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.
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.
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?”