Humans: 500 years of solitude

Posted on June 18, 2017

At first humans talked with nature. Then only with God - and later only with ourselves. Now a new sensitivity for nature is developing.

ANIMISM.  The hunters and gatherers where animists.  They saw humans as just another kind of animal.  They talked with animals, trees and stones as well as with fairies, demons and ghosts - and out of these of these communications came norms and values that were seen as binding for all parties.


THEIST RELIGIONS.  With the agricultural revolution came also the theist religions - and among them Christianity.  It defined that it was only humans who had an eternal soul and who could end in heaven or hell after death. 


This cut nature and animals out of the dialogue.  In the Bible humans communicate with nature only indirectly via God.  It was part of a deal where humans sacrificed animals to the gods - and the gods ensured rain and good harvests.  Therefore it was in order for humans to kill animals for food - or for fun.


HUMANIST RELIGION.  With the Scientific Revolution from the Renessanse onwards even God were taken out of the conversation.  The external universe were emptied.  Humans did no longer see any God’s plan in whatever happened.  Now the universe was seen as blind.  The internal universe on the other hand got a new depth.  The human experience became the supreme source of authority and meaning.  Humans should trust our own feelings and desires, listen to ourselves and be true to ourselves. This gave rise to democracy (everyone’s choice), consumer society (the customer is always right), chosen religion (it is my choice whether I believe in God or not, and which God I believe in), pluralistic art (beauty is in the eyes of the beholder), feelgood-attitudes (if it feels good, do it!).


With both nature and God out of the dialogue humans could do whatever they felt like with animals and nature.  And they did.  Larger wild animals are mostly exterminated.  Worldwide 90% of large animals are now domesticated.  One side of man’s relation to animals is that we are free to kill them at will.  Another side is how they are treated - placed in narrow bins and limited on all sides.  Expelled from Theistic as well as Humanistic Religion animals have no protection from anywhere.


EVOLUTIONARY HUMANISM.  Harari points to a split between different forms of humanism in the 1900s.  It is traditional or liberal humanism as described above.  Socialistic humanism is another - with the same authority basis in the human experience.  But it sees the person’s place in the hierarchy of society as the forming force.  Evolutionary humanism is a third movement.  In the 1930s and 40s it was associated with the German Nazis who saw conflicts as a positive way of making the natural selection of darwinism work.  In war and conflict the weak would lose, while the strongest - the superhumans - would survive, thrive and develop.


DATAIST RELIGION.  After the defeat of Nazi-Germany the world community has become much more concerned with protecting the weak and the prosecuted among humans.  Human rights came into focus - and also a new more protective attitude in relation to the treatment of animals has started to come forward.


Harari sees this in relation to the new Dataist religion emerging after the turn of the millennium.  He connects this to the development of ”the internet of all things” which will let all things collect data, deliver it via a dense global network to be processed by computers with unlimited capacity.  Some superhumans with very special qualifications will be needed to establish this ”internet of all things”.  But most of us will become redundant in our jobs and also outdated in our capacity to handle the new challenges in the work market.


This upcoming change from humans being on top of the world to a threatening underdog position may be the reason - assumes Harari - for humans taking a more protective position in relation to animals.