The Quintessential Human Superpower: Universal Law

The evolution of homo sapiens is a continuing story, and so far the development has been not only towards rational thought, but also towards technology for sharing ideas.

Among these technologies is language, and since just a few thousand years ago: Written language. Before written language was developed, humans devised several tricks to be able to keep permanent records. These are still effective mnemonic tools, but since the advent of writing, permanent records have become increasing widespread. Ironically, written records may actually pose a threat to homo sapiens — more on that in a moment.

First, let me give a brief description of the role written records play in human civilization today. Although in many cases written records are created to document temporary facts (think, for example, of the receipt a cashier hands you when you have made a purchase), the far more significant use of writing is to codify universal laws — whether that is a government’s rules of law, or the natural laws that have been tested time and again by observation, then to be approved as “scientific theory” (and ultimately to be turned into quasi-indisputable universal law).

Such universals play a very significant role in society. Being virtually indisputable, they become “facts of life”, “common sense” and similar concepts. They become as fixed as the firmament, and they are handed down from one generation to the next with the same sense of certainty as that a mother will care for her newborn child. These concepts are unwavering — and I feel they are very similar to what C.G. Jung referred to as “archetypes”. In contrast to Jung, however, I feel they are not coded into the human psyche — rather: they are written into the human record. As such, they are particularly human attributes (because I feel only humans have developed such advanced permanent record-keeping technologies).

Such unwavering, permanent universal laws are basically uncontestable — to deny their validity is to step outside of the norms that are part and parcel of living within a civilized community. The risk I alluded to before is that there does not seem to be a straightforward way to deal with revising these laws (in case they should for some odd reason no longer remain valid). Although there have been successful “scientific revolutions” in the past, there is no guarantee that this will remain so forever (consider, for example, the heated debates over the concept of “global warming” or the question of whether some resources are “renewable” or not).

Scientific laws give rise to a notion referred to as “objectivity” — in a future post, I wish to explain how this idea of “objective” facts is actually a rather quirky notion (and how it is the exception to the rule, rather than being anything normal).

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