Solving the World Crisis: Personal Evolution©

by Bernard Phillips, Andy Plotkin and Neil S. Weiss



  1. A Vision
  2. The Scientific Method
  3. Language
  4. Habits



  1. Emotions
  2. Values
  3. Goals



  1. Addiction
  2. Aggression
  3. Problem Solving




About the Authors


Appendix 1: Suggestions for Evolutionary Exercises

Appendix 2: Suggested Readings

Appendix 3: Summary of the Bureaucratic Code

Appendix 4: Summary of the Evolutionary Code



On January 26th, 2017, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists—in consultation with its Board of Sponsors that includes 15 Nobel Laureates—moved the Doomsday Clock from three minutes to Midnight to two and a half minutes to Midnight. The Board stated: “Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change. The United States and Russia . . . remained at odds in a variety of theaters, from Syria to Ukraine to the borders of NATO; both countries continued wide-ranging modernizations of their nuclear forces, and serious arms control negotiations were nowhere to be seen.”

The Science and Security Board also cited numerous specifics, such as these: “Elsewhere, nuclear volatility has been (and remains) the order of the day . . .the US president-elect engaged in casual talk about nuclear weapons, suggesting South Korea and Japan acquire their own nuclear weapons to compete with North Korea   . . . . President Trump . . . has made ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security . . . . The Trump transition team has put forward candidates for cabinet-level positions (especially at the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department) who foreshadow the possibility that the new administration will be openly hostile to progress toward even the most modest efforts to avert catastrophic climate change.”

It is exactly such facts that illustrate our present world crisis. We are moving ever closer to the annihilation of the human race, and our political leaders are continuing to take us toward oblivion. Yet ours is by no means a doom-and-gloom book. In common with the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, we understand that the very nature of the scientific method calls on us to become aware of and confront a problem if we are to learn how to solve it. And that very same scientific method, which has succeeded in shaping the world over the past five centuries, is an extremely powerful tool for solving even problems as humongous as those recognized by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

It is absolutely vital that we do not bury the problems raised by that Board, granting the difficulties involved in solving them. The fact that the Board’s action was placed in the middle of page 17 of The New York Times with the headline, “Doomsday Clock Registers Cold-War-Type Pessimism,” illustrates a burial instead of the confrontation that these problems deserve. By contrast, we see the Sarasota Herald Tribune’s large-type headline on the upper-right-hand side of page 2, “Scientists move hands closer to midnight,” as far more appropriate. Although the general tendency is to bury such problems, that would be a huge mistake.

By contrast with the Board, we are social scientists rather than physical scientists. As a result, it is much harder for us to gain credibility for our ideas than for physical scientists, and especially Nobel Laureates. We do believe in the importance of the realism of the Science and Security Board. But our realism includes an understanding of the incredible potential for development of every single human being. Given the specialization throughout the academic world, those physical scientists and Nobel Laureates know very little of what we have learned over the years. Indeed, it is this very specialization accompanied by limited integration of knowledge that is a key problem confronting efforts to make progress on the extremely dangerous situation now facing all of us.

Every single one of us humans is the product of over fourteen billion years of evolution. Our understanding is based on the research of the senior author, aided by his co-authors, expressed in twenty books published over half a century. Those books do not follow the present narrow approaches to research throughout the social sciences with their failure to integrate knowledge, illustrated by the existence of no less than 52 Sections of the American Sociological Association. Every other social science—psychology, anthropology, economics, political science and history—has the same problem as does sociology. Thus, the social sciences illustrate the problem of narrow specialization with limited integration of knowledge no less than the physical sciences.

By contrast, we authors are attempting to follow in the footsteps of Francis Bacon, a founder of the scientific method, who wrote: “I take all knowledge to be my province.” More specifically, each of those twenty books was an effort to build on the work of the preceding books within that series, and all of them were efforts to build on available literature from the social sciences, the humanities, the physical sciences and the many technologies. Further, we have made a commitment to one another not to complete this book until we were able to apply its ideas to our own lives, and as a result we have delayed its publication for several years.

We do not claim that we have the answers to the world crisis or the achievement of anyone’s continuing personal evolution as the result of our previous work. But we do claim that we have a direction for the reader to continue to improve his or her understanding of (“head”), emotional commitment to solving (“heart”), and ability to make progress on (“hand”) both problems. That direction is based on not only our own prior research and that of others but also our discussions about these ideas with others. That direction includes serious attention to the forces creating the problems no less than the forces making progress on those problems. That direction also includes not simply a general path but also quite specific procedures that any reader can make use of immediately. That direction is what we authors are taking up ourselves.

We present our interdisciplinary understanding in the first four chapters of the book, listed under the general heading of “head”, our focus on emotional commitment in the next three chapters under “heart”, and our emphasis on problem-solving in the final three chapters under “hand.” Given the diverse experiences that readers have had, certain chapters will have special importance for some individuals but not for others, who have already moved further in those directions. It is these ten chapters that point the individual, one step at a time, toward the ability to continue to develop his or her intellect, emotions and problem-solving ability. That continuing development is what we see as yielding exactly what our title and subtitle suggest: both the solution to the world crisis as well as one’s continuing personal evolution.

We have had a number of different titles and subtitles in previous drafts before finally coming up with “Solving the World Crisis: Personal Evolution.” Granting that the reader will wonder at our audacity in putting forward this title and subtitle, we are convinced that they are indeed quite appropriate for this book. On the one hand, we see people’s personal evolution as absolutely essential for solving the world crisis, with that personal evolution based on working with the ten chapters to follow. On the other hand, we see our taking on the problem of solving the world crisis is essential for motivating the reader to move toward personal evolution as the best means to achieve that solution.

Each chapter is divided into three parts: the first centers on the problem, the second on a direction for a solution, and the third on specific ways in which the reader can actually move toward a solution. Over the years of our writing this book our focus has been on the first two sections. Yet all the while we felt that there was something missing in our failure to provide very specific directions for how anyone could actually start making use of these ideas. Only very recently have we decided on the importance of including that third section, which we now see as absolutely essential to make those first two sections genuinely meaningful.

What is most unusual about our approach is our emphasis on personal evolution as the key basis for solving the world crisis. This idea is neither to be found within the mass media or within almost all academic publications. Yet it is exactly this idea that all of our research and discussions point toward. Present efforts to solve the world crisis are based on highly specialized ideas that fail to build on the range of relevant knowledge. As we all continue with our education we move in ever more specialized directions, learning more and more about less and less. This guarantees ignorance about the complexities of human problems.

Yet the wide range of understanding we require to solve the world crisis is illustrated by the ideas within the ten chapters of this book. It is that broad understanding that points the direction that we all require to continue to develop intellectually, emotionally and in our ability to solve problems. Instead of learning more and more about less and less, the reader will learn more and more about more and more. That is exactly what we all require at this time in history if we are to learn not only how to continue our own personal evolution indefinitely, but also how to do nothing less than learn how to solve the world crisis. And we had better solve the world crisis before the window of opportunity for doing so closes down on us.

We might say a few words about each of our ten chapters to give readers more of a taste of the book as a whole:

1–A Vision: We build on the work of the Dutch sociologist, Fred Polak, who wrote:

Man has the capacity to dream finer dreams than he has ever succeeded in dreaming. He has the capacity to build a finer society than he has ever succeeded in building . . . . No man or woman is exempt from taking up the challenge . . . each must ask himself, what is my vision of the future? And what am I doing about it?

2—The Scientific Method: The idea that we can all make good use of the scientific method was advanced by the psychologist George A. Kelly:

To a large degree–though not entirely–the blueprint of human progress has been given the label of “science.” Let us then, instead of occupying ourselves with man-the-biological organism or man-the-lucky-guy have a look at man-the-scientist. . . .Might not the individual man. . .assume more of the stature of a scientist, ever seeking to predict and control the course of events with which he is involved? Would he not have his theories, test his hypotheses, and weight his experimental evidence?

3—Language: Instead of our emphasis on a “dichotomous” or win-lose approach to solving problems where we give up after an initial failure, we can learn a “gradational” or evolutionary approach where we continue to work on a problem until we succeed, as illustrated by this quote from President Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

4—Habits: The proverb, “One sparrow does not make a summer” illustrates the importance of habits. We can develop habits of addiction, like smoking or drinking to excess. Or we can learn to develop habits like staying with the dream of solving the world crisis coupled with personal evolution, the dream of using an interdisciplinary scientific method throughout our everyday lives, and the dream of following a gradational approach by persisting at attempting to fulfill a vision until we succeed.

5—Emotions: Following the ideas of Sigmund Freud and contemporary psychotherapists, we bury or repress negative emotions—like fear, guilt and shame—that we are unable to deal with. That enables them to continue to haunt us, destroying our self-confidence and our possibilities for personal development. Yet there is another way, based on our having learned to use an interdisciplinary scientific method. The enormous power and optimism linked to that method can give us the confidence to confront those negative emotions effectively and thus move toward positive emotions.

6—Values: John Dewey the eminent American philosopher and educator, gives us a taste of his exceedingly democratic philosophy with this quote:

Democracy has many meanings, but if it has a moral meaning, it is found in resolving that the supreme test of all political institutions and industrial arrangements shall be the contribution they make to the all-around growth of every member of society.

7—Goals: The original Buddha—Gautama Siddartha Sakyamuni—who lived some 2500 years ago can point us Westerners in an East-West direction by teaching us to abandon our emphasis on materialism that has no end of wanting what we cannot have and adopting realistic goals. For example, the Buddhist approach to work is not to focus on gaining ever more wealth but is threefold: (1) to give one a chance to develop his faculties, (2) to learn to join with others in a common task, and (3) to bring forth the goods and services for a becoming existence.

8—Addiction: The psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote, “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” We define addiction as habits that subordinate individual development to dependence on an outward orientation that yields a limited way of life. Our materialistic way of life with its emphasis on advertising points us outward, creating an addicted society. Yet by learning how this yields a limited way of life we can learn to emphasize an inward-outward orientation. We can learn to follow this saying of Confucius: “It is man that can make the Way great, and not the Way that can make man great.”

9—Aggression: Three social experiments—the Levin experiment, the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment—all testify to the fact that aggression is built into the very structure of contemporary societies. This includes bullying and racism no less than international terrorism and war. Given the increasingly deadly nature of weapons of mass destruction, this can lead to the end of our species. But there is a way out. For we humans, based on fourteen billion years of evolution, have the capacity to change ourselves within our own lifetimes and change the very structure of society, solving the world crisis.

10—Problem-Solving: William Ernest Henley’s poem, “Invictus,” inspired Nelson Mandela during his years in prison, and it also inspired Franklyn Delano Roosevelt after he contracted polio. Henley himself retained his extraordinary optimism despite tuberculosis and the amputation of his left leg. Here is his last stanza:

It matters not how straight the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

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