What I'm Reading (Nov. 11)

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Finding patience, Gaia?, and moral molecules – building blocks of morality.

I must admit, patience has not been a consistent virtue for me. I find I subscribe to the belief that I need patience…. Right away!. In any event, I ran across this

“In Oliver Burkeman’s excellent latest book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, he outlines 3 principles for “harnessing the power of patience as a creative force in daily life.”

Austin Kleon summarizes the three principles here, in his short, The principles of patience


“That story begins back in 1965, when the British chemist James Lovelock was observing the planet Mars at a NASA site in California and trying to determine whether there was evidence of life on that planet. Comparing the red planet to his own in such a sustained way primed Lovelock to “look on the earth as an organism, or if not an organism, as a self-regulating system”(5). Lovelock and his colleague Lynn Margulis turned to pagan antiquity for a metaphor to make this point. They learned that the ancient Greeks referred to Gaia as the “great communal being” made of “all creatures on the earth, animals and plants, including man.” So they decided to name this self-regulating organism “Gaia.”

In this short essay, an attempt is made to correct a metaphor. To replace the role served by Gaia with that of Mary and Wisdom. It is an informative consideration of how science and religion are more aligned than we might typically believe. It also points out that Gaia was a vengeful goddess; Mary was neither vindictive nor a goddess. From the Hedgehog Review, The Wisdom Hypothesis

OK, let me first admit that I fell for the clickbait. What curious person can resist, ‘Moral molecules’ – a new theory of what goodness is made of? I certainly couldn’t. It is about morals. It reminds me of the two thoughts I remember about the ten commandments. First, they are commandments, not suggestions. Second, the tale of how Moses tried to reduce the number, returning to tell the people, “First the good news, I got him down to 10. And the bad, infidelity is still in.” The article looks at what we believe globally to be moral and finds seven underlying “principles” of cooperation – something evolutionarily valuable for a social species.

“This theory of ‘morality as cooperation’ relies on the mathematical analysis of cooperation provided by game theory – the branch of maths that is used to describe situations in which the outcome of one’s decisions depends on the decisions made by others. Game theory distinguishes between competitive ‘zero-sum’ interactions or ‘games,’ where one player’s gain is another’s loss, and cooperative ‘nonzero-sum’ games, win-win situations in which both players benefit. What’s more, game theory tells us that there is not just one type of non-zero-sum game; there are many, with many different cooperative strategies for playing them. At least seven different types of cooperation have been identified so far, and each one explains a different type of morality.

From Psyche, ‘Moral molecules’ – a new theory of what goodness is made of.