Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eagleman on humanity's purpose

On a completely different note (which is why I separated it into a different post), the last chapter of Eagleman’s book takes on a different part of losing the idea of free will.  He goes through a series of “dethronements” that humanity has gone through.  We were the center of the universe until Galileo.  Then we were at least the center of G-d’s plans until James Hutton discovered the true age of the earth (and that the bible wasn't literally accurate). We were at least G-d’s highest priority until Darwin discovered we evolved through natural selection.  So now we realize that we aren’t even in control of ourselves.  Our own consciousness is just a figment of our imagination. 

So will this be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back of humanity’s higher purpose?  Will we lose our sense of self-worth and self-importance and go into a society-wide black depression?  Will we all commit mass suicide or revolt against the absurdity of life (asked by Albert Camus)? 

He concludes the book by taking the opposite side of this hypothetical.  The smallness of humanity’s role in the universe is only because of how big the universe is. Let’s use our newfound insight into human nature to develop better procedures, better teaching methods, better motivation, better laws.  We may not have a soul in the religious way, but we have an incredible network of complexity and emergent properties that we will likely never understand completely.  He says we should revel in wonderment and awe. 

I am not sure about the soul part, but I like his positivism.  

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