Sunday, September 27, 2015

What is the ultimate test of civilization?

  Dr Abe V Rotor 
 Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday (www.pbs.gov.ph)
“The ultimate test of any civilization Is
"Earth in the hands of man."
 not in its inventions and deeds;
But the endurance of Mother Nature
In keeping up with man’s unending needs.”
AV Rotor, “Light in the Woods”, 1995
Reflection on “Environment and Peace

We live in a different world, and a fast changing one at that. It is fiction today and reality tomorrow. Jules Verne’s works – “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea”, “Around the World in Eighty Days” are not fiction after all, and Flash Gordon, yesterday’s fiction hero for kids is virtual reality today. They surround us, they are part of us.

We are in an age of bionics, an organic union of living and non-living things. And while we enrich our intelligence, we are also creating and transferring intelligence to robots. Time shall come when it will be difficult to differentiate human and artificial intelligence.

Natural science will feed commerce with new commodities. We have entered into a new field of economics – bio-economics. Already we talk of cloning, test tube babies, surrogate mothers, menopausal childbirth. We have welcomed the patenting of plants and animals and microbes - and the DNA and proteins that make them. We are claiming property rights to life itself! Which endorses review of human and spiritual values. Revise ethico-morals? “Re-create God,” proposes an atheist.

This paper does not intend to provide answers to these disturbing questions, but rather help us in our search for meaning in today’s highly scientific and technological world. How fast and far we are going to keep up with the pace of change, or how simple a life do we wish to lead?

Here are scenarios to examine and reflect on:

Re-Creating Nature

Have you heard of instant countryside inside cities?

“Gubat sa Siyudad” is more of a symptom than fancy. More and more people who are tired of city life are yearning to live in less congested areas where they are closer to Nature.

A few years ago French farmers staged a dramatic protest against the European Union by hauling sections of wheat fields, and herding cattle and sheep to the instant farm landscape at the Champs Elysees, creating a countryside amid tall buildings and busy pedestrian and traffic .

Picture this landscape in the middle of Paris, near the historical Arch d’ Triumph. Traffic was stopped, business was disrupted. Police cordoned the area. Instead of reacting angrily, the Parisians of all walks of life including lawyers, students, businessmen, lovers, farmers, cops, ran toward the mini countryside and dreamily enjoyed the rustic scene. For a few hours before they remembered who and where they were, all were happily back in the country. The incident would fit the conditions of New York’s City’ Madison Garden or Beijing’s Tiananmen Square as well. In the middle of cities rises an imagery of a nostalgic rural world, a world now disconnected with urban life.

“Disconnection” Syndrome
As a country becomes more progressive, technologically that is, more and more of its citizens become disconnected from the countryside. And what is paradoxical is that cities grow at the expense of the countryside, eating out agriculturally productive space, draining precious manpower and resources, supplanting tradition and values with “modern culture”.

What is the implication of this? Disconnection buries deeper that intrinsic attachment in us to the natural life which is systemic in our genes and culture, the key to our successful evolution as rational and social beings. The memory of that attachment surfaces now and then in our language, music, paintings, legends, even in our thoughts over a sunset or a flowering weed.

But this is not meaningful enough unless we re-establish that attachment to make us aware that everything in this world is interconnected. It is this interconnection that is the key to unity and understanding, respect and reverence, compassion and humility. Such interconnection links the parts of the living and the non-living world as well, the abstract and concrete, the past and the present, the macro with the microbial world, diverse cultures and races.

The restoration of attachment between man and nature is crucial at a time when we have caused our environment a kind of degradation never before experienced in the hands of man. Preservation of the natural world is the key to such restoration – and it is not outside the power of man.
Our lives are being outrun by Science and Technology

In so short a time – virtually just within a life span of many of us in the elder generation - we witnessed three important unprecedented discoveries which have changed human life and our society forever. There is no turning back now. Science and technology marked the milestone of no return, a point of irreversibility as we race for industrialization, and plunge into the “third wave” of progress.

The three scientific breakthroughs are the following:

1. Splitting of the atom (nuclear power, atomic bomb);
2. Wiring the microchip (electronics, computers); and
3. Cracking the DNA code (Human Genome Project,
genetic engineering).
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The latest scientific breakthrough ? An expanding universe fueled by dark energy

Even 25 years after Stephen Hawking considered this concept of a rapidly expanding universe in A Brief History of Time, this is still a mind-blowing idea — it implies that, even after 12 to 14 billion years, whatever caused the creation of the universe — the Big Bang — was so powerful and unlocked so much energy that it’s still going on today. And not just going on — but actually accelerating and becoming faster.


The next question, of course, is what is causing this accelerating expansion. The general consensus among physicists is that “dark energy” is somehow accountable, stretching and pulling galaxies apart. According to scientists, approximately 68 percent of the universe is “dark energy” and 27 percent is “dark matter.” As NASA points out, that means that 95 percent of the universe is still a deep mystery: “The rest — everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter — adds up to less than 5 percent of the universe.” That could give research around this “mysterious cosmic force” a new boost
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The applications of these breakthroughs can not be overemphasized as we witness today or in the near future the following:

1. Man’s landing on the moon;
2. Information highway via satellites and the Internet;
3. Cloning and genetically modified organisms (GMO);
4. Universities without walls (distance education);
5. Robotics and nanobotics (microscopic robots);
6. Frankenfoods, (modified foods);
7. Test tube babies, menopausal childbirth;
8. Gene therapy and immunotherapy;
9. Extended life span (now 78 years on the average to 140 by 2500); and
10. Cryonics or human hibernation, which prepares man for space travel.

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