N. Perlas, 20 November 2004
In the preface to the upcoming book by Nicanor Perlas on
"Spirit or Empire: Societal Revolutions in the 21st Century", he identifies
hyper-materialism as a grave challenge facing humanity. It is important to start
taking a closer look at the materialistic assumptions driving the billion dollar
ambition to create human cyborgs and super-intelligent machines.
Genetic science and
especially behavioral genetics has become the ultimate playground for scientists
who believe that the essence of what it is to be human can be discovered in the
chemical, material realm of DNA. This total reduction of life and spirit to
matter is responsible, in turn, for many social approaches that do not factor in
human spiritual creativity and freedom in the shaping of societies.
A recent article on
the "God Gene" (re-posted in TruthForce!)
is a good example of this widespread but misdirected tendency in modern science.
This tendency not only encourages one-sided materialism in humans. It also
creates societies which are hostile to spiritual realities including authentic
freedom, compassion, creativity, and other traits essential in creating
peaceful, productive, harmonious and sustainable societies.
Yes, human beings are inclined to spirituality. But this is not because of their
genes. Rather they tend towards spirituality because their essence is of a
spiritual nature. To equate emotionalism with spirituality is to fail to
distinguish between stirrings of the heart due to lower emotions, and stirrings
of the heart due to deep spiritual insight. The former is connected more with
the amygdale or the "reptilian" aspect of the brain, while the latter is
connected with "the intelligence of the heart" -- recently discovered by
The article on the "God Gene" on this issue ignores the basic scientific dictum
that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. In cases where correlation
indeed indicates a deeper level of causation, these scientific researches show
that non-physical actions can have physical impacts. For example, the work of
Nobel Laureates Roger Sperry and John Eccles show that the movements of
consciousness trigger the patterns of neural events. The details of the
neurophysiology of the brain can be viewed as merely footprints, in a physical
medium, of non-physical, non-genetic supersensible realities connected to the
spiritual activity of human consciousness. This deeper view of the relationship
between consciousness and matter is also one that is also finding greater and
greater acceptance in physics and general biology.
The "God Gene" resurrects the old and false notion of genetic predisposition,
also criticized by others in the said article. If your experience of your
consciousness is nothing but a reflection of genetic events, then you cannot
even be aware that you are observing genetic events. A consciousness that is
determined cannot be a reflective, self aware consciousness. It simply is. It is
simply a mechanism expressing itself without awareness, much like the rapid
calculations of computers which do not experience emotions nor the very act of
The very awareness of being apart from molecular biological processes shows that
we have a larger reality that transcends brain and genetic events. We are more
than that neural firings of our brain. We thus have a freedom that allows us to
scientifically study biochemical and genetic processes. If we are just our
genetic predispositions, then we cannot even practice science.
There is, however, a value of researches like this. Done within a proper
context, studies like this give a better handle towards spiritual practice. For
example, repetitive actions, which lead to habits, express themselves as neural
pathways that are much easier to trigger than if one starts a total new
behavior. The discovery of the "brain of the heart" and its dynamics makes
certain spiritual exercises, including breathing and meditation, much more
understandable and accessible.
This knowledge of the physical dimension of a soul-spiritual act can thus give
an individual a better handle on changing one's bad habits and developing better
ones. In this context, they have a value. But, taken out of context, dogmas like
the "God Gene" drag the human image lower than their spiritual reality and
become the foundations for a society devoid of spirit and meaning, breeding
grounds for social disintegration and chaos.
20 November 2004
appear on TruthForce!