PUBLISHED JUNE 2010
One of the most amazing discoveries of modern
times is, we evolved. Not only our bodies, but
also our conscious minds. What kind of process
could do that? And if we found out, could we tap
into that process to make our selves more
Yes we could. That's the premise behind this book. It
introduces an entirely new way of thinking about the self.
What is thinking? Why do we dream? Whatever makes
evolution so creative, can we borrow some of that to make
our own selves more creative?
Paper, handbook size 7x10 inches, Illustrated throughout with drawings and cartoons. 110 pages.
Me and The Genies
A novel of ideas
Humorous romantic novel involving cynical TV executive Henry Lazaard
and beautiful scriptwriter Sung-Tin Chi. At the same time, a novel of ideas
about evolution. Ideal introduction to issues involved in bringing intelligent
design into the classroom. Paper, 220 pages, $14.95 USA, £7.95 UK.
Father, In a Far Distant
Time I Find You
The classic tradition of the Utopian novel is here applied to evolutionary
theory. Combining a broad historical sensibility with respect for the discipline
of scientific discourse. Paper, 202 pages, $21.95 USA, £10.95 UK.
Books exploring the
impact on human nature
of our theories of evolution
Alfred Wallace thought outside the box. He was the co-discoverer, with
Charles Darwin, of the theory of natural selection. Between them, of course,
they ended up creating another box. A few years later Wallace thought outside
that box, too. Natural selection, he argued, couldn't fully account for human
nature, there must be some other mechanism. To escape the box he and
Darwin had created he ventured as far afield as spiritualism.
In the following books I take up Wallace's quest. I offer them as a treat for
people who, like Wallace, relish out-of-the-box thinking.
Imagine Darwin introducing Galileo to evolution for the first
time. What would this master of maths and logic make of
Darwin's account? Would he be impressed? Turns out, he
isn't. In fact, he decides he can come up with a better theory of
evolution and win for himself fame equal to Darwin's. This 90-minute play is
at the same time a modern comedy about two cranky old men jockeying for
power and a classic philosophical dialogue about one of the major issues of
our day: what does it mean for human nature that we evolved? The play is an
amusing exercise in critical thinking, suitable both for humanities students
with an interest in human nature and a public hungry for some original thinking.
Dialogue between Darwin and Galileo:
“WHAT IT MEANS WE EVOLVED”
Self Improvement Through
a New Approach to Evolution
Re-thinking What it Means We Evolved
Kirkus review: ”Johnston’s contribution to the field is an astonishingly
original one. In a way, his version is deeply Cartesian, haunted by the
interaction between mind and matter, but also grounded in the ordinary
experience of human action. He thoughtfully understands that the quest
for an origin story is not merely a matter of genetic mechanics, but also
tied to the existence of the human self and the values and purposes
that propel that self through a finite life. The commentary is
supplemented by short stories, quirkily constructed around the nature
of human consciousness and agency; for example, one centers on the
famous Turing test.”
A New Framework for Universal Moral Values
Mind in Evolution, 2nd edition
What kind of a thing are we? When you want to know the nature of
something, like a car, you’ll usually ask, where was it made? If it was made
in a Tesla factory it’s going to be electric, driven by batteries, if in other
factories it’s more likely to have a fuel tank and be driven by an internal
combustion engine. This tells you a lot about it: how to refuel it—go to a gas
station or plug into your home recharger—and who to go to when you need
Something like that is true for us humans. What kind of a thing are we? How
do you refuel us? What should you do when we break down? To find out I
suggest you ask, how were we made? And one of the greatest discoveries
of modern times is, we got made by having evolved.
In this series of essays I review the various ideas people have come up with
for how we evolved, different accounts telling us what kind of a creature we
are, where we need to go to refuel and what to do when we break down.
Plus a whole lot more, of course, including the meaning of life?
Think of that choice as like deciding which platform you want your computer
to run on. Mac or Windows? Your choice affects the experience you’ll have
while using it. It’s entirely up to you.
Be aware, these reviews are not a disengaged scholarly survey. They’re the
opposite. They’re an impassioned advocacy of a non-physicalist natural-
philosophy point of view.
New appendix: Concepts for rethinking the origin of mind.
Available separately at Amazon, $4 print, $1 ebook.
Are You Wonderful?
Which is more important, meaning in life, or science? Meaning in life, says
“Are You Wonderful?” From four principles for finding meaning in life a
series of steps guides the reader through scientific discoveries and what we
know about ourselves to eventually reconnect with ancient wisdom
(Stoicism) and a set of practices for achieving a good life.
Essentially, “Are You Wonderful?” is a defense of common-sense belief in
free will and consciousness being creative, free to some extent at least of
physical determinism (bad science). Every so often we run into
obstacles—claims made by representatives of today’s science. In each
case we give priority to meaning in life. We identify precisely where and
how these claims block our path and find a way around them. We make
those claims problems for today’s representatives of science, not us.
Primary among these claims is Neo-Darwinism. Us having consciousness
and free will tells against the purely physical mechanisms of today’s
scientific account of evolution.
“Are You Wonderful?” pulls off a rare trick. The argument rests on a dense
matrix of science, philosophy, reason and history but the steps are
presented lightly and engagingly as “magical thinking,” a new magic like
astrology or alchemy through which science is made to yield new meaning
we can apply in our own lives. This new “white” magic is contrasted to dark
magics such as material reductionism, all very well in their day but now
worn out and due for replacement. This serves to keep the focus on
meaning in life instead of “where’s your evidence?” challenges from
scientists in their ivory towers.