The Anthropocene: Are Humans Really in Charge?

Humans have for centuries contemplated the “super natural” forces that control human history.  Some decided that what explains human behavior is the force of original sin, which humans can’t escape and which drive them to evil deeds.  For though the world and humans created by God were declared “very good” in the Scriptures (Genesis 1), it was obvious that sin also abounded among us creatures.

Later in history those who rejected spiritual explanations, formed their own ideas about the forces governing humans – evolution and genetics.  These are “natural” forces but super in that they affect all of life and some felt they can’t be resisted, so they predestine humans just as much as some believed original sin did.  So many forces predetermining human behavior.

Today, even science seems to be coming to grips with a notion that humans might have a lot more power in them than science ever acknowledged.  For now, scientists are coming to recognize that something is happening in evolution – humans are no longer merely controlled by it, but are shaping it, not only in themselves but throughout the world.    In the article “The Anthropocene Should Bring Awe-and Act As a Warning” written by Justin Worland (TIME magazine, Sep 12, 2016), we read:

As Geological epochs have come and gone throughout Earth’s vast history, shifts have often correlated with large-scale global changes like ice ages and mass extinctions. An asteroid hits the planet, wiping out the dinosaurs, and the Cretaceous period becomes the Tertiary. Until now, life on Earth–including us late-arriving Homo sapiens–was along for the ride. But on Aug. 29, some scientists at a meeting of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) in South Africa said human activity has grown so powerful that it is forcing a change of the geological calendar: Earth has entered a new epoch, called the Anthropocene, defined by humans and our effect on the planet.


For 12,000 years, we lived through an epoch known as the Holocene, which provided a stable and relatively warm climate that allowed humans to develop everything from agriculture to atomic power. But that success remade the planet we live on through widespread deforestation, overfishing of the oceans, the extinction of countless species and the altering of the planet’s climate through the emission of greenhouse gases. Most telling is the spread of radioactive material across Earth since 1950 as a result of the testing of nuclear bombs. Humans brought an end to the Holocene quickly–no other geological epoch lasted fewer than several million years.

The random process of evolution may be changing as humans have a mind of their own and have proven they can consciously (and sometimes conscientiously) change the planet.  Evolution, from the scientific view, is no longer a random process, subject to random forces, but is being influenced, and even shaped by, conscious human choices.  Evolution is thought to have brought into being, sentient humans, who are conscious and capable of choice, capable of shaping their future, as well as the process of evolution.  Perhaps the anthropic principle will take on new meaning as science acknowledges the truth of what is transpiring in the physical universe.  The observers of the universe are no longer merely observing for they are shaping the world, for good or ill.  Worland concludes:

The IUGS gets the final vote on the geological calendar, and while scientists in its working group on the Anthropocene overwhelmingly recommended the new designation at the South Africa meeting, it has yet to be confirmed. But momentum has been building behind the Anthropocene for some time. Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize–winning chemist, first described this human-influenced era more than a decade ago with a focus on climate change. The downside of human influence should be obvious–we’re not just changing our planet but destroying it. Yet there’s a silver lining. If we are powerful enough to cause these problems, we might also solve them. “Unless there is a global catastrophe,” Crutzen wrote in the journal Nature, “mankind will remain a major environmental force for many millennia. A daunting task lies ahead.”

If humans can consciously shape the world in which they live, won’t they need more than ever to also think about conscience, right and wrong, good and evil?  We don’t have to move blindly into the Anthropocene.  We can choose our future.  We need wisdom more than ever, and an understanding of humanity that includes free will, conscience and responsibility for all we do.

Maybe, more now than ever, we do need to consider the wisdom of God, for perhaps we are not the only beings capable of creating the future.  We didn’t bring ourselves into existence, we only recently began to consciously shape our history and planet, we really have a lot to learn.

DARWIN’S DOUBT and Intelligent Design

Darwins DoubtIn Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, Philosopher of Science, Stephen C. Meyer (founder of the Discovery Institute and advocate for Intelligent Design), offers scientific evidence which questions the Theory of Evolution and advocates for why he believes Intelligent Design can in fact explain the existing fossil evidence (particularly the Cambrian Explosion) for which Darwinism cannot fully account.   Meyer says the problems with neo-Darwinian theory can be readily accounted for by the notion of Intelligent Design.  It should be noted that a number scientists who do accept the overall concept of evolution have publicly pointed out problems with the theory – so what Meyer is offering is not news nor a surprise to scientists committed to neo-Darwinian theory.

The impasse is that even many of the scientists who have serious reservations about evolution still stick with purely materialistic explanations of how life evolved on earth.  Meyer thinks that is a limit imposed on science by atheism but is not itself a scientifically verifiable premise.  It is a philosophical assumption.   He says many of the dilemmas existing in the evolutionary theory of scientific materialism can be readily resolved by simply acknowledging that intentional design is part of what happened.  Of course for those who deny the possibility of design, they cannot by their own belief system admit to the possibility of a designer.  Meyer argues that one does not have to acknowledge the God of the Bible, even if one sees design in the universe.  His argument is that in fact design (and thus intention) are obviously there even if we cannot account for it.  He does not assume all explanations must be found in materialistic explanations so is willing to look beyond scientific atheism to understand creation.  And just like not every scientist agrees with the current theory of evolution, not every Intelligent Design advocate believes in a 6000 year old earth.  Meyer wants everyone to be clear that Intelligent Design is not related to the ideas of biblical literalist’s New Creationism which insists the world is only about 6000 years old based on the history gleaned from the Bible.  Many atheists who oppose Intelligent Design try to lump the two ideas together, but Meyer points out this is a ploy to discredit the science supporting the ideas he presents for Intelligent Design.  He seems to accept the notion that the universe is in fact billions of years old.  However old the earth may be, Meyer is not convinced that the time periods are enough for macro evolution to have incurred as envisioned in Darwinian theory.

The first half of Meyer’s book is his look at the scientific challenges to evolutionary theory.  The last part of the book is more a philosophical argument for Intelligent Design.  Meyer summarizes his scientific evidence against the current theory of evolution this way:

darwinwrong“This book has presented four separate scientific critiques demonstrating the inadequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanism, the mechanism that Dawkins assumes can produce the appearance of design without intelligent guidance. It has shown that the neo-Darwinian mechanism fails to account for the origin of genetic information because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functional genes and proteins and, consequently, (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes, are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information necessary to build a body plan.”   (Kindle Loc. 7644-50)

According to Meyer an increasing number of prominent scientists admit that the evidence we currently have cannot account for how life might have original arisen, nor can it account for the Cambrian explosion.  In the next blog we will look at some of the evidence Meyer offers.  But he admits that scientists still are committed to finding a materialistic explanation for everything, and with this philosophic commitment, they will not even consider the merits of Intelligent Design.  In a future blog I’ll offer a few quotes from Meyer on why he considers Intelligent Design to be true science, and why he sees a commitment to materialism to be a philosophic not scientific choice and belief.

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin

“During the nineteenth century, biologists regarded the adaptation of organisms to their environment as one of the most powerful pieces of evidence of design in the living world. By observing that natural selection had the power to produce such adaptations, Darwin not only affirmed that his mechanism could generate significant biological change, but that it could explain the appearance of design—without invoking the activity of an actual designing intelligence. In doing so, he sought to refute the design hypothesis by providing a materialistic explanation for the origin of apparent design in living organisms. Modern neo-Darwinists also affirm that organisms look as if they were designed. They also affirm the sufficiency of an unintelligent natural mechanism—mutation and natural selection—as an explanation for this appearance. Thus, in both Darwinism, and neo-Darwinism, the selection/variation (or selection/mutation) mechanism functions as a kind of “designer substitute.” As the late Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr explains: “The real core of Darwinism . . . is the theory of natural selection. This theory is so important for the Darwinian because it permits the explanation of adaptation, the ‘design’ of the natural theologian, by natural means.” Or as another prominent evolutionary biologist, Francisco Ayala, has put it succinctly, natural selection explains “design without a designer.”  (Kindle Loc. 6315-27)

Darwinius
Darwinius

Scientists tend to discredit Intelligent Design as not truly answering the questions science is asking about how things did, can or do happen in the existing world.  Claiming there is design built into the universe just creates a different mystery and at best solves nothing in their minds, but, even worse, adds a non-material being into the equation which does not help science understand how the empirical universe works.   A number of scientists who have identified themselves as theists and who accept evolution have tended to doubt the current theory of Intelligent Design for similar reasons.  Theistic scientists tend to assume science has to look for materialist causes as science is in fact focused on the material world.  They accept the existence of a Creator God but do not try to make God part of any scientific formula or equation.  Intelligent Design on the other hand accepts that the very existence of a Creator explains some aspects of the material world which science cannot account for by its current theories.  For ID defenders simply saying there is a Creator is sufficient explanation for some mysteries.  Materialistic science looks only for cause and effect in the material world, and does not see how claiming there is design in the universe helps us understand how the material world in fact works.

Next:   The Science that Doubts Darwin

Conscious Choices in Evolution

A challenge both to the absoluteness of natural selection and the complete randomness in evolution is being raised by science itself.  The science of epigenetics and technophysio evolution show – we are no longer completely predestined by nature or genetics.  This is the current thinking of science itself.  Consider the comments in Steven Kotler’s Evolution Full Tilt   by in the March 2013 issue of Discover Magazine.

“… with the burgeoning new field of epigenetics – the study of how the external environment can alter our genes throughout life, and even be passed on to future generations.  Today researchers in this well-established field have shown that natural selection is not the only force producing heritable change.”

“’Over the past 300 years,’ Fogel (Robert Fogel, University of Chicago economist) says, ‘humans have increased their average body size by over 50 percent, average longevity by more than 100 percent, and greatly improved the robustness and capacity of vital organ systems.     From an evolutionary perspective, 300 years is an eyeblink.  A sneeze.  Not nearly enough time for these sorts of radical improvements.  …  ‘In the past hundred years,’ Fogel says, ‘ humans have gained an unprecedented degree of control over their environment, a degree of control so great that it sets them apart not only from all other species, but from all previous generations of Homo sapiens.’   Fogel’s core idea, which he calls technophysio evolution…   In short, technology Is impacting genetics.”

The issue is that the emergence of human consciousness means humans are no longer merely the victims of evolutionary change but rather have begun to influence and even control evolution – their own as well as that of other species.  No longer is evolution and natural selection a random process for now it can be guided toward chosen and designed ends.

“Over the past few centuries, and accelerating ever more quickly in the past 50 years, a steady stream of human innovations has begun to drastically speed up processes that were, until very recently, the sole province of nature.  In short, it appears that our technology has created ways of accelerating change (genetic engineering, for instance) and new habitats (like the modern city), essentially fracturing our biology and transforming our future as a species.”

“Think about this: Humans are a 200,000-year-old species.  When we first emerged our life span was 20 years.  By the turn of the 20th Century it had become 44 years.  We advanced by 24 over the course of 200,000 years.  But today, it’s 80 years.  These simple improvements doubled our longevity in a century.”

A totally random universe with no overall evolutionary direction or purpose can no longer be claimed with the rise of human consciousness which has opened the door to intentional evolution.

“But many of the technologies that are now advancing most rapidly are ones that cut out the middleman – that Darwinian mediator, natural selection – allowing us to take direct control of our internal environment and push it forward, even when the niches is unchanged.”

And as science is showing it is not only scientific and technological advances which are now influencing and even controlling evolution.  For studies show that even the existence of cities and the economic choices of humans are impacting the human species in evolutionary terms.  Economist John Komlos acknowledges:

“Technophysio evolution shows that economics has an impact at the cellular level – that it goes bone deep.”

All of these advances in understanding the many forces, including human choice which effect evolution certainly will also change the nature of debate between those who believe in evolution and those who accept the hand of God in shaping evolution.  We can now see from science that intention is an evolutionary force.

But as Kotler shows the realization that humans do in fact effect evolution and put intention as a factor in what is shaping our planet leads to other conclusions, some of which will not sit well with many folk.  Juan Enriquez, the CEO of Biotechnomy claims:

“’We’re now no more than a generation or two away from the emergence of an entirely new kind of hominid, Homo evolutus: a hominid that takes direct and deliberate control over its own evolution and the evolution of other species.’”

Kotler dismisses the fears of science fiction accounts that human intervention in genetic engineering will lead to eugenics.

“The standard science fiction version of what happens after we take control of our evolution usually runs along eugenic lines, leading toward efforts to build a master race.  But the real situation is nowhere near so straightforward.  Unintentional consequences are everywhere.  Seemingly unambiguous goals – like trying to make people more intelligent – not only involve millions of genes, raising the specter of easy error, but might involve conditional relationships: For instance, our intelligence might be tied to memory in ways we can’t yet decode, so trying to improve one ability might inadvertently impede the other.    Moreover, without some form of top-down control, there is little to suggest that human desires will be uniform enough even to agree on what a master race should be like.”

But society without a moral compass to guide its thinking on such issues will be at the mercy of those in power and those with money.  We already know what dictators are willing to do for and against populations.  What will stop the ruthless and rogue country from using such technology to change the world forever?

Kotler for example writes about what he sees as the plus of the genetics knowledge we now possess:

“When I was a child, Down syndrome was a real problem.  Today roughly 90 percent of all fetuses with Down syndrome are terminated.  Play these patterns forward, and we aren’t long from the day when we’re engineering our children: choosing skin color, eye color, personality traits.  How long after that until parents are saying, ‘I bought you the best brain money can buy – now why don’t you use it?’”

Kotler obviously views the Down syndrome person as neither human nor deserving of life.  He embraces the technology and morality which says it is OK to abort into oblivion any peoples we deem undeserving of life.  “Errors” in genetics mean such people do not deserve to live.  For Kotler aborting such persons is clearly a plus in a world which values people only in economic terms.  reaganHe apparently would be comfortable with terminating other undesirables as well – it does not matter who deems them so or by what criterion –  even if it is only something trivial such as eye color which determines who lives and who dies.

Our children become in this view products of our whims and thus we can create and destroy them at will since they are no more meaningful than snowmen we might build or the castles we make in the sand on beaches.   The understanding of human consciousness certainly puts a challenge to those who believe a blind and random universe is the only power controlling human destiny and evolution.  It also opens the door to displacing God not be atheism but by a human rationalism which is governed by the blindness of human hubris.

Altruism, Evolution and the Importance of Religion

supercoopRoger Highfield and Martin Nowak’s book, SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed, takes a look at new ideas emerging in the field of evolution due to mathematics and game theory being applied to biology.   The basic tenet of the book is that as biology and evolution are viewed through the lens of math theory, it becomes obvious that evolution requires cooperation as much as competition to work.  There is not only natural selection involved in the survival of the fittest, but also natural cooperation which aids the survival of cells and species.  Nowak writes:

“By cooperation, I mean more than simply working toward a common aim. I mean something more specific, that would-be competitors decide to aid each other instead. This does not seem to make sense when viewed from a traditional Darwinian perspective. By helping another, a competitor hurts its own fitness—its rate of reproduction—or simply blunts its competitive edge.”  (Kindle Loc. 217-20)

“Given how many times multicellularity evolved, it seems unlikely that there is a single explanation for its origins, save that the same basic strategy—cooperation—was the right answer when it came to dealing with various problems.”  (Kindle Loc. 2595-97)

The scientific fact of cooperation between cells and members of a species, not to mention the cooperation between species within ecosystems, certainly can help break down some resistance to evolutionary theory by theists.  It changes the tenor of the discussion about the relationship between God and evolution.  Evolution thus can be viewed not as a mindless and heartless process of competition to the death, but of one which also has a morally life-giving dimension. Cells and species can decide to cooperate and are not forced along by evolutionary fate.  Even some of humanity’s moral dilemmas can be understood as the tension caused between evolutionary cooperation and competition.

“Many problems that challenge us today can be traced back to a profound tension between what is good and desirable for society as a whole and what is good and desirable for an individual.”  (Kindle Loc. 291-92)

Selfishness can be individualistic, but it has a social dimension as well which expresses itself in family, clan, tribal or even national levels of cooperation. “Me” versus “others” is one dimension of human relationship and survival but so is “us” versus “them.”   Identifying with an “us” requires cooperation.  There is in us a biological warfare going on – a fight between two dimensions of being human – the self versus the social self.   This certainly is related to many human moral issues and to the call of religion for us to practice self-denial in favor of the community.

One human element to emerge from this cooperation and which aids it is language.  The birth of language is another version of which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

“We like to think that we created language, but this is back to front. Language created us. Locating the origins of language could help to shed light on the origins of humanity.”  (Kindle Loc. 3118-19)

“The birth of language is perhaps the most amazing event to occur in the last 600 million years, one that is of equal significance in the unfolding drama of evolution to the appearance of the very first life. That is because language provided a vast new stage upon which Darwin’s struggle for existence could play out, a novel mode of evolution and a remarkable spur for cooperation, even among people who are separated in time and in space.”   (Kindle Loc. 3100-3104)

languages

Language is one of the things that lifts humans above being passive victims of evolution.  With the evolution of language humans began through social cooperation influencing and even controlling not only their environment but their genetic make up.

“In this way, language propelled human evolution out of a purely genetic realm, where it still operates, into the realm of culture.”  (Kindle Loc. 3107-8)

The development of culture means humans gain some control over their destiny.  As the book points out, the emerging field of mathematical analyses of evolution suggests there is a connection between evolution and the appearance of ethical behavior.   Religion in general advocates cooperation and self-denial.  Religion as such aids in the natural cooperation which is an essential element in evolution, especially human evolution.  Intentional cooperation (culture), not mere acting according to genetic instinct, gives humanity an evolutionary edge by lifting humanity above being the product solely of natural selection.

Indian Mound Burial Ground

“In this way, my work on cooperation highlights which kinds of behaviors are important for human evolution and success in daily life. We have five mechanisms that can work separately and together to help everyone to get along. What is remarkable is that from an analytical, quantitative, and mathematical basis I can come up with ideas that should seem as familiar to secular ethicists as they are to followers of religions. Diverse faiths are united by the reciprocity of the Golden Rule, as we saw in chapter 2. Evolution, which at first glance seems to present problems for faith, actually hones selfless, altruistic, and perhaps even saintly behavior. The teachings of the great world religions have much in common in that they provide ancient recipes for how to lead a fulfilled life. For millennia they have analyzed the human condition to ameliorate suffering and sadness. They have come to the conclusion that love, hope, and forgiveness are essential components of what is needed to solve the biggest problems. They call for unselfish action. Jesus says if you give, then your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing. Krishna says to the prince Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita: You have to see yourself in every creature. You have to experience the sufferings of others as your own. For those who follow a faith, the solution comes when the drive to be selfish is overwhelmed by love. In the language we have encountered in this book, the teachings of world religions can be seen as recipes for cooperation. Now, for the first time, aspects of these powerful ideas have been quantified in experiments, captured in equations, and enshrined in science.” (Kindle Loc. 4848-61)

The human is not merely genetically driven but can arise above biology due to cooperation, community and moral thinking.  Humans can aspire to something greater than evolution alone would predict.  Evolution tested and viewed through mathematical theory shows the moral demands of religion are an important part of natural cooperation.

Evolution and the Ethical Human

This is the 12th blog in this series which is reflecting on E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.  The first blog in the series is  “What Does It Mean to be Human?” and the previous blog is Biological Determinism (III).

The Temptation of Eve & Adam

Eastern Orthodox theologians assumed from the beginning of human existence that humans had a natural relationship to God and a natural inclination to move toward God.  In their interpretation of Genesis 3, they see humans as making a critical choice to be self-centered and self-serving; humans freely chose to engage in self-love rather than love which is directed toward God and neighbor.  Humans, who were created with a unique blend of physical features and divine/spiritual ones, in rejecting the divine life, further embraced their animal nature.  So unlike the theory of evolution which has humans having nothing but an animal nature, traditional Christian thinking is that humans gave up the transcendent life to live a life limited by all the conditions that limit every other animal species.  Both evolution and traditional Christian thinking thus do recognize there is a commonality between all other creatures and humans.  But the monotheistic tradition of the West says humans were created to transcend a merely animal existence.    Morality and spirituality at their best are efforts by humans inspired by God to return to that transcendent life which humans gave up by their own selfishness.  Morality thus matters greatly in religion, for it is our effort to be fully and truly human and to reject any idea that everything about humanity is determined by our genetic makeup.

Gorilla Mom & Child

Wilson in his writings betrays a hostility toward religious ethics (without stating why).  Perhaps because as one locked into biological determinism he feels humans should just follow their genetic desires so he doesn’t value any self denial.  He doesn’t really believe in free will, so he doesn’t think we can transcend our biology anyway.  Traditional morality shaped by religious experience or revelation is to be rejected as antiquated, and a new morality based in science is to govern human behavior.

“Whatever the outcome, it seems clear that ethical philosophy will benefit from a reconstruction of its precepts based on both science and culture. If such greater understanding amounts to the “moral relativism” so fervently despised by the doctrinally righteous, so be it.”  (Kindle Loc. 4119-21)

Dachau Crematorium

A morality based in “both science and culture” is one totally governed by human reason and rationality.   It is limited by how reasonable or rationale humans really are.  Wilson is OK with moral relativism as it applies to traditional morality, but he is not amoral – he advocates biological diversity, so moralities which contribute to diversity are to be promoted.  Raymond Tallis, another scientist and atheist, sees all kinds of red flags in Wilson’s notion that science and scientists should determine morality.  As I reported in my blog  The Brainless Bible and the Mindless Illusion of Self (II):

“Tallis sees the risks and dangers to humanity that the ideologues of the new neuroscience represent in more stark terms.   The danger of what Tallis calls neuromania can be seen for example in the writings of Julian Savulescu who argues that  ‘as technology advances more rapidly than the moral character of human beings, we are in increasing danger.  We must therefore seek biomedical and genetic means to enhance the moral character of humanity.’    Savulescu is saying that it is biomedical tinkering and genetic engineering  which are going to be needed to help humanity deal morally with the changes being brought about by modern technology.    The belief that scientists can biomedically engineer a morally superior human being causes Tallis to conclude: ‘Be afraid, be very afraid.’”

To be fair to Wilson, he is opposed to biomedical engineering of a superior human being:

“I hope, and am inclined to believe on moral grounds, that this form of eugenic manipulation will never be permitted, in order that humanity can at the very least avoid the socially corrosive effects of nepotism and privilege it is bound to serve.”  (Kindle Loc. 1691-93)

And yet a foundation for his moral beliefs is hard to determine. “Science and culture” give us very little guideline for what would be the basis of his morality.  On the one hand he believes humans cannot escape their genetically predetermined warlike natures, but then without offering a shred of evidence that “science” can overcome our genetics, he trusts that science and reason can create a new ethics and apparently a new humanity.   It is after all science and not human tradition or revealed religion which alone in his opinions determines morality.   So scientists will be the new priesthood enforcing their own morality based in their own ideas of what is reasonable.

Wilson is not however a moral relativist – he only advocates moral relativity when it undermines traditional human and religious morality.  Wilson writes:

“Humanity is strengthened by a broad portfolio of genes that can generate new talents, additional resistance to diseases, and perhaps even new ways of seeing reality. For scientific as well as for moral reasons, we should learn to promote human biological diversity for its own sake instead of using it to justify prejudice and conflict.”   (Kindle Loc. 1445-48)

He would “promote human biological diversity for its own sake” (emphases mine).  This is his own version of a pro-life attitude.  He opposes humans determining their own genetics because it knows this will limit genetic diversity as scientists create humans in their own image and likeness.  The weak, unwanted and sick will be cast off, left to die if they are allowed to be conceived at all under a purely rational system of morality.  Wilson is not amoral or immoral in his thinking but does believe, again without offering any proof for this belief, that scientific humans can create a superior morality for the world.  This utopian thinking has been a frequent child of the Enlightenment where it is believed (even when evidence is against it) that ignorance is the greatest human problem.  And in this thinking ignorance can be cured by education and if not by education by scientific masters who govern the world with their pure rationalism.  Laws would be created based on scientific reason that would outlaw any irrational behavior.    And yet this belief in the power of human reason to create a better morality flies in the face of his equally held belief of a biological determinism which humans cannot escape.  We cannot escape our genetics (at least he denies that religion can help us transcend our genetic limits) and yet by some form of magic, a morality based in science will lead to a human breakthrough from its genetic chains.  It is the magic of science which for Wilson will break the genetic curse – science will by some miracle yet unknown to us transcend the limits of genetics.  Science in this thinking is another Utopian philosophy or a new religion.  Wilson is a prophet of this new revelation and religion.

It is true that science has indeed used the inventiveness of the human mind to create technologies capable of solving or curing many human problems and ailments.  Yet humans will be humans.  This is a truth that religion has recognized in its call for a transcendent morality.  Humans left to their own devices will be self-serving and law will not be able to change that.  That requires human ascetical effort.

A last moral point from Wilson:

“I am further inclined to discount the widespread belief that robotic intelligence will in the near future overtake and potentially replace human intelligence. This will certainly occur in the categories of raw memory, computation, and synthesis of information. Algorithms might in time be written that simulate emotional responses and human-like processes of decision-making. Yet even at their most extreme and effective, these creations will still be robots.”   (Kindle Loc. 1693-97)

Here is a point which many theists can welcome from Wilson.  There is something unique about humans which makes them different from all other creatures on earth and which will not be replaced by ingenious human technology.  We have a unique place in our world.

Next: Social Conquest And Being Human

Biological Determinism (III)

This is the 11th blog in this series which is reflecting on E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.  The first blog in the series is  “What Does It Mean to be Human?” and the previous blog is Biological Determinism (II).

Eve & Adam in Paradise

There certainly is a debate among humans as a whole and among Christians themselves as to whether it is more proper to speak of humans as naturally inclined to evil or naturally attracted to the godly.   The Western Christian tradition has tended since the time of St. Augustine to assume the natural state of humans is the fallen state or our inclination away from God from which we need to be saved.  The Eastern Christian tradition tends toward speaking about the original condition of humanity before the Fall as the humans natural state, with sin being part of the world of the Fall but not what is natural to humans.   St. Maximos the Confessor is said to have believed that we are naturally inclined toward the good and we have to consciously choose or will ourselves to do evil.

Wilson writes in his book about his take as an evolutionary biologist:

“In summary, the human condition is an endemic turmoil rooted in the evolution processes that created us. The worst in our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be. To scrub it out, if such were possible, would make us less than human.”   (Kindle  Loc. 960-62)

Here we see Wilson expressing his belief in biological determinism.  Humans cannot arise above their genetic history for that history is ingrained in our genes and has become part of who we are.  Other scientists have taken Wilson to task for this stubborn belief in biological determinism which denies that the rise in intelligence and consciousness and free will has had any impact on humanity.   For example, John Hogan, writing in the scientific magazine  DISCOVER, War, What is it Good For? , rejects the biological deterministic notion of Wilson that humans are predestined to go to war.  Hogan totally acknowledges the brilliance of Wilson in biological studies, but rebukes Wilson for perpetuating “the erroneous- and pernicious- idea that war is ‘humanity’s hereditary curse.’”  Hogan is one scientist among many that do believe human evolution has led humans to a level where they are no longer passive victims of their own heredity, but rather who have because of consciousness begun to shape their own evolution.

While some scientists may only lately be coming to the realization that humans can transcend their own evolutionary history, such a belief has been core to theistic thinking for thousands of years.  The entire basis of Torah, Christian spiritual Tradition and the Quran is that humans can choose to obey divine commands that go against their genetic tendencies.  Humans can choose to love and obey God and love neighbor even when their impulses lead them in a different direction.  Compassion, selfishness, altruism, forgiveness, self sacrifice and love all are ways in which humanity can choose to behave differently than their biology may be telling them.  Humans can transcend their animal nature.

Consider also the article Beyond the Brain by Tanya Marie Luhrmann in the Summer 2012 WILSON QUARTERLY.   Luhrmann  claims medical science has learned in dealing with psychiatric disorders that ideas based in biological determinism simply don’t work in the treatment of many psychiatric patients.  She writes:

“It is now clear that the simple biomedical approach to serious psychiatric illnesses has failed in turn. At least, the bold dream that these maladies would be understood as brain disorders with clearly identifiable genetic causes and clear, targeted pharmacological interventions (what some researchers call the bio-bio-bio model, for brain lesion, genetic cause, and pharmacological cure) has faded into the mist.   …

All this—the disenchantment with the new-generation antipsychotics, the failure to find a clear genetic cause, the discovery of social causation in schizophrenia, the increasing dismay at the comparatively poor outcomes from treatment in our own health care system—has produced a backlash against the simple biomedical approach. Increasingly, treatment for schizophrenia presumes that something social is involved in its cause and ought to be involved in its cure.  …

The pushback against purely biomedical treatment is also occurring with other psychiatric illnesses. The confident hope that new-generation antidepressants would cure depression—those new miracle drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft that made people thinner, sharper, and “better than well,” in psychiatrist Peter D. Kramer’s apt phrase—dimmed when the public learned that teenagers committed suicide more often while taking them. No simple genetic cause for depression has emerged. There is clearly social causation in the disorder, and it too looks different in different cultures, shaped by particular causes, social settings, and methods of treatment. In the standard psychiatric textbook, Harold I. Kaplan and Benjamin J. Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, depression is now mapped out with a host of factors, some of them biological, many of them not, and the recommended treatment includes psychotherapy.

In part, this backlash against the bio-bio-bio model reflects the sophisticated insight of an emerging understanding of the body—epigenetics—in which genes themselves respond to an individual’s social context.

We are deeply social creatures. Our bodies constrain us, but our social interactions make us who we are. The new more socially complex approach to human suffering simply takes that fact seriously again.”

Thus, while Wilson believes evolutionary biology is proving the genetic basis for every aspect of human behavior, other scientists are disproving these very ideas.

Whatever evolution can teach us about human history, it cannot answer the question of what it is to be human.  Theists would say this is true because the meaning of being human and the forces which shape us are found in God not in our genes which are simply the physical means by which the divine plan is being worked out in the world of the Fall.

Next:  Evolution and the Ethical Human

Biological Determinism

This is the 9th blog in this series which is reflecting on E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.  The first blog in the series is  “What Does It Mean to be Human?” and the previous blog is Wilson’s Critique of Religion (V).

When it comes to issues in which science and religion are at loggerheads, I don’t think Genesis 1-3 was written as a modern science textbook, and so it asks and answers a different set of questions than modern science is addressing.  The Bible is answering the question, “What does it mean to be human?”  The physical sciences study humans as part of the empirical universe and are not concerned with questions about meaning nor about whether there is something more to being human beyond the physical realities they study.

Not everything that physical scientists study or claim is viewed as hostile to religion by all who believe in God.   Some issues which put religion and science at odds really are issues which I might frame as being that set of believers who are biblical literalists vs. science.  These are issues that not all Christians have any concern over because not all Christians are biblical literalists. Arguments about “creation science” fall in this category.  While Christians believe in a Creator, not all Christians would agree that the Genesis creation narrative is to be read as a scientific text book nor even as a factually historic account of what happened.  Even numerous Patristic writers acknowledged that Genesis 1 might be better understood in terms of eons instead of days.

Some other issues which science and religion debate can be thought of as philosophical disagreements – for example debates about free will or the existence of a soul often are arguments which are framed in terms which are philosophical assumptions and not just scientific facts.  If one assumes that everything in the universe can be explained by empirical cause and effect, then one philosophically cannot allow “miracles” or a soul to exist.  Also, some issues are just fundamental disagreements in faith issues which are not going to be bridged by offering proofs.  If one comes to a belief that God exists, that conclusion may be reached by personal experience and evidence which one sees in history or in the lives of others, but these truly become issues of personal faith (what I believe) which others may never experience or understand.   My own experience in life has led me to conclude that the physical sciences, whose basic truths I accept, still do not and cannot answer the question what it means to be human.  I accept on faith that humanity cannot be fully understood by reducing ourselves to the basic chemical reactions which happen in the body.  I accept that chemistry and physics can offer a completely true picture of what transpires in our bodies without offering the complete truth about what it means to be human.  I don’t think a human being is explained by reducing him or her to those atomic or subatomic interactions.  I believe there is more to be being human than mere chemistry.

Consequently I am not in the philosophical camp of atheistic materialism, and I don’t assume that anything a human does is explained by biological determinism – the basic cause and effect explanation which Wilson does accept.  Empirical cause and effect may accurately describe the biological and chemical reactions which compose all of the carbon based life forms on earth, but I do not believe they fully explain what it is to be human.  I do accept the idea that humans have free will and a soul, and that we are social beings and that there is also a sociological reality which is not purely based in materialism.  Humans cooperate on a grand scale by sharing abstract ideas and emotions through language, art and religion.

Of course since we are biological beings, all mental activity will show up as a biological activity, but that doesn’t mean the biological activity is the sole or complete explanation of the mental activity.  Thus I think consciousness is real and does somehow exist as an entity distinct from the biological brain activities to which it is related.   That neuroscience can detect chemical and electric impulses in the brain is expected – we are spiritual beings whose spiritual lives are experienced through our physical bodies.  Prayer involves our entire physical selves.  Spirituality and physicality are not separable in a human being.

Wilson looks at all issues of being human purely from the point of view of biological determinism and assumes biology can explain everything about being human.

“ARE PEOPLE INNATELY GOOD, but corruptible by the forces of evil? Or, are they instead innately wicked, and redeemable only by the forces of good? People are both. And so it will forever be unless we change our genes, because the human dilemma was foreordained in the way our species evolved, and therefore an unchangeable part of human nature. Human beings and their social orders are intrinsically imperfectible and fortunately so. In a constantly changing world, we need the flexibility that only imperfection provides.”  (Kindle Loc. 3883-87)

Believers can certainly accept Wilson’s contention that humans are both capable of good and evil, and are influenced by forces which are either good or evil.  The disagreement would be with his statement that only by changing our genes can human behavior be changed.  His thought is pure biological determinism, while the Orthodox Christian tradition would say the very purpose of religion is to call us to overcome such “genetic” or moral limitations on our free will.  We certainly would not agree that all changes in humanity require a genetic change.  We do believe there are things to which we are genetically disposed, but that does not completely determine what we do.   Wilson writes:

“Still, we cannot escape the question of free will, which some philosophers still argue sets us apart. It is a product of the subconscious decision-making center of the brain that gives the cerebral cortex the illusion of independent action. The more the physical processes of consciousness have been defined by scientific research, the less has been left to any phenomenon that can be intuitively labeled as free will. We are free as independent beings, but our decisions are not free of all the organic processes that created our personal brains and minds. Free will therefore appears to be ultimately biological.”   (Kindle Loc. 4625-30)

Free will certainly appears ultimately to be biological especially if the philosophical assumption is that anything human is ultimately explained as solely or merely a biological function.   Wilson’s philosophical assumption leads him to conclude that free will must be a merely a biological function.  We would say that free will in as much as it involves thought certainly involves the brain and so there are cerebral processes that must be happening whenever one is engaged in thought.  Our disagreement with Wilson would be a reductionist approach that says thought or free will must be coterminous with neurological activity.  Certainly the writings of atheist scientist Raymond Tallis on the existence of consciousness challenge the assumptions of Wilson and perhaps are more congenial with the assumptions which theists make about what it is to be human.

Next:  Biological Determinism (II)

Wilson’s Critique of Religion

This is the 4th blog in this series which is reflecting on E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.  The first blog in the series is  “What Does It Mean to be Human?” and the previous blog is A Very Quick Tour of Evolutionary History .

At one time it was thought that “Theology is the mother of all sciences” since all sciences were in search of truth and thus flowed from theology, the study of the revelation of truth.  But then in the 18th Century Age of Enlightenment science divorced itself from religion and sought truth not in divine revelation but in the empirical world alone.  Science came to believe that the only truth worth seeking and the only real knowledge was empirical truth.  All truth was thought to be in the material world.  Even the truths of philosophy and the humanities was pushed aside.  There was no meaning to being human since there was nothing beyond the empirical world.

Obviously the thinking of atheistic science was in direct conflict with the notion of religion that there is more to the universe than the empirical world.    Today, there is debate not only between science and religion but within science as to whether consciousness and free will are just illusions created by biochemistry or whether they exist and cannot be fully accounted for by pure materialism.  Even some atheists and scientist now acknowledge there are “forces” at work in the universe and within humans that may not be merely chemical reactions.  The arts too and the humanities also raise questions and doubts as to whether atheistic empiricism can in fact answer all the questions we can raise in the universe.  [See for example my blog series that began with The Brainless Bible and the Mindless Illusion of Self in which Michael S. Gazzaniga’s  WHO’S IN CHARGE?:  FREE WILL AND THE SCIENCE OF THE BRAIN and Raymond Tallis’ APING MANKIND:NEUROMANIA, DARWINITIS AND THE MISREPRESENTATION OF HUMANITY challenge the assumption that humans do not have free will.  Both authors are scientists who accept evolution and Darwinian claims but admit conscience and free will are real forces at work in the empirical world.]

While E.O. Wilson is negative toward religion and philosophy, he does in his book throw a bone to art.

Picasso expressed the same idea summarily: “Art is the lie that helps us to see the truth.”  (Kindle Loc. 4484-85)

Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

The successful scientist,” waxes Wilson, adding a little charm to what some might say is an otherwise inhuman way of conceiving truth, “thinks like a poet but works like a bookkeeper” (Kindle 4452).  But in the end for all the intelligence, cleverness and inventiveness of the human mind,  Wilson sees humanity as basically not in any meaningful way different from the flow of lava, the fluttering of a leave in the wind, or the weight of a rock.  There is no free will, and even consciousness may be an illusion of biochemistry.

But Wilson wants to be clear he does embrace the notion that the only truth worth knowing or that can be known is empirical truth.

“Science is not just another enterprise like medicine or engineering or theology. It is the wellspring of all the knowledge we have of the real world that can be tested and fitted to preexisting knowledge. It is the arsenal of technologies and inferential mathematics needed to distinguish the true from the false. It formulates the principles and formulas that tie all this knowledge together. Science belongs to everybody. Its constituent parts can be challenged by anybody in the world who has sufficient information to do so. It is not just “another way of knowing” as often claimed, making it coequal with religious faith.”  (Kindle Loc. 4742-46)

Interestingly though in Wilson’s writing he allows plenty of room for uncertainty – within the evolutionary worldview there is a lot that is currently not known or which can and will be changed by future discoveries.  But for all that uncertainty, Wilson has no doubt that religion has nothing to offer in terms of knowledge.  However, of science and scientists, he recognizes there is a very human element which exerts great force on how science is done.

“Science grows in a manner not well appreciated by nonscientists: it is guided as much by peer approval as by the truth of its technical claims. Reputation is the silver and gold of scientific careers. Scientists could say, as did James Cagney upon receiving an Academy Award for lifetime achievement, ‘In this business you’re only as good as the other fellow thinks you are.’”  (Kindle Loc. 4453-56)

Returning to literary thinking (and Wilson is a good writer), he notes:

“What counts in science is the importance of the discovery. What matters in literature is the originality and power of the metaphor”  (Kindle Loc. 4467-68).

So we do have non-materialistic forces at work in science: peer approval, reputation, significance.  These are not forces easily measured in a scientific way, and yet according to Wilson they are important to the scientific enterprise.

Theoretical Physicist Carlo Rovelli says:

“Science is not about certainty.  Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking, at the present level of knowledge…. It’s the lack of certainty that grounds it.  Scientific ideas are credible not because they are sure, but because they are the ones that have survived all the possible past critiques.”

It is a different way of knowing then theology or revelation.

Next:  Wilson’s Critique of Religion (II)

A Very Quick Tour of Evolutionary History

This is the 3rd blog in this series which is reflecting on E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.  The first blog in the series is  “What Does It Mean to be Human?” and the previous blog is A Few Unique Traits of Humans.

Wilson is an effective story teller and he does offer a potential history of how evolutionary history unfolded leading to the appearance of modern humans.  That is the heart of his book, and I recommend you read his book because the history is fascinating.  Even if you have doubts about evolution, you can still see how evolutionary theorist piece together and interpret the evidence they have before them.  Certainly as Wilson describes the evidence and the history there are lots of uncertainties, possibilities and probabilities that make up the story, and while it may be the best construct of the existing evidence, one realizes some of this history is guesswork and some parts of the history no doubt are going  to be overturned as new evidence is discovered.  That certainly is the nature of science and the meaning of “truth” in the evolutionary context.   While Wilson is committed to evolutionary theory, it does seem to me in the book he expresses in various ways that the story he is telling is possibly the story based on current evidence but some of the story is interpretation and educated guesses to fill in gaps in knowledge.

That evolutionary theory is constantly undergoing change based on new discoveries and evidence is made obvious in such news reports as as found in England’s  THE INDEPENDENT, Fossil Discovery Rewrites the Story of Human Evolution.   Some will argue the sensational headline’s claim that the discovery “rewrites” the story of human evolution is an exaggeration, nevertheless my read of Wilson is that he would be totally comfortable with rewriting chapters in his book if new evidence led to new theories or a new storyline.  We will get back to debates between science and religion in this series in the near future.

Wilson offers an overview of what his book is about:

“LIKE ALL GREAT PROBLEMS in science, the evolutionary origin of humanity first presented itself as a tangle of partly seen and partly imagined entities and processes. Some of these elements occurred well back in geological time, and may never be understood with certainty. I have nevertheless pieced together those parts of the epic on which I believe researchers agree, and filled in the remainder with informed opinion. The sequence, given in broad strokes, is the consensus I believe to be correct, or at least most consistent with existing evidence.”  (Kindle Loc. 762-67)

Before getting to the controversies between science and religion, below are a few facts from Wilson’s evolutionary timeline which I found interesting.  Keep in mind Wilson’s term “eusociality” which means multiple generations of a species living together with “an altruistic division of labor.”  Humans have eusociality as do some bees and ants.  Very few species have actually developed this trait despite its apparent evolutionary advantage.

“The eusocial insects are almost unimaginably older than human beings. Ants, along with their wood-eating equivalents the termites, originated near the middle of the Age of Reptiles, more than 120 million years ago.”  (Kindle Loc 725-26)

“The oldest known stone tools, knapped crudely to serve some function or other, date to 6–2 million years before the present.”  (Kindle Loc. 677-78)

“The first hominins, with organized societies and altruistic division of labor among collateral relatives and allies, appeared at best 3 million years ago.”  (Kindle Loc 7207-28)

“By two million years before the present, the favored australopithecine line had begun the transition to the still-larger-brained Homo erectus. This species had a brain smaller than that of present-day Homo sapiens, but it was able to shape crude stone tools and use controlled fire at campsites. Its populations spread out of Africa, blanketing the land up into northeastern Asia and pushing south all the way to Indonesia.”   (Kindle Loc. 1378-82)

“By 200,000 years before the present, the African ancestors had come anatomically closer to contemporary humans. The populations also used more advanced stone tools and may have engaged in some form of burial practice. But their skulls were still relatively heavy in construction.”  (Kindle Loc. 1426-27)

“Burials began at least 95,000 years ago, as evidenced by thirty individuals excavated at Qafzeh Cave in Israel. One of the dead, a nine-year-old child, was positioned with its legs bent and a deer antler in its arms. That arrangement alone suggests not just an abstract awareness of death but also some form of existential anxiety.”  (Kindle Loc. 4502-4)

“Only around 60,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens broke out of Africa and began to spread around the world, did people acquire the complete skeletal dimensions of contemporary humanity.”  (Kindle Loc. 1428-29)

The “’creative explosion’ that began approximately 35,000 years ago in Europe. From this time on until the Late Paleolithic period over 20,000 years later, cave art flourished. Thousands of figures, mostly of large game animals, have been found in more than two hundred caves distributed through southwestern France and northeastern Spain…”  (Kindle Loc. 4507-9)

“’Flutes,’ technically better classified as pipes, fashioned from bird bones, have been found that date to 30,000 years or more before the present.”  (Kindle 4551-2)

“In a very early time, from the Late Paleolithic period through the Mesolithic period, the cultural evolution of humanity ground forward slowly. At the beginning of the Neolithic period, 10,000 years before the present, with the invention of agriculture and villages and food surpluses, cultural evolution accelerated steeply. Then, thanks to the expansion of trade and by force of arms, cultural innovations not only increased faster but also spread much farther.”  (Kindle 1619-23)

There were so many other aspects of the story that I found fascinating, but the above are a few “highlights” of the human evolutionary story according to Wilson.  I value the comments for what they contribute to an understanding of what it means to be human.  To be human is not simply to be the passive victim of biological determinism.  To be human is to create, is to feel, is to worship and is to believe in something greater than one’s self.   We’ll turn now to a more controversial aspect of Wilson’s writings:  his criticism of religion.

Next: Wilson’s Critique of Religion

A Few Unique Traits of Humans

This is the 2nd blog in this series which began with “What Does It Mean to be Human?”   In this series I am looking at the recent book by evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth.  Wilson presents in well written manner a storyline with plot of how the anthropological and evolutionary evidence can be read to give us an idea of how possibly humanity emerged on earth.  Wilson dismisses religious interpretation of human being, which will be part of what I react to in this blog series.  Wilson offers his materialistic answer to the question, “What does it mean to be human?”:

“The biological human mind is our province. With all its quirks, irrationality, and risky productions, and all its conflict and inefficiency, the biological mind is the essence and the very meaning of the human.”  (Kindle Loc. 1706-8)

The “biological mind” is the interesting phrase.  As an atheist committed to materialism, there can be no mind beyond the biological, and yet the exact relationship of mind to brain is not perfectly clear.  Wilson will be in the camp of those who dismiss free will and for whom consciousness presents a particular challenge because there can for him be nothing that is not biologically based. We will come back to these issues in a future blog, for now we will continue to look at what Wilson sees as unique to the human species:

“Besides the bulging forehead, oversize brain, and long, tapering fingers, our species bears other striking biological features of the kind biological taxonomists call ‘diagnostic.’ This means that in combination, some of our traits are unique among all animals:

• A productive language based on infinite permutations of arbitrarily invented words and symbols.

• Music, comprising a wide array of sounds, also in infinite permutations and played in individually chosen mood-creating patterns; but, most definitively, with a beat.

• Prolonged childhood, allowing extended learning periods under the guidance of adults.

• Anatomical concealment of female genitalia and the abandonment of advertisement of ovulation, both combined with continuous sexual activity. The latter promotes female-male bonding and biparental care, which are needed through the long period of helplessness in early childhood.

• Uniquely fast and substantial growth in the brain size during early development, increasing 3.3 times from birth to maturity.

• Relatively slender body form, small teeth, and weakened jaw muscles, indicative of an omnivorous diet.

• A digestive system specialized to eat foods that have been tenderized by cooking.”  (Kindle Loc. 1404-21)

It is interesting that some of the very things Wilson sees as unique to humanity would also be noted by Theists who accept the claim of Genesis 1 that we humans are created in the image and likeness of God.  And it was vigorously discussed throughout Christian history what exactly about us is in God’s image?  Many Church Fathers agreed that it is not a physical trait and they like Wilson looked to such things as language, symbolic and abstract thinking, creativity – using things which exist in nature to further create such things as art and music AND inventing and manufacturing things which don’t exist in nature for art and science, modesty and virtue, controlling sexual activity and the formation of moral thinking, creativeness in using foods even in symb0lic and sacramental ways.

Though some evolutionary biologists downplay the difference between human intelligence and that of other species, many admit that human intelligence is so different from the intelligence of any other species that evolution cannot really account for this difference.

“Michael Tomasello and his co-workers in biological anthropology, developed during the past three decades. These researchers point out that the primary and crucial difference between human cognition and that of other animal species, including our closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzees, is the ability to collaborate for the purpose of achieving shared goals and intentions. The human specialty is intentionality, fashioned from an extremely large working memory. We have become the experts at mind reading, and the world champions at inventing culture. We not only interact intensely with one another, as do other animals with advanced social organizations, but to a unique degree we have added the urge to collaborate.”   (Kindle Loc. 3621-27)

Memory and culture and intentional collaboration would also be noted by theologians as ways in which humans are different from all the rest of creation.

“The creative arts became possible as an evolutionary advance when humans developed the capacity for abstract thought. The human mind could then form a template of a shape, or a kind of object, or an action, and pass a concrete representation of the conception to another mind. Thus was first born true, productive language, constructed from arbitrary words and symbols.”  (Kindle  Loc. 4486-88)

What was also born along with “true, productivity language” is the notion of truth.   There is no such thing as truth or fact or science without the conscious observer.   This is a new truth that has been revealed through quantum physics.  There is no truth without a conscious observer.  We humans in fact exist to discover truth.  We have a purpose in nature and Wilson though he doesn’t seem to recognize it, uses the gift of conscious observation to seek out truth.  Truth doesn’t just come to him, he has to consciously choose to seek it, to uncover it hidden in the natural world.  Evolution has in fact brought into existence the very beings needed to consciously observe the universe.

For theists at least, that humanity has a purpose comes as no surprise.  That evolutionary biologists don’t recognize conscious observation as a product of the evolutionary process speaks more about their ideological commitment to determinism then it does of their commitment to revealing truth.

Before getting to issues which atheists and theists disagree on, the next blog will take a very quick tour through 120 million years of history that were the needed prerequisite to our current situation on planet earth.

Next: A Very Quick Tour of Evolutionary History