I want to finish the thought that I started in my last post when I used this quote of Gregory Bateson’s – “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.” The quote has stuck with me, because I think to the degree that we don’t see things this way, we don’t really believe in the possibility of evolution.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s use the example of another catastrophic moment in human history – the Bubonic Plague. The Black Death as it was known resulted in the death of an estimated quarter of the population of Europe. At the time no one knew about the germ theory of disease or about bacterial infection. You can imagine that all sorts of treatments were attempted, but no matter how hard the people of the time tried to solve the problem, it just kept persisting.
And I don’t think it is just a matter of not having knowledge, it was a problem of “the way people thought.” It was a problem of worldview. If you could time transport back to the middle ages, with knowledge about how bacteria were infecting Rats, that were infecting flies that were infecting humans – you probably would just as likely be burned at the stake as a witch, as you would be to be hailed as a hero. And there is probably no way that even if you were seen as a great healer that you could enact a solution and actually get people to change their behavior, because would be facing a huge gap between “how nature works and the way people thought” at the time.
The Bubonic Plague has been largely eradicated in the world, by the discovery of antibiotics. But antibiotics weren’t really the solution to the Black Death – the age of enlightenment and the advent of scientific thinking which lead to a worldview in which antibiotics could be discovered was the solution to the Black Death.
As we face our own catastrophic problems, worldwide economic collapse, global warming, terrorism etc. are we thinking about the need for a shift in worldview – our evolution to the next stage of human development? Or are we rearranging the pieces on the existing playing field without realizing that the game has changed? Are we open to the possibility that the kind of people we need to become will be as different from how we are now as we are from the Europeans who kept posies of herbs in their pockets to protect themselves against the Black Death?
For further reading in the meantime:
For those who might be interested to learn more about the history of the Black Death this page gives a full history:
Here is a page with information about Gregory Bateson posted on the centennial anniversary of his birth: