Elsewhere on NB, evolution has been mentioned and I thought that I would share some of my reflections on its meaning for us. I am putting this in "Comparing Religions" because I shall be quoting a Roman Catholic priest and scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In his book "The Phenomenon of Man", he says:
from: BOOK III.
The Modern Earth
"A turn of profound importance is taking place in the world which may even crush (our contemporary existences)."
For Teilhard, this turning point at which we find ourselves is triggered by our uncovering of the process of evolution as an integral condition of the cosmos. The result is a change in awareness which he compares to the way in which depth perception develops in the infant.
There are some important differences, however. Depth perception is directly linked to a sense organ, the eye, and increasingly-mapped cortical areas. By six months old, an infant can choose by depth-defined size. The development appears to have more to do with physiological rather than cognitive origin, although there are effects on cognition.
"The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself.
Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow."
Humanity is the product of millennia of evolution. Of this assertion I am convinced and find any other explanation simply mythic rather than real, although there are lessons to be learned from such myths of origin as from any other myth.
We currently believe that Homo Sapiens, the Thinker, evolved from Homo Habilis, the Tool Maker. So where do we go now? Some theorist suggest that physical evolution of humanity has reached an end-point. They do not convince me because it is just too early to say. In large and complex organisms, particularly those which have managed to control and reduce the stresses of their environment, the processes of evolution are probably slow to manifest. That they continue to operate seems to me to be inevitable, even if they result in extinction.
In the hope that humanity is not headed for extinction as a result of our effect on the ecosphere or from our tendency toward total war or some cataclysm, I see the underlying principles of, for example, Buddhism or compassionate Christianity, Islam, etc. as leading towards a new humanity which I have dubbed Homo Benevolens, the Compassionate. As more and more tread the Noble Eightfold Path or the engaged Christian Way, we may manage to build up a critical mass of pre-benevolent humans and bring about a tipping point where humanity evolves away even further from our "red in tooth and claw" ancestry.
I accept that this is purely speculative and based on my observation that human beings appear to believe - as evidenced, however briefly, in the optimism of the Arab Spring - that things get better. Even Stephen Pinker believes it.
Roll on the time of Homo Benevolens when the blessings of the Beatitudes become realities.