Monday, January 02, 2023

The Fallacy of the Notion of Special Creation

As the days move me along time’s irascible trajectory, I come to recognize with greater and greater clarity the soulful poignancy, sadness, joy and exhilaration of living – of seeing, through the portals of my vision, the breath and depth of the human world intertwined as it is with the natural world and all bundled within the seemingly unfathomable cosmos of which we are a miniscule part. The elixir of religion is no cure and cannot provide any sustained relief from this experience called living. Once that very first breath is taken, the journey begins in earnest. That journey is mostly uncharted and the events and choices that will bind us to our fate are mostly unknown and endlessly unpredictable.

In my seemingly relentless pursuit of understanding of what it means to be human, there exists as a corollary to this question another one, namely: Why is the human world and especially human civilizations enshrouded in such chaos and violence and upheaval now and as it has been over its history of some ten thousand years.

Human civilizations over the eons, have gone through a familiar cycle: birth, growth, expansion, retraction and finally dissolution. How can this cycle be explained? Can the nature of the individual human experience shed any light upon this?

The individual conscious human brain (mind) can only navigate safely through the human and natural worlds by filtering all the chaotic incoming data so as to create an inner reality with some semblance of an ordered and comprehensive structure. Without this ordering process, civilized society would be impossible and life untenable. Given identical input, no two individuals will draw the same conclusions nor construct the same reality. Herein lies an essential vulnerability in regard to societal cohesion. In spite of this, civilized societies manage to encourage and enforce a relatively consistent and conforming reality that allows for such cohesion. The particulars of this reality can be referred to as culture.

Impregnated within human cultures is the idea of special creation – that humans are of special significance on this earth. This central idea is essential to most religious beliefs, for without it the concept of god would have no relevance. Yet this notion that humans are a special creation is at the heart of most of humanity regardless of their religious affiliation and even exists within the minds of those who claim to be atheists.

The potency of this idea comes into sharp focus around the issue of human abortion especially within the United States. This has been carried to a ridiculous extreme with the notion that human life begins at conception. It is true, of course, that the dividing newly fertilized female ovum is alive, but that aborting what is, in fact, an amorphous clump of cells following a precise genetic programming to develop into a human being is an act tantamount to murder is crazed thinking devoid of even a modicum of intellectual analysis.

If this idea of humans as a product of special creation is juxtaposed with human behavior on an individual or global scale it elevates this concept to surreal proportions.   For example, currently on planet earth, there is horrendous war occurring in Ukraine in which atrocities are being enacted between humans on a massive scale; humans in the so-called advanced societies are wrecking havoc upon the future of their own species by consuming prodigious amounts of carbon-based fuel in order to sustain their exaggerated lifestyles - knowingly introducing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the environment, and humans are irrevocably decimating much of life on planet earth and diminishing the very diversity of living creatures that is synonymous with a “living” planet.

In what way are these examples compatible with the idea that humans are a product of special creation? The answer to this question is obvious.

The individuals within any culture are constantly evaluating their external environment so as to make choices to ensure their continued survival. There exists within the architecture of the human brain an inherent duality that influences conscious perception. That duality necessarily produces an unavoidable conflict between the lower brain – the seat of the emotions and the site of survival mechanisms honed through the evolution of the species– and the cerebral cortex and frontal lobes where the essence of judgment, reason and intellect reside. How this conflict is resolved results in particular choices and consequences both in regard to the individual and the larger society. It is the summation of choices made on the societal level that establishes the historic development of human civilization.

Modern technologically-based and consumer-oriented civilizations – as typified in the Western World - have an added vulnerability that exacerbates and accelerates the elements of the cycle as described above. This vulnerability lies in the fact that in modern culture, individuality has become the primary focus at the expense of the common good. As a result individual choices and behavior are shaped by the pursuit of individual aggrandizement often at the expense of the “greater good” for the community. This emphasis on the individual places significant stressors upon the structured reality that defines the norms of behavior, and when enough individuals choose to reject the accepted conventions, the underlying stability of civilization can be placed in serious jeopardy. The origins of discontent can have many sources depending upon historic forces peculiar to a the time, place and circumstances. Under the right conditions, these kind of forces may lead to a period of inexorable chaos, disintegration and ultimately dissolution.

I would like to conclude this topic with the following proposal. Human are no more a product of special creation than a chimpanzee, a warthog, a stand of aspens or even a paramecium. Our existence is no real mystery in as far as we are a product of evolutionary forces that have been at play on planet earth for some three billion years. All living entities on planet earth are a result of the particular programming contained with that remarkable molecule referred to as DNA. The chimpanzee is such a close kin that we share 99% homology within our respective DNAs.

That programming directs our development from a fertilized ovum to the moment of birth. We are biological creatures dependent upon other living things for the nutrients that sustain us; we are driven by the inherent circuity in our wondrous brains to avoid pain, seek pleasure, reproduce, and survive. In addition, we have this addition faculty of self-consciousness with which we attempt to make sense out of our individual existences. 

Our individual deaths are certain, and I would add absolutely necessary. Without death, our species would quickly overrun the entire planet and strip the earth of everything. In fact, the entire solar system that we inhabit will ultimately be erased without ceremony in a spectacular event when our star, the sun, ultimately runs out of the fuel required to run that marvelous solar furnace.

This is unvarnished reality that we need to acknowledge and accept if we ever hope to transform our destiny. We are only special to the degree that we can shape a more sane and harmonious future. If we collectively fail at this, then we would have done an abysmal job.

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