature of approximately 5778 K (5505 °C), and V indicates that I, like most stars, am a main-sequence star, and thus generates my energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium. In my core, I fuse 620 million metric tons of hydrogen each second.

Once regarded by astronomers as a small and relatively insignificant star, I am now thought to be brighter than about 85% of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy, most of which are red dwarfs. My absolute magnitude is +4.83; however, as the star closest to Earth, I am the brightest object in the sky with an apparent magnitude of 26.74. My hot corona continuously expands in space creating the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that extends to the heliopause at roughly 100 astronomical units. The bubble in the interstellar medium formed by the solar wind, the heliosphere, is the largest continuous structure in the Solar System.

I am currently traveling through the Local Interstellar Cloud in the Local Bubble zone, within the inner rim of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy. Of the 50 nearest stellar systems within 17 light-years from Earth (the closest being a red dwarf named Proxima Centauri at approximately 4.2 light-years away), I rank fourth in mass. I orbit the center of the Milky Way at a distance of approximately 24,000 - 26,000 light-years from the galactic center, completing one clockwise orbit, as viewed from the galactic north pole, in about 225-250 million years. Since our galaxy is moving with respect to the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) in the direction of the constellation Hydra with a speed of 550 km/s, my resultant velocity with respect to the CMB is about 370 km/s in the direction of Crater or Leo.

My mean distance from the Earth is approximately 149.6 million kilometers (1 AU), though the distance varies as the Earth moves from perihelion in January to aphelion in July. At this average distance, light travels from the Sun to Earth in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds. The energy of this sunlight supports almost all life on Earth by photosynthesis, and drives Earth's climate and weather.

Milky Way

I am a barred spiral galaxy 100,000-120,000 light-years in diameter containing 200-400 billion stars. I may contain at least as many planets, with an estimated 10 billion of those orbiting in the habitable zone of their parent stars. The Solar System is located within the disk, around two thirds of the way out from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of a spiral-shaped concentration of gas and dust called the Orion-Cygnus Arm. The stars in the inner 10,000 light-years are organized in a bulge and one or more bars. The very center is marked by an intense radio source named Sagittarius A which is likely to be a supermassive black hole. I rotate differentially, faster towards the center and slower towards the outer edge. My rotational period is about 200 million years at the position of the Sun. As a whole I am moving at a velocity of 552 to 630 km per second, depending on the relative frame of reference. I am estimated to be about 13.2 billion years old, nearly as old as the Universe. Surrounded by several smaller satellite galaxies, I am part of the Local Group of galaxies, which forms a subcomponent of the Virgo Supercluster.

My stellar disk is approximately 100,000 light-years (30 kiloparsecs) in diameter, and is, on average, about 1,000 ly (0.3 kpc) thick. As a guide to my relative physical scale of the Milky Way, if I were reduced to 100 meters (110 yd) in diameter, the Solar System, including the hypothesized Oort cloud, would be no more than 1 millimeter (0.039 in) in width. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would be 4.2 mm (0.17 in) distant. Alternatively visualized, if the Solar System out to Pluto were the size of a US quarter (1 inch or 25mm in diameter) I would be a disk approximately 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) in diameter, having roughly one-third the area of the United States.

I contain at least 100 billion stars and may have up to 400 billion stars. The exact figure depends on the number of very low-mass, or dwarf stars, which are hard to detect, especially at distances of more than 300 ly (90 pc) from the Sun. As a comparison, the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy contains an estimated one trillion stars. Filling the space between the stars is a disk of gas and dust called the interstellar medium. This disk has at least a comparable extent in radius to the stars, while the thickness of the gas layer ranges from hundreds of light years for the colder gas to thousands of light years for warmer gas. Both gravitational microlensing and planetary transit observations indicate that there may be at least as many planets bound to stars as there are stars in the Milky Way, while microlensing measurements indicate that there are more rogue planets not bound to host stars than there are stars. Earth-sized planets may be more numerous than gas giants.

The disk of stars in me does not have a sharp edge beyond which there are no stars. Rather, the concentration of stars drops smoothly with distance from my center. Beyond a radius of roughly 40,000 ly (12 kpc), the number of stars per cubic parsec drops much faster with radius, for reasons that are not understood. Surrounding the Galactic disk is a spherical Galactic Halo of stars and globular clusters that extends further outward, but is limited in size by the orbits of my two satellites, the Large and the Small Magellanic Clouds, whose closest approach to the Galactic center is about 180,000 ly (55 kpc). At this distance or beyond, the orbits of most halo objects would be disrupted by the Magellanic Clouds. Hence, such objects would likely be ejected from my vicinity.

Estimates for my mass vary, depending upon the method and data used. At the low end of the estimate range, my mass is 5.8X10^11 solar masses (M), somewhat smaller than the Andromeda Galaxy. Measurements using the Very Long Baseline Array in 2009 found velocities as large as 254 km/s for stars at my outer edge, higher than the previously accepted value of 220 km/s. As the orbital velocity depends on the total mass inside the orbital radius, this suggests that I am more massive, roughly equaling the mass of Andromeda Galaxy at 7X10^11 M within 50 kiloparsecs (160,000 ly) of its center. A 2010 measurement of the radial velocity of halo stars finds the mass enclosed within 80 kiloparsecs is 7X10^11 M. Most of my mass appears to be matter of unknown form which interacts with other matter through gravitational but not electromagnetic forces; this is dubbed dark matter. A dark matter halo is spread out relatively uniformly to a distance beyond one hundred kiloparsecs from my Galactic Center. Mathematical models of me suggest that my total mass lies in the range 1-1.5X10^12 M.

I began as one or several small overdensities in the mass distribution in the Universe shortly after the Big Bang. Some of these overdensities were the seeds of globular clusters in which the oldest remaining stars in what is now me formed. These stars and clusters now comprise my stellar halo. Within a few billion years of the birth of the first stars, my mass was large enough so that it was spinning relatively quickly. Due to conservation of angular momentum, this led the gaseous interstellar medium to collapse from a roughly spheroidal shape to a disk. Therefore, later generations of stars formed in this spiral disk. Most younger stars, including the Sun, are observed to be in the disk.

Since the first stars began to form, I have grown through both galaxy mergers (particularly early in my growth) and accretion of gas directly from the Galactic halo. I am currently accreting material from my two nearest satellite galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, through the Magellanic Stream. Direct accretion of gas is observed in high velocity clouds like the Smith Cloud. However, my properties such as stellar mass, angular momentum, and metallicity in my outermost regions suggest I have suffered no mergers with large galaxies in the last 10 billion years. This lack of recent major mergers is unusual among similar spiral galaxies; my neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, appears to have a more typical history shaped by more recent mergers with relatively large galaxies.

I and the Andromeda Galaxy are a binary system of giant spiral galaxies belonging to a group of 50 closely bound galaxies known as the Local Group, itself being part of the Virgo Supercluster.

Two smaller galaxies and a number of dwarf galaxies in the Local Group orbit me. The largest of these is the Large Magellanic Cloud with a diameter of 20,000 light-years. It has a close companion, the Small Magellanic Cloud. The Magellanic Stream is a peculiar streamer of neutral hydrogen gas connecting these two small galaxies. The stream is thought to have been dragged from the Magellanic Clouds in tidal interactions with me. Some of the dwarf galaxies orbiting me are Canis Major Dwarf (the closest), Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, Ursa Minor Dwarf, Sculptor Dwarf, Sextans Dwarf, Fornax Dwarf, and Leo I Dwarf. The smallest Milky Way dwarf galaxies are only 500 light-years in diameter. These include Carina Dwarf, Draco Dwarf, and Leo II Dwarf. There may still be undetected dwarf galaxies, which are dynamically bound to me, as well as some that have already been absorbed by me, such as Omega Centauri. Observations through the Zone of Avoidance are frequently detecting new distant and nearby galaxies. Some galaxies consisting mostly of gas and dust may also have evaded detection so far.

The Curtain of Knowledge

by Roie Philom

Free your mind of the concept that time and space are anything other than relative. In other words, they do not exist as we perceive them.

The history of science is a history of slowly pulling back the curtain of knowledge and exposing more and more of what we don't know.

Before the Greeks the world was flat to the number of digits that were significant at that time.

For over 1000 years of Greek civilization knowledge advanced.

Then with the rise of the power of religion in Europe and northern Africa the advance of knowledge was stopped or slowed for another 1000 years and much knowledge that had been gained was purposely destroyed. A number of renaissance men as listed here kept the torch of knowledge alive and advanced it.

Sir Issac Newton pulled back the curtain a little more by formulating Newton's Laws.

Albert Einstein discovered that Newton's laws were only correct to the number of digits that were significant at that time and that, on a more macro scale, time and space and mass were relative and that mass and energy could be converted one to the other.

I think that if one can grasp the concept of the absolute relativity of time and space and realize that they do not exist as we see them, then one may be able to understand the universe and our existence and more in a new light.

The arrow of time depends on the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy increases in our world because there are more possible disordered states than ordered states so things tend toward disorder.

Complete disorder would be nothingness. We know this is not the state of existence because of the fact that we exist. So perhaps there is nothing out to a great number of significant digits but so many zeros after the decimal maybe there are some numbers. This would mean that dark energy or whatever is there could at random be in the form of ordered regions in the nothingness so that multiple universes could exist.

I have heard cosmologists say that, if this is the case, these universes would vary greatly in the time it took to form them and in their size and in the time of their existence. In my opinion this is an error because the statement itself does not accept the absolute relativity of time and space. Who is to say what is a great amount of time for them to form or to exist and what is a small or a large universe. Those concepts only exist from our perspective. I ask them to pull back the curtain a little more.

Politics and Social Relationships

We are animals, beings of great complexity, existing in a universe of the more or less random application of energy or power. We are social animals which means we tend to aggregate and interact with one another. Science is the study of the universe and how it exists and how it exerts power over us. Politics is the study of society, or relationships among ourselves, and how power is distributed in society.

The universe exerts power over us whether it is physical, (we may be struck by lightning or blown away or swallowed up in an earthquake), or biological, (we may be killed or disabled by our fellow man or by a virus or by a bear) or even mental, (we may think about these things or other things so much or be so concerned about them that we may go mad.)

Society exerts power over us basically in three ways. One of these is physical power. If I want something from you I can get it simply if I am bigger than you or I have a bigger gun or I have a bigger army. One of these is economic power. I can get something from you if I have something you want and we can make a deal. For instance, if I own land and you don't and you need to grow wheat to feed your family, I can let you use part of my land to grow wheat in return for a portion of your crop or in return for you providing me so many days of labor per year. One of these is charismatic power. I may have influence over you due to my personality, meaning you like or love me or believe in me as a leader, or due to my ability to con you. I may be able to convince you that if you give me something I want I can foretell your future or protect you from evil.

Because we are social animals we have a need to aggregate into groups; families, tribes and other social organizations. We do this for purposes such as protection and power and reproduction and recreation. When we congregate then we form a social hierarchy meaning that for various reasons some rise to the top and others fall to the bottom. These reasons usually involve, once again, physical attributes, economic wealth, or charismatic attributes. Those at the top of society tend to be stronger, better looking, smarter, and richer. Now you might want to argue whether they are at the top of the social hierarchy for these reasons or whether we consider them stronger, better looking, smarter and richer because they are at the top of the heap. Sometimes the emperor has no clothes.

"The poor are with you always." This simply means that there will always be a relative few at the top and a greater number nearer the bottom rungs of the societal ladder.

Power and its benefits tends to rise to the top classes of society to the detriment and impoverishment of the lower classes. The task of politics is to limit this tendency because if the effects become too extreme the result will be an uprising by the lower classes which may cause a revolution and a rearrangement of the social hierarchy.

The two universal sources of political power are physical and economic and in the so called "Western world" there is also the rise of religious power. So the task of politics becomes to put limits on government, wealth and religion. The very worst situation is when these three reins of power are all held by one small group and this is what tends to happen in the absence of offsetting forces.

The "divine right of Kings" or political power has historically been limited by uprisings which led to the "Magna Carta" and to the rise of various forms of democracy. There have been various efforts to limit economic power usually in terms of socialism or communism. These have been mostly unsuccessful. Religious power has been limited in extreme cases by outright banning of religion by governments and in other cases by attempts to legislate religious freedom.

In the twentieth century there was an otherwise unusual phenomena economically known as the rise of the "middle class". This meant that various progressive government policies led to a bulge in a middle economic class so that the class heirarcy rather than being a straight pyramid had a bulge in the middle. However, by the turn of the millenium this bulge began to dissipate.

Power is not a zero sum game because overall economic power tends to increase due to the labors and increased efficiency and technological innovations of a growing population. In this situation the problem is not only how to equitably distribute existing wealth but how to distribute new wealth being created. One method used by those in power is to limit the knowledge of the lower classes as to how much wealth is increasing so that small amounts of incremental wealth can be distributed to lower economic classes while the lion's share is retained by the upper classes.

Historically also the size of political units has increased from a family to a tribe to a kingdom to an empire to a country and some see this tendency to eventually result in a world government. Some fear this and some think it would limit conflict.

It is said that an alien race from another planet discovered Earth and it was reported that the earthlings had developed nuclear weapons. The question then asked was, "Are the earthlings then intelligent and a threat to us?" The answer was, "No, because they are pointing the weapons at themselves!"

Why is the history of mankind basically a story of conflict and war?

Man has evolved into a social species meaning that the existence of an individual is to a large extent defined by social relationships with others. This is expressed mainly by a desire of each of us to congregate with others as much as possible like ourselves. We feel closer to other animals like horses and dogs which are more like us than we do to others more unlike ourselves such as spiders and snakes.

Within our species we tend to congregate with those who are a similar color, physical type, culture and background as ourselves. Conversely we feel suspicion or fear or superiority about those unlike ourselves and our group.

The roots of conflict are usually in greed or ego or religion or fear or some combination of these. We tend to go to war or fight with others who are not of our group because we fear them or we want to take what they have or we want to exert power over them or we want to force them to be more like us.

Any conflict is started by the aggressor against a defender who is thought to be weaker and thus susceptible to aggression.

For instance the Germans and the Japanese started World War II due to ego and greed. They felt that their culture was superior and therefore it was their destiny to control other cultures and appropriate what these cultures had and destroy those people and those parts of other cultures which were unlike themselves.

The Crusades and the Thirty Years War and the "troubles" in Ireland and many other wars were wars over religion in which one culture tries to impose their beliefs on others or, if that is not possible, to destroy the others.

The Korean and the Vietnam wars were entered by the United States due to fear of communism which was an economic system unlike our own.

The Gulf War was started by Saddam Hussein due to greed and ego because of his desire to dominate that part of the world and world oil supplies. It was entered by the United States and other countries due to fear that he would do just that and thus control essential energy prices.

The war in Afghanistan was started by the United States due to fear of terrorists and as a defending response to attacks by terrorists.

The Iraq war was started by the United States due to ego and greed.

Business has always been able to profit from wars. After the Second World War and the Vietnam War the upper one percent of society in terms of wealth realized that war was a very convenient vehicle to use as an excuse to transfer even more wealth from the lower 99% to the upper 1%. This was used to great effect during the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan in which a complicit government contracted much of the support of the war to private businesses such as Halliburton and others thus transferring billions of dollars of taxpayer's money to the very rich.

So at this point another reason for war is to use war as a vehicle to transfer wealth.

The purpose of government is to control power and to exercise power for the following purposes:

  1. To protect the society from other nations and internally from violence among its citizens and to enter into treaties with other nations.
  2. To provide a set of rules (laws) and a system of administering justice to maintain the social order.
  3. To promote the general welfare and well being of its citizens including providing those services essential for community life and for protecting public health and safety as well as a national infrastructure and protection of the environment.
  4. To make economic decisions which will promote the general economy and the creation of goods and services for its people and the equitable distribution of the general wealth.
  5. To protect the life, liberty, and rights of all its citizens.

Signs of the failure of government would include the following:

  1. There is air available but some people suffocate because they are not allowed access.
  2. There is water available but some people die or become dehydrated because they are not allowed access.
  3. There is food available but some people die or are malnourished because they are not allowed access.
  4. There is shelter available but some people are homeless.
  5. There is health care available but some people die or are in ill health because they are not allowed access.
  6. There is energy available but some people freeze to death or live in conditions of extreme heat or cold because they are not allowed access.
  7. There is knowledge available but some people are uneducated because they are not allowed access.
  8. Some people are ostracized or denied basic freedoms without having committed acts to harm others to justify this.

According to Buddhist philosophy a leader needs three interconnected attributes to lead effectively. These are Strength, Knowledge and Compassion. If any of the three are missing the leader cannot be a good leader. The four pillars of a happy life are the economy, the government, the culture and the environment.

Click here for a video of Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Jigmi Y. Thinley, at World Leaders Forum at Columbia University.

In the late nineteenth century after Darwin published "The Origin of Species" it was believed that evolution would benefit from increased competition. The capitalist free market economy favored individual resourcefulness and was therefore considered to be good. Social welfare was seen as helping the sickly and feebleminded to survive and multiply, thereby working against natural selection and decreasing the future survivability of the entire species.

My argument against this train of thought is as follows:

Men develop a social hierarchy in which some men rise to the top in wealth and power. For each person at or near the top of society it is required that there be a greater number of men lower in the hierarchy to support him and provide him his wealth and power. One man requires a number of servants. A King requires an army. A president of a company requires many workers.

Although the man at the top may be richer and more powerful than any below him, he is not richer or more powerful than all of the lower classes together. So, for a society to endure, there must be a feeling of some type of fairness and equality in the society. Otherwise, not only will the lower classes refuse to support the upper classes but they may openly rebel. If this happens the lower classes will probably be victorious and the social order will be upset and replaced by a new order.

Since this process leads to continuous anarchy and upheaval it is ultimately detrimental to all involved. For this reason men have discovered that there must be a social contract that can be agreed on by all or, at least by the great majority, as to rules of behavior. Since all must enter into this social contract then all the members of the society become equal in terms of forming such a contract. This means that any government resulting from such a contract must provide for, not only the rich and upper classes but also, the poorer and disadvantaged in society. Otherwise there can be no social contract agreed to by all.

History shows that this has advantages for not only the weak but also for the powerful in society because this contract helps the powerful to secure their position. Without such a contract (government) the powerful are in danger at any time of losing their position and becoming a part of the underclass.

Click here for a paper by Alan Asch on the related philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand in "Atlas Shrugged".


Individuals and institutions who have power over others are a threat to the life and liberty of the less powerful. However, for the cooperative effort necessary for the survival and enrichment of the society, each must give up some liberty in exchange for the protection and efficiency of the many. This makes the institution of the many more powerful than the individual and thus is a threat to the individual.

This is the essence of the conservative versus the liberal argument.

The liberal says, "We need the power of the many."

The conservative says, "We treasure the liberty of the individual."

The trick is to make a government of laws to protect the society and yet to protect the liberty of the individual. The United States Constitution attempts to set up the government of laws but the Bill of Rights exists to protect the liberty of the individual.

The liberal sees government as an institution for the common good.

The libertarian sees government as an institution which seeks to tax, regulate, control, enslave, conscript, or kill the individual.

The capitalist conservative sees government as an instrument to control the masses to maintain order and the integrity of the social and economic structure. The goal is to protect the lifestyle and power of the upper classes at the expense of the less powerful in the lower classes.

The social conservative sees government as an agency to maintain the moral order and to promote conformity to what is usually a defined set of moral or religious beliefs. As such the social conservative is almost the exact opposite of the libertarian.

During human evolution this problem was approached by the development of a culture based on sharing for the common good which also ostracized those who tried to gain control of the society through power or through hoarding goods. In other words, honor those who shared and cared for others and shun those who were selfish or self serving. This culture also promoted conformity.

After the development of agriculture and cities and the idea of the ownership of property these cultural memes were weakened. This led to the rise of capitalism and the idea of individual liberty from conformity to the memes of the larger society thus causing the creation of social and economic classes and also leading to more progress and diversity through individual innovation and imagination.

Since capitalism arose in the world, workers have been banding together; at first locally in small groups, but increasingly workers realized that the greater the strength of workers' organization, the better able workers are to challenge capitalism. There is a history of efforts of organizing workers regardless of race, ethnicity, gender - or border, the effort to organise and create collaboration and co-operation between workers the world over in order to win the world for those who make it run.

In "Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink", Louis Hyman, Ph.D. '07, reconstructs the history of personal debt in modern America.

The result of almost a century of financial innovation, intermittent government policymaking, and increased real borrowing by households is our current economy-critically dependent on credit in a volatile world. "The relative danger of relying on consumer credit to drive the economy," Hyman observes, "remains a macroeconomic puzzle to be solved." Will we invest the profits from borrowing productively to create jobs and sustainable purchasing power on the part of most households? Or will we distribute economic returns to a small number of Americans at the top of the food chain and then lend those profits to everyone else in the form of credit-card debt and mortgage- backed securities? "American capitalism," he concludes, "is America, and we can choose together to submit to it, or rise to its challenges, making what we will of its possibilities."

Jonathan Levy explains the emerging world of capitalism and risk in "Freaks of Fortune - The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America"

Focusing on the hopes and anxieties of ordinary people, Jonathan Levy shows how risk developed through the extraordinary growth of new financial institutions—insurance corporations, savings banks, mortgage-backed securities markets, commodities futures markets, and securities markets—while posing inescapable moral questions. For at the heart of risk's rise was a new vision of freedom. To be a free individual, whether an emancipated slave, a plains farmer, or a Wall Street financier, was to take, assume, and manage one's own personal risk. Yet this often meant offloading that same risk onto a series of new financial institutions, which together have only recently acquired the name "financial services industry." Levy traces the fate of a new vision of personal freedom, as it unfolded in the new economic reality created by the American financial system.

Early in the last decade, an Ayn Rand disciple named Alan Greenspan, who had been trusted with the U.S. government's powers for regulating the financial economy, stated his faith in the ability of that economy to maintain its own stability: "Recent regulatory reform coupled with innovative technologies has spawned rapidly growing markets for, among other products, asset-backed securities, collateral loan obligations, and credit derivative default swaps. These increasingly complex financial instruments have contributed, especially over the recent stressful period, to the development of a far more flexible, efficient, and hence resilient financial system than existed just a quarter- century ago."

At the beginning of this decade, in the wake of the failure of Greenspan's faith to prevent the eclipse of one economic order of things, Robert Solow, another towering figure in the economics profession, reflected on Greenspan's credo and voiced his suspicion that the financialization of the U.S. economy over the last quarter-century created not "real," but fictitious wealth: "Flexible maybe, resilient apparently not, but how about efficient? How much do all those exotic securities, and the institutions that create them, buy them, and sell them, actually contribute to the ‘real' economy that provides us with goods and services, now and for the future?"

When collective euphoria, financial innovation, and astonishing disproportions of power mix together, what bubbles into being is anything but mere vapor. In such financial exchanges we see not only the generation and transfer of real wealth - that is, real effects in the social and political world - but also that such transfers can incorporate great violence and disruption for some as the causes of great profit for others.

"Power: A Radical View" by Steven Lukes

Power has three faces

This is essential reading for those interested in the dynamics of power relations and, in particular, how power works to either enhance or undermine democratic participation in society. Over the course of the three essays that constitute the second edition of this book, Lukes develops an idea of power in three dimensions. In the first dimension, power is clearly visible in decision-making processes, where A exercises power over B when A's policy preferences, reflecting A's subjective interests, prevail over B's. Here, power is discernible only where a conflict of interests informs open debate over a public issue. This conflict gives rise to divergent policy preferences competing for public acceptance and political validation.

However, if one were to confine the study of power to its effects in the first dimension, that is, to the outcomes of decision-making processes, one misses other aspects of power detected in the biases of non-decision-making. Non- decision-making power is the power to keep certain issues off the table: it is the power to deny certain individuals or groups access to decision-making processes, and thus to prevent certain grievances from being translated into public issues. While decision-making power, as seen in the first dimension, may be widely distributed among various groups and individuals who alternately succeed in promoting their interests, there may be at the same time unity among these otherwise conflicting interests in preventing certain segments of the population from contributing to the discussion. The second dimension of power consists in this ability to control the agenda, to decide what gets decided--and what doesn't. Here, as in power's first dimension, power is again seen in a conflict situation, only the conflict is now covert, rendered invisible by non-decision-making power.

The third dimension of power incorporates and transcends power's first and second faces. Those who study three-dimensional power recognize not only power as it is exercised in the first and second dimensions but also power where it need not be so exercised. This occurs in the apparent absence of conflict, where power can be seen as the capacity to secure compliance to domination and thereby prevent conflicts or grievances from arising in the first place.

The third face of power is not directly visible, because the securing of willing compliance to domination does not require an explicit exercise of power. However, the mechanisms of such power (domination) are empirically accessible. They may involve the furthering of the material interests of the dominated within certain limits, as part of a class compromise, or they may involve the inculcation of ideologies that bring the dominated to accept the power structure of society as the "natural order of things" or as being divinely established. In both cases, which are not mutually exclusive, the "true interests" of the dominated are obscured; and the dominated are misled to act contrary to their real interests, chief among them being, one may argue, an interest in NOT being dominated and in having more freedom to live according to "the dictates of one's own nature and judgment."

Of course, as Lukes admits, "true interests" is a contested term. There doesn't seem to be a rigid set of objective interests with which everyone can readily identify. Rather than supplying a universal answer to the question of true interests, Lukes responds to this difficulty by providing a set of guidelines for identifying people's interests. The answer, Lukes argues, always depends on three things: the purpose of one's inquiry, one's theoretical framework, and the methods used.

Lukes also recognizes another difficulty in discussing the idea of true interests: It almost always leads to the notion of "false consciousness." False consciousness is a controversial idea, because it is often assumed to have condescending, elitist connotations. However, Lukes regards false consciousness as simply the result of being misled, many instances of which throughout history can be easily identified without much controversy. The mechanisms of false consciousness include censorship, disinformation, and "the promotion and sustenance of all kinds of failures of rationality and illusory thinking, among them the `naturalization' of what could be otherwise and the misrecognition of the sources of desire and belief" (p.149).

The third face of power, as developed by Lukes, expands the conceptual territory of power and reorients its study to include instances of power that escape the attention of those who conceive of power too narrowly, thereby limiting their observations to the realm of political participation. With this book, Lukes makes a vital contribution to the sociological study of power by revealing it as "capacity," and by showing how power works most effectively (and insidiously) when it is hidden.


Who Holds Power

a condition of lawlessness or political disorder brought about by the absence of governmental authority.
One Ruler
One person or a small group hold power
a form of government in which a ruler or small clique wield absolute power (not restricted by a constitution or laws).
a government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of a monarch who reigns over a state or territory, usually for life and by hereditary right; the monarch may be either a sole absolute ruler or a sovereign - such as a king, queen, or prince - with constitutionally limited authority.
a government in which control is exercised by a small group of individuals whose authority generally is based on wealth or power.
a form of government in which a Deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, but the Deity's laws are interpreted by ecclesiastical authorities (bishops, mullahs, etc.); a government subject to religious authority.
a government that seeks to subordinate the individual to the state by controlling not only all political and economic matters, but also the attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population.
Power is held by the people governed.
Absolute Democracy
a form of government where all laws are passed by a direct vote of the people.
Representative Democracy
a form of government in which the supreme power is retained by the people, but which is usually exercised indirectly through a system of representation and delegated authority periodically renewed.

How is the Economy Structured

a system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single - often authoritarian - party holds power; state controls are imposed with the elimination of private ownership of property or capital while claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people (i.e., a classless society).
a government in which the means of planning, producing, and distributing goods is controlled by a central government that theoretically seeks a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor.
a government in which the means of planning, producing, and distributing goods is controlled by the free market.
Companies providing basic services are owned by those using those services. Exists within a capitalist system.

Government by Structure

a nation, state, or other political entity founded on law and united by a compact of the people for the common good.
Confederacy (Confederation)
a union by compact or treaty between states, provinces, or territories, that creates a central government with limited powers; the constituent entities retain supreme authority over all matters except those delegated to the central government.
Federal (Federation)
a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided - usually by means of a constitution - between a central authority and a number of constituent regions (states, colonies, or provinces) so that each region retains some management of its internal affairs; differs from a confederacy in that the central government exerts influence directly upon both individuals as well as upon the regional units.
a government by or operating under an authoritative document (constitution) that sets forth the system of fundamental laws and principles that determines the nature, functions, and limits of that government and in which the sovereign power of the people is spelled out in a governing constitution.
Parliamentary government (Cabinet-Parliamentary government)
a government in which members of an executive branch (the cabinet and its leader - a prime minister, premier, or chancellor) are nominated to their positions by a legislature or parliament, and are directly responsible to it; this type of government can be dissolved at will by the parliament (legislature) by means of a no confidence vote or the leader of the cabinet may dissolve the parliament if it can no longer function.
a system of government where the executive branch exists separately from a legislature (to which it is generally not accountable).

Fact, Fiction, and Wishes about the Government of the United States

We have a Commonwealth that is a constitutional presidential federation with a capitalist economic system governed by an oligarchy.

We think we have a Commonwealth that is a constitutional presidential federation with a capitalist economic system governed by a representative democracy.

We probably should have a Commonwealth that is a constitutional parliamentary federation with a cooperative capitalist economic system governed by a representative democracy.

Why is this so and how can it be changed?

People believe that we have a representative democracy because we are taught this in school and we are taught to be patriotic which is defined as supporting the present power structure and believing what we have been told.

If we really had a representative democracy we would be governed by elected representatives who were our peers, people who had families and jobs and careers just like the rest of us and who were elected for a short period of their lives to help govern us. Instead government is by a class of career politicians who are mostly millionaires or multi-millionaires.

After the Civil War a class of people developed who were rich enough to influence and buy government by financing politicians. They were called "Captains of Industry" or "Robber Barons" or such titles. They were mainly in the railroad and steel and finance and later in the oil sectors of the economy. They were driven by greed and ego and they accumulated wealth and power and mismanaged the economy until they caused the great depression of the 1930s after smaller warning depressions in the late 19th century. After that debacle their power was reined in somewhat by populist government and by acts like the progressive income tax and the inheritance tax and the social security act.

After World War II the same thing began to happen again and escalated during and after the Reagan Administration. This time it was banking and insurance and energy and defense contractors and pharmaceuticals among others. This time the economic collapse occurred in 2008.

The reason this occurs is because we have a government based not on the votes of people in a democracy but on the influence of money in buying those votes and thus in controlling government. The cure for this condition lies in setting up a system of limiting politicians to one term in office and preventing monetary influence by outlawing influence, not only in gifts and bribes while running for office or while in office but also outlawing any payments to politicians or employment of politicians after they leave office. This would mean that they would have to be paid a salary by the taxpayers for the rest of their lives after they left office. It would also mean that their campaigns for office would have to be financed solely by the public once they had collected a sufficient number of voter's signatures on a petition to qualify them as viable candidates.

The problem with implementing this system, of course, is that this change would have to get the support of politicians who are now the same ones benefiting from the present system. That is very unlikely.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people."

Dwight D. Eisenhower

People in the world can be thought of as the top 1% of 1% in terms of wealth and power who control the distribution of wealth and power and the 1% who mostly benefit from that arrangement and the 99% who are exploited to transfer wealth and power to the oligarchy. The 99% are allowed to keep some wealth and are taught to believe that they have a large portion of all the wealth and power so that they will be satisfied enough with the existing structure that they will not revolt and upset the apple cart. The problem is that the oligarchy, due to ego and greed, tends to want to take even more for themselves and further impoverish the 99% and sometimes they overstep and the 99% begin to see that the emperor has no clothes. This can lead to an upset of the social order.

As far as the universe is concerned the objective is to decrease entropy, so as long as complexity is maintained and increased in total and complex physical entities, and mental and social structures exist and are reproduced everything is fine. It matters not whether there is a slave class and a ruling class or an even distribution of complexity. It is the sum of complexity that counts. You could argue, of course, that a ruling class is more complex than a uniform distribution and therefore favored by the existence of the universe. That is a question I will leave for later.

The question then becomes, what determines which individuals are to be in the oligarchy and which are to be in the exploited classes. One obvious determinant is DNA or inheritance. So position can be attained due to an accident of birth. Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Some are able due to a combination of luck and skill, usually intelligence but sometimes just hard work, to cross class lines and reach the upper strata. The fiction is that this route is available to all. Although it is available, very very few have even the remotest chance of attaining it. The lower 99% probably think their chance of changing economic classes is about 10% when it is actually an insignificant chance. Of course that same mindset is what makes lotteries work. They also think that tripling or quadrupling their annual income or their net worth will put them in the ruling class. It won't and they don't realise this because they have no conception of how large the wealth and influence of the top 1% of the top 1% actually is.

The Oligarchy that controls the government and the wealth of the United States is not a conspiracy as many argue. It's right out in the open. It's just a collection of people in business and politics and the military and the media who recognize that their interests are better served by cooperation than they would be by competition. It's just as the Captains of Industry at the end of the 19th century found that price fixing and monopolies made them more money than competition did. Most of the people who are part of the Oligarchy don't even realize it exists. They think that they are just a bunch of smart people making decisions that are the best for the country because they know that what is in their best interests is also in the best interest of the country. That is because, as far as they are concerned, they are the country.

The Republicans and the Democrats often disagree about what is in the best interests of the country but their policies always tend to preserve the status quo. There hasn't been a federal law in the last sixty years that decreased either the government's or big corporations' power and influence.

Problems with Democracy

Voting for and by dummies.
The cure for this problem could be a requirement to pass a civics class at the high school level to enable voting. An argument against this is that it is unfair to apply laws passed by elected representatives to someone not allowed to vote for those representatives. Click here for a video of dummies.
Professional politicians pursuing their own self interest.
The cure for this problem could be term limits and government financing of elections and outlawing other payments to politicians, so that a class of professional politicians did not develop. Click here for a video of self interest.
Everybody wants a free lunch.
Hopefully solving the first two problems would cure this problem also. Everyone would still want a free lunch but politicians would not feel so much pressure to give it to them.

Tamar Gendler - Western Philosophy - Politics and Economics

See Striking at the Root of Evil - a call for reform of political campaigns and the influence of money on government.

Life in the United States:

"The Greatest country in the world"
Politicians won't discuss income inequality because they and their donors are mostly all rich. They say that to discuss the fact that the richer classes rule society and accumulate most of the wealth and the poorer classes are downtrodden might encourage class warfare.

If you are carrying cash in your car or on your person the police can take it without charging you with any crime, if they can find any cause to stop you, by saying that, in their professional opinion, you were probably going to buy drugs with it which would be a crime. After they take your cash the police department and/or district attorney's office can spend it any way they want.

The government can take any of your property that they want be saying that they think it is being used for a crime, without any proof. You have to prove it wasn't.

Many police departments think of themselves as an occupying army and try to act as if they are a military unit.

As in Hong Kong, our democracy allows us to vote for any candidate whose candidacy has been approved in advance by our rulers.

If the IRS decides that you owe money because you have been cheating on your taxes, they don't have to prove that. You have to prove you weren't.

The defense budget of the United States is more than 4 times that of China which is second in defense spending and almost 7 times as great as that of Russia which is in third place and over half the United States' discretionary budget goes to the military rather than the people's needs.

The thief who steals a loaf of bread to feed his children goes to jail. The banker who steals millions gets a subsidy from the taxpayers.

There are large numbers of unemployed people while infrastructure crumbles.
There are large numbers of homeless people while many houses sit empty and deteriorate.
Many people do not have enough food to eat while about 40% of the food produced is thrown out.
There are over 7 billion humans. 85 of them have more wealth than the poorest 3 billion.
Half the world's population owns 99.3% of the wealth, leaving 0.7% for the other half.
The top-earning 20 percent of Americans received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the USA, compared with just 3.4 percent made by the bottom 20 percent of earners. This ratio of 15:1 is approximately double that of 8:1 in 1968.
Advertising, insurance and marketing make up about 6% of the work force, yet these professions do not produce any consumer good or service.
Many workers work full time but must also rely on government benefits to live and support a family.
Prices charged for many products do not include the price of damage to the environment or underpayment for workers caused by production of the product.
Lack of income for the middle class limits the markets for products produced.
Many businesses competing with each other to provide the same product causes much duplication of effort.
On the other hand, lack of competition as in monopoly or lack of sufficient capital to start a competing business causes overpricing in the market.
The system is based on greed and competition and ego rather than on kindness and sharing and working together.
Some services are provided by private enterprise that could and should be more efficiently provided by government. Health care is one example.
Capitalism encourages short term gain at the expense of the long term welfare of the society.
Labor is exploited by both commerce and government to the benefit of the ruling class.

The very rich do not need to fear doing wrong for the simple reason that if one of them does it, it cannot be wrong by definition. The King or the Pope is never wrong. As Richard Nixon said, "If the President does it, that makes it legal."

If they make a financial mistake, for instance, they will simply take enough money from the lower classes to refill their coffers. If they commit a crime such as killing four people driving drunk they will just avoid jail time by pleading affluenza, the belief that the rules of living for the majority do not apply to the ruling class.

Can be used to help people but also can be used to spy on and control them and to support those institutions exploiting them.
The Military-Industrial complex - the War Machine
Uses people's innate fear of others to create an almost perpetual state of War which can be used to transfer tax money to companies supporting and conducting wars to kill and destroy those others. The story is that we must do it to them before they do it to us.
Banking, insurance and finance
The idea is to use people's fear of losing their money to sell them the idea of protection of their wealth and investments to increase their wealth to create an income stream into which the financial institution can dip and extract a part of that wealth, sometimes a very large part.
Health and medicine
Uses people's fear of sickness and death to sell them over used and over priced medical tests, medical procedures and drugs as opposed to programs to prevent disease and promote life styles designed to enhance their overall health and happiness.
Is often used to create a world view desired by the elite and to entertain and promote patriotism and loyalty by the use of organized sports and other methods but education is also a necessary function in society to teach critical thinking.
Food and Agriculture
Does a great job producing food necessary for people's lives but also creates demands for "junk" foods that often cause obsesity and poor health.
The almost universal use of cell phones and similar electronic devices and of the internet gives opportunity for corporations and government to collect huge databases of information about all aspects of the lives of almost everyone. Methods of mining of information from big data collections gives profiles of everyone which can be used by governments and corporations to control the lives of the populace.

In the last 20 yrs violent crime rates down 44% in the U.S. There are now 5 times as many people in jail in the U.S. as 20 yrs ago.

In the U. S. 18% of the economy is spending for health care. Next closest are Germany and France at about 11% Then England and Australia at 9%.

In the U.S. about 33,000 people are killed every year by gun related causes vs. 32,000 by automobiles.

The U.S. is #1 in the world with 88.8 firearms per 100 people and in percentage of homicides by firearm and in total number of homicides by firearm.

one in ten people in the United States including 13 million children are hungry or don't know where their next meal is coming from.

In Scandinavia the top 1% of the people have 7% of the income while in the U.S. its 20%.

In the U.S. the drug Nexium costs $215 per month.
In Denmark its $23 per month.

An abdominal CT scan that costs $94 in Spain, $97 in Canada and $128 in Argentina costs $500 in Australia, $731 in New Zealand and $896 in the United States.

Our rulers use fear to subdue us. Fear of terrorists, government, hell, poverty, poor health; fear of each other.

Ways for the society to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich include war and prisons and health care and higher education.

Countries ranked by the general happiness of their people, the United States is number 17.

Ranked by overall well being of their people the United States is number 26.

Ranked by the percentage of children living in households with equivalent income less than 50% of the national median income, the United States is number 34.

The United States sells 29% of the World's international Arms sales. Russia is second with 27% and Germany is third with 7%.

In 1952, 32% of all the federal tax revenue generated in this country came from large corporations. Today less than 10% does.

Cost to the average tax payer per year for food stamps for the poor is $32. Cost for subsidies for corporations is $870.

Today the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90% of Americans combined.

Since 1968 if the minimum wage had been adjusted to increases in worker's productivity it would now be $17.10 per hour. It is now $7.25 per hour.

In number of state executions the USA is surpassed only by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and China.

Theft of wages from employees by employers in 2012 was over twice as many dollars as the total of all street, bank, gas station and convenience store robberies.

Of the total energy consumption by the U.S. government in 2011, 80% was by the Department of Defense.

In 2012 in the United States there were about 35,000 mentally ill people in hospitals and 356,000 in prisons and jails.

Taking into account taxes and welfare payments, the United States ranks number 1 among OECD countries plus central Europe in percentage of people in poverty.

In 2001 the CBO projected a government surplus of about 6 trillion dollars by 2011. Actually there was a 6 trillion dollar government deficit. 2/3 of this loss was due to government policies, mostly tax cuts and war combined.

The 1990 Bush tax increase and the 1993 Clinton tax increase together resulted in an economic growth rate of over 4%, then the growth rate began falling so George W. Bush in 2001 cut taxes and did so again in 2003 when the growth rate was just above 2%. By 2005 this had resulted in reducing the growth rate to much less than 1%.

A Citizen's Obligation to his Society

Basic principles: Here is a proposed structure for a tax on income and wealth.

The legislature would set a tax table and a rate for income deficiency and a rate for excess income.

Income would be defined in relation to living allowance.

Living allowance would be set based on the size of the household and the average cost of living in the area in which the household resided.

The obligation thus determined would be paid by a combination of taxes paid to the government and contributions to licensed non-profits or charities of the taxpayer's choice as long as the taxpayer did not receive any payments or other indirect benefits from the non-profits to which he contributed. The tax rate would be set by the government and any obligation above this not contributed to charity would also be paid to the government.


My household consists of myself, my wife, one child and a live-in mother-in- law. We live in Podunk which is a community of slightly below average costs of living.

My living allowance is set by a formula based on those facts although, if I can document unusual circumstances, I can appeal that determination to a tax board. This living allowance would be based on average middle class living, neither living in poverty or luxury.

My living allowance would include:

Housing - $1,200 per month
Food - 1,200 per month
Utilities and other living expenses - 400 per month
(includes phone & internet, electric, heating, water, sewer, etc.)
Clothing - 100 per month
Travel - 300 per month
Household upkeep - 150 per month
House & car insurance - 140 per month
Education expenses - 400 per month

Total $3,890 per month or $46,680 per year.

All medical expenses would be provided by a government medical program including full payment for preventative, diagnostic and treatment services as approved by a medical board set up for that purpose.

Suppose my total household income including rent, wages, interest, dividends and capital gains for the year were below my living allowance, say $35,000.

I would be eligible for a government income deficiency payment which might be 90% (set by govt.) of my living allowance reduced by 60% (set by govt.) of my income.

So 90% of 46,680 living allowance is $42,012. 60% of 35,000 is $21,000. So the income deficiency payment I would receive would be 42,012-21,000=21,012

So I would have 35,000 income plus 21,012 deficiency payment or $56,012 to live on.

If I did not work at all and had no income my deficiency payment would be 42,012 which is 90% of my living allowance.

Suppose my income for the year were $60,000 and the tax table was:

  1. 0%
  2. 10%
  3. 20%
  4. 30%
  5. 40%
  6. 50%
  7. 60%
  8. 70%
  9. 80%
  10. 90%
  11. & up 95%

60,000 income divided by $46,680 is 1.28. Rounding upward puts me in tax tier 2 which means I would pay 10% of my excess.

My excess is $60,000 less $46,680 which is $13,320 and 10% of this is $1,332. If the tax rate set by government was 40% then I would pay 40% of this $1,332 or $532.80 in taxes and the rest of it, $1,332-532.80, or $799.20 as a donation to the licensed non-profit of my choice.

So I would have $60,000 less 1,332 or $58,668 to live on. If I could live on $48,668 and save $10,000 per year then in ten years I would have $100,000 in savings.

If my income were $120,000 then I would be in tax tier 3. 120,000 divided by $46,680 is 2.57 which rounds up to 3.

So I would pay 10% of my tier 2 excess of $46,680 or $4,668 plus 20% of my excess above that which is 120,000-2 X 46,680 or $26,640. 20% is $5,328.

My total obligation is thus $4,668 plus 5,328 or $9,996. 40% of this or $3,998.40 would go toward taxes and the rest or $5,997.60 would be donations.

So I would have $120,000 less 9,996 or $110,004 to live on.

If my income were $1,000,000 my obligation would be
0% of 46,680 = 0
10% of 46,680 = 4,668
20% of 46,680 = 9,336
30% of 46,680 = 14,004
40% of 46,680 = 18,672
50% of 46,680 = 23,340
60% of 46,680 = 28,008
70% of 46,680 = 32,676
80% of 46,680 = 37,344
90% of 46,680 = 42,012
95% of the remaining 533,320 of income = 506,654
total $716,714 of which 40% or $286,686 would be tax obligation
and $430,028 would be donated.
leaving me $283,286 to live on.

If I lived on 83,286 per year and saved $200,000 each year then in ten years my savings or investments would amount to $2,000,000.

According to David Altman, in 1992, the top tenth of the population controlled 20 times the wealth controlled by the bottom half. By 2010, it was 65 times.

So, the total obligation would be increased for the wealthy. Wealth would cause an increase in total obligation graduated by a table set by living allowance also. Perhaps a table like this:

if total wealth was: up to 20 times living allowance - no obligation increase
up to 40 times living allowance - obligation increase of 1% of total wealth
up to 80 times living allowance - obligation increase of 2% of total wealth
up to 160 times living allowance - obligation increase of 4% of total wealth
up to 320 times living allowance - obligation increase of 8% of total wealth
up to 640 times living allowance - obligation increase of 16% of total wealth
above 640 times living allowance - obligation increase of 32% of total wealth

So if my total wealth were above about 30 million dollars with the living allowance of $46,640 as in the example above I would owe 32% or about 10 million dollars additional each year in taxes and charitable donations.

Due to the government medical program and the income deficiency payments no Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security would be needed so there would be no payroll taxes or sales or corporate or other taxes including no property taxes or estate or inheritance taxes because those would be covered through the wealth tax.

To cover local and state taxes the tax obligation rate could be increased for those so that the structure might be:
30% of excess income obligation for federal tax
20% of excess income obligation for state tax
10% of excess income obligation for local tax
40% of excess income obligation for donations

or whatever breakdown made sense to federal, state and local governing bodies.

It is my hope that such a tax structure would provide all citizens a decent standard of living, encourage workers to work and entrepreneurs to manage, and be fair to everyone while providing resources for government, charities and other non-profit organizations.

Everything would be based on the cost of living allowance which would be set by a local government tax board. The federal, state and local legislative bodies would then set a tax rate table and:

Income is defined as all revenues received less business expenses spent to receive that revenue. Wealth is defined as the value of all assets owned less liabilities.

Tax Rates and Economic Policy

Historical federal marginal tax rates for income for the lowest and highest income earners in the US.

In 1913, the top tax rate was 7% on incomes above $500,000 ($10 million 2007 dollars) and a total of $28.3 million was collected.

During World War I, the top rate rose to 77% and the income threshold to be in this top bracket increased to $1,000,000 ($16 million 2007 dollars).

Under Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, top tax rates were reduced in 1921, 1924, 1926, and 1928. Mellon argued that lower rates would spur economic growth. By 1928, the top rate was scaled down to 24% and the income threshold for paying this rate fell to $100,000 ($1 million 2007 dollars).

Andrew Mellon's plan had four main points:

  1. Cut the top income tax rate from 77 to 24 percent - predicting that large fortunes would be put back into the economy.
  2. Cut taxes on low incomes from 4 to 1/2 percent - tax policy "must lessen, so far as possible, the burden of taxation on those least able to bear it."
  3. Reduce the Federal Estate tax - large income taxes tempted the wealthy to shift their fortunes into tax-exempt shelters.
  4. Efficiency in government - lower tax rates meant few tax returns to process by few government workers.

Mellon also championed preferential treatment for "earned" income relative to "unearned" income. As he argued in his 1924 book, Taxation: The People's Business

The fairness of taxing more lightly income from wages, salaries or from investments is beyond question. In the first case, the income is uncertain and limited in duration; sickness or death destroys it and old age diminishes it; in the other, the source of income continues; the income may be disposed of during a man’s life and it descends to his heirs. Surely we can afford to make a distinction between the people whose only capital is their mettle and physical energy and the people whose income is derived from investments. Such a distinction would mean much to millions of American workers and would be an added inspiration to the man who must provide a competence during his few productive years to care for himself and his family when his earnings capacity is at an end.

Mellon's economic policies, meant to strengthen the economy, did not prevent the great depression.

The theories forming the basis of Keynesian economics were first presented by the British economist John Maynard Keynes in his book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, during the Great Depression.

Prior to Keynes, a situation in which aggregate demand for goods and services did not meet supply was referred to by classical economists as a general glut, although there was disagreement among them as to whether a general glut was possible. Keynes argued that when a glut occurred, it was the over-reaction of producers and the laying off of workers that led to a fall in demand and perpetuated the problem. Keynesians therefore advocate an active stabilization policy to reduce the amplitude of the business cycle, which they rank among the most serious of economic problems. According to the theory, government spending can be used to increase aggregate demand, thus increasing economic activity, reducing unemployment and deflation.

Keynes argued that the solution to the Great Depression was to stimulate the economy ("inducement to invest") through some combination of two approaches:

  1. A reduction in interest rates (monetary policy), and
  2. Government investment in infrastructure (fiscal policy).

By reducing the interest rate at which the central bank lends money to commercial banks, the government sends a signal to commercial banks that they should do the same for their customers.

Investment by government in infrastructure injects income into the economy by creating business opportunity, employment and demand and reversing the effects of the aforementioned imbalance. Governments source the funding for this expenditure by borrowing funds from the economy through the issue of government bonds, and because government spending exceeds the amount of tax income that the government receives, this creates a fiscal deficit.

Keynes thought that the resulting deficit could be corrected during good economic times both due to growth in the economy increasing tax revenue and by raising tax rates to build up a slight government income surplus which would be needed for increased spending during the next downturn in the economy.

During the Great Depression and World War II, the top income tax rate rose from pre-war levels. In 1939, the top rate was 75% applied to incomes above $5,000,000 ($75 million 2007 dollars). During 1944 and 1945, the top rate was its all-time high at 94% applied to income above $200,000.

The highest marginal tax rate for individuals for U.S. federal income tax purposes for tax years 1952 and 1953 was 92%.

Since 1964, the threshold for paying top income tax rate has generally been between $200,000 and $400,000. The one exception is the period from 1982–1992 when the top income tax brackets were removed and incomes above around $100,000 (varies by year) paid the top rate. From 1981 until 1986 the top marginal rate was lowered to 50%. From 1988–1990, the threshold for paying the top rate was even lower, with incomes above $29,750 to $32,450 ($51,000 in 2007 dollars) paying the top rate of 28% in those years.

Top tax rates were increased in 1992 and 1994, culminating in a 39.6% top individual rate applicable to all classes of income.

Top individual tax rates were lowered in 2004 to 35% and tax rates on dividends and capital gains lowered to 15%, with the Bush administration claiming lower rates would spur economic growth.

Bush's economic policies, meant to strengthen the economy, did not prevent the great recession of 2008.

Based on the summary of federal tax income data in 2009, with a tax rate of 35%, the top 1% covered 36.7% of the nation's income taxes.

In 2012, President Obama has announced that he plans to raise the two top tax rates from 35% to 39.6% and from 33% to 36%.

Federal and state income tax rates have varied widely since 1913. For example, in 1954, the federal income tax was based on layers of 24 income brackets at tax rates ranging from 20% to 91% (for a chart, see Internal Revenue Code of 1954). Overall effective Federal tax rates on the top 0.01 percent of earners have declined from about 70% in 1960 to about 35% in 2005, while effective rates for the middle class have remained constant over the same period.

According to the IRS, the top 1% of income earners for 2008 paid 38% of income tax revenue, while earning 20% of the income reported.

The top 5% of income earners paid 59% of the total income tax revenue, while earning 35% of the income reported. The top 10% paid 70%, earning 46% and the top 25% paid 86%, earning 67%. The top 50% paid 97%, earning 87% and leaving the bottom 50% paying 3% of the taxes collected and earning 13% of the income reported.


Man's needs in order of importance
  1. air
  2. water
  3. food
  4. shelter
  5. health
  6. energy
  7. art, culture, entertainment, companionship

Originally man made a living for himself and his tribe by hunting and gathering. He used his time on earth to provide himself and his tribe with food and shelter. His primary needs, air and water, were free and were available in his environment as was companionship. Health was generally a matter left to fate. Energy was not needed until he discovered the advantages of fire and then it was necessary also to find and gather fuel. Art, culture and entertainment were of a very simple type.

About 10,000 years ago life changed due to the development of agriculture. Men discovered how to grow crops and husband livestock and turned from hunting and gathering to farming. This allowed the construction of more permanent structures and the growth of villages. It also led to the idea of ownership of land and animals because growing a crop and keeping livestock requires that a person have continuous access to the same plot of land and that others can not gather or take that which he has grown or tended. This lead to the concept of property and inheritance and towns and cities concentrating the population much more than had rural villages. This meant that more time was required to maintain property and to grow crops and livestock and leisure time was rare.

At this point in his history man was paid for his labor and for his skills by the amount of food he was able to procure. Labor is defined as the amount of time (life) which must be expended and skill by the wisdom available to make the use of labor efficient. In other words the guy who spent ten hours a day farming and came home with one bushel of wheat was not paid as well as the guy who spent ten hours a day farming and came home with ten bushels of wheat. The amount of labor was the same but the differences in efficiency of labor were due either to luck or to skill in the way the labor was utilized.

A rudimentary economy based on barter developed. I trade you some of the grain I have grown in return for some of the meat you have grown. We have to reach an agreement, of course, on how much grain is of equal value as how much meat. This could also lead to specialization of labor in that if I were better (more efficient) at producing grain and you were more efficient at animal husbandry then I could grow grain while you tended to your livestock and both of us could eat both grain and meat.

This soon led to the idea of finding a medium of exchange so that if I needed someone to provide me a service such as shoeing a horse and I produced only grain but that horse shoer had plenty of grain, I needed some way to pay him with something that he could use to buy the fish he might need. Anything could be used as a medium of exchange so long as it was so rare or hard to obtain that more effort was necessary to obtain it than it was worth as a medium of exchange. So certain rare shells and various other things were used until eventually rare gems and metals such as rubies, diamonds, silver and gold came into common use as money.

It soon became evident that if a person was able to accumulate a lot of money this could give him power and be converted to income by loaning it to others or investing it in other income producing goods such as buying another horse which could be used to produce goods or could be rented to others. This idea led to the financial services sector of the economy. Some people became entrepreneurs as they had the skill to bring together and organize labor and money to increase efficiency of production and, in the process, make a profit for themselves.

So sources of production are then labor, management skills, land and capital or wealth. All production comes from land or natural resources through the application of labor but management can organize, through the use of capital, labor to increase efficiency of production. The return to labor is wages. The return to entrepreneurship or management is profit. The return to land is rent. The return to capital or wealth is interest.

Stages of Economic & Social Development
  1. Hunters and gatherers - prehistory - nomadic lifestyle
  2. Agricultural Revolution - history - towns and villages - farmers and tradesmen.
  3. Industrial Revolution - 18th and 19th centuries - Cities - Big Business, factories, labor unions.
  4. Information and Technology Revolution - 1990-2010 - Worldwide community, business, communication, service economy.
  5. Biological Revolution - genetic engineering - sometime in the future??
Sectors of the economic system

The problems of such an economic system then become how to price goods and services and how to distribute the wealth produced by a society equitably. How do we determine the value of labor, management, land and capital so that most people feel fairly treated? One idea is to each according to his contribution. Another idea is from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The basic unit of measure is the value of labor. If the value of labor is based on 8 dollars per hour of time and if the average person labors for 2,000 hours per year then the average income becomes $16,000 per man year. Based on these units what is the value of management? Since management implies more wisdom or a higher level of efficiency than manual labor such as ditch digging or picking apples then it follows that if a year of manual labor is worth $16,000 then a year of management requiring an equal amount of a man's time should be worth more. The question is: What is reasonable? Perhaps five or ten times the value of manual labor could be argued to be reasonable, but would we argue that a value of a thousand times that value would be reasonable? At least partly, that depends on the level of management required for the job. For instance, a skilled laborer such as a machinist provides a mixture of labor and knowledge and is of a higher level in value than a less skilled laborer such as a janitor. In the same way a person who manages a corporation worth billions of dollars and employing thousands of people is of a higher level of value than that of a skilled laborer. But would it be reasonable to say that his value is a thousand times as great as that of his average employee? Supply and demand can lead to problematic results. For instance, should a baseball player, however good, be paid more than the leader of a country?

The capitalist economic system is based on the idea that value or prices should be determined by a free market in which laws of supply and demand freely operate. The problem is that laws of supply and demand often do not operate freely for various reasons including manipulation of the markets and for technical reasons. The socialist economic system is based on the idea that prices should be determined by what seems fair but then the problem becomes how is that to be determined?

History seems to teach that either an overregulated economy such as communist systems or an unregulated economy such as laissez-faire do not work well. The trick is to find a happy medium course.

From about 1970 to 2006 Merrill Lynch's investment banking and capital-markets business grew from about 100 to about 20,000 people and their headcount grew from 9,000 to about 70,000.

Their profit grew from less than $100 million to $7.5 billion and the compensation to the managing partner went from slightly above $100,000 to $48 million, a 480 fold increase when profits only showed a 75 fold increase. One can argue whether the managing partner could be worth $48 million a year. Also, since the average income earned in 2010 in the United States was about $41,000, one could also argue whether an economic system in which one person can earn well over 1,000 times the average is equitable.

From about 1960 to about 2010, a period of 50 years the consumer price index increased from 30 to 218, a 7 fold increase.
The average wage increased from about $4,000 to about $41,000, a 10 fold increase.
The average price of a house increased from about $15,000 to about $210,000, a 14 fold increase.

An important aspect of prices such as new car prices to consider is how much you get for the price. Its reasonable to say that today's car is twice as good as a vehicle from the 1940's. Cars last longer, have more power, get better fuel economy and are safer.

One example is a 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan convertible. The car cost $3,948 in 1949. It had a V8 engine that got 152 HP and 8 miles per gallon. There were no airbags, no seatbelts and few modern features.

Today in 2008 you can get a Mazda Miata for $20,635. The Miata has 166 HP and gets 22 MPG city/ 27 highway. It has front side airbags, anti-lock brakes, an AM/FM CD player and remote entry as standard features.

The Miata will likely last twice as long as the Cosmopolitan. In the 1950's to 1970's a car would not be expected to last over 100,000 miles. But todays cars should last for 150,000 to 200,000. The new cars are MUCH safer. If you look at fatality rates per miles driven, from 1966 to 1996 the fatality rate per 1 million miles driven dropped from 5.5 to 1.7.

By every objective measure the Miata clearly performs better. It lasts twice as long, it is much safer and it has better fuel efficiency.

In 1965 the average CEO made about 26 times the pay of the average worker in his company and by 1980 this had increased to 40 times the pay of the average worker in his company. In 2004 the average CEO's compensation had increased to 500 times the pay of the average worker in his company.

Mostly during the Reagan administration the American worker's average hourly wage increased from $15.91 per hour in 1979 to $16.63 per hour in 1989. By 1995 it had increased to $16.71 and when the economy was booming between 1995 and 2000 it rose to $18.33 per hour before falling again. So from 1979 to 2000 the average American's worker's wage increased only an average of 11.5 cents per hour per year with nearly all of that coming in the last five years or the "boom" years of that period. And that includes all workers, even those with college degrees.

For the more than 100 million workers or 72.1% of the workforce with no college degrees the average hourly real wages were less in 2000 than they were in 1979 and after 2000 wages slid further! This is in spite of productivity increases during that period.

With 1992 as base year, productivity was at 82.2 in 1979. It grew to 94.2 by 1989 and 116.6 by the year 2000. By 2004 it had exploded to over 120. That's nearly a 40% increase since Ronald Reagan took office about 25 years before!

So a 40% productivity gain led to stagnant or decreased wages for those workers without college degrees, to modest wage increases for those with college degrees and to huge compensation increases for CEOs. Their compensation rose over 400% during the period and most of that increase occurred in the late 1990s.

Put in real money terms, the median pay for an American CEO was $2,436,000 in 1989 and $10,775,000 by 2000.

The average American worker today earns about a third more than the average worker in 13 other industrialized countries but the average CEO in America is compensated about 3 times as much as the aveage CEO in those same 13 countries. No average CEO compensation in any of those 13 countries is even half as much as the average American CEO earns. The average ratio of CEO compensation to average worker's pay ranges from 10 to 1 in Japan and Switzerland to 25 to 1 in the UK and Canada and 500 to 1 in the United States.

As one source has put it, "in 2000 a CEO earned more in one workday (there are 260 in a year) than what the average worker earned in 52 weeks. In 1965, by contrast, it took a CEO two weeks to earn a worker's annual pay".

Excerpts and paraphrases from David Chandler's website: http://www.lcurve.org/

The top one percent of the population of the United States are now estimated to own between forty and fifty percent of the nation's wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%.

Our economy produces tremendous wealth but it also produces tremendous poverty. Sure, some people can be lazy, but when large numbers of hard working people live in poverty and the middle class is shrinking, it is a systemic, not an individual problem. There is plenty to go around, but it doesn't adequately go around. It goes to the top, and leaves the masses to fight over the crumbs. True, it has been this way through the ages, but that doesn't mean we should be satisfied with such a system. I believe we can do better.

Some doctors and lawyers and professional people, with incomes over a hundred thousand dollars may feel "rich". They may have nicer homes and cars, and they may have attitudes that separate them from the masses. But they still must work for a living and are primarily consumers of their earnings. Whether they recognize it or not, they actually have more in common with the people at the bottom than they do with the people in the top 1/2%. The bottom 99% has the votes. The top 1% has the money. Who controls the government?

We recently went through an economic boom where the bottom 99% showed little if any improvement in their condition while those in the top 1% showed huge gains. Can this be considered "prosperity"? Do we really want to gear up our national policies to repeat this performance?

In 2004 over 240,000 tax returns were filed with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million or more. In March 2006 Forbes reported 793 billionaires in the US with combined net worth of $2.6 trillion. In March 2007 Forbes reported 946 billionaires in the US with combined net worth of $3.5 trillion. That is a 1- year increase of 19% in the number of billionaires and an increase of 35% in their net worth during a time of increasing poverty. Severe poverty is at its highest point in three decades.

A single billionaire can get the undivided attention of any politician he wants, any time he wants. If he doesn't get what he wants he can, in fact, "fight city hall," the statehouse, and even the federal government.

The mainstream media has been bought up by people in the top 1%. The primary channels for information and expressed opinion are controlled and filtered by a small, powerful group whose interests are not representative of the majority of Americans. Even when there is no direct political message the programming is tailored to the perspectives and sensitivities of large corporations. The business of media is to sell advertising. Programming is simply the hook to hold an audience until the next commercial. Serious examination of ideas of any kind is seen as counterproductive because it may alienate or bore part of the potential audience. The result is nonstop sensationalistic binges of an increasing number of popular celebrities. The growing media monopoly dilutes and distorts the national dialog, and thereby destroys the basis for democracy.

When taxes are cut, whose taxes are cut and whose programs are cut? What kinds of taxes are being cut and what kinds of taxes (whether they are called taxes or not) are being imposed? Sales tax and use fees tax primarily the bottom 99%. The pre-Reagan progressive income tax drew more from the top 1%

The flat tax would shift the burden downscale even more. The sales pitch for this shift usually focuses on "simplification." Simplification is unrelated to the issue of who the money is coming from. You could have a simple progressive tax just as easily as a simple flat tax. The proposal to eliminate the income tax entirely would be disastrous. Those in the top 1% would escape virtually all of their obligations and the burden of government would be born almost entirely by the lower 99% both through increases in other forms of taxation and reduction of services. The income tax originally taxed ONLY the wealthiest. This is the direction tax reform needs to take if it is to be truly considered "reform.".

There are two classes in this country. One class derives concentrated power from its concentrated wealth. The other class has power only in numbers. That power is effective only to the extent that it can be mobilized through organization.

How Does Your Income “Stack Up”?

Picture your annual income as a stack of $100 bills.
Do you make $25,000? Your stack of $100 bills is 1 inch high.
Do you make $100,000? Your stack of $100 bills is 4 inches high.
Do you make $1 million? Your stack of $100 bills is 3.3 feet high.
Do you make $1 billion? Your stack of $100 bills is over ½ mile high!
The U.S. Income distribution is not a “Bell Curve”…it is an “L-Curve”!

The bottom 99% of the population measure their incomes in inches. The top 1% measure their incomes as stacks of $100 bills feet or even miles high! The total wealth of the few people in the top 1% equals the total wealth of the rest of the population combined.

This raises many questions. Why does the wealth (which we all help produce) go so disproportionately to the few at the top? Why, in a prosperous economy, is there so much poverty? Why has the lion’s share of the growth in recent economic booms, gone almost exclusively to those in the vertical spike while wages have stagnated?

The top 1% are the vertical spike in the L curve while the bottom 99% are the horizontal spike.

Politically speaking, this raises even more questions. Concentration of wealth produces concentration of power that is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. Why does our government give tax cuts to those on the vertical spike that result in cuts in services for the rest of us? The horizontal spike has the votes, but the vertical spike has the influence! They own the media. Your TV set is their pipeline into your brain! They set the agenda and the terms of debate. Furthermore, by the time you enter the voting booth all the “serious” candidates have been filtered and pre-selected by their ability to raise funds from those on the vertical spike. Those who can’t attract big money are marginalized. The only way to make the government for the people is to make it of the people and by the people. That means we, the people, must wake up. We must wake up our neighbors! We must learn to talk to each other directly. We must bypass the media culture and rebuild true community. Democracy does not start in the voting booth. It starts by building a movement at the grass roots level that values people over profits.

For more on the L-Curve and its implications, see: www.lcurve.org

Quote from an anonomous investment manager, January 2012.

"I think it's important to emphasize one of the dangers of wealth concentration: irresponsibility about the wider economic consequences of their actions by those at the top. Wall Street created the investment products that produced gross economic imbalances and the 2008 credit crisis. It wasn't the hard-working 99.5%. Average people could only destroy themselves financially, not the economic system. There's plenty of blame to go around, but the collapse was primarily due to the failure of complex mortgage derivatives, CDS credit swaps, cheap Fed money, lax regulation, compromised ratings agencies, government involvement in the mortgage market, the end of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, and insufficient bank capital. Only Wall Street could put the economy at risk and it had an excellent reason to do so: profit. It made huge profits in the build-up to the credit crisis and huge profits when it sold itself as "too big to fail" and received massive government and Federal Reserve bailouts. Most of the serious economic damage the U.S. is struggling with today was done by the top 0.1% and they benefited greatly from it."

"Not surprisingly, Wall Street and the top of corporate America are doing extremely well as of June 2011. For example, in Q1 of 2011, America's top corporations reported 31% profit growth and a 31% reduction in taxes, the latter due to profit outsourcing to low tax rate countries. Somewhere around 40% of the profits in the S&P 500 come from overseas and stay overseas, with about half of these 500 top corporations having their headquarters in tax havens. If the corporations don't repatriate their profits, they pay no U.S. taxes. The year 2010 was a record year for compensation on Wall Street, while corporate CEO compensation rose by over 30%, most Americans struggled. In 2010 a dozen major companies, including GE, Verizon, Boeing, Wells Fargo, and Fed Ex paid US tax rates between -0.7% and -9.2%. Production, employment, profits, and taxes have all been outsourced. Major U.S. corporations are currently lobbying to have another "tax-repatriation" window like that in 2004 where they can bring back corporate profits at a 5.25% tax rate versus the usual 35% US corporate tax rate. Ordinary working citizens with the lowest incomes are taxed at 10%."

"The bottom line is this: A highly complex set of laws and exemptions from laws and taxes has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the U.S. political and legislative processes. They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%. Moreover, those at the very top have no incentive whatsoever for revealing or changing the rules."

For this complete article see: http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/investment_manager.html

Other notes:

In the United States:

The top 1% of the population has 43% of the wealth.
The next 4% of the population has 29% of the wealth.
The next 15% of the population has 21% of the wealth.
and the bottom 80% of the population has 7% of the wealth.

From 1979 to 2007 the share of income in the United States increased for the top 20% and decreased for the lower 80%. In 2009 the adjusted gross income reported the the IRS by the taxpayer at the bottom of the top one percent of taxpayers was about $344,000. If your adjusted gross income was more than this you were in the top one percent. If it was less than this you were in the bottom ninety nine percent. The net worth of the top 1% is $1.8 million or above, the top 0.25% is $3.1 million, the top 0.10% is $5.5 million and the top 0.01% or about 140,000 people is $24.4 million and above.

A remarkable study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) reveals that Americans have no idea that the wealth distribution (defined for them in terms of "net worth") is as concentrated as it is. When shown three pie charts representing possible wealth distributions, 90% or more of the 5,522 respondents -- whatever their gender, age, income level, or party affiliation -- thought that the American wealth distribution most resembled one in which the top 20% has about 60% of the wealth. In fact, of course, the top 20% control about 85% of the wealth (refer back to Table 1 and Figure 1 in this document for a more detailed breakdown of the numbers).

Even more striking, they did not come close on the amount of wealth held by the bottom 40% of the population. It's a number I haven't even mentioned so far, and it's shocking: the lowest two quintiles hold just 0.3% of the wealth in the United States. Most people in the survey guessed the figure to be between 8% and 10%, and two dozen academic economists got it wrong too, by guessing about 2% -- seven times too high. Those surveyed did have it about right for what the 20% in the middle have; it's at the top and the bottom that they don't have any idea of what's going on.

Americans from all walks of life were also united in their vision of what the "ideal" wealth distribution would be, which may come as an even bigger surprise than their shared misinformation on the actual wealth distribution. They said that the ideal wealth distribution would be one in which the top 20% owned between 30 and 40 percent of the privately held wealth, which is a far cry from the 85 percent that the top 20% actually own. They also said that the bottom 40% -- that's 120 million Americans -- should have between 25% and 30%, not the mere 8% to 10% they thought this group had, and far above the 0.3% they actually had. In fact, there's no country in the world that has a wealth distribution close to what Americans think is ideal when it comes to fairness. So maybe Americans are much more egalitarian than most of them realize about each other, at least in principle and before the rat race begins.

During the great recession from 2007 to 2009 Wall Street profits increased by 720%, The unemployment rate increased by 102% and Americans' home equity decreased by 35%.

When the federal income tax began millionaire's (in 2010 dollars) tax rate was 1.6%. That increased as the tax was made more progressive to a high of 66.4% in 1945. It decreased in 1965 under LBJ to 55.3%, in 1982, under Reagan, to 47.7%, to 36.4% during the first Bush administration and to 32.4% during the second Bush administration.

During the economic expansion from 2002 to 2006, the top 1% of American earners gained almost three quarters of total income growth. The remaining 99% of workers split the final 25%.

In the world the richest 20% have 82.7% of the income and the poorest 20% get 1.4% of the income.

In 2004 in the United States the top 1% owned 34.3% of the wealth of the nation and the bottom 40% owned 0.2% of the wealth. That leaves 65.55% of the wealth owned by the middle 59% of the population.

The total wealth of the United States in the fourth quarter of 2010 was about $56.8 trillion. This was about 15.7% lower than the total wealth in December 2007 before the great recession. The population of the United States was just over 300 million. That means the wealth of the average person (not family) was about $189,000 or $756,000 for a family of four. If your or your family's wealth wasn't that high then you were economically below average.

In 2004, the top 1% controlled 50.3% of the financial assets while the bottom 90% only held 14.4% of the total US financial assets. This data shows that the top 25% of American society held on average a net wealth of $1,556,801 which is 33 times more than those of the lower middle class, or the 25th-50th percentile.

Economics 101

People need the resources to live and support a family. They do not need to work. They need to live.

Once people were a part of the community. They gave according to their ability and were supported according to their need. If they did not fit in they could be expelled from the group.

So thieves and liars and greedy power grabbers and loafers were ostracized or expelled. Others could expect to be supported by the community.

In today's world the community no longer is able to sanction greedy power grabbers and many in need do not have the community ties which once would have given them security.

When asked which proposition they agree with more-- "poor people have hard lives because government benefits don't go far enough to help them live decently" or "poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything," conservatives overwhelmingly agreed with the latter, that the poor "have it easy."

So rich conservatives believe that the poor have it too easy and that the rich have to work hard. Yet, the rich are not standing in line to trade places with the poor.

Basic Economics as I Learned it.

Money is not Wealth!

Wealth is human capital such as culture and education and skills and it is things such as food and land and minerals and growing crops and forests and machinery and tools and it is infrastructure such as roads and dams and buildings and water lines and sewer lines and phone and electric lines.

Money, on the other hand, is just a means of measuring and exchanging wealth. At a given point in time it has a value which translates to the amount of real wealth such as that defined above for which it can be exchanged. At one time a bale of hay may be worth $1.00 or 1 unit of whatever type of money we are talking about and at another time it may be worth 4 units.

It does not matter what the exchange rate is as long as we are able to sell our stuff for money and using money to get or make or hire more stuff. What does matter and can cause a problem is the value of money changing between the time we get it by selling and the time we spend it for something. So inflation or deflation or printing more money or governments or other institutions taking money out of circulation only affects those who are holding cash or its equivalent.

Monetary policy is referred to as either being expansionary or contractionary, where an expansionary policy increases the total supply of money in the economy more rapidly than usual, and contractionary policy expands the money supply more slowly than usual or even shrinks it. Expansionary policy is traditionally used to try to combat unemployment in a recession by lowering interest rates in the hope that easy credit will entice businesses into expanding. Contractionary policy is intended to slow inflation in order to avoid the resulting distortions and deterioration of asset values.

Money supply is influenced by tax policy, government spending, and interest rate manipulation.

Keynesian economics holds that governments should expand the money supply during periods of high unemployment and contract it during boom periods when the economy is expanding and unemployment is low. Expansion of the money supply is done by lowering tax rates, increasing spending and lowering interest rates which leads to government deficit spending but this is not problematic because interest rates are low. Contraction of the money supply is done and government debts are paid off during boom times by decreasing government spending, raising tax rates and raising interest rates.

Expanding the money supply decreases the value of cash being held thus encouraging spending and investment. Contracting the money supply increases the value of cash held encouraging saving and slowing investment, thus putting the brakes on excessive speculation.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand these principles and thus believe during economic stress periods that governments should operate by increasing austerity, decreasing spending and deficits. This tends to make recessions deeper and longer lasting than they need be and rather than leveling economic swings tends to exacerbate them. Conversely during good times government policy makers may feel that it is safe to overspend rather than reducing debt because they do not seem to anticipate future downswings. Also they find it is more fun to spend and gives them more bragging rights with the voters. They often feel that if they cause future problems, maybe the chickens won't come home to roost until they are out of office leaving the resulting problems for their successors.

The strength and wealth of a nation is not threatened by deficit spending if Keynesian principles are followed because money is not wealth. Deficit spending is only a problem if it is done on a large scale during periods of prosperity as was often done recently during Republican administrations such as the Reagan and second Bush administrations. Increasing national debt during boom times makes it more difficult to increase debt when it is necessary during economic downturns and limits the flexibility needed during those times.

Money Supply vs. Real Wealth (assets):

Money supply has a definite ratio to real wealth (assets).

If real wealth is increased either by an increase in the labor supply or by increased productivity, then the money supply can be increased accordingly.

If this does not happen then money becomes more valuable (deflation) and prices fall.

On the other hand, if money supply is increased without a corresponding increase in real wealth (assets) then money becomes less valuable (inflation) and prices rise.

If assets that could be used to increase real wealth (assets) are underused (for instance, high unemployment) then an increase in money supply can be used to utilize these assets (example, WPA) to then increase real wealth to bring it into balance with the already increased money supply.

Trickle is up not down.

People at the bottom and at the top of the economic ladder are not creators of wealth. Those in the middle of the ladder who work to provide services and make goods are those who create the wealth of our society. The workers then provide that wealth to others. They care for those at the bottom of the economic ladder because those people are unable for physical or mental or other reasons to care for themselves. They transfer much of that wealth they have produced to those at the top of the economic ladder because the economic system in which they live is structured to make sure that wealth trickles upward more than it ever trickles downward.

The disabled widow woman only survives because of the kindness of her neighbors and charitable organizations and government programs. She does not accumulate wealth.

The current worker or retired previous worker survives only to the extent that the rulers at the top let him keep a small portion of the wealth he produces.

Mostly the wealth produced trickles upward and is accumulated at the top so that the small number of rulers there, over time and through generations, end up with a huge proportion of all the wealth of the society.

Those who do not produce wealth are those who do not work with their hands or their minds or their sweat to produce the goods and services needed by our society.

That includes the banking and the insurance industry and capitalists who only own and use paper such as deeds and mortgages and stocks and bonds and cash.

They are the people who make the rules that the rest of us have to live by.

The workers are those who work with their hands to produce or who create with their minds and their imaginations or who use their knowledge to provide the services that others need. These include the farmer and the miner and the fisherman and the forester and the factory worker and the builder and the sales clerk and the trucker and the lineman and the garbage man and the plumber and the teacher and the librarian and the historian and the programmer and the doctor and the lawyer and the scientist and the engineer and the fire fighter and the policeman and the soldier and the entertainer and others in similar positions.


Life is the common denominator of us all.
Both the pauper and the rich man face death alike.
Death is the Great Equalizer.
At the end of the game the pawn and the King go into the same bag.
Life is the most precious thing we can possess, that and love.

Therefore the most important thing is how we choose to live our life. In the end, on my deathbed, I hope I can say to myself that it was a life well lived. What a tragedy in that situation to realize that the only life one will ever have has been a waste or misused.

To be able to say to oneself, "Well done!", one must have defined a purpose to his life. It behooves us to find what we feel is the purpose of existence.

Be aware that a life well lived does not imply a perfect life. Each person must realize and accept the fact that perfection, by definition, is impossible. Each of us tends to feel guilt because we are imperfect. We are taught this as children when we have to be taught to behave as an adult. The fact that adults are adults and we start out doing things wrong in their eyes leads us to always feel that others are more perfect than ourselves. Many people spend their entire lives trying to live up to an ideal of perfection that has never existed except in their own minds. That has to do with the Christian ideas of guilt, original sin, and divine forgiveness.

It is necessary though to have played as well as one can the hand that he is dealt.
"You got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em."
"You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars and you have a right to be here."

Life is an experience. It is moral or good to enhance the human experience for yourself and others. It is immoral to degrade the human experience for yourself or others. Basically, it is good to make people happy and bad to make them unhappy. Many ideas or actions may enhance this experience. Many others may degrade it. This means that there is not just one set of good things or one set of bad or evil things but there are many means to similar ends.

Purpose of life - is it:

Life Consists of:

A Metaphor for Life
I awoke early and stumbled out of my room and down to the beach. What to do with my day? I scruffed the sand with my bare toes and it stuck in an interesting shape. The next thing I knew I was on my hands and knees building a sand castle. As the day progressed I continued and my sand castle became more and more elaborate with towers and turrets and a drawbridge and boulders around it. Other people scattered on the beach were swimming or sleeping or reading. Some were also playing in the sand and building sand castles. No one paid much attention to what I was doing and I paid little attention to them.

By the time the tide began to come in, my sand castle was pretty complex. I left the beach and the tide washed over my sand castle and soon there was no trace of it left and the sand was as before.

The entire world is going to need to change its way of thinking and become much more mature and responsible if we are going to have any chance of surviving the challenges ahead. We still need to avoid nuclear war, develop cheap clean energy, end the dictatorships, educate the fundamentalists, industrialize the poor countries, save the global environment, and stabilize the world's population.

Some people gossip about other people.

Some people talk about things and events.

Some people discuss ideas.

Ethics - How to Live

A few rules for living a well rounded life:

      Physical - stay in good physical health with exercise and proper diet.                                         

      Mental - Learn, study, exercise the mind and stay curious.              

      Moral - Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you.
              Respect others. (people, organisms, the environment.)
              Try to be constructive, not destructive.

      Social - cultivate social and family relationships.
               Man is a social animal.

An outline for living:

  1. First write a bucket list, a list of goals you hope to accomplish during your lifetime.

    This list may include the following types of things.

    The bucket list should be detailed listing individual items in enough detail that you will know when you have accomplished that goal and then you can mark it off your list.

    For instance proper goals under the heading "marry and raise a family" might include:

    1. Get Mary Jones to marry me before I am 25 years old.
    2. Have three kids with her and raise them until they give me grandchildren.

    or under the heading "have fun":

    1. Learn to skydive and go skydiving at least once a month.

    Other goals might be written as in the following examples:

    Of course each individual's bucket list will be unique to that person and it will not be set in stone but will be constantly amended as life happens.

    The idea is that when you become older and more aware of your mortality, you can say, "It has been a life well lived."

  2. On the first of each year review your bucket list and from it create a list of specific goals for the coming year, each of which will lead to the larger goals from your bucket list.
  3. On the first of each month review your list for the year and make a sub list for that month.
  4. On the first of each week review your monthly list and make a sub list for that week.
  5. Each morning review your weekly list and make a sub list for that day with the items on that list ordered as to urgency and importance and include any individual living items for that day such as "Pick up the laundry." or "Shop for groceries."

    Try your best each day to complete all the goals or items on that daily list particularly those that are most urgent and/or important.

Comments on the Meaning of Life:

Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard:

We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There's a hunter, a plow, a fish,' is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.

Legendary science writer Stephen Jay Gould:

The human species has inhabited this planet for only 250,000 years or so- roughly.0015 percent of the history of life, the last inch of the cosmic mile. The world fared perfectly well without us for all but the last moment of earthly time–and this fact makes our appearance look more like an accidental afterthought than the culmination of a prefigured plan.

Moreover, the pathways that have led to our evolution are quirky, improbable, unrepeatable and utterly unpredictable. Human evolution is not random; it makes sense and can be explained after the fact. But wind back life's tape to the dawn of time and let it play again–and you will never get humans a second time.

We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher' answer — but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating. We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must construct these answers ourselves — from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way.

Frank Donofrio, a barber:

I have been asking myself why I'm here most of my life. If there's a purpose I don't care anymore. I'm seventy-four. I'm on my way out. Let the young people learn the hard way, like I did. No one ever told me anything.

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke:

A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning' as well, that will be a bonus?

If we waste time looking for life's meaning, we may have no time to live - or to play.

Literary icon John Updike:

Ancient religion and modern science agree: we are here to give praise. Or, to slightly tip the expression, to pay attention. Without us, the physicists who have espoused the anthropic principle tell us, the universe would be unwitnessed, and in a real sense not there at all. It exists, incredibly, for us. This formulation (knowing what we know of the universe's ghastly extent) is more incredible, to our sense of things, than the Old Testament hypothesis of a God willing to suffer, coddle, instruct, and even (in the Book of Job) to debate with men, in order to realize the meager benefit of worship, of praise for His Creation. What we beyond doubt do have is our instinctive intellectual curiosity about the universe from the quasars down to the quarks, our wonder at existence itself, and an occasional surge of sheer blind gratitude for being here.

Poet Charles Bukowski:

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God.

We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system.

We are here to drink beer.

We are here to kill war.

We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.

We are here to read these words from all these wise men and women who will tell us that we are here for different reasons and the same reason.

Avant-garde composer and philosopher John Cage:

No why. Just here.

College of the Mind - Philosophy

Lesson 1 - Introduction

by Roie Philom

This is not philosophy as an academic study as it is taught in college courses. This is the practical application of philosophy to one's personal life.

It is based on the proposition that we exist (at least I do), that we will die (perhaps cease to exist), and that we may be able to develop a set of beliefs or of purpose which can give some kind of meaning to the period between birth and death.

To do this one must develop an overview of existence, a way of knowing, and a purpose.

We must try to answer the questions?
We must try to answer the questions?
We must try to answer the questions?

This is not a test. It is an exercise to help you learn by doing research and by thinking. Look up internet references and books on philosophy.
  1. How does all the above relate to philosophy?
  2. Go to the library or somewhere and get a copy of the Dewey Decimal System or get a copy of a college's catalog of courses offered. Study it. How does it relate to this discussion?
  3. If you are a "Star Trek" fan or a "Twilight Zone" fan or a fan of "Amazing Stories" or a fan of "Law and Order" discuss the plots from at least one of these shows in relation to this. If not these shows then pick a classic novel such as "Lord Jim" or "Moby Dick" or "The Scarlet Letter" or choose a poem and discuss. Be sure to summarize the plot as a part of your discussion.
  4. After you have answered the above three questions pick a clear summer night when you have a couple of free hours. Read this page and your answers. Go to some peaceful spot where you can sit quietly and see the stars with as few distractions as possible and sit and think about what you have read for at least an hour. Take the papers with you so that you can review, if necessary. Also take a notepad and pencil.
Write an answer to the first three questions in as little or as much detail as you think is sufficient. If you have been brain washed by the way things are done in standard high school and college classes you may think that this assignment is vague or difficult. I assume that you will not participate if you are not interested in learning about this subject and that you will realize that the more you study and think about this assignment the more you will learn. This does not imply, however, that there is any relationship between the length of your answers and how much you have learned. Note that there is no time limit on answering. However, it is a good idea to try to learn as much as possible before the end of your life.

College of the Mind - Philosophy

Lesson 2 - Existence

by Roie Philom

I think, therefore I am! But what else is?

Which of the following things exist?

  1. A rock
  2. Water
  3. Fog
  4. A deer
  5. Superman
  6. A dream
  7. A thought
  8. Love
  9. A soul
  10. Good
  11. Evil
  12. George Washington
  13. Your not yet conceived child
  14. A shadow
  15. A flashlight beam
  16. Your mirror image
  17. The star you see in the nighttime sky which is 100 light years away and, unknown to you, was destroyed 50 years ago.
  18. Empty space
  19. The person you were at age 10
  20. Abraham Lincoln's ax which has had 10 new heads and 12 new handles since Abraham Lincoln owned it
  21. A black hole which no one can see and which swallows up all evidence of its existence
  22. A quark
  23. The edge of the universe
  24. Anything beyond the edge of the universe
  25. The beginning of time or the end of time
  26. Anything before the beginning or after the end of time
  27. The Internet

If I cease to exist, will these other things exist or is their existence dependent on my knowledge of them?

This is not a test. It is an exercise to help you learn by doing research and by thinking. Look up internet references and books on philosophy.
Use the keyword "metaphysics" on Internet search engines like yahoo, etc.

Think about the answers to these questions. Write the answers; at least in outline form. After reflecting on this write an essay to answer the question, "What is the nature of existence?"

College of the Mind - Philosophy

Lesson 3 - Knowing

by Roie Philom

Answer the following questions by writing a complete sentence for each answer. Each sentence must start with either "I know" or "I believe" or "I don't know" or "I don't believe".
  1. What color is grass?
  2. What is Bugs Bunny's favorite food?
  3. Did a man ever walk on the moon?
  4. Did O. J. Simpson kill anyone?
  5. Is Mel Gibson more handsome than Bob Dole?
  6. I am 5' 11"? Are you taller than me?
  7. Does God exist?
  8. Is the moon made of green cheese?
  9. Exactly what time is it?
  10. Exactly where are you?
  11. Are you good?
  12. When did you stop beating your dog?
  13. Can God do anything?
  14. Can God make a stone so large that he can't roll it?

This is not a test. It is an exercise to help you learn by doing research and by thinking. Look up internet references and books on philosophy.
Use the keywords "epistemology" or "logic" on Internet search engines.

Think about the answers to these questions. If you do not "know" the answer, is it possible for you to know? How?

Images to Help Ponder Existence

The Meaning of Life

Ego - amass wealth, power, and material goods

Social - Friends, family, relationships

Creation - creative endeavors

Existentialist - Pleasure in Existence

Hedonist - Maximum Pleasure

Biological - Reproduce

Religious - Serve God and man

Student - Learn about life and nature


by Roie Philom

The Basic Questions

The most basic questions are:
What is our life? Who are we?
What is the nature of our world?

My answer is:

We are organic beings which, through the providence of an infinite universe in which islands of order occasionally emerge from the chaos of continual creation and destruction, have evolved to a point of consciousness. This means that we have a perception of ourselves and a universe around us. Since this is what we perceive the question of its reality is a question with no meaning. Our purpose is to be aware of our own consciousness which is defined as an existence which can appreciate the universe. We should celebrate the fact that we exist as a part of the universe.

Our existence is expressed in a number of ways:

Abstract thought vs. Reality

As the consciousness of man has evolved and his brain has developed he has developed the ability to perceive the world in symbols or abstractions. The most obvious of these abilities are the development of languages, both spoken and written, music, art, and mathematics. At this point some also understand computer languages.

These are all mostly left brain constructs involving logic and order and the perception of the passage of time. Our, probably, more primitive right brain abilities involving emotion and feeling are in many ways the opposite of this although obviously involved in music and art.

There is no question that these left brain abilities are an advancement in our species in many ways. However, the purpose of this question is to consider the possibility that an emphasis on such left brain processes as the development of science may have perhaps diminished some of the right brain advantages. This is, in some ways, the old art vs. science debate.

However, it is also meant to consider some of the limitations imposed on our imagination by the use of abstractions. For instance, language has developed mostly in response to the environment in which we exist and therefore may not be as useful in imagining and visualizing other possibilities, an example being quantum mechanics. Of course math is still developing as witness the invention of calculus by Newton and the more recent discovery of fractal mathematics and chaos theory. Music, of course, has gone from Mozart and Beethoven to the Beatles and Elvis and beyond.

In considering this question it may be useful to consider a few related ideas:

If I ask you, "What does Bugs Bunny eat?", you are likely to answer, "Carrots." That is, of course, the wrong answer because Bugs Bunny is not a rabbit. It is a cartoon character drawn on a medium such as paper or appearing on a video screen. As such, it doesn't eat anything. However, we tend to internalize and anthromorphize symbols in our culture even to the extent of giving symbols such as celebrities and holidays a place in our life as real as Aunt Jane.

The Nuer of Sudan have an elaborate vocabulary to describe cattle. The Nuer have dozens of names for cattle because of the cattle's particular place in their history, economy, and environment. Native speakers' vocabularies vary widely within a language, and are especially dependent on the level of the speaker's education. A 1995 study estimated the vocabulary size of college- educated speakers at about 8000 words and that of first-year college students (high-school educated) at about 5000. The question is does size and type of vocabulary have a correlation with depth and breadth of imagination? Related to this, does knowledge of two or more languages give one more ability in thought and imagination?

Not long ago, a simple brain scanner test appeared to reveal the true story about one of neurology's greatest puzzles: exactly what is the difference between the two sides of the human brain?

The people behind the scanner test, clinical neurologists Gereon Fink of the University of Düsseldorf in Germany and John Marshall from the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, had been pursuing the idea that the difference between the two hemispheres lay in their style of working. The left brain, they reckoned, focused on detail. This would make it the natural home for all those mental skills that need us to act in a series of discrete steps or fix on a particular fragment of what we perceive--skills such as recognising a friend's face in a crowd or "lining up" words to make a sentence.

By contrast, the right brain concentrated on the broad, background picture. The researchers believed it had a panoramic focus that made it good at seeing general connections; this hemisphere was best able to represent the relative position of objects in space and to handle the emotional and metaphorical aspects of speech. So, in a neat and complementary division of labour, one side of the brain thought and saw in wide-angle while the other zoomed in on the detail.

The scanner test seems to confirm the validity of this hypothesis.

It seems to me that the essence of the teachings of Zen Buddhism is that life must be experienced internally, perhaps by means of right brain processes to be understood and that it cannot be understood well by abstract thought such as thinking, talking and writing about it. Thus the key to religious experience lies in meditation and feelings as opposed to such things as the study of religious texts.


A brain scan may reveal the neural signs of depression, but a Beethoven symphony reveals what that depression feels like. Both perspectives are necessary if we are to fully grasp the nature of mind, yet they are rarely brought together.

Eric Kandel


All knowing Oracle;

I said, "I created art on a computer."
She said, "You can't, because art can't exist on a computer. It's only an electronically stored pattern."

I said, "I met someone in Cyberspace."
She said, "You only typed on a keyboard and no one else was present."

I said, "I made love in a MOO."
She accused me of being unfaithful and says she's leaving.

I'm confused. Please, Oracle, enlighten me.


The time has come for me to try to understand the world in which I exist.

As the consciousness of Man has evolved and his brain has developed he has acquired the ability to perceive the world in terms of symbols or abstractions. The most obvious of these abilities are the development of languages, both spoken and written, music, art, and mathematics. This has also lead to the development of social groups such as the family, tribe, city, and nation.

Paradoxically Man is separated from the other animals both in his subsequent separation from reality and in his finer understanding and appreciation of reality.

This evolution of abstract thought processes can be perceived as his eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge or as his developing of left brain or logical and abstract abilities as opposed to right brain or emotional and feeling and large picture thought processes.

Some ways in which we are thus different than other animals:

Real vs. abstract in music, text, economics, computers.

Abstracts, pointers, representations, derivatives. What is real?


Beethoven sat at a piano and stuck a key. Vibration of a string caused a wave disturbance in the air which was interpreted by his brain as a sound that he found pleasing.

He struck more keys until he had a sequence of sounds that he found pleasing.

He wrote symbols for this sequence of keys on a piece of paper and he called that sequence represented by those symbols his 5th symphony. This implies that he had done a similar thing at least 4 times before.

When Beethoven did this he had created a thing, a sequence of key strokes and the resulting sounds, that had not existed in the world before.

Later Beethoven or someone else could read that paper and reproduce that sequence of sounds and make a copy of something that at that time had been done before.

Years later a machine was invented which could record those sounds generated and play them back and that recording could be copied many times.

So we have Beethoven's original playing, an abstraction on paper of that symphony, use of that abstraction to make real copies, use of those real copies to make further abstract copies in the form of electronic symbols on a record or tape.

By playing that record and use of a microphone attached to a computer I made a further electronic copy of that abstract copy in the form of bytes of information stored on a hard disk and I labeled that disk file "Beethovens 5th Symphony".

Which of these key strokes and abstractions and copies is the real 5th symphony?

By a similar process I created a number of computer files of music from a number of composers.

I then created abstract pointers to the locations of these files and assembled those pointers into a computer file that I called a playlist and labeled that file "Classical Music".

Now we have an original, copies, abstractions, computer files of actual music and computer files of pointers to other computer files.

These are all derived from Beethoven's and other composers' original compositions. They are derivatives.

The real thing that I have is a hard disk which stores sequences of electronic impressions which I call files. I say that one of these is Beethoven's 5th symphony. Is it?


I had $20,000 so I decided to build a $100,000 house. The bank agreed to loan me $80,000 in return for a mortgage which is a piece of paper and is a legal contract. I hired carpenters and bought materials and built a house. When I had finished, I had a real thing, a house, in which my family and I could live.

However I did not own my house. I owned 20% of it and the bank owned 80%. Since I was paying them 5% interest I had to pay them about $429.46 per month and at the end of the first year I would only owe them $78,820 for my $100,000 house. At the end of 30 years I would own the house and besides paying them their money back I would end up paying them $74,603 in interest.

Since these interest payments seemed like a good income to a larger bank they bought my mortage from my local bank. They paid the local bank their $80,000 back plus $7,000 for the mortgage. The larger bank bought a number of these mortgages from small local banks and put together about two hundred of them into an investment package and sold that package to a group of investors.

At this point we have a real thing, the house I live in, and an abstraction which is a mortgage or a piece of paper saying that I owe money for my house. But we also have an investment package which is derived from that piece of paper which is another abstraction saying that some stranger who I do not know and who does not know me owns a part of an investment package which includes my obligation to pay for my house.

So at this point I know that I own a part of my house but it is a little vague as to who owns the other part.

Also consider that even the money with which I pay for my mortgage is an abstraction. It is a piece of paper which represents my real labor or services I have performed for others.


As discussed above I have a computer which contains only stored states of electronic switches. But these switches form patterns which can represent pictures and movies and music and text and financial records and games and a host of other things. Using those symbols and a suitable real mechanical output device, I can print a report, or play a song, or view or print a picture or watch a video or learn about a subject new to me and thus enhance my knowledge or obtain new skills.

I say that using my computer I can go to a place called Facebook or Ebay or Yahoo or any of millions of other places. What I am actually doing, of course, is sitting in my chair and using my computer and the internet to access information stored on other computers located around the world. However, by this abstract method of communication, I can cause real world results. If I buy, on Ebay, a cigar case once owned by President Taft then I will symbolically transfer some of my wealth which is an abstraction earned by my real labor to another person and he will send me by UPS a real thing, a wooden box which is called a "cigar case".


We have developed languages made up of sounds and words to represent real world objects and actions and then we developed symbols called alphabets to represent these sounds and to be combined into words and sentences and books. So we can now not only communicate among ourselves even from a distance but, by means of books and libraries, we can communicate over time to future generations. No only can we do that but we use our imaginations to invent stories that never happened which we call fiction.

It can be argued that, while math and science expose the reality that is our origin, the arts and social, political and economic structure that our more complex brains have developed create a reality that is our future.


People can be described as follows:

They come in two sexes that complement each other. Males and females are different physically, reproductively, emotionally and in talents. Each is incomplete. A complete unit consists of a compatible male and a compatible female at a minimum, although it may consist of a small group of compatible males and females. Maybe children are also needed for a feeling of wholeness?

People are different, but that difference enriches all humankind and difference should be celebrated and accepted, never denied or minimized. It should never be believed that different means inferior. This difference refers particularly to sex and race, but also to all other attributes such as proficiencies in various talents, philosophy, culture, political system, religion, economic system, etc.

    Three Axioms
  1. We alone know the only right way.
  2. Our belief is based on faith and is so self-evident that to question our belief by use of logic, reason or open discussion would betray a lack of faith.
  3. To save the world it is necessary that we convert everyone to believing as we do.
These three axioms are the foundation of the International Communist Party, of the Ku Klux Klan, and of most Christian sects particularly evangelicals. They are the hallmark of a "true believer" in any cause. They lead to much pain and suffering.
Stratification of society based on arrogance and hubris

Arrogance - an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.

Hubris - overbearing pride.

Most people feel they are superior to some other set of people due to their station in life.

I have identified several classes of beliefs that lead to this.

Superiority due to wealth and power.
Those who believe they are richer or economically or politically more powerful than others believe they are superior to those who are poorer or less powerful.
Intellectual superiority.
Those who know more or think they do believe they are superior to those who know less.
Religious belief superiority.
Those who belong to a religious group believe that since their beliefs are true then they are superior to those who believe falsehoods.
Chosen people superiority.
Some believe they are part of a class of people chosen by god. This is usually based on race or heritage. They are therefore superior to the unchosen people sometimes referred to as the "mud" people or the "sand" people or other terms considered derisive.
Celebrity superiority.
Some people believe themselves to be superior and are often believed by others to be superior people simply because they are more well known than others. This particularly is the case with those in entertainment and sports but it may occur in other fields such as politics or religion or business.
Skill superiority.
This is the belief that one is superior to others because one is in the top of his profession in a particular skill such as dancing, or hitting a baseball or acting or painting or playing music or inventing or building or managing or whatever.

So consider a person like Oral Roberts, rich due to his speaking skill, obviously a part of the chosen people and with the only true religious beliefs, well known and who must have thought he was intellectually superior to others. He now sleeps underground with all the millions of his inferior predecessors.


Religions try to answer three questions:
  1. What is the purpose of existence?
  2. What is the nature of the universe?
  3. How should one live his life?

I am an existentialist on question 1. I believe with the Zen Buddhists and the existentialists that the purpose of existence is existence itself and living one's life properly to maximize its quality.

I believe on question 2 that there is a consciousness in the universe in which time, matter, energy, and spirit are defined and held and in which all existence is reflected. I do not believe in a personalized being watching over the fate of humans, but only of individual's reflections in a universal spirit. I believe that, just as electromagnetic energy was completely unknown to primitive man and now is partially understood, so can time and spirit be understood to be a part of existence. They will be found to be related to matter and energy in a similar way as we now know matter and energy to be related. We may even find or define other dimensions of existence for which we do not now even have names. But remember, as the Zen masters know, that a thing is not understood through intellectual abstraction but only through personal experience and spiritual oneness with the universal consciousness.

In answer to question 3, I believe that people can be defined as bad or good in terms of whether their life tends to increase the amount of entropy in the universe or to decrease it. Each person should strive to minimize the amount of pain, suffering, and sorrow in the world and to maximize happiness and pleasure both for themselves and others. Life should be a celebration of the diversity of experiences of which it is made and should always be lived in the present not in remembrance of the past or hope for the future.

There seem to be two purposes for organized religion. One is to give people a belief system to deny that they live in a capricious world in which bad things can and sometimes do happen to good people and in which there is no longer a parent or other higher or superior being to protect them. The other is to give people, who in some way finangle their way into becoming religious leaders, power over a mass of people to sway their opinions and to get them to give power and wealth to these leaders.

True believers are told that they must accept the beliefs of their religion on faith and that it is a sin to question those beliefs. In general they are opposed to study or education which might subject religious beliefs or premises to question including such things as the history of their religion independent of that history taught by the religion or a comparative study of various religions. They are often diametrically opposed to the methods of science.

Homo sapiens is a species of animal. As such it serves two biological imperatives, to preserve its life as an individual and to reproduce or preserve its species. It can be argued that there is only one imperative, that to reproduce, because the imperative to preserve individual life is necessary to serve the imperative to reproduce. It is proven that the instinct to reproduce takes precedence because in most cases, where necessary, parents will sacrifice their own lives to save their young.

In developing society or social groupings which are a higher form of development or evolution than biological evolution one of the institutions formed by men is religion. This is an attempt to bring order to a society by setting a moral compass based on some view of the origin and purpose and structure of life.

The question arises as to why many religions try to suppress sexual desires and actions since those very instincts are necessary to the reproduction imperative. There also seems to be desire to elevate man to something higher than an animal. It may be that sex is associated with animal nature and suppressing its expression is thought to be a means of denying man's animal nature.

So man desires to make himself into something close to a God which is an invention of his religion. Denying his nature obviously is a destructive impulse and leads to strife and conflict. It may be that because his social instincts are evolutionarily very early in development, many of the institutions man develops including political, economic and religious institutions are not only imperfect but actually, in ways, detrimental to his self actualization.

A step toward recognizing this dilemma was in the development of Tantra. Born in India more than 6,000 years ago, Tantra emerged as a rebellion against organized religion, which held that sexuality should be rejected in order to reach enlightenment.

Tantra challenged the acetic beliefs of that time, purporting that sexuality was a doorway to the divine, and that earthly pleasures, such as eating, dancing and creative expression were sacred acts.

In the last two hundred years there have been several attempts at a similar reformation of beliefs in the Christian religion. These have been, for the most part, unsuccessful. They have ranged from the free love movement starting in the 1820s to women's rights movements in the early 20th century to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and later to naturists movements.

It is fairly easy to make the case that religion overall is more destructive than constructive of human happiness because it is generally more about control than about freeing of human instincts and impulses.


The young believe that the universe is constant and permanent. With age comes the wisdom to realize that the only thing which is unchanging is the fact of change itself. This is mostly a matter of the perspective imparted by the passage of time. To a ten year old one year is one tenth of his life and is a long time. To a seventy year old one year is one seventyth of his life and is only 1/7 as long as the same year is to the ten year old. The older person has seen more change in the world, in what appears to him a shorter time, than the young person can conceive. A knowledge of history is very important for all to be aware of this effect.

The capacity of mankind to destroy himself and his environment increases exponentially each year. Although there are intelligent and wise people in every society, the majority seem to be shortsighted, greedy, and unintelligent. For this reason it seems inevitable that population and environmental destruction will increase. This will cause a decrease in goods available and consequently in people's standard of living. The unequal distribution of wealth then causes envy, hate, racial animosity, strife, war, etc. People seem unable to be happy and kind to each other under these conditions.

It is a fallacy to use the word, "destroy", as I did in the above paragraph. We are all ethnocentric enough to believe that the best of all possible worlds is the one with which we are familiar, if only a few small changes could be made. We are all egocentric enough to believe that we know exactly what small changes are needed. We also believe that a major change in the world to one which is unfamiliar to us is the definition of destruction of the world.

It is important to realize that a major change such as destruction of the rain forests and the resulting major climatic and cultural changes would not be a physical destruction of the earth but only a destruction of the earth and culture as we now know it. In predicting the future many scenarios are possible, all different from the world we now know. We tend to feel that different is worse. However, from the perspective of our grandchildren, theirs will be the familiar world and ours will be the strange one. Although they might envy us certain aspects of our world, they probably would not be comfortable in it as a whole. Would we actually want to live in ancient Egypt or in the Old West. Would Wyatt Earp or King Tut be comfortable in our world? Would they not feel that their world had been destroyed?

It must be realized that the world we now know will not exist in the future. There will be a different world, maybe better, probably worse, certainly better in some respects and worse in others. That world will be created by the collective decisions we make, just as our world was created by the actions of our forefathers.

What if, in the worst case scenario, we manage to destroy mankind and make homo sapiens an extinct species? Then envision the earth as either barren and uninhabited, or inhabited by other species familiar to us now, or inhabited by strange mutant species. From our standpoint this is a bad ending. However, in the vast stretches of the cosmos, our species and our Earth were insignificant from the beginning, only a blip in the universe. Anyway, what did we expect? Does any species last forever? Even if it does not become extinct each species will eventually evolve into another species and thereby cease to exist. We know it will happen. We just don't want it to happen soon. They say all Christians want to go to heaven someday, but none want to go now.

It must also be realized that the fact that we and the world we now know will not exist in the future does not in any way negate the fact that we now exist and that our very existence has made a blip, however small, in the very fabric of the universe. Even though the, so called, forces of evil may win in the end it is important that a time exists in which we won. Camelot is gone, but it still exists in spirit in the fabric of the universe and there it can never be erased.

There are two points to the above discussion. The first is that we should try to accept events by keeping them in perspective. The second is that we should realize that to a large extent the future is determined by the actions we take now and it is important for each of us and particularly our leaders to make decisions with that fact in mind.



Why do people often not take actions that will probably improve their lives or the lives of those around them?


People say:

"I would like to know more about my ancestors." They do not try to find out more.

"I need to exercise more." They don't.

There is a story on the news about a school system or a police department or a manufacturing plant that has discovered a different way of doing things that increases their efficiency or reduces their costs and it is an idea that could be applied in about any similar business with similar expected results and no side costs or effects. Other school systems or police departments or manufacturing plants are uninterested in trying this new method. At a school board meeting once a parent asked the chairman of the school board why they didn't try a particular new method that the parent had seen used in a similar school district on TV the night before. The chairman said, "Well that may work fine for them but with the people we have here it wouldn't work, so there is no use in trying it."

I started using computers in 1977 and by 1990 or so it was obvious to me that the following were now obsolete:

but it took years for the rest of the world to realize that.

I installed computer systems for customers and showed them that they could use those computers for all these things and more. They actually almost always only used the computer for the one thing that they had bought it for and in some cases a secondary use and continued doing all other things the same way they had always done them even though it would have been cheaper and more efficient to use their computer for those uses too.

Possible reasons:

  1. Apathetic about life - lazy - not willing to make the effort to change.
  2. resistant to change - afraid to change anything because it might be worse or because many people think things should always be done they way they have been all their lives and cannot imagine doing things any other way.
  3. Fear - that they might not have the knowledge or skills or intelligence to do things in a different way or might be embarrassed.
  4. Might require thinking about the world in a different way - might not fit their world view.

people: along a continuum

independent - thinking for themselves -> dependent - opinions from others
proactive - change your world -> reactive - wait for the world to change you.

Master bucket list:

In the words of Robert Heinlein's character, Lazarus Long, in "Time Enough For Love":

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, fell a tree, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, plant a crop, cook a tasty meal, survey a land tract, fight efficiently, die gallantly and sew on a button. Specialization is for insects."

Many men start out life idealistic with a desire to improve the world but as they begin to get wealth and power, their vision narrows until all they can see as a goal is to accumulate more wealth and power.

The best way to enable progress in knowledge in the world is to seek out and bring together the most brilliant minds, giving them access to the best library and research facilities with sufficient supporting structure for their needs and let them pursue creative and intellectual pursuits instead of having to dig ditches somewhere. Genius thrives when it is rewarded and appreciated.

The first and most important thing a teacher must teach is the importance and value of the subject he is teaching. It is only when intelligent students value the subject that learning will take place. Once that is achieved the smart student will become his own teacher.

In a society which places value on math and science rather than entertainment, consumption and religious faith, progress in knowledge and technology can proceed at an astonishing rate.

I think many people in this world do not see the world as a place of natural law and realize that one can reason out why things are as they are and why things happen. Instead they see the world as a place of magic black boxes such that things happen but they have no idea why nor are they curious about the reasons. For instance, they flip a switch and the light comes on and flip it again and it goes off. They believe that computers know things and are capable of doing things but they don't understand how this works.

They expect magic cures from doctors and don't seem to realize that medicine is a science and a skill but think it is akin to sprinkling on holy water by a priest. They actually want witch doctors not medical doctors and politicians who will promise them a free lunch and preachers who will promise them heaven.

I guess these are the same type of people who are true believers as explained by Eric Hoffer and can be led into being fanatics and even terrorists.

Things that are or should be of actual concern to people in this life:

Things that are of no consequence but are of concern to many people in this life:

Judge the depth of a person's thinking by the concern he shows for items in the first category as opposed to those in the second category. Remember, many people are all hat and no cattle.

The Middle Way

There is a middle way of living life. It is based on the Tantric way and Zen. The concerns of this way are not the serious or consequential things of the first way nor are they the trivial or inconsequential things of the third way. Rather this life is based on maximizing the joys and experiences of the immediate present with friends and family nearby.

One following the middle way does not worry about the future or live in the past but rather savors the moment. It is a sensual life.

Some of the activities in which one who follows the middle way may be engaged could include such things as:

Human Evolution

What was life like during the pre-agricultural evolution of man?
That was, after all, the vast majority of human existence.
Homo sapiens has existed for about two or three million years but he has had an agrarian society for only about the last 10,000 years.
What are the circumstances under which man evolved?

People were mostly active physically, walking, running, moving, not sitting for long periods of time, but often sleeping.

The village was probably cooperative rather than self serving in sharing everything including sex so that no one was denied the necessities of life and the only fear of want occurred when the whole village had a scarcity. It was a source of shame and even ostracism to be thought one who would not share with others.

It took a village to raise a child and children often considered all the adults in the village as their parents and the adults considered all children their offspring.

It was often a matriarchal society with sex freely available for all.

Some people lived in tropical areas with plentiful food and some lived in colder areas, perhaps with a scarcity of food requiring a nomadic existence chasing the food supply. In such cases the group had to provide protection against hunger and cold.

Here are some correlated milestones in human evolution with a theoretical implication of cause and effect although it must be recognized that cause and effect can be confused. If A and B are correlated it may be that A causes B or that B causes A or that a third factor, C, is the cause of both A and B.

In evolution of humans and bonobos and chimps the female evolved to be receptive to sex at any time not, as in most mammals, only at the time of ovulation.

In highly intelligent species like humans, bonobos, chimps, and dolphins sex is primarily for social rather than procreative purposes. That is why the frequency of sex to pregnancy is about 1000 to one in humans but only about 10 or 12 to one in gorillas.

This led to more highly developed social structures which led to the development of language for communication.

There is a correlation between larger brain size, higher intelligence, and the development of language leading to more ability for abstract thought leading to the discovery of mathematics.

Man discovered the concept of agriculture which led to the concept of property ownership and inheritance and to the development of social structures larger than the village such as towns and cities. It also led to the segregation of the society by a developing class structure based on wealth and social power.

This also led to the concept of females as exclusive property of one male and to the idea of repression of female sexuality to try to assure paternity of offspring so that the male could have some certainty that it was his genetic offspring inheriting his property. It is interesting that people developed the idea that repression of human sexuality would separate humans from the other animals when, in fact, it was the increase in human sexuality that actually did historically separate them from the other animals.

This created the ideas of individuality and nuclear family units and self interest rather than the cooperative village commonly sharing all resources. Chronic food shortages and scarcity-based economies arose with farming.

What people really want in life is higher social status.

People try to acquire wealth and material goods so that they can show off what they have to others, thus hopefully convincing the others that they have or deserve higher social status.

There are four ways to get social status:

  1. By having economic power (wealth).
  2. By having physical power (size and strength).
  3. By having special skills (professionals and artisans).
  4. By having a winning personality (leadership).

The reason the goal of the game is to die owning the most property (toys) is because this will, to some, indicate higher social status.

Before the concept of owning property the option of using wealth to get social status was not available. So higher social status went to the physically strongest or to the best hunter or cook or weaver or the person with the most leadership skills. It was essential for social status for the individual to be generous in sharing with and caring for others. The selfish need not apply.

As for man being aggressive and warlike, that only happens when there is something to fight over. That something must be property or food or sex. The point is that in a foraging pre-agrarian tribe usually consisting of less than 150 individuals where the food gathered is shared with everyone as is sex and where there is no concept of private ownership of property, there is no aggressive or warlike behavior simply because there is nothing worth fighting for. As a matter of fact in small groups where everybody knows your name the worst fear is to be shamed in front of the group and this would happen in the case of aggressive, hoarding and selfish behavior as opposed to cooperative and sharing behavior.

An agricultural society enabled populations to double about every 25 years as opposed to the doubling every 250,000 years before.

According to Ryan and Jethá, "Basic human reproductive biology in a foraging context made rapid population growth unlikely, if not impossible. Women rarely conceive while breastfeeding and without milk from domesticated animals, hunter-gatherer women typically breastfeed each child for five or six years. Furthermore, the demands of a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle make carrying more than one small child at a time unreasonable for a mother - even assuming lots of help from others. Finally, low body-fat levels result in much later menarche for hunter-gatherer females than for the post-agricultural sisters. Most foragers don't start ovulating until their late teens, resulting in a shorter reproductive life."

So a low population of humans had an entire world full of resources available with little competition and all that was necessary was to travel on foot from one place to another where resources were more plentiful or there was less competition, a task that humans had evolved to do well.

By this theory development of horticulture and animal husbandry led to the change from a simple hunter-gatherer foraging society to the complex life we know today with its attendant benefits and problems.

Some probable characteristics of pre-agrarian societies included:

Data from age estimates of skeletons from various archaeological sites representing a variety of time periods in the Mediterranean region indicate that stature and pelvic inlet depth declined quite a bit with the adoption of agriculture, and still have not reached paleolithic levels to this day. Narrower pelvises cause more difficulty in child birth.

It's well accepted in the field of archaeology that the adoption of grains coincided with a shortening of stature, thinner bones and crooked, cavity ridden teeth. This fact is so well accepted that these sorts of skeletal changes are sometimes used as evidence that grains were adopted in a particular region. There were similar changes in populations as they transitioned from traditional diets to processed-food diets rich in white wheat flour, sweets and other processed foods.

The Old Testament mentions the travails of childbirth as one of the curses inflicted on women after the fall. It seems the bad effects of leaving the Garden of Eden (hunter gatherer world) and having to “earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow” (agriculturalism) was noticed long ago. It is often thought that the Garden of Eden story was an allegory for the transition from wild man to civilized man. The ancients knew that this path was cursed.

So man evolved for a couple million years in an environment in which probably 20 or 30 hours per week was devoted to procuring food and firewood. The rest of the time was spent talking, fucking, eating, sleeping and playing with the kids. Everyone cooperated so that food, shelter and sex were available to all. The diet was a great variety of native meats, fish, snails, insects and plants and plant parts. Mental stress was minimal. There was security provided by membership in the tribe for the young and old. There may very well have been a practice of infanticide within the first year and perhaps euthanasia of the weak or disabled.

Since everyone was free to leave the tribe at any time there was no coercion other than social stigma and no government, just deferrence to those perceived as leaders due to their skills or personalities. Tribes were probably between 20 and 150 people in size and may have been nomadic or settled near one area depending on the availability of food. They, of course, tended to live near water sources.

In general people then were almost certainly healthier than today and probably had about the same or maybe a greater life expectancy. It is unclear whether science would have expanded knowledge of the physical world in such an environment. It may be that the development of agriculture with the subsequent growth of population and cities was necessary for the advancement of knowledge. Of course, the cave paintings discovered worldwide indicate that there was interest in the arts prior to agriculture.

According to this theory:
Causes of the genetic deterioration of humans since the paleolithic:

What to do about it:

General guide to time use:

"How do you approach women?"
"I just say, 'Do you wanna fuck?'"
"Don't you get your face slapped a lot?"
"Sure, but sometimes I get fucked :)"

What is the future of our species?

It will almost certainly become extinct or change in such a way that it would be unrecognizable to us.

Threats include us doing ourselves in by nuclear war or environmental destruction such as global warming or global epidemics; or the universe doing us in by such things as collisions with asteroids or huge sun storms or even geological upheavals such as volcanoes and earthquakes.

Most of these, however, would be more likely to result in the demise of huge portions of the population rather than extinction of the species.

Another possibility, of course, is what everyone hopes for, at least subconsciously. That none of the above will happen and we will simply evolve to become wise enough to solve all our problems and live long lives of peace and happiness. That seems unlikely but its possibility gives us hope.

Quotes and ideas from or inspired by the book "Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá.

“Readers acquainted with the recent literature on human sexuality will be familiar with what we call the standard narrative of human sexual evolution, hereafter shortened to the standard narrative. It goes something like this:

  1. Boy Meets girl,
  2. Boy and girl assess one and others mate value, from perspectives based upon their differing reproductive agendas/capacities. He looks for signs of youth, fertility, health, absence of previous sexual experience and likelihood of future sexual fidelity. In other words, his assessment is skewed toward finding a fertile, healthy young mate with many childbearing years ahead and no current children to drain his resources.
  3. She looks for signs of wealth (or at least prospects of future wealth), social status, physical health and likelihood that he will stick around to protect and provide for their children. Her guy must be willing and able to provide materially for her (especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding) and their children, known as "male parental investment".
  4. Boy gets girl. Assuming they meet one anothers criteria, they mate, forming a long term pair bond, "the fundamental condition of the human species" as famed author Desmond Morris put it. Once the pair bond is formed, she will be sensitive to indications that he is considering leaving, vigilant towards signs of infidelity involving intimacy with other women that would threaten her access to his resources and protection while keeping an eye out (around ovulation especially) for a quick fling with a man genetically superior to her husband.

    He will be sensitive to signs of her sexual infidelities which would reduce his all important paternity certainty while taking advantage of short term sexual opportunities with other women as his sperm are easily produced and plentiful.

Researchers claim to have confirmed these basic patterns in studies conducted around the world over several decades. Their results seem to support the standard narrative of human sexual evolution, which appears to make a lot of sense, but they don't, and it doesn't.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

For all the oft-repeated claims to the contrary, civilization doesn’t depend upon the sanctity of any particular form of marriage, but upon honoring the dignity intrinsic to any mutually respectful, mutually beneficial relationship.

“And yet, despite repeated assurances that women aren't particularly sexual creatures, in cultures around the world men have gone to extraordinary lengths to control female libido: female genital mutilation, head-to-toe chadors, medieval witch burnings, chastity belts, suffocating corsets, muttered insults about "insatiable" whores, pathologizing, paternalistic medical diagnoses of nymphomania or hysteria, the debilitating scorn heaped on any female who chooses to be generous with her sexuality...all parts of a worldwide campaign to keep the supposedly low-key female libido under control. Why the electrified high-security razor-wire fence to contain a kitty-cat?”
Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Marriage," "mating," and "love" are socially constructed phenomena that have little or no transferable meaning outside any given culture. The examples we've noted of rampant ritualized group sex, mate-swapping, unrestrained casual affairs, and socially sanctioned sequential sex were all reported in cultures that anthropologists insist are monogamous simply because they've determined that something they call "marriage" takes place there. No wonder so many insist that marriage, monogamy, and the nuclear family are human universals. With such all-encompassing interpretations of the concepts, even the prairie vole, who "sleeps with anyone," would qualify.”
Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Societies in which women have lots of autonomy and authority tend to be decidedly male-friendly, relaxed, tolerant, and plenty sexy. Got that, fellas? If you're unhappy at the amount of sexual opportunity in your life, don't blame the women. Instead, make sure they have equal access to power, wealth and status. Then watch what happens.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“It is a common mistake to assume that evolution is a process of improvement, that evolving organisms are progressing toward some final, perfected state. But they, and we, are not. An evolving society or organism simply adapts over the generations to changing conditions. While these modifications may be immediately beneficial, they are not really improvements because external conditions never stop shifting.”
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Echoing the Kama Sutra, Sherfey isn't shy about the implications of this mismatch of orgasmic capacity between human males and females, writing: "The sexual hunger of the female, and her capacity for copulation completely exceeds that of any male," and, "To all intents and purposes, the human female is sexually insatiable...”
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Though many strive to hide their human libidinousness from themselves and each other, being a force of nature, it breaks through. Lots of uptight, proper Americans were scandalized by the way Elvis moved his hips when he sang "rock and roll." But how many realized what the phrase rock and roll meant? Cultural historian Michael Ventura, investigating the roots of African- American music, found that rock 'n' roll was a term that originated in the juke joints of the South. Long in use by the time Elvis appeared, Ventura explains the phrase "hadn't meant the name of a music, it meant 'to fuck.' 'Rock,' by itself, has pretty much meant that, in those circles, since the twenties at least." By the mid-1950s, when the phrase was becoming widely used in mainstream culture, Ventura says the disc jockeys "either didn't know what they were saying or were too sly to admit what they knew.”
Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Nor do the females of our closest primate cousins offer much reason to believe the human female should be sexually reluctant due to purely biological concerns. Instead, primatologist Meredith Small has noted that female primates are highly attracted to novelty in mating. Unfamiliar males appear to attract females more than known males with any other characteristic a male might offer (high status, large size, coloration, frequent grooming, hairy chest, gold chains, pinky ring, whatever). Small writes, "The only consistent interest seen among the general primate population is an interest in novelty and variety...In fact," she reports, "the search for the unfamiliar is documented as a female preference more often than is any other characteristic our human eyes can perceive.”
Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“One wonders, in fact, why marriage is a legal issue at all - apart from its relevance to immigration and property laws. Why would something so integral to human nature require such vigilant legal protection?”
Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“The conditions necessary for devastating epidemics or pandemics just didn't exist until the agricultural revolution. The claim that modern medicine and sanitation save us from infectious diseases that ravaged pre-agricultural people (something we hear often) is like arguing that seat belts and air bags protect us from car crashes that were fatal to our prehistoric ancestors.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“So is jealousy natural? It depends. Fear is certainly natural, and like any other kind of insecurity, jealousy is an expression of fear. But whether or not someone else's sex life provokes fear depends on how sex is defined in a given society, relationship, and individual's personality.”
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Our sense of the full range of human nature, like our diet, has been steadily reduced. No matter how nourishing it might be, anything wild gets pulled - though as we'll see, some of the weeds growing in us have roots reaching deep into our shared past. Pull them if you want, but they'll just keep coming back again and again.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

In "The Moral Animal", Robert Wright laments, "A basic underlying dynamic between men and women is mutual exploitation. They seem, at times, designed to make each other miserable."

Don't believe it. We aren't designed to make each other miserable. This view holds evolution responsible for the mismatch between our evolved predispositions and the post-agricultural socioeconomic world we find ourselves in. The assertion that human beings are naturally monogamous is not just a lie; it's a lie most Western societies insist we keep telling each other.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“As attentive readers may have noted, the standard narrative of heterosexual interaction boils down to prostitution: a woman exchanges her sexual services for access to resources. Maybe mythic resonance explains part of the huge box- office appeal of a film like Pretty Woman, where Richard Gere's character trades access to his wealth in exchange for what Julia Roberts's character has to offer (she plays a hooker with a heart of gold, if you missed it). Please note that what she's got to offer is limited to the aforementioned heart of gold, a smile as big as Texas, a pair of long, lovely legs, and the solemn promise that they'll open only for him from now on. The genius of Pretty Woman lies in making explicit what's been implicit in hundreds of films and books. According to this theory, women have evolved to unthinkingly and unashamedly exchange erotic pleasure for access to a man's wealth, protection, status, and other treasures likely to benefit her and her children.”
Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Anthropologist Donald Symons is as amazed as we are at frequent attempts to argue that monogamous gibbons could serve as viable models for human sexuality, writing, "Talk of why (or whether) humans pair bond like gibbons strikes me as belonging to the same realm of discourse as talk of why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Rather than a plausible explanation for how we got to be the way we are, the standard narrative is exposed as contemporary moralistic bias packaged to look like science and then projected upon the distant screen of prehistory, rationalizing the present while obscuring the past. Yabba dabba doo.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“When economists base their models on their fantasies of an "economic man" motivated only by self-interest, they forget community--the all-important web of meaning we spin around each other--the inescapable context within which anything truly human has taken place.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“Remember the Tenth Commandment: "Thou shalt not covert thy neighbors house, thou shalt not covert thy neighbors wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox,nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbor's." Clearly, the biggest loser (aside from slaves, perhaps) in the agricultural revolution was the human female, who went from occupying a central respected role in foraging societies to becoming another possession for a man to earn and defend, along with his house, slaves, and livestock.”
Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

“No group-living nonhuman primate is monogamous, and adultery has been documented in every human culture studied- including those in which fornicators are routinely stoned to death. In light of all of this bloody retribution, it's hard to see how monogamy comes "naturally" to our species. Why would so many risk their reputations, families, careers- even presidential legacies- for something that runs against human nature? Were monogamy an ancient, evolved trait characteristic of our species, as the standard narrative insists, these ubiquitous transgressions would be infrequent and such horrible enforcement unnecessary. No creature needs to be threatened with death to act in accord with its own nature.”
Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

Columbus reported to the Queen when he landed at Hispaniola for the first time. He wrote it was paradise, the sea was full of fish, the trees full of fruit, the people were naked and handsome and swam gracefully, and if you expressed admiration for anything they give it to you freely.
. . .and then he wrote "with a hundred men I could subdue the entire race."
Christopher Ryan

And women are constantly insulted, called sluts and whores if they do enjoy sex openly. In Spain as well, just about ever swear word you can come up with involves "puta," whore. What is a whore? A woman who's put in a position where she'll do anything to feed her children. It's male pressure saying "We control women's sexuality, never step out of line or we'll bury you up to your head in the desert and stone you to death," as they're doing in Iran right now. The pressure on women to not express their sexual autonomy is overwhelming, and has been for millennia.
Christopher Ryan

What men and males in general don't understand is that saying a society is a patriarchy doesn't mean you are going to have any power, dude. It means 3 or 4% of the men are going to have all the power, and the rest will be much worse off than they would be under a female-dominated group.
Christopher Ryan

Monogamy probably promotes more sorts of destructive sexual behavior than it protects against. With incest there are natural genetic barriers that have been demonstrated repeatedly, with plenty of research on the subject (the Westermarck effect). But when you've got someone cut off from healthy expressions of sexuality, what happens is they often resort to helpless, disempowered people, who tend to be children. That's what we see in the Catholic Church, a classic example. I would argue incest and certain kinds of rape are the same sort of thing.
Christopher Ryan

I was recently reading very compelling research showing that as pornography becomes free on the internet sexual abuse against women declines. They watch free porn, and don't need to get into these destructive kind of relationships.
Christopher Ryan

The vast majority of species have sex only to reproduce—a function reflected in a very low ratio of sex-acts-to-births. Gorillas, for example, have intercourse at most about a dozen times per birth. And as with good Catholics, gorilla sex is all business: no oral, anal, manual, or any other kind of non- reproductive dilly-dallying. The female of most mammals only has sex when she is ovulating. Otherwise, no go. But the sexuality of human beings—and our closest primate relations, bonobos and chimps—is utterly different. We and our chimp and bonobo cousins typically have sex hundreds—if not thousands—of times per birth, with or without contraception.

It’s the nature of the human beast. For Homo sapiens, sex is primarily about establishing and maintaining relationships—relationships often characterized by love, or at least affection. Reproduction is a by-product of human sexual behavior, not its primary purpose.

Sex of all kinds comes naturally to our species, and most of it has little to do with reproduction, and a great deal to do with loving one another. Sex and love hold communities—not just families—together. And in the end, it is our communities, as much as our families, we ask to raise our children, protect us from disaster, and offer us some measure of comfort in our final days.

Nothing is erotic that isn't also, with the wrong person, revolting, which is precisely what makes erotic moments so intense: At the precise juncture where disgust could be at its height, we find only welcome and permission. Think of two tongues exploring the deeply private realm of the mouth—that dark, moist cavity that no one but our dentist usually enters. The privileged nature of the union between two people is sealed by an act that, with someone else, would horrify them both.

As a society, we have little awareness of the pain we inflict on our adolescents who are biologically at their most sexual, but operate in a social context of denial and shame. None of this is unconnected to the facts that adolescent boys are, by far, the group most likely to commit acts of violence against themselves and others.

It seems that the original modern American swingers were crew-cut World War II air force pilots and their wives. Like elite warriors everywhere, these “top guns” often developed strong bonds with one another, perhaps because they suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch of the military. According to journalist Terry Gould, “key parties,” like those later dramatized in the 1997 film The Ice Storm, originated on these military bases in the 1940s, where elite pilots and their wives intermingled sexually with one another before the men flew off toward Japanese antiaircraft fire.

Gould, author of The Lifestyle, a cultural history of the swinging movement in the United States, interviewed two researchers who’d written about this Air Force ritual. Joan and Dwight Dixon explained to Gould that these warriors and their wives “shared each other as a kind of tribal bonding ritual, with a tacit understanding that the two thirds of husbands who survived would look after the widows.” The practice continued after the war ended and by the late 1940s, “military installations from Maine to Texas and California to Washington had thriving swing clubs,” writes Gould. By the end of the Korean War, in 1953, the clubs “had spread from the air bases to the surrounding suburbs among straight, white-collar professionals.”

What would happen to the standard of medical care if every surgeon caught having an affair were fired and barred from practicing medicine? How would flight safety be affected if the sexual lives of pilots received the same level of scrutiny and judgment as politicians'? Who would be left on court if the NBA enforced the same zero-tolerance sexual code we apply to our political leaders?

How many cases of red-faced homophobes must be exposed as closeted self-hating homosexuals before advocating anti-gay legislation raises too many eyebrows to be worth the risk? How many outspoken defenders of “traditional marriage” (whatever that is) must be exposed as adulterers before voters just roll their eyes at those two words?

Further information:


Humans evolved over a period of less than two million years of the approximately 3.5 billion years of life on Earth. They evolved in an environment that required constant activity both to escape from predators and to catch and gather food. Especially after the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago, time for leisure, philosophy and education was almost non- existent. This environment required that many waking hours were often devoted to growing and obtaining food for the next meal.

Now people live in the so called "civilized" world. This means that man has been able to separate and insulate himself from his natural environment. "Modern man" is not constantly in fear of starving, freezing, burning, being eaten or dying from infection or disease. Life spans have increased greatly since the time of our neolithic ancestors. It is possible for man to spend the first score of his years learning his culture, spend the next two score years making a family and a living by working only about forty hours of the 168 hour week and spend the last score of his years in leisure and retirement. This is a vastly different world than that of his forebears. Many, I am afraid, have more time than they have the imagination to use. So they end up as couch potatoes sitting and watching TV or talking to one another electronically without person to person interaction and without any physical activity other than getting up to get more junk food and going to the bathroom.

When I was a boy I was interested in the outdoors, science, cowboys, indians, and cars. I had to work on the farm two or three days a week, usually 4 to 8 hours a day, in the summertime. I did chores including carrying in firewood each night, milking the cows night and morning, and before we got running water, I carried buckets of water from the spring. Going to town usually happened on Saturday unless my dad broke a part on a piece of farm equipment during the week and had to go to town to get the part. We went to the city, a three hour drive away, usually about twice a year, and visited my grandmother in another state once a year. I walked to a one room grade school every day. I lived close enough that I could walk home for lunch. Men were macho in those days. We lived on a diet of garden vegetables, soup beans, milk, corn bread, pork, chicken and beef. We did not have much at all in the way of prepared foods. Candy and soft drinks were a rare treat. I spent much of my time in the outdoors both doing farm work and wandering in the mountains. I was curious about the world around me and loved to learn science, math, and history and to read literature. I was taught as a child that a man should be able to survive in the wilderness without any of the trappings of modern civilization, if need be. So I spent a lot of time learning survival skills such as fire building, stealth, observation of one's surroundings, cooking, sewing, archery, marksmanship, orientation and other such skills.

Now the world is different. Children are apprehensive about the outdoors. They look on it as a fearful place of dirt, bugs, heat, sweat, cold, etc. They think of science and math as difficult, unknown, and uninteresting subjects. They think of history as dull. While I was fascinated by electronic gadgets and machines and spent hours finding out how and why they worked, children now open the box of a new appliance or toy, expect to use it immediately without ever reading the manual, and are completely uninterested in why it works, so long as it does. They live in a world of going somewhere daily, TV, Computers, phones, DVRs, and Shopping Malls. Spending an hour mowing the lawn is considered a hard day's work. They don't know the speed of light, the Capital of Norway, or the ethnic race of Genghis Khan. They know how to press the shutter release on a camera, but not how to compose a picture, or arrange the lighting, or figure the relationship between f stop and shutter speed.

Other than one's own family social interaction was pretty much limited to church, school and visiting with one another in our homes usually on Sunday afternoons. We communicated other than that by writing letters which might take several days before an answer was received. Now there is a compulsion by both adults and children to be in constant communication at all times. People actually sleep with their cell phones in today's world. The solitary walks in the mountains where no other human was seen or heard that I once and still do enjoy which could sometimes last all day and even include a solitary camping trip over night, now would be considered a cruel and unbearable punishment.

In my time kids learned about sex from each other and experimented when or before they married to figure it out. Now kids starting between the ages of seven and twelve learn a weird view of sex from watching porn on the internet. People probably always had strange views of sex due to lack of sex education but now this "porn education" opens a whole new world of strange sexual expectations.

When I was a boy, if you wanted some new toy, you saved your money and then ordered it from the Sears Catalog and watched the mail man with great anticipation each day for the two to three weeks it took to arrive. Now items are bought on a whim as kids shop in a giant shopping mall. They are taken home immediately and used or played with for a few hours before the next purchase, sometimes the next day. In my day things were precious and were well cared for. Now most things are considered disposable.

In my time people were thin and the relatively rare person who was overweight was described as "healthy" because it was obvious that they had sufficient food to eat which was not the case with everyone. People shared sometimes limited amounts of food. Now it is said that about half the food produced in our nation is thrown away because, try as we might, we cannot eat it all and many adults and children get little exercise and are obese.

I feel that if the world is to be inherited by people like this, then it is truly headed for destruction. But, I think my parents felt the same way about me, and I suspect that all parents have always felt that way about their children. I don't think the world my generation has created is such a bad place although I don't know if my ancestors would agree. But if all the children of the past have caused the world I now live in, then perhaps there is hope and maybe my children's world will not be completely hopeless either.


My political philosophy was developed over a number of years of study of history and current events; of reading Locke, and Adam Smith, and Karl Marx, and Thomas Jefferson; of the conservatism of Barry Goldwater and the liberalism of Lyndon Johnson, of the pragmatism of Richard Nixon, and the moralism of Jimmy Carter. I have observed the leadership of Winston Churchill, and Anwar Sadat, and David Ben Gurion, and Mikhail Gorbachev. I have noted the destruction caused by Adolph Hitler, and Pol Pot, and the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao. I have seen the economic changes caused purposely by Franklin D. Roosevelt and blindly by Ronald Reagan.

The basic idea is that none of us is smart enough to tell another of us what to do. Democracy means the rule of the majority tempered by respect for the rights of the individual. Democracy and capitalism are inefficient systems, but they are the best we have been able to devise. Our collective intelligence as expressed in a democratic system reduces all our intelligence to that of the average which is pretty dumb. The liberal philosophy won't work because it assumes we are smarter than we are. The conservative philosophy doesn't work because it doesn't give us credit for ever being able to better our society by tampering with the system.

The conservative philosophy is to leave the free market system to fend for itself because we are not smart enough to fine tune it and that government is best which governs least. I can buy that. But it assumes that the present system is perfect or at least the best we can ever have. I can't buy that.

The liberal philosopy is to always implement changes in the system to make it better. That sounds like a fine idea. The only problem is that, in practice, it doesn't work because better in theory isn't always better in practice. The liberals said that quality of care in nursing homes, in ambulances, and in child care centers should be better. So they outlawed those institutions that did not meet certain minimum standards. The short term effect was that many nursing homes, ambulance services, and child care centers went out of business and millions of people had to do without these essential services. The long term effect was that quality improved but many people could no longer afford the services. If we raise taxes and let the government pay for those services, then people will have less money to buy food and clothing. Conservative pragmatism works but without liberal idealists there will never be improvement or progress.

Conservatives tend to preserve things as they are while liberals tend to change things. Change may make things better or worse. If we fear making things worse, we will never make the changes for the better. Is it better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all? In theory yes, but in practice?

Conservatives put emphasis on individual rights but not on common efforts to improve individual lives while liberals emphasize the quality of individual life at the expense of individual freedom. Since we know what's best for old Aunt Jane, let's do it for her regardless of what she wants because she's too old to know what's best for her. A conservative might say, "Leave Aunt Jane alone to do what she wants, even if it kills her."


The prevailing World view:

We are a good people lead by wise leaders and we live in a world where those who are not like us have evil intentions and are out to do us harm and take what we have. So, it behooves us to do them harm and take what they have before they can do the same to us. Do unto others before they do it unto you.

To protect our families, our wealth and our power it is necessary that we follow and have faith in our leaders and believe what they tell us and give them of our wealth and power so that they can protect us. Our leaders are superior people who deserve more wealth and power than those who are inferior followers.

There is a God, in whose image we are made, whom we must fear and obey so that he will protect us from evil. There is a Devil who is the God of our enemies who wish to defeat us and take what we have and enslave us. Those who are not like us are our enemies. Sometimes our enemies join us and pretend to be like us so that they can defeat us from within. So we must always be suspicious of others.

Our goal is to achieve social acceptance and to accumulate wealth and power and to consume as much of the world's resources as possible and to be entertained.

This world view is caused by greed, ego and fear. It is sustained by patriotism and religion.

Click here for a video of our public ignorance.

An alternate world view:

We are all insignificant organisms who have more in common than we have differences. We exist in a random universe and our goal is to have the happiest possible existence. We are most likely to achieve this goal if we cooperate in gaining knowledge to improve our world and our lot in life and to help others who are less fortunate.

Although some of us may have more abilities than others, we all have an equal right to exist.

We live to obtain knowledge and wisdom and to live a serene peaceful life in harmony with our world and to pass these things on to our progeny.

To which world view do you subscribe?

What are the problems when people with these different world views exist simultaneously in the same world?


A twelve year old girl mentally defective due to being born a crack baby lives in rags in the city park and defecates in the bushes. Her cocaine addicted unwed mother makes a meager living as a prostitute and by begging and petty theft.

Adolph Hitler sees this and orders the girl killed and the mother focibly sterilized and sent to a labor camp.

Ted Kennedy sees this and raises taxes on Bill Gates to set up a social agency to hire unemployed minorities to visit the mother and daughter once a month to give them money and food.

Pat Robertson sees this and clamors for a balanced budget amendment, lowering Bill Gates taxes, building more prisons for drug addicts, banning vagrants from cities and hiring more policemen to patrol city parks. He also asks concerned people to pray for a better world and if they are bothered by poverty to give money to his church to be used to build orphanages outside town.

A social scientist sees this and applies for a grant to do a statistical analysis to find out how many people live in this condition and run a correlation analysis between poverty and crime.

I see this and make a donation to Zero Population Growth to provide birth control information and services. I also make a donation to the Nature Conservancy to buy unique natural areas to protect them from human encroachment. Then I petition school officals to hire more competent better supervised teachers and adjust the curriculum to increase emphasis on drug awareness, family life skills, social studies, and job skills. I suggest that this can be financed by building one less jet fighter and raising Bill Gates taxes a little to reduce the federal debt.

What would be the net long term effect of each policy? Is net long term effect more significant than short term effects?


After a shower there is a rainbow over the mountain.

A scientist sees this and remarks that, due to the prism effect of sunlight shining through raindrops, light is refracted into a spectrum of its component colors.

Pat Robertson sees this and says that this is proof of the glory of God and of his covenant due to his benevolent mercy to forgive human sin.

I see this and say nothing feeling an inner satisfaction that I can be one with a complex system of natural law that can contain both me and the beauty of the universe.


There are two kinds of people in this world, those who divide things into two kinds and those who don't. :)

It seems to me that there is actually a gradient in people from one extreme to the other in the matter of reliance. At one extreme are those who are completely self reliant and at the other extreme are those who completely rely on others. Very few people, if any, are at either extreme but we are all somewhere between those two extremes.

Those who are completely self reliant are comfortable alone and do not need or seek the company of others. They are autonomous and think for themselves. They do not require religion or community or nation or other social groups to survive. These people are often atheists or agnostics and sometimes anarchists. They generally believe in individual freedom and may be, politically, liberals who think government can be a force for good in society or they may be libertarians who espouse as little government as possible. They are often tolerant of the rights of others. They may be leaders of or users of the more reliant types or they may be loners.

Those who are reliant on others live their lives as they are taught by schools and churches and parents and social groups. They believe about the world what they are told to believe. They generally believe in a world ruled by a benevolent but sometimes jealous and cruel god with guardian angels to watch over them and with the promise of heaven or, perhaps, hell in their future. They believe they must not only follow the rules and have the beliefs of their society but must live their lives and even think in conformity to others. Depending on their peers they may believe the world is a benevolent gentle place or they may be paranoid and think that nature and others not of their kind are out to get or harm them and that they must fight as their leaders command to survive. They are often conservatives who are bigots and fearful of change or of those not of their kind. They are often suspicious of education, science, government, churches and media unless they feel these institutions are controlled by those of their group. For these people approval by their peers is a necessity of life and they define themselves as members of their social groups.


I take 6 months to several years to write computer programs for a business system.

I plant trees for my grandchildren to harvest.

I find that success is often best achieved after waiting for its time to be fulfilled.

The National Institute of Health initiated mapping the human genome in 1987 and the process began in 1990.

Celera Corporation figured that the time was not right and waited for its time to be fulfilled.

They began their mapping project in 1998, with faster computers and software that was not available in 1990, and completed it before the government project was completed in 2003.

It seems to me that too many young people today expect instant gratification.

Life Lessons

What should my grandchildren know that they will probably not be taught elsewhere?

Patriotism is a form of brain washing as is religion. The purpose of teaching you these concepts in school and church is to get you to accept the established order and believe that everything is as it should be. The secret that must be kept hidden is the extent to which the ruling elite in business and religion and politics controls wealth and power and by doing so controls your life.

You will be told that history is the story of what has happened in the past. That is not strictly true. History is actually the story of what happened in the past as seen by historians from selected pieces of evidence through the lens of their culture. It is to reality as your shadow is to you.

You probably will not be told that you are a social animal saddled with biology and instincts derived from your ancestors in the animal kingdom and with memes passed to you by your culture. These instincts and memes will control the way you think and the way you behave. It is only by knowing this fact and resisting it that you will have any hope of autonomy. Question everything.

Although you may be able to be happier and live longer by following the rules of good diet and exercise, your life span and life quality will be largely determined by your inherited genes over which you have no control.

As you get older your perception of time passes faster. As a result you will reach milestones in your life much faster than you expect and they will be a surprise to you. It is true that you should live each day as if it will be your last because one day it will be.

It is important for you to know that your life is what you are living now. It is not your past or your future. It is this instant. So remember the past and plan for the future but do not count on better days then. Today is what you have so make the most of it. The past is gone from your perspective and the future may never come. You can, however, be sure only that you exist in this instant. Enjoy and appreciate it.

As you go through life you will change physically, mentally and socially. The person you are ten years from now or were ten years ago will not be the same as the person you are now. You will think differently and have different goals and a different outlook on life. Don't think that the you that you know is absolute and unchanging. It ain't so. You will find, for instance, that your life goals will change so if there are things you really want to do in life, do them soon because later you may be physically or mentally unable to do them or they may no longer be important to you.

You do not learn much in school. You will learn mostly by life experience. Being told something is not the same as experiencing it. However, the things they teach you in school will give you the background you need to better understand your life experiences so you will know more as you experience life because you have the educational background to understand. Otherwise you very well may misinterpret what happens in life and draw erroneous conclusions. For this reason you cannot learn the lessons I am trying to teach here by reading this. You will learn these lessons only by experience. For instance, if someone tells you what hunger is you will not really know what it is until and unless you actually experience it. That is why more is really learned in school in labs than in lectures.

In my experience, kids, when they reach puberty, usually between the ages of 13 and 15, become convinced of their own maturity, intelligence and invincibility. They actually usually reach maturity ten to twelve years later. If they have the intellectual ability to learn they become smarter throughout most of their life but never actually become smart, although they may become aware of how much they do not know, and throughout their life, particularly after the age of about 50, they become more and more aware of their own mortality.

Young adults think they will be the perfect parent and that, because they will raise their kids better than they were raised, they will have perfect kids and an ideal family. That belief will last until about one week to six months after having their first baby. They will be amazed at that time how much their lives and beliefs will have changed.

Life and Complexity

Life organisms are beings representing the most complexity developed or evolved in the universe. That means that the matter in the universe is arranged in the most complex patterns in living organisms. Organisms including humans exist due to a hierarchy of increasing complexity.
Human Characteristics
upright, hairless, opposable thumb - can climb trees and walk on the ground.
Tools & Food
can kill large animals, control of fire, making and use of baskets and pottery.
Large Brains
brain weighs 2% of body weight uses 20% of body oxygen and energy - requires longer childhood, less precocious, must learn culture.
Social Life
community sharing of food, child raising, building, memes, social networks both local and long distance.
Language & Symbols
painting, writing, speech, history and culture passed between generations.
Humans Change the World
by practicing agriculture and use of natural resources and building towns & cities

What organisms do during their lifetime is to rearrange the material of the universe to battle entropy and to increase the complexity of the arrangement of matter. In other words, they move stuff in space and time.

This obviously applies to the truck driver, the fork lift operator and the airplane pilot. But it also applies to the doctor, the banker, the lawyer and the indian chief.

Think about it.

By somewhere between 12 and 14 billion years ago measured in the time perspective of humans on Earth in the present time, (This time perspective is based on a unit that we perceive as the time required for the Earth to revolve around our sun, Sol, one time.) the physical universe, as we know it, unfurled from whatever form preceded it, if any. It consisted of energy which is a force that tends to create order (good) as opposed to entropy which is an opposing force which tends to cause disorder (evil). Energy does this by causing or being blips of imperfection in an otherwise uniform and all pervading nothingness.

These blips caused pockets of order in a sea of chaos. These pockets of order appeared as, probably among other things, matter. This matter took the form of, at first, hydrogen and helium and these elements; by coalescing into gas clouds and suns and galaxies and galaxy clusters and planets and the other stuff that we have discovered exists in our known universe; eventually formed the elements of the periodic table.

About 650 million years ago on the planet that we call Earth the energy force serendipitously caused a carbon based life form which had the property, using a zipper like double helix arrangement of four molecules as a template, that it could reproduce itself. Since energy causes imperfection this reproduction was not perfect and since imperfect reproduction generally leads to a dissolution known as death, only those children of the process that were either near perfect copies or those superior in being adapted to their environment survived. By this process of dissolution of the vast majority of mutations and survival of a very small minority, evolution occurred and organisms, over time, increased greatly in complexity. The rate of evolution was exponential.

Less than two million years ago this organic evolution produced another quantum leap in that an organic genus called homo produced a species, Homo sapiens, which had a large nervous cortex which we call a brain. This structure was capable of being aware of self and of time and had the ability to learn and to think abstractly and eventually by use of symbols, to pass culture or past learning experiences to offspring by means of language and the written word in a similar way as the organic template was passed genetically.

It must be understood that the conception of the passage of time and symbology such as language and writing are only possible due to the abstract consciousness of the human brain and are not an intrinsic part of the physical universe. The physical universe exists only in the moment and exists in time as a fourth dimension in the same way it exists in the three dimensions of space. In other words, time is a meaningless concept outside the human consciousness.

Symbols such as words and concepts such as the passage of time are only an approximate way of representing what exists, or the physical universe, in the mind of man. They have no other reality.

So far the three steps that have occurred have been the physical formation of the universe, the subsequent development of organic life, and subsequent to that the development of the human mind and culture and memes and society. Since this culture includes the ability to change the world by rearranging matter into new forms more useful to humans and the ability to learn over generations, it is likely that the next steps that occur will involve genetic manipulation of genomes and the creation of complex robotics and travel to places other than Earth by humans unless they cause the destruction of their own species and this step of culture and society becomes another dead end in the formation of the universe.

Stages of Man's development:
Hunters and gatherers
plants and animals as food.
Crops, animal husbandry, land ownership - buildings - towns, cities.
Industrial Revolution
machines to supplement human muscles - factories - mass production.
Information age
Computers to supplement human brains and enhanced data storage, analysis and access.
Social age
networking by social media and worldwide communications.
Space age
exploration beyond Earth.
Thinking machines.
Biological revolution
manipulation of genomes.

To keep the interest of the human mind and to give life meaning it seems that one or more of these things are necessary:

Creation and winning at competition leads to a feeling of self esteem and a feeling that one has earned the appreciation of others including the resulting social approval and status.

In writing, to keep the reader interested, always have a question or mystery pending at the book level and at the chapter level and at the paragraph level. For instance the book is a murder mystery and the overall question is who done it. In this chapter we are interviewing a key witness, so the question is "What did he see?". In this paragraph we have knocked on the door. Who, if anyone, will open it? What will happen next?


We are restricted in what we can do by the following:
  1. The architecture of the world in which we live - the physical laws of the universe including man made structures and computer code among other things.
    186,000 mps - Its not just a good idea -- its the law.
  2. The market - rules of economics - example: What is scarce and highly desired will cost more.
  3. Laws passed by political entities - if we transgress and are caught we must pay the penalty.
  4. Social mores - norms - if we transgress we will be ostracized.

Simple Principles of Sex.

  1. For biological and evolutionary reasons sex and sexual relationships are a basic need for both men and women often from an early age usually, maybe always, around the time of reaching puberty and probably, for many, until the end of life.
  2. In humans, this need is separate and outside the desire to reproduce. In this sphere we actually have three needs; a need to reproduce, a need for sexual release, and a need for an emotional bond with others of our species.
  3. Everyone should have an opportunity to obtain sexual fulfillment on a regular basis. Many do not.
  4. Coercive or forcible sex is wrong as is any other physical compulsion of another against their will.
  5. The most common and socially acceptable arrangement for sexual relationships is by pairing, bonding and mating in some more or less permanent relationship among two, or sometimes more, people with sex occurring between opposite sexes.
  6. However, other sexual arrangements are possible and often happen including same sex relationships and temporary or one-nite relationships sometimes for money and sometimes just friends with benefits.
  7. Sex may be a part of a lifelong emotional commitment which may or may not be monogamous or exclusive but often this is not the case.
  8. Denial of these principles is not only stupid, but causes much pain and suffering in the world.
  9. In a decent sensible society memes, mores and, if necessary, laws would provide a structure to satisfy sexual needs.

The Structure of Society

In trying to understand the people of this world and the structure of their society, it may be helpful to think of everyone in terms of their function. So I would think of the people of the world as belonging to five major types:

The rulers
These are the top 1% of the top 1% of people in terms of the wealth and power they control. These people rule the world and from their perspective the rest of the people in the world exist to serve them and to preserve the status quo so that their position of power is maintained. Since they make the rules they are in a position to protect their wealth and power in the absence of major social upheavals. These people are mainly at the top of the political and financial sectors of the society. Think in terms of politicians, bankers, captains of large multinational corporations.
The workers
These are the people who work every day to support the infrastructure of society and who are convinced to be happy with their station in life by the storytellers. Think of people in the food, transportation, communication, health care, manufacturing, sales and like fields. Their life interests revolve around work, family, religion, consumerism, sports, celebrity worship, gossip and being entertained. They are often lost and left adrift in life if they are retired and their family has dispersed. They are not independent thinkers but are dependant for their opinions on their neighbors and coworkers and on the storytellers. They are probably about 80% of all people. Although they may not realize it, these people have essentially no hope of becoming rulers and fear becoming powerless.
The powerless
These are the people without jobs or wealth who are supported by the rest of the society. They include the homeless, the disabled, the mentally ill, the addicts, the incarcerated and others of this type. I estimate about 10% of people. The rulers would like to do away with these people but they cannot because the workers know they may become a part of this class and these people have family or social connections to many of the workers.
The thinkers
These are the academics; primarily theoretical scientists and mathematicians and philosophers and innovators; who create the technology and infrastructure to increase the power and wealth of society for the rulers. Think of people who work in colleges and research labs who are interested in increasing the knowledge and creating the structure of society such as biologists, physicists, economists, mathematicians, social scientists and people who think of new ways of doing things. This type, like the rulers, is a very small segment of society.
The storytellers
These are the people who tell the stories which entertain the masses and convince them to be happy with their lives. Think of people in the mass media, education, entertainment, religion and historians. Maybe this sector is about 10% of the people in the society. These people too, are workers, whose function is to support the existing structure of the society.

The Misfits in Society

One question always facing men trying to live together in a structured society is what to do with the misfits who are harming themselves or others, particularly the criminals and the mentally ill. There is also the problem of those intellectually or physically unable to contribute to the society including the mentally feeble, the disabled, and those who are for various reasons unable to make a living or care for a family properly.

There are basically five solutions:

The first problem is to find these people. This is the function of the police and the prosecutors. They must identify people in these categories who are harming others and gather evidence to prove and understand the situation and decide what is an appropriate response by society. They must then present this information to a court or other authority whose function is to approve or disapprove or modify the proposed remedy.

The problem, of course, is to make the response of society appropriate to the situation.

The simplest solution is to kill or deport the offenders. The problem, of course, is that to kill is much too extreme for most people as is deportation in many cases and deportation requires a place to which they can be deported.

Imprisonment requires providing care and this is an expense to the rest of the society but often it is the best solution to protect society and to discourage such behavior from others. It also offers the possibility of rehabilitating offenders.

Minor offenses or financial misdealings can best be dealt with by means of fines in terms of money or restrictions or services required.

In other cases the only solution for those unable mentally or physically to care for themselves is to make provisions for society to care for them. This again is a burden on the rest of the society.

Problems of Mankind

The Enlightenment beginning about the seventeenth century can be seen as the beginning of an explosion of knowledge which was not accompanied by an equal explosion of wisdom. As a result the subsequent benefits of the technology discovered and developed was accompanied by unforeseen consequences which either created or highlighted problems for mankind's existence in this world.

The biggest of these are:

Environmental degradation & climate change
The technology of today gives man much opportunity to help himself and his economy in the short term at the expense of degradation and destruction of the quality of the environment in which he lives in the long term. His burning of fossil fuels, for example, and its production of greenhouse gases causes long term climate change making the Earth less suitable for life as presently existing. Other environmental problems include widespread deforestation and destruction of the natural environment due to building of roads and cities and mining and dumping waste products into the air, soil, and water.
Population explosion and migration
Progress in children's health and decreasing the death rates and conquering many diseases has resulted in a large increase in the population and resulting problems in food production, housing, water supplies and migration as well as other needs of a large and growing populace. The population of the world has increased from about 11,000 estimated around 70,000 years ago to about four million estimated about 12,000 years ago to 370 million in 1350 to about seven billion estimated today.
Conflicts and War
Conflicts and war have been present throughout history but the technology to wage war efficiently enough to kill and maim huge masses of people is a result of modern knowledge with the ultimate, at least so far, being the development of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. In a species unable to control conflict development of such weapons creates a situation of great danger to the entire species.
Lack of education has always been a detriment to humanity but in today's highly technological world worldwide education of all is of utmost importance.
Health - food, water, disease
Population pressures mean increased need for more efficient production and distribution of food on a planet with limited resources to produce. Not only is more clean potable water needed for this population but less is available due to pollution and destruction of many water supplies by men looking for short term gain. Although strides have been made and are being made in conquering disease, unanticipated development of antibiotic resistant strains of disease organisms as well as widespread worldwide travel raises the possibility of evolution and rapid dissemination of new lethal diseases. Work is also proceeding in allaying the effects of deterioration of the body due to aging and birth defects.
Governance & Corruption
Throughout history governments have worked to the advantage of the rich and powerful and that history persists today with only some inroads due to the development of democracy and free speech and mass communication.
Economic inequality - financial instability, subsidies & trade barriers, sustainable development
Technological progress means large increases in total world wide wealth. So far, most of this added wealth has accrued to the already wealthy in a much greater proportion than to the poor or middle classes. World trade suffers from trade barriers and unfair trade practices among nations. Development of infrastructure is often planned for the short term and is not always sustainable. Short term decision making often leads to periods of time or to nations which are financially unstable.
Creating an environment conducive to giving the most people possible the opportunity to achieve the maximum happiness possible.
Protecting cultural diversity
Advances in transportation and communication have created a tendency for the homogenization of world cultures. This means that the most widespread or dominant cultures tend to crowd out and obliterate minority cultures. Many feel that the loss of such cultures is, overall, a huge loss for all of mankind.
Natural Disasters
It seems that a part of the price we pay for living on this green earth is our susceptibility to natural disasters. These include weather related disasters such as floods, tornados, hurricanes, drought, blizzards, hailstorms, heat waves and lightning as well as seismic disasters such as volcanoes, earthquakes, avalanches and landslides and including wildfires and even the possibility of meteors or solar flares striking the earth.

Organizations concerned with these problems:

Is There Evil in the Nature of Man?

This applies to such diverse acts as littering, murder, rape, cheating, fraud, destruction, bullying, assault, pollution and many others.

It is bad (evil?) to harm other people (physically or emotionally or economically) or their culture or other organisms or the environment or the universe. (Maybe there are exceptions such as killing for food or in self defense or defense of others?)

These are the victims. There is no crime without a victim.

If one harms another this usually indicates ignorance or greed, or disrespect (due to ego), or psychosis; taking pleasure in the power to harm others. This shows the perpetrator is either too dumb to know that what he does is wrong or disrespectful of the rights or property of others or mentally unbalanced.

He is usually able to do this due to his physical, economic, legal or political power or because he is able to do his deed in secret.

I suspect that there is some evil of this nature in all although it is more dominant or obvious in some than in others.

Progressive Utopian Ideas for Man's Political and Economic Structure and Why they won't work!

This probably won't work because many humans seem to be greedy, egotistical, short-sighted, and ethnocentric.

Click the links below for inspirational videos:

What are the beliefs of American conservatives?

The conservative view is that the only proper purposes of government are to support the military, police and courts to ensure each citizen life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with the minimum amount of taxation necessary to achieve these ends. Conservatives are opposed to government supporting the functions of providing health, education and welfare. They generally believe that government should have no function in protecting the environment or protecting the populace from natural disasters or providing an economic infrastructure or in research, development and innovation because all these functions should be left to the private and religious sectors of society.

Beliefs of conservatives include respect for tradition, support of republicanism, "the rule of law and the Christian religion", and a defense of "Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian governments".

Republicanism is the political values system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and "unalienable" rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent in their performance of civic duties, and vilifies corruption. American republicanism was founded and first practiced by the Founding Fathers in the 18th century. This system was based on early Roman, Renaissance and English models and ideas. It formed the basis for the American Revolution and the consequential Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1787), as well as the Gettysburg Address (1863).

Republicanism may be distinguished from other forms of democracy as it asserts that people have unalienable rights that cannot be voted away by a majority of voters. Alexis de Tocqueville warned about the "tyranny of the majority" in a democracy, and advocates of the rights of minorities have warned that the courts needed to protect those rights by reversing efforts by voters to terminate the rights of an unpopular minority.

Fiscal conservatives and Libertarians favor small government, low taxes, limited regulation, and free enterprise. Social conservatives see traditional social values as threatened by secularism; they tend to support school prayer and capital punishment and oppose abortion and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Neoconservatives want to expand American ideals throughout the world and show a strong support for Israel. Paleoconservatives advocate restrictions on immigration, non-interventionist foreign policy, and stand in opposition to multiculturalism and tolerance.

William F. Buckley Jr., in the first issue of his magazine National Review in 1955, defined the beliefs of American conservatives:

Among our convictions:

It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens' lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side. The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side.

Russell Kirk developed six "canons" of conservatism, which Gerald J. Russello described as follows:

  1. A belief in a transcendent order, which Kirk described variously as based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law;
  2. An affection for the "variety and mystery" of human existence;
  3. A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize "natural" distinctions;
  4. A belief that property and freedom are closely linked;
  5. A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and
  6. A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.
Kirk said that Christianity and Western Civilization are "unimaginable apart from one another" and that "all culture arises out of religion. When religious faith decays, culture must decline, though often seeming to flourish for a space after the religion which has nourished it has sunk into disbelief."

Here's what the Republican Party of Texas wrote into its 2012 platform as part of the section on education:

Knowledge-Based Education - We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

It opposes, among other things, early childhood education, sex education, and multicultural education, but supports "school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded."

University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham defines critical thinking this way: Critical thinking consists of seeing both sides of an issue, being open to new evidence that disconfirms your ideas, reasoning dispassionately, demanding that claims be backed by evidence, deducing and inferring conclusions from available facts, solving problems, and so forth. Then too, there are specific types of critical thinking that are characteristic of different subject matter: That's what we mean when we refer to "thinking like a scientist" or "thinking like a historian."

The platform's position on Sex Education is: We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage.

In a section on school health care the platform says:
We urge legislators to prohibit reproductive health care services, including counseling, referrals, and distribution of condoms and contraception through public schools.

The platform opposes any government quality control of home schools or other private schools:
Private Education - We believe that parents and legal guardians may choose to educate their children in private schools to include, but not limited to, home schools and parochial schools without government interference, through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing.

Click the links below for videos about conservative beliefs:

Conservative Utopian Ideas for Man's Political and Economic Structure!

Libertarians and Anarchists

Anarchist - One who believes that there should be no government having control over the individual. Everyone should fend for himself and be subject to no laws.

Libertarian - emphasis on the primacy of individual liberty, political freedom, and voluntary association. It is the antonym to authoritarianism. Any political position that advocates a radical redistribution of power from the coercive state to voluntary associations of free individuals

Minarchists propose a state limited in scope to preventing aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud as well as foreign aggression.

Libertarian socialists oppose capitalism and private ownership of the means of production, instead advocating their common or cooperative ownership and management. They reject the idea of a state enforcing property laws pertaining to property used in production as opposed to personal property.

Some Libertarians believe that there should be no crime without a victim.

Almost everyone believes that there should be a state to enforce laws against such things as murder, assault and theft, crimes in which there is a victim.

There is more disagreement as to whether there should be traffic, banking, health and drug laws, and other laws the purpose of which is simply to regulate the functioning of society.

There is even more disagreement as to whether the state should be able to force such things as military service and payment of taxes and purchase of health insurance.

And even more as to whether the state has a right to levy taxes to be used for social services to provide for the less fortunate or to educate the public. This is state forced redistribution of wealth.

Right-libertarianism holds that unappropriated natural resources may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes their labor with them, or merely claims them – without the consent of others, and with little or no compensation to the rest of society.

Left-libertarianism, by contrast, holds that unappropriated natural resources are initially owned by society in general, which can require those who appropriate natural resources to compensate the rest of society for the value of those rights.

Questions that arise from these philosophies would include the question as to whether the state has a right to regulate traffic by installing traffic lights and enforcing traffic laws, or regulating drug use or requiring vaccinations against infectious diseases.

And if the law says that I must stop on a red light and I am driving on a deserted road in the middle of the night, I stop at a red light and see there is no traffic in sight and then proceed while the light is still red, am I subject to a fine for disobeying the law even though doing so could cause no harm to anyone.

In general religious people are not libertarians but instead believe that a state should enforce the laws of their religions such as prohibition of working on Sunday or eating pork or of females displaying their nipples or males shaving their beards or laws regulating marriage.


Maybe the god-mind can be developed by learning to see the whole world from a perspective in which one understands all of what is rather than from the very narrow perspective that is most natural for us.

It is natural for us to believe that we are separate autonomous individuals who are born, live and die on a flat world of dirt and stone and water and air and living things.

It is hard for us to believe that we are actually strands of DNA which have existed for millions of years changing all the while and that we exist on a large round conglomeration of solid, liquid and gaseous chemicals which is only one small part of billions of such things adrift in a space and time approaching infinite in size and composed of a base which makes matter and energy and unknown other things we call dark energy and dark matter simply because we have no idea what they are. The being we think we are is also just a conglomeration of other beings called cells both with our DNA and with other DNA which can themselves be considered autonomous organisms living in a symbiotic relationship and which are themselves composed of smaller entities.

It is also difficult for us to realize that we are only small parts of larger entities both physical such as Gaia and solar systems and galaxies and galaxy clusters and social entities such as clubs and countries and economic entities which are evolving by means of memes into even more complexity such as cyborg collectives.

World View and Personality Questionaire

This is a questionaire designed to get a handle on your overall world view and personality.

Each item below begins with a statement and you are asked to what extent you agree with that statement. Use a number to signify your degree of agreement. Numbers used should range from 1 to 10 with 1 meaning you strongly disagree with the statement and 10 meaning you strongly agree.

  1. In making a moral decision or judgement I know what is right and wrong and have no trouble making such decisions as opposed to having trouble making these decisions because I am unsure if these matters are that clear cut.
  2. In making life or business decisions I am immediately sure of the right decision and march confidently forward as opposed to feeling that I often do not have sufficient information to make the correct decision and often must do more research or gather more data before feeling confident in choosing.
  3. I believe that the world I live in was created by a being higher than myself and I and the world as a whole are being guided toward some ultimate purpose unknown to me by this higher power as opposed to believing that I am an insignificant being existing in a world created by random forces according to natural laws.
  4. I believe that a higher being, in carrying out some ultimate plan for the world, chooses certain people to be leaders and gives them extraordinary authority and powers to carry out the will of that higher being thus exalting them above the ordinary people as opposed to believing that people are all equally insignificant in the universe and must work together to achieve goals they set.
  5. I believe that my people and my country are the best in the world and are superior to most, if not all, others and that the world would be a better place if everyone followed our example.
  6. I believe that the ultimate destiny of our world is for the best as opposed to believing that the world we know is destined for a bad sudden or slow demise at some unknown time in the future.
  7. I believe that the decisions we make both individually and collectively will greatly influence the future of our world as opposed to believing that our destiny is predetermined or beyond our control.
  8. I believe that people should make and carry out plans for their ultimate goals in life as opposed to just letting life happen and going along for the ride being happy in the present.
  9. I believe that the environment in which we live was created for the use of mankind as opposed to believing that mankind is just one more evolutionary experiment by an indifferent universe.
  10. I believe that my life is insignificant as compared to the ultimate purpose of the universe and that I should sacrifice myself or my happiness or my family, if necessary, for the overall purposes of my creator or my country or my leaders.
  11. I believe that I have a soul which is a part of me apart from my physical body that will exist even past the death and destruction of my physical body.
  12. I believe that I am imperfect in the eyes of a higher being and thus should always strive to do as I feel directed by this higher being so that I can be forgiven for my imperfection.
  13. In cases of deciding what I believe I am greatly influenced by the people and culture around me as opposed to doing independent research and deciding for myself what is most likely or best.
  14. I believe that the highest purpose of life is to serve my culture and my God as opposed to living my life for my own happiness and that of my family.
  15. I believe that I know or can learn from my neighbors or my religion all that is really necessary for me to know in life as opposed to always trying to learn more and believing that most things are unknown.
  16. I believe that sex, other than for the purpose of procreation, is dirty and a reminder of the imperfection of man as being more like the animals than his true nature which is to be god like, therefore I feel guilt due to my animalistic sexual urges.
  17. Women are made to be subservient to men and it is largely due to their influence that men often have impure thoughts.
  18. I will eat most anything as opposed to those who are finicky eaters and will not eat meat or will try to eat only organically grown foods.
  19. I am suspicious of the motives and purposes of strangers and those who are not like myself and my neighbors. I am afraid they might be planning to try to take what we have.
  20. I believe that it is more important that I work to gain wealth and power as soon as possible than that I concentrate on enjoying life now.
  21. I am happy to work each day to support my family and enjoy my possessions and be entertained as opposed to studying and learning throughout life.
  22. The opinions of my neighbors about me and about the world are very important to me in forming my own world view.
  23. I am a self made person and have worked hard for what I have and owe no one for it as opposed to those who think they owe their society or their government for providing the infrastructure in which they labor.
  24. If any among us should criticize our way of life or question our beliefs they should be punished or banned and sent to live elsewhere.
  25. My beliefs are so obvious and self-evident that I cannot understand why anyone would not be able to see the truth of them.
  26. If others are not as successful as I have been it is because they are not as smart or willing to work as hard as I have and therefore I should not be expected to help them.

Happiness Questionaire

Answer with a number on a scale of 1 to 10 - 1 is no - 10 is yes

For instance on question # 1, "Do you have clean air to breathe?"

1 would indicate that there is no air to breathe.
10 would indicate that there is sufficient good quality air.
numbers between 1 and 10 would indicate that either the air is insufficient or of poorer than optimum quality.

  1. do you have clean air to breathe?
  2. do you have clean water to drink?
  3. do you have good and nourishing food to eat?
  4. do you get adequate sleep?
  5. do you feel that you can think clearly?
  6. are you healthy as opposed to sick or handicapped?
  7. are you able to get daily exercise?
  8. do you usually feel energetic as opposed to tired or run down?
  9. do you have an adequate home with things needed for daily living?
  10. do you feel safe in your person, family, community, nation, work and health?
  11. do you have friends, family and companionship (with good sexual relations)?
  12. do you feel free to move and express yourself?
  13. are you living in a good place (environment)?
  14. are you stimulated to live, learn and enjoy life?
  15. do you feel good about yourself and respected by others?
  16. are you confident in yourself and in your future?
  17. are you satisfied with the work you do for a living?
  18. do you feel knowledgeable about living and life and are you learning?
  19. do you have enough time to get done what you want and need to do?
  20. do you help others?
  21. do you have fun in life (and a sense of humor)?
  22. do you see and hear and feel and smell and taste good things in life?
  23. do you feel comfortable in life and in control of your destiny?
  24. do you feel your life has meaning? (What is the purpose of your life?)
  25. have you realized or are you realizing your life goals?
  26. do you have happy memories of the past?

There are 26 questions so the total of your answers should be between 26 and 260.

Click here for a video about Bhutan.

Click here for a simple explanation of GNH.

Click here for an interview with Jigme Y Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan about GNH.

Click here for a printable version of this happiness questionaire by Roie Philom.

Characteristics or hierarchy of happiness

physical - health - diet - exercise - absence of defect and disease
mental - mental health - education - emotional stability
social - companionship & sex - culture - social relationships

time use - life needs - family - work - leisure
good governance
promotion of sustainable development
preservation and promotion of cultural values
ecology & environment
community vitality
cultural vitality
living standards
life satisfaction in all areas of time use
government, social, economic and cultural stability and feelings of safety and security

Food for Thought

        Life is like a rock falling
        into a pool of water.
        For a few seconds,
        it makes ripples in the water,
        and then the water is the same
        as it was before,
        but the rock isn't there anymore.

        Life is like a good book;
        the further you get into it
        the more it begins to make sense.

        As you ramble on thru life, brother
        Whatever be your goal,
        Keep your eye upon the doughnut
        And not upon the hole.

        The bird of time
        has but a short way to fly!
        and lo,
        the bird is on the wing!

        Whatever will be,
        will be.
        The future's not ours,
        to see.

        We are conscious.
        We know we are going to die.
        In the meantime we get to experience the universe.

        Anne Rice

        Life is a series of moments
        to live each one is to succeed.

        Corita Kent

        Go eat your bread in gladness
        and drink your wine in joy,
        for your action was long ago
        approved by God!


        When you are up to
        your ass in alligators
        don't forget to
        drain the swamp!

        Whatever you do
        Do with all your might!
        . . . . . . . . . . .

        Take time to
        smell the roses
        along life's way.

        I asked for all things
        that I might enjoy life.
        I was given life
        that I might enjoy all things.

        Fame cannot tempt the bard
        who's famous with his god,
        nor laurel him reward
        who has his maker's nod.


        May you live in interesting times
           old chinese blessing

        May you live in interesting times
           old chinese curse

        A bell does not unchime
        because you seek
        to unring it.

        Think with the sage and saint.
        Talk with common men.
        . . . . . . . . . . .
        Theodore Parker

        And two men ride of a horse
        one must ride behind.

        Sitting quietly,
        Doing nothing,
        Spring comes,
        and the grass
        grows by itself.

        The thief left it behind,
        the moon at the window.

        When you have eaten your breakfast,
        go wash your bowls.

        Remember yesterday,
        Plan for tomorrow,
        Sleep this afternoon.


We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are 
never going to die, because they're never going to be born. The number of 
people who could be here in my place outnumber the sand grains of the Sahara. 
If you think about all the different ways in which our genes could be 
permuted, you and I are quite grotesquely lucky to be here.

    Richard Dawkins

I do not fear death.  I had been dead for billions and billions of years 
before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.

    Mark Twain

The Eternal Truths 1. This is it. 2. There are no hidden meanings. 3. You can't get there from here, and besides, there's no place else to go. 4. We are all already dying, and we will be dead for a long time. 5. Nothing lasts. 6. There is no way of getting all you want. 7. You can't have anything unless you let go of it. 8. You only get to keep what you give away. 9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things. 10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off, and there is no compensation for misfortune. 11. You have a responsibility to do your best nonetheless. 12. It is a random universe to which we bring order. 13. You don't really control anything. 14. You can't make anybody love you. 15. No one is any stronger or weaker than anyone else. 16. There are no great men or women. If you have a hero, look again: You have diminished yourself in some way. 17. Everyone lies, cheats, pretends (yes, you too, and most certainly myself). 18. Progress is an illusion. 19. Evil can be displaced but never eradicated, as all solutions breed new problems. 20. Yet it is necessary to keep on struggling toward solution. 21. Each of us is ultimately alone. 22. We must live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge, and all important decisions are made on the basis of insufficient information. 23. But we are responsible for everything we do, for no excuses will be accepted; you can run but you cannot hide. 24. All the significant battles are waged within the self. 25. You are free to do as you like. You need only face the consequences. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Do It Anyway People are often unreasonable, Illogical, and self-centered... Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives... Be kind anyway. If you are successful, You will win some false friends and some true enemies... Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, People may cheat you... Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, Someone could destroy overnight... Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness Someone may be jealous... Be happy anyway. The good you do today People will often forget tomorrow... Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have. It may never be enough... Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, It is between you and God; It was never between you and them... anyway.
As the world goes, right is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must - Thucydides, The Peloponesian War, Book V, section 89 Never have the armies of the North brought peace, prosperity, or democracy to the peoples of Asia, Africa, or Latin America. In the future, as in the past five centuries, they can only bring to these peoples further servitude, the exploitation of their labor, the expropriation of their riches, and the denial of their rights. It is of the utmost importance that the progressive forces of the West understand this. - Samir Amin Those with power are frequently least aware of- or least willing to acknowledge-its existence [and] those with less power are often most aware of its existence. - Delpit The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. - H.L. Mencken Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. - Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a speech on April 16, 1953 He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder. - Albert Einstein We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." - Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." - Steven Weinberg

"All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically" - Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory

"The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy. " - Steven Weinberg

"One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment." - Steven Weinberg

"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless" - Steven Weinberg

"It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. What else could account for fire and rain and lightning and earthquakes? Above all, the wonderful abilities of living things seemed to point to a creator who had a special interest in life. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. We don't yet know the most fundamental laws, and we can't work out all the consequences of the laws we do know. The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can't predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can't always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years." - Steven Weinberg

"Many of the great world religions teach that God demands a particular faith and form of worship. It should not be surprising that SOME of the people who take these teachings seriously should sincerely regard these divine commands as incomparably more important than any merely secular virtues like tolerance or compassion or reason. Across Asia and Africa the forces of religious enthusiasm are gathering strength, and reasom and tolerance are not safe even in the secular states of the West. The historian Huge Trevor-Roper has said that it was the spread of the spirit of science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that finally ended the burning of the witches in Europe. We may need to rely again on the influence of science to preserve a sane wolrd.It's not the certainty of the scientific knowledge that fits it for this role, but its UNCERTAINTY. Seeing scientists change their minds again and again about the matters that can be studied directly in laboratory experiments, how can one take seriously the claims of religious traditions or sacred writings to certain knowledge about matters beyond human experience" - Steven Weinberg

"I don't need to argue here that the evil in the world proves that the universe is not designed, but only that there are no signs of benevolence that might have shown the hand of a designer." - Steven Weinberg

"It does not matter whether you win or lose, what matters is whether I win or lose!" - Steven Weinberg

Robert A. Heinlein Quotes

"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea."

"When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout."

"I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do."

"You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity."

"Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist-a master-and that is what Auguste Rodin was-can look at an old woman, protray her exactly as she is...and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be...and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart...no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn't matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired-but it does to them."

"Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something."

"Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy - in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other."

"Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy."

"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time and besides it annoys the pig."

"Do not confuse "duty" with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect. But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants "just a few minutes of your time, please—this won't take long." Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time—and squawk for more! So learn to say No—and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you. (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is "expected" of you.)"

"Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get."

"Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth."

"Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him."

"May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live."

"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable."

"Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, "equality" is a disaster."

"Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so."

"Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate — and quickly."

"The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. A perfect democracy, a ‘warm body' democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self- restraint of citizens… which is opposed by the folly and lack of self- restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self- interest as he sees it… which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses.'

'Bread and Circuses' is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader & the barbarians enter Rome."

"Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best, he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear his shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house."

"Consider the black widow spider. It's a timid little beastie, useful and, for my taste, the prettiest of the arachnids, with its shiny, patent-leather finish and its red hourglass trademark. But the poor thing has the fatal misfortune of possessing enormously too much power for its size. So everybody kills it on sight."

"Political tags; such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth; are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort."

"At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that 'news' is not something that happens to other people. He might learn how his ancestors lived and that he himself is no different--in the crunch his life depends on his agility, alertness, and personal resourcefulness."

"Listen, son. Most women are damn fools and children. But they've got more range then we've got. The brave ones are braver, the good ones are better and the vile ones are viler, for that matter. "

"Thinking doesn't pay. Just makes you discontented with what you see around you."

"If a grasshopper tries to fight a lawnmower, one may admire his courage but not his judgement."

"Girls are simply wonderful. Just to stand on a corner and watch them going past is delightful. They don't walk. At least not what we do when we walk. I don't know how to describe it, but it's much more complex and utterly delightful. They don't move just their feet; everything moves and in different directions . . . and all of it graceful."

One man's "magic" is another man's engineering. "Supernatural" is a null word.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

An armed society is a polite society.
-Beyond This Horizon

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

I've never understood how God could expect His creatures to pick the one true religion by faith—it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.
-Jubal Harshaw, Stranger in a Strange Land

History does not record anywhere a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other "sins" are invented nonsense.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

A monarch's neck should always have a noose around it. It keeps him upright.

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
-Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
-still searchin'

If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

The supreme irony of life is that no one gets out of it alive.

Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love

Learning isn't a means to an end; it's an end in and of itself.
-still searchin'

Brainpower is the scarcest commodity and the only one of real value.
-that also sounds like Lazarus

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love

Courage is the complement of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous. (He is also a fool.)
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love

"Love" is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
-Jubal Harshaw, Stranger in a Strange Land

First, what is it you want us to pay taxes for? Tell me what I get and perhaps I'll buy it.
-Manuel O'Kelly, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, withouT a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

Hang on to life as long as you can and learn as much as you can. I'm satisfied to be living and enjoying it. Carpe that old Diem! -- It's the only game in town.
-Lazarus Long, Methuselah's Children

Chinese Proverbs and other Quotes

"One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade"

"Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come"

"To forget one's ancestor's is to be a brook without a source, a tree without root"

"To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish"

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

"There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same"

"Kissing is like drinking salted water: you drink and your thirst increases"

"The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory"

"I dreamed a thousand new paths. . . I woke and walked my old one."

"Do not anxiously hope for that which is not yet come; do not vainly regret what is already past"

"Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up."

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names"

"Men in the game are blind to what men looking on see clearly"

"It is later than you think."

"The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher"

"It is the beautiful bird which gets caged"

"Men trip not on mountains, they trip on molehills"

"A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion"

You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

If you love me, give me wings
Don't be afraid if I fly
A bird in a cage will forget how to sing
If you love me, give me wings

"Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be."

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."


Last revised January 2013.

URL: http://www.kyphilom.com/www/sm/histsci.htm

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All contents copyright (C) 2012, Roie Philom. All rights reserved.