Through the evolution of the conscious mind in the human species, nature became aware of itself and can thus, for the first time in more than three billion years of natural evolution, influence and even, to some degree, take control of its own future development according to intentional goals. Since these goals are, at the same time, inevitably our own wishful visions, our species becomes not only nature's managing agent but also morally responsible for the future of nature, including our own future. This essay tries to draw conclusions from evolutionary, ecological, cultural, anthropological and moral perspectives. It not only asks about the place of human beings in nature as some kind of alien intruder, but seeks to understand human cultural evolution as part of nature, as the consequent continuation of natural evolution having become not only self-organized but self-guided and responsibly self-controlled.
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