Map #45: Are We Stuck Or Liberated?


What does it take to bring into the world a new worldview, a new paradigm, a new culture of belief and behavior?

What have your attempts and experiences been?

Are you stuck, or liberated? What will it take to create a culture of the latter?


" The journey to a new worldview demands so much more than reading the right book, or mastering what others have learned, or adopting best practice. It is a conversion . How do conversions happen?"

How do conversions happen? This can be a fruitful question. One might start with the arch-type story: the conversion of St Paul on the way to Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus. Somehow, on the way he is overwhelmed by the realization of a wider truth, which explains his former beiefs and allegiance, but also opens up a wider perspective. Paul meets with a lot of disdain these days, but his insight and new message was radical in the harsh tribal world of the Roman Empire: “Though I speak with the tongue of angels, but have not love, I am nothing”

I have been told by a former student of Tuzo Wilson, one of the key players in the geological paradigm shift to plate tectonics, that Tuzo went to Hawaii as a sceptic and came back converted. Somehow what he saw and discussed there, added to all the other stories that he had heard, caused him to accept this new view of the world - truly a paradigm shift that quickly led to many other puzzles being resolved at last.

conversions can be very scary if they appear to lead to a need to change deeply held beliefs. Millions of people in the USA and elsewhere desperately hold to a belief in a 6000 year world history and a Genesis Flood to explain it all. They beieive, and perhaps righly, that if they give up on biblical inerrancy then everything they hold dear will crumble. But in that process they have become accustomed to pushim away any evidence and opinions that are uncomfortable, and resorting to conspiracy stories instead.


Depends how we view where we are- see Chinese symbol which can be seen as challenge and opportunity, or danger and destruction.
Multi pronged approach requiring seed sewing to do with love and trust, reframing, intentional change which is to do with collective, interconnected ‘we’ thinking rather than the ‘me, me’ culture- amongst others methods to liberation


Thank you so much for your recent article” Are we stuck or liberated”. I was particularly struck by your analysis of paradigm shift—why it occurs and what needs to be in place for it to be effective. You ponder the difficulty of translating modern quantum physics and relativity into understandable issues for the general public and point out the disagreements that Einstein Schrodinger and Heisenberg had. Have you come across the recent book by Lee Smolin from the Perimeter Institute at Waterloo entitled” Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution “—The Search for why lies beyond the Quantum?. He deals very effectively with the conflict between what he calls, the “anti-realists “ led by Bohr and the “realists” such as Einstein

On another issue you mention “Climate Change” I must say that as a physical chemist I get irritated by by the simplistic analysis that all we need to do to control climate is to control the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Although there is no doubt that carbon dioxide has a greenhouse effect it is by no means the only factor affecting climate change. One has only to look at past history to realize that we have been always subject to climate change. From the ice age to the warmth of the Middle Ages, followed by the “Little ice age” from about 1575 to 1800 climate has always been changing. A very interesting book by Philipp Blom “Nature’s Mutiny” details how the little ice age of the seventeenth century transformed the West and shaped the present. Drastic changes in weather patterns”decimated entire harvests across Europe”.

Even Shakespeare got into the act.In Midsummer Night’s Dream Titania blames the quarrel between herself and Oberon as completely upsetting the seasons. Shakespeare’s audiences would have resonated with Titania’s observation in Act 2 scene1

And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

Climate change in the broadest sense has been with us late and soon!


Thank you very much. A quote from Midsummer Night’s Dream and a book recommendation in the same post. Delightful (I have ordered the book).


I guess I feel both stuck and liberated. Both and, not either/or. There are plenty of things that I am motivated to do, for many different reasons, whilst at the same time at moments, sometimes for long moments, it all feels a bit pointless and I feel exhausted by the intangibility, remoteness and difficultly of it all. More than anything else, I feel the stuckness in oppositional thought - the blame game if you like - and I find this at all points on the spectrum of opinion. In a way though, that very thing heartens me, as I realise that it is genuinely hard and we are all easily caught (I know I am, all the time) in the traps of existing thinking, and yet, so many different and wonderful, kind, beautiful people are out there trying so many different things. So. It’s complicated…


Thanks. There is another book on the same topic but from the perspective of Europeans settling NortH America. It is entitled “A Cold Welcome : The little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America”. It is by Sam White and is published by Harvard University Press. It details the many travails suffered by immigrants due to adverse weather conditions. The book is very well documented…


Hi Chris,

I’d love to talk about meteorites, but that is not your main point. Consider, though, how strange it is that a chunk of nickel-iron alloy was floating around in space. I might discuss this in a future e-mail. It is indeed a rare and precious thing that you have, and I envy you for having it.

But I’m headed out tomorrow for bird and wildlife watching in Alaska and Siberia (Kamchatka), so I don’t have a lot of time for e-mail right now. My e-mail access will be spotty until I come home in August.

I would argue that your questions about paradigm shifts must be addressed in terms of quantitative information theory—how much information do we have, how much can we have, how much do we want to have? Trying to understand paradigm shifts without understanding information theory is like trying to understand coal and oil industries without understanding the physics of energy—you would be missing the essential underlying theory.

I’ve written a book on this subject:

Robertson, D.S., Phase Change: The Computer Revolution in Science and Mathematics , Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2003; ISBN-10: 0195157486; ISBN-13: 978-0195157482.

Briefly, there are two distinct types of revolution that are important here, the revolutions that Kuhn called paradigm shifts, and the revolutions that I called phase changes.

You can divide all intellectual effort into two parts, the collection of information and the analysis of information (in the hard sciences the first part is observation and experiment, and the second part is theory). Phase changes are relevant to the first part, revolutions in observational and experimental capabilities, and paradigm shifts are changes in theoretical concepts and ideas. Some familiar examples of phase changes in the past are those that were driven by the invention of the telescope in astronomy, the microscope in biology, the seismograph in Earth sciences and the particle accelerator in physics. One of the points of my book is that phase changes are the fundamental forces that drive paradigm shifts because after a phase change, a major shift in observational/experimental capabilities, we are able to see things that could not be seen before (think of the telescope or microscope), and those novel things that can now be seen because of the phase change often do not fit earlier paradigms and therefore force the development of new paradigms.

In Kuhn’s work paradigm shifts seem to come out of nowhere because he did not see the relation between a paradigm shift and the preceding phase change, the fundamental change in our ability to see things.

And the main point of my book is that modern computer technology is driving the largest phase changes in the history of science. We can therefore expect more and bigger paradigm shifts than have ever been seen before. For example, in 1995 physicists discovered that the universe has eleven dimensions, not three of four. This could be the largest paradigm shift since Copernicus. My book has fun exploring these and other paradigm shifts, and tracing them back to their underlying phase changes in observational/experimental capabilities.

I would take issue with your statements “The scientific experience with paradigm shifts suggests that they might happen automatically, more or less, without much deliberate doing on our part. The accumulation of evidence in favor of a Copernican model eventually forced everyone’s view of the Universe to flip.” In fact, Kepler destroyed the Earth-fixed solar system models with a single and oddly overlooked discovery (This might be the reason that Kepler had to murder Tycho Brahe.): Since Babylonian times astronomers had tried to fit the motions of planets into separate planes, and in fact the sun and the moon (both considered to be planets at the time) do indeed move in planes, and the Babylonians even realized the plane of the moon’s orbit precesses with an 18-year period. But after millennia of effort, no one had managed to find a set of planes that fit any of the other planet’s orbits. In a flash of insight, Kepler realized that all of these earlier efforts had assumed that the Earth had to be included in the plane of the other planet’s orbit, which happens to be true only for the Sun and Moon. But Kepler saw that in a heliocentric system it would be more reasonable to fit planes that included the sun instead of the Earth. At one stroke he found the planes that had eluded everyone else for millennia, and really dealt a death-blow to earth-centered solar system models. The fact that all of the other planet’s orbital planes included the sun and not the Earth was essentially impossible to square with an Earth-fixed system.

I would also take issue with your statement that “the [Newtonian] Laws of Motion became a part of what we now consider to be common knowledge. Everyone understands the billiard-ball universe. . . [while] the new theories can only be understood mathematically .” Newtonian theory is every bit as mathematical as quantum theory, and I very much doubt that everyone could calculate the Newtonian trajectory of a baseball. The problem is not mathematics, it is that modern physics is farther removed from everyday experience, so much so that I doubt that anyone would pay the slightest attention to it were it not for the atomic bomb. And most people do not realize that something like half of modern industry and commerce depends entirely on quantum mechanics. The entire computer industry is based on transistors, which would not work if electrons behaved like billiard balls. Without quantum mechanics we might still be building Babbage-style mechanical computers, which can do anything that modern computers can do, but billions of times slower and similar factors more expensively.

And finally, I would suggest that the dichotomy on your first page, between the two ways we can view the big challenges of our time, is not a dichotomy at all. Both points could be true, just not for everyone at the same time. The individuals who are liberated from past patterns and compromises are generally a small minority.

I’d love to keep arguing here, but I have to pack my duffel now. And I’d like to talk more about meteorites after I return in August—they’re among the most fascinating things in astronomy. Your little chunk of nickel-iron is also rich in gold, platinum and other precious metals.



You said something very interesting, that we have discovered in the last few decades that we are not passengers on this ship, that we all need to learn how to pilot. You didn’t explain how that came about. I would like to know more about the reasoning that led to that statement.

I agree that we need to be pilots. I am not convinced that the prevalent consciousness has shifted to that, however. The Baha’i Faith, the newest of all the world religions, has manifested without a class of clergy or “learned” as they are referred to in Islam ('ulama). This is because the new age is to be directed by the human capacity of consultation, an indication that we have attained maturity. However, the notion of a congregation following the wise counsel of an enlightened leader seems not to have left us. We are still looking for the “one” with the answers. Our political systems keep us reeling from one leadership to the next, yoyoing from one paradigm to the next, one approach to the next whilst all of our earth systems are shutting down. The more courageous politicians try to start up movements that engage all the population. But the prevailing political system seems to constantly usurp such values. The Baha’i system offers a political paradigm which is flat and brings all voices to the table. Electioneering is prohibited.

Consultation requires all voices be brought to the table. The challenge today is to bring the voices that have been shut out to the table. I received yesterday a curriculum design for early years created entirely by women, many of whom are of indigenous descent. The purpose is to bring the indigenous world view into the early years classroom. It includes the teaching of the four races (black, red, white and yellow) from the four directions. All are included in the circle.

Our challenge today is to embrace the paradigm shift of oneness in a diversity of voices. These voices today are clashing, interests are fighting. However, if greed is set aside, and all the trappings of corruption which follow it, our interests coincide more than they differ. We have one home; the earth our Mother. When we are connected to her, we are united.The indigenous teachings were subject to deliberate banishment. Yet, despite the pogroms for their elimination, they are still here. These voices, when brought to the table, will inform the new paradigm, not with something very new, but something as old as the meteorite in your hand.