I study realities. The following statement is an integration of the published statements of the references I have listed at the end. It is also my statement. The statement is important in representing a major change in the way we all understand the world around us.
|Material Determinism||Rejecting Alienation||Flexibility of Belief|
|Adaptability of Reality||References||Email Response|
The greatest threat to our survival as a species is the belief that we are all engaged in an endless struggle for survival. We believe that we live in a dangerous world where only the obsessively aggressive prevail. It may be, for millennia, that was largely true. Yet the so-called struggle for survival against a dangerous world has today become a struggle against other people. We are fighting a battle among ourselves that exists only in our minds.
The idea of evolution by natural selection is responsible for some of this confusion. According to this idea, evolution works by rewarding some people and destroying others. That is what "fitness" means: behaviors of some people that come to dominate the behaviors of others are supposedly "more fit." However, in other contexts, the apparently least fit combination of traits survives against the "healthier" trait combinations. For example, are humans more fit than whales by virtue of human ability to destroy them? Are beef cattle more fit than elephants because they are more prolific? So much for "survival of the fittest."
Just as evolution cannot be understood separate from the human mind, the human mind cannot be understood without a clear comprehension of the structure of the universe. Such understanding emerges in the form of ultimate philosophies. So, when pleasure-seeking is considered merely entropy in social life, we believe that dissipation is the necessary effect of happiness. However, human development can lead to domains of increasing freedom and dignity and spiritual fulfillment, not only into a material determinist trap.
Since the meaning of humanity emerges not from our practical possibilities but from our ultimate philosophies, material determinism can soon become the implicit religion of science and the profound enemy of all other religion and morality. Even as the practical advances of science promise to prolong life and enrich its pleasures, this philosophy seems to eliminate any possibility of life's having an uplifting meaning. To understand the problems of life without destroying its meaning, we have to stop thinking of reality as material and begin thinking of it as a manifestation of consciousness, prestructured by evolution to distinguish that part of chaos that is critical to our particular needs, and constructed by us to serve those needs best. Paradox, a perplexity of things, is recognized as a routine property of reality. In place of what we might wish to be an inert, blind bit of matter at the foundation of the universe, we find a paradox. Gone is the view of a dissipated thermodynamic existence, driven by "natural resources" being turned to entropy and waste by human exploitation. Once seen as a physical system tending toward exhaustion and decline, human life, and the universe itself, has emerged as a boundless intellectual system driven by anti-entropic development.
Overthrowing the superstitions of material determinism, of triumphant entropy, of an all-against-all struggle for survival, humanity is injecting the universe with the germ of its intelligence, the spoor of the human mind. In this form, human intelligence can be transmitted to any tool or appliance, to any part of our environment. Thus technology does not dehumanize the world and our environment, but makes it more human, for better or for worse. Believing we can exist and prosper without destructive aggression can eliminate our alienation from both a dangerous world and the people who form the community around us. We can escape our obsession with the problems of survival and address the larger challenges of life.
When we understand survival in terms we believe absolutely (material determinism being but one form absolute belief can take), we unduly restrict our own ability to survive, and threaten the survival of everything that depends on us. Reality works for us precisely because it is not so restricted. We can find meaning in the stuff of our senses to suit whatever purpose we choose. Reality is, and can be, whatever we want it to be. This flexibility is the ultimate essence of freedom, and the practice of it is the essence of spirituality.
As long as we each believe that our reality, God, or particular ideology is the only true one, we are condemned to violent confrontation. However, if we can agree on the adaptability of reality, we may be more willing to form a consensus regarding a growing list of global problems. If we are able to look creatively at the presuppositions that inform our understanding, we may get a new perspective on the underlying cause of these problems: our belief that we know reality. Believing that we knew the answers, we stopped asking the right questions. Yet it is not too late to ask the most important one of all: If nobody knows reality, then do not we, each and collectively, have the freedom and the responsibility to create our own?
George Gilder, "The materialist superstition," The American Enterprise, Washington, Sep/Oct 1998.
Robert McMahon, "Eric Voegelin's paradoxes of consciousness and participation," The Review of Politics, Notre Dame, Winter 1999.
Galen Strawson, Mental Reality, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994.
Mirl W. Wythe, "The future of reality," The Futurist, Washington, Aug/Sep 1998.
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