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Are we gods in our own right?
A friend of mind and I have had a discussion on this weird question. And if you’re thinking “BLASPHAMY!!” then rest assured, both my friend and I believe in God. This was simply a philosophical exploration on how far we’ve come as human beings.
This question was first brought up by the friend I mentioned earlier while we were recording our amateur podcast (Pointlessly Interesting Talks). He struggled to voice the question at first and tried hard to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t be too offensive but eventually, he just went ahead and said “Are we gods in our own right?” At first I was confused; what kind of question is this?! But then he went on and explained himself.
He said that humanity has come very far in the short time that we lived in our Earth. Human innovation reached a level where we can even alter DNA!
An everyday example of this is corn. Corn is a manmade grain; it started out as a grass called Teosinte and through artificial selection (don’t ask me how it’s done) eventually what we know as corn was developed. It is not just corn that had been through this however, many (if not all) modern fruits and vegetables are artificially altered in one way or the other.
An extreme example of DNA alteration is what’s known as designer babies (yes, your read that right!). Designer babies are a concept that has been around at least since the year 2000 (when the first designer baby was born) but most people wouldn’t have heard of the “designer baby” concept. My friend and I only heard the term “designer baby” around a year ago and that was because we were looking for interesting things to talk about and just happened upon this.
Designer babies are basically made through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The fertilisation process happens out-with the mother’s/surrogate’s body and the doctor can select particular genes that would create the best result for the criteria set beforehand by the parents. The parents could ask for a girl specifically, or a baby with blue eyes, or a “saviour sibling” where the embryo is selected in the likely chance that the baby produced can be a match for transplant of organs etc. to a critically ill child the parents may have. You can imagine that there are many ethical implications of “saviour sibling” and maybe you would like to explore it further, unfortunately, it is not the topic of conversation in this article.
Another point he brought up was that we humans had no right to reach the heights we did here on earth; against all odds, be it naturals disasters, natural predators, or even ourselves, we continued surviving.
Surviving wasn’t enough for us. We wanted to excel and rule the earth, so what did we do? We used the thing that differentiates us from other animals; our intelligence.
In a documentary series called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey presented by the renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Tyson mentions how humanity domesticated animals in order to survive. Animals like the wolf were domesticated and some eventually tuned to what we call dogs now. In this respect, humanity has finally stopped being—as my friend says—the chameleon of the animal world (aside from the actual chameleon) to being the animal that others adapt around in order to survive.
Wolves recognised that, because of weapons and other tools, it was getting harder to hunt humans for food. One of the “tools” humans used to fend off attacks was to give them food other than themselves. Then wolves recognised that in order to get food, they must get close to humans and from then on, the relationship developed to the point where dogs are now human’s “best friend.”
Now my friend has a point; we humans have come to the point where we’re technically at the top of the food chain (above lions, tigers, sharks and so forth of the world’s deadliest animals) when we had no right to be.
I can’t argue against humanity’s ability to adapt and overcome obstacles, we are amazing in that regard, but… do we really possess the ability to call ourselves gods?
Humanity lives in the already available universe. The universe was there long before us; in fact, in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Dr. Tyson presented the “Cosmic calendar” which is a visualisation of the universe’s 13.8 billion-year life in scale of a single calendar year. This idea was first created by Carl Sagan (another renowned Astrophysicist).
In this cosmic calendar, we humans only appeared in the last second of the last day of that year; that tells you that we are mere specs in the history of the universe as a whole.
Humans have achieved many things in this “spec-of-dust” length of time we were alive, but does that really amount to anything when it comes to the creation of the universe? Billions upon billions of stars exist in our own Milky Way Galaxy, let alone the ever expanding universe.
Our existence is bound by the laws of the place we live in. We cannot—and will not—create something out of nothing; everything is bound by scientific laws that we are still discovering.
If a natural disaster occurred, what can we do against it? Maybe there are some preparations we can make if we knew of the disaster beforehand, but that preparation is limited; more likely than not, there will be fatalities in the area where the natural disaster hits in spite of whatever preparations made. We have no power over nature.
Now to the first point my friend mentioned; the altering of DNA. Altering anything is, by definition, changing something that already exists. We could not create things out of nothing.
For designer babies, we simply intervened in the natural fertilisation process and made modifications. Also, as far as I understand, genetically modified food is created by infusing different genes together to produce the desired item; more or less the same general process done through IVF in designer babies.
My friend called human beings chameleons, as I mentioned earlier, because we adapt to the world around us, like chameleons change colour to camouflage (I learned recently that this is actually a misconception and that they change colour based on their mood). According to him, we ceased to be chameleons because we created tools to beat animals and eventually domesticated them.
Now that is impressive of us humans. We intelligently adapted to survive, and when we learned how to overcome, we became the top in the food chain. You could say that overcoming such crazy obstacles required god-like ability but, if you view this from the other side, aren’t the animals we domesticated doing the same as we did before… adapting to survive? Did we really domesticate them, or is it simply them recognising the need to adapt to us? Who’s benefiting more here?
The points mentioned in this article are loosely collated from the talk my friend and I had about this subject, so some of it may seem incoherent to you as a reader, but I do hope that you get the gist of what I’m trying to convey and maybe become curious enough to think about the question of this article and form an opinion of your own.
My friend believes that humanity is at least on the brink of reaching “god-level” ability in terms of technological advancement, medicine, and our understanding of space, if they haven’t reached there yet.
I believe that, in spite of the advancements we had, we will not be able to release the bonds of the laws of physics that shackle our existence in this universe.
What do you think?