Thursday, January 19, 2012

Liberty, me

Oh right, there's that.

In a comment on my last post, a regular reader offered a link to this documentary, Rage Against the Machine. Aside from a somewhat disjointed time-line, it's a fairly accurate depiction of the last 5000 years "progress". (It's striking how close the time-line is, the rise of tyranny and domination, to the Mayan long count @ 5126 years.) Before the rise of empires and recorded history, there were peaceful Goddess worshiping cultures in the river valleys of modern Iran and Iraq, and parts of modern-day India. These peaceful, agricultural cities were annihilated by herding peoples from the north and the south, who rode horses, wielded bronze weapons, and worshiped violent male gods. That violence and others like it, spread throughout the world, and with every technological step forward there has been a corresponding level of increasing destruction, 'till today, when the entire planet seems imperiled. Scientists aiding and abetting that war-making machine in modern times - culminating with the nuclear bomb. And now the same impassioned service that resulted in the nuclear weapon, has been poured into the CERN Hadron Collider, which, the documentary argues, is a potential threat far greater than the nuclear weapon.

The CERN Hadron Collider is a 4.4 Billion dollar particle smasher, a 27 kilometer underground circular tube in which protons are fired in opposite directions approaching speeds close to the speed of light, to collide, releasing energy that has not been seen since the first moments after the universe began, 13.7 Billion years ago. Among other things, they are looking for the Higgs boson, aka the God particle. Physics is stuck; it can't figure out what gives mass to matter. Poor physicists - Einstein let it be known a hundred years ago that everything is energy, and the they still haven't figured out how to get back into their bodies (Michio Kaku, as example, is lost in the ether).

The documentary was produced in 2009, and the fear was then, that the collider would create tiny black holes, or little energy strangelets. Tiny black holes swallow stars. Wouldn't a black hole swallow a tiny planet? The CERN people claimed there was zero-risk (what else are they going to say?), though prominent physicists were saying yes, there is in fact a possibility, however small. It's 2012, and the collider has been operational since late 2009. They think they've found evidence of the Higgs boson, maybe (does it matter?). The world has not been swallowed by a black hole, though the collider won't be fully operational until 2014.

I wrote a scathing chapter in my first book about the Hadron Collider, and nano-bots, and the technological singularity. Nano-bots, theoretical robots so small they could pick up single atoms and place them according to a code. We might be able to let them loose in the body, to unclog arteries and repair organs. It's also true that their first order of business might be to create a copy of themselves. In which case the exponential growth from one nano-bot would turn the entire planet into a gray-goo of nano-bots in about 90 minutes. The technological singularity is the dream of those trans-humanist types discontent with the body, who want to become cyborgs. Some of them secretly want, I think, to become the singularity, the self aware computer that consumes the whole of the universe. I threw the chapter out, in part because I don't wish to demonize science, and I've let go of much of my fear about humanity killing the Earth.

That isn't to say that I don't believe it's possible. It's not like I ever forget I'm living in an age of profound existential threats. I was in the shower after watching this film, thinking, wouldn't that be the most inglorious of ends, the entire 4 billion year story of the Earth, snuffed out in a moment, all the Earth and all its glorious creatures, ripped apart atom by atom in a moment, crushed down into a tiny pinprick of a point, the teeny weensy mass and immense gravity of a wee little black hole. Maybe then even swallowing up the sun and solar system, becoming a threat to other stars, a piss-ant menace of insatiability. There's your anti-matter, your singularity. A sad, sorry end to this extraordinarily beautiful existence.

Physicists. I read about physics and I can't help but wonder if a thousand years from now, our ancestors will look at what our physicists have accomplished with about as much comprehensibility as we do the archaic Mayan astronomer. Hopefully our ancestors will have a sense of what was understood, if not the means of it. I'm sure most Mayans looked at their astronomer/priests in the same way we look at our physicists, with a measure of fear and awe and incomprehensibility. Those later astronomer/priests of the Maya conspired with the rulers of their day too, to rule over the populace, to retain the security and means to conduct their research. I wonder if they felt anything like Oppenheimer and his cohorts when Truman dropped those nuclear bombs on those innocent Japanese people, when their Mayan overlords started chopping off heads and ripping out hearts, in anticipation of curious celestial phenomena?

Speaking of another way in which science has betrayed us, there's the fact that those Maya were making all those impossibly accurate calendars high on mushrooms or DMT secreted from the glands of a toad. Where's all that scientific research about psychedelics and weed? Oh right, they're illegal. Consciousness having evidently been decided, not worthy of further exploration. Science having largely heaped contempt upon such plants and mushrooms, since the dominators of the world decided certain plants and mushrooms are a liberty we would not be allowed.

Violence. Science has basically ignored neolithic Goddess worshiping cultures, in favor of a narrative that suggests there has never been anything but hierarchy and dominance, from the beginning. They tell us that it was agriculture and surplus that lead to the increasing power of individuals to control populations, as if no “civilized” culture on Earth ever distributed anything equitably, as if it were unnatural for any member of the same species to share, or give. Remember, it's all about competition. According to the dominant scientific paradigm, any evidence anywhere in nature of symbiosis, or cooperation, is an anomaly. There are scientists like the late Lynn Margulis, who argue that in fact, cooperation is the rule, the way of nature, the way of life. There are innumerable bacteria in my body that I could not live without. Every cell in my body is like a living, conscious thing. But that does not fit into the paternalistic dominator model behind religions, governments, institutions, corporations, the military, the traditional family, and capitalism generally. The monotheistic God of creation, or neo-Darwinism are a better fit, with their tacit legitimization of plunder and destruction, and the individuals right to rule over another.

Is it really any wonder, with all this in the make-up of who we are as Americans and Westerners, the most potentially violent people in the story of the species, with so much that is unacknowledged, that we have put ourselves in Iraq, that we are threatening Iran, and India and Pakistan, where we are so deeply engaged, are a potential venue for nuclear holocaust - the former lands of those peaceful, agrarian Goddess worshiping civilizations we refuse to acknowledge? Or that the epicenter of the collapse of the Western economic model seems to be Greece and Rome, where the dominator model was so well established, the birthplace of so much that is our current system?

Maybe the CERN Hadron Collider is not a weapon of mass destruction, pardon the pun. Perhaps it's a kind of penance for science, for what it did, for what it has done, for what it is doing to support tyranny everywhere. Just as well as the Church, having stripped from perception the divine from matter, tampering with it so, the scientific print on so much that makes us weak and enslaves us, so much that is destroyed. Maybe this particle smasher will sort out all those final questions, and lead to some final unified theory, and save us from the predicament of 7 billion with declining resources, but I doubt it. I think it will lead to twice the questions, twice the mystery. With time, they'll want a bigger smasher. A round and round we go.

Peak resources theory is one of the reasons I believe this is a divine universe. I think the peak of resources has come just in time to prevent us from turning this planet into a black hole, or a giant computer, or a mass of gray goo. Scientists will have to remember their roots in alchemy, and start looking to plants and mushrooms and toads again, for inspiration, once the hydrocarbons that have fueled such massive undertakings as the Hadron Collider, such grand patronage from the dominators of the day, is finally exhausted. What are quarks and bosons, when you no longer have the ability to observe them? What is physics at the quantum level, without the technology that is the result of so much surplus hydrocarbons, to study the behavior of electrons?

Lest I come off as anti-science, I simply want a science that supports life. To often, science supports domination, destruction and enslavement, of the body and mind. I want a science that can say, we do not understand, or, that is something we simply cannot measure, instead of the current method, to denigrate, to deny, to say that it has no meaning. I want a science that does not align itself with a worldview that sanctions violence. I want a science that reinvigorates the world with something of the sacred.

That's the world I live in. A sacred place, a divine place, which we cannot see, for a mythology of progress that is about domination and control obscuring the view. A mythology that requires us to destroy, that is so little about building, that is so indifferent to life. Such that, here we are, everyday threatened with potential collapse, disruptions we were told would never come again. A long descent, the chaotic disarray of violent shadows lurking in the consciousness of humanity, wreaking havoc. How much do I desire peace? How much do I desire healing? Where is the resiliency in this system, that is so disconnected from the Earth?

I'm glad to have it, the vision of the universe science has given me. It has awakened my being profoundly. I hope we hold onto it, the next few hundred years. I imagine a people who retain that vision, and recover something of that pre-historical worldview, are more likely to manage well any coming difficulties. If things continue as they are, and I expect they will, I see a bottleneck somewhere distant in our future. Burning the remaining hydrocarbons the next 100 years, and consuming the way we do, could change the climate enough to call this the end of the Cenozoic Era. I don't know what we'll call the next, but my hope is, it will be populated by a people who live in cooperation, in gratitude and joy, in love. I think such people will find that the universe and the Earth are vastly more mysterious, and supportive, than either the children of God or the devotes of Science have made them out to be. After what we've been through, I think humanity deserves 5000 years of peace.


Luciddreams said...

I've often had the thought of viewing PO as a savior from our own hubris. I have long viewed PO through the eyes of hope, which people have argued is a perverse way of seeing it. But from where I sit now, I believe it's right to view PO in a welcoming manner. I understand the suffering that is in store for the human race, specifically the likely increase in starvation for mankind. It's what happens when I species overshoots it's basic requirements. Leibig's Law of the Minimum and so forth. It seems our civilizations limiting factor has become fossil fuels.

I want to share the optimism you have that the Earth will run out of recoverable fossil fuels before we do ourselves in. I think it's likely, but then there is all of that methane that's being released into the atmosphere in the Arctic:

I think I can believe that the universe has enough divinity and that life on Earth is special enough for that divinity to not want to destroy it. However we are also very insignificant in the face of infinity.

So giving that PO will save our habitat, what about the nuclear power plants? This is my biggest concern. If we don't safely shut them all down how many fukushimi daichi's, or chernobyls is it going to take to do life on Earth in? I don't think being afraid of the nukes is unfounded (consequently I worked as a nuclear engineer in the U.S. Navy so I do know a little about it). I just hope that the developed world comes to its senses in time to shut them all down safely so we aren't force to evolve into some kind of radiation loving mutant being.

William Hunter Duncan said...


The Prairie Island Nuclear facility is on an Island in the middle of the Mississippi, just south of Minneapolis. There is another on the riverbank, about thirty miles north. Seems like a fine way to kill a river.

As for us being insignificant in the face of infinity, I say there isn't any evidence for that at all. In fact, as we are all an aspect of infinity, and many of us do care, the evidence suggests infinity does care.

No question, with all the changes afoot, whoever makes it through the gauntlet of the next two hundred years, may be a very different creature.

Anonymous said...

Hola, Hunter!

I heaved a heavy sigh after reading your recent blog. I'm afraid there's nothing any individual being among us can do about any of this. Our choices are limited to being overwhelmed by pessimism or seeking out little bits of humanity and peace in our day-to-day lives. I know you do this on a regular basis. I just want you and heavy-duty thinkers like you to feel happy once in a while.

I just spent some time in the West Bank of Palestine. I could not take on the issues of the people I met, and my being angry along with them wasn't helpful to them or to me; but as I listened to people tell their stories, I saw that there is hope there, too. I also talked to some who wanted nothing more than the annihilation of their enemies. There are true haters and true optimists everywhere. It will always be this way.

I can't dwell for too long on the decline of civilization as we know it without think about a line from the Desiderata:

"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

Just a bit of fluff? OK. But sometimes a particle of hope, if you really grab hold of it, is enough to make it through each day's steady diet of bad news.

"Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Fine with me.

On a more personal note, I hope you're doing well. It would be interesting to hear how you're making it through the winter months. Thanks again for the garden tour last fall.

Be well, friend.

William Hunter Duncan said...


I dance most of my anger away. Some, I vent in this blog. I am otherwise happy. I'm glad to hear your trip to Israel was a success, and you returned safely. Blessings,


Thardiust said...

In regards to scientific materialism, you might find this movie series pretty interesting. Even though the Illuminati and love frequency speculations are probably more helpful when viewed as metaphors, this film still has some pretty interesting facts about where humanity has been and where we may be going.