By Basil Fernando –
Today, I would like to discuss a few more matters with you, matters that we cannot any longer discuss amongst human beings. As you may know, we human beings claim that we are a superior species to yours, as well as to many other species; in fact, to all other species. The reason we give is that we have a superior intelligence. This claim of superior intelligence is taken for granted as an absolutely right assertion. However, I want to illustrate to you why this is not such an easily acceptable proposition.
The same capacity for intelligence is often used to develop notions which are absolutely silly, and we have throughout our history acted on many things in very many silly ways. We have acted with so much silliness that we have been damaging our own species as a whole and of course, in many instances, many specific individuals from our species have been brought to destruction due to our own silliness.
We have also shown the capacity to turn even the better achievements of our intelligence to silly uses. The method we have often resorted to is to make a pretext of using a good idea and then developing many silly ideas out of it, and then, for all practical purposes, acting on the basis of the silly ideas, virtually ignoring their better origins.
Since I am talking about something that you may find confounding, I can try to illustrate it with a few examples. Let me begin with an example close to home, from Asia itself.
We know that India developed an early civilization, known as the Harappan civilization. Historians have more or less agreed that this existed from around 2500 B.C. to about 1700 B.C. Following this period there emerged another civilization, usually called the Vedic civilization. Many written texts were developed there and those writings gave rise to various stories, poems, hymns and the like. That was the great aspect of that civilization, developing our use of our faculties of intelligence.
But what did we do with it? Very soon we used these great achievements to create extraordinarily silly and damaging ideas, one of which was the caste system of India, which has done so much damage to everybody living in India, particularly to those who became the dominated people or the people who were brought to submission. Those people were called the low caste, and later that developed into outcastes, also called Untouchables.
Later periods, nearing the 20th century, brought movements and struggles by these people, and now these people call themselves Dalits – people who are fighting against oppression.
This terrible oppression was brought about by subverting some of the very great achievements of our culture. The damage this has done, not only to India but also to the entire subcontinent, is so enormous that the eradication of such destruction remains one of the most difficult tasks faced by India, as well as other South Asian countries. The extent of everybody’s misery – especially of those who are categorized as being at the bottom of the society – is difficult to describe.
So our species has this capacity to create our own miseries. I do not think your species has this capacity. Of course your species has throughout millions of years often been subjected to problems created from outside. Problems created by bad weather and other ecological circumstances, which may destroy fauna and flora, naturally have created lots of problems for your species as well as to many other species. The great floods that the world has witnessed would have also brought much destruction to your species. But these are not creations of your species; they have been caused due to external factors.
In contrast to that, we constantly create our own misery. We even take for granted that creating such misery for ourselves is somewhat normal and unavoidable. Now this really puts to the test our claim that we are a superior species whose superiority lies in our intelligence.
To take an example from afar, let’s go into another great and early civilization: ancient Greece. There we find the great thinkers of that time, a vast number of them. Among them, the names of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are so often mentioned, and their names are known to the whole world. Their use of intelligence in those early times was a great achievement. However, in later times, people used the works of these great thinkers to create enormously silly and extremely repressive systems of ideas, and then developed institutions around these systems. One example is that of St Thomas Aquinas, also known as an enormously intelligent person, who constructed theological concepts by use of methodologies that Aristotle used, and then constructed an extreme machinery of repression, which lasted for very many centuries. The church took these ideas and even called for a world conference, known as the Council of Trent, where these works of Thomas Aquinas were accepted as absolute truth, and made it an obligation for all believers to adhere to these ideas. The consequences were enormous, and it was centuries later that these ideas were challenged by people who used methods of observation and experimentation to come to different conclusions. However, the defense of those silly constructions was done with ruthless violence, and the triumph of the ideas of science had to wait for many centuries. Throughout the world we have done similar things by creating beliefs and using our intelligence for no other purpose than to repress a large section of humanity into submission.
Nearer our times, we have seen that even those achievements which were brought through the use of scientific methods were used more for destructive purposes than creative purposes that would have brought many benefits to mankind. Of course, various achievements in the medical sciences are on the positive side of such use of intelligence. However, by utilizing the best of scientific achievement to create atomic bombs and other nuclear devices, we have created for ourselves the possibility of annihilation, not only of our species but of yours and of all the other species on earth.
If I were to list known instances of our self-destruction, it would be a long list, contributed to from every part of the world and every area of activity.
So this claim that we are a superior species is not backed by adequate evidence, but is in fact contradicted by evidence. The vast body of already known facts, commonly known facts from around the world, shows that we are a species that ruthlessly does damage to ourselves.
I will not go into the problems created for our ecology, which is one of the matters that the whole world is discussing at the moment because of the realization that we are in great danger even of annihilation due to the carelessness with which we have damaged our own environment and our living ethos. If you were to go into other matters, one of the most terrible things our human intelligence was used to do was to subjugate the females of our species. Now that is an accusation which cannot be made against your species or any other known species. In all parts of the world we use various ideas and cultural achievements, not to bring benefit to everyone, but to bring the women folk in particular into submission. History from around the world shows us the extent to which we have been silly in the way we have dealt with the females of our own species. And it is not a completely ancient problem. This problem still exists and, despite of our intelligence, there are hardly any adequate attempts made to deal with this issue and bring to it a solution.
That is another aspect of our silliness. We know that if we use our intelligence creatively we can bring benefits to all. However we have created all kinds of theories and all kinds of ideologies in order to justify why we should not bring benefits to everyone.
If we look into social theories in the field of economics as well as other social sciences, we find large bodies of work justifying the denial of the benefits of our achievements to everyone.
However, not many will agree to contest these claims about our superior intelligence by actually looking into the way we have used our minds.