When you look at the front page of the newspapers or turn on the TV news to learn the headlines, how do you feel? Do you feel good? Do you feel secure?
Do you think that we, humanity, “have it made”? I don’t think so…
And yet, in a sense, we are a “success story”. Fifty thousand years ago our numbers stood below two thousand. We were on the brink of extinction. Today the human population exceeds seven billion and is projected to reach nine billion by 2040. What is more, unlike any other species on earth, we have the ability to survive natural disasters that, over history, have wreaked havoc on other species. The K-T extinction event is a case in point.
The K-T extinction event happened 68 million years ago and was the result of an asteroid collision that struck just off the Yucatan peninsula, triggering a tsunami estimated at over 1000 feet high, followed by a “dust winter” that eliminated about half of all animal species, including the dinosaurs. The asteroid that struck is estimated to have been about 10 kilometers wide.
With our technology today we could detect a K-T type collision early enough to do something about it – even to divert it so that it does not impact Earth at all. At the least we would be able to move populations to “safe” regions and guarantee that a large fraction of the world’s human population would survive.
But our future is not assured by our technology. Nor will our future be assured by “leaving it to evolution”. We are fast approaching the moment of truth where we will be made painfully aware that we are entering the “voluntary survival” age. In the voluntary survival age we, and only we, will determine our future. In the worst case we will quickly make ourselves extinct – in the best case we will find it in us to “grow up” to become “future man”. In between these extremes we will bring about massive population declines (and standard of living declines) as we self-destruct “by installments”.
Evolution will not stop global warming. Evolution will not stop wars and terrorism as hatred flares across the artificial boundaries that divide us into alienated “tribes”. Evolution will do nothing to stop the erosion of goodwill and the disturbing growth in crimes of anger and nihilism (with road rage and repeats of the Columbine massacre scenario as examples). As our numbers grow it seems that our mental health and our “humanity” declines.
As a side effect of our selfish, apathetic ways our entire planet is suffering. Not only are we failing future generations of our species, we are failing our planet.
At least one group of activists is doing something about the man-brought problems. The movement goes by the acronym VHEMT (pronounced “vehement”), standing for Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. VHEMT calls for the voluntary self-extinction of the human species. It was founded in 1991 in Portland, Oregon, by Les U. Knight (clearly a “pen name”). Concluding that there is no hope for humanity, VHEMT urges its members not to have children. In time, “painlessly”, the human blight on Earth will be removed and hope will return for the rest of life on our planet.
There is another way – but it will not be easy. That is to take the steps to become future man.
We think of ourselves today, pridefully, as an “intelligent species” but by the measure of evolution we were “born yesterday”, a scant 50,000 years ago. Metaphorically speaking we are toddlers (still in our diapers) taking our first steps away from our selfish “survival of the fittest” beginnings. Our vaunted intelligence is primitive. Even more importantly, we have yet to develop our spirituality past the infant stage. What do I mean by spirituality? I like the Wikipedia definition that goes “Spiritual matters are those involving humankind’s ultimate nature not merely as material biological organisms but as beings with a unique relationship to that which is beyond both time and material existence.” Einstein, although not a conventionally religious man, was exhibiting mature spirituality, in that sense, when he said –
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954)
As Einstein foresaw over 50 years ago, we have a lot of growing up to do – or else…