Saturday 26 April 2008

Towards a New Philosophy of Life. Part One- Understanding Humanity

Human philosophy is in a moment of crisis.
We know so much.
We know so much more about how we ended up here, the physical processes that dictate life, the biological processes which determine our actions, the ultimate purposes of these actions.
And we have no moral framework any longer within which to work.

We are in crisis. We are scared.
We are afraid of what we know.

God didn't create the world in seven days. There is no devil.
But we know that there is Good and Evil in spite of that.
How do we make sense of this? How do we determine what to do now that the powers we once ascribed to the almighty sit in the palms of our hands?

Because at present our attitude to knowledge is very negative. On the one hand, we see the rise of fundamentalism. Be they Creationist, Muslim fundamentalists, whoever, it is people wishing that the old beliefs were true, because they cannot face the power at our disposal. They wish to take that power away and return it to God.

On the other hand, we have the extremities of the green lobby. Now don't get me wrong, the green lobby are right in so many ways. They are wise to the dangers inherent in what we now know. But again, often their response is that of the Luddite. They want the knowledge to go away.

No one is facing up to the truth. And the truth is awesome. We need to reinvent morality. Not the old dead morality, relevant to a world where angels and devils battle for human souls, but a world in which we know what it is that we are, and we know what is Good and Evil, because we truly can work it out rationally.

It isn't about PLAYING God. This is the point. We aren't children any more. Playing is part of learning and development. We played, as we learned, as we discovered the laws of the universe, as human minds examined matter, examined forces.
The day we split the atom, the time for play had stopped. Yet we are still stuck in that mentality of the student, afraid to leave university and go to work.

It's not about playing God. It's about taking on his responsibilities. They're ours now.

I'd like to start by offering forward a view on what life is. At present our definition is still hazy. But there are several major theoretical questions I'd tentatively like to address here.
In all our studies of life, we only actually know of one Life process. The history of DNA. Our history. But also the history of all living things we can think of. Everything you eat is your cousin, if you go back far enough.
Did it happen elsewhere, is it happening now in the vast reaches of the universe?

Our attitude to this question, is actually quite significant. Potentially, it DOES affect how we see ourselves. The problem is, on this scale, we just don't have the data to make a valid assessment. But I do think we can make some logical inferences.

One of the problems with the process of evolution, is we are looking at it backwards. We see the results, but is only recently we have started to really understand which parts of the story hold most significance. And it's not the ones we first thought of. Sometimes, we haven't been able to see the wood for the trees.
In understanding phylogeny, we have slowly begun to grasp ourselves.

Let us first clarify some basic assumptions. Amongst all the things that have happened in the history of life, which ones could be classed as 'universal' and which as 'parochial'.
What do I mean by that?

OK. What I mean is this. If we take the existence of a Bilaterian for granted, somewhere in the Sombrero galaxy, what features can we be justified in assuming MUST be present somewhere in the diversity of life there, and which quite possibly do not exist there?

And in fact, the answer is not the one a Creationist would expect. A Creationist points to features such as eyes and wings as unlikely evolutionary events. In fact, the facts go against this. The history of Earth shows that if Bilaterians exist, eventually, so will eyes, so will wings. They are favoured developments.
The eye has evolved 41 separate times in Earth. But there are only nine ways it has evolved. Because it is laws of physics state what sort of eyes work, and which don't. So Bilaterians anywhere, would include eyed creatures amongst them. They would have two eyes, no more, no less, almost certainly matching one of the models so far seen on this planet.
Incidentally, it is believed that the most sophisticated eye ever, was that of the extinct Trilobites, an eye form similar to that of modern insects, but which evolved completely separately.

The same is true of flight. Wings may be amazing things, but life has a habit of overcoming the obstacles necessary towards their evolution. Insects have done it. Reptiles have done it twice (Pterosaurs, Birds), Mammals have done it (Bats).

Again, we point to events such as the extinction of the Dinosaurs as crucial events in Life's history. In fact, we can take these events as normal. Catastrophic astronomical events aren't unusual. Look at Halle-Bopp crashing into Jupiter. We simply happen to be lucky the physical layout of our solar system protects us. It seems likely, looking at history, that mass extinctions happen every 26 million years on Earth. One view- one I incline to- is that beyond the Oort cloud, orbiting the Sun at a distance of half a light year, is a Brown Dwarf called Nemesis, which shaves through the Oort cloud every 26 million years, sending comets off their orbital paths.

These events aren't unusual in the history of Earth. Nor will they be strange anywhere else.

There are three events which stand out as being unique in the history of life on Earth. We know that each of them only happened once. And once they did, Life on Earth changed forever. We cannot, at this point, say how likely these events were. Put another way, we know this haystack had a needle in it. Do any of the others, anywhere?

The first goes right to the essence of what life is. Here we are on the boundary of life, an uncomfortable zone where even scientists refuse to state the bald facts, frightened to strip away the last vestiges of mysticism regarding the life process. Because life is sacred. To finally categorise it in a table of chemical processes, is something we still baulk at.

Pasteur proved that spontaneous generation doesn't happen. All life, comes from other life. It can never just spring into existence. Or put another way, it's never been seen to happen, and no one can see how it would.
And yet of course, here we are.
Creationists derive some comfort from this thought.

But only because of the artificial barrier we maintain...

Because we don't categorise Viruses as life. They are PRE life.
What a convenient semantic!

Now viruses CAN just come from nowhere. They don't always need a parent. You CAN create a virus in a laboratory.

And DNA, if you look at it, is just another virus. Just another chemical reaction, capable of self replication.
Some time back, I proposed as a definition of life 'Any series of chemical reactions capable, merely by virtue of existing of initiating from scratch, an identical series of reactions, to the degree that over time, the total amount of matter being used in such reactions increases exponentially'.

This definition of course, includes viruses.

I suspect, chemistry being what it is, and chain reactions being a favoured form of reaction within the universe, that viruses exist wherever hydrocarbons can form in water to any degree of abundance.

It is whether viruses have ever appeared with the potential of that one special virus we know on Earth, the DNA virus.
Because everything we now classify as life, is merely a strain of that virus.

It is the amazing degree of potential for self replication inherent in that sequence. And the answer, lies in construction. It has developed a method of assembling it's molecules at an atomic level, that gives it unique capabilities in terms of processing and transmitting data. Which is of course, what viruses do. Basically, it's molecular achitecture.

And more significantly, it has potential for mutution. Evolving evolvability, if you like. Since no one ever sat down and designed these viruses, since the initial assemblage of all viruses, is, we must assume, random chemical events driven by thermodynamic effectiveness, we cannot theorise on how likely it is that such an extraordinary virus would emerge anywhere. If most viruses are constructions cobbled together by cowboy builders, DNA is the Sydney Opera House.

So Life as we know it. It boils down to mathematics. How often does the best possible construction of virus turn up? One capable of making itself visible from another planet?

And now on to the second great frontier. The second strange event in the history of life. Again, an event that makes perfect sense if we understand it. Like the emergence of life, scientists don't really like to talk about it. It is discussed, and the implications understood, but to say it TOO publicly, threatens a major part of human life. Because it concerns sex. Which really, underlies almost everything.

The second great event in the development of life was when Male and Female bonded. The great symbiosis of all time.
The emergence of Eukaryote life.
Possibly three billion years ago.

Biologists often don't like saying this too publicly. It is implied of course, and they allow us to join the dots (Dawkins does this very well), but to categorically state that all Eukaryote life is based on the symbiotic relationship between X and Y, is stark. Because what it really means, is that Male and Female are two mutually co-operating identities that cannot exist without eachother, that it is, in fact, the biggest division in the world of multi-cellular life, that before the emergence of Eukaryote life, men and women descended from different strains of bacteria.

But it's true.

Life is currently divided into three domains- Bacteria, Archaea (a bit like Bacteria, but not) and Eukarya. Eukarya, which includes everything you can see, is different to all other bacteria, because it's cells have a nucleus.

What happened was, between two and three billion years ago a large bacterium was swimming around, when a smaller bacterium of a different strain invaded it and started living inside it. The two started having a symbiotic relationship. The one took over the replicating function of the other. The one ended up being perpetually reproduced INSIDE the other. It became the nucleus. The two between them, became the ancestor of ALL multicellular life.
They invented sex, basically.

And still today, multicellular life replicates that. The little invader, is my ancestor. The reluctant host, is ancestor to all you ladies out there. Well, actually that's not true. Both are ancestors to both of us. We are all made up of bodies that are essentially composed of female cells with male nuclei. But we start the whole process afresh when we repeat the circumstances of the initial invasion, when the little descendants of the invading bacterium swim up the vagina to impregnate the reluctant host once more.

All multicellular life has male and female. Even if the reproductive process SEEMS asexual, it still replicates using those principles. Fertilisation happens somehow, even if it is self-fertilisation. But the logic of the situation dictates that there is greater possibility for diversity, greater possibility for variety- and therefore the emergence of more successful strains- by repeating the original dynamic over and over again.
Sex is the second great invention of Life.
And it may be unique. Symbiotic relationships between bacteria (where bacteria appear, and as we established, that may be rare) could be universal, but self-replicating symbiotic relationships, if you think about it, the chances seem bizarrely unlikely. It's only happened once here.

It seems so simple we overlook it. And yet, in a very real sense the anatomy of a male monkey and a male human, is more similar are to eachother, than the female versions of their own species, and the same is true with a female monkey and a female human.

And now on to the last of the three possibly unique developments of organic reactions.

And just as the second took place billions of years after the first, we need to go forward billions of years again.
I'm going to overlook the emergence of predators, which most biologists agree was a major development in creating the diversity of life, which probably initiated the Cambrian explosion by bringing the Red Queen hypothesis into operation (bluntly stated predators have to keep getting better to catch the prey which keeps getting better at not getting caught, creating an evolutionary arms race).

I overlook it, because whilst it is everything it is said to be as a development, I see it as being inevitable. Like the eye, it is driven by simple laws of nature. It is a logical consequence of multicellular existence. If multicellular life exists anywhere, the Red Queen would have appeared at some point, and as soon as it does, eyes, wings, legs, they all start popping up with a frequency determined simply by time and probability.

No. The last of the three key events is in the process of happening. A new dynamic, improbable in its occurrence, that changes the life process forever.

We take it for granted. We think of it, as inevitable. If there is life, there must be intelligent life.
Look how long life has gone on. And it has been driven hard by the Red Queen. Predators have had to be the best to survive. But none of them needed to grasp trigonometry to do so. Reptiles ruled the Earth for millions of years without it.
This is the point. As with the invention of sex, the chances of intelligence emerging are slim. It doesn't fit in particularly with the general scheme of things. A certain brute cunning in deceiving your prey, or your rivals, yes. Even a certain collective thinking, insects prove that. But that strange combination of collective thinking with the needs of a primate fruit eater that turned predator and in a short of time, though lacking speed, claws, or shearing teeth, replaced the carnivorous beasts as the pinnacle of the food chain, the Lords of the Earth, this was something new.

And this is where neither philosophy works. The fundamentalists refuse to accept man as an animal. The green lobby see us as just that.
The truth is, we are a unique animal. Our existence changes nature. Just as the emergence of sex and the Eukaryote relegated all other life (poor outmoded bacteria), to live in its guts, just so the existence of man, relegates all other life to a lower level. Because we know how it works. We can control the processes. The universe has finally created something CAPABLE of playing God. That changes everything.

The world we live in, is a world of man. We have ACTUALLY CHANGED the planet. We have carried out, in the space of a few hundred years changes to it's face beyond the workings of glaciation and continental drift. We change even the composition of it's atmosphere.

We are starting something new. And it began in earnest in documented times. Some geologists- and I concur- end the Holocene period in 1800 and start the new era- the Anthropocene, the age of a man-controlled world- at this point. I think they are right. Man the truly rational being, man the master of nature itself, emerges at this point.
It is a new dynamic in life. A creature capable of organising itself, and it's environment to do what nature could not- feed six billion people on this rock.

And this how we need to see it. Because our morality shouldn't be about what God might have said to a mythical first couple in a mythical garden. But nor should it be driven by expecting human existence to be constrained by the parameters of life as it existed before we did. That's gone. The world has changed. All those other eras of geological time, all the time that existed before human hives emerged, agglomerations of glass, concrete and steel stretching for miles, all the eras before the sky was dominated by vast steel craft, that carried life faster and further than all the life that evolved body parts to do it.

Human Morality in the Anthropocene must be governed by the following considerations.

Strength is in numbers. The more of us live, the more potential we have. In a human population of two hundred the chances of any one of them being an Einstein, is slim. But more people, means more intelligence. It is no coincidence that human knowledge has accelerated faster, the more of us have been born.

The future of man will always be dependant on an ever expanding human population. This will always be a law of life.
So the species MUST seize what resources are open to it. We MUST find ways to feed and provide for more of us, to keep advancing further. In doing so, we fuel our own progress.

Human Morality must be geared to increasing our numbers, our habitats, our knowledge, our comfort, our happiness.

The future we aspire to must be that of a species aspiring to ever greater, who continually wins each life struggle, just to take on another.

Our take on the Universe?

There's probably nobody out there- but there will be.
We're coming.

And the moral decisions we face here, will come in another post.


Anonymous said...

”The Truth will set you free”….

… very interesting post as always, and definitely a different view on looking at mating. Cuz that’s exactly what mating is biologically made for – reproduction, no matter what we call it: sex, intercourse, banging, lovemaking.

But creating life, I suppose it all comes down to how you define life. Is it something that breathes? Or does it have to be able to think? Or does it require a soul? When it comes down to it, everything’s made out of the same particles, just the structure being different.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, Crushed! I need to return tomorrow to comment! Great post, though.

Anonymous said...

Am going to print this out, I want to have a better worded comment when I come back :-)

Anonymous said...

Sigh. One day you might get it, Crushed. I believe in miracles. :)

Anonymous said...

So the species MUST seize what resources are open to it. We MUST find ways to feed and provide for more of us, to keep advancing further.

Human Morality must be geared to increasing our numbers, our habitats, our knowledge, our comfort, our happiness.

I find this idea vaguely sinister. I read this and I envision a technical wasteland. A world devoid of life in fact. Concrete and computers. And if that is the way things are going? I'm glad it'll not be in my lifetime.

Just because we do seem to be the 'dominant' species, doesn't mean we have to dominate. As it is humans spread, like a virus, ravaging everything in it's path. And like many viruses, perhaps that has to be controlled.

Anonymous said...

> It seems so simple we overlook it. And yet, in a very real sense the anatomy of a male monkey and a male human, is more similar are to eachother, than the female versions of their own species, and the same is true with a female monkey and a female human.
Hmm.. but it's not what it looks like; it's what it is... like we KNOW that the clitoris and penis are developed from the same structure cos of watching it grow in the womb....

Anonymous said...

Crashe- It's basically an attempt to strip facts away from some of the baggage we have carried with us from more supstitious ages.

Sex is for reproduction, yes. But it has come to be more than that, for humans. I will be covering this in a later post, the idea that sex means more to humanity than reproduction, that it is a powerful mechanism that has enormous potential, once we fully free it.

Lfe, well, I think the definition I use is the best one. It depends where you draw the line. The other alternative, which I can see the logic in, is to pare it back to just meaning Eukarya, and cut out not only viruses, but also Bacteria.

The idea of an immortal soul is a throwback from Aristotelian philosophy. It goes against our current understanding of the universe. Essentially, it involves perpetual motion without entropy. Not feasible, I'm afraid.

I think structure actually is the key, because ultimately, I think there is only one type of particle. I think the variation we see in sub-atomic particles is one of motion and dimensions travelled in.

Welshcakes- You could call it a summary post, in a sense. I guess it lies at the root of how I view life- and also, us.

Nunyaa- I look forward to it.

James- I don't know. I think overall I'm pretty close. I don't know if you ever saw the post I did on Primary Reality- I can't remember how old it is, and it won't be over relevant to this particular series, but I think the idea of an impersonal cosciousness as primary reality, with universes merely being quantities being calculated from something into nothing is the best explanation I can find that fits all the facts.

Oestrebunny- :) I dare say a medieval townsman might have thought the same. The future will be strange, yes.
But not to those who live in it. I suspect by 2200, Earth will be entirely 'developed', and I mean that the way a propery developer would use the term. There will be vast parks where anilmals roam free, but no untamed regions. Thee will be cities the scale of which would have us in awe, building the scale of which would amaze us, the sky will be perpetually alive. And yes, the Internet will be the nervous system of humanity.

And by then, whole generations of children will be growing up, and not thinking twice about it, that the world's they are living on (certainly Mars and Venus, but maybe the Moons of the gas giants), are completely artificial environments.

To be honest, I feel different to you on this, becaue if I were living in a time where going to a new country was an option, a place where people are just starting, like the Pilgi fathers had, or Australians last century, I'd take it. I envy my grandhildren the opportunity they will have to be the first Martians.

Eve- It was Dawkins first pointed this out to me, in one of his books. And it's true, it's astonishing we ovrlook this. In a sense, it almost makes you want to recategorise the way we view life. It means that Gender is an ancient concept, that hiuman exisitence really is a harnmony betwen yin and yang, that even we as individuals have both genders within us to make us what we are. It puts a whole new slant in sex, sexuality, and gender.

Anonymous said...

And perhaps the medieval townsman would have been right.

What makes this kind of progression right? We are not the only species on this planet and to 'tame' and enclose life in such manner is not only arrogant but just basically wrong. The earth is what it is because of the diverse and varied life upon it.

If you ask me, property development is what's wrong with the world today.

You can't sustain life on a dead planet.

Life is untamed. Living might be, but life is not.

Anonymous said...

Oestrebunny- What makes it right, is that is how the universe actually works.
Evoluition is new territory. We are doing what any lifeform does, but we are doing it in a whole new way.

The Earth won't be dead planet, we need it's ecosytsem. Further more, when we terraform our neighbours, of necessity we will do do, by replicating oyr own ecosystem- only we will maximise it. It will be dictated entirely by what suits us. As will this planet itself. In a couple of hundred years, the weather everywherewill be controlled by satellite, the very atmosphere itself will be sustained by Oxygen produced in airborne ventilation systyms releasing industrially created Oxygen- because by then, it won't just be heavy elements we will be able to create synthetically.

It won't be a dead planet, it will life, it will be home to billions and billions of humans, and not just here, the whole solar system.

And evolution will continue, as life spreads throughout the universe. We will continue to evolve, maybe in to many diverse species acrosss the galaxy, as will the other species we carry with us.

Life? It's only just begun.

Anonymous said...

It will be dictated entirely by what suits us.

And there you go again.

If people want to go and colonise and create a synthetic, livable atmosphere on the Moon or Mars or Pluto or wherever then fine. That's entirely up them. Solely up to them in fact.

But that isn't the case here on earth. We share this planet with millions if not billions of other lifeforms. Other lifeforms that have managed quite successfully in sustaining the planet and their own species quite happily until we evolved into what we are today. The state of the planet today is caused by our lifestyles. We are the species that causes all of the damage.

So we have our industrially produced oxygen and our satellite controlled weather (why? what's wrong with the weather systems the way they are?), the planet's not dead. It's just on life support. Not really much of a difference really is it?

We need nature, it doesn't need us.

Anonymous said...

OK, your middle paragraph.
The same is true of all new developments in life- we, by existing, recast life in our own mould.
We have the knowledge and technology to make this world anything we want to be. In fact, the proprotion ogf the Earth actually occupied by man is small.
I suspect we are due a trye revolution in agriculture, basically a full industrialisition, which will reduce the amount of land needed to sustain us, in terms of food production. I think it likely this planet can aedquetly feed possibly 200 billion people on about half the lannd now used to grow crops- we grow too much as it is, we just don't distribute it properly.

The rest of the Earth's surface, probably three quarters of it, can be left as parkland, garden territory, where free herds of bisin and antelope roam. Plenty of room for Yellowstone and the Serangetti in this vision.

Yopur last line, no, I'm not sure how much we do need 'nature', any more, because we can replicate all it's functions. If we can recreate earth on Mars, that in itself will prove that we can do what we want with any environmnt- and our success will give us the moral right to do so.

Our primary loyalty, after all, is to those lifeforms that share our DNA sequence. The rest, yes, we DO have to show some care and protection- as far as we need them. We don't drive species to extinction, because we might need them. If we don't, and thy are a hazard to us (smallpox, say), are we not right to do everything in our power to control them?

Anonymous said...

In a word, no.

Lions are hazardous, should we drive those to extinction? Horses are potentially hazardous. Lets eradicate them too. And just for good measure,lets get rid of dogs. Nasty teeth they have on them.

Many viruses and diseases are man made. It's our pollution and interference with the natural run of things that have helped created them and make them successful. Perhaps it would be an idea to let them run their course. The strongest will survive of us will survive them. Let nature take it's course. The successful genes will breed out.

Success in anything does not give anyone the moral right to do anything. That is a ridiculously arrogant point of view.

Just as point of interest, these 200 billion people you're trying to feed? Where are they all going to live? Surely not in the parkland and gardens where the all the vicious hazardous beasts roam?

Just because we have the ability to do something, doesn't mean that it's right or that we should.

Tesco want to bulldoze an old woman's house to make way for a new store. They can do it, they have the means and the wealth to get the go ahead. Does this mean that it's the right course of action? Does that mean that because they are successful in what they do, they then have the moral right to build their superstores regardless of the people who might inhabit the land? Of course it doesn't.

It's the same argument. Just because we're bigger than foxes and more successful as a species and house building, doesn't make it right that we 'develop' over their's.

Anonymous said...

No, but we should limit them. As we do. Keep their numbers at a controllable level, under our supervision.
And dogs, I think we'll always want plenty of dogs around :)

I think we have the potential now to make the decisions ourselves what genes we want to survive. The fact is, we're moving faster now than nature. Maybe evolution now is not a matter so much of natural selection, but artifical selection.

Success DOES give moral rights, of course it does. At a basic level, what works best succeeds. Whether you believe in God or not, there is logic to this.

Look at the space we occupy today, it's not much. The Uk is seen as a populous country, 60 milion people live here, but look how much of the land is unoccupid. If 60 million people live here, and thee's so much space fre, just translate the poulation density to the world, and in fact, it's way more than 200 million. In spite of what the alarmists say, we can feed ourselves easy now, it's just our systems that are failing, a symptom of the inability of Capitalism to serve our needs.

Your point about Tescos is interesting. Because long term, that attitude would fail. It would fail, because ultimately it's just another chipping away at the claim of Capitalism to hold the moral highground. Human sentiment turns against it, and it DOES have an effect on the future course of events. The corporations are digging their own graves by riding roughshod over people.
I'm not proposing a future where we ride roughshod over people, quite the reverse.

The primary loyalty of any species is to itself. This is the whole basis of human morality; what makes life better for our own consciousnesses, what expands the sum total of human consciousness. It IS about bettering ourselves, of journeying forward, of aspiring to be a greater species yet. Why should we accept limits to what we can be?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't making a point about Capitalism, but nevermind. My point wasn't about riding roughshod over people, it's about riding roughshod over the earth.

60 million people live in the UK and look at the state our ecosystems are in. Breeding more people and cramming them into the remaining space is going to do nothing to help remedy it.

Success doesn't give moral rights. Of course it doesn't. And who mentioned god? What does religion have to do with anything in this argument? You don't need to be religious to have morals. I'm a much more successful saxophonist than a lot of people I know, in fact I'm more successful as a musician than a lot of people I know. Does that mean that I, and the rest of the world's musicians have some kind of 'moral right' to have things our way, hang anyone else and what they want or need? And you, you assume yourself to be quite the successful salesman; what moral rights does that give you?

Control the hazardous animals but keep plenty of the ones we like around? An animal is only a hazard if you don't respect it. You wander into the animals territory and you like food, then you're food. That's not a hazard, that's a fact of life. You wander into the street and get run over by a boy racer? That's not a fact of life, that's the real hazard. There is nothing more hazardous to a human being than another human being. How do you propose to control that when there are 200 billion of us crammed into a space not fit to host 200 million?

And since you mentioned religion, it would seem what you are doing is trying to justify a future where man plays god. History has shown us time and again that that just doesn't work. Can't work.

Life finds away. It always will.

You would serve yourself well to get yourself out of the city and go and appreciate what it is your trying to 'control'.

Anonymous said...

The earth is a rock!
Ours to do what we want with!
It happens to be where we live, so we should treat it with respect, but only because we need somewhere to live, and right now, it's all we've got.

Yes, but we are prefecting the technology. We are learning how to create ecosystems. I think there is a lot to be said for erring on the side of too many people, than too few.

I didn't know you played the sax.
Anyway, yes in a sense it does, it gives you rights to make statements regarding the playing of a saxophone that someone who can't play a saxophone hasn't acquired.

The same is true with technological advancement. Proving that we know what we're doing, does give us moral highground. It is when we act withoutt full appreciation of the consequences, then our actions are dangerous.

I'm sure we'll work out how to stop boy racers in time. I think I might have said, I can forsee driverless vehicles not too far distant anyway. Sure, as one lot of social problems are solved, new ones will appear, C'est la vie, but that's all part of the challenge.

Yes, I am trying to justify Man playing God. Time we woke and realised, one day we'll have to, and started getting responsible about it.

Which IS life finding a way!

You make it sound like I'm proposing a dead world here, I'm not.
I'm proposing one under our control.

Shall I let you into a little secret? I really don't like being too far away from urban development. If I can't hear traffic, I really don't like it :)

Anonymous said...

And so you look to appease your own insecurities by paving over and caging in nature? Doesn't work, can't work, won't work.

It gives me no right to do anything, I can pass judgment and criticise or praise but I have not moral right to do so. It's a liberty I assume.

We don't fully appreciate or know what the long term consequences of a synthetic planetary ecosystem is. What right do we have to try it?

Driverless vehicles doesn't actually solve the problem does it? Humans will still remain the greatest hazard to humans. Despite all of your futuristic technologies. And why is that? It's because when we hurt each other, it's because we want to hurt each other. You can help prevent accidents but you can't stop people wanting to hurt other people. Violence is not always out of self defence or necessity.

Man wouldn't have to play god, if man would just leave the earth as it is and stop paving over everything and clearing the forests.

The earth is a rock, and it is where we live. But we are not the only species that live here. Why should we get to control it? Going by your thinking, the most successful species should have the 'moral right' to do so. Well that wouldn't be us would it? There are many more older, more enduring species than us. We are only a few thousand years old. Some mammals, plants even, have been around for millions of years. Or bees, bees communicate and play a vital role in pollinating food crops, nevermind thousands of other plant species. What makes our species any more important than them? Or any species for that matter. Everything on earth has a purpose. You cannot eradicate half of the life on earth and still expect everything to run smoothly.

So not a dead planet? A compartmentalised, sanitised, lifeless planet instead.

The earth is not ours to control. It belongs to everything that lives upon it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure this has anything to do with any hypothetical insecurities I might have.
Fact is, human history has been one long battle of man over his environment.

OK, why can't it?
I'm not proposing a complete scoring of the planet, merely the logical conclusion of whee things are going- a fully developed Earth.

It DOES give you rights, of course it does. As far as the term 'right' means anything at all, essentially it means something you have the power to do. But more than that, I think you hold the moral highground, by virtue of talent.

We can predict them. It isn't that hard. It won't be so very different from what we have now, just artificially maintained, in a state of perpetual temperateness.

Well we can educate people to stop wanting to hurt eachother. and the secret there, is in social structure. It's the way we develop and condition people. If you bring people up possessive, jealous, defensive and all the rest of it, well, this is what you get. But it needn't be like that.

Man has to play God, yes, because only by so doing can he really grasp his potential.
It's like saying; 'No, I think I'll turn down that high flying career and stay as the office tea boy.'

If you think about it, we're all just as old, our family tree all goes back to the same point. Just we have changed morw. So yes, WE are the most successful, because we have changed, they have stayed the same. We can elimate them, they can't eliminate us. Survival of the fittest.
A purpose? But who decides that? Only one thing can decide that, because only one thing is in a position to do so; us.

Compartmentalised, maybe. Sanitised, maybe, lifeless no.

Is your local park lifeless? Is your street lifeless?

I'm not sure we can really ask nematode worms and sponges to join us in democratic decision making processses.
Where do we draw the line? We haqve to draw it somewhere.
I mean, I don't much like the idea of pigs being slaughtered, but on the other hand, Sausage, Egg and Black Pudding sandwich...Mmmmm.

We have to put human needs first.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Crushed for making me feel more ignorant than I ususally do! Only half kidding you know.

A pretty amazing post but Bunny has taken you on for a lot of it and she deserves a gold star for that. Plus often I agree more with her points than yours.

The future of man will always be dependant on an ever expanding human population. This will always be a law of life.

Since we are approaching the best possible life expectancy for our species I could see a balance where the numbers being born are similar to those departing life, with nature lending a hand on occasion. How would that be not beneficial for us? I don't understand why the above statement is true. Along with a lot more but I'll focus on that.

Anonymous said...

You're uncomfortable out of an urban environment, you're a city boy a country-phobe. You're totally out of your element in fields and man's greatest achievement to date is concrete. So let's sanitise and tame nature, lets turn our jungles to concrete instead of living breathing trees.

Maybe it's about time man stopped trying to overcome the environment and starting working with it.

You are naive to think that educating people out of violence will work. It won't it doesn't. You could bring up someone to be a saint but they'll still do you in down the town if they feel that they want to.

The idea of man playing god is arrogant and not the necessity you desire it to be. In fact, man playing god can only spell disaster. You bring gods among men and you create power and the longing for it. People get greedy and people will use this new found power to suit their own interests. Not quite the story book ending you want.

Being good at something does not make you any better or morally superior to anyone or anything else.

Life isn't sanitary and life isn't compartmentalised. You can't pigeon hole life into neat little categories.

How much life do you really think a manicured, patronised park solicits? If anything it puts the wildlife off. And streets? Cement does not sustain an ecosytem and our gardens are no substitute for forests and fields.

You're right, we do have to draw the line somewhere. Somewhere hopefully far away from the sanitary synthetic existence you envision. And if all species can't take part in the decision with what to do with the earth, then maybe it isn't a decision to make.

A bacon sandwich is not a human need.

Anonymous said...

I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this.

Anonymous said...

jmb- Because more minds, means more mental effort expounded on problems. More people means economies of scale, in terms of human energy. It means that a lower proportion of humsn energy can be spent on basic needs, freeing more for involving their energy in progressive activities. Not only that, but with more people being , the greater the chances of real problem solvers being born becomes. Twice as many people, really does mean twice as many geniuses (should say genii, but I thought I'd avoid pedantry)- twicve as many breakthrougs made. It's a numbers game, the more of us, the greater our collective strength. Birth control is a very negative idea, long term.

Oestrebunny- :)
It's been a real pleasure debating with you.
I think some of the points may be covered in later posts.

I'm not a big fan of the countryside, but no, I wouldn't say man's greatest acheivement is concrete. I'd still say, landing on the Moon.

I think it is possible to educate people out of violence.

As to Man playing God, I do intend to go right into the power dynamic. I think it will always exist, it's just how we harnass it.
Us testerone driven predators will always have desires that way, it's how we use it.

Well, I live on little else, so for me it is :)

As I say, again, a pleasure to debate with you.

Anonymous said...

Your answer is of course obvious now. Plus my comment was idiotic now I think about it, because the population will be expanding for a very long time, since in our lifetime there are at least three generations at one time.
I'll leave it to you and Bunny.