How can the human race survive the next 100 years?
Happy to have made the 1000th post on this particular board.
(EDIT: ...rats. missed it. )
Some of you may have heard about Stephen Hawking's question submitted on Yahoo! Answers (a sort of Q&A forum) for the public to respond to:
In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?
Below I supply my initial reply to the question; but while it's far too easy to simply turn any issue into material that can be used as rhetorical ammo against an opposing worldview, I'll note that this is honestly the only means I know of bringing together a people willingly to unite under a common cause on a global scale and on an enduring basis.
I think this for at least a couple reasons, the first offers a positive reason for commending theism, while the second offers negative reasons for embracing atheism to address the problem:
First, several notable atheistic thinkers in history have observed the perceived "insidiousness" of religious influence in its capacity to so thoroughly marinate a person's thinking in a certain way. Indeed, Richard Dawkins' study of the "Meme" appears precisely to be kind of a foray into how this "disease" of Christianity has been so effective in spreading across time and culture. Even atheists in this forum and on other web sites have expressed worry that their children may grow up and catch this infectious influence, and share methods with one another on how to prevent their children from "catching Theism," as it were. Yet Karl Marx eventually had to depend on the Gulag and other forms of overt thought-control to impose his Materialist view on the masses. Thus, because I believe Theism provides a superior framework to engage both the mind and the heart in galvanizing one's commitment to a cause much more effectively than a Materialist framework can, I don't think anything else is quite as compelling to one's moral behavior than religious belief. Of course, examining the content of one's theistic beliefs will be of great importance, as "theism" in just any form will not do. It seems obvious that some forms of theism display more generosity than others. Indeed, if this were not possible, I could not imagine why historic atheistic thinkers such as Voltaire would have wanted his servants to remain theists, if only to ensure he was swindled less often! Even in our time, numerous ethicists try to advocate "Impartial Observer" theories for social ethics, an attempt to replace an entire culture's common awareness of God in everyday life.
But I should note before continuing that the preceding is not intended to be a Realist treatment of theism, as if to say "Theism is therefore true on these reasons" or that "this is all theism amounts to: a pragmatic solution or convenient lie." But I respond in this manner for the purposes of Hawking's question, where "survival trumps all" seems to imply utility over truthfulness, if necessary).
Secondly, Brian reminds us many times on this forum there is absolutely nothing in atheism that binds its members to any unifying common ideology -- rather atheism seems to simply consist of a denial of one. So I'm curious to see just what kinds of answers might be generated among a community of thinkers who often do take the time to consider ways of improving human existence, as Hawking's question here appears to assume that the plurality of options is actually what's part of the problem more than part of the solution...
If I may humbly suggest that we must first come into agreement that despite all the material trappings we've been able to acquire, sheer unaided reason alone has failed to bring about its promised modern reform of human ambition so that its gaze is affixed beyond the immediate concerns of the moment. When God is removed from the collective consciousness of Western culture, we lose an over-arching transcendent fixed standard for ethics, which in the past was capable of uniting humanity in a range, scale, and depth of dedication that would have made the survival of the human race possible in our time. Of course, with newer and more powerful technologies, come even greater means and efficiency to wreak havoc on our world, and hence greater responsibility. If our commitment to an objectively higher standard of moral rule remains central to our ethical assessments of our methods in the scientific enterprise, then we retain an Entity to whom we are ultimately responsible (indeed, providing substantial ground to make the idea of "responsibility" in science intelligible and meaningful). In the end, despite the increasingly complex ethical dilemmas brough about in our newfound techological advances, those advances will have then been made under just the sort of ethical rubric best able to handle many of the potential pitfalls that such advances would make possible.