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A Better Tomorrow with Dr. Andy Schmookler

George Grombacher August 4, 2023

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A Better Tomorrow with Dr. Andy Schmookler

LifeBlood: We talked about how humans and civilization can have a better tomorrow, how and why we select for traits like value selection and spirituality, moving towards good and better, and why continuing to muddle through is a losing strategy, with Dr. Andy Schmookler, author, columnist, speaker, and thought leader.      

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Dr. Andy Schmookler

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Hey, what’s up? This is George G and the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong a powerful Dr. Andy McClure, Dr. Andy, you ready to do this?

Andy Schmookler 0:09
Yeah. What do you mean by the time is right.

george grombacher 0:13
The time is right to do our show apparently.

Andy Schmookler 0:17
quarrel with that. But whether this time is right or not is an important question. Yeah.

george grombacher 0:23
That that is fair. The time is now perhaps.

Andy Schmookler 0:27
Well, that’s also indisputable,

george grombacher 0:29
correct. Exactly what

Andy Schmookler 0:33
time is is another question that is too deep for me, though. Yeah,

Speaker 3 0:37
probably we don’t have enough time to, to unpack those big ones, but not enough time, right.

george grombacher 0:44
Dr. Andy is back. He is an author, a columnist, speaker, thought leader, amongst many other things, excited to have you back on Andy, tell us a little about your personal life more about your work. And why you do what you do?

Andy Schmookler 0:58
Well, I do what I do, because I got called to it over a half century ago. It was just, it was an experience that changed the course of my life. And I think we got into the idea that came to me or was shown to me or whatever it was, last time we spoke. And I’ve it’s got to do with, let’s just say, I wouldn’t have put it this way until fairly recently. I consider it a toss up, whether in the next not that many generations, humankind, human civilization will either get its act together, or it will destroy itself. And, and I can, I can argue that, you know, we’re not going to just muddle through, you know, that muddle through thing we’ve been doing for you 1000 years. That’s not going to remain a long term strategy for humankind. And I really care which it’s going to be. And I’ve got some things to, I’ve put some things together into an understanding of, of what I’m calling a better human story. That’s, that’s the phrase that I’ve hit upon. That could help. If it’s a toss up, it could help to lead us to the outcome that we would want, rather than destroying ourselves with a nuclear holocaust or upsetting the biosphere that we depend on for our survival. So why do I do what I do? I think I’ve got some something to impart that could help preserve things I care about.

george grombacher 2:54
I appreciate that. How did you settle on better?

Andy Schmookler 3:01
Well, what? How did I settle on better? Well, when I first sold, the first big piece of what I’m calling my integrative vision, the thing that came to me in 1970, when I first wrote it up, and it got published in this book that’s visible over my shoulder here in 1984, from the University of California Press, my, my approach was sort of bad news, prophetic kind of thing. You know, we humans should be humbled by the discovery that we have not been in charge of how civilization has enveloped are not nearly as in charge, as we have assumed. But um, I came to think that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Though I don’t know how many flies I’ve caught anyway. But the implications of what I saw in 1970 that I’ve been developing, all kinds of ramifications are why is that we are better creatures than we have thought ourselves to be. What I think I prove is that any creature on any planet anywhere in the cosmos, that takes the step out of the natural order, onto the path of civilization, will inevitably, regardless of its nature, be compelled to take some of the kind of destructive and ugly course that human history has taken. I think I can prove that but you know, it takes a bit of doing but that’s actually good news. You know, the belief systems that we have, that we have, right have been brought down to us through the centuries that were put together by people who didn’t understand what in an evolutionary perspective, that unprecedented step of extricating ourselves from the niche in which we evolved biologically and, and in that by inventing our own way of life, they didn’t understand what how they got to where they were, they looked around the human world, they saw all the tyranny and the chronic war and exploitation of the many by the few. And and they said, they concluded what seemed obvious, which is, this must be who we are. And if if any creature regardless of its nature, taking that step would be swept up in the social evolutionary process that I think I prove was inevitable, then the better story is better, at least in part, in telling us that that ugliness isn’t us. It is a product of the dynamics of the system that we unwittingly unleashed. But that’s not the I think we touched upon that idea. Last time, I’ve been working on some other implications of on the evolutionary perspective, which is also a kind of better, where what I think I can prove, is that the moral dimension, which I think a lot of the secular worldview, thing says, you know, gives a short shrift. It’s merely subjective, as just a matter of opinion. That moral dimension is real, it is important, and it is life serving. And that’s kind of where I’d like to go. And also the spiritual dimension, which is also given short shrift in a lot of our secular worldview, the people who are looking at the world, not in terms of our religious traditions, but in terms of whatever it is that they are left with, and, and what we’ve developed since Darwin showed that there’s a history of a different kind than we knew, I think, I think it is better for humankind also, not to give short shrift to the moral and spiritual dimension. But to recognize that they’re both real important, and life serving. And, and I think I can demonstrate that if we’ve got the time for me to walk through the steps.

george grombacher 7:37
Let’s go.

Andy Schmookler 7:40
Well, the the evolutionary principle that this is derived from is that, for the most part, whatever has been crafted by the natural selection into a species is there because it helped those who had it to survive at a higher rate than those who didn’t have it. That’s what natural selection is. So the set of big current and the secular worldview looks at our experiential realm. And says, well, it’s merely subjective, because you know, what’s real is objective. But the thing is, an actual process of evolution was shaping the creatures that evolved, and it was instilling in them, whatever it was, that would prove to help them survive and get their DNA into the future. So among these things that we have been crafted with, I mean, you and I both have noses and eyes and you know, all the rest of the equipment. But we’re also crafted to have certain experiential tendencies is a phrase I started using in recent months. And one of them is that we have been crafted to, to divide experience into the better and the worse. The better are the things that we like, and we want to have experience and we seek them out. And the worst are the opposite. You don’t drop a rock on your foot, you know, stuff like that. And you can infer from the fact that that spectrum of better and worse is there that it helped creature our ancestors however far back you gotta go I’m we’re not. We’re not the only species that feels that way. My cats out there. She feels that way very strongly. Some things are good, and some things are not good. Yeah. And I don’t know how far down it goes, but it ain’t just us. So then it’s obvious that that spectrum of experience was put there. Because it motivates us to do certain act in certain ways that lead to survival. That’s what I mean by life serving, it feels good. And the fact that it feels good is what evolution crafted in us. So that we would do it. So because that’s what survives, and what survive is, is what we got, you know. So that value a tooth thing. Now, it may be that objectively, there’s no out there, you know, there’s nothing in this whole cosmos that experiences anything in terms of better and worse, you can say, well, there’s no such thing as value in the world. That’s what I would say, in that world. But evolution creates value as an emergent reality, because it is developing creatures for whom things do matter. fulfillment is better than misery is just is, and value then exists in the world. And it is life serving, because that’s the whole purpose is part of the strategy for survival. So it would be another line of discussion to say that once you’ve established the reality of value, you can derive from it that there is something real and important, that has to do with a moral dimension of the shoulds of what we want to do that, that certain outcomes are better than others that we we want to we want a world in which life is thriving, and not when one in which it was being destroyed, or being degraded or suffering, there is a better and a worse in the experiential realm, not to be that realm not to be dismissed as merely subjective, because the experience itself was a representation of the world in which we had to survive. Mathematically, you can sort of derive it, this is what you got to do. These are the motivations you got to have. And this is how we bring value in to achieve that. That’s what life managed to do. shall go on to the spiritual dimension. And yeah,

george grombacher 12:13
yeah, they’re good. That makes sense to me.

Andy Schmookler 12:16
It does make you could follow that, yes. Because I, I really, I really don’t know how easy it is. Some of that stuff. I know I’ve written on my website, you know, anybody who wants to go deep into it, but anyway, I’m glad. So the spiritual dimension is pretty recent. For me, the value part actually makes an early appearance back in the early version of that book, it sort of sneaks in the corner, but but the spiritual part, I only recently thought through the logical steps. First of all, the observation, the factual thing that a large portion of humankind has experiences of a special kind that they regard as special, that they’re especially deep and impactful and meaningful. And they come back maybe with spiritual truths, or, and maybe the course of their lives will be the impacted by and societies seem to, to seize upon some of this kind of experience, and put that at the core of the culture. So that’s it, a part of our nature, I don’t know, if it’s one of those things, you know, everybody’s got it. But I think the evidence is at least a third of the people report experiences that I think qualify for being in that category. So if it’s in our nature, that again, means it got selected for I don’t know, if we humans are the only ones who have transformative spiritual experiences. We do. Maybe elephants do, I don’t know. But it’s not as widespread I don’t think is as value. And I could go down a little road if you wanted to about why, because we’re cultural animals, we had greater need of it. I kind of liked that idea, too. But I’ll skip that for now. Unless you tell me to go back. So if it’s part of human nature, and if it was selected for that means that the people or they maybe weren’t even people at that point, but there are the ancestors who had that experiential capacity to have such experiences, that they tended to survive more than those that didn’t, or maybe just not individuals only, but like hunting gathering bands, those who had the kind of people who could have functioned as shamans or wizards or some of these people who played roles in connecting in their society with some realm or other that however they interpreted it. So, if it helped people survive to survive, that, again makes it real. It makes it important. It makes it life serving. And it has the further implication that whatever it was that they were getting from whatever source they were getting it I’m in this realm of some mystery to me. But I have had such experiences, trying to interpret where they’re coming from, but anyway, that if it helped people, sir, to survive, I think we can infer that it is the nature of spiritual experience, or at least the tendency to be imparting something which is provides good guidance. It tells me it has an impact on people, they take a different path. And that path turns out to lead to life rather than death. So on balance, I don’t know if there are, you know, disruptive revelations, I do know that there are but I, I attribute them to the destructiveness we were talking about before. But anyway, then I’m balanced, when people have spiritual experiences, and I don’t have any study to support this, but that what they’re getting actually makes their lives better. It makes the survival of the genome better, and it makes a better world. And, you know, I think these days, I’m working a lot with the messages that the angels are said to have put into the written into the heavens, when Jesus was born, I’m not a Christian, but I, I pay attention to where wisdom is to be found. And the angels say peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. And that message is, I think that it is a message which is derived from people having these deep spiritual experiences, whatever the history may be going back however far and and accumulating through generations and cultures and such, but peace on earth and goodwill toward men. That is, that is a place where, you know, that is what we should be guided by. If we If human civilization is going to survive and not self destruct. Those two ideas, and they go together. They’re not the only ideas out there, but they illustrate the point. If we could have goodwill, right now, for example, I’m writing a political piece. I do a lot of work and about America’s players in crisis, not talking about that. But I’m saying well, we should have a no conflict pact between the two political parties. Right now. The American people should insist that every everything they do be consistent with the basic spiritual teachings of our civilization, peace on earth, goodwill toward men, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And even striving toward the kind of impossible love thy neighbor as thyself. Which is asking a lot, but people do. People do move along that spectrum. And as in every time they do, it makes things better. So this spiritual dimension, and the moral dimension are two places from which we actually have access to the good. We have guidance for the good. Now, a lot of my work starting with that other thing about the ugliness and we see in human history doesn’t isn’t a clear window onto human nature. I’ve been very involved in in evil. I didn’t always call it that. I don’t insist on calling it that. But let’s just say that that original idea was about a destructive force. And I’ve continued to see how that works through history and it is just mind blowing. Seeing some of this stuff, but I’ve been pretty focused on on evil because I really don’t like it. I want to I want to get rid of it. destructive forces that are at work in our world. I want the world of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. So now I’m trying to say that if we’re going to win this battle between good and evil, and I, I try to show that that actually describes, and it so parallels what our civilization has understood before is the battle between good and evil, that it’s worth calling that though people don’t like it. And I for 20 years, I’ve got experience about people don’t like those words. But it acts that way. So the battle between good and evil is something that just emerges and can be seen through the evolutionary perspective. One dynamic explains how a destructive force arose in the human world, because of the plugins we made into anarchy, when we took the step on the civilization, but now I’m also wanting to stress you in terms of better will get a better outcome. If we give full respect to the moral and spiritual dimensions, that at least a major current of our secular worldview give short shrift to, that we need to fortify the good in order to defeat the evil. And so you ask, Why do I do this, because I feel like I understand the battlefield. I think I understand the battle. I think I know what the stakes are. And I think I know how these two forces that are contending are to determine the fate of humankind how they arose. I see what the rise of evil in the evolutionary perspective of, of what it means to plunge into disorder. And I see the emergence of good in terms of the evolutionary perspective that says to us, what’s been crafted in us is evidence of what’s been life serving.

And we should honor and pay attention to those dimensions, in order to fortify ourselves so that 200 years from now, human civilization will be thriving, flourishing on this planet, living in harmony with this planet, versus the equally probable possible outcome that we would have incinerated ourselves in a nuclear holocaust, or brought the whole climate system down on our heads in a catastrophic way. So that’s me,

george grombacher 22:41
I love it. And it makes a lot of sense to me that we have over the course of our existence on earth, selected for these things we’ve selected for value selection, we’ve selected for embracing the spiritual dimension, because these are things that we’ve discovered to be life serving, life promoting, and getting back to bracing and understanding will help us individually thrive and flourish. And then by nature of that collectively thrive and flourish.

Andy Schmookler 23:18
On I’m glad that it resonates with you, let me also say if people would want to know if if the goods are delivered that I’m acting as if you know, I’ve got some you know, you can you can easily say wow, this guy is too full of himself. I just invite people to go to a better human and people can see whether the weather the goods got delivered, I had been working sort of, I don’t know the ever since that day in 1970. I’ve been driving kind of almost obsessively to see the big picture and, and the people it is integrated. It’s not just a bunch of pieces. I’ve been working to create an integrative vision of what’s happened. And if people would like to have something like that, if it were actually available and not somebody’s you know, grandiose fantasy. It’s available to be checked out. And let me also say that at 77, which is what I am strange as that sounds. I I feel that it could be beneficial to get this out. I’ve been working at it pretty hard. I haven’t failed utterly, but I’ve mostly not done what I felt the mission was to do. And I’m just willing Do whatever I can at this point, you know, like, like some NFL team is behind by 14 points in the fourth quarter, you know goes through it’s time to concerting drills, sideline passes. And anyway, I’m doing what I can. And I would love for people, if they care about whether such a thing actually it’s there and available, check it out and find out.

george grombacher 25:27
I love it. If you enjoyed as much as I did show your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to a better human And check out everything that AMD has been working on over the past, however many 77 years roughly speaking, Andy,

Andy Schmookler 25:48
the moment of calling was in August of 1970.

george grombacher 25:52
So how many years is that? 5033 next month, 53 years? Check it out for yourself. certainly resonates with me and makes sense to me. And the whole idea with what we’re doing here is to help people get better so they can live how they want. And, you know, we’ll end the show here by saying Do your part by doing your best and sounds like that’s exactly what you’ve been doing.

Andy Schmookler 26:16
Doing better. Recognizing that we are better creatures than our history makes us look and better creatures than we have been taught to believe ourselves. We know the ideas like Original Sin and human depravity and stuff like that. It is better to think of our species as much better intrinsically by nature, but damaged and wounded by history, then to think of ourselves as fundamentally defective creatures, like runs through our history, the history of our civilization.

george grombacher 26:54
Well said. Well, thank you again, Andy.

Andy Schmookler 26:58
My pleasure. Thanks, George.

george grombacher 27:00
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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