I am not a “progressive”(by realpc)

August 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm (By Realpc) ()

I am not a “progressive” even though I grew up in a blue state, in a blue family. I am not a “conservative” either, and my philosophy is mostly based on systems theory — which includes the idea that evolving natural systems depend on a precarious balance of conservative and progressive forces.

I observed a scene last winter that I thought might help me express some of these ideas without a lot of long-windedness. The following is my very short description of that scene, and I hope it will be obvious what I meant to express.

Please tell me what you think!


Why the Lake is Always Beautiful

There is a pretty lake near where I live, a peaceful home to varied water birds. Depending on the season there may be seagulls, ducks, Canada geese, egrets, herons, etc. But there are always, any time of year, two adult swans, with or without their latest brood. I imagine it has been the same couple since I lived here, about seven years. The male is somewhat larger than the female, and one winter day I saw him breaking ice for her. He raised his body up out of the water and slammed it down repeatedly to crash the thin ice. His graceful lady floated ceremoniously behind, through the jagged curving pathway.

Recently I walked past the lake and, as usual, glanced over to acknowledge its calm beauty. But something was obviously wrong this time — there were three adult swans instead of two. The resident couple raised themselves several feet above the water and flustered their wings loudly at a third. The intruder was relatively small, probably young, possibly a grown child of the couple — but I am only guessing. He, or she, refused to be frightened off, but settled back down on the water’s glittering cold surface and paddled slowly to the north, away from the road.

The resident couple swam slowly and sternly after him/her, their wings arched and hollowed in a menacing pose. From the front, they would appear larger than normal, but I saw them from behind, where the deception was obvious. I would have stayed for the outcome of this drama, but I had to be somewhere. So I walked away as the three swans continued their grim procession northward.

Three hours later I returned to see that peace had been restored, and only the resident swan couple remained. Far out in the middle of the lake something white floated just below the surface, something about the size of a swan. I can’t say it definitely was, but it definitely seemed to be, the dead body of the intruder. I can’t imagine what else it might have been.

Some humans might be angered, might consider this murder. They might wish to set up laws and regulations. They might lament other species’ inferior sense of ethics and compassion, and try to round them all up into human-controlled environments. But I do not agree. Nature’s laws could not be made more perfect.


  1. realpc920 said,

    Oh, this is realpc.

  2. Randy said,

    There’s a list of authors under “categories” on the right side of the edit window. Click on your name (and unclick “uncategorized”) and “by realpc” will appear. ;-)

  3. realpc920 said,

    I don’t understand. Click on my name where? (I am really bad at figuring out interfaces).

  4. Randy said,

    I just did it for you, but here’s what to look for:

    On the right side of the New Post (or Edit) screen are some boxes entitled:

    Post Tags

    The “Categories” box has its own slider. All of our authors are listed there. Yours is one of those names. If necessary, use your mouse on it to see the names listed below the window. In the future, click on your name when writing a post and it will be published as “by Realpc.”

    (Does this help?)

  5. realpc920 said,

    Yes, I think so. Thanks.

  6. Donna B. said,

    Human nature differs drastically from swan nature, though both try to protect what they perceive as theirs. But my main question is where do the offspring of this couple go to live? Is there another lake nearby?

  7. realpc920 said,

    Donna B.,

    All I know is, the swan couple has offspring every year but none of them stay. So they have to find another lake that has enough room and if not, of course they die. That’s how nature controls population and keeps things looking nice and working well. You don’t see swans living in slums on welfare — but you would if swans had a progressive ideology.

    I would never say I think human beings should behave like these swans, and kill their children if they refuse to find their own homes! My point is that some of the consequences of our humanitarianism and compassion are not very beautiful.

    I am saying that nature’s laws are all for a reason, and when you break them you pay a price. Of course, it’s human nature to be unnatural, so we can’t help it. We want to prevent suffering.

    But every time we prevent one group from suffering we make it worse for some other group. That’s what progressives do not get, but many conservatives do.

  8. Donna B. said,

    I agree that preventing one group from suffering often causes suffering for another. I also contend that relieving a group of one kind of suffering may well bring on another.

    We disagree that nature’s laws are all for a reason, unless randomness and chaos are to be considered a reason.

    Also, don’t think that parents whose children refuse to leave home or return don’t think about such actions that swans took. It wouldn’t surprise me learn that somewhere along our social evolution path it was a norm. Especially a norm for males. Females, perhaps not so much.

  9. realpc said,

    “We disagree that nature’s laws are all for a reason, unless randomness and chaos are to be considered a reason.”

    We humans are not really qualified to judge nature, or god. I definitely believe it’s all for a reason, and that nothing is wasted or meaningless. There is randomness and chaos in nature, but I agree with Systems Theory — that chaos is the source of new information. Chaos and randomness are not chaotic or random, they are necessary for creative progress.

    We can see the chaos vs order, creativity vs tradition, etc., dichotomies throughout all aspects of life. They are just poles on a spectrum, with everything that exists lying somewhere in between.

    I wish more people were familiar with Systems Theory (which is related to Chaos Theory, and other similar ideas). Maybe they would see that progressive and conservative forces must be balanced. We should not be asking which is better, conservatism or progressivism, we should be looking for ways to balance them.

  10. Donna B. said,


    1. Is the Wikipedia article on systems theory reasonably accurate?

    2. Would it be reasonable to substitute individualism and collectivism for conservatism or progressivism?


    I cannot see that there is a reason for everything, though I very much like the comfort that idea can sometimes bring. The other side of that coin is that it just as often brings discomfort. It is far too close to “It’s God’s will” for me to be comfortable with it.

    To fully realize the idea that there must be a reason for everything and anything, one has to accept either predestination or determinism of some variety. It is far more sensible to accept the notion of the Drunkard’s Walk than to accept that some are born to suffer and others are born to rule.

    We do agree that humans are not qualified to judge nature. The difference perhaps is that I feel no need to judge it, but rather the need to understand it. The reason I asked the question about where the swans’ offspring went to was purely pragmatic as I did not think they systematically killed all their offspring.

    There are certainly patterns to be discerned in nature and humans have made use of learning those patterns forever. If there is a reason or purpose to those patterns, it is of human invention IMHO. Nature has evolved not with efficiency but with trial and error and it behooves us to not have to revisit those trials and errors too often. We’re not smart enough to avoid it completely. Possibly not even most of the time.

    To see a reason for nature and its evolution is quite easy when it is looked at from our present perspective, just as it is easy to think the U.S. should have known that the Japanese were planning to attack Pearl Harbor.

    We take all the known facts of past occurrences and it’s quite easy to find a pattern to apply to them, but we forget that the pattern is an invention. Hindsight is 20/20 or so it seems sometimes.

  11. trooper york said,

    I never thought of myself as a progressive.

    I have always thought of my self as a Progresso.

    A Soup.

    Pasta fa sool to be exact.

    Full of beans.

  12. Donna B. said,

    trooper, don’t you go making me hungry, ya hear?

  13. CGHill said,

    I’ve been in this house six years, and each spring, new birds take possession of the air rights. This year it’s mockingbirds; in the past, I’ve had jays and robins. But they’re all highly territorial, and if you’re intruding on their space, they’ll give you grief, or worse. The jays seemed particularly fond of chasing cats off the premises. And the more urbanized birds, the pigeons and grackles that haunt the boulevard? They don’t get near my place, lest the mockingbirds reduce them to a mass of feathered goo.

  14. reader_iam said,


  15. Donna B. said,

    I totally agree with comment #14.

  16. Donna B. said,

    We’ve been here for 20 years and the bird population is down this year. We have no nests in the “usual” places. That sort of worries me, but the wildlife I hear early in the morning is still loud so I figure they’ve just moved next door for a while.

    Maybe it’s because this is the first year we haven’t planted tomatoes. We didn’t because we hardly ever got to one before the birds did. They don’t like peppers so much.

  17. Randy said,

    Donna: I thought #14 was a bit too long-winded and so I missed her point.

  18. realpc said,

    “Is the Wikipedia article on systems theory reasonably accurate?”

    I can read it when I get a chance and let you know if it describes the same thing I meant. I’m sure there are many different perspectives on it. What I mean by Systems Theory began in the 1930s as a holistic approach to biology, an alternative to the reductionist neo-Daarwinist approach to evolution. It’s compatible with spiritual theories of evolution, such as Sheldrake’s, and also with Intelligent Design.

    The current ideas about evolution (and therefore about life in general) can be divided into 2 main groups — the mechanistic reductionist view (that matter creates mind) vs the holistic view (that Mind creates matter).

    If you believe the origin and evolution of life was purely accidental and meaningless, you belong to the “matter creates mind” group. This is the currently accepted mainstream theory. The “Mind creates matter” view is the alternative, and the basis of most alternative or “New” science.

    I think New Science is going to win the debate eventually, but it might take quite a while. Actually New Science isn’t newer than mainstream science, and both started and evolved at about the same time. But mainstream science has definitely taken over the universities and the minds of most of our current Experts.

  19. dustbury.com » Grackle? Oh, snap said,

    […] series of condominiums and believes that leprechauns eat breakfast cereal: the vast majority of us know better than that. Left to their own devices, nature’s preferred — that is to say, nonhuman — […]

  20. realpc said,

    There is probably a good chance you didn’t get the point of anything I wrote, dustbury. It’s hard to tell from your nonsense comment. I never said nonumans are preferred. I am only saying that we, our species, are not the gods some of us think that some of us are. We didn’t make the world, and the world didn’t just fall into place by accident (in my opinion), so we ultimately can’t improve on it or get everything under our control. Maybe it looks we can and are doing just that, but I don’t think so.

    The bible says humans were put on earth by God to rule over everything — and that’s where religious Americans and atheist/materialist/progressive Americans mostly agree. Humans are in charge. But holistic/alternative science doesn’t necessarily agree.

    Not having a reason to feel superior is difficult for our species.

  21. realpc said,

    ” Is the Wikipedia article on systems theory reasonably accurate?”

    I read it, very quickly, and yes it seems to be the same as what I am talking about. I read a lot of the stuff mentioned in the article. I didn’t have time yet to read the whole article carefully so I can’t say right now if I agree with everything in it. But yeah, it seems about right.

    However not everyone who knows about Systems Theory makes the connection with Intelligent Design, or with Sheldrake’s New Science ideas. But they all fit together very well, in my opinion.

    Systems Theory is not an answer to the world’s problems But it is, I think, a great improvement over the reductionist, materialist ways of thinking that have taken over our mainstream science. Even though,ironically, Systems Theory has made great contributions to mainstream science.

  22. realpc said,

    My interest, over my entire life, was to see how science and religion are related, or unrelated. They seem to be at war with each other, and I always wondered why. When I learned about Systems Theory, and the ideas of Sheldrake and other alternative scientists, combined with some other things I read about over the years, I began to think the war between religion and science is all based on a set of illusions.

  23. Donna B. said,

    I just read a bit off Sheldrake’s site and can’t say that I see much there that is currently useful because while he has apparently defined ways that studies could disprove his theories of morphic fields and morphic resonance, he’s not pushing very hard to have them done.

    It appears he’s pursuing tangents rather than an integrative theory. Of course that’s just my first impression.

    I don’t believe that science and religion are related. I often wonder if spirituality and religion are all that related. It seems that religion has through the ages attempted to co-opt and codify spirituality.

    Science and logic are grounded in what can be observed, and that removes it from the spirit realm, IMHO. It is self-limited to that which can be tested. The existence of spirituality and gods is not a question science is qualified to answer, therefore those who ask the question of scientists or attempt to discuss it using scientific methods and terminology are by definition not going to find an answer.

  24. CGHill said,

    #20: At no time did I intend to suggest that you were one of those people in the unicorn-based community, the target of the mockery in my first paragraph. The whole reason for linking this piece was to point out their wrongheadedness.

  25. realpc said,

    Donna B.,

    Parapsychologists have been looking for, and finding evidence against materialism for over a century. Whether or not that counts as evidence for religion depends on how you define religion. We can’t really talk about any of this when we are defining the words differently.

    I said the two contrasting beliefs these days are “matter creates mind” vs “mind creates matter.” I think that states it simply enough. I think you are talking about entirely different things.

  26. Donna B. said,

    “I said the two contrasting beliefs these days are “matter creates mind” vs “mind creates matter.” — realpc

    My question is why does there have to be a reason or goal behind either of those ideas?

  27. realpc said,

    “My question is why does there have to be a reason or goal behind either of those ideas?”

    I really can’t tell what you’re asking. I think the Intelligent Design controversy matters, at least it matters to me. I think the fact that materialist/atheists are enraged at the Intelligent Design theorists matters, and I do care about some of the progressive ideology that I disagree with. If we decide not to care about any of these things, then why write on blogs?

  28. Donna B. said,

    “Nature’s laws could not be made more perfect.”

    “I am saying that nature’s laws are all for a reason…”

    “We humans are not really qualified to judge nature, or god. I definitely believe it’s all for a reason, and that nothing is wasted or meaningless. ”

    Those statements you’ve made above are why I am asking why there has to be a reason or goal underlying the fact that we exist.

    You also wrote: “There is randomness and chaos in nature, but I agree with Systems Theory — that chaos is the source of new information. Chaos and randomness are not chaotic or random, they are necessary for creative progress.”

    That doesn’t quite make sense. It appears to circular logic taking a convenient tangent to explain something unrelated… very confusing.

  29. theobaldboehm said,

    This is such a wonderful post, that I had to put up a response on my own blog, working in, of course, a little music.

    Fantastic writing, realpc.

  30. realpc said,

    Thank you theobaldboehm! I feel understood, and that doesn’t happen often! Thank you for re-posting my story and for your insightful comments, and for the music.

  31. realpc said,

    Donna B.,

    There are a lot of books about Systems Theory, Chaos Theory, etc., that have been written for non-mathematicians (which is what I have mostly read, since I am not a mathematician), that make these ideas understandable. If you are curious about the ideas, that is. I spent a lot of time studying these ideas, and they make sense to me. But if you are on a different wavelength, or committed to mainstream science and/or religion, it might not be your type of thing. TOHO (to each his/her own).

  32. realpc said,

    Oh sorry, that should have been TEHO.

  33. Donna B. said,

    If I’m curious? Why do you think I’ve been asking you all these questions?

    I get it that you’re not going to answer them, but could you at least recommend a few books by name?

  34. realpc said,

    “Why do you think I’ve been asking you all these questions”

    I don’t really know. Sometimes people are curious about holistic or non-materialist science because it threatens their certainty. They find fault with and misinterpret everything I say, and it becomes and exhausting waste of time. They go away happy, having reassured themselves that my ideas are all nonsense, and the mainstream ideas are correct after all. And I am not here at this blog for that kind of useless debate.

    If, on the other hand, you are genuinely interested, then I could recommend books. I think Sheldrake’s A New Science of Life does a great job of explaining alternative science ideas. I also liked The Roots of Coincidence by Arthur Koestler. There are lots of others.

  35. Donna B. said,

    real — I find it almost impossible to interpret what you write. The story about the swan was great.

    Apparently, as I look over the comments now, you must have thought my question about where the offspring of the swans went to live was somehow questioning your statement about nature.

    Honest — all I wanted to know was if you knew where the offspring went. If you look at my comments again, in almost every one I pointed out where we agreed. How you interpret that as indicating that I’m certain of something or threatened by a different idea is beyond me.

    As far as I can see the only major point of disagreement is that you feel there’s a reason or goal in nature and I don’t see that, so I asked why. It’s apparent to me now that you misunderstood every question I asked as an attack. That’s truly sad. You made a helluva lot of assumptions about me based on other people.

    Thank you for the book recommendations.

  36. realpc said,

    I didn’t make any assumptions about you Donna. I just noticed that you seemed to misinterpret some of what I said. When you asked where the swans’ offspring went I gave you my answer, and I never felt your question was an attack. Most of the time, I just don’t know where you’re coming from, and I just don’t know what you’re saying. That doesn’t make me sad, because I don’t expect people to always understand each other.

  37. theobaldboehm said,

    Thanks, realpc. I’ve since tarted up and expanded my original piece a bit, partly in response to a comment of Jason’s. But the heart of it remains your excellent post.

  38. realpc said,

    Ok, I’ll read it again. By the way, your photo is the perfect image — it looks exactly like the scene I was describing.

  39. realpc920 said,

    Hi Theo,

    (I tried to post this on your blog but google blogger gave me a headache. It wouldn’t let me make an account because it never accepts my word verifications.)

    I think modern war evolved out of natural territorial instincts. Agriculture increased population density and created a need for ever more land, and then improving weapons technology led to the extreme violence of modern warfare. I am not sure that wars are ever really fought over nothing, or over ideology, since there might always be an underlying economic motivation.

    The Palestine – Israel conflicts are really over territory, for example, not religious differences, in my opinion.

    And I don’t think Hitler was primarily motivated by racism or anti-semitism — he wanted to be a great conqueror. (Wars of conquest have a long tradition, including the conquest of Canaan by the ancient Israelites.)

    When the Israelites escaped from Egypt they were agriculturalists without land, so they conquered Canaan. Religion can be used as an excuse — our God is better than theirs, so we have a right to their land — but the motivation is still basically territory.

    I think historians generally agree that competition for resources, initiated by the invention of agriculture, have driven the evolution of war to its present intense level.

  40. realpc920 said,


    Thanks for your comment at Theo’s site. I tried and tried to post a comment there last week but google blogger gave me a headache and I gave up. I have had the same problem at other google blogs, where it never accepts my word validation. Maybe I did something wrong?

    Anyway, I really like the photo and music and comments he added to my story.

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