07 February 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is the world a friendly place? + 2 job offers + Avila

2 job offers – Avila day trip - Essay

Dear friends,

Is the world a friendly place? This is the topic we are discussing this
Sunday, and although the impression is that it is not, there are
exceptions. These are two of them:

Please pass the details to others, please.

Could you announce that I have a vacancy for an English teacher in the
North of Madrid.
It would be in school (no travelling), 10 hours per week, teenagers in
small (max. 4) groups.
Native not necessary
Milton 628 941 502

At my company that I work for we are looking to hire another permanent
software support technician. I don't have a full job specification just
yet, but basically we are looking for an IT capable person who speaks
(and writes) good to fluent English at the very least, with any other
languages being a welcome bonus.

The job offer is for a technical support person to answer customer calls
and emails regarding our software package and Windows printer driver. We
want someone who is technically minded with a good understanding of
programming and have at least some basic programming experience either
in the work place or study. It is a job with good prospects for further
development within the company. The office is centrally located next to
the Retiro park. Full training will be provided.

The offer is between 19-21k depending on the quality of the candidate.

If anyone is interested, or knows someone who might be interested please
get in touch. Candidates can send their CVs to my work email at:

The curious can see what we do by looking at our website:


Thanks hombre!


We are planning another day trip this time to Avila. We'll agree the
details this Sunday but this is the information I have so far about
transport. If you have any information please let me or us know.

BUS: Avanza Larrea – Estación Sur – Mendes Alvaro
Bus from Madrid : 9.30am and 11.00am and it takes about 1 hour to get to
Bus from Avila: 18.00 or last bus 20.30pm
Return ticket: 11.34 euros

TRAIN: (the Renfe website is a bit confusing)
Madrid: 8.45am and 11.00am and the journey takes about 1.30min
Avila: 20.15m, 20.37 and 20.58 (this is the confusing part)
Price: about 8.40 euros each way (ergo 16.40 return); but I think there
is a discount for day return.

See you Sunday

Take care



The flat is in Usera near the underground , totally furnished and 60 m2,
3º floor.

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);


Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Is the world a friendly place?

No. But we have ways and means of making it cooperate. Which brings me
to ask two questions, how serious is the problem and what have we done
about it?

Consider the following. Water is vital for life as we know it on Earth.
About 70% of the world's surface is covered with water. And as we know
water freezes at 0 degrees C (or rather the melting point of water is 0
degrees C) and the boiling point of water is of course 100 degrees C. In
the human body water makes up between 45 and 75% of body weight; by
mass, human cells consist of 65-90% water (H2O).*

The normal temperature of the human body is 37C. Stage 3 hypothermal is
fatal for human beings which is when the body temperature falls below
32C. Hyperthermia is life threatening and this happens when the body
temperature goes above 40C. There are very few places on Earth where
humans can live without the need of elaborate protection against the
elements. *

Of course our problems do not stop with temperatures. As far as we are
concerned there are basically two ways of coming into existence: natural
conception or artificial insemination. But when it comes to dying there
are so many ways of dying that it is beyond the imagination of all crime
writers. For example, Dr Charles Bryan MD starts his chapter on Clinical
infectious Disease, in the on-line book Microbiology and Immunology**
with the following words: "Infections still cause about one-third of all
deaths worldwide and are the leading cause of death, mainly because of
disease in developing countries." Needless to say, this is something
that preoccupies everyone; in Britain there are twenty-nine notifiable
diseases according to the entry in Wikipedia.

Given the state of the world and the universe around us, we live,
according to Richard Dawkins, in what he calls the Middle World. He
compares the Middle World to a narrow band of the electromagnetic
spectrum. (Google: Dawkins Middle Earth) any deviation from this narrow
band width and we end up dead physically, hence my background about
water, and metaphorically, we are just unable to understand what happens
beyond these boundaries.

But even within our narrow spectrum of the world we survive in, we have
to contend with anther range of hostile and unfriendly circumstances and
conditions. Around the time Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species in
1859 the world population was estimated to be around 1.2 billion, today
it is estimated to be 6.6 billion. In 2006, USA Today published an
article with the following headline: Study: 25% of Americans have no one
to confide in. The article, quoting from the study, said that in 1985
the average American had three people "in whom to confide matters that
were important to them." In 2004 that figure fell to two persons. But a
more interesting figure is that the number of people who depended
totally on a spouse increased from 5% to 9% in 2004.*** Unfortunately,
more people does not equate to more friends or friendlier neighbours.

Life itself is not immune from an unfriendly environment. Not only do
living systems have to compete against each other to survive, but most
important of all survival at the biological level does means living for
an other day and passing on one's genetic material on to the next
generation. Natural selection depends very much on having heritable
traits that are helpful for survival and reproduction.* But genes
themselves are equally battered around with both determinism and
randomness; they are not incompatible. Today we know enough about
evolution and genes to understand that the process of life is not plain
sailing. And whether you believe in creationism or in a natural process
one thing is sure, life couldn't be more complicated. And if the mission
statement of life is: survive and reproduce, the management have
certainly made it very difficult to accomplish. And when it is
accomplished it does not necessarily mean, mission accomplished.

A look at the Fertility rate world map # will make it absolutely clear
that today the highest population growths are also in developing
countries. On this map, Africa is covered in various shades of red
(representing high population growth) and places such as Europe, US and
Australia are shades of blue. It is an accepted fact that population
stability is a necessary condition for prosperity. The bulk of today's
6.6 billion live in unacceptable conditions be they health, economic,
political, human rights, work conditions, personal freedom. What we, in
developed countries, take for granted some of these people in developing
countries do not know they exist.

That the world is not friendly is not in doubt, but we can go one step
further and conclude that it was not brought into existence to be user
friendly anyway. Other life forms have it as tough as we do even if
natural selection enables each species to become adept at exploiting its
environment. In a way this confirms that the world is not friendly and
on the other hand it might be seen as being equally fair in a perverse
way. The world is unfriendly and hostile to anything that pretends to be
a living system: even viruses are not exempt.

If you think that the foregoing is pessimistic, the words of Douglas
Adams, writing in the introduction of his sci-fi book Hitchhiker's Guide
to the Galaxy (Balantine Books, originally published 1979) might have a
better ring to them: "Orbiting this [yellow sun] at a distance of
roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little
blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly
primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."
But is it really that bad on the real Earth?

Our next question is how did we arrive to the digital watch, or the
mobile phone to keep things up to date. In fact those Ape-descended life
forms did something 200,000 years ago (more or less) that would change a
few things in the world (not many, but enough). As a note in passing,
some believe that these Ape like creatures came down from the trees to
conquer the world. Bill Bryson in his books A Short History of Nearly
Everything, suggest that the trees were probably taken away from
underneath the apes by climatic changes. Thus making the quest for
better living locations more urgent. Of course, the Apes of the trees
and the ape like creatures that went on to become us today, are not the
same creatures; the difference is measured in million of years.

Maybe this exodus from Africa might be see as the first causal step
towards that digital watch, but it came at a price. Adams again: "This
planet has ... a problem which was this: most of the people living on it
were unhappy for pretty much of the time. ..... And so the problem
remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable,
even the ones with the digital watches." Adams was writing a science
fiction book, but we know what he meant.

The first change that took place between the common ancestor of Homo and
Pan (Wikipedia: Human) was for the sub tribe Hominina to evolve biped
locomotion which freed the arms and hands, for more productive
activities. This ability to walk and stand upright must have been such a
fundamental change that it seems to have truly been truly ingrained in
the depths of our genes. We now see this conversion manifest itself in
its pure and primitive form on the parade ground of those armies that
have ever existed. Walking straight and standing up right are the two
skills a new soldier must learn and learn without fault. Maybe the war
instinct, if not gene, might also be a throw back to those early
transforming times.

The next most important milestone must surely be the development of a
bigger brain. If walking up right gave us an advantage against our
competitors and predators, having a larger brain must have sealed the
fate of all other living creatures whether they were competitors or
predators. This evolutionary process, we are told, is continuing but in
my opinion the brain was the last big event in our physical evolution.
In effect, walking up right and developing our brain are the two most
important means we have had to make the world cooperate with us.

We can go on exploring the other important milestones in human
development and evolution. However, from our perspective we are
interested in two major developments both of which are a direct
consequence of our brain. I use developments in a rather loose way.

The major developments I was thinking of in the previous paragraph are
language and ethical systems. This is why I am using the word
development in a loose way. Strictly speaking, both these skills are
found in some animals especially the skill of transferring information
to other members of the group. Even the ideas of good and bad are found
in very primitive and crude forms in some creatures.

Language, and I include mathematics, scientific language and artistic
expression, enables us to transfer information between. Information that
would otherwise be too expensive or impossible to gather on our own. And
an ethical system, including culture, tradition, religion, legal
systems, gives us an important sense of stability amongst ourselves;
something which we are not by nature. This, in my opinion is the real
importance and value of ethics and not the ideas of good and bad.

What we have done, however, is to develop these skills into very
sophisticated tools and abilities which enable us to tame and control
parts of our environment and other fellow human beings. In other words,
what we have achieved these past 200,000 years is that a relatively
small number of human beings are able to get the rest of the physical
and human world to cooperate with them.

Amongst all this vortex of evolution we find a very strong pull to
socialise. Of course, there is always a need to socialise for the very
act of procreation. But an equally import form of socialising is in
societies, be they groups of friends, companies, religions, political
parties or nation. What all these do is to help us exploit our
environment more efficiently, either in a direct way such as division of
labour or indirectly such as education institutions. Getting others to
cooperate with us is no less a form of getting the world to cooperate,
hence be friendly, than managing the destructive powers of a river or a

But is there anything new in this? At face value it seems to me that
most of what we do today, to make the world friendly, is but innovation
on a grand scale. Sure, we've progressed much from a grunt or a punch,
but more sophisticated does not mean conceptually different. But if we
accept this premise, does this mean that we have achieved nothing unique
or different other than simply fulfil our mission statement?

Take care


* (data from Wikipedia)
*** (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-06-22-friendship_x.htm)
# (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Fertility_rate_world_map_2.png)

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is the world a
friendly place? + 2 job offers + Avila

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