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How can the one influence the many? From posing seminal questions about what comprises a human individual, to asking whether human evolution is alive and well, favoring individuals or the species, this work is a daring, up-to-the-minute overview of an urgent, multidisciplinary premise. It explores the extent to which human history provides empirical evidence for the capacity of an individual to exert meaningful suasion over their species, and asks: Can an individual influence the survival of the human species and the planet? If there are to be cultures of transformation dedicated to seeing us all through the Sixth Extinction Spasm, the Anthropocene, inflicting as little biological havoc as possible, what might such orientations—a collective, widespread biophilia, or reverence for nature—look like? In this powerful work, with a combination of data and direct observation, the authors invite readers to explore how such transformations might resonate throughout the human community; in what ways a person might overcome the seemingly insurmountable environmental tumult our species has unleashed; the clear and salient motives, ethics, aspirations and pragmatic idealism he/she might mirror and embrace in order to effect a profound difference—at the individual level—for all of life and life’s myriad habitats. Chapters illuminate an ambitiously broad digest of research from two-dozen disciplines. Those include ecodynamics, biosemiotics, neural plasticity, anthropology, paleontology and the history of science, among others. All converge upon a set of ethics-based scenarios for mitigating ecological damage to ourselves and other life forms. This highly readable and tightly woven treatise speaks to scientists, students and all those who are concerned about ethical activism and the future of the biosphere.

Michael Charles Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison are ecological philosophers and animal liberation activists who have worked for decades to help enrich our understanding of ecosystem dynamics and humanity’s ambiguous presence amid that great orchestra that is nature.



Chapter 1. What Does Humanity Mean?

In acknowledging humanity’s persistent betrayal of its better instincts, what kind of baseline might we establish to better gauge our species’ future potential? We are particularly concerned with that potential as it relates to other species, to what we term the Others (that living constellation of biodiversity at the core of biophilia). We examine certain philosophical questions, particularly those situated in the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others, to fashion a framework in which to explore natural history and human psychology as it applies to our relationship to other species and to the prospects of formulating a theory of biospheric coherence to which humanity is an aid, not an interloper.
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 2. The Lost Tribes of Tamaulipas

Within the past 10 years, archaeological discoveries in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas have opened up a vast philosophical and zoological quest to understand what happened 4000–5000 years ago across northern Mexico and how several tribes, heretofore unknown to history, came upon the scene and then vanished with no apparent intermixing with any groups outside their own. Their artistic legacy invites deep perplexity mirroring the condition of all human existence and the biological sciences which seek to define that existence within the confines of evolutionary theories.
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 3. Edward Curtis’ Vision of Transcendence

We have thus far fronted the query, can one individual affect the many? It is a pre-Socratic conundrum that has, suffice it to say, been taken up as crucial to every avenue of human experience. In the case of one individual in particular, Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868–1952), there is no question that he made a tremendous spiritual difference borne of clarity, truth, and integrity and continues to do so through his legacy of art, exploration, and the co-creative impulse to revere diverse biocultural heritage throughout much of his home that is North America. In Curtis we have a window on the emblematic individualism indebted to communities that may well be one of the keys to survival.
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 4. A Genetic Cul de Sac

There are well over 705 species and subspecies of primates known throughout the world (an increase of nearly 15% during the second decade of the twenty-first century). But 99% of those taxa cannot successfully – or want to engage in – reproductive activities with each other. Mammals in general are confined, sexually speaking. And this leads to the obvious question: Do humans have options outside conventional evolution that might guarantee their future? This theme dominates not only this chapter but the rest of this treatise. It is an overwhelmingly critical line of thought given that humanity’s destructive predilections – leading to a vastly premature obituary if recent trends continue – have shown zero latitude for viable genetic alternatives, unlike, for example, coyotes, one of the most successful quadrupeds in biological history. But there is an ongoing debate about the extent of our self-destructive impulses, one that leads directly into theoretical speculation.
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 5. The Individual Versus the Collective

From coral reefs to the Nazis, there remains a persistent scientific disconnect between the individual and the species which is at once a humanistic, psychiatric, and scientific dilemma, with no clear resolution in sight. Indeed, from the existential perspective, our humanity may well depend upon our ability and persistence to live despite this irresolution.
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 6. The Separation of Mind from Species

As we come closer to intimate Being, we gaze across evolutionary boundaries and open water, verging toward independence and also a certain terror that is mortality amid a species – like all species – doomed to extinction, toward a form of selfhood that conflates into ego or adjusts in due course to the multiplicities of the biological world without hesitation. In spite of our love of nature, there remains the irresistible charge toward a signature and the crossing of a critical mind boundary: from Everyman to the Self. There is evidence to suggest that only by renouncing this reflex may we hope to see some future for biodiversity. But who takes that first step if not the individual?
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 7. Ecological Existentialism

The broad humanistic span from the arts to the sciences affords little comfort in an age of conservation biology where, in spite of the best intentions, humanity finds itself lured by engineering chimeras. The outgrowth of millennia of farming methods targeting tastier breeds has resulted in a new age of hybridization of animals and plants that has, for decades and centuries (actually going well back before the Near Easter Neolithic, circa 6000 BCE), invaded the very genomes of life. With the patenting of organisms and the mechanization of Being in the form of assembly lines of death, our devaluation of individualism is nothing less than an existential crisis in which scientific investment grows more conspiratorial by the day. Poets and legislators have grasped this crisis. But can science find its way clear to reinvigorate the true worth of an individual?
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 8. Choices

Ultimately, the questions posed by those of us seeking to better grasp the potential of individualism against the vast realities of human communities gone awry hinge upon the moral compass we feel in the presence of so many other interdependent species. Our love and celebration of the Others is all that can be predicted about our behavioral latitude should and when we choose that day to enter into a communion with individuals of other species and with those within our own.
This basic tenet of collaboration in the biosphere is the single most pressing reality of the twenty-first century. The words fly off the page and sound glib but, in fact, are nothing less than the modern guide for the perplexed. Perplexity which, as with the twelfthcentury Moses Maimonides, invokes choices, both in the brain – where there has been considerable research into the matter, notwithstanding the fact the word “brain” is not once used in the Old Testament – and also the heart, where research necessarily translates into action, because that’s its only behavioral truth, a muscle sustaining a life, but also, we presume some kind of ethic. Interestingly, the history of science has provided not one single window on corollaries linking the heart with human emotion, altruism, or the conscience. Ancient Egyptian heart scarabs –implements assisting the soul’s immortal afterlife – were also placed upon the chest or throat of a corpse. We don’t truly know of what we speak with regard to the heart, in terms of perceiving, thinking about, or remembering an individual, except to say that every living organism somehow affects choices that matter to themselves. We tend toward a dramatic insistence on a dialectical view of the individual in terms of his/her heart and brain (and/or mind), two illimitable sources of identity by dint of specific behavioral associations (the right and left brain, but no right and left heart) that result in critical choices (as well as the two primary locations for every death, the brain and the heart). We are referring to all those choices made every day of a person’s life. Cultures doesn’t make choices. Rather, they affect the cumulative will of personages, which is why the private lives of individuals are extraordinarily difficult to exhume from cultural histories.
Viewed ecologically, these same ultimate choices exerted with a time-sensitive traction –statistically or in some dimension as yet ungrasped, beyond the 10, 11, even 26 presently deciphered dimensions – may well offer the best guarantee we have of survival, for however long.
Michael Charles Tobias, Jane Gray Morrison
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