Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Charlie Brown and Survival of a Species

Excerpted from the sermon "The First Day and the Rest of Your Life" delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron by our Minister Emeritus; Rev. Gordon McKeeman - January 2, 1972

Charlie brown and Linus are walking along and Linus says to Charlie Brown, "I have a theological question. When you die and go to heaven, are you graded on a percentage or on a curve?" And Charlie Brown says, "On a curve naturally;" to which Linus responds, "How can you be so sure?" and Charlie Browns says, "I'm always sure about the things that are a matter of opinion."

perhaps we ought to take a cue from Charlie Brown, that is to say, certainties are a matter of opinion, not a matter of fact. Certainties are our fundamental premises which are, to use another word, our faith. And we are always sure about things that are a matter of opinion, aren't we? Well, what are some of these certainties which are, in fact, only our assertations?

Let's begins with one - the notion, the belief, the certainty, as it where - that there is an ordering process going on in us and about us, and that survival is it's goal, and that process rewards adaption. What does it mean? It means that if we learn how to live within the circumstances, the conditions, the environment, these learnings have survival value. The cockroach managed it and the dinosaur didn't. The question before us, of course, is whether human beings are going to learn it or not, and that is at this point an open question. It is one of the uncertainties.

But the certainty that lies behind it is that this ordering process will reward adaption with survival and non-adaption with extinction. In the the long run, then, morality is based upon survival value - that which is moral enables people to survive, that which is immoral does not enable them to survive. How to apply that is a problem. For example, violence in the form of predation (the praying of one specie upon another specie for purposes of it's survival) does indeed have survival value. So if you happen to be a wolf, to be a good predator is the means of your survival and that involves violence.

The question is whether violence has survival value for human beings. What are we predators upon? Ourselves? One another? While most animals have natural enemies, man apparently has no natural enemies, and violence in the hands of mankind does not insure his survival. It does, in fact, threaten it. Therefore, in trying to find out what things we ought to be embracing, the question of whether or not value is capable of ensuring or enhancing the possibilities of survival is one yardstick to use.

Using this yardstick, one discovers a very interesting thing. Such moral values of love, and honesty, and acceptance are not simply preferences of human beings, they are really imperatives of human beings because mankind is one and violence and hostility do not have survival value but love, and honesty, and acceptance do have survival value. Now you may find many other kinds of values which, by this yardstick, are useful in that they suggest the possibilities of survival of the human species and it's growth toward it's potential which some of us dream to be a world of peace and good will. But these things require changes in human beings. So we go from the rest of your life back to the first part, which is about the first day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. How are we to start the necessary kinds of change in us, and in others, to enable us to survive as a species?

... to be continued

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