The Third Culture
a book by John Brockman
(our site's book review)
This is a book about some of the systems/chaos/complexity thinking in the 1990s—thinking being done by some of science’s best brains (to confirm that "best" attribution, just ask them!).
Among other things, it’s realized that smartness comes from our interactions with others; if these are high-quality and encouraging, more smarts evolve. If they are negative or weak, less smarts evolve. But isn't that obvious anyway? Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, incidentally, turns out to be at least as important as IQ.
The book’s thinkers wonder and theorize about how systems work to manifest that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that simple things together produce complex things that transcend them. People together have more meaning and evolve to a higher level than isolated individuals. Following this type of reasoning, if the more social beings are (at this moment in history) among the most highly evolved, then the culture that said people add up to could be the highest level entity ever. But, referring to GIGO, it also follows that if the quality of the parts is poor, the culture’s quality will be poor as well.
The highest level culture can evolve from the highest level relationships—it's GIGO (output depends on input)
Unfortunately, this book commits several sins: arrogance, elitism, and naïveté. It is okay that the scientists who present ideas in this tome have a common desire to be recognized as today's intellectual leaders. But wishing does not make it so. Are the really important intellectual as well as logically and evolutionarily and pragmatically most important ideas and the people who came up with them represented in this conceited tome, or conspicuously missing? (The Tofflers, Capra, Riesman, Maslow, Gordon, Hart, the Putneys, Slater, Steinem, Kohn and Fromm, for example.) The most important psychological and sociological ideas and people never appear. And the book only has interest in hard sciences, not the softer ones like psychological and sociological sciences, where some of the most vital work occurs. Abstract hard science ideas are fun to chew over and this makes both chewer and originator feel clever. But look at where the ideas have gotten us.
Zombies are less trouble in school rooms, so what the hell, right?
Hard science, and lots of politics and corporate power and a fortune spent on lobbying on behalf of Big Pharma, have given us behavior-altering drugs which are now being produced by the truck-loads and stuffed down the throats of innocent children, in spite of the dangers and side effects. But zombies are less trouble in school rooms, so what the hell, right? Hard science, and lots of politics and corporate power and a fortune spent on lobbying on behalf of Big Armaments, has given us H-bombs, killer drones, and piles of drugs that are slightly effective at one thing while creating a whole pile of side effects worse than the diseases being treated—but Big Pharma and Big Armaments make out like bandits, so what the hell, right?
Big Pharma spreading "good health via medicine" across the land
The book tells us that "the future belongs to biology," but do we really want a future run by "biology is destiny" and where therapists that really listen and help clients with feelings, problems, and life courses are all sent home, and the pill pushers who wish to handle all behavioral and mood issues with expensive and very profitable drugs dominate medicine, psychology, and everything else they can get away with, all the while assuring us that it's all based on proven science (wrong!) and it is all for our own good? That whopper is the hardest pill of all to swallow!
More pills for kids means more cash for Big Pharma
Parenting experts with proven methods for raising kids so that they will rarely exhibit behavioral problems are making so much progress and creating so many millions of happy and empowered parents and children, that Big Pharma got envious, so they took their enormous profits and spent a ton on a huge marketing campaign to sell the idea that we needn't worry about how we parent—it's irrelevant—the brain chemistry in many of our kids is simply defective but we can simply stuff expensive pills into them to fix the defects and all will be well. Well—meaning for the bottom line of Big Pharma, but not so much "well" for the kids, whose parents can now ignore all parenting wisdom and just shamelessly and mercilessly grab the medicine bottle several times a day.
Parents can just shamelessly and mercilessly grab the medicine bottle several times a day
How can parents, teachers, doctors, scientists, and the public be so naïve? Simple: as Hitler discovered, little lies can be hard to swallow, but big lies are something else altogether. We have enormous difficulty believing that intelligent scientists are really buying into the ridiculous idea that the parenting does not matter—only the easily-corrected brain chemistry does. There may be a few dumb enough to buy this, but we feel that most do not—even if they follow Big Pharma's guidelines and concentrate on pills, not people. We feel they repress their feelings and write their prescriptions but feel guilty while doing so. Most doctors doling out prescriptions feel bad about it, in our opinion. Why, then, do they do it?
Simple. They have 15 minutes per patient and it's the only thing they have time for. And they have little knowledge about parenting beyond obsolete clichés so at least this way they are doing something to try to help the family. At least, that is the rationalization they feed themselves. In our opinion, doctors are taking the easy way out. It's a cop-out. But Big Pharma has so much power that we feel they are simply afraid not to buckle under to the relentless marketing of Big Pharma products being the great hope and salvation for families, parents, kids, society, education. Truly the Second Coming.
Big Pharma products are being marketed so intensely you'd think they were the Second Coming
We aren't asserting that anyone is intentionally doing harm to anyone. We ARE asserting that we feel they are buying into their own marketing and theories and ideas completely since they've heard them so often. They have been conditioned with the ideas with the most profit potential by people in companies who have also bought into their own marketing and theories and ideas completely. They have seen "better behavior" (or is it deader or more obedient or more apathetic?) in some patients, so this eliminates their guilt, even if they have to turn a blind eye on what ELSE the pills do beside forcing better/deader behavior. Is this really how we want to treat our kids? Are a few guys in white coats who tell us to drug our kids enough of a reason to do it, just because they have M.D. after their names? Is a patronizing smile and a nervous assurance all it takes for us to drug our kids silly?
Many have said that science has become the whore of the big corporations, as have many of the think tanks
This is just one example of the game science is now playing. Many have said that science has become the whore of the big corporations, as have many of the think tanks (propaganda machines). Is it true? If the G-string fits . . . Few of us know just how corrupt this relationship really is, but there are a ton of comments all over the Internet that show that this relationship is not all it should be. One thing for sure is that there have been lots of cases where there is litigation because corporate profits won over morality, public safety, the environment, and health. But mostly Big Media tries to keep this stuff out of sight since they are in bed with the defendants—the big profitable corporations. And there have been many unsavory connections demonstrated between the scientists and the corporations and the politicians.
To understand who is in bed with whom and why, one has only to follow the money
Why did the schools allow junk food vending machines in the door? Follow the money!
How did Big Sugar get sugar into darned near everything at our supermarket? Why did the doctors quit talking about sugar being bad for our health? Why did the schools allow junk food vending machines in their schools, where they can help kids get obese and even get diabetes? How did the politicians get strong-armed into allowing the evil-sounding "sugar" in ingredients lists on products to get replaced by "evaporated cane juice" or even "organic evaporated cane juice"? Sugar by any other name is still sugar! But these corporations have such a low opinion of the public and our educational system that they think this ludicrous sleight-of-hand trick will fool people. And the sad truth, of course, is that they are right.
Call sugar 'organic evaporated cane juice' if desired, but it's still sugar!
The hard science scientists, by having their heads in the clouds about cute but useless "multiple universes" abstractions and theories, are missing a more important phenomenon: scientists having to sell out their values to get or keep jobs. And science losing objectivity when the loss is so profitable as to be inevitable. And the environment getting worse while scientists are kept busy with "multiple universes" or creating expensive drugs for Big Pharma of dubious value besides lining pockets with cash. But these guys like all the side effects because it means you don't just take one drug but ten, most of them to deal with various side effects of the first drug. Ka-chingggggggg! This is not a conspiracy, but an accidental side benefit of drugs in general. What ever happened to "at first, do no harm," the Hypocritical Oath? Who will look us in the eye and tell us a huge regimen of drugs will NOT do plenty of harm to the human body? No takers? We wonder why . . .
Scientists are forced to sell out their values, but they pretend not to notice, and keep their heads in the clouds
So if the selling out is an unwritten job description in many cases, and whistle blowing will mean your career is over forever, where are the hard scientists who refuse to sell out? There are plenty of them, researching heart valves and cancer cures and antivirals and more benign operation techniques, and so on. Furthermore, softer sciences like sociology and psychology have both sell-outs and people who are morally incorruptable—very fine people like Maslow and Fromm. And Peter R. Breggin, M.D., one of the world’s best antidotes for capitalistic materialism run wild, spiritualism gone missing, and the shrinks and drug companies losing touch with reality. He has been called the conscience of American psychiatry, but could as well be called the conscience of America. He is a national hero that all should know about and honor (like Edward Snowden). See Reclaiming Our Children and see why.
When right-winger religions get pseudo-scientists to show that good results are gotten from punishments, rewards, and controlling kids to obey at all costs, when this is entirely fake, false, and wrong, this is the sell-out. It has been proven over and over for many decades with absolute scientific certainly that this is entirely fake, false, and wrong. And it's very easy to see who are NOT sellouts, and who are compassionate, wise, learned experts whose morals are totally above reproach. The experts in the parenting area are listed here: Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs.
John Brockman, who wrote The Third Culture, believes that science is becoming the predominant culture and the scientists in his book are taking the place of traditional intellectuals in answering the important questions facing humankind. And he wrote this with a straight face! His only excuse was that he wrote the book in 1995, but most of the issues listed below were already starting to fester then.
So, look through his book and see what he views as the most important questions facing humankind. The economy is in the toilet, but his book contains no economist with solutions. Childcare and parenting are in crisis mode, but his book contains no sociologist or parenting expert with solutions (but this site does). The world is getting ready for WWIII as Iran pushes us and Israel to the brink trying to create nukes to threaten and bomb us with, and warmongering U.S. neocon empire builders invade whomever they please—wherever they smell corporatocracy profits, but his book contains no international affairs expert with solutions. Our democracy has been replaced by an oligarchy, but his book contains no democracy expert with solutions. Our watchdog press has been replaced by a lapdog press and the mainstream media has sold out to the hidden government neocons running things, but his book contains no media expert with solutions. And real power in the U.S. has shifted from the government to the hidden neocons in the shadow government elite, but his book contains no shadow government expert with solutions. We are wrecking our air, water, food and ozone layer, but his book contains no ecological expert with solutions. We could go on . . .
The nation has lost all claim to being a democracy and many are starting to admit it is an oligarchy
The nation has lost all claim to being a democracy and many are starting to admit it is an oligarchy, and elections are a hollow exercise since big corporations determine results based on profit motives, regardless of what the public wants or needs. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes and Who Will Tell the People.)
Community has been lost in the USA even though it is needed for democracy to work at any level, but his book contains no community relations expert with solutions. See Why Do We Need Communities?.
And even hard sciences' critical issues are omitted: We are losing the germ wars against the viruses and drug-resistant strains which evolve much faster than we can deal with, yet where are the creative minds that create a more general way to stop this malevolent evolution? Terrorists and drug pushers find our borders to be trivial to get across, yet where is the technology to stop or even detect this intrusion? Computer viruses are everywhere, yet where are the geniuses that will figure out a technological way to stop them all once and for all? We could go on . . .
Our borders are trivial to sneak across
John Brockman apparently lives in one of his "parallel universes" in which the stuff in his book really is answering the important questions facing humankind. We wish him luck!
John Brockman apparently lives in one of his 'parallel universes' in which his book really is answering the important questions facing humankind