(e) The person has intrinsic worth

      If the person is responsible for behavior, then the person has intrinsic worth. We must accept blame for our bad behavior but can take credit for our good behavior. The words 'bad' and 'good' tend to scare scientists into scurrying off in search of philosophers. There seems no place for values in a world of facts. Western philosophers offer us a choice between pragmatic values (doing well) and ethical values (doing good). Some thinkers have, however, been evolving an alternative set of values based on natural laws rather than on cultural rules - that is, based on the propositions we have devised to describe ourselves and our planet rather than on propositions we have devised to prescribe our conduct on the planet. Here is a summary of that system of values, as expounded by such diverse thinkers as Teilhard de Chardin, Kenneth Boulding, and R. Buckminster Fuller.

      Our species on our planet is confronted not so much with an energy crisis as with an entropy crisis. Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, we have as much energy today as we ever had or ever will have. It is entropy - the natural tendency of a system toward disorder - that is increasing. Any process that destroys structure or breaks complex systems down into simpler systems contributes toward this spontaneous tendency of the universe toward chaos. Biological systems, within their limited space and for a limited time, defy this law of entropy. During the period of growth, they become more rather than less structured. Our species, the most complex biological system, is the greatest anti-entropic force in the universe. Each of us is a defiant little package of anti-entropy fighting our brave battle against the forces of chaos. Consciousness emerges as a function of complexity and serves as the ultimate weapon against entropy. It enables us to assimilate and accommodate information to create a microcosm of the universe within us. The more accurate this subjective map of the objective world, the better we fight the good fight.

      It is a futile battle, because eventually we must submit to the forces of chaos. However, though it is futile for each of us as individuals, it is not futile for all of us as a species. Each of us spawns other little packets of anti-entropy in our books or our movies or our children or in the memories of our friends, before we are recycled in the air our survivors breathe and in the water they drink.

      People who have this system of values recognize that they are a part of nature and not apart from nature. Since they are an important element in the complex system of the universe (and since the continuing functioning of the universe according to its natural laws is presumed to be a Good Thing), they have intrinsic worth. Their criteria of success is not wealth but health. They are healthy insofar as they realize their function in the universe - to satisfy their biological, sociological, and psychological needs - in other words, to be as fully human as possible.

When people recognize they have intrinsic worth, they are said to have self-esteem. Stanley Coopersmith concludes, on the basis of extensive research, that parents of children with high self-esteem:

  1. accept the child in his or her own right,
  2. lay down clear and enforceable rules of conduct, and
  3. allow the child a wide latitude to explore within those boundaries. Firm and fair rules provide a secure world that makes sense, and freedom to explore it provides children with the confidence that they can make sense of it.
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