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solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris
Throughout the ‘progress’ of mankind to our current condition, we invest our faith in a road of salvation, whether that lies in a supreme being, economic policy or scientific expansion. What all of these dreams have in common is the mistaken view that humanity is on a path of definite progress and that there is a universal solution to our own problems, so long as our ambitious drive forwards is left unchecked and blind.
Technological progress may have staved off death for the privileged, but it has not, defeated the irrational convictions of the religious. Belief in an afterlife or deity is as strong as ever (in America, there has been a 14% increase from 10 years ago in the un-questioning belief in God -poll by Pew Research Centre), with believers utilizing the advances of science for their own ends (for example).
Surely the physical laws of the universe point to a benevolent watch-maker? The intricacies of the universe that we uncover, or guess at, lead many to believe that the sheer brilliance of it all irrefutably points to an all-powerful genius with his (in the gender neutral use of the word) own set of ethics. A parent figure that will bless the well-behaved child and punish the Lucifer of the litter. Advances in science have not led to an advancement of rationality*, but it has produced ever more stubborn believers, fanatics who over-emphasize the gaps in scientific knowledge, which they are convinced it will never fill. Science cannot prove their absurd beliefs, so the fault must lie with science.
That the idea of homosexuality as a sin against nature is still taken seriously in political states like America (supposedly one of the most technologically and scientifically advanced nations in the world) only goes to show that merely expanding our knowledge of this universe will not lead to fundamental changes in the irrational default position of many. With homosexuality being documented in over 1,500 species of animal , it would seem the ‘free choice to sin’, that homosexuality is a life-style choice, is quite clearly untrue (I remain unconvinced that man is somehow fundamentally separate from the rest of the animal kingdom). If there is a creator, then that creator must have created homosexuals immoral, which speaks volumes about the morality of such a god. Surely any being who condemns the determined for choices they didn’t make is unworthy of such fervent worship?
Metaphysics and absolutist ethics still stumble along, pointing out gaps in what we do know or care about in order to justify their own existence, to use fairy-tale notions to ground their delusional systems. Like religion as a whole, that they are rarely empirical (and thus left untouched by science) is the fault of science and ‘modern thinking’, not a fault of the wild claims of the over-emphasized topics of popular musings. The populace would prefer to take solace in the teachings of the ‘ancients’, ‘natural remedies’ (or ‘alternative medicine’, a circumlocutory way of saying that it has no provable benefits that aren’t placebo in nature) and texts that preach hatred, violence and misogyny .
Even evolution is seen as definite progress, proof that life is inevitably getting better. But this is a mistaken conviction. Evolution is not an inevitable drive for absolute improvement; rather it is simply change for better or for worse (which are relative notions, not grounded in any kind of absolutism), with whatever traits suited to the current environment living on through genetic (and perhaps social) heritage. In order for there to be a definite progression towards the best possible human, the environment would need to be static, which it is not. Any benefit is temporary given current unstable conditions, and it is more than dubious to claim that such benefits are absolute benefits (positive regardless of environment or situation). Our environment is becoming increasingly hostile to our overly-indulgent ambitions, which will force the evolution of humanity to cope with such changes, without regard to whether we would consider these better humans. Certainly, any human with darker skin is better equipped to deal with hotter environments, but it does not then follow that they are a better human overall, or that the gain or loss of any trait is progress, as opposed to neutral change.
If humanity is to find salvation from its own destruction reaped from global warming, destruction of habitats and the wholesale pillaging of limited resources, it would require either a fundamental change in its desires and ambitions or concede power to an intelligence able to curb humanity’s reckless power struggles and endless consumption; neither of which sound likely or popular. Any attempt to change our desires and ambitions, perhaps through genetic engineering or social programming, would be seen as monstrous; every act of perceived evil on a grand scale is usually done with understandable or ‘good’ intentions (usually the progression of mankind as a whole or as a state). For man not to act as man is inhuman, which is, seemingly by necessity, a bad thing. Any government willing to give power over to another intelligence or leadership is viewed as defective or cowardly.
Our gods, the quintessential humans, are the last things we should turn to for help.
[DRAFT -3rd revision]
* I have yet to hear a justification for the existence of a god, afterlife or (immortal) soul that wasn’t fallacious, ignorant of the facts or simply ludicrous.