Are Humans Smart Enough?

We humans are quite proud that we’re the smartest species on the planet, but are we smart enough to survive?  Evolution has been characterized as survival of the fittest, but what happens if one species succeeds so well that it kills off all other species and self-destructs?  That’s not very smart, that’s just being cancerous.  The trouble is we don’t think as a species, but as a collection of individuals, and our self-interests are now in conflict with our species best interests.  The Republican party, and many Americans have chosen to just ignore global warming in favor of self-interests.  Is that a realism that we must just accept?  This morning at Vox.com they presented “7 reasons America will fail  on climate change.”

Ezra Klein is totally pessimistic that Americans will change, and he makes quite a good case with his seven reasons why we will fail to do anything significant about climate change.  The trouble is as individuals we don’t change until we’re force to, and it looks like we won’t be force to until after we’ve reached a point of no return.

climate_change_inequality_map

One point that Klein didn’t make is  people who want to be politicians do it for reasons of self-interest and not altruism for the species.  Even if young people start out idealistic about saving the world, the political system corrupts them by forcing them into a game of political self-preservation which corrupts them into selling out.  But we don’t see many save-the-world young people going into politics anyway.  Instead, the newest politicians with the most passion are Tea Party types who want to do just the opposite.

The only counter trend to this pessimistic black hole is technology.  Cars were invented just as cities were about to drown in horseshit.  If clean energy alternatives become way cheaper than carbon producing non-renewable resources then things might change.  But what if there are other technological changes that might help?  What if technology changes politics?  Hasn’t the Internet already changed the political climate?

This will sound silly now, but what if we replaced our political representatives with AI machines?  This will sound facetious, but obviously we’re not smart enough to solve our own problems, so what if it was obvious to all that someone smarter was, a brilliant machine?  Would our individual self-interests vote for it?  Right now politics is more of a personality contest than electing the best person for the job.  What if a robot was an option, one that knew a thousand times more about the issues of your district than any human?

We will always be surprised by unexpected game changers.  Klein might be right, and we’re already defeated, but we never know when a black swan might show up.

JWH – 6/7/14

The Impact of Atheism on Well-Manicured Lawns

When I think of good Christians I think of close-knit families with spotless houses and beautiful lawns.  The most successful people I know, those whose lives are full of love and happiness, are my Christian friends, because I equate big loving families with social success.  These same people have great houses and yards.  Most of my non-believing friends tend to be childless, and like myself, self-centered, and our homes and yards show a difference.  Its odd, but I think our philosophical differences are reflected how our lawns compare.  My neighbors with the best lawns seem to be family oriented and Christian, whereas my own lawn is weedy and chaotic.  And the lawns of my Christian friends who don’t have children seem to fall in between.

The history of western civilization and Christianity has been one long war with nature.  Christians believe they have dominion over the Earth and wish to subdue nature.  That’s reflected in their lawns and gardens.  A well ordered yard reflects a well ordered mind, or so we thought.

lawn2 

The faithful think atheists are amoral, but most ardent nonbelievers I know tend to be liberal with strong beliefs about improving society, helping the needy and living ethical lives, but sometimes our personal habits reflect disorder.  Atheists I would contend, lean towards embracing nature, rather than ruling over it.  If I had my druthers I’d let my yard run wild and encourage more wildlife to settle in it.  We use to have a fox that lived in my neighborhood that would run through my backyard, but sadly it was killed by a car.  I’m not totally crazy—I don’t want nature coming in my house, but as long as fellow creatures don’t attack me, I don’t mind sharing my yard with as many plants, animals and insects as the natural ecology allows.

I want a Darwinian lawn.  I also want a lawn that helps the Earth and our species.  I want to lawn to helps other species from going extinct.  I want to coexist with nature and not dominate it.

I’ve often wondered about landscaping my yard so it would be perfectly adaptable to our changing climate.  I’d like the plants and other living things to adapt to the emerging weather patterns so I wouldn’t have to fertilize and water anything.  I’m not sure my neighbors and zoning czars would think about that though.  However, as soon as the perils of climate change are accepted by good Christians and they realize they must be stewards of the Earth and not conquerors, they might change their minds too.

For all their talk of heaven, Christians embrace life on Earth.  Deep down they aren’t the kind of people who commit suicide or pull the plug when the going gets tough.  They fight for life to the bitter end—and when it becomes all too obvious that they are committing species-cide they might change their minds.   We atheists accept personal extinction, but we hate the thought of humans dying off.  One day, both sides of the spiritual divide might agree on a new approach to lawn care.

For every gallon of gas you burn the warmer you make it for your descendants.  For every pesticide you add to the environment the more you poison your children, their children, and their children’s children, and so on until the Earth is cleaned up.  Denying manmade climate change is denying your own sins against the Earth, and the crimes you are committing  today will burden far more than three generations.  Easy Christianity has convinced millions to shirk their debts, because isn’t sin incurring debts to others? 

Okay, I’m an atheist, so I can’t expect you to speak my language, so let me try to speak yours.  One Christian book that impressed me was The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   Modern Christianity has made the pardon of sins way too easy.  There has to be more to grace than just claiming belief.  What humanity has done to planet Earth is one giant cross that we must all bear.   You can’t escape your sins by denying they exist anymore than running away from them by believing.  We live by our actions, and any grace you seek must be earned by how you live and not how you think.

JWH – 5/12/14

Possible Outcomes of Climate Change Politics

Most people believe climate change is happening now and we’re the cause.  Yet, there are millions of people doing everything they can to prove we have no problem at all.  These people are climate change deniers.  Of course, these folk feel they are right.  To these people I ask:  What if you’re wrong?  What happens if we follow your advice?  There are four possible outcomes.  If we follow your beliefs we will suffer two possible fates.  Are either of them good?

Global Warming True False
Do Something Save the World Save Energy
Do Nothing World Suffers Waste Energy/Pollute

Being a climate change denier puts you at risk of destroying civilization at worse, or promoting wasteful and polluting societies at best.  I don’t see how you can win either way.  Essentially you are litterbugs who don’t want to clean up your own mess, and even denies it exists.  All the things we need to be to protect ourselves from climate change involve virtuous personality traits, and all the things that go into denying the issue involve negative traits.

Pogo2

Most climate change deniers are very religious, yet they are taking an ironic stand against being clean, accountable, disciplined, frugal, committed, cautious,  caring, moderate, cooperative, decisive,  temperate, pure, willing to sacrifice, industriousness, simplicity, and supporting many of the seven deadly sins instead – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, envy and gluttony.

Even if climate changers are right about global warming, won’t they end up being wrong anyway?

JWH – 4/12/14

Climate Change Observations #1

Here’s a week’s reading about climate change happening now.

  1. The Face of Climate Change: Walloped Wildlife and Flowers in the Colorado Rockies
  2. Scientists Adopt Tiny Island as a Warming Bellwether
  3. Climate change helps local man set Arctic sailing record
  4. Warming Lakes: Barometers of Climate Change?
  5. Climate-change denial getting harder to defend
  6. Climate change may force evacuation of vulnerable island states within a decade
  7. Dutch Drinking Water May Be Hurt by Changing Climate, Pollution
  8. Polling climate change in thirteen countries
  9. Climate Change And Seafood Supply: Developing Countries Most Vulnerable To Ocean Acidification
  10. Pentagon Study Cites Climate Change as National Security Threat
  11. Climate Victims Deserve a Hearing, Whether Here or in The Hague
  12. Climate Change’s Effect On Marine Life Will Leave Winners And Losers
  13. Climate change cripples forests
  14. Global Warming Is Already Causing Loss of Life and Damage to the Economy Around the World: New Report
  15. Climate change is already damaging global economy, report finds
  16. Research reports climate change could cripple Southwestern forests
  17. Are we wrong about climate change?
  18. Carbon Feedback From Thawing Permafrost Will Likely Add 0.4°F – 1.5°F To Total Global Warming By 2100
  19. Unanimous vote to support climate change refugees
  20. Climate Change Offers Grim Long-Term Prognosis for Seafood

I have Google Alerts configured to send me links to anything published about “climate change” every day.  Often the daily update links to climate change deniers, or just to articles about climate change in general, but frequently enough, it finds articles that relate stories about places around the world where climate change is happening now.  The links above are just a week’s worth of stories I found interesting.  I get many more links total.

I am not a scientist, but like Bob Dylan’s famous line, “You don’t need a weather man To know which way the wind blows,” I feel keeping the pulse of what’s happening is revealing.  I’ve given up thinking humanity will work on limiting climate change, so now I’m just an observer.  Go configure a Google Alert for yourself and read the stories.   [Or for that matter, create an alert on any topic and just watch it.  It’s a real learning experience.]

And there’s more than one story happening.  The political fight against even believing that global warming is happening is fascinating.  It’s the forces of greed versus the forces of science.  It’s a story of how delusion works wonders on minds who refuse to listen.  It’s a story of psychological warfare and FUD.

I don’t know what will happen.  However, if the liberals are wrong, the worst that happens is we spend billions making America very energy efficient.  If the the conservatives are wrong, millions die and suffer.  In making a moral decision, it’s not about who is right, but the harm you cause by thinking you’re right.

JWH – 10/7/12

Is Cynicism a Side-Effect of Aging? – The Mark Twain Syndrome

Samuel Clemens, known famously as Mark Twain, became extremely bitter and pessimistic about the human race as he got older.  I’m 60 and I’m starting to feel I’ve caught a touch of pessimism myself, so I’m wondering if I’m developing the Mark Twain Syndrome?  And will I get more negative as the years pile up?

Mark-Twain-by-Alvin-Langdon-Coburn

Is cynicism a side-effect of aging?

Now Twain had a lot of reasons to feel depressed and bitter.  His wife, and two of his three daughters, died before he did.  He made fortunes and lost them.  He ran up staggering debt.   In his old age he had to constantly tour the world giving talks so he could honorably pay off his creditors.  Plus he saw a lot of the world that he just didn’t like, and he felt he had good reasons to think humans were a nasty species.  Twain died in 1910, so he never knew the horrors of the 20th century, but the vicious satirical stories he wrote in his later years feel spot on to modern readers.

I would think anyone following the highly polarized politics of the 2012 presidential election would feel depressed about our political system.  I would think anyone studying how humans treat the environment and our fellow creatures would feel gloomy about the Earth.  I would think anyone comparing the growing greed of the rich versus the expanding misery of the poor would feel doomed over the fate of mankind.  It’s hard not to believe that homo sapiens aren’t going to use up every last resource on this planet and never feel guilty.

How can you have faith in Congress when the national debt grows and all they can talk about is tax cuts?  How can feel good about America when one party stonewalls the other for four years in hopes of winning the next election?  When did serving the party become more important than serving the country?

Our current economic calamity is due to a man-made economic catastrophe.  Billions were stolen but no one was ever put on trial.  And the rich are spending billions to get a President in office so they can go back to business as usual.

I can’t help but believe that a perfect storm of national collapse is brewing.  Is the U.S. in decline like the Roman and British empires were long ago?

Here some of the factors:

  • Growing economic chaos
  • World-wide shift to fundamental religious thinking
  • Global warming
  • Diseases becoming immune to our medicines
  • Population growth
  • Dwindling resources
  • Relentless pollution
  • Accelerating species extinctions
  • Uncontrolled debt
  • Political polarization
  • Aging population
  • Growing segment of population that’s not in labor force
  • Escalating crime and corruption around the world
  • Rising healthcare costs
  • Rising food costs

Now, do I dwell on all of that because I’m getting older?  If I was young would I feel that all of those issues were just problems to be easily solved?  I don’t know.  It’s not like I want to walk around with a sandwich sign proclaiming “The End is Near” but I feel like I’m on a fast train and the brakes just went out.  Is that feeling caused by getting older?

How do you know when things are bad or when you’re just feeling bad and think civilization is in decline?

Conversely, when I read about developments in science, technology, medicine, I feel positive and my thoughts about the future are uplifted.  Science is the one constant positive – but most people reject science.  What makes me feel good makes other people feel bad.

When I was young and read about Mark Twain I hoped I’d never become bitter and negative like he did.  Even now I try to stay positive.  But its not easy.  Oh, if I keep busy and ignore the problems I’m as happy as a two-year-old with a box of cookies.  And I tend to think that’s how most folks handles the problem–they eat more cookies.

When I was young, growing up with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, I assumed we’d have permanent bases on the Moon and Mars by now, and men and women would have explored the entire solar system.  In my teens, I felt before I died engineers would be drawing up plans interstellar spacecraft.  Maybe not manned ones, but at least for interstellar robotic explorers.  I think part of my disappointed about getting old is none of this has happened.

I’ve read enough history to know that the present has always been on the tipping point of chaos.  I should feel confident that we’ll continue to bumble though.  But I’ve also read enough history to know that nations rise and fall, and that all over the globe there are sites where people live who think about their country’s former glory.  We revel is the decline of communism, but who is to say capitalism will last?  Personally, I think free market capitalism will fail under overpopulation.  We have over 12 million people defined as unemployed, but we have over 87 million people not employed, or considered unemployable.  This population is over 16, not in jail or in military service that doesn’t work.  They are retired, mentally or physically can’t work, gave up trying to find work, or won’t work.  Less than half the U.S. population has jobs and they must fund the living expenses for the entire population.  Capitalism isn’t creating enough jobs.  It’s worse in other countries.

And the people who are working and paying taxes want to pay less.  This is at a time when our economy depends on socialism.  The reality is the U.S. has been a socialistic country since the 1930s.  To reject socialism now means condemning tens of millions of poverty.  The growing nostalgia for fundamental religious beliefs and conservative values is no solution at all.  It’s just a plea, “Stop the world I want to get off—why can’t things be the way they used to be?”

Now I’m dwelling on the bad again.  Are my worries just from getting old?  Or do we all have something to be depressed about?

JWH – 7/15/12

Have the Climate Deniers Won the War–Or Just Built the 21st Century Maginot Line?

How often do you see a big documentary on Global Warming on TV now-a-days?  Sure, the nightly news often mentions global warming when it runs stories on hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires and other extreme weather events, or when it does stories on habitat changes for animals, plants and insects, but you seldom see big documentaries about climate warming anymore.  Nor is climate change a hot political issue for the presidential elections.  Obama hasn’t made it an issue, and when climate change does come up in Congress or State Capitols it’s often by politicians suppressing climate change data or bills, or even writing laws against collecting climate data.

Read these articles to see what I mean:

Are the climate change deniers and skeptical scientists right?  Do we have nothing to fear from global warming?  Or are they complete deniers of reality and have built a political Maginot Line to convince the American public we’re all safe from the global warming threat?

Many of the reports above are from writers attacking the idea of global warming and climate change.  They consider themselves fighting fear mongers.

gwcritics

Now you can read for yourself the reports about the climate from NOAA – State of the Climate.  This ain’t light reading and you have to concentrate on the data, charts and graphs.  If you search the web you can find reports from other agencies and countries.  On one hand you have the scientists studying the data, and on the other hand people, including some scientists, but mostly right-wing activists who say the data is all wrong, deceptive or incomplete.

Who do you believe?  The folks you want to believe?  Doesn’t that make us all reality deniers?

We spend untold billions on defense because we fear attacks on the United States.  If global warming is the threat scientists say it is, it’s more of a security threat than we’ve ever faced by any war.  We have a long history of going all paranoia over reds, but why greens?  Some people even believe the greens are the new reds.  But the greens are trying to protect America, but the public doesn’t want to believe that.

There is something deeply psychological going on here and I don’t know what it is.

If everyone is sticking their heads in the sand, what do you do?  If the collective says, “Let’s pretend nothing is happening, and it will all go away,” what do you do?

If you look at the climate history charts, the scientists appear to be right, so how long do we keep looking at the data and seeing it relate to reality before everyone with their heads in the sand and their butts in the air start thinking, “Hey, my ass is on fire!”

To tell the truth, I’m starting to wonder if there’s a huge scientific reality to denying.  That’s it’s part of human nature.  That no matter how bad things get, the deniers will keep denying global warming, and finding reasons to think things are okay.  That denying reality is MUCH bigger than science.  That if I read enough history I’d find that the deniers have always won the war on denying.

Or is it simply, to conservatives liberals always have to be wrong, no matter what, and on every subject.

JWH – 7/11/12

Global Warming On Trial–A New Type of Reality Show

Although global warming is well accepted in the scientific world, the concept has been strongly rejected by much of the American public.  Since CSI type television shows are very popular, as well as court and crime dramas, I’ve wondered if this conflict on global warming doesn’t present us with a potentially new type of reality TV show.

Put global warming on public trial.  Let both sides of the argument present witnesses and testimony.  Let the TV viewers be the jury.  It will be hard to develop the show without bias, but if it’s designed right, we might get close to impartiality in the structure of the trial.  The prosecution will be the scientists with the crime being that humanity is causing global warming.  The defense will be all the people who believe humanity is innocent.

To make the show more interesting, it would be appealing to have real trial lawyers working each side of the case, and maybe even a real judge, or judges to preside over procedures.  This would be an expensive show to produce, and it could take months to play out.  To make it more appealing, we should allow the public to vote on the progress in each episode, and to vote on aspects of how the trail is being conducted.

I know the public will vote the way they feel now about the subject – how impartial is Dancing with the Stars?  It will be interesting to see if the numbers change though.  Can people be persuaded by facts?

This could be the trial of the century, and people love those.  Certainly, global warming could be the crime of the century.

If such a show was developed, it could be very popular.  I’m tired of the old reality shows.  Having a more realistic reality show is appealing.  And once this case is over, pick another.

JWH – 7/7/12

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,189 other followers