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 need to survive: therefore, they experience a pressure
In order to survive, they need to thrive: therefore, they experience a biological
pressure to thrive ― to stay fit, strong, healthy, and feeling good. If they did
not do this, they would soon get ill (or eaten) and die.
These are basic, direct consequences of evolution and natural selection within a
competitive environment. They are so obvious that we tend to overlook them in everyday
These connected needs: to thrive, survive and reproduce, are the primary pressures
faced by all life on earth.
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 the process of accumulation of positive traits, the adaptation
we can call the Healing Principle would soon have become a fierce, primary, universal
It is an inevitable consequence of natural selection and evolution with competition.
Because natural selection is relative to those around us, one of the aims of all
living things is to out-thrive, out-survive and ultimately out-reproduce the competition.
The Healing Principle and feeling good
Thriving is indicated by feeling good – if we thrive, we feel good. But in a process
called motivational autonomy (Decety 2011), some traits can come loose from their
evolutionary origins to become used in other contexts. An example is parental care
in mammals, which is now available as empathic concern to be used in any social context.
Hence, animals have “pleasure circuits” in their brains that can be stimulated by
other means than thriving, surviving and reproducing. We seek to feel good in its
Inclusive fitness – the promotion of “me”, “mine” and “ours”
Fitness is defined here as thriving: how strong and healthy an organism is, 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 (i.e. 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.
Adaptation, the rock and the water
Wisdom = truth + compassion.
To maximise its thriving, surviving and reproducing, each organism needs to adapt
to and make the most of its environment. All organisms are biologically programmed
to take maximum advantage of their environment.
Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid
and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome
whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.
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 individual
pressure to thrive.
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 functions of God are hard to reconcile, because
to reject somebody outright, as when He sends people to hell, is not compatible with
unconditional love. But if we consider their separate domains (one “Earth”, the
other “heaven”) then this is resolved.
From a biological point of view, we see that the “magic power” of God’s unconditional
love for each individual, without the part 2 of cooperation, is actually amoral.
In theory, taking advantage of this power, the individual can achieve its goals
without taking morals into account.
Living water and the mustard seed
Unconditional love exists within two contexts: 1) some pre-existing situation, such
as being related by family, or some historical reason to be endlessly grateful or
loyal; 2) a partnership of people working towards a common goal. Possibly, many
situations are a mixture of these two.
The Healing Principle, God's unconditional love that is your healing gift all the
time you are alive, can be thought of like the water supply to your house: any time
you need it, you only have to turn the tap on and there it is. The water metaphor
is further appropriate because water is: 1) something we need to live; 2) something
that can be shared; 3) something that can be stored for the future. But the pressure
to thrive has a “living” quality – it consists of the generative, restorative and
motivational aspects of living things – so in this respect it is not like water.
We can think of it as the biological motor power that enables people to respond
well to and thrive in a good environment, like any biological beings.
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
When we take action, it is like planting a seed that eventually bears fruit. Buddhism
states that if the seeds are “tainted” by a lack of wisdom: by greed, hatred, or
ignorance, the fruit will be unsatisfactory in some way. Also, good seeds might
get damaged by the environment or not be in a favourable position. Perhaps we don't
look after the tree very well, and it doesn't grow as well as it could have done;
maybe we fail to make the most of things.
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.
Kindness to others: spreading the love
The fundamental ethical principle (pattern of behaviour), i.e. a principle that leads
to thriving, 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. If something apparently presents an opportunity
for us to further our goals, then it makes us feel good; something that appears to
be a threat to our goals makes us feel bad.
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”. Evolution
selects for survival but not for happiness. Because of its blind, reflexive, biological
nature, “thriving” may not always match up with 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.
Short term and long term
Thriving – feeling good – can occur over the short term or long term.
Action takes place in the present moment, while the consequences can play out in
the long term as life situations.
Life consists of present moments. The journey is the destination.
Thriving long term is more likely to lead to a state of satisfaction with one’s life.
Thriving short term is also necessary (“flash in the pan” pleasures), this necessity
leading preferably to:1) pleasures on a long term basis; 2) healthy pleasures. A
healthy pleasure is one with good long term consequences.
Hedonic pleasure, eudaimonic pleasure and the inflammation response
Be happy: Your genes may thank you for it. But different types of happiness have
different effects, UCLA study shows.
Researchers have found that people whose pleasure (thriving) is mainly short term
have an increased inflammation response, and reduced antibody and antiviral gene
expression. We may speculate on why this is. Perhaps, simply, short term pleasure,
on the savannah, meant food or sex, and this involves some kind of “mission”.
The researchers examined the biological implications of both hedonic and eudaimonic
well-being through the lens of the human genome, a system of some 21,000 genes that
has evolved fundamentally to help humans survive and be well.
One answer to the Meaning of Life
If the meaning of X is the way that X is relevant to our goals, then the meaning
of life – the meaning of the things we do – must be in the way that they are relevant
to our life-goals: the pressure to thrive, survive and reproduce.
Dr Jordan Peterson contends that meaning is to be found in responsibility: in cooperative
goals, cooperative commitments. See map of cooperation
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, more humane 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 reducing warfare. [Pinker and Neuberger, above]
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.
Human thriving requires that the right conditions are in place. This includes a
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
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
“Turing, and Constructor Theory, and The Logic of Universal Survivors” (article)
(ignore point 20)
Because I made that decision to live a clean life, every step I take towards doing
what’s right makes me happier.
Patrick Lawson, winner of the Hello London Award for outstanding customer service
at Transport for London’s annual London Bus Awards, January 2019. BBC Radio 4, London
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.
We are a “lateralized” species: the two halves of our brains specialize in quite
different functions. In the same way that we are overwhelmingly right-handed when
using tools, we rely heavily on the left hemisphere for the perception and production
of language. These two biases are related: the right hand is controlled by the left
side of the brain. It was initially thought that the connection between language,
tool use, and brain asymmetry existed only in our own species, but now there is growing
evidence for lateralization in apes, suggesting that the connection emerged before
language capacities had fully evolved.
Apes favor the left limb for certain tasks (a mother preferentially cradles an infant
with her left arm), while selecting the right limb for others (locomotion is often
initiated with the right hand). When comparing data on the bonobos at the Yerkes
Primate Center and the San Diego Zoo, William Hopkins, an American expert on brain
lateralization, and I were excited to discover that handedness extends to gesticulation.
Bonobos wave, beg, wrist-shake, or make threatening gestures predominantly with
their right hands. This is the first evidence in a close relative of ours that a
communicatory capacity other than language may be associated with the left side of
the brain. The similarity in brain specialization hints at a shared evolutionary
history between gesturing and language.
[note] In humans, the right hemisphere specializes in parallel mental processing,
control of emotional responses, and processing of faces, whereas the left hemisphere
specializes in analytical thinking and language.
“Bonobo: the forgotten ape” – Frans de Waal and Frans Lanting
Homeostasis in the body
The chances are you’re reading this in a room at 18-22°C, you’ve recently had a meal
and there are no large predators nearby. But don’t be fooled. It’s a dangerous
world out there. From your first breath to your last, your body is in continuous
battle to maintain the specific conditions required for life. This battle is called
homeostasis – quite literally meaning ‘staying the same’. It describes the tendency
of the body to maintain its internal conditions even when faced with external changes.
Why is this such a vital foundation for life? The answer can be found by looking
at the wide variety of critical parameters that exist inside our bodies, which if
varied by the smallest of margins rapidly result in death. Temperature, pH, oxygen
and glucose are a few of the most familiar ones, but there are many more, and they
all only need to change slightly for the results to be catastrophic. Each one of
our cells is a complex bag of chemistry with specific reaction conditions. Our bodies
are locked in a continual dance with our environment, which provides a relentless
challenge. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year our bodies monitor, react and
adjust our relationship with the external world to make sure the internal world stays
the same. This drive for sameness covers our heartbeat, blood pressure, urine output,
calorie expenditure and many other processes devoted to homeostasis.
But homeostasis is not merely physical. It is intimately wired to our emotions.
Fear is a system designed to alert and trigger evasive action whenever our internal
balance is threatened, whether faced with the toxic threat of a poisonous snake or
the gravitational threat of a cliff edge. Disgust is another homeostatic emotion,
to prevent infection and infestation from the food we eat, contamination that once
inside us can rapidly destabilise the balance. And when these early warning systems
are breached and pathogens gain entry through the food we eat or the air we breathe,
our immune system is equipped to react to anything that threatens the balance.
“Secrets of the Human Body” – Chris van Tulleken, Xand van Tulleken and Andrew Cohen