On the His Dark Materials series

A New Eve

By Dave Hodgson

Alongside the adventures, the love story, the battles and the fantasy, His Dark Materials holds a crucial prophecy: Lyra is to become the new Eve. This Eve’s purpose is not made fully clear, except that she should restore the Dust and begin to build a “Republic of Heaven.” But how will the members of this new republic behave? Like the previous regent of heaven who kept his predecessor alive in a box and those who endeavoured to destroy Dust, calling it “sin”? Clearly not. In fiction it’s easy to delineate between good and evil. At the end of The Amber Spyglass we’re left with the confidence that if Lyra succeeds she will begin a new direction for Homo sapiens: a new lifestyle that better values biodiversity, that harvests resources more sustainably and that acts unselfishly for the benefit of others.

With these optimistic thoughts we can all retire to our normal lives, do what we can to help the planet, sponsor an elephant calf, recycle milk cartons or help old ladies cross the road. But to settle down and wait for a sustainable future to evolve ignores some quite depressing scientific issues. Despite our best intentions we are, by evolutionary design, very selfish creatures. The logic of natural selection, the mechanism for evolutionary change that dominates modern biological thinking, shatters any illusion that we may easily transform ourselves into selfless creatures. Natural selection pays no heed to long-term stability, to caring and sharing, to selfless acts of altruism, to the “rights”  …

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