In one sense, Darwin has put an end to humanity. By making humanity ‘open-ended’ – a species subject to laws of evolution – he has removed us from a Platonic world of ideal forms and abstract perfection, and precipitated us into a dynamic world of generation, mutation and decay.

If we look at one model of a biblical universe, we were subject to salvation and damnation, an eternal fate. We would answer to the gods, and, formally, we had the structure of dolls. We were a type of doll which, although individuals would change through a particular life-cycle, would be reproduced unchanged throughout all conceivable futurity. We rolled off the production line, and our porcelain bodies were the same as those belonging to dolls of a generation four thousand years older, just as the human dolls of a million years into the future would precisely resemble our own figures. Because we were always the same, we could be judged from year to year, and we knew ourselves: we knew our place, and our gods knew us and our place, too.

Humanity was a closed system, a self-sustaining, self-referring and repetitive cycle. There were boundaries. There were limits.

So, the production line rolled: we emerged from the classical factory, and performed a certain set of tasks, and died. We were judged and went to a kind of storehouse or repository for our kind, for human dolls: these storehouses were called ‘heaven’, ‘purgatory’ or ‘hell’.

Instead, now, we are a species without a pre-described destination. Our bodies and our minds are fluid, and our limitations are uncertain. Our ‘human nature’ isn’t at all clear. We do not know, and cannot know, where we are going. Our genes will flow along, and they will mutate, and individuals and cultures will contribute to the eddies or floods of this genetic river: some will slip away from the main stream to stand in stagnant pools or form great and fertile lakes; or the stream itself will divide into the crinkled idiosyncrasies of a delta. We will offer ourselves to the current, and the form of that offer will be change.

Exiled from paradise – exiled from a domain in which we are literally ourselves – we must make our way through a world we destroy and build. There’s no heavenly warehouse, no satanic category or stable system of definition, in which we can be kept, no place we will end up, no place we will end.

Really, there is no ‘us’ at all.

It’s rather as if we have fallen off the conveyor belt, with no one to pick us up and put us in a box, no one to buy us, no one to give us a home.

In this model, the gods have lost control of us, or perhaps they don’t want us anymore, or have mislaid us. Because we no longer have the porcelain form into which we can be shaped, we have to make a form for ourselves. We have to limit ourselves, and so become human. (Otherwise, what are we?)