Member Monday 11/20 with Roger Briggs (Steve is in Cuba!)
The Evolutionary Dialogues, Part Five:
Higher Consciousness and the Future of Humanity
In the first four installments of this series we looked at the grand evolutionary story of the Universe that brought us to the present. In the most recent chapters of this story Humanity emerges and evolves through distinct stages of culture that can be traced through the archeological record. The most important stage for us to understand today is the one that began some 5,000 years ago with the emergence of civilization and all it’s trappings: powerful rulers, social hierarchy, war, patriarchy, divisiveness, and the wholesale exploitation of the Earth. For this is the stage we are still in, and we are now seeing widespread collapse of nearly all of our systems, both in the biosphere and the human sphere. This old civilizational model is clearly not working for us anymore and is ending one way or another - but do we face widespread chaos and dystopia, or can we transition into a new stage of civilization and a new world where all of life can flourish? As Einstein said, we cannot solve a problem from the mindset that created it, so we will explore the possibility that a new humanity is awakening on the planet, and a new stage of consciousness is emerging - and none too soon!
EVOLVING WORLD VIEWS
by Roger Briggs
The Mechanical Universe (Scientific Materialism)
The universe is a vast collection of separate material objects interacting predictably according to the laws of classical physics; for every effect there is a cause, so the universe is deterministic; scientific materialism can eventually explain everything.
Causality and the laws of classical physics also govern humans because we are part of the mechanical universe. This essentially makes us automatons with no free will or self-responsibility because everything we are and everything we do was caused by something earlier, extending back to before we were born.
The Earth and its human inhabitants are such miniscule specks of matter on the grand scale of the universe that we cannot possibly have any significance or importance.
Consciousness is solely the result of physical processes in the brain, such as electromagnetic impulses, chemical reactions, and protein synthesis. Therefore we will eventually be able to explain every aspect of consciousness – thinking, feeling, memory, intuition, creativity, etc – with classical physics and chemistry. When the brain dies, consciousness is gone with it.
Humans are here today because of many random mutations over billions of years that provided survival advantages. There is no meaning to life. When you die it’s over and your molecules are recycled. Humans are just another animal and we will probably go extinct, as most species do.
Concepts like God, the Creator, the Divine Mover, the Great Spirit, the Omega Point, and so on, are human fabrications that help us get through challenging times. Natural selection probably favors such illusory concepts because they provide survival advantages.
The Conscious Universe
The Universe is a vast unfolding phenomenon that is continually moving toward greater complexity and higher consciousness. This Mega-Evolution, and can now be seen to have three aspects: the evolution of the cosmos which eventually produced the Sun and Earth, the evolution of life which eventually produced Homo sapiens, and the evolution of consciousness which underlies all of human history and culture.
The Earth and its human inhabitants are the rare and special products of Mega-Evolution. We now know that planets are very common, but that very few planets are Earth-like and capable of supporting complex life; and of those planets, very few could have produced beings with evolving self-aware consciousness (it took 4 billion years on Earth, and lots of things could have gone wrong).
Self-aware consciousness is an emergent property of the Universe. Although it seems to be strongly associated with the human brain, we will not be able to explain it solely as a result of material brain processes.
As vessels of self-aware consciousness humans are special and important. We are aware of ourselves, we are aware of our awareness, and through us the Universe is aware of itself. This is a significant threshold in the evolution of the universe, thus humanity is important; yet we should not overestimate ourselves, but should assume that there are other beings in the Universe with self-aware consciousness, perhaps even at much higher levels that ours.
Humans are capable, to some extent, of making free choices that can affect themselves and the world. That is, humans possess some degree of free will and control over themselves and the world. (This aligns with the Heisenberg interpretation of quantum mechanics, in contrast to Newtonian mechanics)
Human consciousness is evolving, and for the last 100 years or so we have been making the transition to a new structure of consciousness, that has been called the Integral structure. This transition is essential if we are to flourish.
We still do not know why the Universe is evolving toward greater complexity and higher consciousness. For many people the answer is contained in concepts like God, the Creator, the Divine Mover, the Great Spirit, the Omega Point, and so on. Yet for others, these concepts have no use or meaning. This must remain an individual’s choice.