It’s all Rising to Something Better
Written By: Wendell Krossa
The three great emergences, being the material universe, life, and consciousness (civilization) turned into three great trends in physical reality. These are: the expansion and development of the cosmos, the growth and development of life, and the growth and development of consciousness in human civilization. The basic features of these overall trends show that everything progresses eventually toward something better, toward something more humane. Keeping this larger picture in view can help prevent us from getting carried away in the hysteria and panic that is often associated with short-term reversals, downturns, and catastrophes that plague life. While none of us are guaranteed protection from personal involvement in the suffering associated with such reversals and disasters, an understanding of the dominant long-term trends of life can help us stay centered on what really matters and find hope in the ultimate progress of existence.
A guest on a local radio show made the comment that the world’s a mess and it was easy to see this. Another radio commentator noted the recent news that the ozone hole over the Antarctic was reaching a record size this year. He apologized for bringing such dismal news up, leaving his listeners with the impression of great disaster looming ahead due to human influence on nature. This widespread belief that the world is messed up and in peril has become one of the commonly accepted truisms of our time (see postscript 2 at end).
We live in a time when unsettling frights are repeatedly sent surging through the public consciousness. A fog of apocalyptic despair has become the background atmosphere of our age. For instance, we have been told that bird flu disease would kill multiple millions of us, or human-caused global warming will devastate life on earth. Julian Simon said that there is no reason for such scare-mongering, but there is news value in them. The more these scares proliferate the more they add to the growing impression that the environment is a more and more frightening milieu (Ultimate Resource, p.264).
Scare-mongering produces a vicious cycle, according to Simon. The media quickly picks up on a story raised by environmental extremists. Then the public becomes frightened. Polls then reveal the public concern and this worry is cited by politicians as support for polices enacted to counter the supposed threat. These policies are enacted out of fear, which results in great cost to the society at large (p.220). The greatest damage from such fear mongering is that populations are frightened into immobility. People are too frightened to adopt new technologies that could improve life (e.g. Genetically Modified foods). They are pushed to abandon cheap energy sources (oil) for expensive and unreliable new sources (solar, wind). The outcome is a general hindering of growth and development and in such situations the poor suffer the most severe consequences (i.e. the rise in food prices due to the shift of agricultural land to growing biofuels in response to baseless fear over supposedly catastrophic global warming).
All it takes is the irresponsible expression of some shoddily concocted fear to start a public scare, but it then takes huge amounts of wasted resources and time to prove that these scares have no sound scientific basis. As others have said, apocalyptic scares have a 100 percent failure rate. Surely Y2K, with airplanes falling out of the sky, should have taught us something about the irresponsibility of such scare-mongering.
This may be the greatest battle that humanity faces today- the fight against the despair and hopelessness engendered by a distorted apocalyptic view of reality. The endless repetition of such views in public reinforces a distorting narrative about life, deepens gloom, and weakens the ability of people to engage with life positively.
And apocalyptic is entirely distorting of reality. Life on earth has never been better. The cosmos has never been better and human civilization has never been better. And it is only going to get much better still. We have only just begun the rise toward a far better future. The actual state of the world and the prospect of an improving future should buoy our spirits with hope and celebration.
What do I base this upon?
I believe that in part the erroneous belief that the world is a mess is the result of a distorted focus. It is the result of thinking that has been taught to look at the wrong things and make the wrong conclusions about the actual status of those things in reality. It emphasizes certain things out of proportion to other things and this creates a distorted perception of what reality and life are about.
In response, I would argue that we need to train our minds to focus on what is most fundamental about reality, life and civilization. This triumvirate- reality, life and civilization, relates to the three great emergences and mysteries of the universe; the emergence of material reality (cosmos); the emergence of life, and the emergence of consciousness which has led to the unique development of human civilization. These three emergences have exhibited the same fundamental trends that drive all existence. In these emergences we see clearly the rise of life toward a better future.
To properly understand these three realities we need to note the main forces that have shaped them. We should also look at the overall long term trajectories that have defined their existence. We need to look at the outcomes of those trends and trajectories to this point in time. The past provides convincing evidence about what the future might be. The direction any system is taking relates to where it has come from and where it has been heading to this point in time. There is no more convincing evidence than these long term trends. With no good evidence to the contrary we can be assured that life will continue its rise toward a better future.
So what are the dominant trends in the three basic emergences above- the cosmos, life, and consciousness/civilization?
The most fundamental trend that has defined all three emergences can be summarized in the concept of general progress toward something better and more specifically toward something more humane. All matter, life and consciousness have advanced, developed, improved, and undergone perfecting from their earliest emergence. All reality has moved from something more chaotic toward something more ordered and structured; from something less complex toward something more complex and diverse; from something less developed toward something more developed and toward something much better. There is nothing random, purposeless or meaningless about any of this.
This is more than the anthropological principle which argues that everything appears suited for the emergence of humanity. I would argue that everything exists for more than just suitability to humanity but exists for something more specifically human. I would argue that all is moving toward something more humane and this speaks to the reason for the existence of all reality.
I will note later that this fundamental trend toward something better also speaks volumes regarding the foundational Reality or Mind that gives existence to all. Reality first invented and organized matter, time, and space. It then moved the cosmos toward something more ordered and carefully suited to the life that would eventually emerge. With the later emergence of consciousness, the same basic impulses to improve all things and make them more humane became more intensely focused in the endeavors of conscious humanity.
The meaningless dogma of much modern science denies this progress and is perhaps the most irrational belief to have ever captured human minds. It denies overwhelming evidence to the contrary and this denial is too often the result of a childish reaction to the straw God of archaic religious mythology that God has never existed. It is irresponsible for many scientists to continue to engage such silliness and build their dogma of meaningless arguments in response to such distortion.
Physical reality did not emerge from nothing (some void of nothingness or energy field); it did not emerge by chance nor develop randomly and aimlessly. It is not therefore meaningless. This perception, all too common in contemporary science and philosophy, is irrational and incoherent in the extreme. As Roy Varghese (The Wonder of the World) has argued so well, you do not get something from nothing. Whatever exists; material reality, life, consciousness, can only come from something similar but of much greater capacity, intelligence and potential. It can only come from something with the same features, properties, and potential but of infinitely greater quality and perfection.
We all feel the need to create meaning for our lives. We need meaning to shape what we value, how we behave, and what we are trying to become. Our system of meaning should respond in some way to the great questions that have always inspired human curiosity- Why something? Why life? Why consciousness and what does it mean to be consciously human? Hopefully, the meaning we create will connect with and express something of the purpose for which all physical reality exists. If all this reality has been created for some reason then it is important, at the least, not to violate that purpose. This seems to be common sense.
I believe that something of the purpose of existence can be discerned from the trends that all reality (cosmos, life, consciousness) have taken so far. That purpose can be generalized in the concept of progress toward something better and more humane. It appears that everything exists to find fulfillment in a more humane reality.
The fundamental trend of progress is evident in the formation of matter itself (the universe or cosmos). Out of the initial chaotic heat of the Big Bang, fundamental forces were formed along with basic matter. With expansion and cooling, matter continued to become more ordered and was then structured into galaxies, stars, and then planets. Over billions of years, stars formed and then died in a process which produced the basic elements such as carbon. The cosmos emerged with all its elements extremely fine tuned in preparation for the later appearance of life and then consciousness. For more detail on this fine tuning see Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees.