In the beginning there was nothing, not even space and time (but lots of energy).
Then, there were quarks and energy and space and time.
Then, some quarks banded together to create something more complex and interesting that we call particles.
Then, some particles banded together to form hydrogen atoms (and a little helium).
Then, some of those atoms banded together to make stars, which were more complex, more interesting.
Then, the stars began to join hydrogen into helium (more complex, more interesting).
Then, some stars began to combine hydrogen and helium into lithium, beryllium, boron, and carbon.
Then, stars banded together to form complex clusters called galaxies.
Then, some really big stars exploded, creating more complex elements like oxygen, nitrogen, silicon, and calcium, all in a flash, and spreading them throughout the galaxies.
Then, around some stars, these more complex elements banded together to form highly complex bodies we call planets.
Then, some of the elements on one of those planets banded together to form self-replicating, highly complex groupings we call living cells.
Then, some of those cells banded together to form extremely complex societies of cells we call multicellular organisms.
Then, some of those organisms became unbelievably complex, with differentiated tissues, organs, and even homeostasis.
Then, some of those organisms' organs became so complex they became conscious, and the universe for the first time beheld itself.
Then, some of those beings became social, banding together to form extended families.
Then, some of those families banded together to create even more complex societies called tribes.
Then, those tribes spread all over their planet, learning how to live in each new circumstance not by changing their bodies, but by increasing the complexity of their tools.
Then, some of those tribes banded together to form regional alliances.
Then, some of those alliances became nation-states.
Then, some of those nation-states formed federations and republics.
Then, some of those federations formed alliances that were global in their reach.
Then, ... ?
Well then, that's the question, isn't it? Is it likely that this trend ends now? I think not.
After 14 billion years of increasing complexity–increasing UNITY of matter and consciousness–what is the next step?
Keep in mind that we ask this question at a time, the first time in human history, when we have real, verifiable answers to questions like "How did this mountain get here?" "Where did the earth come from?" "What is our relation to (and responsibility for) other species of animals and plants?" and "What is 'human nature'?" Questions that even fifty years ago required supernatural answers or references to the unknowable. We are the first generation to know the Great Story of our origins. If the fruit of the tree of knowledge bestows the ability to "see God," then we are God's chosen generation, because we are the very first generation to truly know God's glory, from the still-mysterious quarks to the Hubble deep field. Before this, we got glimpses that came through prophets, dreams, poetry, and visions, but now we know it in a way that people from all over the world and every religion can agree on.
We are the first generation to know, in superb detail, how inheritance works, and how we evolved stepwise from single-celled prokaryotes. We know that the stuff of our bodies was literally created from stardust, and how that occurred. We know that the continents move around, and how fast, and how they came to their current positions, and what other configurations they've been in. We know the conditions under which different kinds of rock formed and where they are forming today. We know details of weather reports from 20,000 years ago. We know that human nature is an evolved thing, and that our instincts, addictions, faults, and foibles are vestiges of traits that were necessary to getting us here today. We know that each of us is the product of millions of generations of survivors, creatures who through luck and skill made our own lives possible. We know that we are probably not alone in the universe.
So. At this first moment in history that we could possibly ask this most-important Question, we ask ourselves: "What will we do with the knowledge that increasingly cooperative complexity is our destiny?" I am not an advocate of a single world government, at least not under any model currently extant, but I do believe we are destined to behave as a species the way the cells in our bodies behave. That is to say, to behave as a collection of organisms with different roles and points of view, which still function as a single organism with unity of purpose. That unity of purpose needn't require all of us to think or behave alike. From the point of view of a bone marrow cell, heart muscle cells are doing completely the wrong thing. Both still manage to cooperate so that I can live.
Such is the overall trend of the universe so far. The universe (/God) is very patient! If we humans wipe ourselves out, some other species will achieve global unity in time. For my part though, I'm looking for ways to promote the unity of humanity. Nationalism, protectionism, armed borders, bigotry of all kinds, states-rights movements, regional militias, self-righteousness, religious fundamentalism of all kinds, anti-science rhetoric, fear-based arguments, all of these are attempts to paddle upstream in evolution's rapids, and all are poor places to invest my time and energy. I am already dreaming of the next convergence. After we learn to function as a single, self-interested global organism, what then?
I'm looking ahead.
Deep thanks to Michael Dowd for most of the ideas in this essay.