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#525#526#527#528 Episode #529 - Unite and Conquer 1
(The Realisation of Unity)



Sat 11 December 2010  Paul Bloom, Brian Willson, Elisabet Sahtouris
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Download Hour1 Download Hour2This week we question the reductionist science of the discrete and separate self. Our opening talk, by Paul Bloom, looks at research into the human moral sense, and presents findings which suggests that children even only a few months old are possessed of some kind of moral sense. We follow this up with a heartfelt talk from peace activist Brian Willson, on the need for US culture to break out of its self-imposed box and relate healthily with the world at large. Our major talk, by evolutionary biologist and gift economy activist, Elisabet Sahtouris, is a wide ranging one. She directly challenges reductionist models of evolution, preferring a holistic view, concluding that humanity is undergoing a change akin to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
Our first hour starts with a talk called The New Science Of Morality, by Paul Bloom, from 2010. He reviews some of the cutting edge research into a the origins of morality, describing a set of experiments on very young children. His research on babies confirms that before they can verbalise their thoughts, or even move their limbs, babies consistently demonstrate a preference for equality as regards apportioning of treats, and a preference for those who exhibit helping rather than hindering behaviour towards others. He suggests that this is the basis of morality. Citing other studies, he suggests that human morality is becoming more magnanimous in its regard of who is worthy of moral consideration; modern people have a much wider circle of 'us' (as opposed to them) then ever before. Seeking to explain the richness of the human moral sense, he credits "our culture, our intelligence and our imagination" for why humans are so nice.

A contrasting view of the role of US culture is provided by our second speaker, Brian Willson, rebroadcast from episode 166. We hear the conclusion from his speech on North Korea, in which he zooms out and looks at the larger picture of political leaders' use of war. He highlights how the demonization of North Korea is carried out to support the Pentagon's campaign of perpetual war and fear. If human survive this current time, he speculates that future archaeologists will ask themselves "What on earth were these people thinking... how can have been so deranged?" He asks "When will [we] begin to start climbing out of the box, because [our] humanity has been stifled long enough?" His moving conclusion is to ask "When are we going to revolt from a system which is so destructive, that [otherwise] it is going to cause our own demise?"

Our first hour is concluded with a wide ranging talk by Elisabet Sahtouris, which questions a lot of our assumptions about the nature of reality. She challenges the main metanarrative of physics, that of the purposeless dead universe which is heading steadily towards heat death after an enigmatic big bang. Similarly, she rejects the metanarrative of perpetual scarcity and competition behind reductionist biology (which infuses modern society through other disciplines such as economics). Instead she advocates an acceptance that nature, and so the human story, transcends our rational, reductionist, understanding.

Our second hour is made up entirely by the remainder of Elisabet Sahtouris' talk. She suggests that society should be organised more in tune with the rest of nature, for example, as a gift economy, one which is not predicated on scarcity, but which recognises the fundamental abundance of the natural world. She notes how sensitive people are to labels in the debate on evolution, and how easily discussion can become polarised. In contrast to traditional positions on the topic, she rejects them only as complete explanations, suggesting that they each contribute partly to a bigger understanding of the whole picture. Self-interest works on every level of the system, as does cooperation. She highlights a variety of ways in which modern thought is stuck in metaphors of competition and scarcity, suggesting - for example - a change of metaphor, from 'turning point' to 'metamorphosis'; humankind is not an unchanging voyager pursuing a new direction, but we are becoming an entirely new form of life, she says.
The themes from this episode are picked up again in episode 531.
This episode rebroadcasts content from 166.
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