Prescription for Life in the Universe

- R. N. Sharma, Ph.D.

Flat Nos. 15-16, Building 'A', Moraya Residency, Sus Road, Pashan, Pune 411021, INDIA
Email: vibhor1@vsnl.com
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 12 (2002), 9-11.


Abstract

Since the very emergence of the syncretic, sentient human species, it has been handicapped by numerous incipient, continuing and new limitations. Thus, we have not yet quite escaped the overwhelming tyranny of biological evolution with its constraining strait jacket of natural selection. At this threshold of knowledge and awareness, the mantle falls on the Homo sapiens of planet Earth to at least dream of, and formulate prescriptions for Utopias without the inane internecine conflicts, and physical as well as spiritual carnages which continue unabated from the dawn of history to date, and which could now well aggravate towards inexorable total extinction. Channelisation of accumulated, collective wisdom, scienctific insights and technological skills towards universal humanistic rationality, emanicpation, and empowerment must be the primary edict of humankind. An equation incorporating Life, the human species, and various variables affecting these, is presented as a prescription for continuance and flowering of Life in the Universe.

Introduction

Life, on earth, or in the Universe, has a mystique bordering on the spiritual, by its own hitherto undeciphered origin, scope and extent, as well as hyperboles of divinity successively attributed to it by multifarious _efaiths' of the human species. Life, known so far only on Earth, has been shown to be governed by processes of Evolution in its ascent from the generala to the specialized, culminating in sentience and intelligence. Biological evolution suffers from limiting and almost tyrannical mindlessness which is revolting to structured human thought. In a broader framework, it is incompatible also with the disentropic antithesis of chaos. With scientific and technological progress it seems that humankind may be able to escape, or mould the quixotic anomalies of biological evolution. However, human sociological, or cultural development has been more or less similarly stymied, indeed, sometimes putting human as well as planetary existence at risk. These perils may persist, indeed tend to increase. Aetiologically they may stem from uneven socioeconomic distribution of resources, or political philosophies leaning to hegemonic pre-emptions of territory or riches unmindful of human or other costs. The worst sources of global misery in recent times, amazingly, have been unbelievable anachronisms (in the modern context) of _ebeliefs' - major religions, with single minded zealous to fanatic pursuit of universal hegemony by evangelism aggravating into misanthropic turmoils, conflicts, skirmishes, wars, and worse, covert or overt terrorism. Escape from this double jeopardy situation is possible only by firmly marshalling the future course of human development, cultural as well as biological, towards a human primacy oriented path. Barring natural disasters of astronomical proportions, planetary, and human welfare (or misery/extinction) would essentially depend on human activities. Remarkably, despite its barely unconcealed humanistic overtones, the relatively new trans-discipline of Bioethics seems to frown on concern and focus on survival and welfare of the human, tending to deride it as anthropocentric chauvinism. This can only be described as pseudo-intellectual pretension since the Homo sapiens remain the only conscious and intelligent living beings on Earth, and in the Universe, as of extant knowledge at the moment of writing. Non-sentient, not conscious, or beings without intelligence can only be described as lesser entities, whose importance and significance in the holistic perspective are, however, unquestionable and inestimable. Love of Life (Macer, 1998), which might also be described as the spiritual dimension of Bioethics (literally, the ethics of Life), is a prime attribute developed through (human) intelligence. It must be categorically emphasized that notions such as Deep Ecology (2) must include, and not diminish or outlaw, the human. Calling human concerns _eshallow' is a fallacy of nomenclature as well as perception, which the nascent grassroots philosophy should abandon.

Taking a cue (and borrowing at least one variable) from the famous Drake Equation of Bio-astronomy (3), a similar concoction is presented for salvaging the human species, and with it, at this moment of time, Life in the Universe, and the planet Earth, from the blunderings of biological evolution and human inanities.

The equation can be written as

P = > G > Be > Bh/s > E > L _ UC ST

Where P stands for Progression/Transcension/Ascension

> stands for "beyond"

G stands for _eGod(s)'

Be denotes Biological Evolution

Bh/s denotes Human/human soul

E stands for the planet Earth

L is the variable of the Drake Equation denoting estimated longevity of civilizations.

UCST = Universal Consciousness in Space Time continuum

The realization, or transcension into the cosmic stream of consciousness, pervading the entire Space-Time continuum has been the goal, and the favored desideratum of all thinkers and savants, indeed all major _efaiths' or religious systems since the human species acquired the quality of intelligence. The UCST in this equation may well represent the _eGod' or The Supreme, all pervading power/intelligence that Man

has been seeking through the ages. It can be seen that a rational, scientific quest for UCST would be a long drawn out one. Each variable in the equation leading to its realization is possible, but not immediately probable. Many are, and may also remain as imponderables for quite some time. As may be noted, all are qualified by "beyond' , synonymous with ahead of/other or more than. Thus the equation prescribes moving (transcending) beyond abstractions such as human Gods/ soul(s), recognized phenomena or entities such as Biological Evolution and the planet Earth, and imponderables such as the estimated life of civilizations. These varied and lofty endeavours will require enormous advances and refinement in scientific and philosophical thought, as well as technological revolutions, spread over several millennia.

Analysed in this manner, the various articles of faith prescribed by many religions begin to appear definitely shorter and easier routes to Godheads of various description. However, as the author has asseverated here, and elsewhere4, the latter have had their day, despite the lingering, often vociferous and belligerent posturing by zealous acolytes. If the human species is to survive and progress, the juvenile _edivine' imagery of yesteryears will have to be abandoned. Only a steadfast, unbiased and objective pursuit of the various "Truths" about Space, Time, the Universe, and Life, will yield the answers we have been seeking so desperately, but in vain, for so long. In the absence of any other equally kaleidoscopic discipline, Bioethics could be proposed, and urged, to make this quest its central theme and drive in the centuries to come by blending multifarious icons of human thought and endeavour in a single minded search for such knowledge and truth: the problem, quest and the solution deserving the firm qualification of the Ultimate. The quest for the Ultimate may be scorned as futile, and foolhardy. But humankind stand poised on a threshold which threatens total annihilation on the one hand, or the hope and challenge of a brave, if timorous and probing exploration into myriad Unknowns. A small beginning can be made by taking a few monumental steps: of quarantining orthodox religions to individual or group, even regional or nation spaces, without prejudice to the concept of, and the quest for the more esoteric but possibly eventually realizable abstraction UCST ; of skirting the tyrannies of biological evolution by technological advances spiked with balanced humanist (spiritual?) dictates; of defining, or negating the concept of the human 'soul' as a material entity ; of escaping the limiting confines of the earth physically as well as through astro-communication with other sentients, if extant; of consciously seeking to identify and override parameters which may limit the longevity of civilizations. Most of these variable are not quite as imponderable and out of our reach today as they might have been just a century, or even a few decades ago. Humankind would do well to engage in grappling with some of these exciting challenges, even primordially, rather than continuing to ruin its varied resources, including vital ones, in inane squabbles to gain control of territories, people and their minds (souls?).

There is nothing wrong per se in personal or localized practice of the moral teachings of most major religions. Evangelism and proselytization, the virtual mainstays of most one book (monotheistic) religions (except Judaism) is one of their unfortunate, reprehensible and objectionable edicts since it blandly assumes superiority of _ethe one path'_ctheirs. Morally as well as intellectually such a position is untenable and insupportable. Among themselves too there are as many as three major _eone' books and an equal number of _eonly' paths to salvation! Much of the conflict in the modern world is on account of dogged adherence to such perverse dogmas whose more rabid forms insult more profound and older faiths by calling them pagan, and their adherents infidels who must be converted or destroyed. The Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA, not to mention even worse mayhem spread for the same reasons in other parts of the world such as Israel and India is more than sufficient irrefutable evidence of this indictment.

The polytheistic religions, the most prominent, and fountainhead, being Hinduism, are in actual depth beholden to a single supreme entity, but celebrate the profusion of both living and physical objects in the universe by endowing them with Godliness: hence the enumerable _eGods'. From the contours of this maze sprout numerous paths for salvation, though once again the real focus is on a unitary singularity (the Brahman). In the process, plurality, and a tolerance sometimes self-defeating or even suicidal emerges as a very humanist desideratum in the followers of these colorful faiths. They even have a most satisfying heuristic explanation of all events: Karma_c.a word which has become established in the world psyche, including the general and the specialized (scientific, academic, philosophical) _ematerialistic' Western mindsets. However, even here, the answers, howsoever philosophically and even intellectually appealing, fail to meet rational scientific expectations of irrefutable evidence.

In view of the foregoing, what becomes more cogent to the present contention is that actually all the major formal religions of the world, irrespective of their labels, need to take a back seat in their own parishes, to allow without hindrance (and without prejudice to their own co-existence) a Universal ethics of human conduct and future goals, and paths (4-6) to take root, permeate, and engulf human consciousness. If the religions cannot blend with the Universal quest proposed here, there must be compartmentalisation in human minds between segments of the Orthodox and the Universal. This is not as difficult, or impossible as it may sound since such paradoxical duality of beliefs already exists in many civilizations even today. Scientists, including physicists and astronomers have professional work cultures, concepts and vocabulary about particles, electrons, atoms and galaxies. The same minds also nurture their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs in Heavens and Hells, after death survival of the 'soul', ethereal Kingdoms of Heaven, Judgment Day at the end of Time, undefined _eEternity', the angels (a species hitherto unidentified corporeally), Godheads in the form of various heavenly bodies, et al, without batting an eyelid. The demarcation is clear, and often without qualms in many such cases. This remarkable trait need not be subject for derision, but should be taken as another attestation of the uniqueness, flexibility, adaptability and potential of the human mind, strengthening its role of pivotal significance in not merely global, but universal ecology.

It is necessary to round, and sum up the need for human centric approaches in most of our local and global endeavours by taking recourse to the Cartesian Cogito ergo sum dictum. We not only are, but the Universe is, because we can think. Taken a step further, the Universe realizes itself in perception, beginning from the primordiala, reaching continually higher levels, and transcending to a pinnacle with the evolution of intelligence. There might be other exobiological species, and/or higher reaches of the latter, but as of now let us confine ourselves to what we know. And that is Life, including human intelligence, on the planet earth. Life may undoubtedly have the broad vista of Deep Ecology, but given the power and scope of (human) intelligence in influencing the latter (for good or bad, whatever the definitions of these), Homo sapiens becomes a vitally significant attribute of not only Earth ecology, but of the spiritualb ambience of the Universe.

a not primitive. General/Primordial Life as the precursor of all Life and Evolution cannot be adjudged primitive. Its pluripotence is manifest in the success of biological evolution.

bused in the sense of the abstract stream of consciousness propounded to pervade the Universe.

References

  1. Macer, D.R.J. Bioethics is the Love of Life: An Alternative Textbook. Eubios Ethics Institute, 1998.
  2. Devall,B and G.Sessions (1985) : Deep Ecology. Peregrine Smith, Salt Lake City. Quoted by F.Capra In The Web of Life 1997; Flamingo, London.
  3. Drake, F (1960) : Quoted by Joel Achenbach In National Geographic 1/ 2000.
  4. Sharma, R.N. Universal Ethical Singularity. EJAIB 8 (1998), 52-4.
  1. Sharma (R.N.) (1998) Identifying and Defining Levels and Limits of Biological Life and Evolution. In Azariah, J, Azariah H, and Macer, DRJ., eds., Bioethics in India Eubios Ethics institute, 1998.
6. Sharma,R.N. (2001) : The fuzzy dimensions of human life span segments and psychobio : evolution : Trends and Imperatives. In Fujiki N, Sudo M and Macer, DRJ., eds., Bioethics and the Impact of Genomics in the 21stst Century : Proceedings of the Seventh International Bioethics Seminar in Fukui. Eubios Ethics Institute, 2001.


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