This “BETTER HUMAN STORY” offers a better way of understanding what we humans are, by nature; why our story has unfolded as it has; and the nature of the challenges humankind must meet for human civilization to survive for the long haul.
(It also illuminates the fundamental nature of the extraordinary political battle being fought in the United States in these times.)
(The interested reader can access this “integrative vision” of the human situation by reading the text that unfolds here, below. Or by clicking in any of the four “boxes” embedded in that essay – The Fateful Step (2023), A Better Human Story (2017), WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST (2015), and/or Press the Battle (2014) — each one presenting this multi-dimensional BETTER HUMAN STORY in a different way.)
One way this HUMAN STORY is BETTER is that it pretty well proves that, We humans are better creatures than we have thought ourselves to be. Here’s the proof.
I. THE FATEFUL CONSEQUENCES OF HUMANKIND’S BREAKTHROUGH INTO CIVILIZATION
THE FATEFUL STEP is the most recent series of essays presenting this BETTER HUMAN STORY, showing how humankind unleashed Forces that have driven the story of our species in directions humans would not have chosen but could not avoid. (Forces that must be brought under control if human civilization is to prove viable on this planet.)
That “FATEFUL STEP” was our species embarking — some 10-12,000 years ago — onto the path of into Civilization. “Civilization” can be usefully defined as, Those societies created by a species that has extricated itself from the niche in which it evolved biologically by inventing its own way of life.
That definition helps to highlight how, in the 3.5 billion year history of Life-on-Earth, that step onto the path of civilization was unprecedented.
The very thing that made that step unprecedented — the first creature to “extricate” itself from the biologically evolved order — also made it FATEFUL, because that extrication inevitably unleashed a dangerous and destructive systemic force.
Here’s how that can be shown:
The natural selection through which Evolution works creates an Order because Order — from the cell to the organism all the way up to the biosphere – is what is required for Life’s survival.
(Not a designed Order, but one that is the inevitable product of a process that continually “chooses” what can survive over what cannot. And not a static order, but a dynamic one that naturally unfolds over time. An order captured by this image: “The lion and the zebra and the grass work together to create a kind of perpetual motion machine, even as they devour each other.”)
And the unprecedented step out of the natural order (accomplished by that “extrication” “from the niche in which it evolved biologically”) is inevitably a step into a new and dangerous kind of Disorder:
- Disorder because there is no order — neither biologically evolved nor human-designed — in place to regulate the interactions among these new life-forms (civilized (or civilizing) societies. (Disorder unlike all previous life, in the natural order of “actors” that evolve together);
- Disorder, therefore, of a new kind– an “Anarchy” — that inevitably emerges with the rise of civilization; And (as history abundantly shows);
- The inevitable result of this anarchic kind of disorder — in a system of civilized actors — is “a war of all against all.”
The Anarchy into which the civilization-creating creature inevitably plunges (as a result of that Fateful Step onto the path of Civilization) imposes on that creature’s civilization a major set of inevitabilities.
Perhaps the most important of those inevitabilities is this: that the directions in which its civilized systems will evolve are, in some fundamental ways, inevitable.
SELECTION FOR THE WAYS OF POWER
Two factors generate that inevitability about how a creature’s civilization will evolve:
- The inevitable struggle for power, which mandates that only those kinds of civilized cultures that generate what’s required to prevail in a “war of all against all” will survive into the future.
- Although the breakthrough to civilization opens up an extraordinarily wide spectrum of how human life might conceivably be organized, the “selective process” generated by the “war of all against all” inevitably drives civilization to evolve toward the ways of power.
It is the dynamics of the system, therefore – not the inherent nature of the civilization-creating creature – that mandates which of the possibilities get to survive and spread (and which get eliminated as the war of all against all grinds on over the generations, centuries, millennia).
Had humankind been free of that dynamic – had people been free to choose the direction of their societies’ development, had they been freed of the necessity of surviving an inevitable intersocietal struggle for power – civilized cultures could have gone off in all sorts of directions. That spectrum of cultures might have been a window into our nature as creatures.
But the systemic dynamic mandated that of all the variety of cultural options that humans might generate as they took to the path of civilization, only those cultural options that enable a civilized society to prevail in a “war of all against all” can shape the human future.
And, as history has repeatedly shown what prevails in an anarchic system (like the warlords that rise to dominance in failed states, as we’ve seen in our times, like the rise of empires in ancient times) tend to be Warlords, i.e. gangsters.
So the inevitable dynamics of the anarchic system makes it inevitable that what might be called “The Spirit of the Gangster” will be given a disproportionate say in shaping the evolving world of human civilization.
The Anarchy that is an inevitable consequence of the Fateful Step into Civilization, thus makes inevitable
- not only a destructive war of all against all, and
- not only a selective process that dictates what cultural options will survive, and
- not only mandates that some of the ugliest of human potentialities will play a disproportionate role, but also,
- dictate that brokenness and trauma will continually be imparted into the human world.
(The inevitability of this social-evolutionary dynamic is shown at book length in my The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution, (published in a first edition by the University of California Press, and still in print from SUNY Press; and awarded a prize by the International Society for Political Psychology).
(As for “imparting brokenness,” see my Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War, which is about how having to survive in a world — in which one major and inescapable reality was “a war of all against all” — has traumatized and damaged people since the problem of Anarchy first arose.)
HOW – IN AN ANARCHIC SYSTEM – APPARENT FREEDOM IS TRANSFORMED INTO THE REIGN OF POWER
A creature’s “inventing its own way of life” looks at first glance to be a breakthrough into freedom: a new kind of life-form – the first shaped not by natural selection but rather growing out of the creature’s own imaginative intelligence – apparently free to develop in a wide-spectrum of directions.
But the Evolutionary Perspective helps bring into sharp relief how that breakthrough inevitably unleashed a force that people didn’t choose, couldn’t have anticipated, and were powerless to stop, but were compelled to cope with as best they could.
An important conclusion that should inform how we think about ourselves and our situation:
Any creature, on any planet, anywhere in the cosmos, that takes the step onto the path to civilization, will inevitably get swept up – regardless of that creature’s nature — into the same social evolutionary process that has made the course of human civilization as destructive and tormented – as ugly — as it has been.
It is inevitable that the civilization of any creature that breaks out of its biological niche would evolve along lines akin to those that humankind traced. Here on earth, we see that inevitable pattern roughly recapitulated in all six different places on this planet where civilization emerged independently. In each case, what emerged over time showed a kindred ugly face: a tyranny of the few, the exploitation of the many, with chronic war plaguing the overarching intersocietal system.
The system’s empowering of “the Spirit of the Gangster” inevitably dictates a human world beset by cruelty and structured by injustice.
From the idea that any creature, anywhere, breaking out of the natural order into civilization, will be condemned to have its world evolve in ugly directions, a major improvement in humankind’s self-understanding follows logically. The destructive dynamics highlighted in the BETTER HUMAN STORY’s evolutionary perspective makes it clear that
The Ugliness We See in Human History is not Human Nature Writ Large
The Ugliness was inevitable: once a creature embarks on the path of civilization, the resulting selective process makes it inevitable that gangster regimes will emerge.
The creature acts, as if freely, but the unchosen dynamics of the system determine what kind of circumstances the creature will be compelled to act in.
Which provides one of the aspects of the “BETTER” given by the BETTER HUMAN STORY: it supports out feeling better about ourselves, because it can help us to know with considerable confidence that
We are better creatures than we have thought ourselves to be.
(Better for sure. But how much better is not so easily determined.)
Better, in that it feels better to see ourselves in a more positive light. It feels better to be able to relieve ourselves of some of the burden laid on us by cultural belief systems that were formed by people who looked at the world around them and drew the “obvious conclusion” that they were looking through some sort of clear window into human nature.
The Evolutionary Perspective relieves us of that burden, by showing that the human escape from the natural order unleashed a kind of Disorder that inevitably drove human civilization to evolve in directions dictated by the Ugly Spirit of the Gangster, whose disproportionate say in shaping human civilization makes the world we see around us a quite distorted picture of human nature.
It is beneficial for us to be able to see that we humans and the ugliness that surrounds us are more separable than our traditional culture has imagined.
Beneficial to see the healthy organism beneath the attempts to cope with traumas and wounds.
Beneficial, to be acquitted of crimes our culture has accused us of committing.
But it is not only such unburdening that makes it beneficial for us to see ourselves as “better creatures.” Beyond feeling better, we will also be able to do better at the urgent task of building the better human civilization that must be built.
Seeing ourselves as less broken will inspire us to raise our sites regarding how good a world human beings are capable of operating. (Better possibilities than those who believe in original sin will think attainable.)
We know how powerful expectations are — that people live up to them. The predominant view of human nature over-emphasizes some sense of defect. A BETTER HUMAN STORY makes the conclusion inescapable that we are better creatures we have thought ourselves to be, and therefore capable of operating a more whole civilization than we have imagined.
All this is fortifying the forces we will depend on to build the better human world that must be built.
I say “must be built” because it seems to me roughly a toss-up whether humankind – in the coming not-so-many generations — will get our act together (well enough, soon enough) to enable our human civilization to survive for the long haul; or whether we will destroy our civilization (and ourselves) through the something like a nuclear holocaust or an environmental collapse.
(And it can be shown that pretty soon it will be one or the other- get it together or have it break apart — with little room for muddling through the middle path as has been the case throughout civilized history.)
Survival vs self-destruction, the outcome depending on whether we can lead the human world along a path that
- eliminates the chances for the kind of catastrophe that the Cuban Missile Crisis could have led to, in 1962, and that could still happen now. And a path that
- harmonizes the operations of human civilization on this planet with the needs of the rest of Life-on-Earth and the systems that support it (like climate).
And if it is a toss-up, even small impacts could influence which way things tip at some conceivable tipping point. Anything that fortifies the side of Life against Destruction could make a difference, and so is worth striving to achieve.
Even just the knowledge that “The Ugliness We See in Human History is Not Human Nature Writ Large” XXX would be sufficient to make this a BETTER human story.
That BETTER HUMAN STORY has been also been systematically laid out in a series found here:
It will fortify us in our efforts to make a better world to recognize that the only inherent quality about our species that has been required to account for our generating so much destructiveness, ugliness, and suffering – over the past 10-12,000 years — is that humankind was the first species on this planet to be endowed with the level of creative intelligence necessary to develop new ways of living — new kinds of societies — shaped not by the processes of natural selection, but by our own invention.
What that creative intelligence led to – humankind’s venturing into territory altogether new in the History of Life-on-Earth – turned out to generate a systemic force beyond anyone’s ability to control.
Our unprecedented challenges are the result, in other words, of our unprecedented gifts. Like the tragic hero.
II. THE EMERGENCE OF A COHERENT FORCE THAT CONSISTENTLY MAKES THE HUMAN WORLD WORSE
Human Nature and Human Choice have not been the primary determinants of the overall trajectory of the evolution of civilization.
The Fateful Step onto the path of Civilization gives rise to a destructive Force, whose destructiveness begins with an inevitable “war of all against all,” which generates an inevitable selective process that inevitably gives the Spirit of the Gangster a disproportionate say in how that civilizational system will develop.
That Force — generated by the war of all against all — shows its coherence as it moves through the human world through a process in which brokenness repeatedly begets brokenness.
One can discern, in the network of causes and effects,* how there’s “a coherent force” that moves through the world in shape-shifting ways, and that “consistently works to make the human world worse.”
This Destructive Force can be shown to be at the heart of the human drama. And “a coherent force that consistently makes the human world worse” can be shown to act very much like what has traditionally been conceived as “a Force of Evil.”
*THE DISCERNIBLE REALITY OF A FORCE OF BROKENNESS
For any specific instance of brokenness in the human world — any instance of injustice, war, hatred, cruelty, greed, hypocrisy, deception, etc. — we can ask two kinds of questions regarding their place in the dense web of causes and effects:
we can ask two kinds of questions regarding their place in the dense web of causes and effects:
- Peering backward, we can inquire about its causes. What is it in the world that produces this brokenness? E.g. What are the factors that led to this war? What were the factors that led to this exploitative social arrangement? Or, what is it that resulted in this person being cruel, or greedy, or insistent on domination? (Many see “evil” just in terms of “evil people,” but people are shaped by their world.)
• Looking forward, we can examine the effects of that war, of that exploitation, or of this instance of human cruelty or greed or lust for power. What impact does this or that broken thing in our world have on how the human world develops from there?
This Destructive force can be “seen” in the way one can “see” the wind in the swaying of the trees and the flapping of the clothes on the line.
WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST: THE BOOK I WAS DETERMINED TO GET OUT IN TIME TO HELP PREVENT DISASTER IN THE 2016 ELECTION
(And this book was written and published before Donald Trump stepped into the political arena.)
Another of the ways this Better Human Story is better is that it gives us a clearer understanding of WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST in our efforts to create a human world shaped more by our choosing, and less by a destructive systemic Force that we unwittingly unleashed into the human world when we left the Natural Order.
(That BETTER HUMAN STORY — which clarifies WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST — has been presented in a book of that title available in its entirety, in pdf form, here:
It can be shown that WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST — in the battles for the survival both of human civilization and of American democracy — can be well-described as “A coherent Force that consistently works to make the human world worse.”
And that description is a reasonable definition of what has traditionally been called, in Western civilization, “Evil.”
Another way this HUMAN STORY is BETTER is that it illuminates the nature of the battle that we — the civilization-creating species — have been compelled to fight.
It can be shown that once a species starts inventing a way of life — some way differing in fundamental ways from that into which it evolved biologically – a significant dynamic will emerge in its world. As that creature’s history unfolds, there will arise a battle between two coherent Forces – one that consistently makes that world more broken, and the other that works toward greater wholeness.
And the way that these contend against each other to shape that creature’s world will align closely with how our civilization has traditionally conceived of “the Battle Between Good and Evil.”
That analysis of those inevitable dynamics at work in the story of the civilization-creating creature corrects important defects in both
- those belief systems that were formed before people had knowledge of how civilization arose out of the evolution of Life-on-Earth (and thus attributed the ugliness they saw around them to the defective nature of the creature, infusing our culture with notions like “original sin”) and
- the secular worldview that arose more recently that, while understanding the basic outlines of biological evolution, hasn’t excavated all the profound implications of that knowledge.
THE CENTRAL CHALLENGE FACING ANY CIVILIZATION-CREATING CREATURE
Another way this HUMAN STORY is BETTER is that it reveals the ultimate stakes in that battle. It reveals that it is inevitable * — once any creature embarks on the path of Civilization — that the Central Challenge facing that species will be:
Can that species order its civilization well enough – soon enough – to enable its civilization to survive for the long haul, rather than to culminate in some self-inflicted catastrophe?
(* See: The Fate of Human Civilization)
For any civilization-creating species anywhere, those are the stakes in the inevitable and ongoing battle between two coherent Forces that inevitably will contend against each other after the rise of civilization, contending against each other to shape the human world.
One (discernable, coherent) Force working to make the human world more broken, and one to make it more whole.
An inevitable battle at the heart of the creature’s historical drama all the way up to the eventual inevitable showdown when the species will either get its act together or will culminate its story in some kind of act of self-destruction.
In view of that showdown — to determine whether life-serving Order or life-destroying Disorder will prevail — it is a BETTER HUMAN STORY that can clarify how we human creatures are called to do our utmost to fortify the life-serving forces. “Called” from within by a nature that has been shaped by a process that works by consistently choosing Life over Death (choosing always what can survive into a viable future in preference to what dies off).
Such are the stakes, and such is the value of a HUMAN STORY that can inspire us to throw ourselves into that battle on the side of Life and of a Human World that meets human needs, and preserves the viability of the planet that is our home.
III. THE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF THE AMERICAN CRISIS OF THESE TIMES
One major attempt to present this comprehensive BETTER HUMAN STORY sought to focus attention on the nature of the Force that had arisen on the right and succeeded, over the course of a generation, in taking over the Republican Party and, even more fundamentally, tens of millions of Americans in the Republican base.
It was also a call to battle, to a Liberal World that had seemed blind to the transformation that had occurred, and weak in confronting it. So this Force – which became more nakedly fascistic as the years went by – needed to be seen for what it is, and fought accordingly.
That’s what I attempted to do in that series I published in 2014, calling on the people on the constructive side of the American divide to PRESS THE BATTLE.
That 2014 series can be found here:
This Better Human Story is “better” also because it reveals the fundamental nature of the political crisis in these times in America. It clarifies how the nature of the division of forces engaged in the political battle has descended from the level of “policy disagreements” to a more profound level where the most fundamental issues – like the very survival of American democracy, the constitutional order, and the Rule of Law – are at stake.
(And if the stakes in how the American crisis gets resolved have come to be what set of forces – the life-serving or the life-degrading – will govern an American superpower that was called a generation ago (not unreasonably) “the world’s indispensable nation,” it is not unreasonable to imagine that even the survival of human civilization might ultimately be at stake in the American political battle.)
The breakdown of the American order into so fundamental a battle represents a systemic problem: While one side of the division was taken over by what can be shown to be “a coherent force that consistently works to make things more broken,” the other side was failing to recognize that fundamental change.
The Liberal/Democratic side, in other words, failed to notice that the chronic battle between life-serving and life-degrading forces — which have historically been quite intermixed among the actors in the American power system — were becoming starkly divided.
And that failure to understand how the nature of the battle was changing meant a failure also to understand how that battle needed to be fought.
For almost two decades, I have been working to develop, understand, and communicate this part of the BETTER HUMAN STORY, of the nature of the forces at work in the United States, and how that connected with the larger picture of struggles in the human world, over the millennia, to keep the Force of Brokenness (and “the Spirit of the Gangster”) from calling the shots.
- From 2005-2011, in a blog titled — NoneSoBlind.org— I published several thousand essays dedicated to showing — can combatting — the force of Fascism that was visibly rising.
- In 2011-2012, I decided to take that message directly into the political arena, running for Congress as the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s very red sixth congressional district (the Shenandoah Valley). (A highlight of that campaign was my delivering, at a big Labor Day banquet, a speech (that went viral) about the “Sick and Broken Spirit” that had taken over a once-respectable Republican Party.) [See here just below for that speech.]
- And then in 2014, I published the first of these series, seeking to awaken the better forces in America in these times to PRESS THE BATTLE, while placing that battle into the larger context of the challenges humankind has faced — caught between Forces of Brokenness and Wholeness — since the rise of civilization.
The PRESS THE BATTLE series, like that speech I delivered as a candidate for Congress, was a Battle Cry. But this was integrated with what that “integrative vision” I am now calling A BETTER HUMAN STORY, to show how the crisis in America is connected to the larger challenge that we — the civilization-creating creatures — have for millennia been striving to meet.
(And which we must meet if human civilization is to survive for the long haul.)
That American battle is to be understood fundamentally as Democracy v. Fascism. And that duality is, at its heart, a contemporary version of a problem civilization has faced since the rise of the first empires.
But there’s a more fundamental level still, as has been revealed by the rise — in a pure form — of “A coherent force that consistently works to make things worse.”
Usually, actors in the world — whether individuals, or parties, or nations — are mixtures of what makes things better and what makes them worse. But in our times, a destructive force had taken unusually complete possession of an identifiable actor in the power system. (See “What’s Revealed By the ‘Pure Case’ of the Consistently Destructive Actor.” What’s Revealed by the “Pure Case” of the Consistently Destructive Actor – A Better Human Story )
But the problem was not just from that side, but was more systemic: the side that opposed that consistently destructive actor had proven itself blind to what was rising and weak in confronting it.
So the balance of power between the Good and Evil shifted adversely. (See “Cry the Benighted Country.”)
Ours is but a particular — albeit unusually consequential — battle in the long-term struggle to determine whether Wholeness or Brokenness – what might reasonably be called “Good” and “Evil” — will prevail in the human world. Which means, ultimately, to determine whether human civilization will survive or destroy itself.
This moment is, for us Americans, our time to throw ourselves into that battle more directly than usual, recognizing that the stakes could hardly be higher.
IV. HOW THE EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE ILLUMINATES THE BATTLE AT THE HEART OF THE HUMAN WORLD
Throughout, this BETTER HUMAN STORY has drawn on the Evolutionary perspective. It has provided some answers to the question: Given what we know about how Evolution works, what are the implications of that understanding for how the human story unfolded?
Excavating a few of those can correct defects in our cultural understandings that come from both
- 1) The traditional belief systems that were formulated an eras before people had the knowledge of the place of human civilization in the history of Life-on-Earth. And
- 2) The secular worldview that, for many in our world, has displaced those more ancient traditions.
I. CORRECTING SOME DEFECT IN OUR TRADITIONAL BELIEF SYSTEMS
To recap briefly what was said earlier about the rise of civilization, and its implications call for a major revision of how we understand the ugliness that’s shown by human history.
For millennia, people looked around at that ugliness of the human world and drew what seemed the logical conclusion: we’re bad to the core.
But the defects in that reasoning are exposed by the relevant implications of this Evolutionary Principle:
Evolution, by consistently choosing Life over Death, creates Order. Order– from the cell to the organism to the ecosystem.
That stress on Order calls attention to the inevitable Disorder implied by Life taking the Fateful Step — unprecedented in kind in the history of Life-on-Earth — onto the path of Civilization. For Civilization is well-defined as “those societies created by a creature that has extricated itself from the niche in which it evolved biologically by inventing its own way of life.”
In other words, as indicated earlier, that Fateful Step entails a step out of the biologically evolved Order.
It can be shown that the resulting Disorder – Anarchy – is of a kind that makes inevitable a selective process that elevates “The Spirit of the Gangster” to a disproportionately dominant role in dictating the Human Story.
All leading to the important conclusion: “The Ugliness We See in Human History is Not Human Nature Writ Large.” And that we are therefore better creatures than our cultural systems have taught us to think ourselves to be.
II. FILLING IN SOME GAPS IN OUR SECULAR WORLDVIEW
In recent times, a large subculture has emerged that sees the world not through the lens of traditional religion but through a secular lens. That secular worldview acknowledges the reality of Evolution. A century and a half after Darwin, however, the work of integrating the profound implications of that very different understanding of cosmic history remains importantly incomplete .
It is not only the matter of Order vs. Disorder, and what that reveals about the dynamic that has driven the directions of civilization’s development in destructive directions. And not only how that dynamic reveals how a Force of Brokenness that operates very much like “Evil” has been an inevitable part of a central drama in the human world since civilization arose.
Another gap the Evolutionary Perspective can help to close in the secular worldview concerns the too-narrow view of both “Reality” and “Truth.”
A major current of the secular worldview – perhaps as a result of some over-commitment to the epistemology of Science. – holds that only what is “objective” is “real.” That current, accordingly, also dismisses those realities that emerge in the realm of a creature’s experience as “merely subjective,” and dismisses judgments of Value as “just matters of opinion.”
The error of that way of understanding “Reality” and that dismissal of the Experiential Realm can be shown by excavating the implications of a second Evolutionary Principle:
For the most part, the components of a creature’s nature are there because they have proved life-serving. Which includes the inborn “experiential tendencies” that evolution has crafted into the creature.
For those experiential tendencies – like a creature’s anatomy — have been crafted into our inborn nature because they have been an essential part of the strategies by which many species have survived to send their DNA into the future.
VALUE AS A VITAL EXPERIENTIAL TENDENCY
We humans are one of a large number of species that evolution has crafted to experience things in terms of “better” and “worse.” That evaluative dimension is something that evolved because it motivated many forms of life — including us — to do what they needed to do to perpetuate their forms of life.
From positive and negative qualities of experience, creatures gain patterns of motivation that drive behaviors that make it more likely that a creature will survive to pass along its DNA into the future.
Value may not be “out there.” (Indeed, were there no creatures whose experience registers in terms of better and worse, there’s no way anything could have Value.)
But Evolution created a dimension of Value in the “in here” — the experiential realm — of various species. Those who were born with the most survival-enhancing innate System of Values have been more successful in having descendants than those that were not.
Evolution created value – an emergent reality – inscribed in the nature, and thus in the experiential realm, of sentient creatures.
Value then is real, important, and life-serving.
(And the Moral Dimension can be built on a foundation of Value thus understood: Fulfillment simply is better than misery, because creatures experience them thus.)
TRANSFORMATIVE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE AS A VITAL INBORN CAPABILITY
Like the Realm of Value, so also is the Spiritual Dimension real, important and life-serving.
That’s another of the important implications of the Evolutionary Perspective that can deepen the secular worldview that, to our detriment, has given the Spiritual Dimension – like the Moral Dimension – short shrift.
How does a scientific, essentially “materialistic” understanding of how Life in general, and human life in particular, establish the reality, the importance, and the life-serving nature of the Spiritual Dimension?
- A substantial portion of the human population, apparently, is capable of having a special kind of experience that they describe as breaking through to a dimension of reality that’s deeper, bigger, more illuminated, in contact with a realm felt to be sacred. And from From such experiences, people can return feeling “spiritually transformed,” and bearing what they regard as “spiritual truths.”
- That it is so widespread means that this capacity must have a place in the human genome.
- These experiences tend to be exceptionally impactful, often changing the trajectory of people’s lives (and being made special use of by whole societies).
- Something so widespread, and so profoundly impactful, wouldn’t be in the human genome if that impact hadn’t proved to enhance the ability of individual and group to pass its DNA along to future generations.
We are entitled to conclude therefore that the dimension of Spiritual Experience must have been, as our species evolved, a source of guidance that, on balance, must have been life-serving.
(The way we are is a reliable indication that those who were different were less successful in getting their genetic design into the future.)
V. How Evolution Supplies Us with Guidance Toward the Good
Neither of those experiential tendencies – the evaluative, the spiritually transformative – yield clear and simple truths. (And neither is immune to the confusions caused by human brokenness.) But both do give general valid guidance.
Both the Moral and the Spiritual Dimensions gain their reality in the Experiential Realm. But they are not “merely subjective.” Rather, both are representations — within our evolved nature — of the world in which our ancestors survived.
The world in which our experiential tendencies evolved, and were adaptive, was not the same as the civilized environment in which we live now. (We didn’t need to limit our appetites for the sweet and the salty, but now the lack of an off-switch undermines our health. The aggressive impulses of a primate with sticks and rocks are not suitable for leaders who could press the nuclear button.)
But at the most fundamental level, the ingredients for human thriving – for individuals and societies – remain substantially the same. “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill Toward Men” remain a good foundation for human well-being and survival.
For all these reasons, the secular worldview needs to be deepened by granting both the Moral and Spiritual Dimensions full recognition as good sources of guidance in the service of life.
(Not only guidance, but also sources of the moral and spiritual passions that inspire people to work to make the human world more whole, and to increase the chances that Life and not Death will prevail in determining whether the experiment that Life-on-Earth has conducted with Civilization will end well or badly.)
In this way, the Evolutionary Perspective illuminates how there arose in the world of the civilization-creating creature both a force that “consistently works to make the human world more broken” and another that consistently works toward wholeness.
- The Disorder that inevitably arises with Civilization generated a Force that acts very much like what has traditionally been called evil.
- And the life-serving nature of our inborn experiential tendencies provides the impetus that fuels a force that might reasonably be called Good.
In all these ways, A BETTER HUMAN STORY might help to clarify our challenges, and to fortify the side of the Good in this ongoing battle over The Fate of Human Civilization. The Fate of Human Civilization – 3 Quarks Daily