Saturday, June 21, 2014

Leonid Grinin - Big History and a Single Process View of the Development of the Universe

I have only skimmed this article, but I see in this Big History approach the possibility of its use in integral theory to replace Ken Wilber's teleological version of cosmological evolution. This could only be a good thing for integral theory since Wilber's misconceptions about evolution have been widely criticized.

By way of clarification, here is a definition of Big History (Wikipedia):
Big History is an emerging academic discipline which examines history from the Big Bang to the present. It examines long time frames using a multidisciplinary approach based on combining numerous disciplines from science and the humanities,[1][2][3][4][5] and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture.[6] It integrates studies of the cosmos, Earth, life and humanity using empirical evidence to explore cause-and-effect relations,[7][8] and is taught at universities[9] and secondary schools[10] often using web-based interactive presentations.[10] It is an academic movement spearheaded by historian David Christian of Australia's Macquarie University, who coined the term Big History,[7][9][11] and is made of an "unusual coalition of scholars".[2] While some academic historians are skeptical about its value or originality,[12] the 20-year-old discipline[13] appears to be poised for further growth, including an effort to make the discipline available worldwide via a project from philanthropist Bill Gates and David Christian called the Big History Project.
Some theorists in this field divide the whole narrative of Big History into three phases and seven epochs:
Phases: physical evolution → biological evolution → cultural evolution
Epochs: particulate → galactic → stellar → planetary → chemical → biological → cultural.
Others use even more divisions and thresholds.

Still from Wikipedia:
David Christian, in an 18-minute TED talk, described some of the basics of the Big History course.[38] Christian describes each stage in the progression towards greater complexity as a "threshold moment" when things become more complex, but they also become more fragile and mobile.[38] Some of Christian's threshold stages are:
  1. The universe appears, incredibly hot, busting, expanding, within a second.[38]
  2. Stars are born[38]
  3. Stars die, creating temperatures hot enough to make complex chemicals, as well as rocks, asteroids, planets, moons, and our solar system.[38]
  4. Earth is created[38]
  5. Life appears on Earth, with molecules growing from the Goldilocks conditions with neither too much nor too little energy.[38]
  6. Humans appear, language, collective learning.[38]
Christian elaborated that more complex systems are more fragile, and that while collective learning is a powerful force to advance humanity in general, it is not clear that humans are in charge of it, and it is possible in his view for humans to destroy the biosphere with the powerful weapons that have been invented.[38]

In the 2008 lecture series through The Teaching Company's Great Courses entitled Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity, Christian explains Big History in terms of eight thresholds of increasing complexity:[39]

  1. The Big Bang and the creation of the Universe about 13 billion years ago[39]
  2. The creation of the first complex objects, stars, about 12 billion years ago[39]
  3. The creation of chemical elements inside dying stars required for chemically-complex objects, including plants and animals[39]
  4. The formation of planets, such as our Earth, which are more chemically complex than the Sun[39]
  5. The creation and evolution of life from about 3.8 billion years ago, including the evolution of our hominine ancestors[39]
  6. The development of our species, Homo sapiens, about 250,000 years ago, covering the Paleolithic era of human history[39]
  7. The appearance of agriculture about 11,000 years ago in the Neolithic era, allowing for larger, more complex societies[39]
  8. The "Modern revolution", or the vast social, economic, and cultural transformations that brought the world into the Modern era[39]
That should be enough foundation to grok this article.

This is an open access article posted at the Social Science Research Network site.

I am including the introduction and the first part of section one below, and then also most of section two, which is where this gets more interesting (to me).

The Star-Galaxy Era of Big History in the Light of Universal Evolutionary Principles

Leonid Grinin
| May 20, 2014

  • Eurasian Center for Big History & System Forecasting; Volgograd Center for Social Research
This article appears in Teaching & Researching Big History: Exploring a New Scholarly Field; Leonid E. Grinin, David Baker, Esther Quaedackers, and Andrey V. Korotayev, editors. – Volgograd: ‘Uchitel’ Publishing House. Pp. 163–187, 2014


Big History provides a unique opportunity to consider the development of the Universe as a single process. Within Big History studies one can distinguish some common evolutionary laws and principles. However, it is very important to recognize that there are many more such integrating principles, laws, mechanisms and patterns of evolution at all its levels than it is usually supposed. In the meantime, we can find the common traits in development, functioning, and interaction of apparently rather different processes and phenomena of Big History. Of special importance is the point that many principles, patterns, reg-ularities, and rules of evolution, which we tend to find relevant only for the biological and social levels of evolution, may be also applied to the cosmic phase of evolution. The present article attempts (within such a framework for the first time in the Big History framework) at combining Big History potential with the potential of Evolutionary Studies. It does not only analyze the history of the Cosmos. It studies similarities between evolutionary laws, principles, and mechanisms at various levels and phases of Big History. Such an approach opens up some new perspectives for our understanding of evolution and Big History, their driving forces, vectors, and trends; it creates a consolidated field for interdisciplinary research.


Big History provides unique opportunities to consider the development of the Universe as a single process, to detect vectors of changes of certain important characteristics of the Universe (such as complexity and energy) at various phases of this development. However, one should note that the Big History studies tend to pay little attention to such an important aspect as the unity of principles, laws, and mechanisms of evolution at all its levels.[1] I believe that combining the Big History potential with evolutionary approaches can open wider horizons in this respect (see Grinin et al. 2011). Indeed, common traits in development, functioning, and interaction can be found in apparently quite different processes and phenomena of Big History. In this respect the universality of evolution is expressed in those real similarities that are detected in
many manifestations at all its levels.

This article is an attempt to combine Big History potential with the potential of Evolutionary Studies in order to achieve the following goals: 1) to apply the historical narrative principle to the description of the stargalaxy era of the cosmic phase of Big History; 2) to analyze both the cosmic history and similarities and differences between evolutionary laws, principles, and mechanisms at various levels and phases of Big History. As far as I know, nobody has approached this task in systemic way yet. It appears especially important to demonstrate that many evolutionary principles, patterns, regularities, and rules, which we tend to find relevant only for higher levels and main lines of evolution, can be also applied to cosmic evolution. Moreover, almost everything that we know about evolution may be detected in the cosmic history, whereas many of the evolutionary characteristics are already manifested here in a rather clear and salient way. One should also bear in mind that the origin of galaxies, stars, and other ‘celestial objects’ is the lengthiest evolutionary process among all evolutionary processes in the Universe. Such an approach opens new perspectives for our understanding of evolution and Big History, of their driving forces, vectors, and trends, creating a consolidated field for the multidisciplinary research.

Our world is immensely diverse and unlimited in its manifestations. However, fundamentally it is a single world – that is why it is so important to study those fundamentals.

I. The Formation of the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe

Preconditions. After the Big Bang, our Universe ‘lived’ for quite a long period of time without any stars, galaxies, clusters, and superclusters of galaxies (Khvan 2008: 302). The formation of modern structure of the Universe lasted for billions of years. However, the first stars and galaxies turn out to have emerged not later than 200–400 million years after the Big Bang. And what was the matter from which they had emerged?

Approximately 270,000 years after the Big Bang, a large phase transition occurred resulting in the emergence of matter in the form of atoms of hydrogen and helium. Later, they started to consolidate in new structures (see below). The main mass of this matter concentrated in gas-dust clouds that could have tremendous sizes (dozens parsecs, or even more).[2] For the first time we observe Nature in the role of a constructor. Before that, it had formed just the basic elements. Now one could observe the emergence of enormous structures from tiny particles and ‘specks of dust’. After that one could observe this constantly: largescale structures are composed of myriads of minute particles and grains.

The formation of clouds (and later stars and galaxies) meant a concentration of matter on enormous scale, which could have been caused only by gravity. However, this only force is insufficient for structuring, because in ‘an absolutely homogenous universe the emergence of largescale structures (galaxies and their clusters) is impossible’ (Dolgov et al. 1998: 12–13). Thus, certain seed grains are necessary – this is comparable with formation of rain drops that emerge around particles of dust or soot; or with formation of a pearl around grit. Small fluctuations are often needed for the powerful forces to start working. Actually, minor fluctuations (minute deviations from homogeneity) occurred in the Universe early on. Then the larger fluctuations happened. They could act as seed grains for the formation of galaxies and the matter concentrated around them on a much larger scale until the quantity started to transform into a new quality. This is a perfect example of the point that the non-uniformity (in particular with respect to the distribution of matter, energy, etc.) is a universal characteristic. Any major evolutionary shift in biological and social systems is preceded by the concentration of certain forms, resources and conditions in certain niches and places. Thus, in the major system the common processes may proceed in their usual way, whereas in the concentration zone some peculiar processes start (this is what takes place in star formation zones).

Dark and light matter. Nowadays it is generally accepted that dark matter plays an important role in the formation of the first galaxies, as it appeared capable of consolidating into clusters much earlier than the light (baryon) matter. The latter could not contract until the end of the hydrogen recombination (atom formation) due to radiation (270,000 years after the Big Bang). Only when hydrogen nuclei and electrons were able to merge and form atoms, whereas photons separated from the matter and flew away, the pressure of the radiation dramatically dropped. As a result, the light matter would fall in potential holes prepared for it by the dark matter. Though the dark matter was initially more capable to structuring than the light matter, the progress toward structuring turned out to be very short and leading to almost a dead-lock.[3] Meanwhile, the evolutionary potential of the light matter was based on the ‘achievements of the dark matter’. Such a model of development is rather typical for evolution. For example, long before the transition to agriculture some gatherers of cereal plants invented many things (sickles, granaries, and grinding stones) that later turned to be rather useful for agriculturalists, whereas specialized hunter-gatherers turned out to be an evolutionary dead end.

The epoch of formation of the large-scale structure of the Universe. First galaxies and stars. There are rather diverse opinions on timing, process characteristics and sequence of formation of stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters and superclusters. There is a hypothesis that galaxy protoclusters were first to originate. However, a more commonly held hypothesis suggests that protogalaxies (in the form of giant condensed gas clouds) were the first to emerge within the structure of the Universe, and later they became the birthplace for separate stars and other structural elements (see, e.g., Gorbunov and Rubakov 2011).

However, in recent years new evidence has come to hand to support the idea that those were the stars that appeared first. This discovery somehow modified the previous theories. At present, it is widely accepted that the stars were first to emerge, but those were the giant stars, much more massive than most of the later-formed ones (May et al. 2008). Because of the absence of carbon, oxygen and other elements that absorb the energy from condensing clouds, the process proceeded more slowly in that epoch; thus, only giant clouds could condense producing massive stars hundreds times larger than the Sun (Ibid.). Such giant stars lived only a few million years (the larger is star, the shorter is its life). In addition, the first stars contained a small amount of heavy elements. Thus, more than one generation of stars could change, until the quantity of heavy elements gradually increased. The emergence of ‘heavy elements’ from the ‘dead star stellar remnants’ resembles the formation of fertile soil from the remnants of dead plants. The circulation of matter in the Universe is always observed everywhere and at all levels.

In recent years we have witnessed the discovery of a few galaxies that are claimed to be the oldest in the Universe. Meanwhile, the dates of formation of the first galaxies are shifted closer and closer to the Big Bang. The emergence of the first galaxies is dated to less than 400 million years after the Big Bang; and there are even claims that some more ancient galaxies have been discovered. They are claimed to have emerged only 200 million years after the Big Bang (see European Commission 2011). The evidence on the first stars refers to c. 150–200 million years after the Big Bang – hence, stars and galaxies appear to have emerged almost simultaneously.

[Download the PDF to continue reading.]

Notes for this section:

1. Of course, some authors analyze important general evolutionary mechanisms and patterns, which can be seen at all phases of Big History (see, e.g., David Christian's ‘Swimming Upstream’ and the conclusion of David Baker's ‘Shoulders of Giants’ in this volume). One can also mention Fred Spier (2010) and David Baker's ‘10500. The Darwinian Algorithm and a Possible Candidate for a “Unifying Theme” of Big History’ (2013). However, we should state our position on Baker's general idea in that interesting paper. While also dealing with universal evolutionary principles like ours, Baker innovates by starting his article with analyzing the selection of universes within which there could appear some physical laws and parameters allowing the universes to evolve. Baker explores the selection mechanism among an enormous number (potentially 10500– a fabulous number even for modern cosmology) of universes in the ‘multiverse’. We suppose that his algorithm with respect to the selection of universes could hardly be called properly Darwinian. He rather speaks about the evolutionary selection in general – that is not the selection of the fittest, but rather the selection of those capable to evolve – which is much wider than the Darwinian selection. The idea that such selection is not Darwinian is confirmed if one employs Christian's (this volume) and Smolin's (2008: 34, which Christian refers to) definitions of the Universal Darwinian mechanism. Such mechanism should obviously include a mechanism of reproduction. It is clear that there is not any mechanism of reproduction in the case of isolated universes. However, for a theory of the presence of Darwinian reproduction in the evolution of multiple universes see Smolin's earlier book The Life of the Cosmos (1997).

2. 1 parsec ≈ 31 trillion km.

3. However, as with any evolutionary dead end, this does not mean an absolute stagnation. At present, in galaxy halos the dark matter is structured in certain smaller structures (see, e.g., Diemand et al. 2008).
* * * * *

2. Some Evolutionary Ideas in Connection with the Star-Galaxy Phase of Evolution of the Universe

In the evolutionary process of formation of stars, galaxies, nebulae, and cosmic clouds one can distinguish a number of important evolutionary principles and laws that are not evident. Their detection is important for understanding the unity of principles of development of the Universe. Those principles and observations are grouped below into several blocks.

2.1. Evolution proceeds with constant creation and destruction of objects

Nature, when creating, destroying, and renewing various objects, ‘tests’ many versions, some of which turn out to be more effective and have more chances to succeed in terms of evolution. For such a situation of selection within constant destruction and creation process, it appears possible to apply a rather appropriate notion of creative destruction introduced by Josef Schumpeter (1994).

* ‘Evolution is stronger than individual objects’. Cosmic processes are accompanied by constant emergence, development, change, and death of various objects (stars, galaxies, and so on). Thus, here one can point as relevant the principle that was expressed by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1987) with respect to life in the following way: ‘life is stronger than organisms’, that is, life goes on exactly because organisms are mortal. The same is relevant to stellar evolution. We may say here that the cosmos is stronger than stars and galaxies; and in general, evolution is stronger than individual objects.
* Rotation and keeping balance take place due to constant destruction (or transition to new phases in the lifecycle) of some objects and the emergence of others. This keeps balance and creates conditions for development, because development is a result of change of generations and species.

* In every end there is a beginning. Star-evolutionary ‘relay race’. The material of dead objects becomes building blocks for the formation of new objects. This represents the circulation of matter and energy in nature; on the other hand, this represents a sort of ‘relay race’.[7] The latter allows using the results of long-lasting processes (in particular, the accumulation of heavy elements).[8] Thus, we deal here with the above mentioned ‘creative destruction’ – the creation of new objects due to the destruction of the old ones, which ensures continuity and provides new forms with space for advancement (e.g., the change of generations of biological organisms always results in certain transformations). The change of rulers may not necessarily lead to radical social changes; however, each new ruler is somehow different from his predecessor, as a result the accumulation of historical experience occurs.

* New generations of organisms and taxa are a mode of qualitative development. One may also detect generations of taxa, which already have significant evolutionary and systemic differences. Thus, generations of stars differ in terms of their size, chemical composition, and other characteristics. Only through the change of several generations of objects this class of objects acquires some features that, nevertheless, are considered to be typical for the whole class of objects.

2.2. Individuality as a way to increase evolutionary diversity

* Individual fates within evolution. It appears possible to maintain that with the formation of stars one observes the emergence of individual objects in nature, ‘individuals’ that, on the one hand, are rather similar, but have rather different individual fates much depending on circumstances of their birth and various contingencies. For example, stars with small masses (in which nuclear fusion occurs at a slow rate) can use all of their fuel (i.e., remain in the main sequence) for many billions of years. On the other hand, blue giants (in which the rate of fuel consumption is rapid and which lose most part of their mass due to their instability) burn out hundreds of times faster.

The stars can end their lives in a rather different way. Some of them, having lost one or a few outer layers, would cool, slowly transforming into cold bodies; some others may contract a few dozen times, or may end their lives with huge explosions blowing their matter into open space. Finally, a star may become a black hole that does not allow any matter to come out of its immensely compressed depths.

* Ontogenesis and phylogenesis. The evolution proceeds at various levels: through the development of its certain branch, a certain class, species and so on (and sometimes even at the level of an individual organism). In addition, applying biological terminology, at every level of evolution we find a combination of processes of ontogenesis and phylogenesis. Of course, within star-galaxy evolution the phylogenesis is represented much weaker than in the evolution of life. Nevertheless, it still appears possible to speak about the history of transformation of certain types of galaxies and stars, and, hence, up to a certain extent the cosmic phylogenesis does occur (see as above with respect to change of a few generations of stars and galaxies that differ from each other as regards their size, structure, and composition).

* Required and excessive variation as conditions of a search for new evolutionary trajectories. Within the processes described above one can observe the formation of the taxonomic diversity of space objects; we may even speak about occupying the evolutionary ‘niches’. There emerge different types of stars and galaxies (see above). Such diversity is extremely important. Only the achievement of a necessary level of taxonomic and other diversity allows a search for ways to new evolutionary levels. This is sometimes denoted as the rule of necessary and excessive diversity (see Grinin, Markov, and Korotayev 2008: 68–72; for more details see also Panov 2008).

* Norm, averages, and deviation from a norm. Only when we find a sufficient diversity, it appears possible to speak about norm, average level, exceptions, and outliers. Scientists have long known that the breakthroughs to new forms usually happen at the periphery, and in those systems that diverge from the previous mainstream.

* Continuity, which actually means the emergence of a continuum of forms, sizes, life spans, and lifecycles, is rather characteristic for space objects. Thus, the stars can be presented as a continuum from heavier to lighter ones (whereas the latter become hardly distinguishable from planets). The types of planetary systems uniformly cover a wide range of parameters. There is also a sequence of phases in the transformation of cosmic clouds into stars: condensation of clouds – formation of protostars – formation of young stars, and up to the death of stars. The continuum of forms and sizes of objects may be observed at geological, biological, and social phases of the evolution.

2.3. Object, environment, competition, development systems, and self preservation 

* The relations between structure and environment. Multilevel systems (galaxy – galaxy cluster – galaxy supercluster) act as systems of a higher order for stars, and, simultaneously, they create an environment that produces an enormous influence on those stars. A star directly interacts with its immediate environment (e.g., with neighboring stars because of the strong gravity which affects the movement of both stars), whereas with the distant environment the interaction proceeds at higher levels. Within star-galaxy evolution the role of environment is generally less important than at other evolutionary levels, because single stars are separated by great distances and that is why collide rather infrequently. On the other hand, one should not underestimate the role of the environment. For example, the role of the immediate environment is very important in systems of double, triple, or multiple stars. For a small galaxy the influence of neighboring larger galaxy may turn out to be fatal, if it leads to its absorption. External factors play the major role in changes (e.g., a large cosmic body can pass by a giant molecular clouds, there can occur a star explosion, and so on) and may trigger the process of formation of stars and galaxies (by launching the gas contraction process). Collisions of cosmic bodies may create new cosmic bodies – for example, there is a hypothesis that the Moon emerged as a result of the collision of some large objects with the Earth.

With the development of a certain form of evolution, its own laws and environment gain a growing influence on the development of its objects and subjects. For example, both abiotic nature and the biotic environment influence biological organisms. However, within a complex ecological environment, it is the intraspecies and interspecies competition that may have larger influence than any other natural factors, whereas within a complex social environment it is just the social surrounding that affects individuals and social systems more than the natural forces do. Thus, with the formation of star-galaxy structure of the Universe there emerged macro-objects which start to interact with environments which are larger by many orders of magnitude.

* The urge toward self-preservation and origins of the struggle for resources. Stars, galaxies, and planets (as well as other cosmic bodies) have their definite, quite structured, and preserved form. The ‘struggle’ for the preservation of those forms, the capacity to live and shine, the use of different layers to minimize energy losses lead to a slow but evident evolutionary development. This way the atomic composition of the Universe changes, whereas the diversity of variations of the existence of matter increases. On the one hand, the emergence of structures that strive for their preservation creates a wide range of interaction between the system and its environment; on the other hand, this creates a basis for the ‘evolutionary search’ and evolutionary advancement. This evolutionary paradox – the struggle for the self-preservation is the most important source for development – can be observed here in its full-fledged form. However, star-galaxy evolution demonstrates the emergence of this driving force which will become very important in biological evolution; and it appears to be the most important driving force in social evolution. This is the struggle for resources that among stars and galaxies may proceed in the form of weakening of another object or its destruction (e.g., through a direct transfer of energy and matter from one body to another), in the form of ‘incorporation’, ‘capturing’, that is ‘annexation’ of stars and star clusters by larger groups. We have already mentioned above galactic coalescences. Thus, some astronomers maintain that throughout a few billions of years our galaxy has ‘conquered, robbed, and submitted’ hundreds of small galaxies, as there are some evident ‘immigrants’ within our galaxy, including the second brightest star in the northern sky, Arcturus (Gibson and Ibata 2007: 30). It is widely accepted that emergence and expansion of a black hole may lead to the ‘eating’ of the matter of the nearby stars and galaxies. However, the ‘eating capacity’ of the black holes is greatly exaggerated in popular literature. In systems of double stars or in star-planet systems one may also observe such a form of interaction as the exchange of energy and resources.

2.4. Multilinearity

Multilinearity is one of the most important characteristics of evolution. Unfortunately, it does not get sufficient attention, and there is a tendency to reduce evolution to a single line – the one that has produced the highest complexity level, which is often interpreted as the main line of evolution. However, at every stage of evolutionary development one can find an interaction of a few lines that can have rather different futures. In other words, in addition to the main evolutionary line one can always identify a number of lateral ones. Firstly, they contribute to the increasing diversity; secondly, they allow expanding the range of search opportunities to move to new levels of development; thirdly, the lateral lines may partly enter the main evolutionary stream, enriching it. We quite often deal with two or more coexisting and comparable lines of development whose convergence may lead to a quantitative breakthrough and synergetic effect. Various lines of development may transform into each other. Elsewhere we have written a lot on the issue of social evolution in this context (see, e.g., Grinin and Korotayev 2009; Grinin and Korotayev 2011; Bondarenko, Grinin, and Korotayev 2011; Grinin 2011).

* Classical forms and their analogues. The main and lateral lines of evolution may be considered in two dimensions: 1) horizontal (as regards complexity and functions), 2) vertical (concerning the version that would be realized later at higher evolutionary phases). It appears also possible to speak about classical versions and their analogues. Thus, various forms of aggregation and specialization of unicellulars can be regarded as analogues of multicellulars (see Eskov 2006), whereas various complex stateless polities can be regarded as state analogues (see Grinin and Korotayev 2006; Grinin and Korotayev 2009; Grinin 2011 for more detail). Classical forms and their analogues can transform into each other; however, these are just the analogues that tend to transform into classical forms, rather than the other way round (the latter may be regarded as a forced adaptation to sharply changing conditions, and sometimes even as a direct degeneration).

* Stars and molecular clouds: two parallel forms of existence of cosmic matter. In this respect we may consider stars and galaxies as the main line of evolution and the giant clouds as its lateral lines; the former may be denoted as ‘classical forms’, and the latter may be designated as ‘analogues’. On the one hand, those forms actually transform into each other. Galaxies and stars emerge from giant molecular clouds, whereas stars through explosions and shedding their envelopes may transform into gas-dust cloud. On the other hand, giant molecular clouds are able to concentrate; the energy exchange occurs within them, and thus, in terms of gravity and structural complexity they are quite comparable to stars and galaxies. They generally have a rather complex ‘Russian nesting doll’ structure, whereby smaller and denser condensations are placed within larger and sparser ones (see Surkova 2005: 48). The Russian-doll structure is also typical for higher levels of evolution. Thus, smaller groups of social and gregarious animals constitute larger groups and tend to reproduce their structure. The same refers to social evolution, in particular to the non-centralized entities: for example, the tribal formations, whose constituent parts (lineages, clans, and sub-tribes) often reproduce the structure (and structural principles) of the tribe. That is why tribes can easily split and merge when necessary. The same is true of herds of gregarious animals.

Notes for this section:

7. For more details on the ‘rule of evolutionary relay race’ see Grinin, Markov, and Korotayev 2008.

8. For example, the Solar System emerged from the remnants of a supernova explosion. It is believed that due to this fact there are so many heavy and super-heavy elements on the Earth and other planets.

An Interview with John Searle: The Philosopher in the World

An interview with John Searle

Below is an interview with John Searle (taken from a longer version available here) that appears in the New York Review of Books. Beneath the interview is also a video of the talk Searle gave at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities on “Consciousness as a Problem in Philosophy and Neurobiology.”

John Searle: The Philosopher in the World

Tim Crane | June 20, 2014

On May 22, the philosopher and longtime New York Review contributor John Searle gave a public lecture at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) on “Consciousness as a Problem in Philosophy and Neurobiology.” During Searle’s visit, Cambridge Professor of Philosophy Tim Crane interviewed him about his work and the state of philosophy today. The following is drawn from their conversation.

John Searle

Tim Crane: In our discussion earlier today, you talked about questions of rights and freedom. This is a bit of a new departure for you, isn’t it?
John Searle: I have never written much about political rights and political power. But if you have a theory of social ontology it ought to have implications in other areas of social philosophy concerning other issues. Social ontology is a beautiful subject by the way. We all live with money and private property, and universities, and governments, and summer vacations: What’s their ontology? How do they exist? How can there be an objective fact that this piece of paper is money, but it’s only money in virtue of our subjective opinions? That’s a big question I have tried to answer. And I think my theory of social ontology has important implications for political philosophy. One is on the notion of human rights, universal human rights.

Are you skeptical of the idea of universal human rights?

No, I’m not skeptical about the idea of universal human rights. I’m skeptical about what I call positive rights. You see, if you look at the logical structure of rights, every right implies an obligation on someone else’s part. A right is always a right against somebody. If I have a right to park my car in your driveway, then you have an obligation not to interfere with my parking my car in your driveway. Now the idea of universal human rights is a remarkable idea because if there are such things, then all human beings are under an obligation to do—what? Well, I want to say that with things like the right to free speech it just means not to interfere. It’s a negative right. My right to free speech means I have a right to exercise my free speech without being interfered with. And that means that other people are under an obligation not to interfere with me.

Now, when I look at the literature, I discover that there is a tradition going back to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where not all of the rights listed are negative rights like the right to free speech, or the right to freedom of religion, or the right to freedom of association, I think all those negative rights are perfectly legitimate. But there are supposed to be such rights as “every human being has a right to adequate housing.” Now I don’t think that can be made into a meaningful claim.

The claim that “every human being has a right to seek adequate housing,” or that there are particular jurisdictions where the British government, or the government of the State of California, can decide “we’re going to guarantee or give that right to all of our citizens”—that seems to me OK. But the idea that every human being, just in virtue of being a human being, has a right to adequate housing in a way that would impose an obligation on every other human being to provide that housing, that seems to me nonsense. So I say that you can make a good case for universal human rights of a negative kind, but that you cannot make the comparable case for universal human rights of a positive kind.

Now I come up with one counter-example. One exception to that is that it does seem to me where life and safety themselves are concerned, we’re all under an obligation, where we can, to help people whose life is threatened. If someone has been hit by a car, he has a right to expect that he will receive assistance from us, and we have an obligation to afford him assistance. And the reason that’s an exception is that a condition of anything else in life is that you have rights of survival. But in general, I think it’s a big mistake in contemporary political thinking to suppose that there is a list, an inventory, of universal human rights of a positive kind. I don’t think I can make sense of this.

Have you ever been interested in getting involved with politics yourself?

It’s funny you should ask that. There was a period when I first went back to California when I was fairly active in the Democratic Party, and then was very active in the Free Speech Movement, but it’s not as intellectually satisfying as an academic career. You do have the satisfaction that you get involved in decisions that make a difference in a way that most philosophical arguments don’t. And in fact, during the Vietnam War, a friend of mine who was a high official with the State Department invited me to come and serve on the State Department policy planning staff where they plan American policy. And I said, “Not during the war.” I was so opposed to the war that I absolutely refused to do anything that would even seem to be lending tacit support to the war. So I didn’t do it and I have seldom been active in public affairs since.

It’s a choice you have to make, especially in the United States. I think it’s possible to combine a political career with an academic, philosophical career. But the cases of people who’ve done it have not been very inspiring to me.

Coming back to the question of rights, since every right requires a corresponding obligation, does it follow from your view that animals don’t have rights, since they have no obligations?

Most rights have to do with specific institutions. As a professor in Berkeley I have certain rights, and certain obligations. But the idea of universal rights—that you have certain rights just in virtue of being a human being—is a fantastic idea. And I think, Why not extend the idea of universal rights to conscious animals? Just in virtue of being a conscious animal, you have certain rights. The fact that animals cannot undertake obligations does not imply that they cannot have rights against us who do have obligations. Babies have rights even before they are able to undertake obligations.

Now I have to make a confession. I try not to think about animal rights because I fear I’d have to become a vegetarian if I worked it out consistently. But I think there is a very good case to be made for saying that if you grant the validity of universal human rights, then it looks like it would be some kind of special pleading if you said there’s no such thing as universal animal rights. I think there are animal rights.

Why does that mean they have rights?

For every right there’s an obligation. We’re under an obligation to treat animals as we arrogantly say, “humanely.” And I think that’s right. I think we are under an obligation to treat animals humanely. The sort of obligation is the sort that typically goes with rights. Animals have a right against us to be treated humanely. Now whether or not this gives us a right to slaughter animals for the sake of eating them, well, I’ve been eating them for so long that I’ve come to take it for granted. But I’m not sure that I could justify it if I was forced to. I once argued this with Bernard Williams. Bernard thought that it was absolutely preposterous for me to think that a consideration of animal rights would forbid carnivorous eating habits. I’m not so sure if Bernard was right about it.

Interesting you mentioned Bernard Williams. He was, of course, one of the great philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century, and he was also someone who had interests in political life.
Yes. Well, Bernard was a very good friend of mine. He had an enormous influence on me of the kind that would be hard to describe because it was mostly just admiration for his sheer intellectual abilities. I think Bernard was as intelligent as any human being I’ve ever met. He had a kind of quickness which was stunning. Now one consequence of that is there’s a sense in which people who knew him well, or at least in my case, we always feel the published work is not up to the level of the Bernard we remember. Yes, it’s wonderful and admirable, the published work, but the particular fire and light that came from discussions with Bernard are lost on the printed page…. And one of the reasons for that is he had all this other stuff going on. He was always on some royal commission, or dining in Buckingham Palace. And this is one of the reasons I tried very hard to get him a job in Berkeley. I thought if he was in Berkeley, away from the distractions of London, he might sit down and do really great philosophy. And he did great things in Berkeley, but then he turned around and went back to Oxford, and back to his old ways.

Some people describe him as a skeptical philosopher, or reactive in the sense that he would just be able to see all the flaws in every position, and this made him somewhat pessimistic.
He could see instantly the flaws in arguments, including his own. This was the fatal element: that Bernard could see the limitations of philosophical theories, but they led to him seeing the limitations of his own theories, and that was partly debilitating. But there’s another sense in which he never really was part of mainstream philosophy. You see, Oxford had this wonderfully exciting period where it was all about language, and we thought we were going to get an understanding of language which would enable us to solve a lot of philosophical problems. Bernard was always very skeptical about that. He always stood outside the mainstream. He wasn’t just a brilliant philosopher, but he was actually a brilliant classical scholar. Bernard had a kind of historicist conception of philosophy which is profoundly out of sync with mainstream philosophy of the past hundred years.

What do you think about this kind of historicism? Is that something that was ever attractive to you?

Well, not me, I think partly because I’m too lazy to read all those works. I mean the thought of reading, let’s say, the collected work of Hegel, I just—I mean—I find it too daunting. I think it is wonderful if you get obsessed with certain classic texts. For example, I became totally obsessed with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and wrote a summary of the whole damn book. My idea was that somebody ought to sit down and rewrite it the way a contemporary philosopher would do since we have tools and knowledge that Kant didn’t have. My first task was to write a summary of the whole book and I did. It’s very useful. But it’s not my life, it’s not my career. I don’t have the patience. I’m more obsessed with the immediate problems that bother me, and there’s a sense in which Kant’s problems are not my problems. I mean, if you think that you can never perceive the thing in itself, and yet you can perceive representations that give you a kind of objectivity, then you have a problematic that I don’t have. You have a set of conceptions of philosophy and epistemology that are really totally foreign to my way of thinking.

You started your career at one of the high points of English-speaking, analytic, Anglophone philosophy. What’s your view of the state of philosophy at the moment?

I think it’s in terrible shape! What has happened in the subject I started out with, the philosophy of language, is that, roughly speaking, formal modeling has replaced insight.

Any account of the philosophy of language ought to stick as closely as possible to the psychology of actual human speakers and hearers. And that doesn’t happen now. What happens now is that many philosophers aim to build a formal model where they can map a puzzling element of language onto it, and people think that gives you an insight. I mean a most famous current example of this is the idea that you will explain counterfactuals—for example, if I had dropped this pen, it would have fallen to the ground—by appealing to possible worlds. And then you have a whole load of technical stuff about how to describe the possible worlds. Well I won’t say that’s a waste of time because very intelligent people do it, but I don’t think it gives us insight. It’s as if I said: Well the way to understand the sentence, “All ravens are black,” is that what it really means is that all non-black things are non-ravens. You can get a mapping of one sentence onto other sentences where each side has the same truth conditions. But that is not, in general, the right way to understand the sense of the original sentence. And it’s a philosophical question of why you don’t get the insight.

And this is pervading other areas of philosophy. Formal epistemology seems to me so boring. I’m sure there’s some merit in it, but it puts me to sleep…. They’ve lost sight of the questions.

What advice would you give to a young philosopher starting out to not lose sight of the questions?

Well, my advice would be to take questions that genuinely worry you. Take questions that really keep you awake at night, and work on them with passion. I think what we try to do is bully the graduate students. The graduate students suffer worse than the undergraduates. We bully the graduate students into thinking that they have to accept our conception of what is a legitimate philosophical problem, so very few of them come with their own philosophical problems. They get an inventory of problems that they get from their professors. My bet would be to follow your own passion. That would be my advice. That’s what I did.

~ Tim Crane’s full interview with John Searle is available on the CRASSH website, which has also posted a video of his Cambridge lecture, “Consciousness as a Problem in Philosophy and Neurobiology.”
* * * * *

Do We Need a Theory-Based Assessment of Consciousness in the Field of Disorders of Consciousness?

Cognitive science diagnoses several disorders of consciousness (minimally conscious state, Persistent vegetative state, Locked-in syndrome, chronic coma, Brain stem death), which is curious in that we do not know (for sure) what consciousness is or is not.

Bottom line is that I agree that we need a theory-based assessment of consciousness from we can determine some norms, and then we can diagnose disorders of consciousness.

Full Citation: 
Fingelkurts, AA, Fingelkurts, AA, Bagnato, S, Boccagni, C, and Galardi, G. (2014, Jun 4). Do we need a theory-based assessment of consciousness in the field of disorders of consciousness? Frontiers in Human Neuroscience; 8:402. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00402

Do we need a theory-based assessment of consciousness in the field of disorders of consciousness?

Alexander A. Fingelkurts [1], Andrew A. Fingelkurts [1], Sergio Bagnato [2,3], Cristina Boccagni [2,3] and Giuseppe Galardi [2,3]
1. Research Department, BM-Science – Brain and Mind Technologies Research Centre, Espoo, Finland
2. Neurorehabilitation Unit, Rehabilitation Department, Fondazione Istituto “San Raffaele-G. Giglio,” Cefalù, Italy
3. Neurophysiology Unit, Rehabilitation Department, Fondazione Istituto “San Raffaele-G. Giglio,” Cefalù, Italy
Adequate assessment of (un)consciousness is not only of theoretical interest but also has a practical and ethical importance, especially when it comes to disorders of consciousness (DOC). Accurately determining the presence or absence of consciousness in patients with DOC allows informed decisions to be made about long-term care support, referral for rehabilitation, pain management and withdrawal of life support.

In spite of significant progress in neuroimaging and the introduction of clear-cut clinical diagnostic criteria, determining the (un)consciousness still presents an important clinical problem: errors are common and have been shown to be as high as 37–43% (Tresch et al., 1991; Childs et al., 1993; Andrews et al., 1996; Schnakers et al., 2006).

Assessment errors arise because the evaluation of patients with DOC is based mostly on clinical observation of subjectively interpreted behavioral responses, while conscious experience often occurs without any behavioral signs. Additionally behavioral responses of such patients are usually limited by their cognitive dysfunctions and/or by their frequent motor impairment. Therefore, determining if a non-communicative or minimally communicative patient is phenomenally conscious poses a major clinical and ethical challenge. For this reason, there is a need for paraclinical diagnostic markers for the presence or absence of consciousness.

We believe that a theoretical account of what conscious experience is and how it emerges within the brain will advance the search for appropriate neuromarkers of the presence or absence of consciousness in non-communicative brain-damaged patients.

In our view, several important considerations need to be kept in mind:

Consciousness vs. Vigilance

Consciousness is often conceptualized as a phenomenon with two components: wakefulness and awareness (Posner et al., 2007). Though such understanding is currently quite wide-spread, it confuses and mixes two different and independent phenomena: subjective awareness and vigilance. While awareness is an important component of consciousness, wakefulness belongs to the vigilance domain. Independence of these two concepts can be demonstrated by examples from a daily life: (a) we are able to unconsciously perform complex actions like brushing our teeth or driving a car while being completely awake; (b) being at the same level of wakefulness we are usually aware of some events/stimuli while unaware of others; and (c) during sleep we can be aware of our phenomenal experience (dreams) but are not awake. Hence, wakefulness is not a component of consciousness but of vigilance. Vigilance, however, affects consciousness by limiting the amount of information available for conscious access (Rusalova, 2006), thus affecting the amount of content (Overgaard and Overgaard, 2010).

Is Consciousness Gradually Continuous or Discrete (“All-or-None”)?

From the abovementioned fallacy, another misconception arises—levels of consciousness. The assumption is that consciousness itself can be somehow diminished (less consciousness) or increased (more consciousness), and thus considered to be gradual (Laureys et al., 2002; Vanhaudenhuyse et al., 2010a). However, there is no introspective evidence to support this widely accepted idea (Overgaard and Overgaard, 2010). Indeed, from a third-person perspective, consciousness presents itself in varying amounts, depending on the level of vigilance of the studied subject. However, what is important is that from the first-person perspective one is either discretely fully aware or unaware of something. It is the amount of content that varies gradually (Overgaard and Overgaard, 2010). There is no additional degree of consciousness during such awareness of the content (for a discussion see Fingelkurts et al., 2012a). In other words, consciousness is not merely a quantitative matter of a degree but in fact a qualitative matter of absence or presence of a particular state (Plum et al., 1998). In this sense, when consciousness is separated from arousal/wakefulness, then it is more of a categorical (all-or-none) phenomenon rather than a continuous (gradual) one (Fingelkurts et al., 2012a). It is the degree of vigilance (wakefulness) that conflates the expression of consciousness, resulting in an illusion of its continuous or graded nature (Hudetz, 2010).

What is Then Consciousness?

It is reasonable to assume that to be conscious is to be in a particular state which has projections onto mental/ psychological, neurophysiological and cognitive/behavioral dimensions (Edelman, 1989; Sokolov, 1990; Flohr, 1991; Tononi, 2008). Currently we do not know all parameters of this state, but recent empirical studies have provided several important observations (see Figure 1):

Figure 1. Schematic illustration relating consciousness expression and neuronal assembly characteristics. The stepwise line represents the idea that gradual changes in neuronal mechanisms need to be accumulated to reach a particular threshold level required for qualitative change in the functional state (Bagnato et al., 2013). During VS as a result of a brain injury, the functions of the neural net subtending consciousness (awareness) are reduced in both hemispheres below the threshold level required for minimal consciousness expression. The recovery of consciousness is a dynamic process that involves many plastic changes in many brain structures. If this reorganization crosses the threshold of the minimal neuronal mechanisms that are jointly sufficient for any conscious awareness (particular level of the size, life-span, stability and speed of growth of neuronal assemblies, as well as the amount and strength of functional connectivity between them), the patient will regain consciousness (Fingelkurts et al., 2012a,b). The critical factor regulating the occurrence or absence of consciousness recovery is the distance of these functional characteristics of neuronal assemblies from this threshold level (Bagnato et al., 2013).VS, vegetative state; MCS, minimally conscious state; dashed horizontal line illustrates a threshold of the minimal neuronal mechanisms that are jointly sufficient for any conscious awareness to emerge.
Taken together (Figure 1) these findings suggest that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon of coherent dynamic binding of multiple, relatively large, long-lived and stable, but transient alpha and beta generated neuronal assemblies organized as synchronized patterns within a nested, hierarchical brain architecture. It seems that these are minimally sufficient conditions at the more basic level (brain) that are required for the emergent quality (conscious mind) to manifests itself. Indeed, if phenomenal consciousness is a biological phenomenon within the confines of the brain, then there must be a specific level of brain organization and a specific spatial–temporal grain in it where consciousness resides. In other words, we could expect that at the lower (in comparison with the phenomenal consciousness) level of brain organization there should be non-experiential entities (some complex electrophysiological mechanisms) that function as the direct realization base of the phenomenal world (Fingelkurts et al., 2010, 2013a). The abovementioned nested hierarchical architecture of separate and synchronized neuronal assemblies forms the very particular level of brain functioning, so-called operational architectonics level, which on the one hand intervenes between physical level of the brain where it literally resides, and on the other, is isomorphic to the experiential/subjective phenomenal structure of the mind (Fingelkurts et al., 2010). In other words, the level of the operational architectonics has emergent properties relatively independent from the neurophysiological/neuroanatomical properties of the physical level. And the phenomenal level supervenes on this operational level with one-to-one correspondence thus making it ontologically inseparable from it (though it is separable from the brain neuroanatomical processes through the operational level) (Fingelkurts et al., 2013a).

Analytic Model for Assessing Consciousness

Patients in VS or in minimally conscious state (MCS) offer a unique opportunity to study the neural basis of (un)consciousness due to the fact that impairment in awareness of self and environment is dissociated in such patients from preserved and stable wakefulness. We believe that an appropriate level of consciousness description should articulate the operational level of brain organization where the phenomenal/conscious phenomena reside (Fingelkurts et al., 2013b). Electroencephalogram (EEG) is a suitable and adequate measure for the instrumental analysis of such operational level, because it (a) provides a direct (in contrast to indirect fMRI an PET) measure of the behavior of large-scale neuronal networks with a millisecond temporal resolution and reflects functional properties and states of brain functioning as well as being closely connected to information processing in/among neuronal assemblies (for a discussion see Fingelkurts et al., 2012a) and (b) enables clinicians to assess spontaneous brain activity at each level of vigilance and in any state of consciousness, bypassing the need to elicit a behavioral or any other response from the patient (Vanhaudenhuyse et al., 2010b).

Following Baars's (1988) recommendation, an experimental analytic model for the assessment of consciousness should consider only those EEG parameters that satisfy the rule: (i) NORM ≥ MCS > VS for subjective awareness of self and environment, (ii) NORM ≥ MCS < VS for subjective unawareness of self and environment. This model was already successfully used in several recent studies (Fingelkurts et al., 2012a,b,c, 2013b).

In conclusion we argue that in the situation where there is no consensus on what would constitute the reliable markers of consciousness in the absence of the subject's report, a theory-based insight into neural substrates and mechanisms involved in conscious content may be useful for detecting the presence of conscious experiences in non-communicating subjects.

Do we Need a Theory-Based Assessment of Consciousness for Proper Rehabilitation of Patients with DOC?

On the basis of the foregoing concepts, we may assume that patients with similar clinical behavior (i.e., VS or MCS) differ considerably in their level of operational architectonic dysfunction and that in turn translates into different expression of consciousness (Fingelkurts et al., 2012b). This is a critical point, if we consider that chances of recovery from a DOC (particularly, from a VS) depend on the interaction of two main factors: (i) the degree of impairment of neuronal systems supporting consciousness, and (ii) the amount of spontaneous and rehabilitation-induced plastic changes aimed to restore brain functions and connectivity within nested operational architectonics (Bagnato et al., 2013). If so, the precise measurement of brain dysfunction characteristics will be decisive, as it will allow rehabilitative treatments to be tailored for each patient. In the future, we may test the effectiveness of specific interventions (i.e., cognitive rehabilitations, drugs or neurostimulation) in patients in VS or MCS by evaluating the effects of the treatments on the patients' neuronal assembly characteristics mentioned earlier. We will then be able to choose the best rehabilitative intervention (or a suitable combination of treatments) for each patient with severe DOC by taking in consideration neurophysiological markers that are easily quantifiable at any stage of rehabilitation.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


The authors would like to thank Dmitry Skarin for English editing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ceremonial PTSD Therapies Favored by Native American Veterans


This is interesting, and it confirms a growing trend I have seen in aboriginal peoples seeking to return to the spiritual traditions that once nourished their people. One of the best books I have seen on the subject is Healing the Soul Wound: Counseling with American Indians and Other Native Peoples (2006) by Eduardo Duran.

Ceremonial PTSD therapies favored by Native American veterans

Medical News Today | Friday 20 June 2014

Native American veterans battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder find relief and healing through an alternative treatment called the Sweat Lodge ceremony offered at the Spokane Veterans Administration Hospital.

In the Arizona desert, wounded warriors from the Hopi Nation can join in a ceremony called Wiping Away the Tears. The traditional cleansing ritual helps dispel a chronic "ghost sickness" that can haunt survivors of battle.

These and other traditional healing therapies are the treatment of choice for many Native American veterans, - half of whom say usual PTSD treatments don't work - according to a recent survey conducted at Washington State University. The findings will be presented at the American Psychological Association conference in Washington D.C. this August.

The study is available online at

Led by Greg Urquhart and Matthew Hale, both Native veterans and graduate students in the WSU College of Education, the ongoing study examines the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of Native American veterans concerning PTSD and its various treatment options. Their goal is to give Native veterans a voice in shaping the types of therapies available in future programs.

"Across the board, Native vets don't feel represented. Their voices have been silenced and ignored for so long that they were happy to provide feedback on our survey," said Hale.

Historically, Native Americans have served in the military at higher rates than all other U.S. populations. Veterans are traditionally honored as warriors and esteemed in the tribal community. A 2012 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs showed that the percentage of Native veterans under age 65 outnumbers similar percentages for veterans of all other racial groups combined.

The WSU survey provides a first-hand look at the veterans' needs, but more importantly, reveals the unique preferences they have as Native American veterans, said Phyllis Erdman, executive associate dean for academic affairs at the college and mentor for the study.

Cultural worldview

Urquhart said many Native veterans are reluctant to seek treatment for PTSD because typical western therapy options don't represent the Native cultural worldview.

"The traditional Native view of health and spirituality is intertwined," he explained. "Spirit, mind, and body are all one - you can't parcel one out from the other - so spirituality is a huge component of healing and one not often included in western medicine, although there have been a few studies on the positive effects of prayer."

For many years, the U.S. government banned Native religious ceremonies, which subsequently limited their use in PTSD programs, said Urquhart. Seeking to remedy the situation, many Veterans Administration hospitals now offer traditional Native practices including talking circles, vision quests, songs, drumming, stories, sweat lodge ceremonies, gourd dances and more. Elders or traditional medicine men are also on staff to help patients process their physical and emotional trauma.

"PTSD is a big issue and it's not going away anytime soon," said Hale who identifies as Cherokee and was a mental health technician in the Air Force.

Urquhart, who is also Cherokee and developed mild symptoms of PTSD after a tour as a cavalry scout in Iraq, said there have been very few studies on Native veterans and PTSD. He and Hale designed their survey to be broader and more inclusive than any previous assessments. It is the first to address the use of equine therapy as a possible adjunct to both western treatments and Native ceremonial approaches.

Standard treatments disappointing

So far, 253 veterans from all five branches of the military have completed the survey, which includes 40 questions, most of them yes or no answers. It also includes an open-ended section where participants can add comments. The views reflect a diverse Native population ranging from those living on reservations to others who live in cities.

The majority of survey takers felt that "most people who suffer from PTSD do not receive adequate treatment," said Urquhart. For Native veterans who did seek standard treatment, the results were often disappointing. Sixty percent of survey respondents who had attempted PTSD therapy reported "no improvement" or "very unsatisfied."

Individual counseling reportedly had no impact on their PTSD or made the symptoms worse for 49 percent of participants. On the other hand, spiritual or religious guidance was seen as successful or highly successful by 72 percent of Native respondents. Animal assisted therapy - equine, canine, or other animals - was also highly endorsed.

"The unique thing about equine therapy is that it's not a traditional western, sit-down-with-a-therapist type program. It's therapeutic but doesn't have the stigma of many therapies previously imposed on Native Americans," said Urquhart.

Strongly supportive of such efforts, Erdman is expanding the long-running WSU Palouse Area Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) program to include a section open to all veterans called PATH to Success: A Warrior's Journey.

Giving veterans a voice

Urquhart, Hale, and teammate, Nasreen Shah say their research is gaining wide support in Native communities throughout the nation.

The team plans to distribute the survey results to all U.S. tribes, tribal governments, Native urban groups, and veteran warrior societies. They also hope the departments of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Services will take notice and continue to incorporate more traditional healing methods into their programs.

As one Iroquois Navy veteran commented on the survey, "Traditional/spiritual healing can be very effective together with in depth education and background in modern treatment methods."

A Nahua Army veteran agreed, writing, "Healing ceremonies are absolutely essential, as is story telling in front of supportive audiences. We need rituals to welcome back the warriors."