Friday, October 30, 2020

The Significance of the Human Species from an Enlightenment Perspective

Why do quite a few modern thinkers (from Stephen Jay Gould to Yual Noah Harari to Sam Harris) emphasize minimizing, negating, discounting, dehumanizing, etc.—and that all humans lack inherent worth?

These naysayers deny so many essential characteristics that define what a human is—the reality of human conscious awareness, moral realism, the ability to reason, to think so we can transcend our limited space in time and place, our ability to choose among alternative actions, our moral responsibility, our creativity, hope for an open future, the amazing structure of our brain and body, our DNA, artistic creations, sense of wonder and awe, and so forth.

But enough of the negative. What I wish to write about is the significance of the Enlightenment Story of humans.

This story rejects superstition, tradition, intolerance, injustice, inequality, oppression, dogmatic pride, and instead emphasizes reason, the scientific method, openness, justice, equality, caring and compassion and cognizant humility toward the wonder and mystery of reality, the cosmos, the nature of sentient life, the human species, and human reflecting and seeking.

The story goes like this. Ultimate Reality brought into being and becoming the cosmos (this universe, or the multiverse if indeed there is more than one cosmos) about 13.8 billion years ago.

For transcendent reasons unknown to our limited human minds, over that vast period of time in an expanse beyond most people’s fathoming, U.R., popularly called “God,” brought about a complex movement of the physical which developed into galaxies, solar systems, and planets, etc. about 9 billion years ago.

Our Milky Way galaxy alone has over 100 billion stars, and there are over a trillion other galaxies in the observable universe!

Then, approximately, at least 3.5. billion years ago, 1 billion years after its coming into becoming, basic life first appeared. Life followed evolutionary paths which branched out in many directions until at some point sentient life, and then intelligent life (able to use reason and to reflect and to transcend) came to be and to become.

One form of this intelligent life appeared in a minor solar system on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is called by us, the human species.

For hundreds of thousands of years, we as a species remained primarily at an instinctive level just surviving in at times hostile environments, but yet sensing a transcendence in our short life that came out as basic reverence and awe at existence and life.

Gradually, humans kept seeking, discovering, and reflecting on reality, especially in the last 10 thousand years. Of course, humans often erred into superstition and delusion when trying to ascertain the meaning of it all. Learning isn't quick nor is it easy.

At present, multi-millions of humans still tend to swing off center to 2 extremes—1. that of an egocentric organized religious view where the human species, despite its brief tiny presence in a vast universe, is the very center of creation

OR

2. the other already mentioned, a secular negating view where the human species is considered, inconsequential, a minor “bush” in the evolutionary jungle of life.

The Enlightenment view seeks a more balanced view, one that recognizes our species’ tiny presence and its very limited understanding of the in depth aspects of reality, let alone to know extensively why or even how it all came about,

YET

which is amazed in wonder and awe that in our brief consciousness, awareness, reflection, reason, and transcendence we get to participate in this incredible adventure of reality.

We get to seek, to study, to test, to question, to grow however slowly toward greater and greater knowledge of this vast existence. And that, my friend, (to quote an old Quaker) is the joy and wonder of our living, and becoming aware.

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

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