Human Interdependence is a Near Truth

Timothy Wilken

What is Near Truth?

We humans have used scientific theory to safely take us to the moon and to cure cancers. You can safely bet your life on scientific theory and you do – every time you walk onto an elevator or board an airplane. And while scientists have the highest respect for scientific theory, they know they are not absolutes. They understand that scientific theories are models of reality and not the reality itself.

In the past these models of reality were often confused with reality itself. Those scientific theories that survived continued human experience were thought to be absolute truths. They were thought to be certainties. They were given the most prestigious of names—laws of Nature.

In 2001, scientists know better. Today we know that human knowledge always grows with more experience. Scientific theory believed to be true today will be improved or shown to be incomplete later.

Today, we know better. No matter how certain our ‘knowing’ appears to be. No matter how absolutely right we think we are. Our theories are only ‘models of reality’ and not reality itself. All views of reality are incomplete and inaccurate. All any of us have are our maps of the territory. We are not seeking the Absolute Truth which is unknowable. We are seeking Near Truth. Near Truth is all that is available to humans.

Human Interdependence is a Near Truth.

We humans share the animal body, to survive we must also eat. We are omnivores. We meet our basic needs and survive by eating both plants and animals. Physiologically, we humans are also a dependent class of life. But humans need more than basic needs. Sometimes we need other and sometimes other needs us. Some scientists have used the term “the social animal” in reference to these social-psychological needs of humanity. And it is these social-psychological needs that makes humans more than dependent upon each other. This means sometimes I depend on other and sometimes other depends on me. This fact makes us humans the interdependent class of life – interdependent on each other.

Stop reading

Take a few moment to examine the contents of your wallet or purse. …

Can you find any item there, that you obtained without the help of someone else? Look around you. What do you see? Did you make the clothes you wear? Did you grow the food you eat or the tools you use. Look around your home or workplace. Can you find anything that you made. Do you know the names of those who did make all these things? Do you ever know upon whom you depend. Can you find anything in your environment that was obtained without the help of someone else?

I am not talking about ownership here. I will grant that you own your possessions. But would you have them if they had not been for sale.

I would argue that nearly everything modern humans possess was obtained with the help of others.

As I examine my world I discover that I depend on others to grow and produce my food. I depend on others to design and build my home. I depend on others to generate my electricity.

I depend on others to supply my water. I depend on others to deliver my mail. I depend on others to educate my children. I depend on others to entertain my family. I depend on others to manufacture my automobile. I depend on others to refine the gasoline for my car. I depend on others to care for my family when we are sick. I depend on others to protect us from crime and war.

I depend on others to …. I depend on others. I depend.

Human interdependence is made less visible by our present economic exchange system. I go to work and help my employer. He depends on me. At the end of the month he pays me for my help. I depend on him. I can then take some of the money from my paycheck to pay my house rent. While I depend on my landlord for the roof over my head, he depends on me to pay the rent promptly. Sometimes I depend on others and sometimes others depend on me. When we buy and sell in the economic marketplace we are really exchanging help. When I help others they owe me. When others help me I owe them. Money is just the present accounting mechanism we use to settle up.

This will come as a surprise to most readers, but humans are not and can not be independent.

We are an interdependent species. We rely on each other for nearly all our wants and needs.

Independence from other is not available to the richest man with the most affluent life style. He is as dependent on the staff of servants who wait on him as they are dependent on him for their shelter and sustenance.

Independence from other humans is only available to the poorest of hermits. This hermit must gather and prepare all his own vegetables and fruits. He must hunt, kill, skin, dress, and cook all his own meat. He must find or build his own shelter using only the materials he can gather and prepare by himself aided only by the tools that he can manufacture by himself from the materials that he can find. He must shelter himself from all storms and natural disasters, and protect himself from all enemies. Only by committing 99+ percent of his waking time to basic survival can he achieve true independence from other humans.

And, what is the cost of this independence from other humans? His lot will be to live a life of abject poverty devoid of any meaning. His search for independence forces him to forsake his very humanness and de-evolve into an animal. And, even then, he can not achieve true independence. For, his body is still dependent on plant and animal tissue for its survival.

We humans are not an independent life form. Despite the common desire of most of us to be independent, human independence is not possible in any scientific sense. Our bodies do not contain chlorophyll and we cannot get our energy directly from the Sun. Other plants and animals serve as our source of energy. We are just as dependent on others for our survival as are the animals.

We can ignore this fact of science by calling the other plants and animals – food and cooking their bodies in ways so that we are not reminded of the source of our sustenance, but we are still not independent. When we further examine our relationships with other humans, we discover that even here we are not independent.

In summary then, we can say that in the lives of plants – the independent class of life, other plays no role .

In the lives of animals – the dependent class of life, other serves primarily as a source of food.

And finally in the lives of humans, the interdependent class of life, other is very important. Our bodies are as dependent on others for food as the animals, but socially, psychologically and economically, we depend on others and others depend on us. We humans are interdependent.

Is this my truth? Yes, this is my map of the territory. Is it incomplete? Yes, all maps are incomplete.

One of the less useful values modern humans have inherited from their infatuation with institutional neutrality, is the idea that all opinions are equally valid. This so called principle of equal validity brings us to the conclusion that one mind’s ignorance is just as valid as another mind’s knowledge. This conclusion, however, is not consistent with the scientific method.

So I will take a chance and say humans are an interdependent class of life. I will claim human interdependence to be a near truth. I don’t ask you to accept my claim on the principle of equal validity. Test it for yourself.

If as I claim, humanity is an interdependent class of life, then co-Operation makes sense. If we were to restructure our society around this near truth We could be more successful.