In all of the writing on my thesis, which is to come, I am engaged in speculation. I don’t believe it is wild speculation but it certainly is out there. I will say a few things in my defense.
Big ideas must be speculative to begin with, and I’m dealing with very big ideas – evolution, the meaning of life and the future of humanity. I really have no interest in considering small ideas. Professionally I am a specialist, but for this I am forced to be a generalist, but so is everyone engaged in examining big ideas.
You can’t examine these ideas without speculating for two reasons. Firstly, these questions involve a number of disciplines or areas of knowledge. At one time, the world’s body of knowledge was small enough that one person could speak with some authority to bring a number of disciplines together – that time has passed. Intuitive leaps and big ideas cannot come from a committee, so a person is forced to do the best she or he can as an individual, trying to bring together as much breadth and depth of knowledge as they can.
Secondly, the subjects I am looking at are, by their very nature, speculative. There is no way to make predictions for the future with a handle and perspective on the present, or consider the possible meaning of life, without speculating. So what are we to do? Should we simply throw up our hands and leave the subjects altogether? Or leave them in the hands of “experts”? When no such experts really exist? I obviously believe that speculation is justified, or even demanded by the times we live in. I am an optimist for humanity and for our culture. but we face enormous challenges. We need to speculate and explore these big ideas.
As an optimist, I see many wring their hands over the fragility of the planet earth and of humanity. I largely do not share those views. Human individuals and ecological niches in the planet can be very fragile, and pain and destruction is occurring everywhere, but it always has. But overall I see the planet earth and humanity as being very robust and able to adapt to harsh conditions. We have seen those harsh conditions in the past and we are likely to see them in the future. So paint me as an eternal optimist. In any case, pessimism does not serve us. We are at risk from natural disasters as well as human ones, and I believe the greatest human risk we face is psychological. And I am dedicated to facing those issues as a student of Carl Jung. Predictions of impending disaster are equally speculative, so we’re all in the same speculative boat. So let’s speculate intelligently and play with all these big ideas.
I also believe that human life has meaning and purpose which means that our survival makes sense. If we are an accident of material causes then our survival is likely contingent on forces way beyond our control. But if we are here for a purpose, with lives that have deeper meaning, it is reasonable to expect that we will survive as a species. That does not mean that survival is going to be easy, or enjoyable for all periods however.
I cannot prove that humanity has a greater purpose, just as those who believe we are simply clever meat robots, living in an impersonal materialist universe, cannot prove their assertion. One cannot prove an axiom. You start where you are, with the axiom you embrace, and go from there. I begin with the axiom that we do have a greater purpose as individuals and as a species. You follow the axiom and see where it takes you. If you find there are problems with where you are being taken, then you may decide to reformulate your axiom.
I am not, however, a complacent optimist, which is why I am engaging in all this speculation and writing about my thesis. I think each one of us, and humanity in general, are in for a wild ride. I am convinced that we are in turbulent times that are bound to become more disruptive. I see good and bad in all of this, but ultimate great good. But again, pain and destruction are very real and I think that Carl Jung has much to teach us to help us all in this process that fate or destiny has delivered to humanity. He was very aware of the challenging and dangerous times ahead. I share that concern, but as an optimist.
Speculation is really the only way to explore new, big ideas. To attempt to be rigorous and looking for ironclad proof at the outset is bound to get us bogged down and lead to frustration and failure. Intuitive leaps are speculation. Einstein began his theory of relativity by thought experiments of imagining what it would be like to ride a light beam – shear speculation, that led to great discoveries and proven theories. I am no Einstein, but I am speculating on bigger ideas than the theory of relativity. I make no apologies for engaging in speculation. Our times and our humanity demands such speculations – the more the better.
Further, I make no claims of divine knowledge or truth. I welcome exploring these ideas more and I am open to revising, modifying or tossing out whole sections or all of it, if evidence or truth demands it. But I remain a dedicated student of speculation. Intuitive leaps are the basis of creation. Let’s play with these big ideas.