I’ve always wanted an ecosphere. An ecosphere is a glass globe that has a perfectly balanced environment inside. Algae and micro-organisms provide oxygen for shrimp, which eat the algae and Micro-organisms. The algae survives by cleaning up after the shrimp. They’re supposed to last for a few years given enough sunlight. Why do I want a miniature globe? Is it some kind of Lilliputian need to control the lives of primitive beings? Maybe it’s a reverence for the environment and life’s unique interactions.
Probably a little of both. I like to think that I lean more towards the reverence for life side. It’s a serious question to ask yourself, and hard to be honest about. If rules and morals held no sway and there were no consequences for my actions, how would I react? How would I treat those shrimp? I think I’d still feel bad if it rolled off the table one day.
Twilight Zone episodes have explored it, books have been written about it. Religions have been founded upon the question of external morality. One premise that we can find plenty of evidence for is that humans just aren’t advanced enough to control themselves. Without an external force guiding us, we would turn on each other like animals.
Whether its original sin or an evolutionary trait, we’re saddled with an ingrained violent streak. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if we didn’t live so close together. Since we do, we have to find some way to get a grip on that violence. Up to this point in history, religion has filled that role. For 300 years, religion has had some serious competition in the form of the Intellectual Revolution. Voltaire is my favorite author from the period. The church chased him throughout Europe for his revolutionary ideas. What did he have to say, besides ragging on the church? As Candide said once “Tend your own garden.” If you take care of what’s yours without injuring your neighbors, all that you want will come to you eventually.
Secular morality has come a long way. The biting cynicism that Voltaire felt has spread, and religions are slowly fading from western culture. It’s not something to lament or laude, its just something we have to deal with. Unless a new great religion is founded in this century, we will most likely be left to our own devices as far as morality goes. Do you think secular society is ready for the burden? I think we’ll be ready when we need it… in the mean time, I’ll tend my own garden.