Those who love philosophy deeply must love Plato deeply. Not Aristotle—his student. Nor Socrates—his teacher. From Socrates, we get the branch of priests. From Aristotle, the branch of scientists. From Plato, the poets. Emily Dickenson: "I'll tell you how the Sun rose — A Ribbon at a time." This can only make philosophical sense—there's no science in it, no prophesies. This is why all philosophers must love poetry. Indeed, the strangest thing about Plato is that he hated what he was.
Because philosophers can never break with Plato, they can never entirely break with his beautiful theory of forms (nor with his wonderful theory of God and time in Timaeus—What is time? It's the moving image of eternity). Because they can never break with Platonic forms (even Whitehead, the leading mind behind process ontology, could not break with Plato—the consequent nature of his secular God was expressed, colored, fleshed by His primordial nature: eternal forms), because they can't stop reading those delicious dialogues, philosophers are always looking for things that endure from time to time. It is the nature of a philosopher to be powerless to the attraction of certain sections of science (biology and physics) that have an eternal ring. One such section in evolutionary biology concerns the immortal genes.
Immortal genes (which are not really fixed like forms because their sequences do change but not the meaning of what they code—synonymous changes) have been around the world for two billion years, and two billions years for a human, the thinking animal, is as good as immortal. These genes (the oldest memories of life—living things have three forms of memory: ones from direct experience, deeper ones from culture, and the deepest ones in the genes) are found across the three known (Woesian) domains—archaea, bacteria, and eukarya. Humans share them with snails and the slime found on seashores. When I first read about these primordial genes in Sean Carroll's The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, I instantly thought: "Plato, you are also here."
But let's turn to something I wrote this week, something about being a parent. Here is a good question that's never asked or answered in that piece: Why would someone become a parent if there is, as some researches have shown, no happiness to be found in it? My answer: The reason why a man/woman can live with the unhappiness of parenthood is because he/she is a coward.
Let me elaborate: A person who has a child essentially did not have the strength or will to end a line of life that‘s 3.5 billion-years-old. Each of us is the product of a variety of life forms spread over a vast amount of time. Some of our ancestors were human, some reptiles, some amphibians, some fish, some spongy stuff, some microscopic organisms. As Darwin made so clear in his “long argument,” life is one great tree, and you are at the very tip of it. To die and not extend your tiny part of this tremendous tree that has taken billions of years to grow, takes real courage. Childlessness is the sublime negation. And some of us just can’t do it, we don’t have the power to say NO! to all of that history, to all of those animals that dodged this and that predator to finally get us, our mortal and immortal genes, to this very late point in time. And so we cowardly pass the burden (to continue or discontinue 3.5 billion years of development) to our children.