Introduction, Overview, and Conclusion for “Schwab-Writings”
Why these essays were written, their key messages and their possible applications
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Many of us have a basic curiosity about the world we live in and search for meaning or a direction to pursue in our lives – sometimes coping with substantial problems, sometimes in freedom. The writings presented on this website provide a possible understanding and interpretation of our existence from three different perspectives, as well as an indication for a direction of our lives. They are based on a certain level of insight within the fractal structure of all knowledge – where, on one side, further specialized insight can always lead to a deeper level of more detailed structures of existence and, on the other side, an overview can lead to an ever higher vision of the ultimate “Formative Essence of Existence” – if not “God”. This presentation ends with some personal conclusions. The three different perspectives and the resulting essays are:
– The perspective of “Science and Evolution”:
What is the factual understanding of the origin, evolution, structure, and functioning of the existence we live in – as largely supported by the sciences?
– Cosmic origin, cosmic evolution, including the origin and evolution of Earth and Moon
– The origin and natural evolution of life
– The origin, evolution, and functioning of the human mind
– The origin, evolution, and functioning of societies and cultures
– Extraterrestrial life? What could it mean to us?
– What does the future hold? The expected end of mankind – and of the whole universe.
– The perspective of “Brain and Mind”, the most important human characteristic:
How did the human mind originate and evolve?
An analysis of the important functions of the human mind:
– Origin and evolution of the human mind
– Mental creativity
– Moral behavior, honor, duty, and, mainly, ethics – and their opposites or inversions
– Stability or variability of individual personality – mainly the multiplicity of its expressions
– Appreciation of aesthetics, art, and culture
– A special issue related to a mental problem analyzed in our time: Battle fatigue, or PTSD
– The perspective of “Philosophy and Theology”:
Is there a transcendental, spiritual essence of existence? What can we believe or know? How can we find our direction and what shall we do in life?
– Is there meaning or purpose in existence? What direction shall we pursue in our lives?
– How can we consolidate science, specifically astrophysics, and religion?
– What is “religion” – how did it evolve, what should it actually be?
– Is there any truth in the “Intelligent Design Theory”?
– A special essay discusses the possible meaning of the biblical “Beatitudes” for modern life.
Additionally and unrelated to the above, this website offers some articles concerning “History and Politics”:
· The “Great Henry Villard”, a biography
· “The Paris Peace Conference of 1919” at the end of World War I , offering insight based on accidentally retrieved and little known source material
· “Islam, the Muslim World and the West”, an analysis of history, the present untenable conditions, and a possible path into the future – with admonitions to all parties
· “Spontaneous, Historic Origin of Cultures and Civilizations” – on the origin and evolution of societies – demonstrated by the examples of historic Peru and Ecuador
· “Decline and Loss of Indigenous Cultures” – demonstrated by the example of indigenous societies in the upper Amazon area
· A key essay on “Essential Global Concerns”, what they actually should be for our world at our time – seeking for guidance for mankind’s course through the dangers, problems, and opportunities of the present and future historic development.
The “Overview”, “Personal Conclusions”, and an “Appendix” are presented in later chapters
In a separate section and on a separate website (www.schwab-stories.com), a number of personal human expressions or reflections in the form of ”Short Stories” are presented in three different languages (English, German, and French). They reflect not only the joys and comedies of life, but the many sorrows and tragedies as well – all in an attempt to more fully experience life –and to empathize with, or lend support to, the people we meet on our common journey through life.
Unexpectedly, the two websites on the internet, “Schwab-Writings” and “Schwab-Stories”, are being frequently visited – having been visited by now, after about six years, by more than 450,000 visitors – resulting in more than 1 million hits on essays or stories (of which approximately 20% are caused by search engines, robots, and crawlers), originating so far from 186 countries. Thus, the material presented on these websites has become the author’s contribution to the worldwide exchange of ideas on the internet, thereby supplementing personal contact and action in the world, suggesting the need for responsibility and quality in writing, and constituting the author’s “legacy”.
A Personal and biographical Introduction
The writing of these essays began during my years of working in California in the late 1950s and 60s on subcontracts for the American deep space exploration programs as conducted by NASA. Such work led to a sense of wonder about living as a human being at this point in cosmic evolution on this little globe called Earth – within the galaxy called “Milky Way” – in the midst of an enormous universe. Just look up to all the stars at night and wonder! Where did they come from? Why are they there? What will happen to them in the future – and our planet – and us?
Later – during thirty-five years of intense down-to-earth work in industry, in technological innovation, manufacturing, marketing, finance, personnel, and, mostly, international management – the circumstances of my personal life permitted me to take a sabbatical year (1969-1970) – used for reading, meeting a diversity of people, thinking, traveling, and writing an essay originally titled, “What Is Your Life?” This essay was rewritten in 2001 under the title, “Understanding Existence”, and is now issued as the key essay in the section of these writings “Philosophy and Theology”, entitled “The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Direction in Life”.
Subsequent travel allowed me to visit a number of distant places on this globe and to become acquainted with various cultures. As time permitted, and driven by curiosity, I began research into various areas of knowledge and understanding which previously had appeared intriguing, inadequately explained, or mysterious to me. This research consisted of more than 20 years of auditing specific courses and seminars at Princeton University; attending conferences at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, New Jersey; some at the Center of Theological Inquiry, and at the Princeton Theological Seminary; communicating with various specialists in their respective fields; and plenty of reading of related literature. To this, I added several of my own observations, experiences, and thoughts. The topics of research included the fields of astronomy/cosmology, geophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology, neurophysiology, psychology, art, philosophy, theology, and history – but, obviously, I am far from having a comprehensive or leading-edge knowledge in any or all those fields.
Additional, important perspectives on life and existence in this world were provided by volunteer management and personal consulting in formerly “socialist” East Germany, just after the “Wall” came down, as well as by involvement in civic environmental projects, and – most significantly – by personally working over many years with handicapped youths, inner-city low-income families, criminals in jail, and a number of other suffering or lonely individuals.
My personal life has found fulfillment in companionship with an exceptional wife – caring, intelligent, active in intellectual and artistic pursuits, and, in her own way, in civic and charitable causes – and in the raising of four sons in this modern world, all of whom I love and greatly respect for their personal values and accomplishments – sometimes in the adversities of their own lives and sometimes with success – in what is now their own course through life. Communication with a large circle of relatives and good friends has added greatly to the fullness and meaning of life! Some artistic activities beyond the above mentioned writing of short stories – in poetry, sketching, painting, sculpture, and music – while not of any significance in value, did open an understanding for art, this uniquely enjoyable and most human dimension, which is a gift of nature.
Repeatedly, I had contact with or became aware of all the great suffering in this world. Every organism suffers from accidents (external, and genetic ones), from viral, bacterial, or fungal diseases, from parasites and from predators (including humans), or from rivals. We humans suffer additionally from our personal deficiencies, loneliness, and compassion, or from the inadequacy of our human society. The observation of, if not participation in, all of this suffering has cast a dark shadow on my view of existence! This has let the “Formative Essence of Existence” (God) appear as more remote and us humans as more lonely.
I call the above-described academic and personal research efforts “long-distance travels of the mind” – exciting while being undertaken, but affording happiness when returning to the daily life in our own family and our town. Pursuit of these interests has provided the experience of a fulfilling life in mental growth, possibly even in stimulating personality development, but definitely in gaining some mental clarification. Thereby, it became possible to offer some occasional new contributions to those respective areas of knowledge. Maybe they can find application in the progress of knowledge – or, hopefully, serve as help or guidance to others.
What does all this mental clarification relate to? Many of us go through phases of searching in our lives – searches for our identity, searches for a path through life that provides needed sustenance and, possibly, fulfillment – even searches for an understanding of existence. Adolescents just out of high school may search for a meaning of their lives or a profession to follow. Students out of college may search for a career course and purpose for their lives. In mid-life crises, some search for a correction in their course. Upon retiring, many search for meaning in their remaining years. All may search for betterment of their lives – too many on Earth still struggling for mere survival and the most basic needs – too many just aiming merely for greater pleasure, more possessions and power, or simply entertainment. Many, however, search more deeply for an understanding of existence – for its scientifically intelligible or its transcendental and spiritual foundation. Many search for meaning by serving or contributing to the lives of the less fortunate. Still others live for the joy of art.
The essays on this website represent where I stand – at this time in an evolving life and in an evolving world.
The Basic Approach.
The essays of Schwab-Writings result from the following basic questions:
· What is “existence”?
· What actually is this universe that I find myself living in?
· Who, or what, am I in this universe?
· What is the essence of human life?
· Is there a scientifically understandable or a transcendental foundation to existence?
· What do I really live for?
· How shall I spend my life?
A systematic approach should start with a search for an understanding of the world we live in. Neither our universe nor any part of nature is static. All is in the midst of dynamic evolution that is controlled by the characteristics of the mysteriously appearing original sub-atomic particles in the Big Bang, then by a set of forces, natural laws or programs, principles, and constants also appearing at that early time. Consequently, it is this order of existence that should allow us to understand this development – the evolution of the cosmic structure, of nature, or of ourselves – what happened in this world, and why. But there are also vast areas of randomness and of quantum mechanical uncertainty. In terms of Chaos Theory, this renders the future of the world non-deterministic. Finally, there is the scientific discovery of the most impressive fact, that there will be an unavoidable, ultimate end of the whole universe.
In following the evolution of the world, we learn to see ourselves as organisms of nature – but organisms with the human mind of enormous capacity for thought and also for emotions. That makes us “human” and gives our lives their potential. This allows not only “utility”, but also “values”, to become significant to us. In a systematic approach to understanding ourselves in this world, we should look at the most important human capabilities of the mind. What are they? How did they evolve, and how do they function? What is their potential and what their limitations?
Creative thought has brought us out of primitivism to the height of human civilization – in technology, structures of society, and clarity or philosophical thought.
Ethical thought and judgment can make life emotionally tolerable for all of us – and more successful – and our societies more efficient! That is why nature let “ethics” evolve; and we must carry on with it. The opposite phenomena, revenge and predatory behavior, are destructive.
There actually are four related areas of concern:
- “Morality”, relating specifically to questions of sexual behavior, decency in dress code or behavior, and rituals,
- “Honor”, emphasized in military circles, often different from purely “ethical” questions, provoked by certain offenses, and possibly related to self-esteem or positioning in society – with its inversions in seeking “satisfaction” – or in perceived cowardice – mostly unpractical in life.
- “Duty”, the realization of society’s expectations from us and their fulfillment by us.
- “Ethics”, here used as the “central concept” for unselfish and caring behavior for the benefit of others or for service to the community – including dedication and honesty or trustworthiness in all contacts, specifically in business and politics.
Individual personality – a descriptive term for patterns of behavior, formed by our natural gifts, by experience, and by the surroundings, or culture we live in – providing uniqueness, value, and individual potential to each of us, whether in the development of intelligence, decision-making, self-confidence, leadership, empathy, dedication, or interpersonal skills.
Appreciate of aesthetics and art, as well as all that is commonly called the “cultural” aspect of our society. We are capable of joy over beauty in nature and artifacts.
Beyond our individual personalities, essence, and activities, societies or cultures arise with emerging properties. We are members of a society – whether as members of our family, the village we may live in, our city, our nation, or, lately, the global structure of mankind. Through mutual influence on each other, societies or cultures on all levels are being formed by the individuals comprising them. Actually, though, societies also form their members – as in the definition and validity of values or the development, respectively inhibition, of capabilities and behavior. Thus arises the consequent strength of societies or cultures. Rituals, values, fashions, and goals are defined within societies. Social, commercial, and political structures are formed. In short, “societies or cultures” are defined and individuals are formed in a mutual and dynamic process. The functioning of a society is often controlled by small, somewhat distributed, but in communication and strategy formulation well-connected subgroups of individuals, occasionally driven by a single individual, functioning somewhat like the nerves and a super-brain with various nuclei. Dominating rigid structures, political and religious ones, – turning to suppression of competitive thought and to keeping of their power or income – inhibit freedom and further development.
What does the future hold for mankind – with the formation of the poorly functioning United Nations?
There is one more essential element to most human lives and searches of the mind: the questions of “Why and What for” – for the universe. Why does the entire universe exist and what is it for, what course does the universe pursue? This leads to the question of the validity of religious beliefs – or doubts – in spiritual or transcendental forces, of rules of cultures, of human goals, of any “meaning”, “purpose” or “direction” – and to the most basic question: Why is there so much senseless destruction and suffering of the innocent in this world?
On the other hand, there is scientific knowledge about the universe and its course. Can we, or can we not, bring the perspectives of science and religion together? What can we modern people believe – for example, in the controversy between natural evolution and “intelligent (divine) design theory” (IDT)? What can we justify as a position to stand for? After all, one has to ask how religious beliefs are possible, how they originate throughout history and in various cultures, and how they are being formed and possibly evolve in the human mind. What is religion, or, quite importantly, what should it be?
In all these considerations remains the question: What can we see as the meaning or purpose of our own life – if there is any? More importantly: Which course or direction in life shall we follow – with initiative and responsibility?
A considerably more detailed Overview
The following paragraphs present a more detailed overview of the research effort and the resulting essays presented on the website “www.schwab-writings.com”.
Section 1: “Science and Evolution”
What is existence? What is the world in which we find ourselves?
Only about fifty years ago, a NASA space project provided the first, beautiful pictures of Earth as seen from outer space. Astronomical telescopes had already provided excellent pictures of distant galaxies. Now, we could visualize how our own “Milky Way” galaxy would look like – including the tiny spot representing our sun as one of several billions of other spots, somewhere in the outer area of one of our galaxy’s spiraling arms, with the still smaller NASA-photographed blue planet “Earth” whirling around it. How did this formation in space occur?
Recent progress in astronomy and astrophysics has shown us how the universe originated at one point and one moment some 13.7 billion years ago and has been expanding in all directions ever since. What happened in time and space that, out of a single burst of energy, we humans, with all our exceptional talents, have come to live on this tiny planet where we now are?
An essay in the first section of the writings is titled: “Evolution: Understanding Our Physical and Mental Existence; Cosmic Evolution – Natural Evolution – Evolution of the Human Mind – Evolution of Civilizations – Extraterrestrial Evolutions – the Future of Mankind and the Universe – the End of the Universe. What were the important aspects and steps of evolution? What remains unanswered? What could be the consequent meaning or purpose of our life?”
The essay is also available in the form of eight sub-essays on individual issues as indicated above, describing and discussing this evolution in some detail (in the fractal structure of science), with emphasis on the basic nature of the universe and the important phenomena or factors that determined the course of events:
- The abstract – one can rightly say ”transcendental” – origin and beginnings of existence – if one does not postulate causal connections from preceding universes
- The abstract nature of all existence composed of subatomic particles – consisting merely of tiny bits of fields in empty space (string theory). What are space-limited fields in empty space, how can they exist, emanate and react to external forces?
- The surprising “granulation” of energy and action, the diversity of primary particles and forces
- The appearance of the “combinatorial principle”, whereby the combination of smaller components is possible This is controlled by forces and the laws of nature (the expression of the “Formative Essence of Existence”), leading to the formation of a set of diverse larger components with totally new “emerging” dimensions of their own significance – as when using a quantity of diverse parts to build a cathedral. Once a granulated and diversified structure of existence was established, this combinatorial principle provided the foundation of evolution – and even of mental progress.
- The duality of the order of natural laws and of randomness in the universe, including quantum mechanical uncertainty
- The “basic principle of evolution” indicating that evolution does not converge on a goal following a plan but instead diverges to increasing complexity according to starting and boundary conditions at the beginning of every step of evolution. Evolution is often restrained by limitations in some areas – while prospering with opportunities in other areas. This leads to the impression of the “converging” evolution to opportunities (actually, by opportunities). At the same time, this evolution is modified by probabilistic or random events. In all, this leads to a non-deterministic and open-ended evolution of the universe and nature (including our mental concepts and structures)
- Cosmology, the appearance and evolution of cosmic structures, the “foam” of galaxies in space, diverse galactic structures, their not fully explained central “bars” and spiraling “arms”. The appearance of diverse solar systems, some with “failed planets” in their not acquiring life (as Venus in our solar system), some (possibly many in the universe) successful ones (as Earth) leading to important further evolution – as in life.
- Geophysics, the formation and evolution of Earth and the Moon (its importance for, and ongoing influence on, Earth and life). On Earth one consequently finds the resulting interrupted and shifting crust, oceans, and relative stability of the atmosphere.
- How the origin of life can be understood by molecular biology, – from pre-biotic molecules originating in space – leading to the appearance and structures of life – the dynamic world of DNA, RNA, innumerable proteins in various shapes, ATP, and more
- Natural evolution – diverting lines, cells, diverse organisms. The atmosphere changes, augmenting oxygen, life begins to feed on other life as a source of energy – consequently mobility, sensors, and neural networks appear, leading to predatory and competitive behavior – the “Tree of Life”
- The question of possible or merely “believed”, ongoing “intelligent design” by a transcendental force, God, leading to the question of “God’s” interference with, or neglect of, human history and personal destiny – and the question of the contradictory or cruel consequences of such a concept, if accepted
- Evolution interrupted by very large catastrophes and extinctions, redirecting its course. More catastrophes must be expected!
- Evolution leading to the human mind with capability for consciousness, thought, and emotions (values) – in mental creativity, ethical judgment, personality, art, and religion
- The origin and evolution of societies (based on “ethical” behavior and structured coherence), civilizations, and cultures – with all their specific characteristics – now leading to “globalization” – and beyond (?)
- What “extraterrestrial intelligent life” could there be in the universe? What could be the consequences of the discovery of such extraterrestrial intelligence for us?
- The expected end of the universe, if not in a collapse, but in Black Holes, or in nothing but dispersing radiation
Section 2: “Brain – Mind”:
An analysis of the most important human mental characteristics
What specific, important capabilities or characteristics set us apart from other living beings and allow us to cope with our existence, even to the extent of living a “fulfilled” life?
A group of essays in this section of the writings, “Brain – Mind”, place special emphasis on understanding the functioning of the human mind and on four human capabilities:
A key essay: The Evolution and Function of the Human Mind with detailed essays on:
- Mental creativity, the questions of thought, consciousness, and intuition (two essays) – with the important human capability for “visualizations”
- Ethical thought, values, or judgment (two essays)
- Individual “personality” or “character” – stability, variability, and, most importantly, potential for a multiplicity of its expressions (one essay)
- Appreciation of aesthetics and beauty in nature, art, or culture; also the effect of emotional focusing, lately emphasis on striking effects (one essay) – with abuse in politics and marketing
There is no doubt that other human capabilities can be defined and their importance demonstrated – for example, intelligence (related to, but not identical with, creativity), genius, linguistic or mathematical capabilities, boredom or adventurous curiosity, striving for wealth and power, strategizing, leadership or cooperation skills, and the social abilities that give rise to civilizations and their many functions in politics, commerce, and the military. Several of those, but not all, are related to “personality”, as described in the corresponding essay.
As a matter of fact, the development beyond human mental individuality to human organizations, organized behavior, societies, civilization, and cultures appears as another step in evolution, following the combinatorial principle – with the consequent appearance of new, emerging phenomena as these new dimensions of existence appeared. The discussion of these phenomena – the behavior of the masses, the development of “national character” (corresponding to the personality of the individual), politics, militarism, commerce, ideological or religious groups and their dynamics, and large industrial organizations – deserves another series of essays – but life is short. Only two articles are shown in the separate section on “History nd Politics”
The important additional capability of the human mind is the generation of religion – also the treatment of questions of “meaning” and theology. Religion results from the mind’s capability for “visualizations” – the bringing to the mind of virtual perceptions – and the human observation in a combination of cause and effect, leading to the tendency to search for explanations. “Religion” is discussed in a special section below, see the section “Philosophy and Theology”.
Only one essay on a special topic, “Battle Fatigue, PTSD” is added to this section “Brain-Mind” due to its tragic current significance and its relation to the functioning of the human mind.
Following are some comments, with the emphasis on key observations in the various essays of the section entitled “Brain – Mind”:
On mental creativity:
Mental creativity is especially important because it resulted in mental, material, and medical progress for mankind and the building of civilizations. Mental creativity can be subdivided into the following categories:
- recognition of existing problems; asking the right questions
- devising solutions; defining experiments; visualizing results
- pattern recognition; the recognition of relevance in observations
- formulation of new mental concepts; the building of new systems of thought
Two essays are presented in this section analyzing the creative capabilities of the human brain and mind: “Brain – Mind: Creative Thought”; and “Mental Creativity”. The first is more detailed in its development of a theory with which to understand the progression of thought in the brain and resulting mental creativity; the second concentrates on the neurophysiology and cognitive psychology that constitute the basis of mental creativity.
Included in these essays are:
- an explanation of consciousness of oneself and the world (different from momentary “awareness”) as derived merely from, and commensurate with, the amount, duration, and addressability of memory, not only for past perceptions but also for past thought
- a theory on how the sequencing of thought phases is accomplished – how thought is directed in the brain – following the strongest synaptic connection or new perception – as a novel theory of the human mind based on the signaling in the brain.
- how mental focus is accomplished and how it serves thought sequence selectivity
- how “intuitive ideas” are derived from subconscious (low intensity) thought
- how creativity occurs when new connections are made between elements of memory, including those of own thought and those of perceptions, resulting in the combinatorial formation of new concepts, visualizations, or “inventive ideas”
- how it can be proven that most – if not all – historic inventions or mental progress occurred in a combinatorial way – from the invention of the wheel to Einstein’s formulation of the theory of relativity, to the discovery of the DNA structure – often related to the complementary nature of left-brain/right-brain capabilities
- how creativity can be improved based upon the above findings
Special emphasis is laid on the observation that the immense capabilities of the human brain are the result of the combination of two different, and interwoven, signaling capabilities working in parallel in the brain – the synaptically based “digital” signaling and the variable nerval firing-rate providing “analog” signaling – each with its own significance in the thought process.
There are two additional factors of creativity: the quantity, diversity, durability, and diverse addressability of memory elements; and, mainly, the importance of psychological disposition for curiosity or initiation, self-confidence, and acceptance (also their communication) of innovative thought. This psychological disposition includes a balance between the elements of curiosity, self-confidence, need, seeking of reward, and other incentives, on one side, and the desire for stability, fear, insecurity, tendency toward risk avoidance, on the other – largely influenced by the characteristics of the culture or environment in which one lives (often by parents, teachers, or role models).
On ethical thought and judgment
Two essays regarding this aspect of the human brain and mind are presented: “Ethics: Ethical or Moral Thought and Decision Making”; and “The Brain, the Mind, and Ethics”.
The first essay is a more detailed overview of “ethics” in terms of evolutionary biology, history, neurophysiology, psychology, philosophy, religion, modern standards, and education. The second essay concentrates on the anchor of ethical thought in the neurophysiology of the brain, psychological influences, the influence of the cultural settings, and own thought.
Ethical behavior (in the most general terms: behavior for the benefit of the “other” or the group) and, somewhat related, the acceptance of commands (within a “pecking order”) are the foundations of social behavior and have evolved in nature as they facilitated procreation, the handling of complex tasks for some animal species by permitting them to live and act in packs, and by letting such groups act more efficiently. Consequently, evolution led to genetic encoding of certain amounts of ethical behavior. Ethical judgment and behavior basically occurs in three types: (1) caring for offspring or for clan members (generationally forward leaning and decreasing with genetic distance), (2) reciprocity of behavior with certain other individuals in “friendship” (but also reverting when not reciprocated to the need for apology or revenge-seeking), and (3) self-sacrifice for the group or clan – and acceptance of the will of higher-ranking individuals. But it is also known that learning or the cultural setting facilitate, influence, and largely expand ethical behavior, thought, and judgment.
Humanity’s cultural evolution through history leads to the inclusion of ever larger circles of other humans into personal ethical thoughts and behavior – now globally and, inter-generationally, even to the not-yet born – and recently also including higher animals. This may lead to the acceptance of global ethical standards.
Natural demands, nature-given ethical emotions (called “agape” by the Greeks and “love” by Christians), cultural learning, and the need for internal efficiencies of societies may necessarily have led to the same ethical rules and values as later recognized and promulgated by religious laws – leading to the question of which should prevail in cases of conflict.
The two essays discuss the three principal ethical doctrines:
- The prevailing interest of the community, maximizing benefits for the most – generally utilitarian and close to the principle of result ethics (by cost-benefit analysis)
- The prevailing interest of the individual, the protection and support of the individual at public expense in “human rights” – generally idealistic and close to process ethics
- Balancing the interests of the least privileged with the interests of the more privileged – ethical thought based on social considerations – consideration of failures of free markets – issues of “equity” and “social justice”
The rise and fall of civilizations or nations are correlated with the formation and maintenance of ethical standards or “values” – specifically in government, public service, law abidance, business, and family life. Ethical judgment and behavior – in our multidimensional culture – require a focus on ethical demands, a focus that can be strengthened by some psychological factors.
No other focus can lead to such extremes – to the most heroic personal sacrifice for the general benefit – or to greatest personal intolerance and general destructiveness – as obsessions related to moral, religious, or political convictions.
Quite often (and in most leading religious organizations), “morality” questions of an individual culture’s traditions and taboos (mostly those related to sexual behavior and dress codes) are confused with “ethical” questions of unselfishness and assistance to others, the needy, and the group. Unfortunately, too often the promotion of “moral” concerns is in the foreground of religious organizations and their leaders, while the promotion of true “ethical” behavior is being neglected!
Additionally, there are the issues related to “honor”, the feeling of offense and the seeking of satisfaction. These questions result from issues of self-esteem and need for favorable ranking in society. Such feelings can support ethical behavior and a favorable structure in society – but are of limited practical value – and, too often, lead to catastrophic consequences.
Finally, there are issues related to the perception of “duty”, the abstract feeling of an obligation to follow certain pre-established behaviors or actions.
On human personality
One essay on this topic is presented: “Brain – Mind: Human Personality’s Stability, Variability, and Multiplicity”. This essay presents an analysis of what constitutes the human “personality” – ultimately, a faculty of the human mind – in terms of neurophysiology, but also of biochemistry, and psychology – with special emphasis on stability, variability, and, mainly, the important multiplicity of potential personality expression.
The essay shows that neurophysiologic factors, largely genetically determined, are the most stable, changing somewhat with aging and more in traumatic situations (brain surgery, accidents).
The biochemical factors, while also genetically predisposed and changing during certain critical phases of maturing or aging, are more readily influenced through the consumption of biochemically active substances (coffee, alcohol, drugs) or life-styles (for example, exercising) – with mostly (but not always) a limited duration of their effects.
The psychological factors – reflecting external influences and cultural setting – seldom last much beyond the presence of their input. Significant events, however, can have important, lasting effects (traumatic events, visions, encounters, insights). Peer support, congregations, or the support of organizational or military units facilitate the maintenance of psychologically acquired personality characteristics.
Most important is the fact that the specific expression of human personality can change instantly and substantially under the impact of the conditions in certain situations (from joyful and loving behavior to the provocation of destructive rage) – leading to the recognition that each individual possesses a repertoire or a multiplicity of possible personality expressions. This leads to the conclusion that many situations in life – from problems in school to marital problems, career problems, and social adjustment – could be influenced through the setting of proper conditions for desired personality expression or through personal effort. The projection of a certain personality expression to somebody else may be responded by a similar one in reverse.
On appreciation of beauty in nature, art, and culture
One essay on this topic is presented: “Aesthetics, Art, and Culture”. This essay analyzes the concepts of aesthetics, art, and culture – as “fuzzy” as these concepts may be – and their value assessments changing in time and with culture.
What are the limits of aesthetics and art – in providing emotional affection, in exotic effects, ideological expression, kitsch, merely technical products, or in “cheap” reproductions?
As discussed in the essay, there may be at least four foundations for the assessment of beauty or artistic value in nature, art, and culture:
- intrinsic “aesthetic” and common natural attractiveness
- symbolic communication of emotions or values
- striking effects
- simple focusing on the unusual, ordinary, previously neglected, or culturally important
Section 3: “Philosophy and Theology”: (five essays)
What is the cause or origin of events which we cannot readily perceive?
What is life all about?
What can we say – as modern people of our time – about a possible transcendental core or origin of Creation? What is this existence leading to or what is its meaning or possible purpose – in religious terms or in scientific terms? What values or direction shall we pursue in our own lives? What can we truly believe in?
The function of the human mind creating visualization – as discussed in the chapter about Creative Thought – leads to the human mind’s capability for religion – systems of abstract (virtual) explanations of otherwise not understood phenomena and the resulting rules for behavior in the actual world we live in.
The key essay in this section addresses the question of “Interpreting Our Existence: Meaning of Existence, Personal Direction, Values – an Attempt at Unifying the Perspectives of Science and Religion tempered by Practical Experience and Human Sensitivity”.
Our Western culture and world view were formed by Christian beliefs and traditions – themselves based on the Jewish faith as evolved in various stages – which, in turn, was significantly influenced by several other civilizations. The main religious concern, as in all religions, was the obtaining of a favorable life on Earth; but, later, the main concern became access to eternal life in Heaven – with consequent rules for behavior here on Earth. Such access to Heaven was seen as being based on faith or by following religious laws in every detail.
Later, in our own time, came the sciences and space exploration which have resulted in a different, more “evidence-based” view of the universe and the important recognition of its evolution, ending in final collapse or dissolution. The factual observations of nature, history, and personal destiny led to less or no reliance on divine interference here on Earth. How can we bring scientific knowledge and religious beliefs together? What can we stand for? Which course are we ready to follow?
The question is discussed whether there is any meaning, purpose, and plan for existence, or whether evolution and destiny are non-deterministic and open-ended (not guided to a predetermined higher goal).
What is a fulfilled life? Some philosophies recommend withdrawal in contemplation or “prayer”, believing in a reward in interesting mental effects of “peace” and “harmony”, or in a “next life” – thereby throwing away much of the possible fullness of this life – in order to avoid some of its occasionally overwhelmingly negative sides impacting our emotions and behavior.
In this essay, however, thoughts are presented for three directions to follow in our own human lives here on Earth, indicated by the key concepts of:
- Nature-expected “growth”
- Altruistic “service”
- Joy about beauty, art, and “culture”
All three are further discussed in some detail below.
Is there a ranking of the diverse and often life- and behavior-controlling human emotions – including “satisfaction”, common “happiness”, or profound “meaning” (sometimes contradictory in their appearance in our minds and of different immediate significance, common importance, or philosophical depth)?
For all human beings, the basic struggle for survival and for a decent existence must have a certain (but not absolute) priority. Later in life, the management of untimely or age-related decline may become paramount. Beyond that, we should not limit our lives to the often predominant pursuit of wealth, recognition, and power for their own sake – or to entertainment.
Practical observation shows that religious/moral goodness is not the only goal in life. To reach fullness of life – and to fully pursue human natural potential in existence – observation of the world and nature shows us that we should pursue, or are allowed to pursue, not only one but three unrelated directions or dimensions of life in parallel – with difficulty in balancing the commitment to each versus the others in ongoing compromise. We should pursue personal growth in mental and personality development; we should render caring service to others, the family, the community, and the environment in love, empathy, and good stewardship; additionally, we are allowed to enjoy all the beauty in this world, including appreciation of the arts and “culture”.
In the end, this essay points out – and that is what these writings stand for
- that we humans would be well advised not to rely on external, divine help
- not to assume that all natural suffering in this world is always a necessity for progress and that continued political violence is unavoidable forever
- not to give up in withdrawal
- but to assume responsibility and to selectively refrain or use our own initiative
- to refrain from acts with negative consequences
- to pro-actively develop and build a humanely better world
- a world with necessary balancing restraints and rewards as incentives for personal performance, but with less severe suffering (whether from medical causes, loneliness, personal weakness, addictions, misdirection, injustice, poor governance, violence, or environmental degradation)
- and a world with more empathy, fairness (in balanced respect), and chances for a more fulfilled life for all – at least in the limited part of the world where we can act or have any influence – now expanded by the internet.
Another essay, “Astrophysics, Theology, and the SETI Project”, discusses the specific consequences of modern astrophysical knowledge and the expectation of extraterrestrial intelligence for our religious thought.
Our increasing knowledge of the universe indicates that Earth-like planets with intelligent life can be expected in some other places in the universe. The SETI Project by NASA and other scientific institutions searches already for intelligent electronic signals in outer space. If we are not the only intelligent beings in the universe, some interesting conclusions can be drawn for our traditional religions and our way of discerning a meaning in our lives.
The essay “Religion – What Is Religion? What Should Religion Be?” analyzes the phenomenon of “religion” in more detail. How did this phenomenon originate and evolve in natural evolution and human history? What supports religiosity? What is true, or not true, in religion? What would be a beneficial approach to religiosity?
The essay also discusses the necessary changes in theology under the impact of the newly gained scientific knowledge of the universe – specifically, the discovery of natural evolution, of other possibly life-supporting planets in the universe, and of the expected ultimate dissolution of the whole content of our universe.
The essay discusses five different aspects of common religious concepts of “God”, most addressed by all major historical religions, but several rejected by modern thought:
- God the Creator – but, as we know now, also the one who lets the whole world come to an end in a collapse, black holes, or a total dissolution in radiation in the future – seen by science in the abstract terms of the “Structure Providing Essence of Existence” – remaining as the last mystery to which our thoughts can rise and which challenges our lives.
- Is there a still-active God, expected to interfere with or guide natural evolution, world history, and personal destiny – a belief that cannot be confirmed by observation in our universe – or that would lead to startling contradictions with established theology when considering all the catastrophes, suffering of the innocent, and destruction in the world – all not inhibited by divine intervention?
- Is there a personally reachable God, who can be appealed to and is expected to respond to such appeals – a belief that can be confirmed only by the selective observation of the winners or survivors – but sadly not realized by the equally fervently praying losers and sufferers? Can a religion of the winners be accepted by all?
- Is there a judging God, who is believed to have issued moral and ethical laws or values, provided humans with “conscience”, and who will judge all humans upon death – promising rewards in an after-life or a next world in paradise, or punishment in hell – a belief that is in contradiction to our understanding of the universe and nature – and their ultimate natural disappearance?
- The inscrutable God, addressed by Christians as “father”, who issued moral laws but lets injustice, immorality, catastrophes, indescribable suffering of the innocent, and utter waste of created beings exist throughout nature and the course of this world.
This leads to the definition of four desirable levels of religiosity among all humans:
- A simple, ritualistic, but not cruel religion – for the less developed who are living close to and with the forces of nature
- A religion of strict laws for tolerable social coherence, enforced by “God” (see the Ten Commandments) – for the people in a more urban world of commerce and politics
- A religion providing humane inspiration and warm emotional support – for the many people who are suffering and despairing all over the world at all times – providing some support, a little hope, or humane guidance – also admonition to the powerful – or joy to the fortunate
- An advanced interpretation of the “Structure Providing Essence of Existence”, consistent with the sciences – for providing a direction for our modern life here on Earth – to be fulfilled in mental and personality growth, in caring service to others, the community, and nature, and in joy about sensing the beauty in this world.
Two more essays in this section address the fundamental questions of the “Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) – Plan and Meaning vs. Natural Evolution”.
The first essay on IDT presents a key discussion of the “science and theology” controversy and the weakness of the “IDT” as discussed these days.
The second essay on IDT presents a more philosophical discussion of some basic topics. This analysis presents not only the common arguments by science against IDT but, somewhat surprisingly, also the very important theological reasons against it.
Personal Conclusions and Appendix
Why were these essays written? What can these writings be good for? What messages shall these essays send out into the world? What do they ultimately stand for, what is my “legacy”?
The causes for the writing of these essays were described in the personal introduction above: a sense of wonder – about being alive in this universe at this time in cosmic evolution – mental curiosity and joy of discovery – tempered by practical experience and human empathy – and a personal search for direction for our short human lives in this world.
The resulting essays express not only a survey of common knowledge and what I learned from the many people I spoke to. They also present the conclusions of my personal inquiries, leading occasionally to my own position regarding certain scientific, philosophical, or religious concerns. This resulted in what I could call an intellectual and personal contribution to the turbulent river of human thought. Thereby, these essays became a central part of my legacy.
The intellectual contribution is given by the essays in this collection. Where they contained some original observations at the time of the writing, this resulted from perceiving new concepts, structures, or mechanisms (programs) in existence and its evolution (see listing in the footnote below ).
My more personal contribution is found in some artistic effort – the “Short Stories” on their separate website (www.schwab-stories.com) – plus a few pieces of art, and many sketches. My personal contribution can also be found in my various volunteer activities.
My more important personal contribution (and, equally often, learning), however, can be found in what I shared with my wife and good companion through life and what I attempted to transmit to, and also learned from, our dear sons.
My personal contribution can, especially, be found in what was communicated in many letters and e-mails exchanged with my extended family and good friends – and possibly even more so in the many personal conversations with relatives, friends, and also with strangers in chance encounters. As in “Chaos Theory”, the smallest encounters may have the most significant importance in the end. Therefore, take them seriously!
Appendix: Concluding comments on the theme “Directions to be pursued in life”
The following analyzes once more the possible principal directions in life – presented in general terms of “strategy”, as all philosophical and religious rules or goals merely are. The problems of their pursuit, however, lie in “tactical” details of a realistic, daily struggle of life and, especially, in the resolution of their contradictions. Such contradictions occur between personal needs or desires and the demanded service to others. Such contradictions can also exist between a desire for absolute peace on Earth and so-called “just wars” in self-defense – or the often violent pursuit of morally required change where peaceful means fail (historic wars of liberation, Muslim jihad, and Arab uprisings). These contradictions demand a balance (or compromise) in decisions and behavior that no religious teacher or great philosopher could indicate, especially when postulated as valid for all people under all circumstances of life.
I do not attempt nor pretend to be able to resolve these contradictions between the various proposed “directions in life” either. But all of us must sincerely search such a balance in our lives – rather leaning toward self-denial than abuse of others – and rather toward skillful convincing others than toward violence – while not fully neglecting self-improvement – nor occasional joy.
What are the proposed directions in life?
- The pursuit of nature demands personal “growth” in a positive evolution of mind, skills, and personality, as individuals and as societies – resulting in strength and beneficial action in younger years, but, hopefully, resulting in wisdom, goodness, and harmony in older age – where “positive”, “beneficial”, and “goodness” are defined by common cultural and humane values. The pursuit of this direction is not the privilege of the well-to-do but is the foundation of all action for the reduction of misery among the afflicted – for example, through education and life-long self-improvement.
- Caring service to family, others, the community, and the environment, offered with sincere empathy or mercy (love) – for warmth and true peace of human community – but not leading to counterproductive effects of dependence or weakness for the recipient. The pursuit of this direction is not the privilege of the well-to-do but is the foundation of an efficient and tolerable society on all levels, from family and village to global cooperation .
- The appreciation of all the beauty and aesthetics of the universe, nature, and human culture, a gift of nature that can offer great joy in life – or can lead to waste of resources. Art, however, while being a wonderful hobby, can be a meager professional foundation for life, not always leading to joy but too often to economic and social misery for the artist himself. Art appreciation is not the privilege of the well-to-do, but can be found among the most primitive societies, alleviating their difficult lives.
Nature provided the reward of satisfaction, happiness, emotional warmth, and joy in return for the pursuit of the above directions. We can gladly accept what provides so much meaning to our lives.
On the more practical and behavioral side, emphasis in life should be on:
- The goal of achieving excellence, whether in knowledge or constructive skills
- Developing strength for the acquisition and maintenance of an economic “power base” – for freedom, dignity, security, and action – for resources applicable to higher objectives
- Not getting lost in the pursuit of wealth, pleasure, recognition, power, or entertainment merely for their own sake – too often the central endeavors of the elites
- In adversity, pursue intelligent struggle, justifiable adaptation, or grasp new opportunity
These directions should be pursued with untiring initiative – and with responsibility in restraint – in order to contribute toward the improvement of that part of the world where we may have any influence – as humble or afflicted as our individual lives may be – in order to reduce suffering and increase opportunities fairly for all for a fulfilled existence – where “fairness” indicates balanced respect for all.
These directions must be followed within the contradictions of the various principal doctrines of “ethics” indicated above, see also the corresponding essay.
In conclusion, I feel that life, our short existence in perceiving and participating in this world, can be an absolutely wonderful, at times even enthusiastic, experience, to be deeply grateful for and not to be squandered. But we all must realize that the lives of far too many individuals are wasted in stagnation or contain bitter suffering and grinding desperation, often without hope – still waiting for the result of the pursuit of the goals and directions mentioned above by those who can.
Are we able to combine a joyful view of the world and personal initiative with deep empathy or active compassion with the ones in need? We should have the strength to act positively in this world – based on an ever deeper understanding of its transcendental “Structure Providing Essence of Existence”, whatever name we may give it – an understanding that we should, therefore, strive to obtain and expand – occasionally sensing it in great awe.
We should have the wisdom to act positively in this world – for the benefit of all life around us and the nature by now entrusted to us – fulfilling our lives “to the joy of the Creator”, as was once said by a great religious thinker.
We all are insignificant in the historic dimensions of time. The meaning of our lives, however, may occasionally be given by what we personally contribute to this world through our work and daily human contacts – by contributing merely a little light and warmth to the world around us.
 Some original observations were, for example, the definition of the not-mandatory “granulation” of the original energy combined with the “combinatorial principle” as the foundation of evolution; the definition of the “basic principle of evolution” for the understanding of open-ended evolution; some thoughts about the bars and arms of galaxies; a new theory explaining human thought and mental creativity; a clarification and new explanation of consciousness; a clarification of the foundation of moral laws in human nature; a clarification and indication of the importance of multiple expressions of personality for personal development and social cohesion; the importance of “focusing” as a mechanism in the perception of modern art; the significance of dispersed but interconnected groups and of naturally evolved “ethical” values for the functioning of societies; the presentation of the matrix of human priorities in the selection of a direction in life; a total revision of theology based on modern scientific insights into the functioning of the universe and nature; and an explanation of the phenomenon of “religion”, with suggestions for a beneficial approach to religiosity.