Thursday, 7 April 2011

Is humanity an adult species?

Steve Zara is a prolific blogger and regular contributor to the Richard forums, and yesterday he blogged about how atheists might change strategy to win arguments with theologians.  Its a good read and can be found at Steve's Posterous.  That got me thinking, particularly about whether humanity could be considered to be an adult race now.

"We talk about how science and materialism reveal to us our true freedoms and our true responsibilities - we may be an orphan species, with no heavenly parent, but we are also an adult species, able to live free of the need for commandments and punishment."

So are we adult enough I wonder?

My mind goes first to Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (the movie and Arthur C Clarke's book which I read six times as a teenager, understanding a little more each time).  If my understanding of it is correct, at the end the symbolism suggests that humanity is rather like a celestial infant, just embarking on out first exploration of the universe.

Christians of course are all exhorted to think as children think.  The message of the new testament seems clear on that.  One might be tempted to say that there is little harm in it.  (More on that tomorrow.)

Then my mind moves onto the ways that our nations go to war over arguments that could sometimes be described as petty and adolescent.  The same applies in family arguments.  My darling (bright and intelligent)  teenage daughter has just gone off 'in a strop' over something trivial - yet again, my fault as usual.  But her behaviour is little different from that of many mature human adults.

Trying to think of examples of true 'adulthood' is a little harder.  Politicians? No  Business people?  No.  Bankers?  No.  Priests?  Almost (sometimes).  Philosophers?  Maybe yes, although I am thinking of free-thinking philosophers such as Grayling,  Dennett and Russell rather than those who are less accessible to the general public.

The best hope for an adult outlook in our species almost certainly comes from the skeptical atheistic community.  We are still in the minority compared with the religious but I think there are tell-tale signs that humanity is growing up at last.

No comments: