|San José State University|
& Tornado Alley
and Ultimate Reality for Human Beings
Religion has been a constant element of human existence over time and space. While religions may offer considerable social, ethical and philosophical wisdom, their explicit beliefs are quite clearly a bunch of fairy tales. This is true not only for the primitive tribal religions but for the so-called higher religions as well. The believers of the higher religions can recognize this with respect to the primitive religions and with respect to each other but not with respect to their own beliefs. Perfectly rational people accept the most childish notions of virgin births and other such divine miracles. Probably the dearest-to-heart fairy tale of religions is life-after-death.
Many people appalled at the irrationality, even absurdity, of conventional religions have declared themselves atheists. But there is an entity that has most, if not all, the attributes of God. That entity is human culture. There are of course many cultures and it is each one of these cultures that stands as God-like over its members. Yet there are some common elements of all these separate cultures, the most important of which is language. Human beings so proud of their differences from other animals are not that genetically different from chimpanzees. The figure that is often given is that 98 percent of the genes of humans are the same as those of chimpanzees. There have been some attempts to measure the I.Q. of chimpanzees and the figure that was publicized was 95, as compared to an average of 100 for humans. This indicates that there is not very of difference in basic intelligence. What separates us so enormously from chimpanzees is the ability of humans to use language to communicate.
Humans did not always have language. Some linguists have estimated that humans only acquired this ability about 50,000 years ago. If that is the case there was about 30,000 years when the language ability of humans was not all that extensive. But it made all the difference in the world. It is probable that Neanderthals did not have language. This was probably not due to any mental defficiency but instead due to the lack of physical ability to articulate sounds. For an idea of what our species would be without speech and culture consider that the Neanderthals occupied Europe and the Middle East from about 230,000 BCEW to 30,000 BCE. During that entire 200,000 year period the Neanderthals technology was the same. It consisted of a broken rock that could be held in the hand, hand ax.
It is quite possible that chimpanzees and even lower animals have the mental ability to learn to understand speech even though they cannot speak. Nevertheless, without speech it is nearly impossible to preserve the discoveries of individuals.
Language gave humans the power to communicate and coordinate their efforts. It also gave them the power to communicate knowledge and pass knowledge from one generation to the next. Thus was created human culture. But from another perspective one could say that this language/culture complex created us. We became the carriers of culture and culture evolved and ramified using us as its medium.
Culture became omniscient and omnipotent and all the other omni-attributes of God. The one attribute that is in doubt is whether it is self-conscious. The conceptual model which is of significance for dealing with this question is Eugene Marais' notion of a termite colony as a living entity which he propounded in The Soul of the White Ant. The ants are just an organ of the colony.
(To be continued.)
Most everyone has a half dozen extraordinary events or coincidences that occurred to them that seem to be evidence of some mystic force in their lives. However this phenomenon may be no more than statistics and probability at work. Consider all of the thousands and thousands of events that could be considered extraordinary. They all have a low probability. The probability of their not occurring is close to one but necessarily less than one. The probability of none of these events occurring is the product of large number of probabilities all less than one. For the sake of illustration suppose the probability of any one of 100,000 events is 1 out of 10,000. The probability that none of them occuris 0.9999 raised to the 100,000th power. This number is equal to 0.0000454. That is to say the probability of at least one of them occurring is 0.999955. Thus the occurrence of at least one of these extraordinary events is almost certain.
So everyone ends up with a half dozen or so extraordinary events that seem to require some mystic potency for their explanation, but instead it is just a matter of chance. It would be extraordinary if someone did not have any of these remarkable events or coincidents in his or her life.
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