An exclusive faith in science, and its offspring and partner technology, appears to be the hallmark of modernity, says Wolfgang Smith, Ph. D., who has held faculty positions at MIT, UCLA and Oregon State University, U.S.A. What is lacking, he argues, is the "dimension of verticality"—meaning an inward dimension, "something spiritual." An avowed critic of contemporary scientific beliefs, he writes in Modern Age (Winter 2001):
The inner and the external, it turns out, are profoundly related. As Huston Smith points out: "A meaningful life is not finally possible in a meaningless world."
The Secret Doctrine calls metaphysics "the informing soul and spirit" of physics and other sciences. The minority among scientists who enter the domain of metaphysics "are wise in their generation. For all their wonderful discoveries would go for nothing, and remain for ever headless bodies, unless they lift the veil of matter and strain their eyes to see beyond." (I, 610)
To make of Science and integral whole necessitates, indeed, the study of spiritual and psychic, as well as physical Nature. Otherwise it will ever be like the anatomy of man, discussed of old by the profane from the point of view of his shell-side and in ignorance of the interior work....Without metaphysics, as Mr. H. J. Slack says, real science is inadmissible. (I, 588)
Animal conservationists are now recognizing what Theosophists have been saying all along, that the anthropoid apes belong to an altogether different category than other animals. Yet the treatment meted out to them by humans is truly deplorable. Animal rights lawyer Steven Wise is among those who speak out especially for the chimpanzees. While conservationists seek to protect the chimps' habitats and improve their treatment in captivity, Wise promotes a more radical approach. In Rattling the Cage, he proposes that; chimpanzees be declared "legal persons" and share some of the rights of humans, including freedom from all forms of bodily harm. Discover magazine (September 2001) reports Wise as stating:
Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, can solve problems, develop culture, even express self-consciousness, but they are struggling for survival—the wild population is 200,000 and dropping....
Wise believes that "a strong legal case" can also be made for gorillas, orangutans, and other intelligent animals like dolphins and elephants.
Among the flying reptiles from Earth's distant past, pterosaurs are considered to be the largest and the oldest. "They were the first vertebrates to fly, and they did it long before birds and bats," says Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley. New discoveries of pterosaur remains, found in sedimentary rocks formed at the bottom of relatively shallow, calm waters, are intriguing present-day researchers.When first discovered, the fossil was named Pterodactylus, combining the Greek words for wings and finger. A few decades later the term Pterosaur, or winged reptile, was coined to describe the growing list of similar fossils. Pterosaurs are sometimes popularly called "flying dinosaurs," but they are a distinct lineage. Richard Monastersky writes in National Geographic (May 2001):
Like their cousins the dinosaurs, pterosaurs stand out as one of evolution's great success stories. They first appeared during the Triassic period, 215 million years ago, and thrived for 150 million years before going extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. Their endurance record is almost inconceivable compared with the span of humans....Uncontested in the air, pterosaurs colonized all continents and evolved a vast array of shapes and sizes....
As to the question of origins, which to paleontologists still remains open, The Secret Doctrine has this to say:
If spontaneous generation has changed its methods now, owing perhaps to accumulated material on hand, so as to almost escape detection, it was in full swing in the genesis of terrestrial life. Even the simple physical form and the evolution of species show how Nature proceeds. The scale-bound, gigantic sauria, the winged pterodactyl, the Megalosaurus, and the hundred-feet long Iguanodon of the later period, are the transformations of the earliest representatives of the animal kingdom found in the sediments of the primary epoch. There was a time when all those above enumerated "antediluvian" monsters appeared as filamentoid infusoria without shell or crust, with neither nerves, muscles, organs nor sex, and reproduced their kind by gemmation: as do microscopical animals also, the architects and builders of our mountain ranges, agreeably to the teachings of science. Why not man in this case? Why should he not have followed the same law in his growth, i.e., gradual condensation? (II, 151)
According to two neurobiologists of the French Institute of Health and Medical Research in Lyons, humans have an empathy instinct innate in them. Jean Decety and Pierre Ruby carried out tests on subjects, using a PET scanner, and the results, they say, suggest that we understand another's behaviour by imagining him or her carrying out an action and then mentally projecting ourselves into that situation. (Discover, September 2001)
"Evolution has shaped our minds not only to express emotion but also to empathize with others," Decety says. "But aggression is also part of human nature. We have to find a balance between our instincts and the way we express them."
In an interview with the editor of Life Positive, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his views on what is essential for happiness, which all crave. "Undoubtedly we need to be more compassionate," he said, not only to make our own lives happier but also to make our world a better place. The practice of compassion requires that we act with greater "awareness," he remarked, and to gain awareness we need wisdom. Wisdom and compassion go together:
I think that ignorance and afflictive emotions, called klesh in Sanskrit, give rise to unwanted circumstances. As far as ignorance is concerned, not just Buddhism, every religion recognizes it as the source of suffering....Now I see well-educated people who are so unhappy. It is because of too much desire, hatred, and jealousy. The antidote to weaken that is increasing the right kind of knowledge. I think, perhaps knowledge coupled with a warm heart brings wisdom.
The Dalai Lama called the Buddha "a great psychologist because he taught the science of the mind." The following seemingly simple yet profound verses from the Dhammapada bear this out:
Cling not to the pleasant, nor to the unpleasant. Not seeing the pleasant as to see the unpleasant—both are painful.
Life expectancy has gone up in recent times, and so have health problems among the aged. In The Futurist (September-October 2001), Michael Brickey, psychologist and author of Defy Aging, suggests strategies for happy and healthy longevity. The biggest factors distinguishing those who age well from those who don't, he says, are mental, or what he calls the four "Be-attitudes":
These strategies and attitudes are a product of how we choose to think. We are thought-formed. It is our thoughts that make or mar our lives.