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The Protoplasmic Venture

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1 The Protoplasmic Venture
Chapter 6 The Protoplasmic Venture

2 “Humans can’t live without seeking to describe and explain the universe.” (Sir Isaiah Berlin)

3 Four Great Etiological Questions
What is the origin of life? What is the origin of human beings? What is the origin of matter? What is the origin of the universe?

4 Biochemical Evolution
Alexander Oparin (1922) J.B.S. Haldane (1928) Stanley Miller (1953) First laboratory synthesis of a complete mammalian gene (1975) Cyril Ponnamperuma George Wald (1957)

5 The Beginning of Life on Earth
When did life begin on the planet Earth? Fossil records indicate that life developed sometime between 4.5 billion years ago and 3.5 billion years ago During that billion-year period, some wonderful and incredible events were taking place

6 Earth’s Life-Forms: An Inventory
“Hot thin soup” 1.5 million species of living organisms 10,000 new species added annually Estimated 10 million species of organisms exist Estimated 10 billion species produced by evolution on Earth since planet began

7 Biogenetic Theories Panspermia Spontaneous generation Hylozoism
Creationism Vitalism

8 Can “Life” Be Defined? What is “life”? Self-replication Mutability
Motility Metabolism Growth Irritability Dynamic Equilibrium

9 Evolution as a Field Theory
Darwin’s genius: 1) his ability to bring a synoptic mind to these disparate elements and fit them all together; 2) his meticulous gathering of scientific data to support his theory

10 Three Basic Processes of evolution
The laws of heredity Mutations produced by changes in the DNA code The dynamics of natural selection

11 Evolution Based on Five Observations
Species produce like species There is an enormous excess of reproductive material Individual variations in genetic characteristics Competition for food and living room Environmental niches are dynamic

12 Evolution and Meaning The Doctrine of Progress
Nietzsche, The main goal of history is to produce a man who has such greatness that he would be a new species Bergson, Vital Life-force

13 Evolution and Progress
Natural Selection is an Arms Race Evolutionary Convergence Epigenetics

14 A Case of Convergence: The Eye
Represents a new worldview for understanding all living things Exactly the same structures, functions, and behavioral mechanisms exist everywhere throughout the animal and plant kingdoms The eye as an example of convergence Eyes have continued to evolve along independent lines of development No individual organism should be seen as a stage on the way “up” to something else

15 Suffering and the Arms Race
“Terrible but true, the suffering among wild animals is so appalling that sensitive souls would best not contemplate it.” --Richard Dawkins What is the meaning of human suffering? Traditional Problem of Evil

16 Philosophic Implications
“Do we understand how life evolves”? What does it mean to say this? Chemical biogenesis as first-magnitude field theory Ethical considerations Cosmic implications

17 Philosophic Problems Irreversibility Convergence

18 Charles Darwin The Grandest Synthesis
Darwin saw the key to the puzzle: the mechanism of evolvement is the “struggle for survival” and the “survival of the fittest.” Under the perpetual threat of starvation and annihilation in the harsh environment, all species of life on Earth continually struggle for survival, and only the fittest survive.

19 Reflections… What do you think are the most far-reaching philosophic implications of the biochemical theory of the origin of life? Do you feel a sense of relief that foundations have been laid for an empirical answer to this question?

20 Humans This chapter describes the evolutionary context for reflecting on the human situation and suggests that evolution has now taken a new and unpredictable turn.

21 The Sculptor-Gods Pottery as a universal skill
Shards of pottery have been found wherever people have lived Clay figurines were made for fun Creation myths based on sculpting clay Examples: Tu, Titi and Tame; Ewe-speaking tribes of Togo, West Africa; Toradjas of the Celebes; Hebrew account of creation; Shilluks of White Nile

22 The Story of Human Origins
Homo Sapiens – “wise humans” Homo Habilis Australopithecus (Lucy) Homo erectus

23 Update: Human Origins Sahelanthropus tchadensis
Australopithecus afarensis Australopithecus africanus Ardipithecus ramidus Homo ergaster Homo floresiensis Homo habilis Homo erectus Homo sapien

24 Still Trying to Define “Human”
Physical characteristics Ethical feelings Esthetic feelings Religious feelings Soul-essence (psyche)

25 The Killer-Ape Theory Killing “on principle”…inherited or learned?
Leakey and Lorenz and the killer-ape theory Montagu’s dispute of the theory How do we humans differ from our animal kin regarding feelings of aggression? What distinguishes humans from other animals?

26 The Immense Journey Rapid progress in science/technology has radically altered the selective function of the environment Destruction of our natural environment

27 Soren Kierkegaard “That Individual”
Now called Existentialism, it is a philosophy of the experiencing human self, and Kierkegaard’s life is the story of one man’s search for what it means to be human “The thing is to understand myself…to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”

28 Reflections… Make an attempt to define “human.” How would you describe “essential man”? What are some of the problems we must face in developing a definition?

29 Earth This chapter is a meditation on humankind’s relationship to other living creatures on Earth and to the Earth itself. It raises the question of who has a right to control and exploit other species.

30 Our Place in the Scheme of Things
General evolution Human evolution Cultural evolution 3 stages: 1) Parent-child relationship; 2) man as conqueror; 3) protective feeling toward nature

31 An Ecospheric Ethic Who has a right to do what to whom and why?
The notion of “right” Professor Sessions assessment Rachel Carson’s attack St. Francis of Assisi Professor Charles Hartshorne’s “Ultimate Value” Professor John Cobb’s “intrinsic criteria”

32 Coexistence - In Life & Death
Physical/ecological relationships Psychological/ecological relationships Why do we kill for pleasure? Human sacrifice Anthropomorphizing animal kin: 1) we can’t help it; 2) we want other creatures to like us

33 “No Man Is An Island” Each is a part of the whole, subject to the same physical forces that move the atoms and the planets We are part of an awesome protoplasmic venture

34 Albert Schweitzer Reverence for Life
Reverence for life – “In that principle my life has found a firm footing and a clear path to follow.”

35 Reflections… Think about Schweitzer’s Reverence for Life – a concept he believed to be “the realistic answer to the realistic question of how man and the world are related to each other.” How do you feel about this all-inclusive ethic?

36 Future This chapter describes several future scenarios, both optimistic and pessimistic

37 The Theoretical Life Practical life (praktikos bios) – short-range goals (…versus the…) Theoretical life (theoretikos bios) – long-range goals

38 Research Into the Future
Utopias and anti-Utopias Futures research: 1) forecasting techniques; 2) world catastrophe; 3) world systems; 4) past frameworks obsolete What is the goal of futures research?

39 Mankind at the Turning Point
A world consciousness A new ethic in the use of material resources An attitude toward nature must be developed based on harmony rather than conquest A sense of identification with future generations

40 The Futurists & the Future
No single world-picture, although there is remarkable agreement on many points Short-range futurists Middle-range futurists Long-range futurists Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock Arthur C. Clarke

41 A New Kind of Realism Based on a more objective assessment of empirical data, this realism attempts to project a variety of scenarios in the hope we can, in time, face them and solve them

42 The Players Sir Fred Hoyle Edward O. Wilson Robert T. McCall
Ray Bradbury

43 Many Futures: A Common Vision
Today’s world has come unglued, unraveled There is a pressing need for a sense of global identity and a shared vision of the future – a reason to exist A shared vision of our common future is therefore enormously important

44 Friedrich Nietzsche The Glory of Becoming Human
Nietzsche built on a theory of evolution to reinterpret the history of the human race and to lay foundations for his grand vision of the future of mankind “Will to power” as the basic drive Ubermensch – “Superman”

45 The Nietzsche Myth Myth: Nietzsche is a bigoted anti-Semite
Myth: Nietzsche is an advocate of Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory Only after Nietzsche’s death was his philosophy appropriated as official ideology of Nazi apologetics The Germans saw themselves as the “master race”

46 Reflections… Recall the statement that opens this chapter: That we create the past and can also create alternative futures; and that we need both past and future to see ourselves in perspective. How much value is there in this way of looking at ourselves and our place in time?

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