Emeritus Professor John Morton

John Morton (1924-2011), Emeritus Professor of Zoology, University of Auckland; Lay Canon of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland; Fellow St. John’s Theological College, Auckland

Professor Morton’s commendation for A Species In Denial (2003)

A Species In Denial is a superb book, a marvellous continuation of Jeremy Griffith’s previous work, Beyond The Human Condition. It calls out for deeper thought, both in the biological and spiritual arms of mankind. These are fields of understanding that are drawing closer together. Jeremy’s book brings out the truth of a new and wider frontier for humankind, a forward view of a world of humans no longer in naked competition amongst ourselves and with all others. The fittest and indeed the only humanity able to survive today will be a species evolving and deepening, into a greater harmony with ourselves and with creation at large. We go forward into this new century with a drive for a wider science and a deeper spirituality, to find again for ourselves the place we had come so near to losing: the part that should be ours in a world of loving and understanding.’

Professor Morton’s commendation for Beyond (1991)

Beyond The Human Condition is a book about anthropology and the human future. So it is necessarily about Christianity and importantly relates it—as Christianity must ultimately be related—to biology. It is a forward view of humanity’s moral progress and destiny…I am sure it should be read by Christians, especially young ones in schools, and also taken home by them. I believe it foresees the same vista as Teilhard de Chardin did in his more orthodox terms, which is in fact the consummation promised for humanity set free, in the Christian Gospel.

This book, though not in traditional Christian language should concern all Christians, because it will stir them to think, and its challenging message contains nothing out of line with a Christian world.

Jeremy Griffith would equate the Noosphere—our present state of cosmic “upset”—with the consciousness of “sin” and our disabling sense of guilt. To confront “sin” with a directness that Teilhard was not to bring to bear, is certainly theologically necessary today, even if it carries theological risks.

...This vision—that I believe to be an authentic one for humanity—will fascinate...[and] many people could get engrossed with this book that would not turn to Christian theology.’ (Oct 1991)

Launch of Beyond the Human Condition in New Zealand (1992)

In May 1992, Professor John Morton launched Jeremy Griffith’s second book, Beyond The Human Condition, at Auckland University.

Professor Morton’s commendation for Free (1988)

‘By a compelling leap, it invites consideration in the terms of Teilhard de Chardin’s view of an evolving cosmos. The “Noosphere” with the glory—and the uniqueness—of “the human phenomenon” as it appeared to Teilhard, succeeds the “Biosphere”—arising out of the biological ground-base of all the non-human creation. So, Griffith’s book is by such token a discussion also about biological evolution.

The immediate forbears of human-kind, Griffith’s would see as still part of the Biosphere. With the exercise of a consciousness only yet in part reflective, their blessedness was manifested at a level we might technically call “AESTHESIS” perceiving, feeling, recognising, the properties of their world in a sensory way. Or, in Platonic terms, the “value” already being given ever-so-primordial recognition, was that of BEAUTY. Theirs was agenetic, instinctive, harmony of “conscience”, integrated, holistic, rather than intellectual or analytic. By this they were able to fit into a total accord with nature, being as one with the environment with which they lived.

The myth of the “fall”, with all its veridical power to symbolise the loss of this innocence, must have come around the time of the crossing of the threshold from BIOSPHERE to NOOSPHERE [mindsphere], prolonged and gradual though that transition must have been. The reflective and analytic, the “knowledge-seeking” mind that was to ensue would be that of the single constitutive species of the Noosphere, or of what Julian Huxley was to call the “Psychosphere”.

From such “advance” (and I use this term necessarily and advisedly) towards reflective consciousness, the Platonic virtue now being apprehended will be no longer just BEAUTY but also TRUTH. The key technical word—if one be needed—would move from AESTHESIS to ALETHEIA. This will be manifested in the thrusting towards that knowledge of things, with the apprehension of “good” and “evil” that Adam had become engrossed in. The new achievement of our species...and, with it, of the Noosphere, is hence to reflect upon, analyse, handle or “manipulate” the properties and materials of the world environment.…

…There is the paradox of sin. We find human beings resentful of sin in all its nasty realisation: resentful of the conflict being generated with the struggle of conscience against intellectuality: in the insistence by Mind to vindicate and assert itself as being “right” or self-justified.’