It is an ages-old compound question – who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going?
Since ancient recorded history there have been those who felt they had the answers – they developed what one might call scientific forms that sought to not only describe their beliefs/answers to those questions, but also how to manipulate nature into doing and being that which they sought to control. In today’s world their ‘science’ is considered ‘mysticism’ or ‘magic’.
The ancient mystics/scientists were the elites of their societies – they withheld much of the deeper understanding of things, as well as the rites, rituals, and alchemy/chemistry associated with them, from the public at large as the public were considered ‘profane’ (read: low life scoundrels unworthy of these great secrets who would only use them for base purposes). This practice is actually the foundation for the ‘secret societies’ that have existed in one shape or form ever since. None of today’s ‘secret societies’ can legitimately trace themselves as far back as say, ancient Egypt – although a number of them claim that they can – but the concept of an ‘elect’ remains in form with those who consider themselves the ‘elite’.
As history marched forward science came out of the closet, so-to-speak. Humans, slowly but surely, separated ‘things of the spirit’ from ‘things of this world’. The ‘elite’ broke off into two branches – one towards the philosophy of ‘religion’, the other towards the philosophy of ‘science’. A competition, of sorts, ensued – politics became the forum where the power struggles between these two ‘elite’ branches played out. For many centuries the religious elements dominated the field but then, to the shock of the religionists, along came the ‘Enlightenment’ of the 17th and 18th centuries. Reason and individualism sprang forward and quickly replaced superstition – beliefs in that which could not be seen – as the driving force in the political sphere. As a result, hard science burst unto the world stage in a big way and things have never been quite the same since.
Through scientific discovery humans have been able to create and achieve in four hundred years more than earlier societies had in all previously recorded history combined. Some may argue that this ‘progress’ has done more harm than good to the planet and its people – but few who share the benefits would give it all up to live in the admittedly beautiful and unpolluted cultures of say the ‘uncontacted tribes’ of Peru or the Amazon.
Through the advances of science and technology the public at large gained not only more leisure time to pursue personal interests, they also gained access to previously unobtainable knowledge and information through the written word and open education. We now live in a time where everyone and anyone can become their own priests and alchemists/scientists without the dependence upon ‘elite masters’. The explosion of the world wide web, particularly in the early 21st century, is in all actuality the true impetus of the much vaunted ‘paradigm shift’ that pervades various areas of discourse. While there have been a number of thinkers who, since the early 20th century, proposed different models of thought and theory, the web has allowed those theories to become more widespread. And this has made for a curious, and disappointing, phenomenon in the evolution of thought.
Despite all that we’ve gone through as a species, the question(s) asked at the beginning of this post still dominates our sense of identity. It’s as if we’ve willingly remained blind to the thing most obvious in exchange for that which cannot be answered.
Here is what I’m getting at:
The web site Paranoia has an interview where Joan d’Arc speaks with self-described ‘alternative archeologist’ and ‘Vedic creationist’ Michael Cremo about his cosmological and spiritual views regarding human and earthly origins. He is an advocate of ‘intelligent design’ and discusses his belief in this area with more intelligence than most. All things considered, he seems to be quite an affable man. His points regarding the ‘process of knowledge filtration’ in the Earth sciences are legitimate and can be made with regard to many other areas of not only science but also politics and society at large. My own personal experience in academia confirmed that point in a very real way – its very difficult to get a ‘peer reviewed’ paper published if there are few if any ‘peers’ to review it. Challenging the status quo can be very lonely at times.
Where Cremo falls short, in my humble opinion, is in his belief in absolutes which can only be supported by a giant leap in logic. He insists that because there are bits of Darwin’s theory of evolution that have not yet been proven beyond question the entire theory is completely false. He also presents an oddly strange and contradictory, of sorts, argument regarding recent archeological discoveries that suggest that beings in human form may go back 2-5 million years ago and this totally debunks the theory that modern humans only developed certain skills 100,000-150,000 years ago. The contradiction comes when he himself recognizes the Earth’s antiquity and the common scientific belief that the planet has undergone several catastrophic events that dramatically changed the surface on the planet: because the cosmic ‘soup’ is part and parcel of the Earth’s make-up it is completely feasible that the human seeds of DNA – as well as society in varying forms – shared the rise and fall along with the planet. One could actually infer that this goes a long way in suggesting that the human markers were already present in nature and were triggered through adaptation during various phases of Earthly change in the more ‘modern’ stage of Earth’s existence.
There are flaws and ‘missing links’ in the theory of evolution – but there are many parts of it that are self-evident. Cremo uses the eye example as proof of intelligent design rather than evolution.
He mentions all of the intricacies of what is involved with these amazing organs. But does that disprove evolution? The very process of each person, from egg to full development, is proof of evolution. Each one of us is a microcosm of the macrocosm we call Earth. From the tiniest cells that make up the egg, to the fantastic tiny computers known as DNA which carry the triggers of the electro-chemical processes that make up what we are – all of it is possible because we are of the Earth. This is where we come from.
Cremo’s leap of logic comes from his astonishment at the fabulous intricacies of this system. It’s so fantastic that it absolutely must have been the invention and ‘creation’ of some outside force. He, like so many others, has an extremely difficult time accepting the idea of ‘it simply is.’
The conversation regarding ‘mind and consciousness’ is of another order completely. As science in this area moves forward – evolves – we are finding information which suggests that we ourselves are the creators of our own realities, we are in essence the creator, complete with flaws and all. This explains why amidst all the wonder and beauty around that might suggest ‘intelligent design’ there are also tragic flaws that produce great suffering which contradicts the concept of an all-knowing, all-wise creator. Life is a process, not a pre-designed instant of perfection. Whether or not this will ultimately lead us to some kind of unified super-consciousness is yet to be discovered. And here is where we come to the final point.
I mentioned the word ‘disappointing’ regarding where we are in the evolution of thought. In ancient times group consciousness was stunted by arrogant ‘elites’ who hoarded the most profound ideas and discoveries. A little further on humanity was taken on a ride of dominance and turbulence when those ‘elites’ chose to move their philosophical arguments into the political sphere. With the dawn of the information age humanity has reached an age of full disclosure of what and who we are – it should be completely obvious. But instead we’ve embraced the same paradigms that have kept us in the dark along the centuries – those old paradigms are causing a resistance to the newer one that should be happening with greater ease. We’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by arguments between religion and science instead of embracing this grand moment in time to celebrate our very existence in the here and now, on this fabulous planet that is like no other (as far as we can tell).
Who are we and where do we come from? We are human beings from the planet Earth. Where are we going? That is up to us.
In the documentary, The Root Of All Evil, Richard Dawkins makes this point as his final thought:
The here and now is not something to be endured before eternal bliss or damnation. The here and now is all we have, an inspiration to make the most of it…Look around you. Nature demands our attention. Begs us to explore, to question. Science, in constantly seeking real explanations, reveals the true majesty of our world in all its complexity. People sometimes say, ‘there must be more than this world, than just this life.’ But how much more do you want?
…you and I are quite grotesquely lucky to be here. The number of events that had to happen in order for you to exist, in order for me to exist. We are privileged to be alive. And we should make the most of our time on this world.
Science doesn’t claim to have all the answers – the various disciplines still struggle with the ages old contest within an ‘elite establishment’. I would argue that traditional physics, for example, is fastly proving itself to have been incorrect on many points of theory. But these are things that we can grow from as we obtain more proofs of alternatives – and there a few which are quite compelling not just theoretically, but also provable in the laboratory. ‘Creationists’ like Michael Cremo postulate an unprovable absolute as first cause – and that would be okay if it didn’t come at such a detrimental price to the psyches of people in the here and now. Young people should be able to learn about the history of human beings on this planet – and teaching that history should be put into perspective. Evolution, simply put, is a scientific theory which explains change through time – and that is all it is. Creationism is an abstract religious philosophy, and that is how it should be taught – it is not a science no matter how much well intentioned folks like Cremo et al argue that it is.