Once again we have attempted to ascertain where we are directed by an analysis of the facts, and once again we are brought to the same conclusion. Nothing other than the universe’s inaugural physics has been needed to bring into existence everything that lies about us. It has taken more than a dozen billion years to produce us. We cannot predict what billions of years more will bring, but we can predict that life’s evolution will continue for as long as the universe has energy sources to exploit. And we can predict that life will continue its trend toward greater intelligence, because we can foresee that the energy it needs to survive will become progressively harder to procure. Thus, the universe’s initiating conditions alone seem to demand the eventual formation of an entity possessing what we would today call omnipotent abilities.
Barrow and Tipler reach the same conclusion. In The Anthropic Cosmological Principle they do their best to prove that life must continue to expand until it can regulate everything within every universe that exists. I do not think that we can categorically state that such a life form must evolve, but I do think that its eventual appearance is highly likely. This is why I suggest making this consequence the “purpose” we are seeking. An artifice, certainly, but a necessary one, in the absence of any more-irrefutable purpose. A “surrogate purpose” if you like, but one that is more than adequate for, as we will see, it offers a profound morality-guiding potential.
Feinberg, in The Prometheus Project, suggests that we deliberately choose the goal of creating a universal consciousness, then work toward its realization. It is preferable and more realistic, I think, to let life develop its own way to its ultimate “goal.” All we need do, to survive and grow, is to support, rather than hinder, life’s progress. Life’s “goal” may not be to possess god-like abilities. But it seems likely that evolution’s trend toward intelligence will bring such a being (or, at least, such a capability) into existence. I’m simply proposing that we consider this eventuality, think about adopting it as a surrogate “meta-purpose,” and—if we think it useful to do so—use it to guide certain aspects of our global decision making. For just as long as it suits our needs. If it turns out later, when we know more, that life’s evolution is trending toward some other outcome, then that will be the time to re-evaluate our choice of guiding “purpose.”
Similar recommendations have been made by others, but perhaps none are as appropriate to the theme of this book as one made by Ursula Goodenough. She saw the need to have and be guided by a planetary ethic and proposed “The Epic of Evolution.” Yes, indeed. This is exactly what we need.
How we might go about developing such an ethic and what it might entail are topics that will be discussed in Part Four.
- And toward complexity, but its complexity will be that of the mind rather than that of the body. Humans are developing technology that will transform society, and this technology is becoming indispensable. Today we have instant messaging between places anywhere in the world. Tomorrow we will have the ability (via nanotechnology, and perhaps otherwise) to manipulate individual atoms and molecules. This will have immense consequences, affecting everything from genetics to space exploration. The tools and devices of the future will have to be created, used and maintained by minds well-versed in complex matters, a situation likely to create the conditions where mental complexity confers greater opportunities to survive and procreate.
Incorporating electronic circuits into the brain (already being performed to confer hearing and sight, with much more likely to take place within the next decade) will create a different, but possibly equally viable, kind of mental complexity.
- Barrow and Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, 675 and 677.
- Gerald Feinberg, The Prometheus Project: Mankind’s search for long-range goals (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1969), 147.
- Ursula Goodenough, The Sacred Depths of Nature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), xv and 174.