Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Value of the "Merely Human"

The problem with science -and what we must now try to counteract- is its disregard for the human mind, for experience, feeling and human categories. Although the theories of quantum mechanics do replace consciousness (or at least the conscious observer) to an important role in the cosmological scheme, we are still left with a somewhat etiolated appreciation of subjectivity. Value, morality, purpose - these things are still beheld as not existing in relation to the "most important" aspect of reality: the material. These things are given a cursory glance as evolutionarily-developed traits selected for their utility, at best something to be enjoyed during our time here, but ultimately not being intrinsically relevant to the world.

The value of religon in this sphere is that it sacralises precisely these "merely human" elements - these qualities are essential not only to human society, but are what the structure of the cosmos depends on. Most religions teach that value is determined outside of human thought, and therefore is a pre-existing structure which we must do our best to abide by - it, in fact, is why we are here. It is the measure by which we are judged. It cannot simply be abnegated by appeal to objectivity.

This centralising of the "uniquely human" is something we must cultivate. Not in the sense of placing humanity (as was implicit at one time) as the rulers of the cosmos, as the mark by which everything else is judged, but by accepting that the powers we have, which we have acquired (or indeed, which are handed on a plate to self-conscious,socially-organising beings such as humans), come with a responsibility to use them wisely, according to the traditions of morality and value which have been passed down to us.