The great challenge for the immediate future is to find a way of thinking about ourselves, about human nature, that does not fall into one of two traps: a supernaturalism that sees our destiny as predetermined by the essence that has been implanted in us by a Creator; and a naturalism that says that we are entirely parts of nature and subject to natural laws. Both ways of thinking lead to a self-fulfilling sense of helplessness which could be very dangerous.
In order to avoid a regression to a militant, proselytising supernaturalism which will hamper the exercise of reason in human affairs, and may result in increasing conflict, we need to underline the evidence that religion is an entirely human institution, though a dysfunctional one. In order to avoid a bleak naturalism, we should acknowledge the extraordinary achievements of humanity in distancing human life from organic existence: in short we should cultivate the habit of seeing the evidence of human difference which is in front of our nose and challenge redescriptions of animal and human life which conceal the huge gap between between ourselves and even our nearest animal kin. Without a clear view of human potential, we shall be inhibited in our attempts to address the many practical difficulties that lie ahead.
Raymond Tallis is author of books including The Knowing Animal: A Philosophical Inquiry into Knowledge and Truth (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and Why the Mind Is Not a Computer: A Pocket Lexicon of Neuromythology (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).