HUMAN DESTINY – PART XI – THEOLOGICAL – ESCHATOLOGY

Human history [is] moving towards a climax in which evil becomes more and more naked and unashamed.” – Reinhold Niebuhr.

 

 

We have looked at scientific, historical, and philosophical ideas of human destiny. Now we turn to eschatology – a theological doctrine or theory of the end of the world or the human race.1

Eschatology assumes the premise that history has a direction and is irreversible. It appears to be limited to Western religions; Eastern religions view history as cyclic or eternal. For example, Hinduism does not describe an end to the world as illustrated by Mahatma Gandhi’s words:

“Consider my spinning wheel. A full turn of the wheel is called a revolution. The revolution of the stars is a revolution of light, that of the seasons of fruit and flower. A revolution in man’s history should be of justice and goodness. Those who want to mock me and my spinning wheel say, ‘You want to put the clock back.’ No, my friends, I am the most advanced revolutionary, and I need only let the clock go on for it to come back to the starting point of its own accord. A revolution is a return to the First Principle, to the Eternal.”2

Eastern religions focus instead on the end of the individual not humanity. Indian religions endorse multiple reincarnations with one’s personal end in nirvana. In Hinduism this is uniting with God whereas in Buddhism, this means nonexistence or oblivion. Chinese religions including Confucianism and Taoism are silent on the end of the world and speak very little of Heaven or Hell. For Eastern traditions then, humanity does not have a divine destiny and may even continue indefinitely.

On the other hand, Middle Eastern religions posit history as having a direction with the logical consequence that human history will end. Zoroasterianism and Judaism and their descendant religions (e.g. Christianity and Islam) see the eschaton (end of history) as being the divine fulfillment of good’s triumph over evil. The general plot is that late in human history evil will increase under the leadership of a powerful agent who will appear to be victorious (the Tribulation). Shortly thereafter the deity, with the assistance of good men or angels or both, will defeat the evil forces, and a Day of Judgment of the resurrected and the living will follow. The favored will be saved for a new world or paradise (the Kingdom of God) while those judged to be agents of evil will be condemned to eternal punishment or oblivion.3,

As in so much else in religion, belief in an eschatological human destiny relies on faith rather than reason, and seems improbable. Before we consider its significance I would like to explore the most famous eschatology in history, The Book of Revelations, which is the subject of the next post.

1 Eschatology can also refer to the end of our individual lives too, but we discussed that in the section on Death and Immortality.

2Zaehner, R.C., Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions. Barnes &Noble Books, New York, 1997. ISBN0-76070-712-X, page 254.

3Edwards, Paul (editor), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972.   Volume 3, pages 48-49. Theoretically a similar view of human destiny need not include belief in God. Some writers point out that this story line is mirrored in the philosophy of material determinism within Marxism where the ‘chosen people’ are the proletariat, and the new world is ‘the classless society.’ I leave it to the reader to decide whether this is indeed synonymous.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART X – PHILOSOPHY – LECOMTE DU NOÜY

“We all see man in the same way. He is complex. He has potentialities for uniquely human achievements, but his capacity for cultural and personality developments always will have biological dimensions. And organically, the human body offers both possibilities for exciting achievements as well as limitations of sometimes depressing harshness.” – Robert T. Anderson, Anthropologist.1

In our consideration of human destiny, out last philosopher is a biophysicist  turned philosopher, LeComte du Noüy. Like George Gaylord Simpson and John Fiske, he starts by exploring the meaning of evolution. He notes, like Fred Kohler, that the evolution of life is ‘antichance’ which he believes amounts to recognition of the existence of a goal or end – a position he calls ‘telefinalism’ – the finalistic view of evolution based on design or teleology. “The Will [of the universe  – God?] manifests itself through evolution and its goal is a morally perfect being – free of human passions.”2

His philosophy of human destiny depends on two other major propositions: (1) morality, like intelligence is evolutionary and (2) man is not the end of evolution, but an intermediary. Intelligence must be subject to morality and spirituality just as science and religion need to be reconciled. A man is capable of perfecting himself, but he must be free to do so. That freedom must include liberation from “the despotism of the body.”3   Since each of us leaves behind a trail of influence on later generations, moral acts are not sacrifices, but investments in the future of man.

“The highest duty of every man is to contribute, to the best of his ability, to this new phase of evolution. No man need worry about the results of his efforts, nor about the importance of his contribution, as long as he is sincere and devotes his attention to improving himself, since it is the effort in itself that counts. His life thus takes on a universal significance; he becomes a link in the chain…a conscious element at all times free to regress and disappear or to progress and contribute to the divine task.”4 Here we hear an echo of the Bhagavad Gita.

For du Noüy then, the destiny of man is the triumph of spirituality over mere intelligence and the eventual ability to think universally whereby man becomes “artisan and beneficiary” of cosmic evolution. 5 I think this hope offers tranquility and the possibility of cosmic meaning for us in our time of relative species immaturity. The onus is on each of us to accelerate the time course of our moral perfection.

 

1Anderson, Robert T., Anthropology A Perspective on Man. Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont California, 1972. ISBN 0-534-00148-3, page 114.

2 du Noüy, Lecomte, Human Destiny. Longmans, Green, and Co., New York, 1947. Page 225.

3 Ibid, page 238.

4 Ibid, page 227.

5 Ibid, page 261.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART IX – PHILOSOPHY – JASPERS

“I cannot think of the present state of humanity as that in which is it destined to remain…Only in so far as I can regard this state as the mean towards a better, as the transition-point into a higher and more perfect state, has it any value in my eyes.” – Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Last time we looked at Kant’s theory of perpetual peace as the hope of human destiny. Now I would like to explore Karl Jaspers’ thoughts on human destiny. He starts his chapter The History of Man1 by noting the philosopher sees history differently than the historian; probing history for meaning, unity, and structure. Jaspers divides human history into four phases: (1)  Promethean – the long prehistoric period when language, tools, and the use of fire developed; (2) Ancient high civilizations – Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus valley, and China; (3) Axial period (800 – 200 BCE) when spiritual foundations of humanity were laid by Confucius, Lao Tse, Buddha, the biblical prophets, Christ, the Greeks, and others; and (4) Age of Science and Technology. Jaspers thinks the third of these is key because it is when man became aware of being as a whole, recognized his limitations and helplessness, began to deal with the big questions, and discovered the depth of selfhood – in short, it was the beginning of philosophy.

History now in his view is world-wide in scope, and prior history is “a mere aggregate of local histories.”2 However despite the terrible catastrophes of our era, by seeing the horizons of man’s past we are led to justifiable belief in the future potentialities of humanity. The chaotic course of history tells us the meaning of history cannot be formulated in terms of an aim. He writes, “What does God want of men? Perhaps a general answer may be ventured: history is the stage upon which man can reveal what he is, what he can be, and what he can become, of what he is capable…But history means far more: it is the stage on which the being of the godhead is revealed.”3

Jaspers thinks we cannot identify an ultimate aim of history, but suggests we can posit an aim premised on the realization of the highest human potential – the ‘unity of mankind.’ 4 He does not think we can produce this unity through a rational, scientific universal or a universal religion. Instead it is found in the depth of historicity, a boundless communication, and a never-ending dialogue in an arena free of violence – a condition which will require a “stubborn political struggle against the powers that be.” 5 He sees that potential in the constitutional state built on elections, laws, education, and freedom of the press. But he warns us this will not come about by enthusiastic optimism, but rather from stark realism and hard work including deep self-assessment.

This path proceeds from recognition of the Comprehensive (being as a whole) and transcendence. In the end we must raise ourselves above history while also accepting our historicity. We must not deify history; it is not the last judgement. Failure is no argument against truth. “By making history our own, we cast an anchor through history into eternity.” 6

1Jaspers, Karl, Way to Wisdom. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1954. ISBN 0-300-00134-7, Chapter IX.

2 Ibid, page 103.

3 Ibid, page 105.

4 Ibid, page 106.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid, page 109.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART VIII – PHILOSOPHY – KANT

“Five great enemies to peace inhabit within us: viz., avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.” ­– Petrarch.

We have now looked at the destiny of man from the vantage point of science and history. Next we look at man’s future as seen by three philosophers starting with the 18th century enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant says all interest of his reason is concentrated on the following questions: “1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope?”1 Hope is directed towards happiness and hoping refers to something that ought to happen, just as morality is acting as one ought. Unfortunately we cannot know exactly what will make us happy, therefore the moral imperative is to “do that which will render thee worthy to be happy.”2 But pure reason tells us that anything which ought to take place must be capable of taking place.3 Happiness in exact proportion to moral worthiness of happiness constitutes the highest good, but is not the case in the world of sense. Thus pure reason leads us to belief in an intelligent world with a single supreme will that comprehends moral law; from which he derives his indirect proof of God and of a future life, which underlie his ‘transcendental theology.’4

Kant’s hopes for human destiny are outlined in his treatise, Perpetual Peace. Fundamental to his thinking is the meaning of ‘peace’ which in the case of states implies permanence, otherwise the correct term is ‘truce.’ He sees such peace as (1) prohibition of individual states to subjugate others, (2) abolition of standing armies, (3) non-interference of states in the constitution or government of others, and (4) universal republican government. He proposes a federation of free states into a ‘league of peace.’ Perpetual peace also requires a law of world citizenship – the universal hospitality of individuals.5

Kant also argues a ‘predictive’ history can be a priori if the diviner creates and contrives the events he announces in advance. Current politicians, like the biblical prophets, fail by virtue of their failure to create the tenable constitution of that future.6  The underlying principle must be moral which reason presents as pure – a duty of the human soul – concerning mankind as a whole.7  This will occur not by revolution, but by evolution of a constitution in accordance with natural law, republican in form. He sees history as “progress toward the better” which will continue unless we enter “an epoch of natural revolution which will push aside the human race to clear the stage for other creatures.” Meanwhile the treatment of humans by sovereigns as tools of their designs is “subversion of the ultimate purpose of creation itself.”8

Enlightenment of the masses in the moral law of the individual and the state, that is, the creation of good citizens appears to be the means to a future of perpetual peace. Concordance of legal and moral principles will lead to gradual reduction in violence, the rise of charity, and the realization of a cosmopolitan society.9

1Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Pure Reason, Penguin Books Ltd., London, 2007. ISBN 978-0-140-44747-7, page 635.

2Ibid. Page 638. (Bolding is mine)

3Ibid. Page 636-7.

4Ibid. Page 642.

5Beck, Lewis White, editor, Kant On History. Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing, Indianapolis, 1980. ISBN 0-672-60387-X, pages 85-105.

6Ibid. Pages 137-138.

7Ibid. Page 146.

8Ibid. Page 148.

9Ibid. Page 151.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART VII – HISTORICAL VIEW – WILL DURANT

“As humanity, or at least their leaders, become more fully aware of the nature and origin of civilization and the manner in which it has hitherto developed they will discover firmer foundations on which to build, more efficient ways of eradicating the inevitable and congenial errors of the race, and of stimulating patient and fruitful reconstruction and reform” ­– J. H. Robinson, Encylcopaedia Britanica, 1929.

 

Our first two historians, Fiske and Toynbee, see in man’s future the elimination of conflict and warfare and a religious or spiritual enlightenment. Now we look at the last of our historians Will Durant, an atheist philosopher and anarchist in youth, who matured into the author of the remarkable 11 volume The Story of Civilization. (Much of his later writing was done with his wife Ariel.)

Durant defines progress as the “increasing control of the environment by life.”1 Civilizations transmit progress from one to another, that is, progress is not continuous or universal; but overall the average man alive today is experiencing the high point of human progress. On the other hand, the only certain thing in history is decadence just as there is nothing certain in life but death. New civilizations develop from the “slow blending of many peoples joined in the conquest of the environment.  The mixture has the same rejuvenating effect as in the conjugation of protozoa.”2 “The moral for America is obvious; our ‘blood-chaos’ is the prelude to a new people, a new stability of soul, and a new civilization.”3

Durant believes the future will depend on social institutions: educational, governmental, and religious. Education rather than pedigree or biology will transmit and extend civilization; but religion is essential because without it civilization has ‘science without wisdom’ and ‘cleverness without conscience.’

Regardless, Durant advises us not to fret about the future. No great civilization entirely dies; elements of it are transferred to the next. Man’s “precious achievements have survived the vicissitudes of rising and falling states: the making of fire and light, of the wheel and other basic tools, language, writing, art, and song; agriculture, the family, and parental care; social organization, morality, and charity; and the use of teaching to transmit the lore of the family and the race. These are the elements of civilization, and they have been tenaciously maintained through the perilous passage from one civilization to the next. They are the connective tissue of human history.”4 And because writing permits its transmission, “civilization need no longer die. Perhaps it will outlive even man, and pass on upward to a higher race.”5

Interestingly all three of our historians have optimistic views of man’s destiny. Fiske imagines the evolution of human kindness and intelligence into world peace and religious (Christian) apotheosis. Toynbee foresees a world order founded on the coalescence of religions into a common human heritage. Durant projects progress in control of nature and an increasingly rich human culture that may outlast man and be adopted by a later species. Next we look at how several great philosophers see human destiny.

1Durant, Will and Ariel, The Lessons of History. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1968. Page 98.

2Durant, Will, The Pleasures of Philosophy. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1957. ISBN 0-671-58110-4, page 264-265.

3Ibid. Page 267.

4Durant, Will and Ariel, The Lessons of History. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1968. Page 100.

5Durant, Will, The Pleasures of Philosophy. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1957. ISBN 0-671-58110-4, page 271.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART VI – HISTORICAL VIEW – ARNOLD TOYNBEE

“To achieve a genuine world order, its components, while maintaining their own values, need to acquire a second culture that is global, structural, and juridical – a concept of order that transcends the perspective and ideals of any one region or nation.”– Henry Kissinger.1

Last time we saw how John Fiske saw the destiny of man as the evolution of kindness, justice, and intelligence and the extinction of warfare. Next we examine the future of man as envisaged by the great British historian and philosopher, Arnold Toynbee. In his monumental A Study of History, he identifies 28 civilizations in the past 6000 years of human history. The central thought of his analysis of civilizations is the cycling of “challenge and response,” with final failure to challenge leading to breakdown of a society. He does not believe the death of a civilization is inevitable, but emphasizes that the timeframe of all human civilizations is short on a geological scale making them virtually contemporaries. As such he cautions against “parochialism,” – our civilization is not fundamentally different from the others and may continue or collapse.2

Toynbee finds occasions when history repeats itself (such as the American Civil War and the war for German unification), and this tendency towards repetition mirrors biology; that is, repetition is creative and “in accordance with the general rhythm of the Universe.”3 Optimistically, he notes “the effort to create a new manifestation of life – be it a new species of mollusk or a new species of human society – seldom or never succeeds at the first attempt. Creation is not so easy an enterprise as that. It wins its ultimate successes through a process of trial and error.”4

Factors for existing civilization to endure include: (1) a constitutional co-operative system of world government (probably through federation), (2) economic compromise of free enterprise and socialism, and (3) placement of the secular super-structure back on religious foundations.5 In that last regard, he notes religions last longer than civilizations and religious tolerance must be the future of man as intolerance leads to violence, sin and death. “A time may come when the local heritages of the different historic nations, civilizations, and religions will have coalesced into a common heritage of the whole human family.” 6  However this will take time; revolution cannot leapfrog the intermediate pain of experience. Utopia cannot be rushed, but depends on the internal growth of men, and in any case is not a simple return to the past or to Nature.7  But “our future largely depends on ourselves. We are not just at the mercy of inexorable fate.”

At the end of A Study of History, is Toynbee’s essay titled Living Happy Ever After. 9 In this he suggests once we have a World Society in which Mankind has rid itself of war and class-conflict, solved the population problem, and limited need for work, what will man do with his leisure time -previously the domain of a privileged minority and responsible for the great achievements of man in arts and science? Will life be just a monotony of mechanical work and insipid leisure? He thinks not-  the effect of meeting man’s bodily needs may be to liberate his spirit for “fulfilling the true end of Man by glorifying God and enjoying Him once again.” 10

 

1Kissinger, Henry, World Order; Penguin Press, New York, 2014. ISBN 978-1-59420-614-6, page 373.

2The Great Ideas Today 1961, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, 1961. Pages 530-531.

3Ibid. Page 538.

4Ibid. Page 538-9.

5Ibid. Page 539.

6Toynbee, Arnold, An Historian’s Approach to Religion. Oxford University Press, London, 1956. Page 298.

7Toynbee, Arnold, A Study of History Illustrated. Oxford University Press, London, 1972. ISBN 07-065129-9, page 245-7.

8The Great Ideas Today 1961, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, 1961. Pages 539.

9Toynbee, Arnold, A Study of History – Abridgement of Volumes VII-X by D.C. Somervell. Oxford University Press, New York & London, 1957. Pages 345-349

10Ibid. Page 349

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART V – HISTORICAL VIEW – JOHN FISKE

“The greatest things that man has done, he owes to the painful sense of incompleteness of his destiny.” – Madame de Stael (novelist 1766-1817).

In the last six posts we have reviewed speculations on human destiny by an anthropologist (Richard Leakey), biologist (George Gaylord Simpson), physical scientist (Fred Kohler), and cosmologist (Fred Hoyle). Leakey seems the most pessimistic – man is unlikely to evolve within culture and may cause his own extinction sooner or become extinct naturally later, although he notes the average species naturally endures for some 12 million years in which case man would have tremendous time. The other three are more optimistic seeing human evolution leading to increased social integration and knowledge, and shared or universal consciousness. Next we will look at the predictions of three great historians.

The first is John Fiske who was a historian1, philosopher, and librarian at Harvard in the 19th century. His comments predate the two World Wars and perhaps seem naïve given that later history. Much of his work builds on the philosophy that came out of Darwinism, especially that of Herbert Spencer. In his short book, The Destiny of Man,2 he begins by reviewing the science of evolution as it was understood in his time. Man appears to him to be the ultimate outcome of a God-directed evolution, making him what Simpson calls a finalist3 (he is also a Christian).

He finds it “impossible that any creature zoologically distinct from man and superior to him should ever exist upon the earth.”4 In his opinion “the most essential feature of man is his improvableness.”5 Evolution now involves the perfecting of humanity especially through psychical (mental) development.  His summary of human history is a three phase advance from empires conquering without incorporating the defeated, to empires conquering with assimilation of the defeated, to the final stage of non-violent federation of nations. In the future, strife leading to warfare will become extinct, and humans will evolve higher levels of kindness, sympathy, justice, and intelligence – giving new meaning to Christ’s prediction, “The meek will inherit the earth.”6

Death for humans will be followed by an afterlife of the permanent spiritual element of man. Death he believes, like Euripides, is the “dawning of true knowledge and of true life.”7 He concludes “The future is lighted for us with the radiant colors of hope. Strife and sorrow shall disappear. Peace and love shall reign supreme. The dream of the poets, the lessons of priest and prophet, the inspiration of the Great Musician, is confirmed in the light of modern knowledge.”8

Fiske’s prediction of the evolution of kindness and enhanced intelligence in humans and a future of peace on earth sounds Pollyannish and may be derived from his faith more than his study of history, but it remains a refreshing point of view of our destiny. Perhaps the 20th and early 21st centuries were mere oscillations in the story of man’s painfully slow growth as a species. We can only hope that evolution of kindness, justice, and intelligence occurs before man destroys himself and the planet.

1Historical works include: The Critical Period of American History, The Beginnings of New England, The War of Independence, The Discovery and American Conquest of America, Civil Government in the United States, and New France and New England.

2Fiske, John, The Destiny of Man; Houghton, Mifflin and Company, New York, 1884.

3See Human Destiny – Part III – Biologic on this site – September 4, 2019.

4Fiske, John, The Destiny of Man; Houghton, Mifflin and Company, New York, 1884. Page 31.

5Ibid, page 70.

6Matthew 5:5.

7 Fiske, John, The Destiny of Man; Houghton, Mifflin and Company, New York, 1884. Page 117.

8Ibid, pages118-119.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART V – A COSMOLOGIST’S SPECULATIONS

“The tidy anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors has been replaced by a cold, immense, indifferent Universe in which humans are relegated to obscurity. But I see the emergence in our consciousness of a Universe of a magnificence, and an intricate, elegant order far beyond anything our ancestors imagined.” – Carl Sagan. 1

In the middle of the 20th century, there was still a vigorous debate regarding the nature of the cosmos. On one side was the Belgian priest and physicist, Georges LeMaitre, who thought Edwin Hubble’s finding of the accelerating expansion of the universe indicated its origin in the explosion of a primordial atom and on the other, a British astronomer, Fred Hoyle, who argued the universe is maintained by a continuous creation of new matter. In a radio broadcast on the BBC, Hoyle sarcastically and unwittingly gave LeMaitre’s theory a name which stuck – the Big Bang.2 The rest is history.

But don’t be misled: Hoyle was a serious scientist, the author of the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis.3 In any case, he published a book based on those BBC broadcasts that summarized cosmology as understood at the time. The last chapter of that book, his personal view of the future, is the subject of this blog.

Hoyle is careful to preface his remarks by noting there is no agreement among scientists on the future and emphasizing the views as his own. Starting with astronomy, he does not predict a dramatic change in the understanding of the universe over the near term and even thinks there is a possibility that astronomy will regress as it did after the Greeks; not because of an apocalypse, but because of an “increasing tendency to rivet scientific inquiry in fetters.”4

He rejects materialist or deterministic theories and there is no connection between life (an accidental machine) and the universe as a whole. He argues materialists leave consciousness unexplained and can’t account for the existence of the universe. History has proven that scientific inquiry eventually explains the apparently unexplainable.

He also rejects theological accounts as illusions and sees no advantage to self-deception. He is intrigued by the mystery of the human mind and predicts that in the future it should be possible to determine the physical relationships between mind and body. He believes the greatest lesson of his adult life is that one’s own consciousness in not enough. We all would choose to share consciousness with great individuals like Shakespeare, Mozart, or Gauss. He postulates “an evolution of life whereby the essence of each of us becomes welded together into some vastly larger and more potent structure, I think such a dynamic evolution would be more in keeping with the grandeur of the physical Universe than the static picture offered by formal religion.”5 His hope appears to be based on an earlier observation: no fictional or imaginary description of the Universe is as fantastic as the reality uncovered by astronomical science. Perhaps integrated consciousness will become another fantastic and unexpected actuality.

 

1Sagan, Carl, Billions & Billions. Random House, New York, 1997. ISBN 0-679-41160-7, page 213.

2Hoyle, Fred, The Nature of the Universe. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1950. Page 124. He writes: “Some people have argued that continuous creation introduces a new assumption into science – and a very startling assumption at that. Now I do not agree that continuous creation is an additional assumption. It is certainly a new hypothesis, but it only replaces a hypothesis that lies concealed in the older theories, which assume, as I have said before, that the whole of the matter in the Universe was created in one big bang at a particular time in the remote past. On scientific grounds this big bang assumption is much the less palatable of the two.”  Interestingly theories of the multiverse seem to require a steady creation of matter at that higher level.

3 Hoyle also had some odd beliefs including panspermia, wherein aliens supposedly seeded hospitable planets with life and were thus responsible for life on Earth.

4Ibid, page135.

5Ibid, page 142.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART IV – PHYSICAL SCIENCE (CONTINUED)

In the last post I discussed Fred Kohler’s analysis of the apparent contradiction of the evolution of matter and life and the second law of thermodynamics and his theory that man in societal structure represents the highest level of order yet to appear in that process. Today we will review his projection of this trajectory on the ultimate future of man.

He begins by reminding us that the formation of the societal organism for the human species is proceeding surprisingly fast compared to other creatures, therefore it is reasonable to expect the human societal organism will come to be a distinct bio-social entity with far greater capabilities than currently. In his view that process has just begun and comparatively speaking, the current human societal organism is quite primitive.

He thinks it is not yet possible to determine the relationship between the individual and the societal organism of the future. However it appears certain that further human progress will not result mainly from biological improvements of individual humans, but from an integration process.  Eventually multiple societal organisms may develop on different star systems, and these may further integrate in the distant future into a ‘super-societal’ organism. That would allow a higher magnitude of understanding than capable by the individual human mind. Such a ‘supersocial’ organism will control great expanses of non-living matter and perhaps even cosmic processes. The final extrapolation of this evolution is a fully integrated supersocial organism that effectively becomes the entity of the universe itself – a conscious universe.

This science fiction like destiny for man and his descendants may seem farfetched, and Kohler admits it is of a low order of validity, but given adequate time and the historical trajectory of evolution, it appears plausible. He ends his speculation on the following note: “This conclusion may seem utterly fantastic if considered in the light of present human limitations in contrast to the immensity of the cosmos. Still is it not equally fantastic, yet true, that the matter that constitutes man has, if considered as an entity, even now achieved some knowledge of its own structure, as well as the nature of other matter? So perhaps the glimmering of consciousness which man, a tiny portion of the total matter of the universe, has already achieved, is just the dawn of the great developments in evolution that are yet to come.”2

1Kohler, Fred, Evolution and Human Destiny. The Philosophical Library, New York, 1952.

2Ibid, page 118.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART IV – PHYSICAL SCIENCE VIEW

“I believe we are here for some purpose, and the purpose has something to do with the future, and it transcends altogether the limits of our present knowledge and understanding.” – Freeman Dyson, Princeton theoretical physicist.

 

We turn now to the physical science view of Fred Kohler.1 His focus is on the apparent incongruity of the second law of thermodynamics – in a closed system there is a tendency to increasing disorder (entropy) over time – and the reality of the evolution of matter to more complex entities. He begins by noting that inorganic matter has been evolving into more complex entities since the Big Bang despite the second law because the improbability of higher order can, under the correct circumstances, permit matter to become more complex locally while entropy increases elsewhere. He uses the word ‘extropy’ for such an increase in order.

Evolution essentially began with subatomic particles aggregating into atoms which then combined to create molecules. Later, when circumstances allowed, crystals formed in some places as for example on the crust of Earth. In the right chemical environment – for example a supersaturated solution – crystals spontaneously enlarge and multiply. The next higher level of complexity was colloidal structures such as proteins which formed from primitive amino acids. But inorganic structures were limited by the availability of specific chemicals for incremental growth. Life transcended this limitation when early cells began to use sunlight to sustain and reproduce themselves using only simple readily available compounds, giving them a distinct advantage over inorganic substances.

It turns out that as entities become more complex, there is a narrower range of ambient conditions in which they can endure. In Kohler’s opinion, this is why highly complex matter must be able to synthesize its structure. Unicellular organisms or protozoa solved this through reproduction by fission and the ability to correct inevitable cellular damage by conjugation (the mixing components of two cells to create a healthy cell).

Complexity increased further when metazoic cells appeared and began to aggregate into cell colonies. Over time these developed a new form of reproduction – fusion of specialized germ cells. However this came at a price: (1) eventual death of the parent organisms as mutations and injuries could no longer be corrected through conjugation, and (2) specialization of component cells such that they were no longer able to exist outside the larger organism. The pattern of evolution then is clear – a trend of ever-increasing extropy coupled with innovations for species preservation.(51)

Order increased further with societal organisms, such as insect colonies, which involve more complexity than individual organisms. Individuals in societal formations also become specialized and are increasingly unable to exist outside the group. The integration into colonies requires a concomitant increase in the organization of their environment (e.g. the bee hive) and the development of a reproduction system characteristic of a multicellular organism with specialized units for reproduction (e.g the queen bee) (66).

Kohler’s thesis is simple – man represents the highest form of societal order to date. Man evolved into a societal organism using language, learning, and tools to sustain his social structure and to increase the orderliness of his immediate surroundings. The history of civilization is a trend to increasing size and complexity of cohesive units of society.

(continued next post)

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