First, I want to thank you all for coming. This is a little off the wall and I am delighted that you are all here. My name is Cris Hollinshead. I work as an Ocean Bottom Seismometer engineer for John Orcutt's group down in the basement. I was in the first class to go through UCSD , and graduated from Revelle college in 1968. I first started working in this building in 1966 as an undergraduate lab flunky. So I've been knocking around for a little while. My interest for the last couple of decades has been reading in the Philosophy of Science. I am fascinated by the implications in that.
In 1962 Thomas Kuhns, a professor of History of Science, wrote a book called "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". He was discussing the dynamic of a shift in paradigms that happens within the scientific community. It's particularly interesting here at IGPP. In the '60's, there was a massive shift in the paradigm in geophysics to plate tectonics. I was just talking to Bob Parker about this the other day, because her was actually a player in all this. It took about 10 to 15 years for plate tectonics to move from being an interesting idea that was on the side lines to becoming the dominant paradigm within the field, where any book that doesn't talk about plate tectonics these days is considered foolish. Ideas change, OK.
So a paradigm in Kuhn's introduction was the set of assumptions, or framework, from which all perspective in the field is investigated. These are the underlying assumptions, and sometimes the unexamined assumptions.
What I want to talk about is referred to as a meta-paradigm. Which is a larger cultural paradigm, as opposed to the specifics of plate tectonics for Earth motion. The last meta-paradigm shift was the Copernican revolution, to give you an idea of what we are talking about here. We move from the Catholic church's view that the Earth is the center of everything, and all the celestial bodies move in perfect circles and so on, to the idea, no, the Earth moves. There's a whole fundamental shift in the perception of what's going on when this paradigm changes.
The paradigm we live in today is a materialist paradigm. Standard science, or what I call orthodox science, is rooted in is a materialistic paradigm, which is sort of a billiard ball model of reality, that things are affected when they're actually touched, like two billiard balls coming together and so on. The generally accepted assumptions of this paradigm are objectivism, which assumes that there is a reality separate from the observer, reductionism, which assumes a linear relationship between the parts, and positivism, which assumes that if it can't be measured, it's not really valid in some fundamental way.
Now this has sort of held sway for the last three centuries, pretty much since Newton and the Royal Society and so on. It's been very successful in the manipulation of the physical realm. Everything we see around us is a consequence of the success of this world view. But there are limitations to this paradigm. In Kuhn's book he talks about how paradigms shift. A paradigm is accepted and work goes on within that field and certain questions are appropriate within that field, but there are details that come up and experiments that don't quite fit, data that doesn't fit in well.
After awhile of trying to explain these unfitting parts, there is a whole new way of viewing the problem, that makes those previously uncomfortable data sets, fit in. A whole new set of questions become appropriate to ask, and old questions are not necessarily so appropriate. One I like, before the idea of periodic motion, pendulums were viewed as slowly falling objects. Now this is appropriate from one perspective, but once you start to think about the period of oscillators, that's an irrelevant perspective.
The limitation of the current paradigm is that there is no place for consciousness.
Now consciousness is a very slippery word. For this discussion I'm going to define it as awareness and volition, or attention and intention.
In the orthodox story, consciousness is defined as an epiphenomenon, that is, consciousness arises out of a sufficient complexity of matter, specifically in the brain. It is a by-product of bio-chemicals sloshing around in this gland up here, and that's it.
Another limitation of the current paradigm was expressed recently. Within the last year there was a lecture down at Hubb's hall, by Dr. Eugenie Scott, from the Nation Center of Science Education. She stated categorically, at the bottom line, the methodology of materialism is "there is no meaning in life".
Her organization is working to stop the teaching of creationism in schools. So, she is talking particularly about the biological aspect here. The assumption is that there are random mutations, natural selection sorts out what works, and that is how life works. But the bottom line assumption is that there is no pattern, no intention, no meaning, in these random mutations. There is no meaning in life.
Personally I find this a rather unsatisfactory paradigm to live in, as an individual. The meaning for life is the whole essence of everybody's personal quest. I don't think that there is anyone in here that really believes that their life is meaningless. At least they don't live for very long with that statement.
There is a new paradigm emerging. I love this statement here. "As finite beings contemplating the infinite unknown, we have to admit that everything we know is either dead wrong, or, at best, incomplete". There is a certain humility required in that. It keeps the doors open.
The new paradigm that's coming up is of an interconnected whole. Consciousness is a causative force. Matter may be a consequence of consciousness, rather than the other way around, which it turns out solves all the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. Matter may be a four dimensional space-time surface of a higher order reality, which is conscious.
Now science has progressed in the last three centuries, and has uncovered challenges to all three of the basic assumptions.
The challenge to objectivism came in the 1900's with the evolution of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics was a response to experiments that were being done in examining the interior of the atom, and the atom wasn't the solid billiard balls that had been projected in the 1800's, in fact it looked like there was nothing there. These days we know that it is 99.9999% nothing there. And the stuff that is left just sort of has a tendency to exist. It's not really there, unless you happen to look at it.
One of the other interesting things about quantum mechanics is that the act of observing seems to have an affect on what is going on. That somehow the process of making measurement is relevant. It is not an independent aspect. It could not be separated out from the quality that is being measured.
Quantum mechanics talks about the probability distribution of the energy. For instance, a particular atom in this table has some non-zero probability of being outside Alpha Centauri also. This is a real phenomenon. Computers work on this. There are tunneling affects. There are scanning electron microscopes that are used for examining micro-scale structure, that depend on the fact that some part of an electron, already exists on the other side of a potential barrier. You can't say "this is where it is" with any certainty. There is an uncertainty that is inherent in the whole thing. So this brought up serious questions about the validity of objectivism.
Reductionism is a linear assumption. The whole is equal to the sum of the parts. The idea is that in a complex system, you can study individual parts, look at every detail of that part, look at how that works, and somehow put it all together and think you understand the whole thing. The math is easier, which is mostly why the reductionist assumption held sway for so long. It's like the joke about the guy looking for his keys under the light, but he really lost them up the street, but the light is better here.
The problem is that the real world is non-linear. It's very fed back, very complex. In a non-linear system the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Even if you take it apart, and look at every single part, and really understand every part, you still have to look at the whole thing in order to understand the whole thing, because the parts feed back in such complex ways. So the reductionist assumption is inadequate, it's incomplete.
When you start to get into non-linear system, the whole field of chaos study has come up in the last few decades. With the advent of powerful computers you can actually grind through these non-linear equations now and come up with solutions that were not available in any qualitative way more than a few decades ago. What you find in chaotic systems, that appear to have random affect, is that in higher dimensionality, there is pattern. So we start to get the idea that there may be a connectivity to things that we don't see in the manifested four dimensional space time continuum. That there is a connectivity in a higher dimensionality which binds the things together.
Another interesting thing that alludes to an explanation of dimensionality is fractal math. Fractals have been found to be very good in describing natural systems, and they are used in all kinds of things from computer graphics to serious analytic stuff. What I find interesting in fractals is that they introduce the concept of non-integer dimensions. You can think of a line on a plane, on a piece of paper, that is so squiggly, even though it doesn't cross over itself, it almost covers the whole page. You can talk about the line having a dimensionality of 1.7. It's not quite a plane, but it's more convoluted than a line. So, again, we are starting to stretch our ideas. What would a highly convoluted surface be like? What would a highly convoluted space- time continuum be like? Can we imagine a 4.7 dimensionality there?
The third fundamental assumption is positivism. In the 20th century, psychology was developed, starting with Freud, and just exploding with numerous researchers. The problem with consciousness is that, even today, with the kind of analytic tools we have, you can measure where in the brain positron emission is taking place, and where blood flow is going on, you can get a good idea of some spacial relationship associated with different kinds of states, but you don't have a clue what the person is really thinking. The only person who really knows that is the person who is experiencing that. So, the problem here is we have a validity of personal experience that can not be measured in a quantitative way. If we insist that it is meaningless, we are throwing out a huge data set.
There is a whole suite of consciousness now. There is the collective unconscious, which is a concept that binds us all together. There is the personal unconscious. There is the personal waking consciousness. There is dream consciousness, and there is transpersonal consciousness.
My personal favorite psychologist is Carl Jung. He was prolific. He was omnivorous in his thinking and his output. He is the one who introduced the concept of collective unconscious and arch-types. There is patterning that is common to all humanity, that we are driven by, that we are influenced by.
He also introduced the "I Ching" to the west. He helped bring the first German translation into Europe, wrote the introduction to it, and introduced it around into his circles, beginning to bridge the east-west division, and bring some of the concepts of eastern philosophy and the concepts that come from that, into the west. Beginning to balance out the psyche of the planet at some level.
At another level, he was a good friend of Wolfgang Pauli. At the time when quantum mechanics was being developed in Vienna, he was aware of everything that was going on in the development of this inclusive, interconnected physics philosophy, at the same time that he was designing his inclusive psychological philosophy of the collective unconscious. There is a correspondence in what he was coming up with in his thoughts about consciousness, with what physicists were coming up with in their thoughts about the physical reality.
Finally, he developed the concept called synchronicity, meaningful co-incidence. Total contrast to "there is no meaning". The point is that there is always meaning, everywhere. It's just our lack of awareness.
I was actually sitting in this room one time, listening to a talk where randomness was being discussed, when it suddenly occurred to me that the problem with the way that orthodox science treats randomness is that they look at an event and they say "there IS no pattern there". A more correct, humble statement is, "I SEE no pattern there". It shifts the perspective in a fundamental way. As an example, if you are red/green color blind, and I am not, ands I'm busy picking all the red marbles out of an array up here, to your view, I'm doing a meaningless random act. In my view, I'm doing a meaningful patterned act. And the truth is in the perspective, not in the act. The Buddhists call this error "reification", where you attribute a quality that is due to your perspective, to the object. For instance, if you are wearing red glasses, and look at something and say "that object IS red", rather than understanding that I perceive it as red. Instead of ascribing the quality to the object we recognize that it is a quality of our perspective.
OK, I want to talk about a couple of experiments that have been presented in peer reviewed literature, and a few other experiments that I heard about. I just attended a conference in Albuquerque a month ago, and it sort of inspired me to come up here and expose myself to all you people.
These are the two references. (Physics Today,
April 1985, p. 38
Nature, vol. 335, 8 September 1988, p. 142)
The first one is an experiment done in quantum mechanic in the early 80's by a Frenchman named Alain Aspect. Einstein never liked quantum mechanics. To his dying day he thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with it. He came up with a couple of insightful experiments. He said "if quantum mechanics is correct, than this should be true, but this is crazy, so quantum mechanics can't be true".
This is the specific experiment that he came up with. If you have spontaneous production of a pair of electrons out of vacuum energy, conservation of energy says that one has to be spin up and the other spin down. They run off in different directions in the lab, and if you measure the up/down of the spin of this one over here, necessarily, that one over there is correlated, if you are measuring them in the same polarity, the same orientation. If you measure them in different orientations, then it is a 50-50 chance if they are the same spin or different. He said that this is crazy, because there is no way that the information about the choice of measurement orientation could be exchanged between them. There is no way to carry the signal.
The Physics Today article has a very good write up about how the experiment was done in the early 80's if anyone wants to look at the details. This was a "geranium" thought experiment for a long time, but it was finally done, and it was done very well. Everyone agrees that it was done well. There is no bogus science here. The only discomforting problem here is that it works. When you look at something over here, it affects something over there, at macroscopic distances, faster than a light speed signal can travel. This was a very difficult piece of data to assimilate.
I read an interesting book which transcribed BBC interviews with different physicists to get their take on "what does this mean?" There are basically three camps.
There is the Copenhagen solution which says that "we can't really answer these questions, so don't bother to ask." Sort of the "don't ask, don't tell" philosophy of physics.
Then there is the camp that says that in any given situation where there is a choice, both situations exist, only we just happen to be in this one. But there are these parallel universes. And since we are talking about quantum phenomenon, there are orders of magnitude more than we can imagine of parallel universes going on, all of them are real, but we just happen to occupy this one . We won't ask how we occupy this one, but that is the solution.
The third one, which is what I prefer, is what is called the implicate order. This has been best articulated by a physicist named David Bohm, who died a few years ago.
I'm not a very rigorous guy, you have probably figured this out. I like imagery, allegory, and metaphor. Bohm was very good in both camps. He could go into a room of hard core physicists, preach the math, and everyone would come out going "yeah". He could then go across the aisle and talk to lay people, give his image, and everyone would come out going "yeah".
The image that I like, that explains his view, is to imagine that you have a fish in a tank. You have two video cameras on it, at 90 degrees. In another room you have a couple of flat panel displays, and now we walk into the room and we look. "Look at that, there are a couple of fish here". They are clearly different. They are in different places, they look different, but when we start to observe them, we notice that when one fish turns, the other one turns. And you start to ask, "How do they communicate? How do they know? How does the signal pass between them, for this coordination of activity?" Well, you can see, because we know the behind the scenes story, the error is in assuming that there are two separate items, instead of two aspects, in this case, two two dimensional images of a three dimensional fish.
Bohm is suggesting that is what all of this is about. Every time that we see a separate element, we are seeing an aspect of an interconnected whole. The way that I understand this is that we are seeing a four dimensional slice of say a five dimensional object. It is all interconnected, which is how we get the correlation, and we make the error through our perception of seeing them as separate parts.
Now Bohm had been preaching this story for decades. In the beginning, because he had done some very solid work, he was sort of the tolerated kook in the closet. Then, as things progressed along, he was at the table with everybody else. After Aspects experiment, he became the prime explanation, because no one else really had a coherent view that could accommodate this data, although his view hadn't changed. The whole world had sort of shifted to include him.
OK, just to tie that one up, specifically there is an assumption known as locality, that in the billiard ball world says, "all I need to know, in order to understand everything about this cup of water, is the local forces on it". And that's it, local forces. What Bohm is suggesting, and many other people have come to the same conclusion, is that we have to abandon locality. In order to really understand what is going on in this cup of water, we have to pretty much integrate over the entire universe.
The second experiment which is in the Nature article here, is sort of a similar bump in the road for the mechanistic biologist. The way mechanism is played out in biology, the discovery of DNA was just this wonderful thing. I mean, here was the story; this was the blueprint:. Everything comes from the genes and we have books out there called "The Mean Gene" and "The Selfish Gene". If you are gay or straight, it's because of your genetics; if you're a diabetic, it's because of your genetics; if you're gonna get cancer it's because of your genetics, and you can't do anything about it. They're working on it, though, okay?
This experiment was done in England, by a man named John Cairns. It was published in 1988 and he did it shortly before that. What they did, they took some bacteria that could only metabolize lactose, and they went in and disabled the gene that expressed the enzyme that actually breaks up the lactose sugar molecule, and provides the energy for the bacteria. They took these bacteria and put them in an environment with only lactose. Now the conventional wisdom is, these things should all croak, because they can't metabolize their only energy source. They can't mutate because the traditional wisdom is mutation comes from copying errors during replication, but it takes energy to replicate, and they don't have any energy, so they shouldn't be able to make it.
What the found in fact, though, was these colonies were thriving very well, thank you. When they went in and looked at the details, they didn't find a whole lot of random mutations; they found a very specific mutation in just the genes that expressed the enzyme that metabolized the lactose. The article is very good. I heard this referred to a year ago, and again this last year. I went and looked it up a week ago to read it myself, and they covered a lot of other possibilities. The conclusion is that the bacteria seems to read the environment and modify its hardware appropriately.
Well, Nature didn't really want to publish this, but they had to in a way because Cairns is a heavyweight in England and he'd done the science right and they couldn't really afford to just blow him off. Science magazine was just scathing in their response. They said, "This is Lamarckian biology; this is a huge set-back; this is bad science, if not fraud."
Now to the biological community's embarrassment, it's been replicated many other times in other labs. This seems to be real. So what we've got now is, at a cellular level, there seems to be an ability to respond to the environment. It's not just this mindless machine that's running along. Even at the hardware level of the genes expressed, and the enzymes and so on, there's a mutability there that can be in response to the environment.
This plays out in a lot of different ways. For instance, if we jump to a human situation, we have a fight-flight response and let's say the alternate is a calm state. When, in the classic sense, a tiger leaps out in the path, your body kicks into a response. You pump out adrenaline. You shut down blood flow to your visceral organs, because you don't need them to run away. You shut down your immune system, because that's a very high energy part of your organism, and you don't need that to run away. You stimulate blood to the hind brain to coordinate your muscles, because you need that to run away, and all your muscles get good blood supply, because you need them. Your forebrain is shut down, relatively. Blood is selectively reduced to your forebrain, which is your cognitive, rationalizing domain. You don't really need that to run away; you just need to run away.
So that's the state that ramps up very quickly, but it ramps down very slowly. You can imagine a situation where you're constantly re- frightened or re-alarmed. You live in a chronic state where you've got a depressed immune system, you've got reduced flow to your organs and you can't think too well.
Now this is your body responding to what's going on. At the cellular level, inside of you, the cell's environment is your larger being, so the cells are gonna respond the same way if there's a tiger in the path, as it will if you're stressed out because you're stuck in traffic and think you need to get to a meeting, and you're gonna be fired if you're late. What you believe is going on - because maybe you're not going to be fired at all - but if you believe you're going to be fired, you go into a stressful situation and your physiology will respond as if it's as real as if you're face to face with a tiger. So what you believe affects how your physiology manifests.
Now, it gets even more interesting. They did an experiment with pregnant mice and they took some of the mice and put them in a stressed situation and some of them were in a calm situation, and lo and behold, the fetus of the stressed mouse comes out very muscular, with a huge hind brain, and a really reduced forebrain. The physiology of the fetus was affected by the mother's emotional state. The calm mouse gave birth to large-forebrained, relatively normal mice.
They have found that the emotional state of a woman two months before she ovulates affects the physiology of the ovum. Definitely the nine months that you're carrying the baby -- "Hi there!." (Jennifer Eakins.) affects the physiology of the baby because your biochemistry is your baby's biochemistry and, so, you can sort of imagine - yeah, question.?
Wayne Chen: How do you know that there weren't just different genetics?
Well, I'm assuming - I don't know the answer, but my guess would be that the mice they took were probably genetically identical lab mice. That seems to be what they start with, and what they did was to change the environment. Okay, I don't know the answer to that, is the correct answer.
What I was going to say, though, was, imagine what two generations of living in a refugee camp or a resettlement camp in the Gaza Strip would produce in the way of offspring. Muscular, reduced immune system, relatively short life, not very rational, aggressive people and, you know, this might give us a little clue as to what's going on over there.
Okay. Those are a couple of experiments that have run through the formal, orthodox peer-review. They're solid science, that have disrupted the physics and the biology communities because they're coming up with something different. I want to talk about a few other kinds of research that haven't necessarily gone through the peer review process, because they're more on the edges, but they're no less rigorous or thorough investigations.
There's some work by a woman named Marilyn Schlitz at the Institute Of Noetic Science up in Petaluma. Her experiment was to take a computer, program it to show a series of pictures, most of which were calm, serene pictures, and occasionally in the mix there were really violent, either violent sexual or violent physical pictures. The subjects were wired up with a skin resistance meter to measure the physiological response of the body, much as they do in lie detector tests, and she recorded what went on.
Everyone starts in a calm state and sure enough, when a violent picture comes up, you get the time when the picture comes up and you can see the conscious response. When the consciousness registers the picture, there's a physiological response that happens. This is quite a large noticeable response that happens some part of a second after the picture comes up. But what was interesting was that there was also a smaller physiological response some time before the picture came up - some number of milliseconds before the picture came up, and this was not once or twice, but was a consistent result. Which brings up a very difficult question: What does this mean about causality and time? You know - is this more plastic than we want to believe?
I now want to discuss another two pieces of research, the first saw was done in the early 1990's at the San Francisco Medical School. They were investigating the effectiveness of prayer on healing. The experiment was a total double blind. Neither the patients or the doctors knew who was in the control group and who wasn't. These were all people who had come in for heart surgery, and the investigation was, if you're prayed for, does it have any effect? The people who were praying for the people were not family members or anything like that. There was no connection between the groups. What they found was that the mortality rate didn't change, but there was a significant decrease in post-operative complications. In other words, people recovered from their surgeries more easily when they'd been prayed for.
Now, I've heard this a couple different times over the years and in various places, and just on this last research cruise, I mentioned this to somebody. They showed me a New Yorker article that came out in I think it was February 2002, about a similar experiment, also a double blind experiment, at a women's fertility clinic, where one group was being prayed for and the other wasn't. The prayed-for group had a 50% pregnancy rate and the unpray-for group had a 26% pregnancy rate. Quite significant. And again, there was no connection between the groups. I mean, these were like nuns in Tibet, or something like that, who were praying for these people - they just got a name. There was no personal connection.
There's been such replication of this kind of work that a good chunk of American medical schools are now teaching the efficacy of prayer as part of their medical training, not as a religious thing, but just out of the point of view that, this works. And if this can help our patients, we have a Hippocratic oath here, and we're going to put this out. So again, this brings up a question: Well, how can this work? I mean, what's the process here, that one person's intention of good will toward another can have a physiological affect?
Another element that I'd like to bring up here is the concept of reincarnation. A good chunk of the planet believes in this process. The Dalai Lama is the 13th or 14th linear incarnation. The Tibetans have worked out a process. I mean, this is their high man. They're skeptical too. They're not going to let just anybody take this on, so they've worked out processes for verifying, where is the next body? You know, where does this person come in; how does this work?
There's a book out called "Old Souls", by a fellow named Schroder, which chronicles 40 years of research by a physician names Ian Stevenson. He has been going around interviewing kids, because what they've found is that, up until about age 6, there's a higher likelihood of remembering a previous life. After that, this life tends to overwrite, and this is why were are here -- we're here now anyway, so you know, it tends to fade out. He's collected hundreds of cases where he's actually been able to go, find specifics, actually find a former family, actually even bring the kid to meet the former family and all these kinds of connections.
These tend to be in communities that accept reincarnation as part of their belief structure, but he's looking for hard physical connections and it's not limited to those communities. It happens in the U.S. too. In fact, Lynn had an episode with her son when he was little, where one day they're driving along and out of the blue he says, "Remember when we were killed at the lake?"
So, again, here's some information that we either have to throw it out completely, or open the door to the idea that consciousness is not an epiphenomenon of the biochemistry of the gland that we call the brain. There's something more going on here and it seems to transcend time and space.
So, why does this matter? So what? We can live quite comfortably without any of this, can't we? I've got a series of reasons I think it matters.
The first thing is, what we have in our society, is a conflict between our hardware technology and our social forms. We have hardware that's a consequence of the new physics, which is an inclusive, holistic physics. We have nuclear weapons, we have lasers, we have computers, the pharmaceutical industry is part of all this. We have immense power at our disposal now that was not available a century ago. Orders of magnitude more - we've tapped into a fundamentally new level of power. But our society is still set up like billiard balls, okay?
We've got a border down here, an arbitrary line, and on the other side, people are impoverished, on this side, we're overweight. Okay? In other countries, they're dying because they don't have clean water, and here, we've got beanie babies. There's this division that goes on between humans and all other species; between genders, between races, and between the haves and the have-nots. And we draw all these lines, which are nothing new. These lines have been going on since recorded history, before, probably. But what's different now is that there are more of us, and we've got power at our disposal that we've never had before.
So you've got this situation for instance, at the India-Pakistan border, where it's not a new rage between these two people, but this time they've got nuclear weapons and we're all downwind from that. Graham was saying that, apparently, some of Ramanathan's studies show that debris from the Indian sub-continent gets here, falls out on our cars. Okay?
That conflict between the technology of an inclusive world view applied in an exclusive manner, is the root of many of our social problems, and we have to grow up. We'll either die or grow up, I think that's starting to get really clear.
If you look at the history of all of human civilizations, I think there are 26 of them by certain historians' count, they've all failed for the same reason. At some point or another, they were structured to benefit a few at the expense of everybody else. They either collapse from internal revolt or they collapse from internal apathy and are overwhelmed by a powerful group from the outside, but they collapse. We have that problem here. There isn't a week doesn't go by without seeing another example of the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very small percentage of the people, where policies, massive policies all over the globe, benefit a few at the expense of everybody else. We can't continue this much longer.
Enron's a real good example. There are continuing revelations that Enron's not a unique example. This rot seems to go all over the place. As that collapses, it affects the cash flow of the state of California which affects our funding, you know, and so it can come home very quickly, let alone what our stock portfolios do, or our retirement plans. We're all in this together.
Another example of this few benefiting at the expense of the many is what's going on in the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceuticals are increasing two or three times faster than the rate of inflation. There are more and more cases coming out. Just recently it was revealed, a company bought out an alternative breast cancer drug and sat on it, because they made more money selling theirs, even though the other one was more effective and cheaper. The Canadians pay one-tenth of what we do, because the companies can do it and get away with it. Making money, at the expense of people's health is now starting to really stress state economies. The state of Maine is in a crisis, their health care costs have gone up 100% in the last three years. At some point, the system can't take it any more and it all comes down. So again, it's the benefiting of the few at the expense of the many is impacting us all.
I went to this conference last year too, and one of the things I noticed that was different this year was that people were starting to talk about the issue of sustainability. The sustainable economy, and how that played out in the world view that we have. If we see ourselves separate from everything else, then, you know, what's good for General Motors is Good for America kind of thing. In this mentality, if a few people are making money, and they happen to be in power and can pull the game off, that's all we need, right up to the point where the whole thing collapses. We're running out of things. We have to do it differently.
Bush's response to the Kyoto protocol is significant. It's typical of this. You know, he's even admitted there's a problem, but there's no sense doing anything about it. It's going to cost money to make the change, without a doubt, but if we don't make a change, we might be able to live out our time okay, I certainly might. I'm older than many of you here. But any of you that have kids are gonna have problems figuring out what the kids are gonna do, or certainly your grandkids. We're coming to a point where we can no longer do it the way we've been doing it. The old ways are bankrupt, but we're still running full tilt.
And finally, there is the lack of meaning issue. The materialist paradigm has pretty much supplanted religion, certain in the west, as the core of our society. If something isn't scientifically approved, it doesn't have the same cachet. If God approved it, that would be different, but it's hard to get the endorsement, you know. But, what we have is, at its core, we have no meaning. That's the bottom line assumption, there is no meaning. But the yearning, the personal human yearning for meaning is still there, and we wind up filling it up with stuff. All you have to do is look at any advertisement, any media form, and they've got what you need in order to feel good. Just buy it. The only problem, of course, is it doesn't really work. And as soon as you've bought that stuff, you have to go buy some new stuff and then we have a landfill problem, and a mini-storage problem, and a closet-full problem, as well as a consumption of the planets resources problem, because there is no meaning - there's no real meaning that comes from stuff, and there's no limit in the amount of stuff we can produce short of a collapse of the biosphere. So I think that this issue really does touch fundamental ways all across the board.
That's it. Thanks.