For most of human history people have been wrong about Earth’s place in the universe. Some thought we were the only thing here, others thought we were at the center of many things. But it wasn’t until very recently that we have come to know that we are just a speck in a monumental picture.
Such a Copernican transformation has not yet taken place with respect to basic beliefs about meaning and morality. For these topics, we remain in the past just like people who believe spirits cause disease, or that the sun orbits the earth.
In the decades and centuries to come, our current primitive state with regard to these maters will be obvious, just as the Copernican view of our solar system is now. Here are the basics which will become commonplace:
- Earth’s Gods are man-made and fictional.
- Humans are complex organisms evolved through causal physical processes, and ultimately lack free will.
- We, as humans on Earth, share a common origin and share insignificance at the scale of the universe (see Pale Blue Dot).
Now, try to hold all three of these beliefs in your mind and be a Republican. Try to believe these things and be in favor of less taxation for the rich. Try to accept these and not feel extreme compassion for those who are suffering on our planet.
It’s not easy to do without being somewhat disturbed. To do so one has to overcome his innate compassion, and that’s a good thing to have in your favor. With other belief systems, however, compassion is not so much of an obstacle because false beliefs serve to obliterate our similarities.
To be clear, this is not an endpoint of advancement. Accepting these things does not give one a proper belief system; it simply defines reality and serves to discard outright the previous, fantasy-based structures that have prevented progress through today.
This is just step zero.
Sadly, very few people are there yet. I have many smart friends and only a tiny fraction of them are at this point. To be sure, many of them live highly moral and fulfilling lives. This should come as no surprise, as this sort of advancement is not a prerequisite for a single person being good. Many good people have existed without any knowledge of our world and how it works.
But in order for humans as groups and societies to advance to a higher plane, where “reason and compassion” rule our discourse at a mass scale, these core beliefs outlined above will need to be accepted as obvious–just as we know today that germs cause disease.
We have much work ahead of us.