|If only this goodness could grow with us|
Yuval Noah Harari’s celebrated book, Sapiens, ends with a pregnant question: “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?” We, human beings, are those dissatisfied and irresponsible gods. We evolved a long way from our ancient simian ancestor. We became gods, so to say. We are able to transmute nature’s creations.
Harari gives the example of the giraffe. The long neck of the giraffe was a product of evolution by natural selection. “Nobody, certainly not the giraffes, said, ‘A long neck would enable giraffes to munch leaves off the treetops. Let’s extend it.’” But today a scientist can do such intelligent designing.
Twenty years ago, Eduardo Kac created a fluorescent green rabbit in the laboratory with the help of science. A gene from a green fluorescent jellyfish was implanted in an ordinary white rabbit embryo and the outcome was the green fluorescent rabbit which was named Alba.
Harari calls man “the animal that became god”. A dangerous god nonetheless.
Decades ago Arthur Koestler pointed out the terrible anomaly about human evolution. When our simian ancestor descended from the tree and started walking on two legs, a revolution began in evolution. It was the birth of a creature that would evolve into the most deadly and pernicious animal on earth: man.
What went wrong in that evolution?
The brain evolved but the heart did not. That is Koestler’s conclusion. Our brain evolved and continues to evolve. So we are able to create better and better technology. We can explore the stars lying billions of kilometres away in the space. We know all about the little world lying within a microscopic atom. We can even create new species of animals. We are gods of sorts.
Yet our hearts remain as primitive as our savage ancestor. Our hearts haven’t evolved. They still carry the lust and greed and jealousy and aggression of that savage.
Many people succeed in keeping the inner savage under control with the help of religion, literature, art, music, etc. A lot more refinement is required, however. A lot, lot more.
Our hearts need to evolve. But nobody out there is going to say, “Some refinement of the heart will make the human beings much better creatures. So let’s do that.” No, there’s no one anywhere there in the infinite spaces going to work any such miracle. We have to do it ourselves.
Science is capable of doing such things. But there are obvious risks. We are reminded of all the Frankensteins of science fiction. We can create a green fluorescent rabbit for the fun of it. But tampering with the human heart is a different matter.
But we can choose to work on our own hearts. We can mellow the bitterness, the despair, and all ill feelings. We can work on our own hearts. That is totally up to us. Therein lies our salvation too.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 353: "The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility." Vaclav Havel said. Your reflection? #BetterLife