Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Free Will and the Survival of Humanity (Some heavy shit!)

The following appears as a comment on a recent post on Gregg100's Open Campus blog site "Dan" is another commenter who apparently has a keen interest in whether man has any free will. As you may see, I drone on for some time, so gird your loins, or whatever it is you are comfortable "girding," and enjoy.

I'm not sure I follow Dan's interest in "free will." Is it his notion that there is some biological imperative which predisposes us to certain patterns of behaviour and consequently any and all decisions we make?

I suppose our heredity and instinct for survival direct a great deal of our decision making processes. However, I feel that one of the distinct qualities of our species is that we do have a certain amount of free will which is often demonstrated by the number of truly bad decisions we make which often run counter to our survival and well being. A slug would not "decide" to do a lot of the truly stupid things humans so often do.

Some evolutionary scientists claim that man has ceased to evolve owing to our unprecedented departure from nature. We have, from an evolutionary perspective, taken ourselves out of the equation - at least to a greater degree than other earthly life forms. We do not survive purely on instinct and hereditary predisposition. We cogitate and consider - often over little, if any relevant evidence - and at times come to spurious conclusions about what course of action to take, or whether to take any action at all regarding any given matter. Bengal tigers spend little time hemming an hawing. They attack and eat.

As to whether the survival of humanity is a worthy goal, what else is there for us? I have suggested that humanity is, in fact the closest thing to god we know of. While we certainly don't have many of the qualities usually reserved for our typical concept of what it is to be "godly," we seem to possess more such qualities, or abilities than any other life form with which we are familiar.

In this regard, the spiritual realm doesn't count for much. In my humble opinion, most of what people regard as "spiritual" is based on dreams, fantasy and hallucinations, or just wishful thinking.

The pursuit of our long term survival calls upon many of the qualities we do possess which take us beyond the realm of individual survival, including cooperative efforts with other humans, care and concern for the life and well being of others, creativity and innovation, etc., as you (Gregg) have rightly indicated.

The question can be put: Of what importance is the long term survival of humanity? To what end? If there is no god, no afterlife, no spot in heaven to pursue, nor permanent residence in hell to avoid, then what purpose can it all have?

Perhaps that is our challenge. Perhaps that is the point which will call upon our highest abilities. It falls to us to find the subtext of our daily lives, if you will, to define what it is we must do beyond basic, personal survival to further the survival of humanity, and why it is worthy of our efforts.


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