2015 The Human Genome: Universal DNA: Adenine-Thymine & Guanine-Cytosine (1)
1675 Baruch Spinoza: Universal Ethics for Humans (2)
“We are all children of Spinoza… a prophet of tolerance, democratic values and authentic faith.” (3)
In 1656, Amsterdam’s Jewish community excommunicated Baruch Spinoza at the age of twenty-three. He went on to produce one of the most ambitious systems in the history of Western philosophy.
Rebecca Goldstein says of Spinoza’s ideas: “It is part of our very humanity that we form beliefs by way of processes of deliberation aiming to justify our beliefs—that is to justify the claims, implicit in believing that what we believe is actually true. The way that we go about the human business of believing leads to the best and worst in our species.” (4)
“[Spinoza’s] determination to think out the tragedy of his community led him to a unique system of thought. Within this system he sought to demonstrate that the truths of ethics have their source in the human condition. He sought to prove that our common human nature reveals why we must treat one another with utmost dignity, and too, that our common human nature is itself transformed in our knowing of it, so that we become only more like one another as we think our way toward radical objectivity.”
In contrast to the mood of public opinion during WW II, in which many viewed the people of the Axis nations to be something other than us, as well as our biases and prejudices which persist, there is much and expanding evidence of the unity of all humans. The decoding of genomes across the animal and botanical kingdoms also is revealing remarkable confirmation of the unity of all living things.
I believe that the continual discovery of more evidence, e.g. comparison of the genomes of all humans to one another and comparison of the human genome and the genomes of all living things emphasize sameness, rather than differences,. This evidence requires us to dignify one another, reflecting wonder and respect.
All life is one.
Even now, there are forces which challenge this precious insight. As Goldstein reminds us, we are betraying Spinoza when we allow these destructive forces to dominate the narrative. 30
1. Green, Eric D., http://www.genome.gov/115
2. Spinoza, Baruch, Ethics, 1675
3. Carroll, James, Christ Actually, Penguin Publishing Group, 2014
4. Goldstein, Rebecca, Betraying Spinoza, Nextbook Schocken, N York, 2006