Chapter 1: Introduction
“I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years past been working to undo the botched job your God has made."
— Emma Goldman
"Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a lifestyle and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds."
— Madalyn Murray O’Hair
“My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety toward the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests.”
— George Santayana
In this article (a chapter in a book) I propose the study of new questions relevant to mankind’s origin, its existence and experience to date, choices to consider on its continued life on planet Earth, and the potential of its travel to and life on other places in the Universe. The scientific discoveries of the last 50-75 years provide the opportunity to give answers to some questions in traditional philosophy, questions that had remained without believeable responses during the last 5,000 years and longer:
• Where does man come from?
• Was he/she created by a God or a group of Gods?
• How and when did life first appear on planet Earth?
• What is man’s role in the Universe?
• Is there life after death?
Today, finally, we have the answers to some of these questions. We know where we come from, what we are made of, what is our capacity to think, to reason, to feel, and what are the desires and needs that shape our behavior in society? It is timely and appropriate, therefore, to ask new questions:
• How can this new knowledge influence and shape our societies?
• If the old beliefs on man’s purpose in life and in the Universe have changed, what is to motivate man in his/her continued existence and experience? Egoism, fear, desire, curiosity, other?
• How much longer will our human species survive and live on planet Earth, on the Universe? 5,000 years, 10,000 years, longer?
Yes, new questions, and I propose that we consider these questions as contemplated by contributions and responses made by a number of thinkers and scientists in those last 50-75 years.
A note to readers, however. This is not a textbook, a school book on philosophy and, instead, it is an essay on my own perspectives on the questions above, perspectives that reflect my own beliefs, my body of knowledge, and set of personal experiences. Accordingly, it is not an unbiased essay and, instead, it reflects those personal beliefs, as presented in the following pages.
There is no God in our Universe. There is no creator of our animal and plant species on planet Earth, or on any other part of the Universe, for that matter. Life as we know it in animals and plants appeared by accident, as chemical and physical events occurred somewhere on planet Earth, and nowhere else, forming a single first cell, a first living organism. It is no accident, on the other hand, that all living organisms are made up of the same four basic molecules called nucleotoids that make up the DNA strands in our bodies, and that all living organisms share much of the same DNA content, as we all come from that same first cell.
There is no other life after we die. There is no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no re-incarnation. We get to be borne, we live, and then ultimately we die. No need for another life. Once we understand that there is “one chance” at life, we can learn to enjoy it in the company of our relatives, our friends, our neighbours, other human beings, a wonderful variety of other animals, a prodigious flora all around us, and then we die. Simple as that. In time we may learn to live and operate within these constraints. Death is not necessarily sad and bad, we simply have been made to think so by religious individuals, organizations, and power structures in our respective societies. Knowledge can make a big difference, however, in our interpretation and enjoyment of life; better to know early in life that there is no other life after death, so as to be able to enjoy every day, every sunrise, every sundown, every relative, every lover, every friend, all animals, and all plants.
We are alone in the Universe. There is no life in any other planet or place in the Universe, despite what some of our NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ESA (European Space Agency) friends say in the form of movies and TV “documentaries”. There are no “aliens”, there are no other forms of life out there, as they would want us to believe, as they would want their respective government representatives, politicians, and citizens in general to believe in order to get government funding for some of their space programs. Yes, we want space programs that look out there, into the many galaxies, to explore new planets, to learn of new places which could support or life forms, but not for purposes of promoting the existence of “aliens”, and other non-existing entities.
And, yet, we have each other, so we are not alone in our communities, whether they be here on Earth, or in other planets in the Universe sometime in the future. This thought and fact ought to be of great comfort and purpose to our humanity, our wonderful collection of societies, and life styles, but only if we are capable of understanding such thought and fact. All human beings, all races, all individuals, all 7.000 Million people that live on this planet earth today come from, descend from, those 200-300 families that left Africa some 45,000-60,000 years ago, and who went on to populate the five continents, as we will discuss further in the chapters ahead.
Choice and experience in man’s life. Let us consider the elements and concepts shown on Figure 1.
[Figure 1 goes here]
In the box “old body of beliefs” are represented the set of beliefs promoted by the various religions, all the religions. “God” is the creator of everything tha is in the universe: man, animals, plants, the planets, everything. There is good and evil in mankind’s actions and behavior. Eva and Adam were the first human beings in the original paridise, and they were doing fine until they commited the first sin and they were thrown out into the world. Eva, the woman, is depicted as the sinner, of course, causing Adam to sin as well. Most important, there is a hierarchy of men disguised as priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes that operate a “church” and see themselves as the supreme judges of good and evil deeds, intent on directing mankind’s lifes, economy, and after-death destinies. Everything is known in this box, the rules are set, the church guides peoples lifes, there is a heaven for those people that follow the churche’s scriptures, and a hell after death for those who do not.
In the “new body of knowledge” we find represented the knowledge gained through the scientific discoveries of the last 2,000 years, but primarily in the last 50-75 years. There is a Universe out there with a set of laws that govern consistently the interactions between matter and energy, and which is completely indifferent to man’s entity, desires, fears, and aspirations. There is no such thing as “good” deeds and “bad” deeds, only those determined to be so by laws agreed upon by society. A society or collection of societies where men and women, together, meet to agree on rules of behavior within a society, rules that protect human life and property, promote equality “rights” and, conversely, will punish human behavior that would break these rules. Separation of Church and State in society. And, ultimately, the knowledge that life ends with death.
Election and choice? We notice there are three decision points represented in Figure 1. After the individual is born, he or she will most likely inherit a variety of beliefs from his/her parents and community pertaining to a particular religion. Yes, in a few cases the parents may allow the child to grow in order for the child to choose a particular religion, although this case may occur rarely. That is a first decision point, generally in the hands of parents who decide to rear a child within the family’s or community’s religion. Once the indivicual becomes an adult, he/she may decide to stay within the “old body of beliefs” box, or go for the “new body of knowledge” box and associated life styles. That is where a second decision point occurs. In the chapters ahead we will have the opportunity to observe and to comment on these two “boxes” and decision points.
This work on Evolutionary Philosophy is also intended to be a voyage of discovery, I would like to add. I coined the term “evolutionary philosophy” in order to communicate the importance of knowledge derived from evolutive processes (thank you, Mr. Darwin!) and from the scientific discoveries in the are of paleontology of the last 50-75 areas in determining man’s origins, his/her reasoning capacities, in understanding our fragil place in the Universe, and in promoting a new set of questions about our desire for a continuing existence and choice of experiences in the Universe.
To these ends, the following chapters present highlights of those scientific discoveries in a number of key areas, including the origins of life on planet Earth, origins of the Universe, life replication, and the evolution of mankind from its beginnings in Africa. This voyage of discovery also takes a look at the origins and current status of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as major religions that have contributed so much, for the good and the bad, of our historical development and our societies today. The make up of these societies on planet Earth today, in terms of religious beliefs, reasoning capacity, and technological achievements, will determine to a great extent the future of mankind, as I believe.
The last three chapters make an effort to gather my observbations and suggestions for a productive future. I realize well that I am but one of many people concerned with the future of mankind on our planet Earth. Because of the diverse views and the uncomplimentary nature of the religious beliefs centered in those main religions cited above I see a short future for mankind, in the order of 3,000-5,000 years, at most, leaving behind a wasted land, toxic rivers and seas, ecological disasters everywhere, mass destruction of our societies and civilizations, chaos, pillage, murder, death, and darkness. The end of Homo Sapiens Sapiens as we know it and the beginning of the supremacy of a new species? Maybe. Or we can take a look at those last three chapters and learn what we can do to continue our species, in order to reach new worlds of human election and experience.