An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of September 7, 2006
Issued from Polly's Bend, Garrard County, in Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, USA
SNAKE BRAIN, SPINOZA
& SCIENTIFIC PANTHEISM

Humans have inherited a reptilian brain that sets atop each person's spinal column. That brain has been overgrown with later-evolved mammalian and primate brains. Our reptilian brain concerns itself with circulation, respiration, digestion, elimination, mating, territorial behavior, pecking order, defense, aggression and the emotions of anger and fear. Our more sophisticated, later-evolved mammalian brain deals with the emotions of love, sadness, jealousy, and hope, and our "monkey brain," crowning the other two brains, enables us to manifest the higher functions of imitation, speaking, writing, planning, symbolic reasoning and conceptualization.

I see profound significance in the general trends manifested in the above lists of brain functions. It is a beautiful example -- one of many -- of evolution trending from simple toward complex states; from a single beginning to a vast, interdependent diversity; from individual concerns to concerns of the community; from solid blood-and-guts issues toward abstraction; from automatic instinctual behaviors toward open-ended spiritual struggles.

I read a message in these trends, and the message is from the Universal Creative Force. Among other things, if I am to live in harmony with what the Nature-Bible tells me:

* I must love, respect and honor diversity
* I must struggle to gather information about, and to be sensitive to, the Creation I am part of
* I must rise above my animal instincts and the social programming of my home community to recognize and harmonize my behavior with more universal realities

By no means am I special in entertaining these insights. Maybe the earliest Western philosopher to say something similar, but in different words and coming from a different perspective, was Benedict de Spinoza, born in Amsterdam to a Jewish family in 1632. He wrote:

"The more we understand particular things, the more we understand God."

There's much more about Spinoza at http://www.iep.utm.edu/s/spinoza.htm.

Spinoza is often regarded as a pantheist. At the heart of pantheism is reverence for the Universe. The natural Earth is regarded as sacred. There's a subset of pantheism that appeals to me, called Scientific Pantheism. You can introduce yourself to that at http://www.pantheism.net/paul/index.htm.

The other day I read in Neal Stephenson's Volume Two of "The Baroque Cycle" the German scientist Leibniz's statement quoted next, though I'm unclear as to whether the words come from the brain of Leibniz or Stephenson:

"Our use of knowledge progresses through successively higher levels of abstraction as we perfect civilization and draw nearer to the mentality of God."

Why are these matters appropriate for an old-time naturalist's newsletter? It is because I am in love with and revere the workings of the Universal Creative Force, especially Earth's plants and animals, which includes humanity. Humanity's mindset at the current stage in its evolution is destroying Life on Earth. The attitudes of average people are unsustainable, ugly and blasphemous.

Spinoza points us in the right direction. Scientific pantheism offers a community and a structure for those who need it as they reorient themselves into sustainable, beautiful, reverential living patterns. Facebook Icon.