Chapter 4
The Changing Society
In an important sense, this world of ours is a new world,
in which the unity of knowledge, the nature of the human
communities, the order of society, the order of ideas, the
very notions of society and culture have changed and will
not return to what they have been in the past. What is new
is new, not because it has never been there before, but
because it has changed in quality. One thing that is new is
prevalence of the newness, the changing scale and the
scope of change itself. What is new is that in one genera -
tion, our knowledge of the natural world engulfs us, upsets
and complements all knowledge of the natural world
before. The techniques, among which and by which we
live, multiply and ramify, so that the whole world is bound
together by communication. To assail the changes that
have unmoored us from the past is futile, and in a deep
sense, I think it is wicked. We need to recognize the change
and learn what resources we have.
J. R. Oppenheimer
Human evolution is not just biological, but also it is psychosocial. We
exceptional primates have evolved in consciousness within our internal
world. We discussed the phenomenon of change in relation to the
outside world of the cosmos and human development; that concept has
even more dramatic and personal meaning when applied to the reality of
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68 Toward Human Emergence
social change. With an enlarged brain and self-awareness, human
beings also acquired the ability to speak and use languages. This
permitted our species to communicate more effectively with our own
kind in a more superior way than by any previous animal. In time, this
equipped our ancestors to form groups, tribes, communities, and
societies. In this process of social evolution, humans project the
conceptions of interior thought into an exterior world. As rational
animals with expanding powers of communication, we literally create an
external environment, one that is in the process of being perfected by
increasing human intelligence, ingenuity, imagination, and innovation.
The Synergistic Society
Humans are defined as social beings. As such, we find our fulfillment
outside of ourselves, in the society of others. Like all living organisms, we
tend to collect and group together. The same pattern observable in cellular
or atomic growth and development seems to be the model by which our
society has expanded and perfected itself. What distinguishes our species
from other animals is that we are aware of our inclination toward
socialization or collectivization. We can consciously aid and increase
cooperative action within the community, or knowingly thwart it. We can
use our brains to learn to live in harmony with our fellow beings and the
rest of creation, or we can promote disharmony and destruction in
the universe. (In fact, scientific research today confirms that those among
us who are violently destructive and anti-social in behavior suffer from
a brain defect or deficiency.)
Our socializing process is essentially growth in creative sharing, so
evident in scientific investigation and the performing arts. Working
together with colleagues, we can confront and solve problems in nature
and society, while giving expression to innate capacities. But when
one completely disregards the needs of others and goes it alone, the
results are often less than desirable for the person and the group. As
the human family matures, there is an evolution in our social
conscience and concerns. One indicator is the global growth and influ -
ence of the environmental and ecological movements. Another was
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