Sunday, February 24

Life can be the great experience but experience is the great teacher.

One might say that life is the great experience but experience predominantly is what shapes our beliefs. But how many people really believe this and how important are our beliefs?

The basis of philosophy and the world’s great wisdom streams is predicated on what is believed to be the truth and how this is translates into living a meaningful life. 

That is in terms of the guiding principles on how to live and informs that sense of self. That sense of self that allows us to feel reasonably satisfied with our existence, given the emotions will give high and lower points as a natural interpretation to how we feel about our life in general. 

But, the hand of fate seems to cast its mysterious shadow over us just as things appear to be going well. Inevitably, what is unexpected arises effortlessly to our consternation, to shatter the beliefs previously held. 

Like it or not most will change their beliefs in the light of such earth shattering experiences. They may not be earth shattering to others, but that’s not the point, it’s how they are viewed in the mind of the individual. Acknowledging that event can be a watershed moment, to enable one to move on with a fresh outlook of what is believed and a renewed sense of self.

I think its part of the business of being human. It’s what seems to be the basis that overcome the trials and tribulations of tumultuous climatic events that most likely might have shattered the beliefs of those ancient tribespeople. Instead they most likely adopted different beliefs that allowed them to cope and even prosper. Its most likely a part of our primordial soup from whence life first evolved, but that's another subject.   

Sure, some might pride themselves in saying they have remained true to what they believed, but in my opinion that can be the result of not wanting to face up to reality. 

Religion and philosophy should never be afraid of an evolution in thinking that means our beliefs will change during our life. The man who holds fast to the teachings and beliefs of his youth notwithstanding life’s experience, in my view, denies what it is to be human. The stoics have a point to make, but not to take it to an extreme. Others are free to disagree, but I feel it is our experiences that shape our beliefs. That is not to say we don’t start out with evolving beliefs, that stand us in good stead, but they will change given our momentous life experiences. 

Everything in moderation was Aristotle's call to embrace a virtuous life, to leave room for modifications and renewal along life’s long and winding road. 

Friday, February 22

The Quest for a moral compass

This paper begins in the home of western philosophy, in ancient Greece and thereafter I trace the evolution of ethics into modernity, with a minor excursion into Chinese traditions.   
In conclusion I summarise the normative, virtue based, duty bound and consequential ethical categories.  Finally as a practical exercise a contemporary issue is offered for discussion.    

What I hope to demonstrate is that Ethics is an important part of philosophy indicative as a moral compass as to what constitutes a more meaningful existence.

Ethics inherent in Homers polytheism   

Professor Hubert Dreyfus provides an insightful overview into the ancient Greek ideas – to discuss Homer’s epic poems, The Iliad and the Odyssey.

Here we see ethical behaviours bestowing honour and glory at the behest of the immortal GODs.  

According to Dreyfus, Homer’s phenomenology of the body incorporates the idea our various moods keep us continually in tune with ourselves and give rise to a meaningful life; a reflection of, or as arising from the various GODs, so that there is sacred nature to our existence.  That is our consciousness depends upon personalities at a higher level than our own, emanating from the GODS. 

The Greek Gods he portrayed were in the image of humanity with the same foibles except they were immensely powerful and eternal. A meaningful existence was assured because the GODS send us emotional signals. Dreyfus suggests Homers ideas are closer to our natural mode of existence than the autonomy and self-determination of the enlightenment. Homers idea is we are respectful in our engagement of others and objects according to that mood upon which he attaches a link to the GODS.

Aeschylus and divine justice

Athens was the first known democracy at the time when Aeschylus grew up. Athenian democracy wasrecovering from its prior tyrannical ruler and coming to grips with a more meaningful existence. Against that backdrop of deliverance his plays covered the whole spectrum of human interactions. The plots involved the hand of fate and the consequential effect on communities in relation to the new GODS.    
Zeus, as the chief GOD maintained order, with lesser GODs believed to despise man’s greatness; so the idea took root of a sense of impiety, a false pride which consumed individuals in what we might think of today as hubris. The unjust were not always punished in their lifetime so that legacy became part of heredity guilt and vengeance.

The plays also talk about reconciliation and divine justice administered in the Athenian courts of justice, with help from the GODS.  

Chinese Ethics
At around same time in China, sages such as Confucius (552-479BC), and others were making a mark on society that continues to this day.  
According to Hans Kung (Kung Hans & Ching Julia, Christianity and Chinse Religions) in ancient China there was no separation of church and state. Their religious mix represents principally a wisdom stream with influences from Confucius, set alongside the prophetic streams talked about in the Old Testament, the Semites from Abraham and the mystical stream arising from the Buddha. China was influenced from outside cultures as far back as the 10th century BC by virtue of trade following the ancient Silk Road.   

Chinese ethical thought in Confucianism concerns principally how one is to live a meaningful life: determining the optimum balance between families versus strangers. It is essentially a practical religious approach so that its ethics don’t engage in the moral dilemma talked about in the west. Instead it is concerned with what is good or bad as in the self and how that relates to the non- physical world. Hence, the application of ethics requires the use of imagination within the confines of the defining principles.

The early entry of Buddhist thinking met with stiff opposition until such time as modifications were made to ensure it was not in conflict with the other religions. It was brought to China by Buddhist monks from India around 150 CE and was eventually assimilated into their culture after adapting to Daoism. Daoism posits existence in accord with the flow of Nature — the Dao or the Way. Buddhism and Daoism were able to reconcile their ideas as Daoists expanded on the cosmos so that Buddhists incorporated such expansionary ideas into their tradition.
Pure Land Buddhism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism are the two prominent strains today.

Confucianism and liberal democracy

In modern day terms Confucian ethics and liberal democratic values found their way into discussions in the late 19th and 20th century.

The cultural evolution under Mau brought a halt to this movement and a suppression of the ancient religious practices and belief as China became an atheist state. However, in modernity, it has moved away from these extremes and terror to work towards a more democratic society paradoxically within the confines of a communist state.    
But there remains a tension between what represents a good and meaningful life individually versus the Confucian ideal of social harmony and allegiance to the state.
Joseph Chan (2014) in Confucian Perfectionism -A Political Philosophy for Modern Times talks about – Confucianism has been troubled by a serious gap between its political ideals and the reality of societal circumstances. Contemporary Confucians must develop a viable method of governance that can retain the spirit of the Confucian ideal while tackling problems arising from non-ideal modern situations. The best way to meet this challenge, is to adopt liberal democratic institutions that are shaped by the Confucian conception of the good rather than the liberal conception of the right.

Confucian Perfectionism examines and reconstructs both Confucian political thought and liberal democratic institutions, blending them to form a new Confucian political philosophy. That is to decouple liberal democratic institutions from their popular liberal philosophical foundations in fundamental moral rights, such as popular sovereignty, political equality, and individual sovereignty. Instead, grounds them on Confucian principles and redefines their roles and functions, thus mixing Confucianism with liberal democratic institutions in a way that strengthens both. Then  explore the implications of this new yet traditional political philosophy for fundamental issues in modern politics, including authority, democracy, human rights, civil liberties, and social justice.

Secular ethics arising from Buddhism.

Turning now to another matter, which is attracting some interest in the contemplative philosophical world, is the attempt to apply ethics to ancient contemplative practices to engage a much wider secular audience.     

What has been observed is contemplative practices are almost always tied to a fairly straightforward ethical framework. But the way that this is expressed is not always acceptable to those working in hospitals, schools, psychotherapeutic institutions and so forth in different cultures.  
Hence what is required is a statement of principles that remains faithful to the ethical framework. That is, a philosophical project aimed at forming a statement of guiding principles expressed in normative ethics.
Implicit in such a statement would be a reference to the Buddhist principle of the truth seeker, committed to scientific principles,   whose objectives are to alleviate suffering, to be desirous of happiness, of good outcomes, to be supportive of individuals in their shared aspirations, to realise these values, to show compassion in the rendering of services and so on.

In other words a universal ethically based set of values that translates Buddhist thinking into ethics but remains sufficiently broad to be generally acceptable across different cultures. The present Dalai Lama of Tibet, leads the way in this approach.
Returning to our western heritage we have the Ethics of Plato and his eudemonistic conception of ethics. Eudaimonia concerns the highest aim of moral conduct and the virtues required to attain it. Plato’s conceptual basis for happiness is not clear and he treats it in different ways- maybe because his ideas evolved during his life. His dialogues make reference to Socrates (469/470-399BC) who was his teacher.  

For Plato the soul must remain aloof and be separate to the pleasures of the body to obtain higher knowledge. In the same manner the individual must be subordinate to the community for the common good.

Plato thought moral values were absolute truths which spirit-like abstract entities. In that sense moral values were thought to be spiritual objects, which was refuted by Aristotle.   

The legacy of Aristotle
His philosophy was the cornerstone of philosophy over the ensuing seven centuries, influencing Plotinus and Porphyry. 

Thereafter his philosophy shaped the Byzantine Philosophy.
Ethics in Byzantium was not a formal discipline, but various responses to problems posed in relation to everyday life. It covered the full spectrum of ethical views on virtues and vices, evil and passions, the Good, and how to observe the commandments and so on.

In the Arabic world his influence was such that it became known as The First Teacher. Subsequently such commentaries re-emerged in the Latin West in the twelfth century.
Thomas Aquinas sought a reconciliation of Aristotle’s philosophy with Christian ideas and so Aquinas became the home of theological and philosophical underpinnings for Christianity that remains in many respects to continue to be its bedrock even today.

Today, philosophers regard him as the reliable sage for virtue ethics. 
But possibly the more influential was Saint Augustine (354–430)

His authority was far reaching and his authority supplanted that of Aristotle’s, to be invoked on both sides of the Reformation.  His ideas on the problem of evil and on free remain a reference point today.

According to Augustine the existence of goodness must allow evil to exist, which is solely the fault of humans. He also influenced John Calvin, who supported Augustine's view and argued in turn that corrupted humans required God's grace to give moral guidance. Politically his theory of the stringent conditions to be satisfied to justify a war are still invoked today.
But medieval philosophers continued to talk about moral principles as "eternal laws" which were classified as spirit-like objects.

Moving into the more modern era

Following the enlightenment and more rational thinking in the 17th century Samuel Clarke changed that definition as spirit-like relationships. What also took root was the idea GOD has willed the physical world into existence, just as was willed human life, so too are all the moral values willed into existence.
Sitting on the other side of the fence the sceptics denied values can be classified as spirit-like objects, to posit the idea moral values are purely human inventions.

Friedrich Nietzsche argued one creates his or her morality to mark the distinction from what he regarded as the slave-like value system of the masses.
Emotion and Reason- David Hume

Another important aspect to moral psychology concerns the role of reasoning as applied to moral actions.

David Hume argued the case all our moral assessments must involve our emotions, and not our reason. He conceded reason might be of service in providing the context, but "reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions."
However in modernity most rationally-minded philosophers have opposed these emotive theories of ethics.
Simone de Bouvier

I will turn now to her work to talk about existentialist ethics in the context of individual freedoms and the tensions that involves with wider societal freedoms.  This tension must inevitably lead to a responsibility, which in turn leads to an ambiguity as one seeks to incorporate the notions of values to freedoms within existentialist philosophy.
2. Ethics
a. Pyrrhus ET Cinemas

Although a lifelong partner to Sartre, she approached the philosophical question of ethical responsibility long before Sartre gave it more serious consideration. Her first work was Pyrrhus ET Cinemas in 1944.  
The story begins between Pyrrhus, who is an ancient king of Epirus, and his trusted advisor Cinemas. But on every occasion Pyrrhus makes known his intention to conquer many lands.   Cinemas asks him what he intends to do afterwards. Pyrrhus says that he will rest once he has achieved all of his plans. Cinemas retorts, "Why not rest right away"?

The philosophy was written in consultation with Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness’. It was in accord with his idea of freedom in an objective world in relation to the conflict between being-for-itself and being-in-itself. But notice in Beauvoir's analysis we have the implied ethical consideration of other free subjects in the world.
Hence, she poses the question the external world can be seen as a destructive reality, so it is up to individuals to establish an ethical link which manifests itself via ethical action. That human bond aims to mutually express the freedom of the individual, but at the same time to encourage the freedom of fellow human beings. However, she also asserts it may not always be passive because to remain a pacifist in every respect, regardless of the impingement on the freedom of others, is in effect bad faith.

The Ethics of Ambiguity
The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) is a continuum of the theme expressed in Pyrrhus.  Although Beauvoir adopts mostly Satrean philosophical ideas, such as there is no predetermined human essence or value, she presents the idea our human freedom is in a parallel with the need for that freedom of others for it to be properly actualized.

In the end she suggests in order for us to live ethically we are to assume the ambiguity as a given, to accept the paradox, and that involves the proposition as ‘bad faith’. In agonizing over different perspectives she gets around the contradiction by concluding all we can do to live authentically at the crossroads of freedom and facticity.

In summary her work suggests all we can do is to take responsibility for our decisions in the light of information known and in exercising our freedom in parallel to the freedom of others, which are not to be compromised.    

Finally I will briefly summarise the theories that loosely categorize ethics into broad categories.
There are 6 principal categories: normative, evolutionary, virtue, duty, consequential and applied. Applied refers to those issues which require application to the prior mentioned in responding to a thorny issue. 
The categorisation is useful in helping explain ethics but is also somewhat arbitrary.

Normative Ethics

As previously outlined normative ethics invoke the golden rule or guiding principles that are generally agreed Hence one decides something is simply right or wrong by invoking the Golden Rule.

However, inevitably what I desire may be different to someone else so that such a single rule can be highly subjective.

In Confucius ethics we have the negative of the golden rule - what you don't want yourself, don't do to others.”

Evolutionary ethics favour the idea of fairness as it applies to the community to take precedence over individualism. From a biological perspective position there doesn’t seem to be any reason to favour self-interest over altruism. Certainty there is no evidence to support the selfish gene theories and those exposing only survival of the fittest that dominated discussions in the late sixties and seventies.    
Virtue ethics have surfaced in modernity as a credible source of reference, spearheaded by such philosophers as Alasdair Macintyre who has been a staunch defender of Aristolean virtues, contending they all emerge from within social traditions.
As outlined previously morality consists of following precise rules of conduct, such as "don't kill," or "don't steal."

However virtue ethics places less emphasis on the rules and more on cultivating good character habits so that habitually these become part of who you are as in your good character.  
Plato talked principally about the four key virtues- wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. Others mentioned were fortitude, generosity, self-respect, good temper, and sincerity.

In addition to ensuring good character, virtue ethics talks about avoiding the vices in the first place by reverting to the virtues.

Hence Plato emphasised the importance of moral education so that a virtuous character be instilled in the young so they might subsequently lead a virtuous life.
Aristotle advanced the argument further by linking acquired good habits to controlling the emotions and declaring how we respond to live a virtuous life. 
Duty ethics cover almost all aspects of life to those who favour this approach. For most of us we don’t have to think about a duty to family and to the various organisations and institutions integral to our existence. To some extent there is an overlap to virtue ethics as what is determinant as a duty, has to be linked to what virtue makes such a duty valid. A duty approach provides meaning in the sense of pride as derives in selfless duty to serve others. The idea of duty could also include a duty to look after our own body.  They are sometimes called no consequence ethics because the duty does not have to have a consequence. In the metaphysical realm one might say one has a duty to a higher being or a higher self.
Consequentialism, as the name suggests attempts to trace the result of decisions so that they become ethical only as far as they result in good outcomes. An example is the utilitarian philosophical school. The problem with consequentialism is you can’t always determine outcomes, unless the matter is rather obvious. The idea of attempting to evaluate all possible consequences has, of course, considerable merit 

Finally, as you may have gathered, in practice one might consider aspects from a number of the categories which is references as

Applied ethics,
For the purposes of a discussion and taking into consideration the idea of applied ethics what would be our approach to this issue:

A young girl (18) with dual citizenship, say Syrian and Australian, left and joined ISIS. Did not participate in the horrendous murders, but fell in love with an ISIS bloke and had a baby with him.

Now she wants to come back to Australia.
Do we cancel her citizenship?  Knowing that she most likely will be killed at some time in Syria. She of course made the decision to leave and join the murderous ISIS.
Do we let her in, and take her to court?  How will we ever find the truth? She may even start taking up contact here with other ISIS sympathisers’

Do we show mercy, as she was young, and didn’t know the consequences?

The Government, of course, would have laws etc. etc., but what is the ethical question?


Many of the ideas of how to live and find meaning of the ancient wisdom streams are increasingly finding relevance to modern day thinking, to give impetus to the next generation to forge more meaningful and superior outcomes. 

The task of the philosopher is to continue to ask questions and advance those wisdom streams as far as they remain relevant to the new age we inhabit, that is the age of the humans. 

This will require a different way of thinking that will be contingent on a more empathetic approach to other cultures as we increasingly form a part of a global village. 
There is a need to develop universal secular ethical standards that provide us with a moral compass to live a meaningful life, but to leave the door open to imagination. Descriptive principles requiring imagination can lead the way to better outcomes, for you cannot legislate morality. One will inevitably fall off the ethical tightrope at times, so in humility one must in any system, leave room to consult the moral compass, to steer her back on track without fear or favour.  
Ultimately it was cleverness and adaptability that ensured our survival, just as it will be the case in the future.  

Saturday, February 16

The long and winding road of the ‘Executive Brain’

This paper seeks to talk as the ‘Executive Brain’ where I aim to demonstrate the minds capacity to find meaning by virtue of our enhanced consciousness. That in turn is the product of the frontal lobes that disseminates the information from all of the other repositories in the complex circuitry in the mass that makes up our amazing modern brains. In a crude sort of way, as suggested by Jean Paul Sartre, they are the self before itself, as a nullity, until such time as the consciousness, like an executive manager, disseminates the ebb and flow of information to make decisions or engage in abstract thinking

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

But as precursor, I want to talk about how our morals arose and the Biology of Belief described in Bruce Lipton’s book by that title. Lipton asserts our sovereign capacity for decision making is evident at the cellular level, as outcomes are belief dependent rather than reliant on our inherited genes. One does not have to be totally convinced by all of his ideas, but I do think he makes some excellent points, all grounded on scientific principles enthusiastically endorsed by his peers.      

Along the way and in conclusion are some thoughts on those fragile frontal lobes which are the gateway to underpin such abstract thoughts.


A question arises from whence morals come. I’m comfortable with the idea they are connected in some way to nature as in our cultural mirror. A follow-on question might be:  Does evolution in nature exhibit some form of morality? 

But firstly to define what I mean by morals. I am opting for a definition that involves a kind of work in process.  That is those evolving principles which signify what is considered right or wrong for various cultures at different points in time.

To reiterate it appears reasonable to me one can answer in the affirmative to the earlier question – they are indeed connected to nature as in our cultural mirror, but only to a degree, because the ingredients to moral values are many and constantly evolving. They may change with new discoveries and given a renewed emphasis to realize a kind of expanded social cohesion.

According to William H. Calvin, Ph.D. who is an American theoretical neurophysiologist and professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, the most shocking realizations of all time has slowly been dawning on us: the earth's climate does great flip-flops every few thousand years, and with breathtaking speed. In just a few years, the climate suddenly cools worldwide. With only half the rainfall, severe dust storms whirl across vast areas. Lightning strikes ignite giant forest fires. For most mammals, including our ancestors, populations crash. 

Our ancestors lived through hundreds of such abrupt episodes since the more gradual Ice Ages began two and a half million years ago--but abrupt cooling produced a population bottleneck each time, one that eliminated most of their relatives. We are the improbable descendants of those who survived--and later thrived. 

The reason we have thrived becomes apparent, for to survive such momentous disruptions a high degree of evolution was necessary to favour cleverness in adaptability. Along the way an evolving sense of morality in what was right or wrong was given impetus in our ability to survive and prosper.  Later on we have the idea from the ancient Greek philosophers a virtuous life was a happy one which gave us our meaning.

But this paper wants to concentrate more on the evolutionary journey into modernity and how that plays a role in our enlarged executive brain. In the process it can help explain how our meaning for life can be enhanced by self-awareness and how it is we can avoid a shut down in higher level thinking of our consciousness. That is principally as a consequence of the tension between the older regions of the brain and our more fragile frontal lobes. In other words how to avoid an ensuing tragedy.    

The possibility of biological altruism. 
Rather obviously behaviours evolved earlier on as instinctive type reactions as evident in the animal kingdom, primarily driven by a will to preserve the species. Over time our adaption meant a connection of such feelings to be associated with emotional values.  

Psychological traits evident in loyalty to the immediate family became associated with positivism thereafter leading to hierarchical positions of tribal authority, deference to elders and so forth. But that is not suggest we have little control over these so called repositories to feel what is right and wrong, that arise more or less instinctively. Such feelings are not hostage to our future actions which can be subject to change from the jolt of psychological or environmental factors of one kind or another 

Sober takes this argument a step further to argue there is no particular reason to think that evolution would have made humans into egoists rather than psychological altruists (see also Schulz 2011). On the contrary, it is quite possible that natural selection would have favored humans who genuinely do care about helping others, i.e., who are capable of ‘real’ or psychological altruism. Therefore, evolution may well lead ‘real’ or psychological altruism to evolve. Contrary to what is often thought, an evolutionary approach to human behavior does not imply that humans are likely to be motivated by self-interest alone. Sober & Wilson’s Evolutionary Arguments for Psychological Altruism:
Patterns of behaviors are often best explained as biological adaptations, i.e., the traits that have evolved through natural selection due to their adaptive effect evident in our everyday existence.

As various instinctive type reactions underpinned enhanced survival, psychological traits became aligned to this social cohesion principle and which was reinforced by evolving beliefs. Hence, what emerges to sustain tribal cohesion and existential order is the requirement to adopt principals of fairness to ensure optimum survival outcomes.    

The Australian aboriginal, as the longest known uninterrupted culture on the globe and the valuable insights of how social cohesion, reinforced by evolving beliefs may have influenced materially their society.

The underpinnings for these came from the dreamtime which posited a first Creator appeared in the physical world to bring forth natural children and plants under the control of a mother earth, from thence came animals but lastly humankind.

Dreamtime stories were instrumental in defining their tribal values, which led to an elaborate system of rules under the common law, such as initiation into adulthood. This law covered ritualistic ceremonies such as the processes for corroborees when the tribes met to resolve matters such as arranged marriages, to plan for trade between the nations and so forth.

Physical evidence of evolved changes in the brain supportive of enhanced moral reasoning.   

We also have physical evidence of the changes to structure of modern day brains and that of the more highly developed animals. There is clear evidence of the older repositories housing the more emotive instinctive responses, which combine in the extensive circuitry to the more newly evolved frontal lobes regions. Hence our brains bear evidence of the evolutionary journey with older instinctive regions designed to signal the emotive survival issues such as danger and the newly formed areas enabling more complexity in abstract thinking. 

There is no reason to feel one region, due to its more recent development, is superior to the other, since each is codependent on the other. What I think we can say about the development of the frontal lobes is they played a key role in terms of awareness.

From an evolutionary perspective it appears this development occurred relatively late in the evolutionary journey, in what would be regarded as modern, in the long journey of humanity.
In many other respects, it facilitates judgments, unclouded by what might be purely emotional reactions. The problem arises when they become overloaded and the older limbic area take
precedence over the more rational way of thinking facilitated by the frontal lobes. 

The moral value of fairness.

What is clear is our earliest codes of accepted behaviors was to put sharing ahead of individualism, so that loyalty to the group underwrote enhanced chances of survival. The success of the human species adapting to the enhanced dynamics of the group has been extraordinary, but one might argue this success has been overshadowed as have become consumers and not sharers in nature’s bounty.  
Possibly the early roots for this twist in the evolutionary road from sharers to consumers may be linked to the idea we have dominion or superiority over nature, which is to be tamed and brought under human control. Such a view, combined with our extraordinary inventive improvements and adaptions in modernity has prospered humanity, but often this is at the expense of sustainability. This in turn has the capacity to change our ideas on what are our underlying values; to engender the need for a revision in our thinking to return to the way we viewed the lands when once we were more reliant to respond to the changing seasons for our survival.  But it need not involve a radicalized idea we abandon technology in favour of a far more basic existence, for indeed if we believe that it is technology that has contributed to a crisis than it may well be that it provides the solution. But that is for another paper.  

The Biology of Belief 

The title of Bruce H Lipton’s (Ph.D.) book ‘The Biology of Belief’ aroused my interest- no doubt as was the author’s intention to engender for him a wider reader’s audience.
The author’s first watershed moment is vividly described in the Prologue when he was lecturing medical students in the Caribbean.  
I had resigned my tenured position at the University of Wisconsin’s School of medicine and was teaching at an offshore medical school in the Caribbean. Because the school was so far out of the academic mainstream, I started thinking outside the rigid parameters of belief that prevail in conventional academia. Far from ivory towers, isolated on an emerald island in the deep azure Caribbean Sea, I experienced a scientific epiphany that shattered my beliefs about the nature of life.
My Life changing moment occurred while I was reviewing research on the mechanisms by which cells control their physiology and behavior. Suddenly I realized that a cell’s lifer is controlled by the physical and energetic environment and not by its genes. Genes are simply molecular blueprints used in the construction of cells, tissues, and organs. The environment serves as a ‘contractor’ who reads and engages those genetic blueprints and is ultimately responsible for the character of a single cells ‘awareness ‘of the environment, not its genes that sets into motion the mechanisms of life.
His book is an amalgam of the next 20 years of research and experience which I will attempt to engage sufficient portions so that you have some understanding of the nature of his findings.

Cells as Miniature Humans
He introduces us to the idea that every cell in our body – and there are roughly 60 trillion of them – is a smart cell capable of fulfilling all of the known bodily functions we attribute to our mind and body as a whole. This intelligence is resident in the cell membrane and reacts to its physiology through controlling proteins able to override the genetically encoded DNA resident in the cell nucleus. That is to say that although the DNA which is resident in the cell nuclei does determine our preprogramed genetic characteristics their operation can be turned off and on by the controlling proteins within the cells membrane environment. Hence the author contends our ‘belief systems’ are instrumental in the control of our biological functioning rather than by genetic determinants. Lipton explains the trend scientifically towards genetic determinism was adopted since the discovery of genes provided the final missing link to show how Darwin’s species adaption’s or changes were all transferred genetically into each new evolved generation.

An analogy to help explain the Magical Cell membrane
Lipton uses the analogy of the test pattern appearing on old TV sets. You may recall how a test pattern appeared on our TV sets once the day’s programs came to closures traditionally after midnight.

‘Think of the pattern of the test screen as the pattern encoded by a given gene, say the one for brown eyes. The dials and switches, TV fine –tune the test screen by allowing you to turn it on or off and modulate a number of characteristics , including colour, hue, contrast, brightness, vertical and horizontal holds .By adjusting the dials, you can alter the appearance of the test pattern on the screen, while not actually changing the original broadcast pattern. This is the role of the regulatory proteins.

Waltzed through the ‘Magical Membrane’ and on to ‘The New physics; Planting both feet on thin Air”

Lipton waltzes his readers through chapters entitled ‘Magical Membrane’, and on to ‘The New physics: Planting both feet firmly on thin Air’; to introduce the dual wave -particle physics theory to understand how energy underpins his biological beliefs and to persuade us more research is needed into the fields of energy waves rather than what is currently disproportionately devoted to genes.

Lipton’s idea is that ever since Darwin’s species adaption’s changes were thought to be conveniently verified via the modus operandi of genetically transferred information within the DNA of the cell nucleus- into each new evolved generation, so that Scientists assumed this must represent the crucial area for research.

Whilst it is true to say the environmental was accepted as playing a pivotal role in outcomes this was more generally attributed to the overall attitude of the mind and reactions to external stimuli rather than thought to be equally present in the individual cell intelligence as suggested by Lipton.

Disproportionate research efforts have gone into the genealogy pool and away from other forms of research which may be far less drug dependent and be more successful without the dreaded side effects of prescription medicine.
A more multi-disciplinary approach offers the best future opportunities. What might be concluded is the idea of genetic determinism is highly questionable.

It highlights meaning in the sense that what we believe, even at the cellular level, can affect our biological responses to result in more positive outcomes.      

Our fragile frontal lobes

The hardworking executive mechanisms of our brains also require rest and nutrition. It seems the most recent development of the brain, the frontal lobes, are quite fragile, and in need of even more tender loving care than was previously understood. A price to pay, you might say for our development, because this richness of an advanced consciousness made available through the operation of the frontal lobes, easily breaks down under extreme pressures.

Today it is understood that it is the frontal lobes that allow us to clearly identify our "consciousness" and make" executive decisions" when required, on any number of complex and abstract matters. Such development of the frontal lobes does however have a downside, the loss of control by the frontal lobes to the more primitive areas of the brain. As this occurs, initially the two are in "conflict" until such time as the lower brain takes control. When we lose this control of the frontal lobes it is similar to losing control of an "Executive Manager “of the brain.

That means you are operating at a much lower level, largely from an instinctive, survival mode, without the flexibility and higher level thinking provided by the frontal lobes.

Edward Hallowell -psychiatrist –in an Article from Harvard Business Review -re published in the Financial Review:
"As a specialist in learning disabilities, I have found that most dangerous disability is not any formally diagnosable condition like dyslexia or ADD (attention deficit disorder). Its fear. When the frontal lobes approach capacity and we begin to fear that we can't keep up, 'the relationship between their higher and lower regions of the brain take an ominous turn. In survival mode, the deep areas of the brain assume control and began to direct the higher regions.
As a result the whole brain gets caught in a neurological Catch 22. The deep regions interpret the messages of overload they receive from the frontal lobes in the same way they interpret everything. They furiously fire signals of fear, anxiety, impatience, irritability anger or panic. In a futile attempt to do more than is possible, the brain paradoxically reduces its ability to think clearly."

In everyday life a temporary loss of control through fear can happen much easier than we can imagine. Examples abound of people, subject to intense pressure, “blowing up” so to speak, evident in their childish outbursts where they revert to highly simplistic communications.   
Road rage is a good example of where a pent up fear and rage can spill over to a driver behind the wheel of car reacting irrationally in a fit of rage.

Damage to the frontal lobes

In a study carried out of large sample of unpremeditated murderers contained in Elkhonon Goldberg’s Book “The Executive Brain" it was found in all cases the offenders had significant damage or poorly developed frontal brain lobes. The offenders are able to distinguish easily between rights and wrong but in any pressurized environment they break down so that the ability to make rational decisions is eliminated.  

A study of our past behavior will indicate varying times of morality or lack thereof over different periods in history. It is our responsibility to be ever vigilant to our principles but be willing to make changes when new knowledge leads to a better understanding of our moral responsibility. Morals are a moving feast, just like (and at times in harmony with) creation as it also continues to evolve. We share in creation in many mystical unions, of which amazingly may include every single cell in our body. Why should we surprised – are we not star dust?