I've been thinking recently about hubris. I don't mean the the petty everyday hubris we experience in our relationships and human contacts. I'm thinking about the hubris we have developed along with our big brains through the millenia of evolution. As we have refined our ability to change our environment, through fire, then agriculture and latterly industry, we seem to have become convinced that whatever we can imagine we have the right to do. So convinced are we that our ostensibly massive human intellect will solve all problems, even the ones we ourselves create, that we have completely lost touch with the intelligence that precedes and informs our own. We have forgotten the innate intelligence of nature.
This form of hubris is particularly dangerous in it's manifestation in reductionist western culture and value systems. It has led to what university of Texas professor Robert Jensen has called "the Delusion Revolution".
"It takes the hubris of folks such as biologist Richard Dawkins, who once wrote that “our brains … are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences.” Such a statement is a reminder that human egos are typically larger than brains, which emphasizes the dramatic need for a drastic humility. I read that essay by Dawkins after hearing the sentence quoted by Wes Jackson, an important contemporary scientist and philosopher working at The Land Institute. Jackson’s work has most helped me recognize an obvious and important truth that is too often ignored: For all our cleverness, we human beings are far more ignorant than knowledgeable. Human accomplishments -- skyscrapers, the internet, the mapping of the human genome -- seduce us into believing the illusion that we can control a world that is complex beyond our ability to understand. Jackson suggests that we would be wise to recognize this and commit to “an ignorance-based worldview” that would anchor us in the intellectual humility we will need if we are to survive the often toxic effects of our own cleverness."
I'm not quite as hard on professor Dawkins as Jensen who believes Dawkins should be denounced for such views. I do however agree completely with Wes Jackson's assertion that we are tinkering with the systems of life we do not have the capacity to understand. Dawkins writes and speaks eloquently of the ability of evolution to bring into being the unimaginable complexities of this world while at the same time denouncing creator myths that deny evolution as scientific fact. I believe in the fact of evolution but am not willing to deny people faith in a creator, I don't see them as mutually exclusive. Indeed, the hubris I decry is even worse when compared to the hand of god. How can someone who believes in god the creator believes that it is OK to trash his/her creation.
The complexities of the natural world are the brain of the planet. As we seem intent on doing to our own brains, with toxic chemicals in our food, alcohol, drugs, pharmaceuticals, and polluted water and air, so we are doing to the planetary brain.
Rather than trust to the intelligence of evolution, or god, in our hubris we are killing it.