What Are Our Responsibilities as Co-creators of the Earth?

I have frequently made the argument that we are co-creators of the Earth.  In the past, I have largely made this argument to justify Mormon environmentalism.  But being co-creators could mean so much more.  It could also mean enhancing the intellectual capacity of our fellow higher-level animals.

If I Only Had a Brain!

If I Only Had a Brain!

Science-fiction writer David Brin argues that the intellectual evolutionary path of all mammals, except humans, has plateaued.  Mother Nature and/or God have been generous, but only up to a point.  There is a glass ceiling.

The lesson from all this is to be even more amazed that humanity pushed through this glass ceiling.  Smashed through it, actually, by orders of magnitude!  Which then demands of us not to feel overweening pride, but a sense of duty and obligation.  To use our titanic brains to benefit the planet, not just ourselves.

For Mormons and other Christians, humans breaking through the glass ceiling is the willful act of a benevolent God.  But for Brin (a non-Mormon) the act of smashing through the glass ceiling carries with it responsibilities:

If getting past the barrier [glass ceiling] is rare (it’s only happened with the human species), then don’t we owe it to our neighbors and cousins to turn around and offer a helping hand?

For example, make the great apes more sapient and/or sentient.  In the past, such a thought would have been unthinkable.  But modern science and technology will eventually make this gesture possible.  We will be able to uplift sea lions et al. to sapient or sentient.  We’ll be able to help them through the existing glass ceiling.  We will have the ability to mess with Darwin’s evolutionary trajectory.

If I Only Had a "Bigger" Brain!

If I Only Had a “Bigger” Brain!

Questions remain.  Is this a good idea?  What are the ethical arguments against uplifting?  Should we be interfering with Mother Nature’s or God’s plan?  But would we be interfering with God’s plan, or would we be carrying it out?

To the human arrogance of playing God argument, Brin replies:  “How about typical ‘human generosity?’  Lending a hand to others across nature’s chasm, so they might then join us building starships?”

This entry was posted in Creation, Environment, great apes, mormonism, other animals, Religion, Science, Technology, transhumanism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What Are Our Responsibilities as Co-creators of the Earth?

  1. dor deasy says:

    Who is to say that others with whom we share the planet want to be “uplifted”? The word for assuming without evidence that others want what I want (or value what I value, or think what I think) is arrogance. Mormonism, conversely, values humility.
    Animals have a unique place in the global structure. To endow them with human attributes is to alter, and possibly diminish, their inherent species-hood. To assume intellectual capacity is the higher state steps away from co-creation. It disrespects that other species have highly refined intelligences aside from intellect. You, Roger, saw this with the Great Apes in Uganda. Did they not know peace better than the poachers who prey upon them?
    With humans, we recognize that technology changes our relationship to non-altered humanity. We use terms like “transhuman” or “post-human” to describe the intervention of technology as a way to change our biological limits, a way of engaging in a difference-making endeavor. As this moves from “could we?” to “should we?” to “when?” we are challenged with how to think about these differences in ways that do not imply a better than/less than continuum.
    To assume that altering non-human beings with whom we share the planet necessarily improves them is to invite a dangerous unintended consequence of assuming that unaltered humans are somehow defective. Co-creation is perhaps more about empathy and respect for others’ inherent value than it is about ability.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      While I generally agree with you, “uplifting,” if it proves to be technically feasible, will probably occur anyway. The US and western Europe can outlaw it, but some other country like Singapore or Russia will invite the “uplifting” scientists in. So I think we need to deal with the real possibility that enhancing animals will occur (but not in my lifetime, but maybe yours). Think: “Planet of the Apes.” Just like we also need to come to grips with the idea that we will probably be resurrecting “extinct” species. Think: “Jurassic Park.” But if there is not enough economic incentive, maybe the research will go nowhere. But I think that is a lost hope.

      You are right; unintended consequences should be a considerable concern. We need to think long and hard about messing with Mother Nature (or playing God). Although we are doing that now with our habitat loss, pollution, carbon loading, etc.

      You are also right about gorillas and orangutans. These herbivores are incredible animals and we don’t need to mess with them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s