Science and Human Purpose


In my last post, I talked about why it makes sense for humanity to adopt a future oriented attitude, and how this opens up the opportunity to engage with the future and help shape our own destiny. This opens up a messier and more significant question. If humanity can be viewed as a process of becoming, and if we play a part in the making of our own future, what kind of future might we wish for ourselves? How shall we humans live in this world?

My earlier posts might make it seem like I was focused on the human future as a scientifc and technological enterprise. But, I’m really more interested in how the progress of science opens up possibilities for human existence. As they promise to continue to dramatically expand both our understanding and our capability, the implications of science and technology have to be an important part of any reflections on humanity in this world.

What I think science represents, at its best, is the process of humans struggling to wring truth from the universe. Its power comes from its being an objective rational process, based on evidence and always subject to review and refinement. In its unfolding, science illuminates the possibility of collective human intelligence emerged into the world.

Yet, even with all of the incredible accomplishments of modern science from particle physics to genetic engineering, should the human future be considered strictly as a technological venture wholly focused on our increasing ability to manipulate both matter and life itself? Should human purpose be reduced to accumulating greater scientific knowledge & technical capability?

Science and technology shouldn’t be seen as purely ends in themselves. Science should be seen as knowledge gained & available and technology as a toolkit enabling us to act more effectively. For any orgainism capable of learning, the point of knowledge is to allow it to flourish in its environment, to acheive its purposes.

The great human knowledge project of which science is a core part is the learning of the human social mind, the assemblage of collective human intelligence. It is a resource available to us in our efforts to achieve the greater purposes of humanity.

In that line of thought, the question becomes: “What might be the purpose(s) of humans in this world, this universe?” How does it make sense to even begin to approach this question? My point here isn’t to answer this, but to ask it, to open up the question, to toss it out into the thoughtworld. I do think we’ve arrived at the point in our human unfolding where we need to start considering the question.

Actually, I don’t think there is any ultimate answer to the question of human purpose. I think that it is something that arises out of the ongoing human dialogue about being human. To make any sense, to be of any value, it must itself be an unfolding, an evolving creative formulation of the human being in cosmos.







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