we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

Two Buddhas, Part-1

The first section of Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice begins.

PART I —Trouble with GAIA

Gaia … 1 (also Gaea …) Gk Myth the Earth personified as a goddess, daughter of Chaos. She was born the mother and wife of Uranus (Heaven); their offspring included the Titans and the Cyclops. 2 the earth viewed as a vast self-regulating organism (Gaia hypothesis; Gaia theory). —Canadian Oxford Dictionary

Pan, like other gods who dwelt in forests, was dreaded by those whose occupations caused them to pass through the woods by night, for the gloom and loneliness of such scenes disposed the mind to superstitious fears. Hence, sudden fright without any visible cause was ascribed to Pan and called a Panic terror. As the name of the god signifies all, Pan came to be considered a symbol of the universe and personification of Nature … —Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable

A short selection from Essay One in Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice.

Philosophy is the unusually persistent effort to think things through. —William James [1]

I have no reason to believe that the human intellect is able to weave a system of physics out of its own resources without experimental labour. Whenever the attempt has been made it has resulted in an unnatural and self-contradictory mass of rubbish. —James Clerk Maxwell [2]

Once you have found your posture, breathe in and out deeply, sway left and right, and then settle firmly and steadily. Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Be Before Thinking. —Eihei Dogen Zenji [3]

Here is our situation. One voice tells us that, despite a well-intentioned consensus that living systems cannot be fully appreciated until we commune with their wholeness, we nevertheless can’t properly understand technology’s relationship to them without that numerical study of discrete populations which is the science of ecology. For that matter, we didn’t even recognize the creative potential of Nature until Darwin provided us with the evolutionary rationale that divides the natural selection process into phylogeny and ontogeny.

But then another voice, or rather a wordless presence, affirms that despite any ‘realistic’ truth telling us we can only take responsibility for our actions by calculating all their possible outcomes, nevertheless such ethical calculations must inevitably falter, along with all statistical notions of causes and consequences, on the finest scale of analysis. What parameters can we use to map out the future when the sample size is just ‘this moment’, or in the case of Maxwell’s Demon, ‘this molecule’? (see: https://www.extremophilechoice.com/2022/05/10/two-buddhas-part-4-the-big-picture/)

We may stand above other creatures, but perhaps we will need a lesson from them after all, to show us a less calculating responsibility, as we witness, in their totality, the slow resolution of species through an open process of ‘sacrificial’ engagement. For, on various scales, is ‘natural selection’, by trial and elimination of ideas, not the basis even for human creativity? And if all truly creative agency ultimately turns out to be Darwinian, or ‘phylogenic’, where does this leave ‘me’ the inventor?

And so finally, consequently, and despite the utility of Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis [4] as a banner for environmentalism, we find that super-organism becomes instead, corporate ‘intelligence’, as we let go of Nature’s substantiality along with our own for only when they’re seen as a natural flourishing within Dogen’s posture of presence are James’ thinking, and Maxwell’s labours, properly guided.


1. Buck, Wayne. Jan./Feb. 2009. Welcome to my Philosophy Class. Philosophy Now, Issue 71.

2. Mahon, Basil. 2003. The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. (Paperback edition, 2004.) P70

3. Dogen zenji, Eihei. 1986. Fukanzazengi: How Everyone Can Sit. [1227] In Yasuda Joshu roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi, trans., Progress Into the Ordinary. Ottawa, Wolfville Nova Scotia, Harrow Middlesex: Great Matter Publications. P2.

4. Lovelock, James. 2000 [1979]. Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. London: Oxford University Press.

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