As we enter the year 2000, there is no dearth of forecasts and
predictions about future trends in various spheres. In the realm
of science and technology, above all, a fresh explosion of discoveries
is expected. Fast-moving science befuddles predictions, says
Hans A. Bethe, as evidenced by recent discoveries and developments
that would have been unimaginable a hundred years or even a few
decades ago. Bethe, who is professor emeritus of physics at Cornell
University and the recipient of the Nobel Prize for physics in
1967, writes in New Perspectives Quarterly (Summer 1999):
No more than a scientist at the end of the 19th century or
a monk at the end of the first millennium can I forecast the
developments of the 21st century or the third millennium, and
how they will affect the daily lives of people alive in 2099
The three scientific discoveries of the 20th century with the
greatest effect on our understanding of the universe both great
and small were quantum theory, relativity theory and the biochemistry
of genetic information-the chemical structure of DNA. Each of
these ranks with Newton's law of motion which in the 17th century
was the real beginning of the scientific exploration of modern
With more scientists working today than have worked through all
the time man has been on earth, equipped with tools far more
powerful than could have been imagined in 1950 let alone 1900,
there will be new scientific principles discovered. There will
be new technologies with unimaginable effects on how we live
and work, on where we live and work, on our health and wealth
and the quality of life. Not all of the changes will be "good,"
but taken together they are likely to make lives more comfortable.
More comfortable, maybe, but will the new developments make
life richer in the true sense? Many thinkers and scientists themselves
are concerned about the ethical issues arising out of recent
scientific researches - e.g., in the realm of genetics
and cloning. Science is a double-edged sword, as scientists are
realizing. Sir Josiah Stamp, speaking many years ago on "The
Impact of Science Upon Society," stated:
What shall it profit a civilization if it gain the whole world
of innovation and its victims lose their souls?
spent much and long upon the science of matter, and the greater
our success the greater must be our failure, unless we turn also
at long last to an equal advance in the science of man.
Science, to render lasting and constructive service, will
have to accept the real morality which, rooted in the essence
of Nature, is not a matter of religious emotion, but a cosmic
necessity. It is yet far from such a radical change. Sometimes
some scientific statement mirrors a moral verity or some professor
utters words that reflect universal truths. But this is not enough.
A change in the inner attitude of science can be conceded only
when such statements are made deliberately in full awareness
of their universal philosophical background and of their ethical
implications. They must, moreover, be presented by genuine scientists
in an able and convincing way, in order to gain the general acceptance
of their colleagues.
The Secret Doctrine contains many teachings that were
denied by the science of H.P.B.'s day but were subsequently proved
true, and it is quite possible that it contains hints of other
truths that have yet to be accepted. Only the future will tell.
Hectic activity is going on around the world to probe the
secrets of the gene. Most of the body's trillions of cells contain
a nucleus with 46 chromosomes, say the scientists, each one made
of a long, coiled-up strand of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Thousands
of sections along every strand represent genes, which are coded
instructions for making the proteins needed to construct a complete
human organism. Scientists engaged in deciphering the code and
mapping our genetic universe are holding out the promise of curing
diseases and solving the mysteries of forensics and evolution,
among other possibilities; but at the same time thorny ethical
questions are arising. For instance, sperm-sorting technology
improves parents' chances of choosing a child's sex, but is this
desirable, and where will it lead us?
"Are we ready for the gene age?" And, "To what
extent am I my genes?" asks James Shreeve, who is working
on a book about the race to uncover the human genetic code. "Such
questions," he writes in National Geographic (October
1999), "are hardly new":
They are the essence of the nature versus nurture debate that
has perplexed thinkers for centuries. But now we are on the verge
of having finite answers. Without much time to consider the implications,
scientists have developed the ability to tap into the code of
life and bring its power to bear on our daily lives, the way
one might conjure up a spirit to intervene in some earthly affair.
This eruption of genetic information is transforming the way
medicine is practised, crimes are solved, and the very nature
of life is understood. But its power is frightening too, even
to those who understand it best. Who has a right to know the
secrets written in our genomes? How much do we want to know ourselves?
"There are a tremendous number of ethical issues involved,"
says Steve Fodor, biotech company Affymetrix's CEO and guiding
force. "People are stepping very softly in order not to
blunder into an area and do things that are irreversible."
In most of our genes - 99.9 percent of them - every human being
alive is exactly the same. Moreover, most of the variations in
the remaining one-tenth of a percent don't bunch up into geographic
regions or racial groups but instead are spread around the globe.
Put another way, the snips and snippets of code that taken together
make one person unique are scattered about in other unique genomes
all over the world, binding all of us in a splendid tangle of
That tangle doesn't begin at our evolutionary branch but spreads
up from far below. All the anatomical differences between human
beings and chimpanzees, and even the hallowed uniqueness of human
cognition, may in fact arise from slight changes in a few genes
regulating fetal development.
Nine-tenths of our genes are identical to those of a mouse.
More than a third of the genes of the lowly nematode worm Caenorhabditis
elegans are shared with the exalted primate Homo sapiens. Genomically
speaking, even bacteria are our cousins in code.
The last and most powerful secret revealed by our genes, in fact,
is the indisputable unity of everything alive.
This is an extremely important finding. Geneticists have been
saying for some time that when we look at genes we find that
people all over the world are amazingly similar. Now they are
going further still and asserting the unity of all life.
One of the predictions for the future is that world cultures
will become more and more homogenized. Globalization with its
promises and perils is a trend to be reckoned with in the 21st
century. Modern technology extends human life spans and levels
of comfort, but it also destroys thousands of remote cultures.
Loss of traditional cultures means loss of knowledge, loss of
languages, loss of unique perspectives on life and of insights
into nature that still defy modern science.
Francis Fukuyama, professor of public policy at George Mason
University and author of The Great Disruption: Human Nature
and the Reconstitution of Social Order, gives two important
reasons why globalization is here to stay:
First, there remains no viable alternative development model
that promises better results than globalization.
reason why globalization is not likely to be reversed has to
do with technology. Contemporary globalization is underpinned
by the information technology revolution that has spread phone,
fax, radio, television and the Internet to the most remote corners
of the globe. These changes empower individuals and are profoundly
democratizing on a host of levels. Today, no country can ever
truly cut itself off from the global media or from external sources
of information; trends that start in one corner of the world
are rapidly replicated thousands of miles away. (New Perspectives
Quarterly, Summer 1999)
Globalization, as Erla Zwingle states in National Geographic
(August 1999), has been going on since long; the difference now
is in its speed and scope. He dwells mainly on global culture
and what it is all about:
Linking: This is what the spread of global culture ultimately
means. Goods will continue to move.
Change: It's a reality, not a choice. But what will be its true
driving force? Cultures don't become more uniform; instead, both
old and new tend to transform each other.
Global culture doesn't mean just more TV sets and Nike shoes.
Linking is humanity's natural impulse, its common destiny. But
the ties that bind people around the world are not merely technological
or commercial. They are the powerful cords of the heart.
Way back in 1798, Thomas Malthus, the English political economist,
predicted a gloomy future for humanity. Our population, he said,
would grow until it reached the limits of our food supply, after
which famines and disease would result. The issue is still being
His forecast was ahead of its time, but will Malthus be proved
right in the third millennium? asks Niles Eldredge, a paleontologist
at the American Museum of Natural History (Time, November
8, 1999). He submits that we must work now to prove Malthus wrong:
What's missing from the debate is an understanding of the
changing relationship between humanity and nature. For it is
how humans fit into the natural world that will settle whether
Malthus was right or wrong.
Our position in the natural
world is once again undergoing a sea change.
In an economic - if not a political - sense, we have become a
single, enormous population. The system in which we are living,
extracting our energy and other supplies, is global: the totality
of Earth's atmosphere, its waters, its soils and crust, and all
its living things. This is the sum total of all the world's local
ecosystems - ecosystems we have allowed to decay as we have chosen
(quite successfully!) to live outside them.
We have converted woodlands and prairies to farmland virtually
all over the globe. Our cities, suburbs and malls have paved
over natural communities, and pollution and overfishing are rapidly
destroying our rivers, lakes and oceans. As these ecosystems
go down, we are losing perhaps 30,000 species of animals and
plants a year, out of perhaps 10 million total species, even
though we still deeply rely on at least 40,000 species for food,
shelter, clothing and fuel. We rely on natural products to replenish
genetic diversity in our crops and to produce new medicines.
We rely on pristine ecosystems to replenish oxygen, regulate
water cycles, control erosion, cycle essential nutrients and
restock critical fisheries. We still need these things to sustain
life - our life. The irony is that our rampant success in living
outside the world's ecosystems has put them all, and thus ourselves,
The tide is running back toward Malthus. We are still not fully
realizing that our own survival hinges on reducing the damage
we do to Earth's natural systems. We may not drive ourselves
to the complete oblivion of biological extinction, but I fear
that the Malthusian spectres of famine, warfare and disease will
rise in the comparatively short run (the next few centuries),
coupled with an accelerating loss of human cultural diversity
and, ultimately, quality of life.
Unless. We can, I think, find the inner will to wake up to our
current situation, to see the grimmer outlook around the corner
and to choose to do something about it.
We can, if we
choose to do so, prove Malthus' direst prognostications wrong.
Those who are alarmed at the "increase" in population
take it for granted that human reproduction is an uncontrolled
biological process following the Malthusian law. Students of
Theosophy, however, know that the changes of population are cyclic
and that the number of egos belonging to this globe is fixed.
As the period between two births is, for the average individual,
many times greater than the life period, a fluctuation of, say,
three to four percent in the average reincarnation cycle would
double the population for a time - or nearly eliminate it - with
a corresponding swing to the other extreme after some time. History
and archaeology show that such fluctuations do occur in accordance
with cyclic law.
At one stage or another, in one manner or other, pain and
suffering is experienced by all. The suffering may be at the
physical, emotional or mental level, but our attitude to it makes
all the difference to us. Anjali Singh's observations on "The
Mind's Conquest of Pain and Suffering" (The Times of
India, December 21, 1999) offer some food for thought:
Suffering is a healer. Its occurrence in the life of a person
need not necessarily be a negative factor. Sorrow is the outcome
of the negative latent tendencies in one's subconscious, finding
their way into the open. If allowed to be dealt with, not only
does suffering equalize our past wrong actions, it actually cleanses
us at our unconscious level within and makes us aware of our
futile attachments, which cause the sorrow in the first place.
All sorrow in the mind is caused by some kind of attachment or
dependence on something or someone, an event or a happening that
is not fulfilling itself in our expectations. It can be a trivial
thing but the intensity of sorrow depends on the intensity of
our wanting it. If we use the phase of suffering in our life
to evaluate our relationship with the world, it can become a
means for a total change in us. There is a simple exercise that
can be done by the mind that can lift us out of our sorrow.
The thought pattern during the suffering hinges around I am
unhappy. The exercise is to stand apart as a mere witness
of the pain, if it is at the body level; of sorrow at the emotional
level; and insult or non-acceptance of our ideas by others at
the intellectual level. With a little continuation of this self-effort
one disassociates the "I" from the unhappiness.
How long will the thoughts remain unhappy without the co-operation
of the "I"? It is the mind that suffers, not I. The
"I" has become a witness.
When suffering comes in our life, we can use this chance to raise
ourselves to a higher level.
If we do not make the effort
to get out of the state, it will be used by others to influence
our way of thinking and behaving and our dependence will continue.
If we make the effort, there is no way of not succeeding. The
choice is ours.