I must confess that I have not been diligent with regards this form of communication recently. I have been much preoccupied in these higher regions of space/time existence with discourse amongst my fellow explorers from every sphere of science and every era concerning the way the universe is unfolding, which proves to be an endlessly fascinating topic. In truth the petty problems of planet earth seem so irrelevant when compared to such larger matters, and, as my dear wife and my good friend Alfred Wallace have so often reiterated, nothing much seems to change there for the better. Humanity is still absorbed in its primitive struggles and its foolish dogmas, and if I am honest I grow weary of observing such naive goings on. The present preoccupations there seem to concern the endlessly futile clash of east and west ideologies, and also vociferous discussion about so-called climate change. I’m not sure which of those matters is the more pointless. To be sure there is vague relevance in both subjects, but if only humanity was able to foresee the much vaster developments ahead of it, which are going to obliterate all need to worry about either, then a great deal of time and hot air (of every kind) would be saved!
Ah well I must leave this now. I have a fascinating meeting scheduled with Aristotle, Wittgenstein, Albert Camus, and Nelson Mandela (newly arrived amongst us) concerning the definition of perfection. It promises to be quite heated!
I realise that this is a constant topic of mine, almost to the point of tedium – but looking down on planet earth from my exalted position I have to wonder at the lack of progress in solving mankind’s dilemmas since our own time there. To be sure there have been many wondrous inventions and innovations, which would appear to have made the physical business of existing easier. Yet in the fundamental matters the same problems seem to persist. The constant battle against diseases and infections (with which my poor husband was so familiar) goes on, although the diseases themselves are different. The war against tyranny, fanaticism, terrorism does not appear to diminish, even though the perpetrators go by different names and different dogmas. The question of inequality in society is ever present, even more so now than then. The inclination to criminality amongst large parts of the population, from the highest to the lowest, is still a defining characteristic of the human race. I mentioned this to Charles and asked him how this fitted with his theory of evolution. His answer was as ever, ‘Time, time, Emma. Evolution is a matter of millennia, not just a few years. But you can see that in matters of health, welfare, and even morality, there are signs of progress amongst the most advanced societies.’
Is that so, I wonder? The evidence would seem to be ambiguous at best.
P.S. The account of the search for my husband’s now notorious Addendum seems to be attracting some attention on the modern ‘websites’ as I believe they are called:-
Having received various comments on my last extract from the Addendum to ‘Origin of Species’, including several concerning my views on the future of mankind, I am now adding a further extract, which explains as well as I can my thoughts for an ‘atheistic’ future. I know that these will not be accepted by a large proportion of believers, but I am outside the realms of argument and criticism now and merely put this forward as a subject for others to argue over:-
“…..However, as I have said, it is also true that man has rapidly evolved from his early primitive state, and is, compared to the other denizens of the earth, a much progressed creature. The instincts within him, acquired for his early survival and assurance, are now mostly redundant. I would suggest that, in order to utilize his newly developed dominance to its best potential, he should by now be abandoning them. It seems to me that, just as his savagery is no longer of use in a largely ordered world, so his superstitious inclinations are now a constraint on his awareness of reality. Indeed I would go further and say that a reliance on a supreme authority could well be a hindrance to man’s progress, since it encourages him to place the burden of salvation on God’s shoulders and not on his own. It exonerates him from responsibility.
But inherited mythology is a powerful thing. And this argument would seem a bleak philosophy to those who find consolation for the travails of life in the belief that there is a guiding purpose and an ultimate reward in heaven. Nevertheless there is a liberation in forsaking such concepts. Once freed from the constraints of historical ideologies man will be able to explore morality for its own sake, to seek individual fulfilment objectively, to grow old with acceptance. Then his appreciation of the glories of the universe, his knowledge of the remarkable way it works and develops, his ability to exploit its limitless powers, will so far eclipse his innumerable visions of paradise and mystically ordained structures that he will wonder at his early innocence. He will appreciate his contribution to the whole gigantic pattern, as a dying tree contributes to the fertility of the forest around it, and thus be free of his need for lone benediction.
I would offer an alternative philosophy. For me, it is the gradual progress of man, and far beyond man of the universe itself, through natural selection and towards an ultimate perfect self design, that is the only concept of heaven that is credible. One might say that God is the end, not the beginning.
The method of my own worship has been through biological research. Scientific exploration has been my fascination, my joy, and at times my demon. In that it is the only path reliably to discover and to exploit the truth, it is I believe man’s destiny.” C.D. 1859
The story of the search for my unpublished postscript appears to be causing some interest on planet earth. I have resigned myself to the fact that this piece, which I feared would cause so much consternation in my lifetime, is now broadcast far and wide. I am beyond the reach of those who would do me harm because of it. But the rumours about it are so ill-founded and even maliciously untrue that I am persuaded to publicise an extract of it here, so that readers may get for themselves a brief flavour of its contents:-
“Homo sapiens is a strange species. By far the most intelligently advanced of all that inhabit the earth, and yet by far the most perverse and consciously self destructive. Of extraordinary intellectual powers, and yet prone to illogical prejudices, dogmas and superstitions. The only species to have developed an analytical and a moral sense, and yet the one most subject to irrational drives, unnecessary cruelties and unreasoned fears. There has to be an explanation for this.
Over the years my exhaustive researches into many of the families, genera and species on the planet have convinced me of the one simple fact. It is a fact that many of my fellow human beings find hard to accept. Nothing is planned. Nothing is ordained. It is a matter of simple evidence that the universe operates in a way which is completely fortuitous. The earth is but one planet amongst innumerable planets which happens by chance to have the resources to support life. That life comes and goes with a fickleness and a ruthlessness that is total and disinterested. Whatever the biological form, it suffers plague and pestilence, contest and brutalism, deprivation and extermination, without respite and without structure. The evidence is incontrovertible. Whole generations die at a circumstance, entire species become extinct at a change in the weather, complete life forms disappear through the whim of a natural disaster.
It is my belief that natural selection is the ultimate decider in the great struggle for survival – one superior developed biological form superseding another, one better equipped species outliving another, one stronger individual vanquishing another – each succeeding generation either extending its superiority through its inherited characteristics, or yielding to a still better endowed competitor. Extermination is a universal and brutal necessity. If it were not so, if all life were to proliferate unchallenged, then the earth would have suffocated through overcrowding millions of years ago…….”
My husband informs me that even here in cyberspace he receives a plethora through the ether of what he calls ‘hate messages’, deriding him and like minded scientists or non-believers for their heretical views. Some of these messages are quite vitriolic and threatening in their tone. I have not encountered similar such hostile tirades going in the other direction from those who do not accept religious beliefs. I do not accept all Charles’s views myself, but it seems paradoxical to me that so-called followers of Christ can apparently be so much more aggressive than are agnostics.
I am intrigued by the apparently ongoing controversy that my fellow scientist, Richard Dawkins, appears to be attracting in the modern age. Having read his works via the miraculous medium of Einsteinian space/time transference I have to say I admire his clear thinking and explicitly scientific methods and deductions. Evidently however these are still not accepted by a large proportion of those interested in such matters, which I suppose will always be the way with forward thinking intellects. Mr Dawkins is evidently a tireless and forceful promoter of his views, which is something I admire, since I never was. It is precisely because I had no desire to be involved in such controversy in my time that I hesitated so long before publishing ‘On The Origin Of Species’, and even longer before releasing the Addendum to that work, which I knew would only serve to inflame tensions between believers and non-believers. I have always hated dispute, but I suppose it is a permanent condition of the human race.
I feel obliged to comment on what seems to be a barbaric custom which still continues in modern times, long after it occurred during our own era. I refer to what I may delicately call the practice of female genital mutilation. It appears that this cruel ritual still prevails amongst primitive societies, even though outlawed in more progressive countries, and the mere thought of it being done to young children and even babies simply fills me with sadness and disgust. Why women should be denied the same sexual instincts as men, especially when the art of contraception has been so perfected in the modern world, I cannot comprehend. If I may put it as discreetly as possible, I and my dear Charley always enjoyed the most loving of relationships in that aspect (we conceived ten children to prove it!), and the idea that other women should be denied such joys simply because of the male chauvinistic impulse, seems to me a tragic misinterpretation of God’s intentions. Charles of course says that it is merely another manifestation of humanity’s still primitive state, and for once I have to agree with him. Yet again one is forced to wonder at the contrast between man’s astonishing creative abilities and his innate primeval impulses.
It has come to my attention that practising Christians on earth at the current time have been deeply disturbed at the publication of my hitherto secret Addendum, in which I have explained my own philosophical beliefs. I am distressed at this. I have never intended to cause offence, and indeed it was the whole reason for my wishing to keep this postscript to my written works private, for the eyes only of my wife and my closest associates. I wrote it with a view to preserving my opinions for the distant future rather than to provoke further controversy in my own already discordant age (I count the time from the nineteenth century to the twenty first as one era, it being but the blink of an eyelid in the full vastness of time). However it appears that my thoughts have been published prematurely despite my intentions, and have served to intensify the dispute which has raged since humans developed minds to ponder such matters. Perhaps then, if indeed the exposure of my thoughts does advance that debate, it is no bad thing. I have to be frank and say that, from this lofty perspective, it does seem that many aspects of the various creeds still followed across the globe do seem astonishingly primitive for a supposedly advanced species. Supernatural phenomena and divinely inspired crusades appear almost laughably naïve from this aspect. But then, as I also describe in the Addendum, and as I have reiterated in these messages, man is in so many ways not at all advanced. He is in fact but a step or two out of the jungle. Ah well, the millennia will pass. One has to be patient….
There appears to be a great deal of discussion on planet earth at this time about the problem of growing populations and where this trend will ultimately lead. Certainly the numbers of the human race have increased rapidly since my time there. It would seem that the natural order of things which has prevailed until recent times, is changing. Let me quote from the secret Addendum to my work ‘Origin of Species’ which I am reliably told is now being circulated amongst the reading public, which illustrates this:-
” The earth is but one planet amongst innumerable planets which happens by chance to have the resources to support life. That life comes and goes with a fickleness and a ruthlessness that is total and disinterested. Whatever the biological form, it suffers plague and pestilence, contest and brutalism, deprivation and extermination, without respite and without structure. Whole generations die at a circumstance, entire species become extinct at a change in the weather, complete life forms disappear through the whim of a natural disaster. Extermination is a universal and brutal necessity. If it were not so, if all life were to proliferate unchallenged, then the earth would have suffocated through overcrowding millions of years ago.”
It would seem that, through the huge improvements in medicine, food production, health standards, and indeed evolution itself, all leading to vastly increased longevity, homo sapiens is now defeating this trend. This could indeed eventually lead to suffocation of the planet unless drastic steps are taken. I do however have great faith in the ability of the species to deal with these problems. But I predict that it will require enormous life style upheavals and changes of attitude to bring to effect.
Here is an intriguing fact, brought to my attention by my dear friend Alfred Wallace (see Comments), and which will warm the heart of my wife. It is a general rule that the more primitive and uneducated the community, the greater its propensity to worship divine or supernatural entities. And the more sophisticated the society, the less its belief in such things. The great exception being America, supposedly the world leader in development, where apparently 90 per cent of the population still believes in God. What does this tell us, I wonder, either about God or about America?
PS My thoughts on Alfred’s comments about modern scientific developments affecting human physiology will have to wait for further reflection!