July 25, 2012

Climate Science and Solutions

Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation


Almost all of Australia has warmed over the 50 years since 1960. …
The long-term trend in Australia-wide average temperature … is clear and distinct [against] the observed background variability.
(p 3)

It is extremely unlikely that the observed global-scale warming is due to natural variability.
(p 6)

Greenhouse Gases

Climate change is a risk management issue — the longer we take to act and the weaker our actions, the greater the risk of dangerous outcomes.
(p 15)


  • Action within the next decade to lower greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the probability and severity of climate change impacts.
  • Agriculture and forestry hold great potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through afforestation, soil carbon management, and better management of livestock and cropping emissions.
  • Making the right energy choices for Australia’s future from among our abundant options will often be a matter of choosing the energy source, or combination of sources, for a particular context.
  • Practical and sometimes beneficial low cost actions can make significant progress in tackling climate change.

[Proactive] adaptation to these challenges can create future opportunities for growth, development, and sustainability.
(p 135)

July 21, 2012

Late Night Live

ABC Radio National

Peter Kuznick:
[During the Cuban missile crisis] US boats were dropping depth charges on the Soviet sub that was … accompanying the ships that were moving toward … the quarantine line.
And we'd knocked out the power systems, the carbon dioxide is rising, the Soviet sailors are … passing out, and the commander says:
War must have started already, let's fire our nuclear torpedo!
— and gave the order to fire.
[Vasili Arkhipov (1926 – 98),] who was a sub-commander on the ship, talked him out of it.
Had Arkhipov not talked him out of it, then the Soviets were going to fire their nuclear torpedo, nuclear war would have begun in 1962 and much of the world as we know it would have been wiped out.

Tony Windsor (1950):
I've always been a fan of having a price of carbon …
Even John Howard, and Malcolm Turnbull, and Tony Abbott supported it back in [the day.]
They proposed to have an emissions trading scheme, but to get the institutional framework in place, you've really got to have a fixed price for a certain period of time.
[For Howard and Turnbull that was 1-2 years.]
[Under the current scheme it's] only a fixed price, or a tax, until 2014 when it becomes an emissions trading scheme. …
It is the cheapest way of trying to deal with the risks that are out there.

On Tolerance

Douglas Murray (1979):
We are the inheritors of Christian culture whether we like it our not. …
What we have in countries like yours, countries like mine, is historically very unusual.
Values like tolerance … are not made such a big thing of in many other societies around the world.
(Is Islam killing Europe?, 13 June 2017)

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970):
The Anabaptists repudiated all law, since they held that the good man will be guided at every moment by the Holy Spirit, who cannot be bound by formulas.
From this premiss they arrive at communism and sexual promiscuity; they were therefore exterminated after a heroic resistance.
(p 20)

The Syrians, who were largely Nestorian, suffered persecution at the hands of the Catholics, whereas Mohammedans tolerated all sects of Christians in return for the payment of tribute.
Similarly in Egypt the Monophysites, who were the bulk of the population, welcomed the [Muslim] invaders.
(p 513)

Gradually weariness resulting from the wars of religion led to the growth of belief in religious toleration, which was one of the sources of the movement which developed into eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberalism.
The Thirty Years' War persuaded everybody that neither Protestants nor Catholics could be completely victorious …
(A History of Western Philosophy, 2nd Ed, 1961, pp 510-1)

From Latin fānāticus (“of a temple, divinely inspired, frenzied”), from fānum (“temple”).
(Wiktionary, 22 December 2012)


Historically speaking, religious tolerance is no more an essential feature of Christianity than intolerance is of Islam.
In the 17th century the Catholics and Protestants fought each other to a standstill.
It was only after the Catholics found there were too many Protestants to kill that they resigned themselves to 'tolerating' the continued existence of the heretics.
They did, however, give it their best shot.
If it had been in their power to destroy them, they would have.
Indeed, when Christian minorities were sufficiently small and weak, eg the anabaptists (who were persecuted by both Protestants and Catholics), they were annihilated.
Ironically, in the Middle Ages, the Nestorian and Monophysite Christians were safer under Islamic rule than Christian rule.

Tolerance arose not out of religious doctrine but military exhaustion.
Not from divine inspiration but practical reality.
From necessity rather than choice.
Western civilisation owes its tradition of religious tolerance not to its Christian heritage, but to secular modernity.

Fanaticism is the breeding ground of atrocity.
Atrocity is the breeding ground of fanaticism.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim fanatics are not dangerous because they are Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
They are dangerous because they are fanatics.
Dogmatic adherence to scripture is not productive of civil relations between diverse groups.

The Philosopher's Zone

ABC Radio National


The Philosophical Baby

Among the Dead Cities

Human Consciousness and Free Will

Divine Fine-tuning

Freedom (of Action) Without (Freedom of) Will


Joe Gelonesi

  • The Worst Argument in the World, 30 June 2013.
  • The Worst Argument in the World, 22 April 2012.
  • Extending the mind, 25 March 2012.
  • Global fairness, 18 March 2012.
    Thomas Pogge: Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University.
  • The Myth of Plato and Plato the Myth-maker, 11 March 2012.
    Rick Benitez: Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Sydney.
  • Group agents, 26 February 2012.
    Philip Pettit:Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton University.
  • Philosophy and the Environment, 5 February 2012.
    Mark Colyvan: Professor of Philosophy, Director or the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, University of Sydney.
  • The inconsistency of Hannah Arendt, 29 January 2012.
    Danielle Celermajer:Associate Professor, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney.
  • Human consciousness and free will, 26 November 2011.
    Daniel Dennett: Co-director Center for Cognitive Studies, Austin B Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University, Massachusetts.

    We have free will whether or not determinism is true.
    Determinism is just not the issue. …
    [There] are different concepts of free will.
    And some of them are really important, because if you don't have free will in these senses then you're not a moral agent. …

    [We] are only too happy to have past conditions and experiences inform us about the way the world is, and use that information to guide our behaviour.
    If only the world will tell us how it really is and give us a bunch of choices, and if only we can have the competence to look hard at the choices that the world reveals to us, and to assess accurately their likely consequences, and to choose the ones that have the best consequences, what more could you want?
    Then you can be the author of your acts.
    It's not as if you have to have this flying carpet of indeterminism so that your decision at the point, at the moment of decision, is completely cut off from all higher influences. …

    The intentional stance is the habit we have [of treating] unknown things, complicated things, as agents is the heart of the intentional stance.
    It is the strategy of supposing the thing that you're dealing with is rational, has beliefs, has desires. …
    It has the beliefs that it can get from its sensory equipment;
    And that makes it an agent that is highly predictable.

  • An atheist's God: the paradox of Spinoza, 4 June 2011.
    Beth Lord: Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Dundee.
    Principal Investigator, Spinoza Research Network.
  • Hume on cause, effect and doubt, 30 April 2011.
    Helen Beebee: Professor of Philosophy, School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham.
  • How do octopuses think?  9 April 2011.
    Peter Godfrey-Smith: Professor of Philosophy, City University of New York.
  • The Philosophical Baby, 29 January 2011.
    Alison Gopnik: Professor of Psychology, Affiliate Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley.
    Author, The Philosophical Baby — What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life.

    [Infants] have capacities to empathise with the emotions and internal states of other people, and by the time they're 18 months old, perhaps even a bit younger, children show signs of altruism.
    [They'll] actively act to help another person achieve their ends or achieve their goals. …

    [There] seems to be a link between this early empathic ability, this ability to read and identify with the internal emotions of another person, and [the] impulse to say …
    'Well if this is going to hurt someone else, you shouldn't do it.'
    It's a sort of fundamental [and underpins] versions of the Golden Rule:
    Do unto others as you would have others do unto you …
    [That piece] seems to be in place from the time that the children are very young. …

    [Newborn] babies actually imitate the facial expressions of other people.
    So if you stick your tongue out at a … baby, 30 minutes old, the newborn baby still stick his tongue out at you.
    Now that [seems] sort of weird … because there aren't mirrors in the womb [to allow babies] to map what it feels like inside of them to say smile or frown, and what you feel like when you smile or frown. …
    So this … fundamental link between the expressions on someone's face and how they feel [seems] to be in place from very, very early on. …

    Felix Warneke at Harvard [showed] 15-months-olds, a person either throwing a pencil to the ground, or dropping a pencil on the ground.
    And in both cases, the pencil was in a place that the person couldn't actually reach. [The] 15-month-olds would crawl over and get the pencil, give it back to the person, if they had dropped it [—] if they acted as if they really wanted it, but they wouldn't do that if the person intentionally threw it to the floor, [acting] as if they didn't want it. …

    [Even] 7-month-olds [show some] understanding … that people have goals and intentions and are trying to make things happen in the world. …

    [Piaget thought] young infants didn't have any kinds of representations, abstract representations of the world and that even 2 and 3 year olds only were able to reason in very, very limited ways. …

    [Babies start out in] the world with certain kinds of assumptions [or hypotheses] about what the world is like, what objects are like, what people are like.
    But they [are also born with] with very powerful capacities for revising, changing, altering what they think on the basis of new experience. …
    We're not blank slates, we start out knowing a lot but we're not stuck, we're not constrained by what we start out knowing, that's just the jumping-off point for our ability to revise and learn and understand new things about the world. …

    … 8-month-olds already understand probabilistic notions like the idea about the relationship between a sample and a population, and 3 and 4 year olds can use quite complicated patterns of correlation and dependence to make causal inferences about the world.

    [Babies] are like the research and development division of the human species and [adults are] production and marketing.
    [They] are just exploring in a blue-sky way figuring out the way the world works, and we're the ones who actually take all those things that we learned as babies and put them to use …
    [Babies] have more neural connections when they're a year-and-a-half, than they ever will in the rest of their lives. …
    [They] have this tremendous capacity for flexibility, for learning new things.
    What they don't have is the capacity to do any one thing very well and swiftly and quickly and efficiently …
    [That's] the capacity that we … have as adults.
    [After] 5 babies start to become more like adults …
    [There's] a lot of pressure now to make … preschools look more and more like school, to try to get children to [exercise] executive function earlier and earlier …
    [There's] good reason to believe that [this may be a] good idea for 8 and 9 year olds [but] a terrible idea for 2 and 3 and 4 year olds. …

    [Babies] and young children are extremely good at imagining counter-factual alternatives, other ways that the world could be, other than they way that they are now.
    That's what children do when they are involved in pretend play, which is one of the most characteristic things for 3 and 4 year olds to do.
    3 and 4 year olds will spend 24/7 often as crazed world princesses and ninjas and who knows what else. …
    [It may be that what they] are doing is figuring out the causal structure of the world …
    [Through] their pretend way, children [are] exploring all the different ways the world could be. …
    [They're] mucking about, exploring all the different possibilities, not seeing them in terms of a path at they travel from the past to the future. …

    [The] advice that comes out of this is [that we] should pay attention to them, we should let them explore [and] give them rich, safe, stable environments in which they can explore. …

    [As adults] we need to strike a balance between our ability to actually focus, get things done, do things in an organised way, and our ability to let go of that, explore, brainstorm, be creative. …

    [We] put tremendous amounts of public money into educating people between the ages of 18 and 24 … but we don't put anything like that investment into educating people between the ages of 0 and 5, and we know that that's the time when really the most dramatic learning is actually … taking place.

  • The philosophy of mathematics, 15 May 2010.
    James Franklin: Professor, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales.
  • A Very Public Philosopher, 20 March 2010.
    AC Grayling.
    There comes to seem very little difference in principle between the RAF's operation Gomorrah or the US AAF's atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York by terrorists on 11th September 2001.
    (Among the Dead Cities)
    … I wanted to draw a very precise analogy between the use of an indiscriminate attack on civilians as a way of coercing or terrorising a population in general.
    And if you concentrate just … on that tactic, then you see that the night bombing of German cities or the atom bombing of Japanese cities, and the terrorist atrocities of 9/11 have that one thing in common …

    [The] United Nations [only] agreed to treat indiscriminate attacks on civilians as a war crime [in 1977 in] the annexes [to the fourth Geneva Protocol.]
    [An] effort was made to outlaw attacks on civilians, whether by non-state [or] state parties, as early as 1949, but the British and American governments who'd just been doing it, turned it down …
    So it took another 30 years.

  • A Conversation with Isaiah Berlin, 13 June 2009.
  • Utilitarianism, 27 January 2007.
    Peter Singer.

Extreme Events and Disasters

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Impacts of Heat Waves in Urban Areas in Europe

Factors affecting exposure and vulnerability include:
  • age,
  • pre-existing health status,
  • level of outdoor activity,
  • socioeconomic factors including poverty and social isolation,
  • access to and use of cooling,
  • physiological and behavioral adaptation of the population, and
  • urban infrastructure.

Options for risk management and adaptation …

Low-regrets options …
  • Early warning systems that reach particularly vulnerable groups (eg, the elderly)
  • Vulnerability mapping and corresponding measures
  • Public information on what to do during heat waves, including behavioral advice
  • Use of social care networks to reach vulnerable groups

Specific adjustments in strategies, policies, and measures informed by trends in heat waves include:
  • awareness raising of heat waves as a public health concern;
  • changes in urban infrastructure and land use planning, for example, increasing urban green space;
  • changes in approaches to cooling for public facilities; and
  • adjustments in energy generation and transmission infrastructure.

Increasing Losses from Hurricanes in the USA and the Caribbean

Exposure and vulnerability are increasing due to growth in population and increase in property values, particularly along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States.
Some of this increase has been offset by improved building codes.

Options for risk management and adaptation …

Low-regrets options …
  • Adoption and enforcement of improved building codes
  • Improved forecasting capacity and implementation of improved early warning systems (including evacuation plans and infrastructures)
  • Regional risk pooling

In the context of high underlying variability and uncertainty regarding trends, options can include emphasizing adaptive management involving learning and flexibility (eg, Cayman Islands National Hurricane Committee).
(Table SPM.1, p 17)

Confidence, Evidence, Agreement and Probability

Based on the Guidance Note for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainties, this Summary for Policymakers relies on two metrics for communicating the degree of certainty in key findings …
  • Confidence in the validity of a finding, based on the type, amount, quality, and consistency of evidence … and the degree of agreement.
    Confidence is expressed qualitatively.
  • Quantified measures of uncertainty in a finding expressed probabilistically (based on statistical analysis of observations or model results, or expert judgment). …

Direct comparisons between assessment of uncertainties in findings in this report and those in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report are difficult if not impossible, because of
  • the application of the revised guidance note on uncertainties …
  • the availability of new information, improved scientific understanding, continued analyses of data and models, and
  • specific differences in methodologies applied in the assessed studies. …

The following summary terms are used to describe
  • the available EVIDENCE: limited, medium, or robust; [and]
  • the degree of AGREEMENT: low, medium, or high.
A level of CONFIDENCE is expressed using five qualifiers: very low [low agreement, limited evidence], low, medium, high, and very high [high agreement, robust evidence].

Unless otherwise indicated, high or very high confidence is associated with findings for which an author team has assigned a likelihood term.


Probability of the Outcome

Virtually certain≥99%
Very likely≥90%
About as likely as not33–66%
Very unlikely≤10%
Exceptionally unlikely≤1%

July 15, 2012

Saturday Extra

ABC Radio National

The New Gilded Age

Geraldine Doogue:
The three richest Australians now own more than the million poorest Australians.
That's pretty amazing, isn't it?!
(Making sense of 2016, 13 February 2016)

Yuval Harari (1976) [Professor of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem]:
As of early 2016, the 62 richest people in the world were worth as much as the poorest 3.6 billion people!
Since the world's population is about 7.2 billion, it means that these 62 billionaires together hold as much wealth as the entire bottom half of humankind.
(Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Penguin, 2015, p 347)

Hugh Mackay (1938) [Social Researcher]:
More than 700,000 children are living in poverty. …
About 2 million Australians are either unemployed or underemployed.
100,000 Australians are homeless.
We are further from egalitarianism than we were 50 years ago.
(The state of the nation starts in your street, The Conversation, 2 February 2017)

Simon Marginson

Professor of International Higher Education, University College London

I suspect the eye of the needle has closed a bit, when you're trying to enter the upper echelons of society.
And that's the result of this massive shift of inequality: when you look at the figures it's quite staggering when you look at the top 1% of the top 1% [ie the top 1 in 10,000] taking nearly all the fruits of economic growth. …
[So, when you] look at the position of the top 1% in incomes:
  • in the US they've got 20% of all income,
  • in the UK they've got about 16%, and
  • in Australia they've got 10 to 11%. …

If a child is from a very wealthy family, they really aren't going to need to go to university to have a successful life, because they're going to inherit from this generation of super-managers with super salaries.
And you're going to see a build up of old style wealth in the next generation — people who are living on capital income and property. …

Education is still very important for the lower middle-class family. …
[But if] the rich are exiting the tax system [and] aren't really sharing the benefits of a common approach to education or health or any other … public service, then they're [unlikely] to pay for it either.
[In] that situation, those who are benefiting [from the common project] are also carrying the cost as well, so their net position is reduced. …

The working of the market doesn't create the inequality that's now quite extreme by international and historical standards — it's the tax and transfer and public spending side of the United States that turns market inequality of a moderate level into extreme inequality in terms of final incomes.

(Education and social mobility, 25 July 2015)

Wealth is always much more concentrated than labor incomes. …

There has been an explosive growth of managerial salaries in the US and UK …
Highly paid managers often set their own remuneration, including bonuses, or negotiate their remuneration with boards of like-minded folk on which they themselves sit. …
[Between] 1980 and 2010 the share [of income in the US] held by the top 0.1% rose from 2% to nearly 10%.
[And, by 2030, it is anticipated that] the top 1% in the US will receive 25% of all income …
In the UK between 1980 and 2010, the income share of the top 1% moved from 6 to 15%, reaching the highest level since the 1930s.
(pp 12-13)

In the next generation, when today’s super manager salary is tomorrow’s inheritance, society will become more closed at the top, reducing meritocratic mobility into and within the elite, while at the same time income shares will continue to decline at the middle and bottom of the pyramid.

In the US the top 1% recovered quickly [following the 2008 recession,] securing 93% of all additional income in 2009-2010 while the average homeowner lost more than a third in property value.
In both the US and UK the shares of the top 1%, 0.1% and the top 0.01% are now climbing above pre-recession levels.
[The financial industry captured] more than 40% of all US profits prior to the recession …
After triggering the crisis, the … sector has been able to use the crisis to further expand its share of wealth.
(p 14)

The lesson of the last fifty years is that higher education does not [create] egalitarian societies on its own, though it can facilitate them. …
In aggregate, what happens with incomes, wealth, labour markets, taxation, government spending, social programmes, and urban development, are overwhelmingly more important.
(p 20)

[The University of California has] a more egalitarian entry policy than Oxford and Cambridge …
[It has] as many low-income students, and students from under-represented minorities, as the whole Ivy League.
Under the progressive tuition policy, 40% of undergraduates at Berkeley are subsidized by other students and pay no tuition, and two thirds of all students receive at least some financial aid.
Half of all of Berkeley’s students graduate with no debt.
(p 21)

(Valuing Research into Higher Education, Keynote Address: 50th Anniversary Colloquium, Institute of Education, University College London, 26 June 2015)

July 7, 2012

Technology, Entertainment and Design

Green Army: Communications

[Reason] helps us to create a better world.

Paul Bloom (1963), Why Do We Create Stereotypes?, NPR, 14 November 2014.

What none of us can achieve alone, all of us can achieve together.

Jonathan Sacks (1948), Does Our Future Depend On More Dialogue?, NPR, 17 October 2017.

Frans De Waal (1948)

Professor of Primate Behaviour, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta

[Humanity is] much more cooperative and empathic than given credit for. …
[There are two] pillars of morality. …
  • One is reciprocity [coupled with] a sense of justice [and] fairness.
  • And the other [is] empathy and compassion.
[Human] morality is more than this [but these are] absolutely essential.

(Moral behavior in animals, 26 October 2011)

Would you like to know more?

Michael Sandel (1953)

In 2009, Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, distributed free curricular materials about the energy industry to sixty-six thousand fourth-grade teachers.
The curriculum, called the “United States of Energy,” was funded by the American Coal Foundation.
The industry-sponsored lesson plan highlighted the benefits of coal but made no mention of mining accidents, toxic waste, greenhouse gases, or other environmental effects.
(p 198)

In 1983, US companies spent $100 million advertising to children.
In 2005, they spent $16.8 billion.
(p 199)

Advertising encourages people to want things and to satisfy their desires.
Education encourages people to reflect critically on their desires, to restrain or to elevate them.
The purpose of advertising is to recruit consumers; the purpose of public schools is to cultivate citizens.

It isn’t easy to teach students to be citizens, capable of thinking critically about the world around them, when so much of childhood consists of basic training for a consumer society.
(p 200)

(What Money Can't Buy, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012)

Would you like to know more?

July 6, 2012

Australian Academy of Science

Green Army: Research and Development

Australian Academy of Science:
If emissions continue unabated, current mid-range estimates are for 4-5°C higher global average temperatures by 2100, which would mean that the world would be hotter than at any time in the last few million years. …
The further climate is pushed beyond the envelope of relative stability [the greater] the risk of passing tipping points that will result in profound changes in climate, vegetation, ocean circulation [and/or] ice sheet stability.
(The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers, 2010, p 15)

July 2, 2012

Matthieu Ricard

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Let one walk alone
Committing no sin
With few wishes
Like elephants in the forest

— Based on a Buddhist poem.

Self RegardingOther Regarding

The Eight Worldly Conditions

Siddhartha Gotama (c563/480 – c483/400 BCE):
In days gone by this mind of mine used to stray wherever selfish desire or lust or pleasure would lead it.
Today this mind does not stray and is under the harmony of control, even as a wild elephant is controlled by the trainer. …

What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180):
The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it.

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616):
There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
(Hamlet, 1600)

John Milton (1608 – 74):
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.
(Paradise Lost, Book I, 1667)

Bhagavad Gita:
Delusion is the child of ignorance. …
Dwelling on sense-objects gives birth to attachment, attachment gives birth to desire.
Desire (unfulfilled) brings into existence the life of anger.
From anger delusions springs up, from delusion the confusion of memory.
In the confusion of memory the reasoning the reasoning wisdom is lost.
When wisdom is nowhere, destruction.

Heraclitus (535 ~ 475 BCE):
No man ever steps in the same river twice.
For it is not the same river.
And he is not the same man.

Lucretius (99 – 55 BCE):
For Time changes the nature of all things in the world; each stage must be succeeded by another, nothing remains as it was; all things depart and Nature modifies all things and compels them to change.
(The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, 1580, M A Screech, Translator, Penguin, 1991, p 681)

Virgil (70 – 19 BCE):
Their minds' ideas are ever turning round; the emotions in their breasts are driven hither and thither like clouds before the wind.
(Georgics, I, 420-2, 29 BCE)

David Hume (1711 – 1776):
[The ego] is nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement …
[The mind is] a kind of theater, which several perceptions sucessively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, slide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations.
(Jostein Gaarder, Sophie's World, pp 226-7)

George Orwell (1903 – 1950):
[The] main motive for 'nonattachment' is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work.
(Reflections on Gandhi, 1949)

Siddhartha Gotama (c563/480 – c483/400 BCE)

Diamond Sutra

One who gives rise to the awakened mind does not deny objects or say that they are nonexistent. …
As stars, a lamp, a fault of vision.
As dewdrops or a bubble.
A dream, a lightning flash, a cloud.
So one should see conditioned things.
(p 14)

[If] you are caught up in ideas, then you will he caught up in the self.
And even if you are caught up in ideas about nothingness, you will still be caught up in the self.
That's why we should not get attached to the belief that things either exist or do not exist.
(p 124)

Sutta Nipata

All the delightful things of the world — sweet sounds, lovely forms, all the pleasant tastes and touches and thoughts — these are all agreed to bring happiness if they are not grasped and possessed.
But if you regard them merely as pleasures for your own use and satisfaction and do not see them as passing wonders, they will bring suffering.
(p 109)


[People] live within complex sets of religious or worldly ideas and emotions that they believe to be final, established, and therefore real.
They project this [static] self-created world onto their ideas of past and future and the present moment.
They try to crystallize reality into permanent shapes and categories.
(p 100)

Majjhima Nikaya

[The] teaching is like a raft that carries you across the water to the farther shore but is then to be put down and not clung to.
(p 107)

Those who only have faith in me … will not find the final freedom.
But those who have faith in the … path, they will find awakening.
(p 120)

Apart from consciousness … no absolute truths exist.
(p 125)

Whether the world is eternal or transient, there is suffering, and I teach the way to understand it.
My teaching does not depend on whether I exist after death or not, because I am concerned with suffering here and now.
(p 130-1)

When an eye and a shape are there, then the consciousness of seeing arises.
From this consciousness comes sensation; that which is sensed is thought over; that which is thought over is projected outward as the external world.
(p 169)

Visuddhi Magga

When a lute is played, there is no previous store of playing that it comes from.
When the music stops, it does not go anywhere else.
It came into existence by way of the structure of the lute and the playing of the performer.
When the playing ceases, the music goes out of existence.

In the same way all the components of being, both material and nonmaterial, come into existence, play their part, and pass away. …
(p 72)

There are actions but there is no actor.
The air moves but there is no wind.
The idea of a specific self is a mistake.
Existence is clarity and emptiness.
(p 73)

[The] words living entity and person are but ways of expressing the relationship [between:] body, feeling, and consciousness …
[When] we come to examine the elements of being one by one, we find [that, in an absolute sense,] there is no entity there.
(p 119)


There is freedom from desire and sorrow at the end of the way.
The awakened one is free from all fetters and goes beyond life and death.
Like a swan that rises from the lake, with his thoughts at peace he moves onward, never looking back.
The one who understands the [emptiness] of all things, and who has laid up no store — that one's track is unseen, as of birds in the air.
Like a bird in the air, he takes an invisible course, wanting nothing, storing nothing, knowing the emptiness of all things. …
(p 12)

To travel with fools makes the journey long and hard and is as painful as travelling with an enemy.
But the company of the wise is as pleasant as meeting with friends.
(p 98)

Empty your boat … and you will travel more swiftly.
Lighten the load of craving and opinions and you will reach nirvana sooner.
(p 123)

[We are what we think.]
All that we are [arises with] our thoughts …
With our thoughts we make the world.
(p 157)

Digha Nikaya

Secrecy is the mark of false doctrine.
(p 46)

… I detest and will not undertake the so-called miracles of magic power and divination.
I and my followers attract nonbelievers only by the miracle of truth.
(p 119)

Surangama Sutra

You should inquire deeply and directly into the distress of the mind and find out
  • what has been created and
  • who is the self that is suffering.
(p 111)

Itivuttaka Sutta

[Life is to be] lived for the sake of seeing into things and understanding them.
(p 124)

Anguttara Nikaya

All conditioned things are impermanent.
(p 133)

Bhaddekaralta Sutra

Do not go after the past.
Nor lose yourself in the future.
For the past no longer exists,
And the future is not yet here.
(p 140)

Mahaparinirvana Sutra

I have shown that the self is not as people think of it …
But that does not mean that there is no self. …
If something
  • is true,
  • is real,
  • is constant,
  • is a foundation of a nature that is unchanging,
this can be called the self.

(Anne Bancroft, Editor, The Pocket Buddha Reader, Shambhala, 2001, p 196, emphasis added)

Matthieu Ricard (1946)

Meditating on the Nature of the Mind

Few of us would regret the years it takes to complete an education or master a crucial skill.
So why complain about the perseverance needed to become a well-balanced and truly passionate human being?
(p 136)

An ethic that is built exclusively on intellectual ideas and that is not buttressed at every point by virtue, genuine wisdom, and compassion has no solid foundation.
(p 250)

When the mind examines itself, what can it learn about its own nature?
The first thing it notices is the endless series of thoughts that pass through it.
These feed our sensations, our imagination, our memories and our projections about the future.
Do we also find a 'luminous' quality in the mind that illuminates our experience, no matter what its content?
This luminous quality is the fundamental cognitive faculty that underlies all thought.
It is that which, when we are angry, sees the anger without letting itself be drawn into it.
This simple, pure awareness can be called pure consciousness, because it can be perceived even in the absence of concepts and mental constructs.
(p 168)
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche:
Just by sitting quietly and observing how rapidly, and in many ways illogically, my thoughts and emotions came and went, I began to recognize in a direct way that they weren't nearly as solid or real as they appeared to be.
And once I began to let go of my belief in the story they seemed to tell, I began to see the 'author' beyond them — the infinitely vast, infinitely open awareness that is the nature of mind itself.

Any attempt to capture the direct experience of the nature of mind in words is impossible.
The best that can be said is that the experience is immeasurably peaceful, and, once stabilized through repeated experience, virtually unshakable.
(The Art of Meditation, 2010, pp 173-174)

Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)

[There] is no permanent existence, either in our being, or, in that of objects.
We ourselves, our faculty of judgement and all mortal things are flowing and rolling ceaselessly; nothing certain can be established about one from the other, since both judge and judging are ever shifting and changing. …
And if you should … try to grasp what Man's being is, it would be exactly like trying to hold a fisful of water …
[Since] all things are subject to … change, Reason is baffled if it looks for a substantial existence in them, since it cannot apprehend a single thing which subsists permanently …
(p 680)

[In Nature,] all things are either born, being born, or dying.
(An apology for Raymond Sebond, p 682)

No matter what falls within our knowledge, no matter what we enjoy, it fails to make us content and we go gaping after things outside our knowledge, future things, since present goods never leave us satisfied — not … because they are inadequate to satisfy us but because we clasp them in a sick and immoderate grip …
(On one of Caesar's sayings, p 347)

As Nature has furnished us with feet to walk with, so has she furnished us with wisdom to guide us in our lives. …
The more simply we entrust ourself to Nature the more wisely we do so. …
Were I a good pupil there is enough, I find, in my own experience to make me wise.
(p 1218)

If each man closely spied upon the effects and attributes of the passions which have rule over him as I do upon those which hold sway over me, he would see them coming and slow down a little the violence of their assault.
(p 1219)

When I dance, I dance.
When I sleep, I sleep; and when I am strolling alone through a beautiful orchard, although part of the time my thoughts are occupied by other things, for part of the time too I bring them back to the walk, to the orchard, to the delight in being alone there, and to me.
… Nature has provided that such actions as she has imposed on us as necessities should also be pleasurable, urging us towards them not only by reason but by desire. …
If you have been able to examine and manage your own life you have achieved the greatest task of all.
(p 1258)

Nothing is so beautiful, so right, as acting as a man should: nor is any learning so arduous as knowing how to live this life naturally and well.
And the most uncouth of our afflictions is to despise our being.
(On experience, p 1261)

(The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, 1580, M A Screech, Translator, Penguin, 1991)

Yuval Noah Harari (1976)

Professor of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Law of Nature

{The first principle of monotheist religions is
God exists.
What does He want from me?
The first principle of Buddhism is
Suffering exists.
How do I escape it? …}

Gautama’s insight was that no matter what the mind experiences, it usually reacts with craving, and craving always involves dissatisfaction.
When the mind experiences something distasteful it craves to be rid of the irritation. …
As long as the pain continues, we are dissatisfied and do all we can to [resist or] avoid it.
Yet even when we experience pleasant things we are never content.
We either fear that the pleasure might disappear, or we hope that it will intensify. …

Gautama found that there was a way to exit this vicious circle.
If, when the mind experiences something pleasant or unpleasant, it simply understands things as they are, then there is no suffering.
If you experience sadness without craving that the sadness go away, you continue to feel sadness but you do not suffer from it.
There can actually be richness in the sadness.
If you experience joy without craving that the joy linger and intensify, you continue to feel joy without losing your peace of mind.

But how do you get the mind to accept things as they are, without craving?
To accept sadness as sadness, joy as joy, pain as pain?
Gautama developed a set of meditation techniques that train the mind to experience reality as it is, without craving.
These practices train the mind to focus all its attention on the question,
What am I experiencing now?
rather than on
What would I rather be experiencing? …

Gautama grounded these meditation techniques in a set of ethical rules meant to make it easier for people to focus on actual experience and to avoid falling into cravings and fantasies.
He instructed his followers to avoid killing, promiscuous sex and theft, since such acts necessarily stoke the fire of craving (for power, for sensual pleasure, or for wealth).
When the flames are completely extinguished, craving is replaced by a state of perfect contentment and serenity, known as nirvana (the literal meaning of which is ‘extinguishing the fire’).
Those who have attained nirvana are fully liberated from all suffering.
They experience reality with the utmost clarity, free of fantasies and delusions.
While they will most likely still encounter unpleasantness and pain, such experiences cause them no misery.
A person who does not crave cannot suffer. …

He encapsulated his teachings in a single law:
  • suffering arises from craving;
  • the only way to be fully liberated from suffering is to be fully liberated from craving; and
  • the only way to be liberated from craving is to train the mind to experience reality as it is.

Know Thyself

According to Buddhism, most people identify happiness with pleasant feelings, while identifying suffering with unpleasant feelings. …
The problem, according to Buddhism, is that our feelings are no more than fleeting vibrations, changing every moment, like the ocean waves. …

Why struggle so hard to achieve something that disappears almost as soon as it arises?
According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness.
Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction.
Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. …

People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them.
This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices.
In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realise how pointless it is to pursue them.
When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied.
All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing — joy, anger, boredom, lust — but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are.
You live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been.

The resulting serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it.
It is like a man standing for decades on the seashore, embracing certain ‘good’ waves and trying to prevent them from disintegrating, while simultaneously pushing back ‘bad’ waves to prevent them from getting near him.
Day in, day out, the man stands on the beach, driving himself crazy with this fruitless exercise.
Eventually, he sits down on the sand and just allows the waves to come and go as they please.
How peaceful! …

Buddha agreed with modern biology and New Age movements that happiness is independent of external conditions.
Yet his more important and far more profound insight was that true happiness is also independent of our inner feelings.
Indeed, the more significance we give our feelings, the more we crave them, and the more we suffer.
Buddha’s recommendation was to stop not only the pursuit of external achievements, but also the pursuit of inner feelings.

(Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, 2014)

Andrew Newberg & Mark Waldman

Reflections on the Meditation, Relaxation and Consciousness

[If] you want to reach enlightenment, or feel a unity with God [you'll] need to meditate … for at least thirty minutes [a day.]
Of course, there's no guarantee that you'll have a unitary or mystical experience …

Advanced meditators can achieve deep states of unity and connectedness through intensive practice …
(p 210)

If parietal activity declines, you alter your sense of self …
[And if done often enough, this] may permanently alter the structure of [the thalamus — a] part of the reality-processing circuit in the brain. …

When you consciously direct your [attention toward] a particular object, the brain blocks out sensory and neural information that does not pertain to the object of contemplation [— screening] out anything it considers irrelevant.
As your meditation progresses, this blocking becomes more intense.
The end result is intense awareness of the object, and a loss of awareness of [everything else.]
If the object of meditation disappears, as sometimes happens in the most intense mystical states, you [may] become aware that "you" are not your thoughts [— raising] the paradoxical question of what "you" may actually be.
[This typically occurs] after many months of intense meditation.

Focused awareness sometimes sometimes creates the uncanny sensation of losing your sense of self.
As you begin to realize that "you" is a rather arbitrary neural construction, activity in the parietal area of the brain decreases, and [the] sense of self begins to dissolve.
Most practitioners describe this states as being simultaneously enlightening and disturbing, because a core sense of self is one of the earliest neural constructs [to develop] in the brain. …
[However, the only people at significant risk from this] are those with serious underlying personality disorders.
(p 211)

[The] mind produces an endless stream of … feelings and thoughts.
By simply becoming more aware of what you think, feel, say, and do, you train your brain to become more organized, [orderly,] and calm.
[Mindfulness diminishes stress and enriches life.]

The Illusion of the Universe

[While having] a conscious intention or goal underlies [almost all forms] of meditation and prayer … there is one style [that] involves the conscious pursuit of … no goal at all.
[It seeks] to achieve absolute inner silence.
No emotions or thoughts — just pure awareness or consciousness …

Many people have had spontaneous, momentary experiences of emptiness, but deliberately evoking such a state for more than a few seconds often takes years of practice. …
[This state] has been variously defined as pure consciousness, nonduality, the negation of physical reality, seeing the world or the mind as an illusion, pure Godness, supreme spirit, or nothingness. …
(p 212)

[This resembles] the state reached through intense meditation on a single object when the [distinction between the subject and object disappears entirely.]
(p 213)

Becoming One with God, The Universe, and Ourselves

… Nearly every spritual experience, in some small way, changes our sense of reality and the relationship we have with the world.
Generally, it increases our sense of unity and wholeness … in the way we conduct our lives.
[Almost] three-quarters of our respondents [reported] a sense of oneness with the universe or a unity with all of life …
[Such] feelings are … associated with a greater sense of purpose and meaning … a degree of self-transcendence and a suspension of personal egotism.
[One] no longer leels the need to control the external environment …
Past and future are suspended, and [an awareness of] the present pervades one's consciousness.
[Some felt they were] in the presence of God, while others [simply experienced] the suspension of negative moods.

What makes a person more tolerant of other religions?

People who score higher on our belief acceptance scale have less religious prejudice than those who score lower.
Those engaged in eastern spiritual practices were more accepting … than those who adhered to Western monotheistic traditions.
Women were more comfortable with other belief systems and … religious practices [than men].
High socioeconomic status … predicts greater tolerance [while] level of education was the greatest predictor [of a readiness to accept others.]
[People] who had unity experiences [too, were] more accepting of other people's beliefs.

(How God Changes Your Brain, 2009, p 81)

Climate Change 2007

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Evidence, Agreement, Confidence and Likelihood

Where uncertainty is assessed qualitatively, it is characterised by … the amount and quality of EVIDENCE [eg "limited", "medium", "robust"] and the degree of AGREEMENT [eg "low", "medium", "high"] in the literature on a particular finding …
This approach is used by [Working Group III (Mitigation of Climate Change)] …

Where uncertainty is assessed more quantitatively using expert judgement of the correctness of underlying data, models or analyses, then the following scale of CONFIDENCE levels is used[:]
  • very high confidence at least 9 out of 10;
  • high confidence about 8 out of 10;
  • medium confidence about 5 out of 10;
  • low confidence about 2 out of 10; and
  • very low confidence less than 1 out of 10.

Where uncertainty in specific outcomes is assessed using expert judgment and statistical analysis of a body of evidence (eg observations or model results), then the following LIKELIHOOD ranges are use …

Virtually certain>99%
Extremely Likely>95%
Very Likely>90%
More likely than not>50%
About as likely as not33% to 66%
Very unlikely<10%
Extremely unlikely<5%
Exceptionally unlikely<1%

[Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability)] has used a combination of confidence and likelihood assessments …
[Working Group I (The Physical Science Basis)] has predominantly used likelihood assessments.

(Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, p 27)