Man, once a freak of nature, became the most evolved species. He is the sum of inherited and acquired qualities. He is born with instincts, and his temperament is constitutional. It is changeable, to some extent, by insights and new experiences. His interaction with the outside world essentially forms his character. He is a blend of various orientations.
In the beginning, there were few people, and their requirements were few. With the increase in the number, the requirements increased disproportionately. The man-environment balance thus got threatened. A consequence of this is that the environment has started feeling the pressure of man’s intrusions and exploits. It feels as if the man is hostile to it.
Man is a product of genes and society. Genes give him less than what society requires of him. He thinks he can modify himself to fulfill his needs, both psychologically and sociologically. Man belongs to two different worlds - the world of natural necessity and the world of moral freedom. A proper balance between these two spheres will be a challenge for the people of this century. We are moving very fast in the material world, and if we don’t want vortex formation, we must place moral baffles at appropriate points. The problems of moral freedom have appeared in every age. Whenever moral freedom has gone berserk, arrived amidst us a few men to bring it under control. Such men have come in the past, and they will arrive in the future. Man has not lost faith in man. He is learning every day. Learning from the follies is an on-going process. Man is learning to curb his capacity for destruction.
Erich Fromm writes that man’s failure to use and spend what he has is the cause of his unhappiness. If he has potential, but somehow his tendency to grow is thwarted, he feels suffocated. Unspent energy undergoes a process of change. It gets transformed into a destructive form. The main point Fromm made was that “Destructiveness is the outcome of an unlived life.” Our failure to use, what we have, is one of the major causes of unhappiness. We are living far below our capacity. How to realize our unrealized possibilities is the greatest challenge of the time. Let the man get opportunities to use all his energies. Let the man be complete. The more the man is complete, the less are the chances of unrest.
Generally, we fail to see even when our windows are open. We don’t like to notice things even if they exist in front of our eyes.
Though we are continuously evolving, we are far from our destination. Do we know where we want to reach? We do not know if there is an ultimate destination of evolution. But we know that we are still inadequate. If something is inaccessible to us, we think it doesn’t exist. Our perceptions dictate how we see a particular thing and react to a situation. People who can see the world through a window are rare. They can see because they are gifted. They have extrasensory perception. As Schumacher puts it: “This searching uses not only the sensory information but also other knowledge and experience…there are inevitably many things which people can see but which others cannot, or, to put it differently, for which some people are adequate while others are not.”
Though man knows how a complete man should look like, a man can’t engineer a complete man. “When systems are not engineered but instead allowed to evolve – to build themselves – then the resultant whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We must recognize that we are the outcome of a process that is not merely engineering. There is another approach. That is beside the strict engineering approach, and that’s the evolutionary approach.
Should man modify himself biologically to increase his utility? We have done this with other living organisms. Should we do this to increase the productivity of man?
Scientists want to rewrite life from scratch; merely tinkering with life’s genetic code does not satisfy them. In this age of new biology, they are trying to create novel forms of life. They want to build the molecular machinery of new organisms. They say, “The genetic code is 3.6 billion years old. It’s time for a rewrite.” Others say, “To take God’s place, without being God, is insane arrogance, a risky and dangerous venture.” Some people say, “If we don’t play God, who will?”
The progress in science is continuing at a much faster pace. The resulting material benefits will create disparity among its users, notwithstanding the need for better environmental protection measures. It raises a few other questions. Should we leave the destiny of man in the hands of science alone? Does science need restraint, particularly in its application? Should the idea of designing a complete man be entertained? Should not one wait for the complete man to evolve? Man can only become a man by education, a kind of education that encompasses those searching qualities. Let man understand that “there is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying meat and drink.”