REASONED SPIRITUALITY: exploring spirituality, the meaning of life, the concept of God.

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Home to Reasoned Spirituality



The human race can choose between being part of the natural order, as animals; or being in harmony with it, while realizing that we are, nevertheless, still animals. I would suggest that the first option demands a price we are unwilling to pay: sacrificing our technology. Man, with his tools, has the ability to kill on a massive scale, and is even capable of destroying the entire planet. We have too much power to function as simple predators; our population is increasing at a phenomenal rate, and left unchecked, we could soon strip the planet of life. At present, a species of life form is driven to extinction every hour; a rate one thousand times the pace of nature. The current rate of tropical forest destruction will lead to its virtual elimination within ten years, and the subsequent extinction of an estimated seven hundred and fifty thousand species. Technology has provided us with a very low infant mortality rate, which, coupled with an existing population of over six billion, unbalances the ecosystem; but we are certainly loath to accept a situation where only the strong survive. Any "return to nature" movement will always be merely a fad. Man cannot go back: the presence of even a few individuals unwilling to abandon modern science would doom humanity to feudalism.

The next logical question is: why can't mankind remain the way it is now? The simple answer: because we are on the path to extinction. Our population increases by three people every second, and is conservatively estimated to double to twelve billion within forty years. The Earth has finite resources; that is to say, there is only a limited amount of fresh water, arable land, even actual space: if one particular creature exhausts the resources of an ecosystem, it upsets the balance of nature. All of existence is balance; everything is ruled by the concept of "enough". There are enough protons, neutrons, and electrons in an atom to remain in balance: all particles maintaining an equilibrium, allowing them to exist as a whole. Interfere with that balance, and you destroy the atom; an atomic explosion is the result of causing an imbalance. A fundamental part of the balance is biodiversity; numerous different species that fit into the natural order, with enough prey to feed the predators, and enough predators to keep the prey within the balance. When there are not enough predators to control the prey, nature adjusts. For example: nature allows for enough rabbits. When there are too many rabbits, a disease appears at regular intervals and reduces their population. The disease spreads rapidly through the rabbits while they are numerous; being in close proximity, they infect one another. When their numbers have been reduced to the point where the animals are widely spread, they no longer pass on the disease, and the plague runs its course; leaving "enough" rabbits. There are numerous examples of this type of population control in nature (Ungulate tuberculosis, lemming migration, etc.). The universal balance allows for all creatures to reproduce at their own rate, even to the point of overpopulation; but nature reserves the right to correct the problem. Life-forms even follow certain inborn rules that cause them to become too plentiful; it seems that the burden of deciding the issue of how many must die, to maintain the balance, is carried by a higher force than we simple animals.

Man has learned to negate the usual controls present in nature. We no longer prey upon one another at a rate sufficient to control our numbers. Animals that prey on man have been eliminated, or their impact has been diminished. Medical science permits man to live, and reproduce, to a great age. Infants that were never intended to survive are now rescued by modern medicine. Nature's primary form of control, disease, no longer kills enough humans to maintain balance.

The current situation, if unchanged, will lead to one of two results. The first: man will exhaust the supply of food and water on the planet. Along the way, many other species of plants and animals will be driven to extinction. Wars will be fought over the basic necessities of life. The gap between the elite and the common man will widen, and precious resources will be reserved for the few; eventually leading to social upheaval, as the masses become desperate. We may one day face a world of chaos and destruction, as man's pack mentality leads to an intolerably unequal distribution of food and water; and subsequent defensive-aggressive group confrontation. A world-wide state of crisis will reinforce the resolve of religious groups that believe in a "Day of Judgment", or "Armageddon". Sects will conclude that their doctrines are being proven correct: couple this with the fear factor, and you have a volatile situation. The "fear factor" is an important aspect of this scenario. Most people belong to religions due to their fear of death, and hold on to a belief that their particular sect will prevent a total end to existence; however, this desperate hope is not deeply rooted, otherwise these individuals would welcome, rather than resist, death. If you provide more alleged evidence that the doctrine is correct, you diminish the fear, and make the congregation more willing to sacrifice their lives to promote the goals of the religion.

The second potential result of the imbalance in the ecosystem is more immediate: nature may simply plague man with a disease that he is unable to stop. There is evidence that this process is already under way. Viruses are mutating at a rate never seen before; even old, previously controllable, diseases have been changing to deadlier forms. Many infectious diseases have recently evolved a resistance to antibiotics. There is more and more crossover between man and other creatures: originally, HIV/AIDS only infected Green monkeys. It would take a relatively minor change in a deadly infectious disease to wipe out humanity. Let's use HIV/AIDS as an example; as it has shown a remarkable ability to mutate in a very short period of time. HIV, once contracted, can take months to become detectable; allowing an infected person to unknowingly spread the virus to other people. When the individual develops AIDS, it can take many years to die of it; meanwhile, they are still infectious. Now, let us assume HIV mutates into a form that can survive in the mucus present in the respiratory tract: that it becomes capable of "hitching a ride" on the water vapor in the lungs, and is transmitted in the same way as the common cold, or influenza. What if a sneeze in a crowded subway car could infect all of the passengers with HIV, who would then carry on for months, unaware of the infection, spreading the virus in similar ways. An infected person would then linger for years, not simply avoiding intimate contact with others; but having to avoid all contact: isolated from humanity. How long would it take before the entire human race was infected? How could you possibly stop it? Variations on this example can be applied to any number of viruses. Man has been racing to stay ahead of nature, but we are unlikely to win every contest; one slip, and the race is lost.

Either of the two scenarios could lead to outright extinction, or to such severe damage to the human race that recovery is impossible. Let us examine the last creature, prior to man, that came to dominate the Earth. The dinosaur, at one time, ruled the planet; its control over the ecosystem so complete that mammals, over millions of years, were unable to evolve beyond tiny, timid creatures. Dinosaurs, as varied and efficient as they were, went into sudden decline seventy-three million years ago. There is a whimsical theory, promoted by the media, that a comet struck the Earth sixty-five million years ago, and caused their extinction: but this theory does not stand up to reasoned analysis. Certainly, the Iridium layer found around the world does suggest a cosmic impact; but dinosaurs were well on their way to oblivion by then: the number of dinosaur species had already declined by seventy percent in the preceding eight million years. Was the comet the final blow? No, their fossils are also found above the Iridium layer: they died out considerably later. Also, many other living things showed no notable effect from the impact. Amphibians, the most fragile and least adaptable of animals, were obviously not driven to extinction; in fact, fossil evidence shows an unbroken lineage: they did not "re-evolve". Mammals flourished, as they continued to fill the void being created by the disappearance of the dominant life-form.

The imbalance created by the dinosaurs took millions of years to correct; but we can't apply this time span to man's situation. There was incredible diversity amongst the many types of dinosaurs; from the tiniest of predators, to gargantuan herbivores, there was a creature evolved to fit every niche in the food chain. Something detrimental to one type of animal, would be beneficial to another. The decline of a certain predator, for example, would allow their prey to thrive; until another predator took advantage of the opportunity. The loss of a large herbivore would impact the large predators, but would benefit other smaller, quicker herbivores; due to less competition for vegetation. Another notable point is that disease was not easily passed through the dinosaur community. A virus must be incredibly versatile to be capable of crossing between a wide variety of species. Also, herbivores do not willingly travel in close proximity to predators, nor do predators of substantially different sizes normally mingle together: this situation inhibits viral transmission. Animals isolated on continents do not have contact: viruses must evolve independently on each land mass.

The differences between the two scenarios are obvious. Comparatively fragile humans depend upon technology to allow them to adapt to changes in the environment. Clan behavior, however, ensures that this defense is not uniformly distributed across all of humanity: there are weak points in the technological "shield", allowing destructive trends to develop within our species. To illustrate: if only ten percent of the world's military budget were diverted toward humanitarian aid, the entire human race would have an adequate supply of food, basic medical care, functional literacy, and proper training in birth control; but because of the clan attitude, in this case nationalism, resources are wasted on weapons. Allowing a significant portion of mankind to be susceptible to disease, due to malnutrition and lack of access to medical treatment, permits a virus to become epidemic before any preventative measures can be taken. If the situation gets out of hand, it may easily become pandemic.

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Part 1:  IntroductionPart 2:  BalancePart 3:  DivisionsPart 4:  Unitypart 5:  Concept of GodPart 6:  Defining GodPart 7:  SexualityPart 8:  Instinctive MoralityPart 9:  Moral Compromise - ReproductionPart 10: Moral Obligation - reproductionPart 11:  DeterminismPart 12:  Determining Our DestinyPart 13: Good and EvilPart 14:  Crime and PunishmentPart 15:  Belief - fact and faithPart 16: MaterialismPart 17: AppreciationPart 18: Abstract PerceptionPart 19:  RelationshipsRelationships (conclusion)Part 21:  DeathPart 22:  KnowledgePart 23: Knowledge - geneticsPart 24: Knowledge (conclusion)Part 25: Meaning of LifePart 26: Meaning of Life (continued)Part 27: Meaning of Life (conclusion)

Copyright 1998 B.W.Holmes - all rights reserved (unless noted otherwise). Quotes from ancient literary works do not carry a copyright.