Octopuses & Other Minds: “The Deep Origins of Consciousness”

This post is a continuation of my topic yesterday on “What Do Animals Think & Feel?” Regarding the implications of common ancestry and the tree of life, the best book I have read recently is Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2016) by Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosophy professor at the City University of New York. Although we only have to go back six million years to find the common ancestor… Read more

What Do Animals Think & Feel?

2,500 years ago, a Greek philosopher named Protagoras (c. 490 – c. 420 BCE) declared that “Man is the measure of all things” (Safina 20). On one hand, it is understandable that we humans have often declared that—surprise!—we are the best universal standard. On the other hand, a human-centric worldview was easier to defend intellectually two-and-a-half millennia ago: before Copernicus showed us that we humans are not at the center of the universe, but merely on the third rock from… Read more

Is Your Religion “Grown up?”

My post yesterday was on “waking up” into different states of consciousness. My focus today is on the second of Ken Wilber’s four touchstones: “growing up” by progressing through stages of development (56)  One related dictum about the importance of different stages of development is that, “We do not see the world simply as it is; rather, we see the world as we are.” In other words, as we “grow up,” both individuals and societies have the potential to pass through various… Read more

What Does It Mean to “Wake up” or “Get Enlightened”?

Ken Wilber (1949-) is a contemporary American philosopher who has written a host of books related to what he calls Integral Theory. Wilber has a gift for synthesizing information across diverse fields of studies, and then designing helpful charts and graphs depicting how various intersecting systems can mutually inform one another. Along these lines, what might a “religion of the future” look like? What might it mean to practice a spirituality that takes seriously the paradigm-shifting discoveries of Copernicus, Darwin, Freud,… Read more

Dissent: For Such a Time as This

(This post is a continuation of yesterday’s theme of “Dissent.”) When considering the ongoing struggle in this country to genuinely achieve peace, liberty, and justice for all (not merely for some), it is vital to remember that in the beginning of our nation, the deep injustice of slavery was inked into our Constitution. Article I, Section 2 calculates membership in the U.S. House of Representatives based on counting enslaved human beings as “three-fifths” of a person. And Article I, Section… Read more


In my tradition of Unitarian Universalism, it is significant to recall that this past Wednesday was the 200th anniversary of the birthday of our Unitarian ancestor Henry David Thoreau, who was born on July 12, 1817. Among many examples of dissent in Thoreau’s life, the most famous is that at age twenty-nine, during his time living in a cabin he built at Walden Pond, Thoreau spent the night in jail for nonpayment of a poll tax to protest the use… Read more

Robots (Not Immigrants) Are Coming for Your Job: Promise & Peril of Dataism as Religion

(This post is a continuation of yesterday’s post on “A Brief History of Tomorrow”: What Apple, Facebook, & Google Don’t Want You to Know, inspired by Yuval Harari’s book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.) There are positive benefits of big data. Public monitoring based on Google searches, called “Google Flu Trends,” can already give a warning about flu outbreaks “ten days before traditional health services.” It could be even more accurate, of course, if Google also searched private emails for… Read more

“A Brief History of Tomorrow”: What Apple, Facebook, & Google Don’t Want You to Know

I have posted previously about the bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari, a professor of world history. His book wrestles with how we humans reached our present state. To take just one data point, a mere 150,000 years ago, there were approximately one million humans alive on earth. Today there are more than 7.3 billion of us, with more than one new human being added to the total each second! So what does the future… Read more

Chögyam Trungpa & the Level/Line Fallacy

(This post is a continuation of yesterday’s post on “Chögyam Trungpa & Pragmatic, Modern Meditation.”) Given my post yesterday about Trungpa’s shortcomings, why mention him at all today? The main reason is that despite his seeming ethical violations in some areas, it is nevertheless true that he had a particular genius for presenting traditional Buddhist teachings in a way that was accessible to a Western audience. He was a trailblazer in bringing Buddhism to the West. One significant part of that legacy… Read more

Chögyam Trungpa & Pragmatic, Modern Meditation

I have posted previously about my interest in pragmatic approaches to meditation. Such approaches seek to balance the best of traditional Buddhism with all that we know here in the early twenty-first century. One significant figure in this movement (broadly speaking) is Chögyam Trungpa, who died in 1987 at the far too young age of 48 from health complications followings a heart attack. You’ll sometimes hear a title added at the end of his name, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan… Read more