Zenith of Civilization - The relevance of Pre-human and Previous human Civilizations
An overview of Stephen Hawking's latest book by OV Hamish Simpson.
I would like to agree with the optimistic conclusion in Stephen Hawking’s book, ‘Brief answers to the Big Questions’. But he, along with most serious thinkers appear to be so inspired by the marvels of science, they forget our mammalian form, and our immediate mundane requirements of physical and emotional sustenance.
There may have been Pre-human civilizations on earth, but they are long buried in the churning magma of earth’s core. Discovery of their existence would be interesting, but not relevant to our present invidious situation.
Study of Previous Human civilizations is far more relevant to the way our present civilization is developing. Excavation of accessible strata and the study of artefacts and texts have already revealed the emergence and decline of at least six Previous Human civilizations. The relevant question is, why did such promising developments end prematurely ?
In each case, achievement of sophistication was not interrupted by natural cosmic calamity. It was, in simplistic terms, the human instincts of self-interest, greed and intransigence which prevented intelligent use of our God-given abilities. Natural compulsion to grow and prosper always developed into competitive exploitation of available recourses. Success of any particular group always grew into thoughtless domination over their perceived environments. Civilizations became dependent on the momentum of growth to supply the means of their continued existence, - until conflict, disease or exhaustion of available recourses expired, causing collapse of their social networks.
Throughout the whole development of early civilizations, scientific innovation, with consequent expansion of population, had been possible because space and recourse were available to exploit. Since the Industrial Revolution, the world’s habitable spaces have been occupied, essential recourses have become scarce, and military power has become too devastating to use. The natural assumption that perpetual growth of humanity is both irreversible and a force for good has become an irrational phenomena. The earth is reaching it’s limits to provide our insatiable appetites, and it is being trashed by the products of our totally irrational megalomania.
Popular assumption that science will provide our expanding needs is simplistic nonsense in terms of the immediate future. Our mammalian form requires space, human-scale community, face-to face social interaction, as well as water, food and shelter, - all of which are diminishing in direct proportion to expansion of population. We are nowhere near ready to replace our emotions and sensibilities with chip-controlled Cyborg mentality. The benefits which science is producing are being negated by sheer weight of numbers and speed of change.
We are, right now, on the cusp of self-destruction. If humanity is to survive, it has to wake-up to the short-term reality of our present critical situation. If that is not addressed, we will, choke, drown, starve or bomb ourselves into premature oblivion.
We act like undisciplined children, careless of the exquisite efficiency of natural phenomena. To reach a point when humanity could become truly civilised, and make sustained use of our vulnerable planet, and eventual exploration and use of the cosmos, requires humility and wisdom, not indiscriminate zombie-like devotion to every new device which science and commerce present.
Evolved intelligence is almost certain to be replicated in various forms elsewhere in the cosmos. We should be thankful that contact with other intelligent life has not yet happened, as our undisciplined, reckless, delinquent behaviour on earth would invite condemnation or worse. Indeed, that could already have occurred. Over two thousand years ago when earth’s population was measured in millions rather than billions, the extraordinary life of Christ intervened. The human race was given the opportunity to learn the lessons of probity, morality, and care of all life which shared our environments. The lessons were profound. It is tragic that the aggressive elements of the human psyche have never submitted to the existence of powers beyond our understanding and control.
To progress from where we are, to the stars, requires our conscious subservience to the ultimate powers and disciplines of creation. We are here by chance and are subject to natural calamity. It is beyond my understanding that human egoism has ignored our obligation to control our excesses. It is an aberration of life itself to have adopted deliberate man-made processes which now exceed the dangers from natural disasters.
From Malthus to the Club of Rome’s book, ‘The Limits to Growth’, the exponential nature of population growth and consequent consumption have been ignored by the movers and shakers of finance and commerce, and the lay population is always too engrossed in day-to-day struggles to exist, to think of the longer-term consequences.
When the growth graph of quantity-against-time approaches vertical, it is not mathematically possible to proceed. Something has to give way. That is where we are.
Previous civilizations have failed, but in the passed there were always new lands available to start again. We have now occupied earth’s habitable environments, and used-up the easily accessible sources of our sustenance. Even if our hot, cold and wet deserts could be occupied, that would only delay the inevitable effects of exponential growth. There is nowhere else to go, and we are not yet able to relieve the pressure by inflicting our excesses elsewhere in the cosmos. Perpetual growth within fixed parameters is not possible.
As the destructive signs of our excesses become more obvious, knee-jerk reactions proliferate. These solutions only add to the destruction of our environments and the stress of frenetic living conditions. They will not succeed because they are based on the symptoms, not the cause of distress. Excessive population is the source of our troubles in every sphere of present life on earth. We have created this dilemma, but ethnic cleansing, genocide and nuclear armament indicate an unwillingness to co-operate in finding realistic humane solutions.
The problem is real and will not go away, no matter how marvellous scientific developments become. Entrenched instincts for growth may prove to be too strong to change. But humanity’s inborn abilities contain the elements of self-discipline, and courage to face-up to difficult circumstances. It is possible to understand our predicament, and to start acting rationally towards sustainability within the fixed parameters of our planet. Without determined attempt to become compatible with our limited environments, potential opportunity to become truly civilized, and eventually to reach the stars, will be snuffed-out, as happened to all previous civilizations on earth.
It would be a pity if all that is left of earth’s evolved intelligence are deposits of human dust, awaiting analysis by some future distant intelligent being from outer space. Your participation in understanding this mathematical and emotional dilemma at a ‘grass-roots’ level in your daily lives could yet change attitudes and actions for the better.
Refer to booklet : -
Beginning or End of Brave New World
ISBN Paper-back 978-1-78623-190-1 / E-book 978-1 78623-224-3.
Available from Amazon Books.