A Personal View
by Ken Clark, 2/26/94
My two dogs are creatures of fairly regular habits. They keep a sharp eye on the general area around our house, and on their marked area in particular. Every morning they go off on their regular run which lasts for up to two hours. I don't where they go but my neighbors say that they don't come around their houses. They never see them although they all know them. They sometimes come back with mud on them so I presume that they go to the river which is close by. The point of this is that my dogs have an area around their home base, which is our house, of perhaps a mile in all directions. Within that circular mile radius they probably know intimately every topographical feature and every smell. They don't know that some of the trees are oaks and some are walnuts and some are hickories and so forth. They also don't know that most of the rock is flint but some of it is sandstone, but all of these things are just as real to them and just as much a part of their lives as if they did. They are also familiar with all of the animal life in the area and know how each species fits into their scheme of things. They have reached an understanding with all of these elements in their world and are not unduly afraid of anything, particularly when they are on their own marked territory.
The one thing that they are deathly afraid of is thunder and lightning. Ordinarily I cannot entice them into our house because they know they are not allowed, but, when lightning flashes and it thunders they will force their way in if they have a chance. They will also go into the cellar. Something they will not usually do. I am sure that the reason that they are so afraid of thunder and lightning is because they don't understand it and have no control over it. If they had the ability to reason and could communicate their thoughts and feelings to one another through language they would soon work out a method of dealing with thunder and lightning that would lessen their fear.
Situations like this must have been the impetus for the earliest beginnings of religion. The archeological record has left no trace of this. The first indications of the development of an ego and an awareness that life is finite is in burial sites which indicate that some sort of ceremony was observed and personal belongings were buried with the dead person. A sure indication of the rejection of the extinction of self upon death and a belief in some sort of afterlife. Like most of us, they found it impossible to imagine a world which they did not inhabit. Once this stage of thought had been reached, the basis for religion had been established. The only thing left open to question was the particulars of the process and how to use these ideas to regulate the interaction of humans with their environment and with other forms of life. Probably the first religion was a form of animism, the belief that all natural objects and animals are sentient and are capable of doing us good or evil. If this was so, then there must be actions that could be taken to invite the good and ward off the evil. Echos of this kind of thinking can be found in the Bible in the form of high places. The belief that certain places have a special spiritual significance which caused them to be used for ceremonial rituals or places of sacrifice. Recall the biblical story of Abraham taking his son to a high place for sacrifice when called upon to do so by God.
Some form of this type of religious thought must have prevailed throughout most of the history of mankind. As far back as 1.5 million years BC stone tools were in use in Africa. From about 120.000 BC Neanderthal man was present throughout Europe and Central Asia. Stone tools are commonly found from this era. Deliberate burial became common between about 80,000 and 35,000 BP and is usually taken to indicate a belief in a soul or an afterlife. These ideas reached out into the solar system and visible universe in the stone structures of the megalithic period which closely preceded the rise of the religions of today. Some of these structures seem to be based on the workings of the solar system and probably were used to determine whether or not the solar system was going to wheel back and give another repetition of the seasons. Stonehenge, in particular, is oriented to determine the shortest day of the year and whether the Sun is going to move back to the north again. An analemma will show that the 25th of December is the first day that will give a clear indication that the Sun is on its way back north. The 25th of December was probably an ancient day of celebration which was carried over into our time as the birthday of Christ.
Pantheism, which is a more formalized expression of animism, and which represents an increase in the level of human understanding, was typified by the religion of the Greeks and the Egyptians in which the Gods represented the workings and forces of nature and of human sentiment. The Egyptian Pharoah Ihknaton made an abortive attempt to establish the idea of one God, the Sun, but the time was not ripe and he failed.
In many places throughout the early history of mankind we can see the idea of sacrifice, and sometimes cannibalism, as a means of propitiating the Gods or of acquiring the desirable qualities of other persons. The significance of blood in religion was well established long before the crucifixion.
Around 1500 BC, in yet another example of synchronic advancement in thinking, Hinduism came into being in India and Judaism arose in the middle east. (I have recently read, in Sci Am I think but I can supply the reference, that a group of naturally mummified people were discovered in western China dating to about 2000 BC (I think) that were apparently caucasian. If this is true it indicates that there may have been some cross fertilization of ideas between east and west. Interesting, huh.)
Hinduism is defined in the dictionary as a diverse body of religious, philosophical, and cultural practices native to and predominant in India, characterized broadly by the view that opposing theories are aspects of one eternal truth, and by a desire for liberation from Earthly evils. Along with Judaism, this was one of the early attempts to establish an abstract system of ethics that was contained in a single idea, as opposed to farming out ethical ideas among a variety of Gods.
Judaism, which arose in the middle east at roughly the same time as Hinduism arose in India, was another idea of a single God who was omnipotent and took care, not only of all of the ethical aspects of the lives of the Hebrews, but also all of the material aspects as well. As originally conceived, this God was the God of the Jews only and was a jealous and vindictive God who helped the Hebrews subdue and dominate other people.. One example of this is when Moses came back down off the mountain with the tablets from God which contained the Ten Commandments that included the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill", he found the people worshiping the golden calf. On the commandment of God, and with the help of the tribe of Levi, he slew three thousand Hebrews. Again, in Chapter 7 of Deuteronomy, God promises the faithful that he will keep them free of the evil diseases of Egypt but will lay them on all that hated them. He further promises to deliver other nations into their hand so that they might destroy them.
Th early Hebrews were a group of nomadic traders who traveled up and down fringes of the fertile crescent with no fixed homeland or central place of abode. As such, they needed a deity who could travel with them and who would operate in the same way regardless of where they were in their travels. For this they needed a single God which was represented in their tribes by the Ark of the Covenant which they carried with them. This God revealed his commandments to Moses alone after making sure that no one was on the mountain but He and Moses. After forty days Moses came back down the mountain with the stone tablets on which were inscribed the requirements of God. This is reminiscent of the way the Mormans got their book by way of Joseph Smith. He sat behind a curtain and called out the translation of the Urim and the Thummim to a transcriber who sat on the other side of the curtain.
About fifteen hundred years after the origin of Hinduism and Judaism, and probably as the result of an attempt to retain their ethnic identity under pressure from the occupying Romans, Judaism was converted into Christianity according to the story which we all know. This development made the God of the Hebrews available to all of humanity by converting the jealous God of the Hebrews into the God of all who wished to believe in him by the final act of sacrifice that would be required. This was the sacrifice of his son Jesus. By this act he potentially absolved all of humanity from sin if they worshiped God and kept his commandments and had faith. In the view of many believers, He is still a jealous and vindictive God who demands complete submission from universally sinful mankind. One of the results of the Protestant Reformation is that there are all shades of belief in a Supreme Being. There are hints that a complete workup of the dead sea scrolls may have some interesting things to say about the period surrounding the establishment of Christianity. At least one school of thought leans toward the idea that Jesus was a member of the Zealots and his sole aim was to return the Jewish people to a strict compliance with Judaic law. This school holds that Paul, through his scattering of the Greek speaking followers of Stephen, and later through his own travels and teaching, was the conceiver and spreader of Christianity as we know it today and was mainly responsible for disseminating it throughout the Middle East.
In another example of synchronicity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Mohammedism all began around 500 AD, give or take a hundred and fifty years or so. The development of these religions, along with the earlier development of Christianity, set the stage for a great deal of the tension that has plagued the world in the current era.
From about a couple of hundred years before the birth of Christ, the religions of Rome had become increasingly unsatisfying. Mounting pessimism and a lack of faith in man's ability to work out his own destiny spread among the populace. The old Gods had lost their potentcy and chance seemed to be the governing factor in society. Astrology, a belief that the movements of the heavens had an influence on the lives of men, became popular. Change and the broadening of knowledge was discouraged by the emperors because they were afraid it would weaken their control over the populace, (Brinton, Christopher, Wolff, 1964)
This spiritual vacuum was filled by a number of "mystery religions" in which an individual could unite his soul with the soul of a savior through long initiation rites and purifications. The candidate would gradually cast aside human unworthiness and be worthy of being saved. All of these cults had some problems connected with them which limited their appeal.
Christianity competed with these cults for more than three centuries after the death of Christ with no clear advantage. Finally, the Christian message of tolerance, brotherly love, and humility gained ascendance because of the attractiveness of these teachings and because of the appearance of the gospels, which told the story of the crucifixion and mankinds redemption from sin. According to the Gospels, Christ himself had implied that He would return during the lifetimes of some of his hearers for a day of judgement in which unbelievers would be condemned to hell and those who believed and led decent lives would gain eternal bliss in Heaven. Christianity had the additional attraction of accepting adherents without demanding that the believer go through the purification process in advance.
Jesus had proclaimed that He had not come to change one jot or tittle of the law and that Jews must abide by it. Non-Jews, though attracted by the message of redemption, did not wish to comply with the Judaic Law. This is where Paul came in.
Paul was a Pharisee zealot on a mission of terror against the opposing factions when he underwent his instantaneous conversion. He may have later stayed for some time at Qumran for training before going to Jerusalem and joining the apostles there. The followers of Christ, called Nazarenes, and led mainly by Peter and James, the brother of Christ, did not trust Paul. They were afraid that the conversion was a sham and suspected that he was a spy for the Pharisee Zealots. Because of this they sent him out on missions to get him away from the center of the movement. Paul was a native of Tarsus and thus accustomed to living among a large population of non-Jews so that when he was sent out as a missionary he felt at ease among the inhabitants of Greece and Asia Minor. Because of this he was able to spread the message of the new religion among the non-Jewish populations. In order to make it palatable to all the people of the then known world he conceived of an idea that would make Judaism applicable to gentiles. Paul said that Greeks and Syrians need not follow the Judaic Law in these and other proscriptions, he said, "The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life". According to our current best information, it was Paul that broadened the message of the crucifixion so that it applied to all humanity. Paul never met Jesus and there is no evidence that Jesus ever changed his position that required strict adherence to Judaic Law.
Both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome because neither they nor the members of their sect would sacrifice before the statue of the Emperor and so fulfil their patriotic duty as Roman citizens. Thus, both Peter and Paul were founders of the Church of Rome.
In 313 AD the Emperor Constantine decreed that Christianity should be left alone, and about a quarter of a century after the death of Constantine, in 337 AD, Christianity became the sole tolerated religion in the Roman Empire.
To make a long story short, Christianity settled into a system of Bishoprics or Sees, and the See of Rome became the head See of the western church. After the breakup of the Roman Empire, the Pope, or head of the Roman See, supplied the continuity that held together the political entity of Rome.
In the Eastern Church, the head of the church was also the head of state. The two churches got together in council to determine which religious ideas and practices would be accepted.
To curb excesses of zeal, and to exercise some control, St. Basil in the east and St. Benedict in the west, established rules of conduct for monastic orders. Generally, these included hard work, celibacy, and vows of poverty.
Because of much difference of opinion and bickering within the church, Constantine called the council of the whole church in Nicea in 325 AD and Marcian again called one in 451 AD and finally the two natures of Christ, human and divine, were approved for belief. Also, it was decided that the Virgin Mary was to be called the Mother of God. In both East and West scholarship became recognized occupations for monks. These monasteries became the carriers of the literature of the past through the dark ages.
For several hundred hears after these questions were settled, the Catholic Church went through a slow period of decline during which corruption grew, the clergy took concubines, and the sale of church offices became common. To correct this decline, a reform movement began at the monastery of Cluny in France which reverted to the strict Benedictine rule. Eventually men trained in the Cluniac spirit reached the Papal throne where, among other things, they established the principle of clerical celibacy to prevent the formation of dynasties among the priesthood. Later, Pope Gregory V11 expanded the Cluniac ideas into a general effort to root out secular influences from the church. In 1059 the Lateran Synod established the College of Cardinals who were to elect the new Pope. This largely insulated the Papal election from secular influence.
After several more episodes of decline and reform, and during another period of ethical decline in which one problem was the selling of indulgences in order to finance the building of St. Peters in Rome, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the court church in Wittenburg. This ultimately resulted in a religious schism that had, and is now having, a profound effect on society and the whole question of ethics in the modern world. This result was the Protestant Reformation. Luther had not intended this; he was merely trying to start another reform movement within the church, but his outburst against the church occurred not long after the invention of moveable type and the printing press. Up until this time books were mainly the property of the church and were not generally available. The mass of people were dependent on the spoken word or pictures for information. These restrictions on the spread of information enabled, or more probably made inevitable, the way in which the organization of the Catholic Church developed and made possible the degree of control the church exercised over the faithful.
In one of those accidents of history, the development of printing and the increased availability of books some 60 years before Luther began his reform movement was most likely a major reason for the development of Protestantism at the time that it happened. Indeed, Luther's possession of his own bible and his ability to interpret the scriptures for himself may have been the source of his outrage against the excesses of the church at that time. To quote Luther again:
"For Rome is the greatest thief and robber that has ever appeared on earth, or ever will...Poor Germans that we are-we have been deceived! We were born to be masters, and we have been compelled to bow the head beneath the yoke of our tyrants...It is time the glorious Teutonic people should cease to be the puppet of the Roman Pontiff."
This sort of rhetoric appealed to the German people and in particular the German princes so that Luther gained heavy support. He also married a former nun, fathered a large family, and translated the bible into the German language. The translation of the bible into Lutherian German was what finally got him into trouble and caused him to lose control of the reform movement. As bibles got into the hands of other people, they also began to interpret the scriptures for themselves which gave rise to Calvinism, the Anabaptists, Hugenots, John Knox in Scotland, and even the Unitarians among others. Most of these sects were just as oppressive and controlling as the Catholics had been. We see evidence of the effects of the Protestant Reformation every day in the evangelistic preachers on television and in the episodes of violence and mass suicides from time to time. A happier example is the group of Church of Christ people from Floydada, Texas who stripped naked and drove to Louisiana because the Lord told them to.
It was also during this period of religious ferment that Henry V111 broke away from the Catholic church and established the Church of England. Because of a woman, as I recall. In any case, the proliferation of information, in particular the Bible, allowed every person to develop their own philosophy of life and their own personal relationship to God. This was a stage in our history on Earth which accelerated the course of the evolution of human society and will probably also result in an acceleration of the acquisition of the wisdom that we are going to need a little further on.
Up until the Protestant reformation, man's relationship to the biosphere had been fairly benign. From the time of the emergence of Homo Sapiens until about the end of the fifteenth century the human population of the Earth was still living pretty much in harmony with nature. For most of that time the population of the Earth was small and the distribution of humans was restricted to small bands because their hunter-gatherer life style could not sustain large groups in a single location. Nature maximized biomass production and man took what it needed and left the rest. He had littler more effect on the operation of the biosphere than had the lower animals.
When man discovered that he could plant the seeds of the wild plants that he had been eating and harvest enough food to carry him over until the next harvest, the situation of humanity changed radically. From about 10.000 years ago we can begin to see evidence of the beginnings of agriculture. With the development of agriculture mankind could support larger human population in fixed location by the investment of time and energy in temporary, unstable ecosystems. This was the first major step in the steadily increasing opposition of the human race to the operation of the natural biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere. It was also the first major increase in the vulnerability of the human race to catastrophic retaliation from an insulted biosphere. Since that time our vulnerability has been steadily growing because, among many other things, genetic manipulation of food plants to produce greater yields and better marketability has resulted in a very narrow range of varieties with consequent loss of genetic variability in those plants. This makes us more dependant on the stability of the biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere. If we factor in the rapidly increasing growth in the population of the Earth it should be obvious that our situation is becoming more and more precarious. Similar lines of reasoning could also be applied to human activities in out attempts to control our environment and health, and especially to our economic system with its unremitting pressure for growth.
During the dark ages, from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, man's detrimental effect on the biosphere was kept in check partly by lack of technical ability, but also by the concept of the 'just price' which was promulgated by the Catholic Church. The Church discouraged the acquisition of wealth by requiring that its adherents charge just enough for the fruits of their labors to pay for the means of production plus enough more to maintain themselves in a comfortable situation. Even so, by the 12th century, increasing prosperity and the pressure of a growing population began to have more and more effect on the biosphere.
The bubonic plague of the 14th and 15th centuries wiped out, by some estimates, about one fourth of the population of Europe. The resulting scarcity of labor and increase in wealth, coupled with the invention of the printing press, probably accelerated the onset of the Renaissance period. In terms of the degradation of the biosphere, the hands down winner was the invention of the printing press and the resulting proliferation of information in the world. This invention precipitated the Protestant Reformation and let loose, with greater intensity than would otherwise have been normal, forces which are still pushing human society in directions which are biologically unethical and extremely detrimental to the biosphere. The Protestant Reformation released its adherents from the restraints which had been imposed on Christendom by the Catholic Church and allowed every human to be their own judge of morality. Be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the Earth. Nature became something to be conquered and subdued for the greater glory of God. What later came to be called Social Darwinism was the guiding principle. To be successful and to acquire material goods and money was to be moral. At the time this was a logical, and probably inescapable, progression in the development of thought, but in hindsight, with the growth of human understanding of the workings of the universe, we can now see that this was a major step forward in our increasing estrangement from nature.
We have already begun to see the effects of overpopulation and food shortages in the world. So far, the more dramatic episodes have been partly driven by political and logistical causes, but still much of the third world is malnourished and seems unlikely to improve under current conditions. A recent author I have read, in the Atlantic Monthly I think, but I can't find the issue, puts forth the idea that the populations of the Earth, particularly in Africa, are beginning to break back up into tribal societies under the stress and pressure of modern society. If this is so, it could be an evolutionary reaction of organisms to intolerable stress, and, if correctly interpreted, could ultimately help us to correct some of the worst effects of modern civilization.
Paul Erlich says that the ideal population for the world is about 1 or 2 billion and there seems to be little hope of reducing world population to that level without a catastrophic event being the cause. The more advanced countries of the world are beginning to show much lower birth rates. Italy now has the lowest birth rate of any nation in the world. The problem is in the less developed countries, all of which have a much higher birth rate. According to a recent article in the Daily Press, Rwanda is the highest with a birth rate of 8.5. Italy's current birth rate of 1.26 is projected to reduce the population from 57 million to 19 million in about a hundred years. Such a birth rate worldwide would go a long way toward alleviating the problem but I can see no hope of this happening voluntarily. The low birth rate in Italy is said to be the result of the expense and inconvenience of raising a family.
The human race has no immunity from the same environmental pressures which control the populations of the other animals of the Earth. In fact, our ability to stave off the demands of the environment may permit us to ignore these pressures until they become so great that it is too late to correct for them and they overwhelm us. We may be beginning to see the effects of the crowded rat syndrome in some of our larger cities today in the increasing alienation of our young people from the norms of society. The random outbreaks of violence and mass killings by individuals that we are increasingly seeing is probably the result of such severe isolation and alienation of some of the less functional members of our society that they are willing to do anything to get attention. The acceptance of terrorism as a political statement is also a reflection of the increasing stratification and divisiveness inherent in the way that civilization has developed. The term "crowded rat syndrome" comes from experiments with rats in which the rats are placed in a cage with a plentiful supply of all of the things that rats need to thrive. In time, still with an ample supply of food and water, and with a stimulating environment, they become so overcrowded due to unrestricted procreation that the normal restraints of their society break down and they begin to exhibit pathological behaviors and even cannibalism.
James Lovelock, a British scientist, proposed a different view of the Earth and the operation of the biosphere which he calls the Gaia Hypothesis". This view of the Earth holds that the biosphere, that fragile envelope of gases and organic elements which sustain all life on Earth, was not here in its present form in the beginning. He maintains that, during the course of evolution, the increasing variety of life on Earth modified and eventually created the biosphere as it exists today. In other words, life on Earth created the biosphere and made it what it is today rather than the usual idea that the existence of the biosphere allowed life to evolve. This idea makes the existence of the biosphere dependent on the continued existence of life on Earth. In this view, the Earth and its biosphere is the organism and life, including human life, is the supporting element of the larger Earth organism. From what we know of the operation of the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth this seems to make better sense than the original concept of evolution. Without the influence of life as a driving force on the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth, these cycles would change radically and Gaia would die or be so catastrophically altered that evolution would have to begin again.
If we look at either concept of how the history of the Earth has arrived at this point, and particularly if we adopt the Gaia Hypotheses as the most satisfying concept, we are left with an ethical question with regard to the position of the human race as a member of the Gaia organism. Ego and intelligence, without the necessary wisdom to appreciate our responsibilities to the biosphere, are now functioning as a severe detriment to the continued health of the biosphere. Up to this point we can plead ignorance with some justification, but now that we have the requisite information available to us, we have no viable alternative except to bring our species into something approaching harmony with Gaia.
Buckminster Fuller, speaking of the role that the fossil fuels have played in the development of human society, put it aptly when he drew the analogy of the chick and the egg. He describes the egg as being put together with all of the chromosomic instructions necessary for the progressive development of the embryo, and with the nutrients necessary for the development of the whole organism. At the end of the incubation period the chick emerges from the egg complete and prepared to begin a whole new existence. Fuller says that man is in a similar position with regard to the fossil fuels. He says that in the age of the consumption of the cheap and readily available fossil fuels, and nearing the limits of tolerance of the biosphere in terms of pollution and consequent degradation of the biogeochemical cycles that are the result of life on Earth, we are in a similar position to that of the newly hatched chick. We have so far been guarded by the innocence tolerating nutriment of the accumulated bioinformation, and have been granted some time by the pollution sinks which are the result of Gaia, but the time is nearing when we must make some bioethical decisions concerning the relationship of the human race to our fellow species, the biosphere, and ultimately to the universe. We must begin to regard our position on Earth and in the universe in a whole new way. We must develop a way of life which is as nearly compatible as possible with Gaia.
It seems obvious, and surely a moments thought will convince many people, that the concept of continued material growth in order to accommodate the growth in population, around three percent per is usually given, must sooner or later come to an end because we will overload the carrying capacity of the Earth. Some people say that technology will take care of the problem, or that we will be able to escape to somewhere else in the solar system. Even if we were able to build another Earth, or if we found another planet similar to Earth, given our technological starting point, and our history on this planet, we would be in about the same position in three or four hundred years.
How did we arrive at this point in our history? What influences led us into this egocentric concept of humanity and our place in the physical system in which we live? Why, in the face of mounting evidence that through a combination of innocence and ignorance, have we evolved a social and ethical system that is in opposition to the operation of the universe and, in particular, to the continued health of the biosphere? Why do we continue on our path of social and physical destruction? I think that it is because we are a product of that physical system and are embedded in the system and consequently have so far been unable to see the trees for the forest. We have been functioning at our level of understanding as best we can. We are just now beginning to piece together the details of the operation of the universe with sufficient clarity to begin to understand our position in that operation and thus to be able to make better informed decisions with regard to our responsibilities to the system.
According to the current state of physical theory, the universe began with the explosive expansion of a naked singularity somewhere between twelve and twenty five billion years ago. The energetics resulting from that explosion produced a set of physical relationships that caused the universe to exist in the form that we experience it today. This theory holds that the first two or three minutes after the 'big bang' determined the future course of the evolution of the universe. Not in the 'deterministic' sense that if we could know the precise conditions of the universe at any one instant, we could completely predict all of the microscopic conditions at any future time, but that the first three minutes determined the "process" by which the universe would develop.
The following overview has been adapted from a portion of the book "The First Three Minutes" by the nobel laureate Steven Weinberg which was published in 1977. Since then a number of extensions and modifications have been grafted onto the 'Big Bang' theory but the basic 'beginning' remains.
The first particles to exist after the 'big bang', at temperatures above fifteen hundred billion degrees were the pi-mesons. These particles are strongly interacting and it is impossible to calculate the behavior of matter at such high temperatures.
When the temperature had dropped to about one hundred billion degrees the universe mainly existed as an undifferentiated mass of matter and electromagnetic radiation in the form of leptons (non-nuclear atomic particles) and was in a state of thermal equilibrium. At this temperature the density of the electromagnetic radiation would be 3.8 billion kilograms per liter, that is, a liter of the universe at a temperature of 100 billion would weigh 3.8 billion times the weight of a liter of water on Earth now. It is expanding at just escape velocity which is very fast. The characteristic expansion time, defined as 100 times the length of time in which the universe would expand by one percent, is more precisely the reciprocal of the Hubble constant at any given time. The age of the universe in always less than the Hubble time because of the slowing of the expansion by gravity. If the Universe is not infinite, and if the density is about twice the critical value, then the universe would now have a circumference of about 125 billion light years. There is now about one proton or neutron for every billion leptons. Collisions between the hadrons (nuclear atomic particles) and leptons will produce rapid transitions between the protons and neutrons (the gross constituents of all atomic nuclei) and the numbers of each will be about the same. The temperature at the time and the temperature of the universe now suggests that the universe was about four light years in circumference at a temperature of one hundred billion degrees.
At 30 billion degrees, about 0.11 seconds later, nothing much has changed qualitatively except that the lower temperature has made it easier for the heavier neutrons to turn into the lighter protons and therefore the distribution has changed to 38 percent neutrons and 62 percent protons. The characteristic expansion time has dropped to about 0.2 seconds and the energy density has dropped as the fourth power of the temperature.
At 10 billion degrees Kelvin, about 1.09 seconds into the big bang cycle, the mean free time of the neutrinos and antineutrinos has increased until they are beginning to act like free particles and are no longer in thermal equilibrium with the electrons, positrons and photons. They can be ignored as players from now on except as they contribute to gravity. The neutrino and antineutrino wavelengths are increasing in direct proportion to the size of the universe. The total energy density is now 380.000 times that of water and the characteristic expansion time has increased to about two seconds. The temperature is now only twice the threshold temperature of electrons and positrons so that they are destroying each other faster than they can be created out of radiation. Because of the lower temperature the proton-neutron balance has shifted to 24 percent neutrons and 76 percent protons.
At a temperature of 3 billion degrees Kelvin, 13.82 seconds have elapsed. We are now below the threshold temperature of electrons and positrons so they are rapidly beginning to disappear as major constituents of the universe. The energy release during annihilation has slowed the cooling of the universe so that it is no longer in thermal equilibrium. The neutrinos do not get any of this extra heat so they are 8 percent cooler than the electrons, positrons and photons. From now on the temperature of the universe will be given as the temperature of its photons. The energy density is now somewhat less than the fourth power of the temperature. It is now cool enough for nuclei like Helium to form but they are still unstable because of the temperature, however, because the universe is still expanding so repidly only the lighter forms of Helium are favored. Conversion of neutrons to protons is going on more slowly. The balance is now 17 percent neutrons and 83 percent protons.
At one billion degrees Kelvin, about 70 times hotter than the center of the Sun, electrons and positrons have mostly disappeared and the chief constituents of the universe are now photons, neutrinos and antineutrinos. The temperature of the photons is now 35 percent higher than that of the neutrinos and antineutrinos. The universe is now cool enough for tritium and helium three as well as ordinary helium nuclei to hold together. The loosely bound deuterium nuclei are still having trouble holding together. The collision of protons and neutrons with electrons and neutrinos and their antiparticles has pretty well ceased. In each 100 seconds 10 percent of the remaining neutrons will decay into protons. The balance is now 14 percent neutrons and 86 percent protons.
A little cooler than one billion degrees, at a temperature at which the deuterium nuclei can hold together, heavier nuclei can begin to form very rapidly. However, there are no stable nuclei with five or eight nuclear particles in the periodic table od the elements so that most of the remaining neutrons are immediately cooked into helium nuclei. At this time, three minutes and forty six seconds have elapsed. Just before nucleosynthesis began, the neutron, proton balance would have been 13 percent neutrons to 87 percent protons. At this point essentially all of the neutrons are bound into helium so the fraction by weight of helium is just equal to the fraction of all nuclear particles that are pound into helium. Since half of these particles are neutrons, then the fraction by weight of helium is twice the fraction of neutrons among nuclear particles, or 26 percent.
At a temperature of 300 million degrees, 31 minutes and 40 seconds have elapsed. Electrons and positrons are completely gone except for the one part in one billion excess of electrons that are needed to balance the charge of the protons. The energy released has given the photons a temperature which is permanently 40.1 percent higher than that of the neutrinos. The energy density of the universe is now 9.9 percent that of water. Of this 31 percent is in the form of neutrinos and antineutrinos and 69 percent is in the form of photons. This gives the universe a characteristic expansion time of about one and one quarter hours. The nuclear particles, protons and neutrons, are now mostly either bound into helium or are free protons (hydrogen nuclei) with about 22 to 28 percent helium by weight. There is one electron for each free or bound proton but the universe is still much too hot for stable atoms to hold together.
After about 700,000 years, the temperature of the universe will drop to the point where electrons and nuclei can form stable atoms. At this point the atomic structure of the universe will consist roughly of 25 percent Helium and 75 percent Hydrogen. This distribution will be extremely significant for the course of the evolution of the universe. The lack of free electrons will make the universe transparent to radiation and the decoupling of matter and radiation will allow matter to begin to form into stars and galaxies.
In a simple Einsteinian universe, time is the result of frozen energy. If E=Mc2 did not hold, and the universe consisted of nothing but pure electromagnetic radiation the age of the universe would be zero, since time slows to a halt at the speed of light. Conversely, if all of the energy of the universe was in the form of the rest mass of matter, then the universe would be frozen and cold and no further change could occur. A great leap is required here because I am assuming, since gravity requires the interaction of rest mass and energy of electromagnetic radiation and time, that in a universe in which all of the energy were converted into rest mass gravity would not exist because, in the absence of electromagnetic radiation no information flow would occur. (Since this was written, Hawkins-I believe- has proved that a black hole radiates energy. If this is so then the loop is closed and, in my view at least, there could exist a self sustaining, everlasting, universe). Nothing chintzy about me!
Between our solar system and the rest of the universe, the only means of any information flow is through electromagnetic radiation. It was the operation of E=Mc2 which turned energy into mass that injected time as a factor into the equation, and made possible the universe as we experience it today. According to current theory, it is gravity which fixes the direction of the flow of time and is ultimately responsible for the theoretically expected life of the universe. The maximum size of the universe, based on its supposed total energy, which is 3 times 10 to the 23rd power of our Sun, is expected to reach 40 billion light years and its total life span from big bang to big crunch, in this scenario, would be 63 billion years. Accordingly, the contribution of our Sun to the total life of the universe would be 6.6 microseconds. (Calder, 1979)
Because the cooling of the universe caused the formation of the elements to stop with the formation of helium, hydrogen and helium were the primary constituents that made up the first generation of stars. Since the stars were about 75 percent hydrogen, the lifetime of these stars was greatly extended. As a general rule, the larger the star, the shorter the lifespan, and the smaller the star the longer the lifespan because the larger stars burn hotter and thus consume their fuel more quickly. As the larger stars began to burn out of hydrogen, they began to burn helium to make carbon and oxygen. The process can continue until Iron is reached. Iron is so stable that no further nuclear processes are possible in the normal operation of a 75/25 star. The heavier elements require a net energy input to form and would damp the fusion process and bring it to a halt. At this point a large star would explode and become a supernova. The excess energy required for the synthesis of elements heavier than iron would then be available, and the range of elements between the atomic weight of iron and the point at which the nuclei become so unstable that they will not persist would then be formed. Luckily for the miners of the 1849 gold rush, this means that the Earth must be at least a Grandchild of the big bang.
This is a broad look at where the ninety two naturally occurring elements came from that were present on earth at its formation. As we have seen, most of the elements present on earth must have been formed in a previous generation star, or stars, which exploded into supernova at the end of their lives. These elements, along with the energy flow through the biosphere, the sun, and perhaps the deposition of organic molecules on the surface of the earth from meteorites, which some estimates place as high as 40,000 tons per year, are responsible for everything that has happened on earth that has resulted in our existence. This process is also responsible for the deposition of the fossil fuels that have enabled the human race to develop the societal organization that obtains today.
If we had to single out one thing, we would have to say that the carbon atom is primarily responsible for the existence of all life on earth. This includes both plant and animal life. We are carbon based animals, as is all of the plant life. Indeed, we are solely dependent on plant life, and ultimately the Sun, for all of our sustenance.
The basic mechanism for the transmission of genetic information is the same for all life, with a small modification for the viruses, but these probably cannot be considered alive since they depend entirely on other life for all functions except the transmission of genetic information.
The element carbon has four bonds which are capable of bonding to four other atoms or are capable of double or triple bonds between two carbon atoms. This makes it a very versatile atom which is capable of forming very complex molecules of the kind necessary for life to form.
According to the usual explanation, at some time after the solar system and the earth formed, the earth cooled enough to allow the existence of solids and liquids. The earth must have had a highly reducing atmosphere, lots of free electrons, so that at some time after innumerable opportunities, a fortuitous accident occurred and an anaerobic fermenter came into being, a life form capable of obtaining the necessary carbon from the inorganic soup of early earth. This situation could not go on indefinitely because the primordial fermenters would eventually have ran out of food. The necessary step in this hypothetical situation was for the development of photosynthesis to occur. When this modification to life occurred, the necessary mechanism to sustain life on earth indefinitely, or until the Sun consumes all of its Hydrogen, was in place.
Now that we have some idea of how the evolution of the universe arrived at the point where all of the materials necessary for the formation of the solar system and the earth were at hand, we should now take an overview of how life systems are transmitted and maintained. As we all know from watching the educational television channels, the storage and transmission of genetic information down through the ages is through the medium of deoxyriboneucleic acid (DNA).
DNA is a double helix configuration of four nucleotides, adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine, and, in certain instances uracil. Adenine is always associated with thymine and guanine is always associated with cytosine. These four nucleotides, along with their supporting structure and necessary hydrogen bonding, are incorporated in varying progressions in the DNA helix to form genes. These genes are strung together in the appropriate configurations to form a genome, a genetic coding for a complete organism. These genomes are further incorporated into a set of chromosomes. Each chromosome consists of a complementary pair, called chromatids, held together at a single point called the centromere. In normal growth each chromosome divides into its constituent chromatids, the cell divides so that each new cell contains a complete set of chromatids. These chromatids each replicate its sister chromatid to reform a full complement of chromosomes for each cell.
In sexual reproduction, each chromosome separates into two chromatids. These chromatids are them incorporated into two separate cells (egg or sperm) without being replicated into full chromosomes. During sexual fertilization, one of these reproductive cells (gametes) from each parent is incorporated into a single cell (egg) which contains a chromatid from each parent. The chromatids from each parent are then joined at the centromere to its matching chromatid to form a cell with a full set of chromosomes. In this way, a full set of chromosomes is passed on to succeeding generations, with half of each chromosome in the offspring being from each parent. These genes are used to fabricate messenger RNA which then attaches to a ribosome, a cellular component. Amino acids, which are the components of proteins. And of which there are twenty kinds, are then transported to the messenger RNA site by transfer RNA where they are joined together in the proper sequence for the various kinds of proteins. Thus the four letter linear code of DNA is converted into the 20 letter (amino acids) linear code of the proteins. Each of the some ten thousand proteins in a human cell now has the ability to arrange itself into a unique configuration which it does not have in its linear arrangement. Each protein thus acquires a specific chemical reactivity. This specific chemical reactivity is the ultimate goal of the transcription process and is mainly what accounts for the uniqueness of living organisms. This is the way that nature starts with four basic molecules and parlays them into the millions of forms of life that we see around us ad well as the some five billion unique humans that inhabit the earth.
Sometime later the heterotrophs, or those organisms that are obligated to get their nutrients from other life forms, us for instance, developed and the direction of evolution toward greater cephalization was determined. Cephalization means the development of a brain and the inspection of any phylogenetic tree will reveal this tendency. This idea does not imply a guiding force, just that larger neural capability conferred an evolutionary advantage. Lately, the pursuit of evolution through the biochemical study of DNA has become possible. One of the results of this line of research, which I am somewhat hazy on. Has been the assertion that the human species can be traced back to one particular woman who lived in Africa during the time of the beginning of our species.
Entropy is the measure of the amount of energy that is not available for work during a natural process. In thermodynamics it is the direction in which all recognizable energy systems tends to flow. In order for creativity to occur this energy must in some way be impeded on its way to perfect order, or absolute entropy. Disorder is necessary for things to happen.
Negentropy, or a measure of the amount of disorder, is defined by me as that portion of the available energy that is temporarily entrapped and made available for use in the creative process. The negentropy existing in the universe (forgive me physicists) is due to a series of hang-ups which impede the normal flow of energy toward a state of equilibrium, or zero free energy. The first of these is the theoretical cooling of the universe after the big bang at just the right time to cause the universe to be composed of 75 percent hydrogen and 25 percent helium. This happening defined the limits on the amounts of rest energy (matter) that could be amassed in one place and maintain the thermonuclear process. The spin of the universe and bodies comprising it added to this size somewhat by opposing gravity with centrifugal force. The relatively weak and slow rate of interaction of the hydrogen-hydrogen fusion process also helped to determine the life span of the universe.
The upper limit of the size of bodies that can establish nuclear fusion processes is imposed by the resistance of the forces of the atomic nucleus to the forces of gravity. If a body becomes large enough so that gravity is able to overcome the opposition of the atomic nuclear forces then a neutron star or a black hole will result. The lower limit on the size of radiating bodies occurs when the mass is so small that gravity cannot create enough pressure to initiate nuclear fusion. The earth is an example of a body that is below the lower limit.
The upper limit on the size of bodies that are capable of storing bioinformation is the limit at which gravity is strong enough to initiate the nuclear fusion process, that is, the size must be below this threshold. The lower limit is the size at which gravity is strong enough to be able to hold a gaseous atmosphere and prevent it from being thrown off into space. Two more processes that are very important on earth are the cooling of the earth by conduction which had a great effect on the topographical features, and instability of the nuclei of elements heavier than lead, which had an effect on the cooling of the earth as well as probably being significant in the process of evolution. These are the radioactive elements, the understanding and use of which has led to so much fear and tension in the world in the last fifty years. With luck, they may turn out to be the catalyst which will precipitate another leap in the development of human society and the sympathetic understanding of the immutable physical laws which are the basis of the operation of the universe and which have resulted in life coming into being on earth. This life, in turn, is responsible for the biosphere in which we live, that is, the operation of the biogeochemical cycles which are the life functions of Gaia, and for the deposition of the fossil fuels which are primarily responsible for the way that human society has developed, in short, the history of the universe leads inexorably to the development of life, and to Gaia, and to us.
One way, and probably as good as any, of looking at the history of mankind, is through his use of energy in the development of society. The earliest humans were hunter-gatherers and applied practically no energy to sustaining that society except the human energy which was required to gather plant food or in the hunting of animals. They had about the same relationship to the biosphere that the other animals had. Even after the beginning of the use of fire they had no efficient cutting tools. They no doubt used the fuel that was easiest to get for their fires. This would have been dead wood that could have been easily gathered from their surrounding. Along with the scarcity of game, this may have been one of the primary reasons for their lack of permanent habitats. In any case, for all practical purposes the presence of man on earth during the hunter gatherer stage effectively required no more energy input than that required for the other animal populations. This stage in the development of man could have been sustained indefinitely without the destruction of the biosphere, or without putting humanity in conflict with Gaia.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It allows us to categorize things into neat bits or periods of time, but the next significant stage of human development was agriculture. The development of agriculture freed man from dependence on naturally produced biomass. After the adoption of this lifestyle man was able to support larger populations in more or less permanent locations and this allowed a great leap in the number of people the Earth could support. The development of agriculture also required that a much larger increment of energy be invested in the maintenance of society. In the beginning this was primarily human energy but later included the use of draft animals in the production of crops. When draft animals came into use this imposed a greater energy investment because the animals required food as well as the human population. Another result of the development of agriculture was the fact that it not only allowed, but required, man to establish relatively permanent locations. At least long enough to harvest a crop. As we continue on the track of our history, the investment of larger and larger increments of energy are required for the support of our increasingly complex society. We can now envision the end of the available fossil fuels and should be paying more attention to the alternate sources. I do not think that the availability of energy will be a limiting factor for us, because ample energy is available from other sources such as hydrogen fuel cells and the Sun, among other possibilities. I think that if we are able to build up Earth's population enough without some other factor interfering that the problem of the production of heat will be increasingly bothersome. What is needed is a source of invariant energy that can be applied to the needs of humanity. Invariant energy is that energy that is already flowing through the earth system and to which the earth is in harmony. The two such sources are the energy flow from the Sun, and the energy available from the heat of the still cooling Earth. Any other sources will add to the heat load of the earth and ultimately disrupt its normal functioning. The fossil fuels are such disruptive sources because they were laid down over a long period of time from the natural processes of Gaia and we are now injecting the latent heat and other combustion products contained in these fossil fuels back into the system in a very short period of time. A worldwide infrared picture appeared in Scientific American magazine a couple of years age and showed tremendous areas of heat generation in the area of Japan and along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Probably since the onset of awareness, and surely since the earliest indications of ritual burial, man has considered himself to be somehow independent of his body. He has believed that somehow his essence, his essential being, would outlive his material body. It is very difficult for people to believe that they are just a temporary glitch in in the normal flow if energy toward complete randomness, that they are just a temporary link in the unbroken chain of life that extends from perhaps three billion years ago until the present and that when they have contributed their bit to that chain they will continue the interrupted flow toward maximum entropy. The fact that there is nothing that we can point to in the current state of understanding of the operation of the universe that compels us to believe that we have some special status not enjoyed by other forms of life makes no difference. We reject personal extinction and cling to the idea of immortality so fiercely that there would seem to be a gene in our DNA that governs this behavior. This concept of the duality of mind and body is, I think, the primary reason that we have so much difficulty in understanding and accepting our position in Gaia and the universe. It is the idea that humanity must reject, or modify, before we can have any hope of reducing the Impact of the effects of our assault on the biosphere.
The first writing we have concerning the separation of the mind and the body is from the Greeks but these ideas were probably around since the dawn of awareness. The seventeenth century philosopher Descartes, with a nudge from Kant, codified the idea and injected it into the mainstream of philosophy and the search for the meaning of life. His ideas on the duality of mind and body have generated thousands of books by philosophers discussing these ideas pro and con. All of this sound and fury has had little effect on the average human, who still continues to believe that he or she is immortal.
Several years ago Robert Pirsig wrote a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values in which he disputed the idea of the duality of mind and body. According to Pirsig it was the Greeks who set the direction of philosophy, and our mind set toward the biosphere, with the ideas which were later promulgated by Descartes, and which profoundly affected thought in the western world.
Pirsig proposed a different way in which we know things, and acquire experience, and fit ourselves into our present understanding of the physical realities of the universe. His idea dispenses with the duality of mind and body and proposes a new concept which he calls 'Quality'. In his system of thought it is this idea of 'Quality' which determines and defines our identity as a unique personality in the chain of life. Quality builds our egos and our sense of personal identity and our entire perception of the world in which we live. It explains our foibles, and our human cussedness, and our general inability to act in our ultimate best interests, and it does this without appealing to forces outside the physical laws which regulate the operation of the universe.
Pirsig says that we cannot possibly make use of all of the sense impressions that our awareness presents to us. We must select and discard among these incoming sense impressions and this affects our reasoning outcomes and our entire view of the world. What we select we call consciousness, which is different from total awareness. His way of saying it is that 'we take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world'. Quality is the intuitive screening of sense impressions from the sea of awareness around us which operates to select those impressions of which we become conscious. Quality is the result of our innate, inborn knowledge due to our genetic heritage, plus the a priori knowledge which we intuitively know is true, such as our intuitive acceptance of time and space and gravity,, plus the remembered sum of our experiences up to the instant of perception. The combination of these contributions result in the pre-cognitive (before consciousness intervenes) selection of those elements of our total awareness which enter our consciousness. The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans, the present is our only reality. Reality is always the moment of vision before intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality. This precognitive selective process is what Pirsig calls 'Quality' and that is what determines our uniqueness as individuals. This idea is so important that I will state it another way. In Pirsig's words, 'Quality is the continuing stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live. Quality is dynamic and will be different for every person. Quality is absolute and is the source and substance of everything'. This includes memory, and feelings, and emotions, plus all of the reactions that are the result of outside stimuli.
Two people have lately proposed a similar idea, one is Dennet, if I understand him correctly, and the other is Francis Crick of DNA fame. I saw Francis Crick on a Charlie Rose interview a few days ago, He was promoting a book which he had written on the results of his research so far. He is opposing mind-body duality on biochemical grounds. I am sure there are other workers in this field but I am unaware of them.
These ideas on the way in which we perceive reality frees us from the concept of the duality of mind and body and puts our development, along with our fellow species, squarely in the mainstream of the physical reality of the universe as it is now understood. No longer do we need to appeal to mysticism to explain the workings of our minds. The simultaneous emergence of ideas and concepts, and the gradual increase of knowledge and human understanding which we observe looking back through the history of our species follows naturally when we consider that we are a product of that awesome physical reality which has produced the universe, the solar system, Gaia, and our species. The galaxies and stars are part of our family tree as is every living thing that creepeth on the face of the earth.
We have looked at the way in which our ideas of religion have developed in step with the development of human understanding. We have also looked at the way in which the universe developed according to current physical theory, and at the way that life, and our uniqueness is determined through the expression of our genetic inheritance by way of DNA. Whether this view of the physical development of the universe is precisely correct or not makes no difference to our understanding of Gaia because it is logical and certainly could have developed that way. Any other explanation of the development of the universe must necessarily arrive at the same place for similar reasons. We would still be left with exactly the same ethical questions which are being forced upon us by our increasing understanding of the place we occupy in the system.
The earlier ideas of human ethics and the mythology developed to support them were necessary stages in the growth of our understanding of the human condition. In terms of human society they have served us reasonably well in spite of the wars, and deaths, and repression of the human spirit for which they have been responsible. Notwithstanding the fact that Christianity has been paid mostly lip service, even by believers, it has laid before us the ideals of the golden rule and the reasonable parts of the ten commandments which are good guides for the regulation of human interaction. The ethical system laid out in the in the New Testament has sometimes been a help in keeping us from killing each other except for money, power, or love, or in the name of God. I think that it is now time to make another ethical leap forward in the light of our increased understanding of our position in the universe, and in particular of our position in the functioning of the Earth. Any ethical system that we adopt should be clear and unequivocal and not capable of being misunderstood or misinterpreted. The major problem with relying on the Bible for guidance is that justification can be found in its pages for any sort of behavior and all shades of belief. I think it is now time to relegate it to the same position as the Code of Hammurabi. It was a major stage in the growth of human ethics. It is a stage from which we should draw those concepts which are still of use, but recognize that it is now a stumbling block on the road to a higher level of human ethics.
One of the first things that becomes obvious in the development of an ethical system that reflects our current understanding of the sources of Gaia is that we must take into account human interaction with other species of plant and animal life, and human interaction with our environment, in addition to interaction within the human species. This is so because any ethical system that completely fulfils the needs of our own species must also be in harmony with the physical processes which are responsible for our existence. If this is not so then we are not acting in an ethical manner toward ourselves, our fellow species, or the biosphere itself. Because we are now in a position to draw a coherent thought picture of the operation of the universe in our heads, even if incompletely, then we, as individuals, and as a species, are responsible for conducting ourselves in conformity with that picture. It does not matter whether or not ones picture of reality as expressed in the universe includes, or does not include, the concept of a God. The important thing is that our system of ethics be founded on that reality. There is plenty of room for mysticism in that beautiful and symmetrical picture. For my part the contemplation of the mysteries of the equation E=Mc squared and its consequences supplies all of the wonder that I require.
In the study of biology, biological ethics refers to the species only. If a species is behaving in such a manner as to encourage its survival, then it is behaving in a biologically ethical manner. In this view ethics is simply equated with survival. Before the dawn of awareness this was the only ethical system in existence. It was an ideal system of ethics for the circumstances that prevailed at that time, and was in harmony with Gaia and with the universe. Populations were immediately dependent on the operation of the Earth cycles and they waxed and waned in accordance with environmental conditions, food supply and predator pressure. Biomass production responded only to natural environmental conditions. Food webs were diverse and provided species protection in times of change. As Gaia expanded and new ecological niches appeared they were filled by existing species or provided an opportunity for new species to appear. In times of stress the non-productive adults and if necessary, the young, were discarded in order to enhance the survivability of the breeding population. No biomass was harvested in excess of that required for immediate food supply and no killing was done except for protection or food. Excess reproduction was the rule and populations were kept in check by the fluctuations of conditions in the ecological niche which a particular species occupied. It was a beautiful picture of the complete interdependence of the populations of the Earth with each other and with the cycles of the biosphere.
The emergence of Homo Sapiens injected a new and hitherto unknown element into this picture. This was the emergence of intelligence and ego. It was the growth of awareness in Humanity that life was finite and that death was the common fate that gave rise to religions and prompted man to search for ways to evade the effects of his environment. The emergence of awareness threw man out of harmony with the existing operation of Gaia. For the first time in its history the universe could contemplate itself. It is this element that creates so much agony and soul searching in the attempts of people I have read to create a new system of ethics for humanity.
Even though reason tells us that this is probably the only practical was that we can get back into something approaching harmony with the operation of Gaia as it existed before man appeared, a moments thought should convince us that the human race cannot adopt biological ethics as its sole ethical system. At our stage in the evolution of consciousness we cannot go back to the strict rule of biological ethics in which we disregard our concern for our fellow species and for the less functional members of our own species solely in the pursuit of our species survival. We cannot ignore the starving people of the world even though this is what is called for in the strict observance of biological ethics. We are compelled to show concern for our fellow species even as we are forced to accept the fact of the loss of some of them because of our demands on the biosphere. The elephant, for instance, is no longer a viable species in the wild because of the heavy demands this species makes on the biosphere, unless we make the deliberate choices that will grant it room. The only answer I can see to these questions is that we must reduce our numbers until we can allow room for human ethics and values and still remain a fairly benign presence in Gaia. If we are a natural product of the evolution of Gaia then we are occupying our proper role in the scheme of things. We should accept the fact that our existence goes contrary to the entire history of the Earth that preceded us and our appearance signals a drastic change in the course of the evolution of the Earth. The old rules of biological ethics no longer hold in the larger context of Gaia because Gaia now includes human intelligence, and the responsibility of the human race is to define a new scheme of things that will have minimum impact on the biosphere and on our fellow species. We should realize that we are not necessarily the culmination of the evolutionary process just as the Earth is not the final product of the universe. The Earth will respond as it should according to the dictates of the changes that our activities force upon it. Sentience has a very short history in the total lifespan of the Earth and we are just now learning enough to begin to appreciate our position and responsibilities in the scheme of things. Not only do we not have all of the answers, we do not even have all of the questions.
A few months ago I heard, on NPR I think, that a research group at Princeton University had run a computer projection on the viability of the human race and came up with the result that the expected life of our species fell somewhere between 5.1 and 7.8 million years from now. This paper was published in the journal 'Nature'. I have had no access to this journal so I don't know what set of conditions were used in the projection, but I have difficulty believing that we will cause the complete extinction of our species unless we are somehow able to make the atmosphere fatally toxic to the more complex forms of life. I can easily believe, indeed expect, that our activities will cause a drastic reduction in our numbers in the future, but I hope that this reduction will be the result of our reasoned behavior rather than the egocentric behavior of the past that was the result of our lack of understanding of our position in the story of the universe. The Earth is already carrying at least twice as many people as it should, and even with the wisest and most humane of actions on our part it will probably double again before corrective action can take effect.
I think that our responsibility to Gaia should be based on the truth of our condition and our first endeavor should be to make that truth available to all. Only if we know and are convinced of the truth of the story of the universe can we gradually begin to bring ourselves more in accord with its principles. It will probably take several generations for the majority of the world's people to understand and accept this story and until that time we should continue with the structure of society that is the natural result of the evolution of Gaia and no wars fought or undue coercion should be exercised to change society until humanity has sufficient knowledge to accept that change. When that time comes, the population of the Earth will naturally be gradually reduced to a level which is compatible with the operation of Gaia and a reasonable harmony with Gaia will become possible.
Since we are a natural product of the evolution of the universe then we are responding in a manner which is a natural result of that evolution. In what Thomas Berry calls the 'New Story of the Universe' there is no room for guilt or blame. We have been acting ethically in accordance with our level of understanding and we should continue to do just that. Now that we are able to define the history of the universe in its broad outlines and have reached a new level of understanding, then our ethics and human values should naturally adjust to reflect that understanding. Our past mistakes and not mistakes, they represent the response of our species to our situation as we understood it at the time. There is no original sin and we are not base and sinful people, only a species reacting to the situation in which we understood ourselves to be. That is what all species have always done. We do not need to harangue ourselves about our impact on Gaia. Gaia will take care of herself and will react in the proper manner to us. We need to take care of ourselves. We need to make sure that the story of the universe in absorbed into our very bones because if we do that all else will follow. The Sun is our immediate connection with the universe. The Sun is the source of everything that we are and source of all of our sustenance and viability in Gaia. We are nursing on the nipple of photosynthesis. The Sun us our mother and photosynthesis is her breasts. If we know the story of the universe as it is expressed in Gaia then we will live our lives in a continual state of exultation. We will see the grandeur of the universe in every detail of Gaia. We will not be able to see a rust stained rock without seeing the supernova explosion that produced it. We will not be able to look at a tree without seeing the death throes of the aging star that produced the carbon which is its backbone. We will not be able to feel the wind on our faces without feeling the wisdom of the physical process which produced our atmosphere and set the conditions under which our earth is able to hold it. When we feel the weight of our bodies we are feeling the history of the universe. When we hold a handful of earth we are holding a handful of frozen energy from the big bang. We can look at the same lump of earth and see the way that time was introduced into the story of the universe. We can look at the night sky and know that mixed with the younger light from the nearer stars is light that has been on its way to us for at least nine billion years. There is nothing that we can see, feel, or touch that has not come to us from the previous history of the universe, and from some other place in the universe. With these kinds of ideas in mind we can think of Pirsig's handful of sand and wish mightily that we could make that a double handful of sand, or a whole beachful of sand. To enlarge our area of contact and our area of awareness with the universe should be the responsibility, no, the joy, of every member of our species. To recognize our kinship with every living thing on earth, indeed, our kinship with every animate and inanimate thing in the universe should be a constant source of wonder to us.
There is plenty of room for a God in this picture for those who feel the need for one, as long as that God is unambiguous and not subject to misinterpretation. There is as much mystery as anyone could wish and plenty of wonder and awe from any approach that one takes. This is a picture of our interconnectedness with everything, If these ideas spread widely enough I think that we will not need to worry about Gaia and spread guilt and shame in our wake. I think that if there is a sin in this picture, and I don't admit that, then it would be the sin of burdening the human spirit with such feelings of guilt and shame. I think it is time to leave the infancy and early childhood of our species behind and move on into the ever widening sea of awareness ahead. This should be the basis of religion.
IN THE BEGINNING WAS E=Mc SQUARED AND THE....................