The Pinnacle of Evolution Is Life, Not the Human Being

SCIENCE, 30 Jul 2018

Leonardo Boff – TRANSCEND Media Service

22 Jul 2018 – In the understanding of the great cosmologists who study cosmo-genetics and bio-genetics, the culmination of this process is not the human being. The great event is life, in its immense diversity, and that which is essential to it: caring. Without the necessary care no form of life can exist (cf. Boff, Leonardo, The necessary caring, El cuidado necesario, 2012).

We must emphasize that the culmination of the cosmo-genetic process is not found through anthropocentrism; as if human beings were the center of everything, and other beings are only significant to the extent they are valuable to human beings, for their use and enjoyment. The main event of evolution was the appearance of life, in all its forms, including human beings.

Biologists describe the conditions under which life arose, starting from a high level of complexity. When complexity loses its equilibrium, chaos ensues. But chaos is not only chaotic. Is also generative: chaos generates new orders and many other complexities.

Scientists do not know how to define life. Life is the most surprising and mysterious aspect of the cosmogenic process. Humanity is a sub-chapter of the life chapter. we cannot over-emphasize the centrality of life. To life is given the evolutionary physical, chemical and ecological infrastructure that allows for immense biodiversity. This includes human life: conscious, talking and caring.

Life is understood here as the self organization of matter to the highest degree of interaction with the universe and everything around it. Cosmologists and biologists maintain that life is the supreme expression of the “Original Source of All Beings.” That, for us, is another, very appropriate, name for God. Life does not come from outside but emerges from the nucleus of the cosmo-genetical process, on reaching a very high degree of complexity.

Christian de Duve, the 1974 Biology Nobel Prize Laureate, affirms that when that level of complexity occurs, anywhere in the universe, life emerges as a cosmic imperative (Vital Dust, 1996, Polvo vital, 1997). In that sense, the universe is filled with life.

Life shows a sacred unity in its diverse manifestations, because all living beings have the same basic genetic code, namely, the 20 amino acids and four basic phosphates that make us all relatives and brothers and sisters unto each other. To care for life, to ensure that life expands, to enter in communion and synergy with the chain of life, and to celebrate life: that is the meaning of life of humans upon the Earth. This is also understood as Gaia, a living super-organism, and we, the humans, are a portion of Gaia that feels, thinks, loves, speaks and venerates.

The centrality of life implies concretely that we ensure the means for life, such as: nourishment, health care, work, housing, security, education and leisure. If we standardized humanity, with the techno-science advances already reached, we would have the means to enable everyone to enjoy the quality services that only the privileged and opulent sectors have at their disposal today.

Until now, knowledge has been understood as power at the service of accumulation by individuals or groups that create inequalities, consequently, at the service of the prevailing unjust and inhumane system. We can postulate a power at the service of life and the necessary changes that life demands. Why not to have a moratorium on research and invention, in favor of the democratization of the knowledge and inventions that civilization has already accumulated, to benefit the millions and millions of dispossessed humanity?

This is the great challenge for the XXI century. We can either self destruct, because we have already created the means to do so, or we could finally start to create a truly just and fraternal society, together with the whole community of life.


Translation from Spanish by Melina Alfaro

Leonardo Boff is a Brazilian theologian, ecologist, writer and university professor exponent of the Liberation Theology. He is a former friar, member of the Franciscan Order, respected for his advocacy of social causes and environmental issues. Boff is a founding member of the Earthcharter Commission.

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