Unbeknownst to me I have been exploring the outer reaches of human advancement first proposed by Winwood Reade in his mid-Victorian era book The Martyrdom of Man, (1872)(Books Google full view of text). He was what was known in the late Victorian era as a free-thinker. He published that book only thirteen years after Charles Darwin’s, The Origin of Species and Reade based some of his ideas on Darwin’s theory. He would now be identified with the pejorative term Social-Darwinist. Various people and movements working under those general principles went far astray in their intellectual supporting of the practice of ethnic cleansing. That unfortunate human quality has existed since, even before, the beginning of humanity and has probably destroyed even more cultures than outright wars. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen exposes this quality as humanity’s dirtly little mega-secret in his book, Worse Than War Genocide, Eliminationism and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity.
There is really no denying that within a species those members who survive are the progenitors of the next generation and that includes the human species. By the same logic those nations or ideologies which survive are those which give rise to the future ones. This same sentiment was expressed just last week by the famous economist Richard Thaler here in Berkeley as, “Science advances one funeral at a time.” The inherent problem with this philosophy is that it is emotionally very cold, in that it supports the healthy and vigorous within a community and lets its permanently sickly and unproductive members perish. In a natural world, outside of human interference, the sick and lame would be picked off preferentially by their predators. But, within modern humanity, which at the moment is astonishingly successful, and has no predators, we have enough excess productivity to support even brain dead humans. It is now even possible for people who have been dead for years to have children — by the use of frozen sperm and eggs. If used wisely this could actually be beneficial but there are easily found ways this technology can be abused.
Reade’s philosophy may have been intellectually honest, at least that was his stated attempt, but it was hostile to individual well being even individual survival. His idea was to improve the quality of humanity and to help it grow in achievement toward some undefinable and at the moment unknowable perfection. He says, p. 522 “truth is only a means toward an end—the welfare of the human race.” The technical advancement he sought in 1872 was, p. 513 a motive force which will take the place of steam: the invention of aerial locomotion; and the manufacture of food. These things were suggested long before they came into existence and with our present technology food is practically manufactured by farming equipment with little human intervention. Only three percent of Americans are farmers. He clearly was a clear headed futurist.
The painful part of this book is what Reade probably valued most and that was his method for destroying religion. He presents many arguments for how it is the corrupt and selfish motives of people which bargains with an unknown deity for a big pay off in the afterlife They accomplish this with a sniveling dishonest behavior in this one. The personal dishonesty of that type of behavior destroys individuals honest relationship with the world about them and the people with whom they interact. Reade admits that in the past religion has helped people grow from savagery but he asserts that now it is time to abandon untested pre-scientific ideas of standard Christianity and adopt a more honest set of reality based behaviors. He says, “Supernatural Christianity is false. God-worship is idolatry. Prayer is useless. The soul is not immortal. There are no rewards and there are no punishments in a future state.” p. 522. If that statement bothers you, even a little, you won’t like this book.
What I have been proposing, in this blog in various ways for almost three years, is a way to have a better relationship with the world around us without directly condemning the old religions or anything else. It really doesn’t matter so much where we came from but it does matter where we are going. The ideas which were in the blog called, A religion for attaining more mature people, is designed as a training program for emotional growth. If people can have a clear relationship with their own inner self they will be able to understand the world around them better and be more helpful to their community. This process will give people a way to grow out of a dependency on religions founded on poorly understood natural reality.