Crichton's remarks about the religious overtones of the environmental movement
have come back to me several times today.
Archaic homo sapiens is thought to have arisen as far back as 400,000 b. C.... about the time that the hominids tamed fire. Fire and warm clothing would seem to have been essential for the hominids' expansion into temperate climes. (Our year-round fertility is presumably a legacy of our tropical heritage.)
Modern humans... homo sapiens sapiens... are currently thought to have arisen about 130,000 B. C.
Interestingly, only modern humans appear to have entertained ideas of a resurrection, burying their dead with grave goods for the afterlife to come. (Several sources observe that there is no evidence that Neandertals also buried their dead with grave goods.
One turning point must have occurred when humans developed language.
Prior to the invention of language, all training and sharing of experiential knowledge would necessarily have been by example: "monkey see, monkey do". Once language made its debut, the ability to hand down knowledge to succeeding generations became practical.
The introduction of writing would have greatly enhanced this "time-binding" capability, making knowledge cumulative and potentially unlimited.
A next milestone along the way would have been the introduction of papyrus and parchment, together with pen and ink.
A further milestone would have been reached when John Gutenburg invented the printing press cum movable type, rendering books cheaply available to the general public.
Another watershed must have occurred with the advent of universal public education.
The latest breakthrough might be considered to be the Internet/search engine combination, providing some approximation to the totality of human knowledge available at no cost day and night.
to Michael Crichton
The point of this is that the burial of humans with tools to help in the life to come would seem to me to be a full expression of the religious "instinct" that Michael Crichton describes.
I see an evolution of religion from tribal totems and taboos to a full-time priestly caste with the task of appeasing the gods in the Tigris-Euphrates valley between 4,000 B. C. and 3,000 B.C.
What strikes me about Michael Crichton's remarks is the realization that a yearning for a higher purpose and the improvement of the humanity's lot animates not only our religious proclivities, but also motivtes our actions in other walks of life. We want the world to be a certain happy, ideal way.
(To be continued, if time permits)