Basic Orientation
Book1: R-E Living & "Homo Rationalis"
Introduction: Most Important Book
Basic Methods In This Book
The Three Exponential Changes
Basics: Determinants Of Behavior
Basics: Ethics
Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention
Rational-Ethical Child Rearing
Rational-Ethical Belief Management
Rational-Ethical Government
Rational-Ethical Religion
What The Reader Should Do
Book2: Humanianity
Book3: Mind-Body Problem
Book4: (Future Possible Development)
Child Rearing Issues
Philosophico-Religious Issues
Psycho-Socio-Cultural Issues
The Twelve Articles
Relevant Autobiography


Once again, I believe that our species is just beginning to undergo a third exponential change. I believe this change is good, in that it will promote the survival of and the good life for our species. I believe that by becoming aware of this change, the reader will be able to assist in promoting it, and will also benefit with regard to his or her own personal life in doing so. This book is an effort to call attention to that change, and to foster its development.

As noted, the change I am writing about in this book is primarily the third exponential change. However, I will need to describe the first two changes in order to make clear what the third one is.

These changes are making us progressively and dramatically different from all other species on our planet . Each change is or has been dependent upon the one before it, but each change also makes us dramatically different from the way we were before it took place.

The first change was largely made possible by a change in our genetic makeup (compared to any other species), but it was a psychosocial change. The second and third changes, which are dependent upon the first, are, I believe, purely psychosocial. An implication of this idea is that one could imagine circumstances that could bring about a substantial loss of these changes over a relatively short period of time. Another implication is that these changes are ones that can be influenced psychosocially (that is, without genetic manipulation). By psychosocial, I am referring to processes ranging all the way from those within the individual through those considered social, to those considered political.

By an exponential change, I mean that the change began very gradually, starting with barely noticeable change over a long period of time, but ultimately accelerating, such that the end result is a dramatic difference from what was true a short time before. We can easily see the exponential nature of the second change, because most of the change has been observable within many of our own life spans. We can easily imagine that the first change was probably also exponential. The exponential character of the third change is not as evident, because the change itself is not so easy to see due to it being so early in its development. However, I think the reader, upon understanding what I am referring to, will agree that it, too, is and will be exponential.

Each of these changes has developed gradually over a long period of time prior to its eventual dramatic escalation. Consequently, these changes overlap each other considerably. With regard to any of these changes, we would not be able to find a time when there was no evidence at all of what would later escalate to such a remarkable extent. But the significance of each of the changes can best be appreciated only after the escalation has taken place, so that we can compare how things have become to how they were before the escalation. Thus, prior to the escalation of each of these changes, the phenomena were not very impressive and largely went unnoticed by most. This is the current status of the third change, about which this book is primarily written.

In this chapter, we will look at the first two exponential changes that have made our species so drastically different from all other species. (The whole book is about the third exponential change.)

The first change is the development by our species of the ability to use symbols as tools essentially to an infinite extent, and to use them according to certain rules that allow us to construct models of essentially anything.

By tool I mean anything that is created, fashioned, modified, or handled in such a way as to do something better.

Now let us first look at the concept of the "symbol."

Let us assume that I want the reader to pay attention to the same thing that I am paying attention to, namely, an object, such as a chair. The most basic way in which I can accomplish this is by pointing to the chair, or perhaps touching it, or picking it up and waving it. This method is that of having the other person, as much as possible, have the same experience that I am having, by looking at the same thing. Then I can make the assumption that he or she does indeed have in his or her mind approximately the same thing that I do.

(Of course, it won't be exactly the same, since the other person will have a different perspective, a different nervous system, a different past history, etc., but it will probably be sufficiently the same for the purpose intended. In what follows, I will be assuming that references to the image being the same mean "sufficiently the same for the purpose intended.")

But for the above method to work, the actual object has to be present. What about the situation in which the object is not present? I have a picture, or image, of it "in my mind," but how can I feel fairly certain that I have produced in the other person's mind the same image?

We need to digress a moment about this basic ability that we humans have, namely, of having an image of something in its absence. In other words, I may look at a chair and then look away, but still experience in a vague way the image of the chair, somewhat as if I were still looking at it. We are talking about "imagination," a particular kind of memory. (A more complicated form of imagination is the taking of parts of memories, or images, of different things and putting them together to make something new, which we have not yet experienced. But the crucial aspect of this process, imagination, is the production of part or all of an image of a stimulus in the absence of the stimulus.) And of course all of the above can pertain to other sensory modalities than just vision, or really, anything that has been experienced, including thoughts, feelings, and dreams. The ability to produce or maintain an image in the absence of an actual stimulus is probably not very great in most lower animals, though many other animals, it would seem, do have some ability to do this.

It should be noted that we do not have to assume that an image of something, or even imagination itself, requires that the image(s) be in a "conscious mind." We do not know how "conscious" other animals are as they demonstrate activity in the brain similar to ours and behave as we do. We do have evidence that most conscious experiences that we have can actually seem to take place, under perhaps unusual circumstances, without conscious awareness. (We have used the terms, "repression" and "dissociation," as examples of this possibility, as is the example of certain kinds of seizures.) So either we can talk about imagination meaning a kind of conscious experience that we know we humans can have, or we can talk about imagination meaning an activity that occurs in the nervous systems of animals, including ourselves, whether conscious experience is occurring or not. For our purposes, we do not have to be, and won't be, concerned about whether conscious experience is occurring or not. (This will make unnecessary having to deal with the philosophical "mind-body problem," including even what "consciousness" is. I will mention, for the interested reader, that I believe that the "mind-body problem" results from the attempt to integrate two incompatible models, the psychological one and the physical one, but consideration of this issue is not relevant to this book.) When, in this book, I use the term "mind," I will be meaning whatever processes are occurring in the nervous system that are necessary for the events to take place that we, in our everyday language, are referring to when we use the term "mind." Thus, there will be no need to refer to "the conscious mind" and "the unconscious mind," and also we will be able to see more easily the similarities between ourselves and other species, to which some might find difficulty applying the concepts of "mind" and "consciousness."

This capability, imagination, is very important, and is used by us, for instance, to "find" something. When we "look for" something, we produce, without external stimulation, an image of it, while then scanning the environment for something that produces a similar image, such that there is a "match," at which point we say we have "found what we were looking for."

Although we really don't fully know what is going on in the brain, we can assume, for our purposes, that when the image is occurring "in imagination," some of the same pathways in the brain are being used as were used when actually experiencing the object while it was present. We may tentatively imagine that some of the same neuronal "pathways" that were stimulated or produced by the original stimulus become active during the process of imagining or remembering that stimulus. Although what goes on in the brain is not fully understood, it is not necessary for us to know this in order to understand what follows.

So now we need to end the digression and return to the task of figuring out how I can feel fairly certain that I have produced a particular image in another's mind when the actual object is not present to point to.

The solution, as noted, is the use of the symbol, something that can be "carried with" one (that is, can be produced on demand, and therefore is an example of imagination) and that can be used to elicit the image of the "object" (experienced entity or process). The most common and obvious kind of symbol is the "spoken word," but there are many other kinds of symbols, also, including the "written word," signs in sign language, gestures, mathematical and logical symbols, chemical and electrical symbols, and the components of maps and diagrams.

Now let us look at a more advanced way that these symbols are actually used, going well beyond what other animals can do significantly.

We wish to think about or deal with a set of one or more "things." We devise a label for that set. The label may consist of a word, a phrase, a sentence, a character, a gesture, a component of a diagram, etc. That label is the symbol that stands for the set of one or more things. The set of one or more things is the meaning of the label, or symbol. Then we devise a rule that tells us whether any particular thing is a member of that original set of one or more things. That rule is the definition of the symbol. The definition first specifies the domain, that is, a larger set in which the set of one or more things lies, and then the characteristics of the set of one or more things that differentiate it from all other sets in that domain. The rule is to ask of this particular thing, first, whether it is in the domain, and, if so, second, whether it has the characteristics specified by the definition, that distinguish it from all other things in that domain. If the answer to both questions is yes, then the thing is an example of what the symbol refers to, or means. An example would be to define a tricycle as any means of transportation (domain) that had only three wheels, had one seat, had no motor, and had pedals to propel it (differentiating characteristics).

In order to understand further some basic ideas about symbols, I am going to use the example of words (spoken and written) almost exclusively. Whatever is said, however, should apply in a basic way to any use of symbols.

For the symbol to work, there has to be a way for it to come to pass that the symbol will do at least approximately the same thing to the mind of the other person that it does to my own mind. There has to be some agreement as to the "meaning" of the symbol. Well, so I can, when I am with the other person in the presence of the object, point to the object and pronounce the symbol (word) for it. I can point to the chair and say "chair." After doing this, perhaps several times, and perhaps with several different chairs, unless I want the word to mean only the one that I am pointing to, the other person is likely to come to "understand" or "agree" that the word "chair" will "stand for" or "mean" the object(s) I am pointing to. Finally, if I want the other person to imagine a chair, I will say the word (symbol) for it, and the other person will probably experience the image of the chair.

Of course, we can also call another person's attention to a sound, and we can associate a particular word with that sound. Thus, I can develop symbols such as "bang" or "music" or "noise." The same can be true for touch, such as "hot" or "rough," or for any of the senses. As time goes on, we can even develop words for situations, such as "storm," or "fight," or "mealtime." We can also develop words for feelings that arise in certain kinds of situations. For instance, we can refer to the feeling that occurs when someone does something mean to us as "anger." Finally, we can develop words that stand for groups or sets of words, such as "furniture," standing for "chairs," "couches," "tables," etc.

We begin the development of the collection of symbols primarily by pointing to, or otherwise calling attention to, something and saying the word that is to be used for it. This is one of the methods used between parent and infant. The basic process is that of bringing about the simultaneous experiencing of the word, or symbol, and what it "stands for" or is supposed to "mean." There are, of course, more complex methods that are increasingly used after a basic set of simple words is learned. And it should be noted that, in reality, this is not a systematic process. As children grow, they "catch on" to the meanings of whole groups of words, and the meanings may vary depending upon the situation and upon the emotional behavior of the speaker at the time the words are spoken.

But this is the basic idea of the symbol. It is anything that one learns to use to elicit in the mind of another, or of others, the object(s) or entity(s) or thing(s) that the symbol stands for, by agreement. (Please note again the extremely basic importance of agreement!) And although the individual may, at some later time, find use for symbols during solitary activity, the development of symbols, in the first place, must generally be a social process, involving agreement.

Another observation to make is that after a while, that is, as we emerge from infancy, the meanings of words cease to be the images of the original objects or phenomena that the words stand for. Instead, a word will elicit a diffuse awareness of a bunch of other words. The collection of symbols that are used in the processes of thought and communication takes on a life of its own, such that the person making use of the symbols is sort of living in a world of symbols, now detached from their original referents, but attached to other symbols, instead. The reader, right now, is experiencing this phenomenon. Nevertheless, the potential connections are still there, in that if the user wished, he or she could increasingly focus on any one of the words, and, through efforts at definition and/or identification of examples, perhaps often ultimately arrive at some concrete images that the word was referring to. A fair number of words, however, are pretty remote from any actual images, and, as an extreme example, mathematical symbols are designed to be completely independent of such images, by being uniquely general in nature.

Now let us imagine, though, that we have hundreds, or even thousands, of these symbols, with agreement as to what they stand for. Notice that we have not yet really accomplished much that will be of help to us.

For instance, if I am with my friend, and I look around the corner (but he or she does not), then I will know something that my friend does not know. What I would now like is to have a method of conveying that knowledge to my friend, without my friend having to look around the corner also. In other words, I wish to create in my friend's mind an image of something he or she has never experienced before, and without pointing to it now. The image will consist of parts that he or she has indeed experienced, but has never yet put together in exactly the way that they would be if he or she were to see what I have seen.

Of course, my friend and I already have a tool, namely, the symbol, to evoke images in the mind of the other. But notice that the fact that I have a lot of symbols, names for things, does not mean that I will be able to give an accurate image to my friend of what I saw around the corner. Reciting a long list of names, or nouns, will not do it. I could even have names for relationships, like "over," "beside," "smaller than," etc. I could have names for activities, also, such as "falling," "shading," "obscuring," "walking," "hiding," etc. But if I were to put all these words in a container and shake the container, so to speak, and randomly present them to my friend, he or she would have a very unclear idea as to what I had actually seen.

Let us be clear what I am trying to do. I am trying to produce in my friend's mind an experience such that when my friend "looks at" that experience in his or her mind, it will be very close to the experience that he or she would have in his or her mind if he or she had actually looked around the corner like I did. This means that this experience, or set of images derived from the "memory bank," has some relationship to what is "actually" around the corner. So what I want to do is to construct in the mind of my friend a "model" of what is around the corner.

Let us now be as clear as possible about what a model is.

Let us consider the model of a car. This model consists of parts of the model put together in a very specific way. In other words, I can't just put the wheels, doors, headlights, hood, etc., together "any old way." The way the model "works" is that the relationships between the parts of the model are such that a person can imagine what the relationships between the parts of the actual car are. (In other words, if I were to look at the model car, I would have some idea as to what the real car looked like, and if I then looked at the real car with this expectation, or prediction, and saw something different, I would say that the model was incorrect, or inaccurate. Conversely, if I looked at the real car and then at the model, and saw something different than I expected, or predicted, I would say the model was incorrect, or inaccurate.) So a model consists of parts, put together such that the relationships between the parts of the model can be translated into the relationships between the parts of that which is being modeled. In the case of the model car, the distance between its wheels, or between its headlights and its taillights, can be translated into the distance between those equivalent parts of the real car.

Notice that the model is never exactly the same as that which it is modeling; otherwise it would actually be the same thing rather than a model of it. A thing is a model to the extent to which it allows one to predict, because of the parts of the model and the relationships between those parts of the model, some attributes of or facts about that which is being modeled. It cannot predict everything about it, but there are generally only certain things that we want to know, anyway.

Now a model must be constructed of some "material" or "materials." It is made of something. The model car may be made of wood, metal, plastic, etc. But notice that a picture or a map may also be a model, a two-dimensional one, of something. In a similar manner, a diagram may be a model, one that reduces the number of aspects of something being modeled to a minimum. A mathematical equation is perhaps the most extreme example of the reduction of the aspects of something being modeled to a minimum. But in this book, the most usual meaning of the concept of a model will be a collection of words, put together in certain ways, that evoke in the other person's mind an image or idea of something that is as close as possible to the image or idea of the something that is in the mind of the person constructing the model. Thus, a verbal model of something is essentially a description (in words) of something. There is perhaps little or no difference between the concept of a model of something and the concept of a description of something. And if what I want to do is to convey to you, or describe to you, what I want you to do, I can describe it in words or I can describe it in gestures, or I can even do it myself, such that my behavior is a model for you to "imitate."

Let us return now to the example of my seeing something around the corner that my friend has not yet seen. When, because of my description, my friend comes to have an image in his or her mind of what is around the corner, that image represents a model of what is around the corner. And I want his or her model to be similar to mine, that is, to the image in my mind.

(Actually, saying that the image is a model is somewhat of a metaphor, since it would usually not be referred to as a "tool." It occurs automatically, rather than as a result of a voluntary act, and it seems to be a part of the person rather than something being "used" by that person. On the other hand, there is really no clear dividing line between what a tool is and what a tool is not. For instance, one could regard a boulder as a tool if a person or other animal got on top of it to see further, and one could even regard the use of an appendage as a tool, as for instance in the example of using one's fingernail in the place of a screwdriver. And some of these usages are quite automatic, rather than "deliberate." So the use of the term "tool" in the above manner is optional. The important point is that the image can be broken down into parts that have a relationship to each other, and that those parts and the relationships between them can be translated into the parts and relationships in "the actual thing," in such a manner as to make predictions about the actual thing possible. An example is that if I have an image in my mind of something I have not yet seen, that image is a prediction of what I will see when I actually look at it.)

Now in the case of verbal description or modeling, what is the "thing" that I am using to create that image, or model? It will have parts (symbols, or words), and relationships among those parts such that they will be translated into the desired image in my friend's mind. In other words, I will be using a model, constructed of words and relationships among them, to create a model, consisting of an image in my friend's mind, of what he or she will see if he or she looks around the corner. (And yes, whatever he or she sees will again be a model in his or her mind, or nervous system, of what is actually there.) So we want to understand more about constructing a model with words, that will produce another model, the image.

As we have seen, the words themselves, by themselves, cannot construct such an image. Something else is needed. What is needed is an understood way of using those words such that a specific image is created. There must be a way of using the words that is agreed upon, such that if that way of using the words, or that set of procedural rules for using the words, is followed, there can be a fair amount of confidence that the desired image will be created in the other person's mind.

These rules are the rules of syntax. These rules are the glue that hold the various symbols together in precise ways, such that the finished product can model a specific thing in the world. The finished product goes by various names. I will use one of them, namely, the "proposition." In other words, the models we will be talking about will be constructed with a set of one or more propositions. A proposition, as I am using it in this book, will be essentially the same thing as a declarative sentence.

(There are other kinds of sentences, such as questions, requests, and commands, that usually are not considered propositions. I believe that they can generally be translated into propositions. "Bring me that!" can be translated into "I want you to bring me that and it is consistent with the nature of our relationship that I can expect you to bring it to me if I let you know in this manner that that is my wish." To keep matters simple, we will use as our examples only simple declarative sentences, and to help us think and communicate clearly, I will use the term "proposition," rather than "sentence." But also note that a mathematical equation can serve as a proposition, just as can a series of gestures made in accordance with the rules of sign language.)

Consider "John handed Mary the book." Then consider "Mary handed John the book." Then consider "Handed Mary the John book." The same five words were used, but because of the rules of syntax, the three "propositions" have different meanings, and one probably has little or no meaning at all. And the rules for using the symbols in a mathematical equation are exactly equivalent to the rules of syntax in language. For example, A/B is not the same as B/A. In the same way, there are rules for constructing diagrams, graphs, and charts, and for using signs in sign language. So in the construction of any model, the "materials" of which the model is constructed must be assembled according to an agreed-upon set of rules for their use in order for the model to work, that is, to allow accurate expectations or predictions about that which is being modeled. These rules are the ways in which to use the parts of a proposition such that the proposition can be translated into an image, or understanding, of what the proposition is supposed to mean. (The recipient of the proposition might say to the sender, or speaker, "I believe I understand what you mean," or, "I get your meaning.")

As noted, using this concept of "model," mathematical equations that represent processes in the universe can be considered models. By knowing how to translate the variables in the equations into readings from experiments, one can make predictions as to what those readings will be. Thus, these equations are referred to as mathematical models, and they are especially useful for modeling phenomena that cannot be modeled by objects in the physical world or by objects that we know by virtue of our visual field. (For instance, quantum physics makes use of models of objects that cannot resemble any objects that we are familiar with, such as billiard balls, and therefore quantum physics has become much more of a mathematical model, compared to our understanding of physics prior to the recognition of quantum phenomena.)

So just as, in the model of the car, the parts of the model car had to be put together in just the right way in order for the model to be an accurate model of the real car, in the model of the above interaction between John and Mary, the words had to be put together in just the right way in order for the proposition to be an accurate model of what actually happened between John and Mary.

It can really be said, then, that our "understanding" of something is a model of it. Our understanding of something physical is often our internal image of it, and that image would therefore be a model. Our understanding of a complicated process would be our imagination of the interactions of parts of the process, and that imagination again would be a model.

The more accurate our understanding is of something, that is, the more accurate our models are, the more accurate our predictions will be regarding our experiences and regarding the outcomes of our actions.

The development of the ability to use this new set of tools, namely, models of things about the world constructed of symbols put together according to the rules of syntax such as to make sets of propositions, and the ability to do this essentially to an infinite extent, was the first new development that made our species stand out as different from, and ultimately more capable than, all other species on the planet at this time, and we ultimately became drastically different from how we had been before.

We have been able to demonstrate that other species, primarily primates, do indeed have some capacity to use symbols. Chimpanzees have been taught (laboriously) to use several hundred, and to use them creatively. However, the distinguishing characteristic for us humans is our ability to make infinite use of them. By this, I mean that it is difficult to imagine any limit to our use of them, and this infinite use appears to be quite easy for us. This is true of no other species that we know of. Thus, although the use of symbols is not restricted to our species, the infinite use of symbols is so dramatically different from what any other species can do, I believe the infinite capability of using symbols, especially with rules of syntax, can reasonably be considered an emergent, essentially a new entity on this planet.

This ability to use symbols has accelerated. If we imagine the limited amount of symbol usage back when we were little different from chimpanzees, one or more millions of years ago perhaps, and look at the state of our symbol usage today, it is not hard to imagine that this growth has been, not linear, but exponential, in that at a certain relatively recent period of time, perhaps especially with the development of writing, it has been accelerating at an enormous rate. For some of us (especially those of us in some technical schools), our vocabulary and our set of concepts grows almost daily, and we can not easily imagine an end to this growth. More than ever in the past, each generation has some difficulty understanding the language of the next younger generation. And it is not just the vocabulary that grows, but also the combinations of words in phrases, sentences, and works of literature, science, and art. There is no way of imagining any limit to this process; therefore, we can, for all intents and purposes, consider our use of symbols (and syntax) to have become infinite.

What our symbols allow us to do is quite striking. There is no other species on this planet that has capabilities such that one animal can convey to another animal what it was planning yesterday to do tomorrow, and how it was feeling about it. We humans can share with others the interiors of our minds, so to speak. We can tell each other our dreams and share the fine nuances of our feelings through conversation, prose, poetry, and song. We can also cooperate to a much greater extent, because, for instance, one of us can direct another to a location the other has never been in, exclusively using words. All in all, we have become enormously more capable of acting in groups of two or more, with assigned roles and unified goals. We can do what other animals can do, but far more skillfully with this set of tools.

It should be noted, however, that these tools, symbols and the rules for using them, though representing a dramatic achievement compared to other species, have nevertheless primarily been in the service of our basic animal nature.

For the purposes of this book, let us define our basic animal nature as consisting of those aspects of us that are shared with many other of the higher animals (primarily mammals, especially primates). If we watch documentaries about other mammals, we may be impressed that there is little of our behavior and feelings that is substantially different from that of at least some of the other animals. They eat and drink, defecate and urinate, play, make love, make war, deceive and play pranks on each other, manifest jealousy, mourn, and even sing and dance. It is interesting, indeed, that when someone refers to someone else's feelings or behavior as "being only human," he or she is generally referring to something that is found in the other higher animals, so that the phrase really should probably be "being only animal." Of course, no one would say this, because we humans, being obviously superior to other species in certain ways, and characteristically derogating that which is different, generally refer to "being animal" as being inferior or bad. (On the other hand, this is not true for many pet owners, who may actually see their pets as superior to humans in certain ways, because we humans have certain undesirable tendencies that are not evident in their pets.)

The bottom line, however, is that there is very little difference between our species and other higher species, except for the three exponential changes that have occurred and/or are occurring, the first being our infinite use of symbols (with their accompanying rules of syntax), and these changes so far have to a great extent been in the service of our basic animal nature.

Unfortunately, not all of what animals do is optimal in our eyes, so we do not approve of some of the things some of us do with these symbols. We have been known to tell lies about someone so as to get revenge. We at times tell lies to get something that belongs to another person. We threaten a person to force him or her to submit to being used for our pleasure. We sometimes use symbols to fool and mislead others for our own benefit. We use symbols to inflame emotions and promote the persecution and destruction of others. And we use the symbols of mathematics and science to construct weapons and computer viruses. Examples are almost infinite. But they all represent our remarkable ability to do with much greater skill and ingenuity what other animals also do, both good and bad.

Also, it is important to understand the limitations of what has been described so far. (We are about to consider the second exponential change.)

Remember that the difference between a toy car and a model car is that the model car has relationships between its parts that allow one to "know," or predict, what the relationships will be found to be between the parts of the car for which the model stands, that is, the car that is being modeled. One may have a toy car that is not a model for any actual car. One could, of course, say that the toy car was a model of a car that has never existed, in which case the toy car would indeed be a model, by definition, or agreement, but only if that were indeed the agreement.

So we have sets of one or more propositions, each set of which is a model, but a model of what? It may be a model of what is. But it may also be a model of what isn't. It may be a model of what I would like, or a model of what I would dislike. It may be a model of what I think should be or shouldn't be. It may be a model of what would be impossible. It may be a model of something so outlandish that it has entertainment value and makes me laugh or cry.

The fact that a proposition, or sentence, can be constructed such that it presumably conveys an image of, or models, some situation or event in the world, in no way means that the image, or model, is "true," or "accurate." The fact that I can construct the model, "Mary handed John the book," in no way means that she actually did. So, how do we develop models specifically of what is, so that we can use these models for successful decision-making by virtue of accurate prediction? There are additional ingredients needed to make this new set of tools work well, if what we want is to model the regularity in the world so that we can predict accurately what is going to happen.

We know that we have made tremendous progress in the development of accurate models. Think back to the time of Homer, when probably most people lived in a mythological, magical world of monsters and other things that few of us today believe exist. Homer (if there was such an actual individual) was a poet. But perhaps all humans were. And the child is also a poet, with imagination, fantasy, and all sorts of inaccurate images of the nature of the world and how it works. So what has had to happen to get us to the point where we have such accurate models of the world that we can get ourselves to the moon and back safely, and feel confident when someone is sticking needles in our eyes to help us to see better?

In other words, what do we need to add to "symbols-and-syntax" in order to construct accurate symbolic models of the way the world actually is?

Let's consider any model. It must be well-constructed, so that it will not fall apart. Also, it must be accurately constructed, so that the relationships among its parts are translatable accurately into the relationships among the parts of that which is being modeled. We will consider each of these two requirements.

The model must be well-constructed.

It can't fall apart. If it is a model car, it can't be such that the door can fit on it more than one way (unless that is true of the real car). If we don't know which way the door fits on the model car, then the model is no good. In the same way, if we are modeling something with propositions, two of the propositions cannot be mutually contradictory. If we have two contradictory propositions, "Mary handed John the book" and "Mary did not hand John the book," we will have no way of knowing what actually happened. So the first requirement is that the model, or set of propositions, must not have propositions that are mutually self-contradictory. There is a whole area of knowledge that has to do with this issue, the field of logic.

The field of logic is the development of, study of, and use of a set of rules (procedures) that are used to ascertain if self-contradiction is occurring in a set of propositions, or, another way of putting it, to determine what propositions must be true if an original set are true. The other propositions must be true because if they were not, then contradiction would occur. A familiar example is that of Euclidean geometry, in which an effort is made to demonstrate all of the propositions that must be true if an original set is accepted as true, and the method ultimately involves showing that if any of these other propositions were false, a contradiction would occur. Ruled out would be any propositions that, if included along with the original set, would result in a contradiction occurring somewhere in the set.

We therefore test the legitimacy of our ideas, in part, by seeing if they can be placed in the form of syllogisms, which follow certain rules. ("All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.") If the proper rules for syllogisms are followed, then the propositions that make them up are protected against mutual contradiction. If the proposed syllogism does not follow the proper rules, the conclusion is not considered supported or convincing, and this fact is usually called to the attention of the user. I believe that most of the other logical rules, some of which are quite abstruse, are based upon these fundamental rules.

It should be noted that when a person blatantly professes ideas that are contradictory to each other, or blatantly uses syllogisms that violate the rules of syllogisms, he or she is generally regarded as being "irrational."

Now we did not just suddenly sit down and construct some useful rules. Just as is true of all of our major developments, the first appearance of the development of this phenomenon occurred in the misty past. We can assume that as humans began more and more to talk, they recognized that when they tried to use contradictory propositions, they found the set of propositions to be relatively useless. This would primarily be noticed when practical decisions had to be made. It would not be important if the propositions were being used to entertain, or if the propositions had to do with things relatively remote from personal experience, such that the problems induced by the contradiction did not cause immediate difficulties. But starting about 2500 years ago, there began to be real interest in how to avoid contradiction in complex sets of propositions, including mathematical ones, and so the formal study of logic arose, we might say exponentially, if we consider the amount of time that has elapsed since the beginning of speech and the probable dim awareness of the value in avoiding contradiction. Although some of these rules of logic were first identified over two thousand years ago, more recently they have been studied and elaborated on to a much greater extent, with, for instance, a new understanding of mathematics in terms of logic and with even the development of new basic logical concepts, such as "fuzzy logic," found to be especially useful in certain areas of endeavor.

So the first ingredient to add to the set of propositions produced by symbols and the set of rules of syntax is the set of rules of LOGIC, which enable us to construct stable, non-self-contradictory, internally CONSISTENT models.

But as already noted, this does not have to do with the way the world is. It has to do with the internal consistency of the set of propositions. In fact, although it was thought for a long time that the propositions in Euclidean geometry were indeed an accurate model of the world, it was later determined that this was not so, that some of the assumptions of Euclidean geometry were not consistent with the way the world actually is found to be under certain circumstances, even though the propositions were internally consistent, that is, consistent with each other. So the rules of logic have only to do with the structure of the set of propositions, that is, whether that structure is sound (does not involve contradiction). The rules of logic have nothing to do with whether that set of propositions accurately models anything in the world; they have to do only with internal CONSISTENCY.

In other words, in order to serve as a model for the way some part of the world actually is, a set of propositions must first pass the test of adhering to the rules of logic, and then something else is needed.

The model must be accurately constructed.

A useful image, or metaphor, for the reader to use is that of a car, or some other object, with, suspended over it, a model of that object. (If the object is a car, then the model could be a model car, but it could also be a set of propositions describing the car. For the image to work, it should be a model car.) The rules of logic exist only in the model, and have to do with the stability and reliability of the model. Extending downward to the real object, however, are lines that represent connections between parts of the model and the corresponding parts of the real object. Now the lower ends of these lines represent where the model predicts the corresponding parts of the real object will actually be, if the model is an accurate one. One would predict that the end of each line would be exactly at the part of the real object that would correspond to the part of the model where the line begins. The lines themselves could represent those procedures that translate the relationships in the model into the relationships in the real object.

Notice, then, that one could evaluate the adequacy, or accuracy, of the model by seeing whether the lines did indeed end up at the appropriate parts of the real object. This means that one would have to go to experience, that is, make observations, to see whether the model was accurate. And indeed, that is what happens. As we find, over and over, that a model allows us to predict things about the real world, we become more convinced of the accuracy of the model. But if, with the use of our model, we make predictions that turn out to be disconfirmed, then we become very suspicious that there is something wrong with the model. These observations that are relevant to the accuracy of the model could be called evidence of the accuracy of the model

And we do know that we can draw wrong conclusions from evidence. We can think that a particular finding supports our idea that the model is correct, when in fact that same finding actually also supports the idea that one or more other models is/are correct, and if we ran more experiments, or made more observations, we would find that our first model produced predictions that turned out not to be correct, whereas another model did not. The evidence would be against the accuracy of the first model and for the accuracy of the second model.

So the interpretation of evidence is tricky. We know that we can fool ourselves. We know from experience how a person's personal experience can be unrealistic and mistaken, and yet be extremely convincing to the person himself or herself. We know of the power of the emotional bias, the false or distorted memory, the illusion, the hallucination, and the delusion. But even without the operation of wishful thinking, mental defense mechanisms, or abnormal brain functioning, it is quite possible to interpret mistakenly the significance of even undistorted observations.

An example is superstition. We see two things happen at the same time and conclude that one caused the other, when actually this is not so. Some model involving both things being caused by another, third thing would work just as well, as would the model that involved the concurrence of the two things being a coincidence, that is, having occurred together only by chance. And it can turn out that subsequent experience will favor one of these other models, in that such a model may more reliably predict what will happen than did the first model that was proposed. In the example, it may turn out that future experience will show that the first thing can often occur without being followed by the second thing, and that the frequency with which it does is more consistent with the model that says that the concurrence of the two things was due to chance alone.

And here, in the last few centuries, our species finally came up with another set of rules or procedures that have had an enormous impact on us by virtue of powerfully increasing the accuracy of our models, namely, the rules of evidence.

These are the rules by which we reduce the likelihood that we will fool ourselves. Combined with the rules of logic, and aided by the development of instruments to increase the accuracy of our observations, the rules of evidence have culminated in our scientific method, that has given us a truly amazing ability to predict accurately what will happen if we do certain things, since our models apparently very accurately capture the regularity that is inherent in our world.

These rules of evidence have to do with assessing the quality of the evidence, that is, the confidence we may place in the evidence as support for the particular model that we are evaluating. I will not go into great detail about these rules. Most important is the fact that they work very well.

The basic idea of the rules of evidence is that there is regularity in the world such that models may be constructed that increasingly allow confident predictions as to what is going to happen under certain conditions or circumstances, and that following certain procedures, some generally referred to as experiments and some consisting of the systematic making of observations and subjecting them to analyses, will lead to the identification of the more accurate of these models. This set of procedures has been called "the scientific method." This ability to use the scientific method then allows us in turn to develop more and more useful, practical procedures that we feel confident will work, in that we know (predict accurately) what will happen if we follow them. In this way, knowledge becomes power, the ability to do.

The rules of evidence are ones that allow us to compare two or more models, to see which will give us the greatest ability to predict. We plan ahead by comparing what would happen, under certain circumstances that we can bring about, if model A were the best model or if model B were the best model. Then we find out what does indeed happen.

Very frequently, we use as model B the model that says that there is no connection between certain events, but that they will happen together a certain percentage of the time just by coincidence. What is predicted, then, is the percentage of time that we will see a concurrence if we do something over and over. Model A leads to the prediction, say, that the percentage will be a certain figure that we can call "high," whereas model B leads to the prediction that the percentage will be "low." Then we do the thing a large number of times and see what the percentage is. If it is high, model A is supported, and our confidence in it grows. If it is low, then our confidence in model A diminishes. This approach is the field of statistics. It involves determining what the percentages would be for a model that implies no connection between certain events (occurring by chance or coincidence), and allows us to assign a numerical value of "confidence" to the conclusion that the data support our alternative model (alternative to the one that says the results are due only to chance or coincidence).

The rules of evidence, as epitomized in the scientific method, have become quite complex. The average person cannot have good knowledge of them, at least with our current educational system. But we have learned in general that just looking back on our experience and constructing a model that is consistent with it is not a very safe procedure. We know that the real test of our model is whether it allows us to predict accurately what will happen in the future. That is why, when we see some possible new relationship, most of us remain a little skeptical until we try it out a few times.

But once again we can see that this new development, of the rules of evidence, began in the misty past, as we began to experiment, that is to try something over and over, in order to see if we could count on our conclusions. We gradually became aware that there were ways to avoid superstition and other mistakes to a certain extent. Yet it was only in the last two or three centuries that we developed such an intense interest in, and such a thorough understanding of, the rules of evidence, such that the scientific method grew as it did. And I believe the reader can therefore regard this as another exponential change for our species.

Now, it is through the use of the newly discovered rules of logic and rules of evidence that we have been able to construct models of truly amazing accuracy, this being the development of science and technology. We have learned ways, with these new rules and the construction of these models, to make our thinking much clearer than it ever was before and to prevent ourselves much more effectively from fooling ourselves. With these two sets of rules, we have been able to model the world such that we can now, with a fair amount of confidence, send ourselves to the moon and get ourselves back. We have learned and are learning to cure terrible illnesses. We have learned how to communicate with each other almost instantaneously, no matter how far apart we are. We have learned how to build enormous and complicated structures. We have learned how to make ourselves much more comfortable, to provide ourselves with much more recreation, and to accomplish our life-supporting and life-enhancing activities much more efficiently and effectively.

The growth of science and technology has been exponential. The development of science and technology dates back indefinitely into the past, with the making of fire, the discovery of the wheel, the development of weapons, the discovery of methods of agriculture, etc. It is quite recent, however, that the greatest escalation of these capabilities has taken place. The beginning of the exponential escalation could possibly have been noticed probably a few centuries ago, with the enlightenment and the industrial revolution. It is then that we began to be able to speak of the "scientific method," when we started really understanding and using the new rules of evidence, in addition to our use of the rules of logic. And I believe most of us would agree that there has probably been more discovery and enhancement of our scientific capabilities during the past one hundred years than over the entire life of our species prior to then. Thus, I believe we can agree that this growth has indeed been exponential.

So let us summarize.

We have learned to make models consisting of sets of one or more propositions, that may be spoken or written in words, or even presented in mathematical or logical equations, that consist of symbols used according to the rules of syntax or the equivalent rules of whatever system of symbols we are using. Such models may model anything we choose. The ultimate goal is for the models to produce fairly predictable internal experiences in the recipient(s) or user(s) of the models. The acquisition of this capability has distinguished us from all other species. It has allowed us to cooperate better, to empathize more intensively, to entertain more creatively, and to do many other things we could not otherwise do. This was the first exponential change.

But what really has added to our capabilities has been the development of the rules of logic and the rules of evidence, that have enormously increased our ability to construct ACCURATE models of the regularities of existence. Now we can do things that would have seemed to us a short while ago probably to be magical. The rules of logic allow us to construct models that are reliable or stable by virtue of not being self-contradictory. The rules of evidence enable us to compare models with each other in order to find those that are most accurate, that is, that allow us to predict most confidently. This is the second exponential change.

The specific phenomenon we are looking at, then, is the ability to use our symbols in ways that work so reliably. This means that we are able to predict reliably what the outcomes of our actions or decisions will be. Without such confidence, few are going to get into a contraption to go to the moon, or allow someone to stick needles in their eyes in order to see better.

So, these ways of using our symbols, that is, according to the rules of logic and rules of evidence, actually work, and work fairly reliably (nothing being perfect, of course). For the purpose of this book, I am going to refer to this improved way of using our symbols as "rationality."

In other words, "rational" will refer to those mental and communicative processes, or manipulations of symbols, which derive their legitimacy from their consistency with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. Rational beliefs would be ones that, expressed in propositions, were logically consistent with known propositions that have stood the test of the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. Rationality would be the dedication to the acquisition of rational beliefs.

Thus, rationality, as used in this book, is that approach to establishing beliefs that makes use of ways we have learned to reduce the likelihood of error. It is that set of methods used to increase our ability to predict accurately, and thus to make good decisions. And, if you are getting into a contraption to go to the moon, or having needles stuck in your eye to get to see better, you are predicting that you will indeed get back safely, or that you will indeed see better. We have come to take quite for granted the amazing confidence that we have been able to acquire by virtue of the effectiveness of rationality. We use things that, if they didn't work properly, could conceivably be quite dangerous, such as cars, microwaves, carnival rides, laser beams, medicines, anesthesia, X-rays, cosmetics, space shuttles, dams, bridges, skyscrapers, etc. The confidence in the development and use of such things has been based upon repeated, rigorous testing and the effective management of the knowledge acquired by that testing, allowing us to predict quite accurately the outcomes of some of our decisions.

Once again, however, these tools have been primarily in the service of our basic animal nature.

Unfortunately, our basic animal nature is such that we use the rules in ways that both enhance and interfere with survival and the good life. We can make love more effectively, but we can also make war more effectively. We can use the resources in our environment much more efficiently and effectively, but we can also deplete and forever destroy those very resources. We can be more creative in producing what most of us would regard as good, but we can also do more effectively and efficiently what most of us would regard as evil, such as developing hi-tech ways of disposing of millions of people. Any tool can be used for bad purposes as well as good ones, and we, as is true of all animals, sometimes make decisions that lead to bad outcomes rather than good ones. As the ability to do good increases, so does the ability to do bad.

Thus, science and technology, or knowledge about how the world works, does not guarantee good decisions. As has been noted, these abilities represent tools that make us more capable than we were, but more capable of good and bad. With these tools we can not only protect ourselves but also ruin ourselves. We can promote the survival and good life for our species, but we can also destroy our species. What we can do and what we should do are two very different sets of behaviors. What we can do consists of what we should do plus what we shouldn't do. There is something else besides rationality that is needed to optimize the chances of doing good rather than bad. And that is bringing us to a discussion of the third exponential change.

The third exponential change, remember, is one that I am postulating is just beginning to occur (or, more accurately, accelerate). Thus, I am maintaining that this change will be hard to recognize at first. This is because in order to recognize this exponential change, one has to have at least some picture (imagination) of how things will be after the escalation occurs. Since this change will make us dramatically different from the way we are now, and we have never so far been that way, we obviously will have difficulty imagining such a state of affairs. The most immediate reaction of the reader upon hearing such a prediction might well be "how silly," or "how far out," or "how idealistic." But just think about how difficult it would have been for us, five hundred thousand years ago, to imagine creating "Gone With the Wind" or the poems by T. S. Elliott, or even the verbal poetry of Homer. And then think of how difficult it would have been for someone in medieval times to imagine cell phones, space shuttles, and the Internet. ("Travel 60 mph? Ha! You'd scare all the horses!")

But I believe it is indeed possible to imagine what this change will be like, given enough thought. We will be able to imagine it, but it will be hard to take it seriously as something that can actually happen. We will say, "But that's not possible, because we humans are just not like that!" In so saying, however, we are simply demonstrating that we are not yet there, that we have not yet accomplished the change. So I am preparing the reader to use his or her imagination, and to ask the question, "Is there really any reason why this can never happen?" And if it is indeed possible, what is required to bring it about?

There is one other mistake the reader could make in reading on, namely, the mistake of thinking that he or she has an idea of what the change being talked about would really entail, simply upon reading a brief description of it. If the reader does this, he or she will be left with the impression that, yes, the author has an interesting idea, and probably some of us, especially the reader, have already undergone the change. I can only hope the reader will keep reading so as to get a much clearer idea of the nature and enormity of this change that I am predicting, and of the enormous good that it can provide for us (or, more especially, our progeny). I am maintaining that a proper understanding of what I am trying to convey will produce in the reader a drastically different outlook upon the current scene and a drastically different view of the possible future. And I am maintaining that this awareness will bring about a drastic change in how the reader comes to live his or her life and to relate to those close to him or her. Such a drastic change cannot be easy or immediate.

The third exponential change is the emergence and ascendance to primacy of "rational ethics," thus replacing the ethics that comes to us naturally, by virtue of our basic animal nature. When this has occurred to a major extent, that is, when the escalation really has occurred to about the greatest extent possible, members of our species will be so different from how we are now that they will be able metaphorically to name themselves "Homo rationalis." They will look back on how we are now and view our current selves as almost like a different species, perhaps much the way we think about Neanderthals, or even chimpanzees.

I am referring to a change in how we will be globally, as a species, not individually or in small groups.

So my tasks now are to convey to the reader answers to the following questions:
  • What do I mean by "rational ethics"?
  • How is it different from the ethics that has come to us naturally?
  • What will "Homo rationalis" be like?
  • Why is this change in our species not only good but possible?
  • What is the evidence that the change has already begun to escalate significantly?
  • How can the reader do his or her part in fostering this change?
  • Why can doing so have an enormously beneficial effect on the lives of the reader and those close to him or her?

In order to carry out the above tasks, I have to give consideration to the order in which the ideas are presented. As I have already stated, I am making an extreme effort to construct this book in a manner that will be convincing by virtue of being self-evident (rather than being dependent upon accepting ideas that only those in specialized fields can feel confident about). I have concluded that the following sequence of presentations is optimal:
  • Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior
  • Basic Concepts: Ethics
  • Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention
  • Rational-Ethical Child Rearing
  • Rational-Ethical Belief Management
  • Rational-Ethical Government
  • Rational-Ethical Religion
  • What the Reader Should Do

Before embarking on the above, however, I wish to convey something more generally about what this book is addressing.

The reader has undoubtedly experienced a certain response to many of the distressing and sometimes tragic events that have occurred in his or her life, or that he or she has learned about from others or through the media. The reaction would be something like, "This didn't have to happen, so why did it?" What this reaction is in response to is the decision of some individual or group to engage in some behavior or action that has led to much suffering and misery. The decision didn't have to be made that way, but it was. In retrospect, there is the feeling that it could have been predicted that this decision would primarily be a bad one.

Now, it can be said that all of these decisions shouldn't have been made. As will be clarified in this book, the area of thought about what should or should not be done can be referred to as ethics. So we can say that there is something that is not optimal about the structure or functioning of our ethics, if indeed a better kind of ethics is possible, that is, a kind of ethics that really works. The thesis of this book is that we are just beginning to identify a better kind of ethics than that which comes naturally to us, and that we are beginning to implement a change to that better kind of ethics. Since the better kind of ethics does not come naturally, there is no way of deliberately changing to it without identifying it and understanding it in such a way that each of us can replace the natural ethical tendency within us with the new kind of ethics. This will take not only understanding but also effort. In order to change efficiently a tendency within oneself, one has to become aware of the tendency and actively practice replacing it with the new tendency. This is essentially exercise, that strengthens the new tendency as it repetitively is made to replace the old.

The reader should remember that this change that I am referring to is just beginning to escalate, so that it will not be easy initially to see the process occurring. The reader should also remember that, if I am correct, it will be hard to imagine what life will be like when the escalation has become almost complete. However, it is indeed possible to imagine this in some sense. For instance, remember the reaction described above to the distressing and sometimes tragic events that didn't seem to have to occur? Well, now imagine that all of those events had indeed not occurred, and that there was now no longer any significant tendency for them to occur. Imagine how different the world would be. Imagine also what the important things in life would be for us.

If the reader is asked to imagine such a world, he or she will very likely say, "Well, such a world cannot exist, because we humans are just not built that way." But the reader should remember that this reaction is no different than the reaction would have been five hundred years ago to a description of how our world is today. What we "knew" at that time to be "impossible" is for some of us now commonplace. Again, I am asking the reader to use his or her imagination, while asking the question as to whether there really is an obvious reason why such a change is indeed impossible.

Do I think that this third exponential change is inevitable or guaranteed? No, I do not. If it occurs, it will be through the coordinated effort of increasingly large numbers of individuals, such as the reader, knowledgeable about what to do to foster it and convinced that the effort to do so is worthwhile. In other words, although the change has begun and is already escalating, for the change to go toward completion will require deliberate effort based upon accurate understanding and agreement.

It is indeed possible that this understanding will never be sufficiently achieved. We may fail for other reasons, also. For instance, we may have a devastating war or act of terrorism that throws our species back millennia. Or we may be rendered extinct by an asteroid from space or a virus from the ocean. But there are two reasons for putting forth the effort. The first is that putting forth the effort at least makes it more possible, and the second is that putting forth the effort will have very positive immediate effects for the individual and those close to him or her.

I hope in this book to convince the reader of these assertions. In so doing, I hope to do my part in fostering the change, and thereby to express my gratitude for all that my species has done for me.