Science tells the New Story. It is a story of creative nested emergence. Emergence is not magic. Emergence is what little minds like ours observe when complex networks of interactions that are beyond our ability to map. It is a matter of sheer quantity. We can only picture simple stories. If it takes more than a few dozen interactions in order for a pattern or meaning to emerge we can't see how the interactions lead to the pattern. In the universe, the interactions that form its story number in the thousands and millions and billions and numbers we can't easily name. So our greatest minds struggle to make stories out of them but the stories are mere ghosts of the true story. Before this onslaught of complexity most humans retreat back to the old story.
The old story is one in which humanity was the star. This was so because humanity made up the story. These old stories always end with "and finally humanity." In our vanity we believed that humanity was the end product of whatever creation story we were telling. Copernicus should have changed all that. From Copernicus on, science has hammered home the same point. The story of the universe is not about you. You are not the centre of the story. Copernicus said, "The universe is not centered around our home." Newton said, the heavens are not a special place set aside for us to rise to after we die, gravity works there just like here. Darwin said, "The origin of the human species was not special." Hubble said, "the universe is huge beyond even Copernicus' imaginings and it began as an explosion of terrible heat and energy not as a loving attempt to create a nice quiet place to put humanity." NEAR warns us that this nice cozy place could be turned into hell in an instant by a random rock.
Yet with every revelation of science, even scientists have clung to a version of the story that places humanity in a special spot. In Quantum mechanics they seek to make us the creators of the universe by describing the "observer" as the one who creates reality. They tell Darwin's story as if it ends with us. They still say "... and finally humanity appeared ... " as if evolution, despite its random nature, was striving to create us and, now that it has, can enjoy its Sabbath.
So stop listening to your vanity. The story, the New Story, the Great Story, is not about you. It isn't about the rise of consciousness. It does not presage the evolution of a higher consciousness in which we will all be united. It is the story of Life of which we are but a small part. The Oak Tree, the Giant Cactus, the Mangrove, these are the current stars of the thin thread of the Great Story which is struggling to take place here on Gaia's little world. The greatest product of evolution is the ability to photosynthesize and to build great three dimensional structures for the rest of Life to interact in. It is not our ability to think and to build great sterile three dimensional structures from which we exclude almost all other Life which is a great product of evolution.
Does this mean that the best humanity can do is to try to preserve as much of Gaia as we can until we go extinct and Gaia can begin to recover from our evil presence. This is another version of the New Story that is told. These days, there is an epidemic of this depressing post-apocalyptic story appearing in science fiction and zombie fiction. It is a story that comes from humanity's guilt about the wrong path we seem to have taken and our fear of our own capability to commit horrifying atrocities. It is as false a story as the story that we built on vanity.
So mindfully let go of your fear and your guilt. The story that will carry you forward to a future of participation in the creatively nested emergence of this beautiful universe is one that talks about human creativity. We are a creative species. In a few short millennia we have invented so many new things. Some of these things have been used to create beauty; others, unfortunately, have been used to destroy it. I propose that if we learn to work in tune with Gaia's desires then we can invent things that create beauty rather than destroy it.
What are Gaia's desires? If we look back through evolutionary history we can see her desires and they may surprise you. Soon after Gaia began she was restricted to the sea as a collection of singular cells. For 4 billion years she struggled to find herself and then suddenly 600 million years ago she discovered multiceluarity. Suddenly her diversity was going through a period of exponential growth. Since then she has continued to increase her diversity. Some of her creatures learned to build reefs and these complex surfaces folded back and forth through a three dimensional matrix of water created so many new opportunities for interactions that her diversity increased further.
From this part of her story, you can see that she desires diversity. Time and time again, she has been beset by disasters and been set back in her journey of increasing diversity. Asteroid and comets have impacted her home, Terra. Terra has erupted super volcanoes. Sol has let her freeze in periods of reduced fusion. Yet from every disaster she has emerged in a radiation of increasing diversity. If we are a disaster as the second false story, the apocalyptic one, tries to convince us, then Gaia will be spurred to even greater diversity by the extinction that we are perpetrating.
From this second part of the story, we can learn that Gaia is an optimist and is always ready to get back up and dust herself off when she falls. IN fact, falling down only increases her determination. She doesn't give up and, as participants in her story, we must learn to do the same. If we have travelled the wrong path for some time, then we must bushwhack our way back to the right path, not lie down and give up or turn back in defeat.
Only a couple of short periods after the Cambrian explosion, Gaia began her conquest of land. Gaia is an expansionist. By the Silurian or Devonian, while our ancestors were still experimenting with various fish shapes, her plants were building the first forests in wet lands. By the Carboniferous, before our amphibious ancestors strode onto land, her forests were growing tall and spreading out from warm wet lands into slightly drier and colder places. By the Triassic, while our reptilian ancestors were hiding from the first dinosaurs, her conifers were charging up the sides of mountains and spreading toward the poles. By the Cretaceous, her flowering trees were co-evolving with diverse species of insect, bird and mammal to create complex ecosystems and even greater diversity. By the Paleogene her grasses were spreading across scrublands to create rich new ecosystems covered in herding animals. And by the Neogene, cactuses were spreading photosynthetic structure building into hot deserts.
For this third part of the story, we can learn that Gaia is expansionist. She wants to spread Life to new environments. She wants to build three dimensional structures in which Life can multiply and diversify where before there was only barren land. She still has some places to go on Earth. She can build forests on glaciers and mountain tops and in the hottest deserts. She can build ever taller forests. To do this she may need our help. There may be adaptations that will never evolve naturally. It may only be human intervention that can make the difference.
But this last bit is a false story. Copernicus taught us that humanity is not special and separate from nature. We are not the end product or half of a dualism. Wilderness and Civilization are not two separate things into which all can be classed. We are part of Gaia. We are like cells in her body. And so if we "help" Gaia, it will merely be our ecological contribution to her. If we develop genetic engineering in order to create new trees which can grow on mountain tops, on glaciers or floating on the oceans then we will not be intervening in nature; we will be contributing to Gaia's diversity in the same way the flowering trees of the Cretaceous did. We will be using our unique attribute, our intelligence, to contribute to the body of all Life of which we are a part.
Likewise, if we develop trees which can grow on barren, frozen, vacuum exposed worlds like Ceres or Vesta, then we will have contributed to Gaia's expansionist desires in the unique and wondrous way that only we can. Then if we go extinct, it will not be a sad atrocious apocalypse; it will simply be a species that has had its run, passing into the past while enabling a glorious future.
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