Monday, 22 January 2007

The last shall be first.

Ducks will negotiate over how much they help each other in parenting. Scientists find the area of the brain that is responsible for altruism. Rare black diamonds may come from outer space. The earliest records of Homo sapiens sapiens in Europe have been found, near Moscow, 45,000 years ago, with the earliest sculptures, in the form of small heads.

And winning the Nobel Prize adds two years to your life. They were able to determine that the money was statistically irrelevant. It's the social status that's gained that extends the lifespan- but scientists aren't sure what the mechanism is.

This brings up some intriguing questions. What is status? Does the social status need to be in the eyes of society, or in the eyes of the individual? Is the gain in life from the undeterminable perks from everyone looking up to you? Or is it from the well-being that you feel as holistic being, knowing that you are valued? Or perhaps from the well-being you feel in valuing yourself?

The determination of status will very from culture to culture, and within cultures. If this is true, the Masai with the most cows will live the longest. (But you'd have to do that study separating out the economic value of the cows.) What if status is determined by how simple your lifestyle is? An Indian Guru has high status in part because he is an asthetic. When I was growing up we valued the person who could go procuring the best (dumpster-diving).

We used to play a game when I was a child and we were standing in line. We'd all try to be in the last person in the line. We'd heard that Jesus had said "The last shall be first, and the first last." In our primitive understanding of that we'd try to be the last in line, and playfully make fun of the person who was in front, because they'd get to go to Heaven last. As kids we didn't really understand the meaning of the passage, but there is a basic point there. If you're following the ethics of Jesus, then status doesn't really matter. You shouldn't be figuring out if you'll be sitting at the right hand of Jesus, or even Alfred Nobel. You should strive to be the last, to take the worst seat, and be like Jesus, with no place to lay your head and without wealth. In doing this, you'll be offered the best seats, and be first in Heaven and the Kingdom of God. So if a society has this standard of social standing, does that mean the poor and debased would live an extra two years?

No, because part of that debasement is for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing. To say your prayers in private to avoid the honor associated with prayers, and to give in private so your reward will be in Heaven, and not here on Earth. Were status to be gained in the doing of these deeds, they would no longer be following the Way. If status were given for being poor, the Poor would quickly cease to be so. Two years might be gained for the attempt, but it's hardly the original call.

Here's the deal. Jesus' path wasn't a call to social advancement. But it wasn't even a call to a good life. It was a call to a hard life, with a lot of suffering. He told everyone to pick up their electric diodes, apply jelly to their skin, and sit down in the chair to be electrocuted. (Modern translation.) It is a call to expect death, and indeed to welcome it for the Joy of seeing the Lord and serving Him. It is being willing to die. It is therefore completely contrary to that evolutionary call that runs through all of us to reproduce and live as long as possible to reproduce as much as possible. It is perhaps akin to those Australian Redback Spiders, wear the male says to the female, "Take, eat, this is my body," and jumps into her jaws. But he does this in order to have a better position for mating. We're called to jump into the jaws of our oppressors as our Lord did, with no hope or expectation of improved mating.

Evolutionary paradaigms are descriptive, but there is nothing in them that must be prescriptive. And I increasingly believe that the Christian moral paradaigm is to negate evolutionary drives. It is not as if God made a mistake when he set up the paradaigm of natural selection. But creatures aware of good and evil as we are have a different set of standards. The female Australian Redback Spider is not committing any sin when she feeds off her mate to feed their new children.

Different societies have different standards. Most societies seek to elevate themselves in order to gain status, power, and wealth. Is it any wonder then that the scientists chose to do their study of status and longetivity on Nobel Prize winners?

1 comment:

Barsawad said...

You have a thought provoking site here. But, for me, science and materialism has done more negatives and harm to Mankind than good. Mankind should focus more on spiritual realisation.

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