What is our place in the scheme of things as individuals, as societies, as humans and as life forms? As a life form we began coming into existence about the time the Earth cooled to the boiling point of water. From that time there has been the natural selection process, first clearly described by Alfred Russel Wallace and popularized by Charles Darwin, that brought us to where we are. When measured in terms of the total universe we are very insignificant in time, space, power, and matter, but we are significant in that we have grown into consciousness of those things and much more besides.
We how have some understanding of the way the materials of the universe interact, and although this is significant, it isn’t unique because extraterrestrial life is common in the Universe. Self consciousness certainly isn’t as common as life, because it requires a considerable development of more basic forms of life before it can manifest, but there are so very many opportunities for this to happen that it surely exists elsewhere. For those who deny others’ existence, it becomes necessary to prove the Earth has something about it which is absolutely and exclusively unique. Since we are not alone on the Universe, do we have any responsibilities to those other conscious beings, with whom we will probably never have any contact?
A second level of this question arises as to our responsibilities toward the other living creatures that inhabit our planet. Should we consider non-sentient creatures’ well being, or should we just consider them as placed here by God for our use, to kill and eat, or make shoes of, or put into zoos for our entertainment. Can this same treatment be extended to humanity as a whole or to other individuals or even to our own bodies? We must be seeking a new way forward along humanity’s questing path. and that must be to maximize the life force of all humanity and not just one’s personal self. Adam Smith wrote that this was best accomplished by each individual seeking their own maximum advantage. Perhaps back in 1776 that was true, but since 1945+ we have weapons of extermination, WOEs, and at some point some crazy individual will have the power to exploit those weapons. So in that case I would insist that Smith’s invisible hand be held back from the Doomsday button.
It would seem our human responsibility to the universe, as well as ourselves, is to maximize our conscious potential, and to do that requires a functioning society lasting for a very long time. By a long time I mean thousands and hopefully millions of years. The way forward towards that maximally ambitious goal for humanity is to create human laws which promote humanity’s health. That will come at what some will consider an imposition upon their personal behavior, but it should be no more of an imposition than being required to obey an occasional traffic light. The goal is to maximize humanity’s development by maximizing the sum of development of individuals.