All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all.
― The Buddha
If a mad dog is chasing you, you run away.
When you cut your finger, it heals up by itself.
The DNA molecule has the fundamental property that it reproduces itself.
All living beings are genetically constructed and operated, and therefore, all living
beings experience a pressure to reproduce.
In order to reproduce, they experience a pressure to survive.
In order to survive, they experience a pressure to flourish ― to thrive and to stay
fit, healthy, strong and feeling good. If they did not do this, they would soon
get ill and die.
This is a basic, direct consequence of evolution and natural selection. It is so
obvious that we tend to overlook it in everyday life.
These needs: to thrive, survive and reproduce, are the primary challenges faced by
all life on earth. It follows that the pressures to thrive, survive and reproduce
are the primary pressures experienced by all life.
Taken together, and for the want of something better, I have named this “the Healing
How did the Healing Principle become so strong?
The process in nature by which, according to Darwin's theory of evolution, organisms
that are better adapted to their environment tend to survive longer and transmit
more of their genetic characteristics to succeeding generations than do those that
are less well adapted.
After life started on Earth, the Healing Principle would quickly have become stronger
and stronger within successive generations of living things, because those that most
sought to preserve their health and survival would have out-lived and therefore out-reproduced
the others. Through this process of accumulation of positive traits, the adaptation
we can call the Healing Principle would soon have become a fierce, primary, universal
Inclusive fitness: the bias towards “me and mine”
Fitness is defined as how well an organism is adapted to thrive, survive and reproduce,
within a particular environment. Inclusive fitness is defined as the fitness of
the individual and of the individual’s genetic relatives. In a wider sense, it can
include the fitness of the individual’s friends and allies (those who help the individual).
If we accept that the biological pressure to thrive is one of the primary values
in human morality (the other being cooperation), then we must recognise that this
pressure originates and operates within each individual for the benefit of that individual
The situation dictates what actions would best accomplish and support a particular
set of values.
Human morality has evolved as an adaptation aimed at thriving, surviving and reproducing.
The human ecological niche is uniquely difficult to survive in, compared with those
of the other great apes, and, unique among great apes, the evolutionary solution
to this problem has been for humans to team up; to work together; to cooperate.
The primary nature of these goals or values makes them an appropriate choice upon
which to base a theory of human morality and ethics, consistent with the most basic
biological pressures to act.
The evolutionary pressure on genes to maximise the thriving, surviving and/or reproducing
of their host organisms translates into a biological pressure on individuals to act
to maximise their short and long term inclusive fitness.
For humans, these goals, typically, can best be achieved by making appropriate use
of any of a complex of moral principles and virtues that have evolved because they
are necessary to support thriving and cooperation; and the perceived need to achieve
these goals in this way is experienced, in present-day psychological terms, as an
Collaborating closely with others is a sophisticated and demanding task in itself,
and to this end, humans have evolved a unique, specialised set of social and cognitive
skills, and a separate sense that other animals do not have: the moral sense, the
sense of right and wrong. This means that we often do things purely because they
are “right”, and avoid doing other things purely because they are “wrong”.
Accessing the biological “magic power”
– working hand in hand with nature
Living creatures are different from inanimate objects. Living creatures are genetically
programmed to be able to regenerate themselves when injured (i.e. to heal), for example;
and in general, every physical aspect, and biological process, of their entire being
is oriented towards maintaining, and if possible increasing, their thriving, surviving
and/or reproducing. There is an automatic goal: a fundamental existential pressure
on the organism to make progress in this direction.
How can we make the most of this miraculous power to thrive and grow strong in response
to the right conditions? By putting the right conditions in place. We nurture the
flower in our garden by putting the right conditions in place, and the flower responds
by growing strong and healthy, in keeping with its nature, of its own accord.
Universal and individual
The Healing Principle is universal: this pressure exists within every living being.
At the same time, it is personal and individual: it originates within each individual,
for the benefit of that individual, inclusively.
The Healing Principle and God’s love
This biological “magic power” is, practically speaking, equivalent to God’s providential
love; God’s kindness and mercy; the “rain that falls on the just and the unjust”.
When religious people say that God loves everyone unconditionally, this is what they
are referring to.
We may see this version of God’s love as part 1 of human morality: the pressure to
Part 2 is cooperation: the particularly human solution to the problem of thriving,
surviving and reproducing. The individual nature of the Healing Principle translates
into a tendency towards self-seeking and competition, and therefore, people are not
perfectly cooperative. Therefore, in order for cooperation to be successful, it
is fundamentally necessary to employ mechanisms both to achieve (or promote) cooperative
behaviour and to prevent (or discourage) uncooperative behaviour.
This means that another main function of God is as the Cosmic Policeman: the moral
God seeking to ensure that the human race behaves cooperatively. Hence, God also
punishes the bad and rewards the good.
Within religious thinking, these two are hard to reconcile, because to reject somebody
outright, as when God sends people to hell, is not compatible with unconditional
love. But it makes perfect sense when looked at from an evolutionary point of view.
From this point of view, we see that the “magic power” of God’s unconditional love,
without its part 2 of cooperation, is actually amoral, and the individual is free
to satisfy the associated goals of God’s unconditional love – it is a biological
magic power – an evolutionary adaptation that is an inherent result of natural selection
and evolution and is able to assist the individual to thrive, survive and reproduce
– without taking morals into account.
The most beneficial thing we can do as individuals is to revere, respect, take care
of, and nurture, the gift of God’s love within us.
In effect, the situation is: a two-way love or caring between each of us and the
thing that sustains us.
Living a good life
An appropriate goal for human beings is to maximise long-term thriving by following
a cooperative morality.
Kindness to others: spreading the love
The fundamental moral principle (pattern of behaviour), i.e. a principle to do with
thriving and cooperating, is kindness, or helping in response to need. This is sometimes
called “sympathy” or benefit / harm. Strictly speaking, “benefit” is a separate
idea from “need”, although the two are obviously linked.
To benefit someone means to make them thrive more. To make them thrive more, as
with ourselves, is to take actions to put the right conditions in place so that thriving
may, we hope, spontaneously occur of its own biologically programmed accord.
since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
There is a beauty in the forest
When the trees are green and fair,
There is beauty in the meadow
When wild flowers scent the air.
There is beauty in the sunlight
And the soft blue beams above.
Oh, the world is full of beauty
When the heart is full of love.
It would seem that making “God’s love” central to everything you do is a fundamental
and reliable step in the direction of happiness.
Definitions of thriving
We may classify thriving into two types: short term and long term. There is no real
need to define it closely, since it is easily recognised, and is anyway probably
very subjective, but it basically means to be physically or psychologically strong
and healthy, in keeping with its evolved purpose, which is to help us survive.
A crude indicator of thriving is “feeling good”, since emotions have evolved broadly
to tell us whether we are thriving or not. Emotions tell us whether we are going
towards (feeling good) or away from (feeling bad) our primary goals of thriving,
surviving and/or reproducing.
Possibly, our emotions depend on the information available to us, and are a reaction
to what we perceive to be true, rather than, strictly speaking, what is actually
The consequences of an event may be that we feel good in the short term, or we feel
good in the long term, or both.
This is the starting point for more complex discussions of whether somebody is thriving.
Others may override somebody’s insistence that they are thriving (“feeling good”)
by reference to some other primary criterion: for example, physical safety.
Happiness may be defined as “a state of satisfaction with one’s life”. Because of
its blind, reflexive, biological nature, “thriving” may not always match up with
happiness. Evolution selects for survival but not for happiness. The idea is to
harness and manage the pressure to thrive in ways that are healthy in the long term:
i.e. that result in happiness.
Contrary to what is perhaps the normally accepted view, there is no archaeological
evidence of warfare in prehistoric humans until around 12,000 years ago. There is
a lot of evidence of long-range travel and trade. So before the advent of settlement,
farming, and ownership, it appears that the human race was effectively one big happy
By considering the total archaeological record of prehistoric populations of Europe
and the Near East up to the Bronze Age, evidence clearly demonstrates that war began
sporadically out of warless condition, and can be seen, in varying trajectories in
different areas, to develop over time as societies become larger, more sedentary,
more complex, more bounded, more hierarchical, and in one critically important region,
impacted by an expanding state.
R Brian Ferguson – “Pinker's List – exaggerating prehistoric war mortality” in “War,
Peace and Human Nature” edited by Douglas P Fry
In the time of the first kingdoms and city states, in normal daily life, the average
rate of death through warfare was equal to the peak death rates in World War II.
Since then, the rate has gone up or down, but overall, the trend has been downwards.
Every measure of rates of violence: killing, assaulting, kidnapping, physical harm
or coercion, has followed the same downward trend. Violence against women has dropped
by 70-80% since the 1970s. Capital punishment and slavery are in decline. We see
hugely increased rights for formerly oppressed groups: women, racial minorities,
homosexuals, and animals.
Over historical time, human moral reasoning has shown itself to be "self-correcting",
like science: to gradually become more articulate and complete. It seems that there
may be three stages involved in moral progress: new ideas (arguably the prime mover);
expansion of empathy to include previously excluded groups; and the establishment
of new norms which replace the old. This process may be helped by things like the
arts: specifically, novels, plays, and cinema, which gives us an insight into the
inner worlds of people unlike us; and international trade, which has the effect of
This historical pattern follows the characteristics of the pressure to thrive: maximising,
universal, and individual. Humans achieve their thriving primarily through cooperation
(but also through competition, and hierarchical societies reflect this). If we don't
cooperate, we don't survive, and enforced cooperation brings enforced interdependence
(“I look after you because I need you”). Since there has been strong evolutionary
pressure to behave like this since the dawn of the genus Homo, modern humans possess
strong instincts in this direction. So our moral instincts are the particularly
human expressions of the pressure to thrive.
God is love.
The Bible: 1 John 4:8
I will be with you – will you be with Me?
Richard Foster – “Life with God”
Did not He find thee an orphan, and shelter thee?
Did not He find thee erring, and guide thee?
Did not He find thee needy, and suffice thee?
As for the orphan, do not oppress him,
and as for the beggar, scold him not;
and as for thy Lord’s blessing, exalt it.
The Qu’ran: Sura 93
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you
will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who
asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door
will be opened.
Jesus: Matthew 7:7,8
behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Jesus: Luke 17:21
The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like.” He said
to them, “It is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all seeds. But when it
falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant and becomes a shelter for the birds
of the sky.”
Jesus: Gospel of St Thomas
Nature loves courage.
The only failure is the failure to try.
... evolution selects for adaptive actions.
Michael Tomasello – “A Natural History of Human Thinking”
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And
that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against
me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
In all species, nature works to renew itself as it works to nourish itself, and to
protect itself from danger, each by its kind and for its kind, in the great work
of continuation that is evolution. In humankind the work of renewal lies in the work
of affection, the bond of one to another made by desire.
A C Grayling – “The Good Book: a secular Bible”
Eventually Muhammed’s religion of al-Llah was known as islām, the act of existential
surrender that each convert was expected to make to God: a muslim is ‘one who surrenders’
his or her whole being to the Creator. At first, however, the believers called their
religion tazaqqa. This is an obscure word, which is not easy to translate. By cultivating
tazaqqa, Muhammed’s converts were to cloak themselves in the virtues of compassion
and generosity; they were to use their intelligence to cultivate a caring and responsible
spirit, which made them want to give graciously of what they had to all God’s creatures.
By pondering the mysteries of creation intelligently Muslims would learn to behave
kindly and this generous attitude would mean that they acquired a spiritual refinement.
Al-Llah was the great exemplar. Muslims were urged to contemplate His ‘signs’ in
order to appreciate His graciousness to the whole of the natural world. As a consequence
of his generous intelligence, there was order and fruitfulness instead of chaos and
selfish barbarism. If they submitted to His edicts, they would find that their own
lives could be transfigured by a similar refinement.
Karen Armstrong – “Muhammad”
chance uk – nurturing and healing troubled children
What is the difference between “I like you” and “I love you”? Beautifully answered
by Buddha. Buddha’s answer was so simple. When you like a flower, you just pluck
it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily. One who understands this, understands
The mechanics of making living beings flourish: if we want to change a non-living
object, we need to directly manipulate it; but a living being will grow, thrive and
flourish of its own accord if the right conditions are in place.