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Ed Lantz

Hi Duane. Thank you for sharing your motivations here. So what I hear you saying is that you would like to foster a shift in human consciousness towards greater reverence, sensitivity and respect for our biosphere and, in fact, all of creation. I believe you are making the assumption that humans have greater reverence and respect for life (i.e. biological organisms), therefore if we can convince people (namely, scientists) that the entire universe is alive, then we will be forced to apply a more caring set of ethics to how we treat all things.


A few thoughts:


1) It seems to me that the “ruinous paradigm” that concerns you is also prevalent in how we treat other lifeforms as well. We exploit plants and animals insensitively just as we treat natural resources without regard for the consequences. So even if you could prove that everything is alive, I question whether that alone would bring about the shift in consciousness that you seek.


2) The ethical stance that you hope to foster in the public requires that we pay more attention to the affect of our natural resource utilization, waste products and other human activities on our bodies, our biosystems and our future generations. This does not require that we grant “living” status to all things. It requires holistic “big picture” understanding, monitoring and modeling of these subtle and dynamical systems, allowing us to explore interrelationships and “what-if” scenarios so that we can make wiser choices.  And it requires that information to be validated and disseminated widely to the general public in order to influence public policy.


3) I would assert that the ruinous paradigm that you refer to is not, in fact, the result of a materialist philosophy. A wise, sensitive and compassionate materialist will likely reach the same conclusions as you about “climate disruption, species extinction, resource depletion, ocean acidification” and more. In fact, concerned scientists are the ones leading the charge against climate change. The problem is one of ignorance and insensitivity. There are a wide range of philosophical stances that one can take – pantheism, reductionist materialism, objectivism, realism, pragmatism, etc.  Rather than attempting to convert everyone to a particular philosophical/religious path by asserting that inanimate matter is literally alive (an uphill battle that some may see as the promotion of a pantheistic worldview), I would recommend that we instead document these subtle dynamical relationships in nature and show how human can affect these relationships (for better or worse) to foster a greater sensitivity to these systems. 


4) In my mind, education is the key for fostering the shift in consciousness that we seek. Not necessarily traditional education, however. Education is so often associated with the conveyance of “cognitive” information, but that is not enough. Here we also wish to foster a sense of compassion for and a sense of interconnectedness with our environment – what some have called “deep ecology.” This is an “affective” educational goal. I have directed my work towards the development of immersive media programming including virtual reality systems and dome theaters.  There are 1200 digital domes in the world – largely in schools, museums and science centers – that are hungry for compelling content. And in another couple of years there will be millions of VR headsets in consumer’s homes. These are the most powerful media delivery systems on the planet able to immerse audiences in future scenarios, scientific visualizations and more, using the power of art, music and experiential storytelling to evoke a deep connection with and understanding of our world, including our diverse biological ecosystems and diverse social cultures. That is my contribution to this work for which we are seeking support.

Hope this helps!