I would say that purpose is not imposed from the outside; it is generated from the inside. We make our purpose. And there is a kind of dereliction of duty of us humans when we say that the purpose is to be imposed on the outside or found in some book written thousands of years ago. We live in a very different world than we lived in thousands of years ago. There is no question that we have many obligations to guarantee our purposes, one of which is to survive. And that we have to work out for ourselves.
Democritus was an atomist. You will not exceed me in your admiration for Democritus. And were the vision of Democritus to have been adopted by Western civilization, instead of being cast aside for the pale views of Plato and Aristotle, we would be vastly further ahead today, in my personal view.
I think if we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we come from, we will have failed.
Whatever the causes that divide us, as I said before, it is clear that the Earth will be here a thousand or a million years from now. The question, the key question, the central question—in a certain sense the only question—is, will we?
It is not the Earth that is at stake, it is not life on Earth that’s at stake, it is merely us and all we stand for that is at stake.
There are lots of charismatic people who have all sorts of mutually exclusive conversion experiences. They can’t all be right. Some of them have to be wrong. Many of them have to be wrong. It’s even possible that all of them are wrong. We cannot depend entirely on what people say. We have to look at what the evidence is.
We are the products of a unique evolutionary sequence. Unique doesn’t mean better; it just means unique.
…on this planet it is not apparent that there are beings more intelligent than humans, although a case can be made for dolphins and whales, and in fact if humans succeed in destroying themselves with nuclear weapons, a case could be made that all the other animals are smarter than humans.
And yet, and yet, if we are merely matter intricately assembled, is this really demeaning? If there’s nothing in here but atoms, does that make us less or does that make atoms more?
That’s a vivid image. It’s also a very useful image, because, of course, the Boeing 747 did not spring full-blown into the world of aviation; it is the end product of a long evolutionary sequence, which, as you know, goes back to the DC-3 and so on until you get to the Wright biplane. Now, the Wright biplane does look as if it were spontaneously assembled by a whirlwind in a junkyard.