WHAT HAS POSTERITY DONE FOR ME LATELY?
This may seem like a joke, but what if it’s true? I think it’s true. Sorry it’s a bit long.
WHAT HAS POSTERITY DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Please skip through these till you find one you think is false, then check with the shorthand explanation, or Google and check it out. If you then think it’s true, proceed to the next one and on to the appalling logical conclusion.
There is no God. True/False T/F
(If there is a God, where is He? No physical sign of Him has ever been found, on Earth or in space. If he’s “everywhere,” He’s therefore nowhere. If He’s in another dimension, then nothing He does can affect anything in our dimension. We’re on our own; nobody is coming to save us from asteroids or whatever.)
We humans have a strong sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair. T/F
(We may disagree about what is wrong, but we know what “wrong” means. The word doesn’t mean that it’s wrong because God said so. It’s absolutely wrong. Killing people for sport is wrong. Being kind is good. Even infants know what’s fair and what’s not.)
Books about God and religion weren’t written by God, but by men many centuries ago. Men are often wrong, and times change. T/F
(E.g. Cutting off an infant’s foreskin or clitoris was once mistakenly thought to improve his or her chances of getting to Heaven or Paradise. It doesn’t. Deliberately harming an infant has always been wrong. Punishing or ostracising a child for not having been genitally mutilated is wrong. Obeying an obviously illegitimate order, e.g. to bomb peaceful civilians, is wrong too.)
Humans are animals. Mammals. T/F
(Our distant ancestors were some little shrew-like creature lucky enough to have survived Earth’s near-total extinctions by living underground. Chimpanzees have the same distant ancestor and are very like us, but different in obvious ways. Bonobos are different from chimps, more sexy and peaceful and cooperative. And so on. Behaviour that leads to survival in that environment is not planned or intended, but it works. It has to.)
Our brains and bodies have evolved to help each of us survive and multiply, in almost any environment, which we are doing. T/F
(We enjoy food, sex, staying safe, and protecting our children. We compete but mostly we cooperate. If we didn’t, we would not be such a successful species.)
Each of us wants to survive. T/F
(More than we want anything else. Winning the lottery is no fun if you’re dead. Atheists want to keep living, no matter how horrible it is being an atheist. And the many billions of us who believe in Heaven/Paradise want to keep on living, in improved circumstances, in Paradise.)
There is no life after death. T/F
There’s death after life, and the word “dead” means you’re not coming back to report your experience. If you do, you weren’t dead. Frozen stiff is not dead, if you survive it.
There is no soul. T/F
(Where is it? If it were in the pineal gland, the head or the heart, it could not go somewhere else when these organs died. And what could it do then? Find someone else’s body and move in?)
There is no free will. T/F
Free from what? From me? Then who’s got my will? From causation? If it were, I’d find that whatever I try to do, something else happens instead.
Something makes me do one thing or another, but it’s not a will, free or not free. It’s me, the whole of my body and brain, shaped by every past experience. Neurologically speaking, it’s the condition of my body, brain and nervous system a millisecond before it do it. Even if I don’t know I’ve done it till a bit later, I did it. My will didn’t.
The will can’t be some mini-me in the middle of my brain watching what I am watching on a screen and steering, directing what I do next. Logically, that would need a smaller mini-me inside it steering it, and so on, turtles all the way down. I decide what to do next and usually get it done. I become conscious of most of my decisions, but my brain doesn’t bother to make me aware of every electro-chemical reaction that produces my breathing, heartbeat, movement, involuntary movement to avoid harm etc. Too much information. My awareness of most of my actions, e.g. raising my arm, comes after the action has begun. But it’s still my action.
There is no mind. T/F
If there were something completely separate from my body, brain, nervous system etc., it could have no effect on me. The “mind- body problem” is not a real problem because, as with the soul and the will, no trace of a mind has ever been found. I do stuff, some of which I’m conscious of. I think stuff; my brain is good at that. I solve problems in my sleep. I do this. It’s not some mysterious ghostly device called my “mind.” And I know who I am. So do you. You know who you are.
Consciousness is not a mystery. T/F
I know when I’m conscious. When I’m not conscious I don’t know anything. My body and my brain and nervous system work hard even when I’m not conscious. Because of the extreme complexity of the neural input to and within my brain, the only messages sent to the parts of my brain that stimulate me into being conscious of them are the inputs that are important for my survival and reproduction. Otherwise I’d be overloaded and confused. I’m designed to stay alive and it works.
Consciousness cannot be transferred to somebody else. T/F
Twins co-joined at the head seem able to share their one brain’s workings so that they know each other’s thoughts rather well. But each has her or his own consciousness. And my consciousness is not an object, or a pattern, or a computer code or a string of DNA information that can be transferred to another living being. Why not? Because my brain, sensory inputs, memories, even my growth, defence and repair processes, even the reactions of the four pounds of microbes in my gut change every fraction of a second. An instant snapshot copy would be outdated a millisecond later. The brain is more like a city at night than a quantum computer program.
If reincarnation worked, the new person or rat or bat or whatever your corpse came back as would not have your consciousness, so it would not be you, and it would have no idea who you had been. You can’t say “I’m dead” because when your body dies there is no you. There’s only the place or space there was before you were conceived and alive.
Science is not a mystery. T/F
Scientists are just ordinary, curious people who work at testing the ideas they so often have, to see if they get the results they predicted, or some interesting other result to test. Nobody understands everything in science, and parts of recent science, quantum physics, don’t seem to sense, though this doesn’t mean that they’re false: tests and computer modelling show that they’re likely true. If you’ve been trained in astronomy and physics you will be able to imagine, and provisionally accept as true the idea that 13.7 billion years ago, something strange happened and within a fraction of a second the universe appeared and expanded almost to its full size. Then it speeded up, then slowed down, and now it’s speeding up again, a sort of repeat of the Big Bang, with the galaxies furthest away from us accelerating fastest. (At 73 km per second per megapasec, where a parsec is 19 trillion light years, for those interested.)
Those not interested who hated science in school because it made them feel inferior, may prefer to live with a simpler, less alarming explanation, such as God made it all in a working week (and presumably keeps making every change since).
THERE IS ONLY ONE EARTH. T/F
The inconceivable number of coincidences happening to form Earth and for life on Earth to appear and evolve over billions of years into us, homo sapiens, means that there are no other usses. Anywhere. There may be billions of Earth-like planets, but only one Earth. Even a small change like the sun being closer or the moon further away would have stopped human life from ever appearing. We live in a “Goldilocks zone” so we are uniquely important and infinitely lucky.
We evolved to evolve, at just the right rate to keep evolving. But there are problems. We reproduce fast but evolve slowly. T/F
Aggression, no longer needed for our big-brained survival is a problem. Optimism is another.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN OUR UNIVERSE OR UNIVERSES IS ME. T/F
You too, of course. From your point of view (the only one you have), nothing can be or feel more important than the amazing fact that you are alive right now. Winning a swimming race against 600 million other sperm should make you feel lucky too. So unless you believe that your life will improve when you die, if you’re reasonably healthy you want to stay alive more than you want anything else in the universe.
But mature humans are deeply co-operative; you might choose to die for somebody else. T/F
If your suicide would enable your beloved child or loved one to live, you might volunteer a fatal organ transplant, especially if you were old or sick and believed it would get you undying pre-death gratitude plus a heavenly reward. T/F
Less likely for someone else’s child. T/F
Less likely still for a stranger’s child. T/F
Less likely for the child of someone on the other side of the earth. T/F
Less likely still for some child as yet unconceived and unborn. T/F
LOOKING BACK AT YOUR EXTRAORDINARY LUCK, YOU FEEL IMMENSE GRATITUDE TOWARDS, AND RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE HUMAN RACE ITSELF. T/F
No you don’t.
Generally, you would be sadder to imagine seeing your own species, homo sapiens die out than for any other creature, even the cutest of mammals, from whales to small cats) to go extinct. But you’re thinking of billions of years ahead, when the sun swallows the Earth. Perhaps we’ll all be living on some other planet then, after a two- hundred-year trip to get there. As if. T/F
The Earth is already heating up so fast THIS YEAR that nothing currently being done or planned can stop or even slow the accelerating rate of greenhouse gas emissions. T/F
Global warming is already killing tens of thousands of people, with heat waves, 50-year floods and storms becoming annual disasters, famine, diseases, wars over shrinking resources (e.g. drought triggered the Syrian uprising .) T/F
Global warming will kill many millions in the next few years, not decades. T/F
Nothing effective will be done unless something is done fast. T/F
Nothing effective will be done fast voluntarily. T/F
Nothing effective will be done fast by any government. T/F
Nothing effective will be done fast by a world government . T/F
Nothing effective will be done fast by a heavily government-and-privately-funded world-wide search for discovery of, and quick implementation of new sources of cheap green energy, as e.g. Bill Gates would like to see. T/F
Every day, greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere rises and the Earth’s average temperature rises, so it is pointless to expect any result even if every country in the Paris agreement meets its self-chosen CO2 reductions on time. T/F
Most scientists now agree that even a 1.5C average rise would be disastrous, and the 2C rise will still happen, at which greenhouse gas emissions accelerates with well-understood results. T/F
So far, every country promising to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions is in fact increasing them, as living standards rise lifting global footprints, and population rises. Canada, for example, has promised to reduce its huge carbon footprint from the oil-sands projects by increasing it for a few years then holding it at that level. There is no plan to actually reduce it. China will slow the rate of increase in its greenhouse emissions, just as soon as it has increased them enough to improve living standards for most of its people. There is no plan to reduce the total, only the rate of expansion. Australia, whose population is already unsustainably big, demands the right to keep selling China its coal, and Canada seeks prosperity by selling bitumen to American refineries. T/F
Some American cities and states are proudly, competitively reducing their emissions from power generation e.g. by switching from coal to oil to natural gas to wind to solar to hydro to thermal to wave power. But no power grid is even planned, to ensure constant supply from wind and solar. And nuclear power stations, which once built do not pollute, are not being built except in China, where coal is still king. T/F
No country is REDUCING its greenhouse gas emissions below today’s level. Nor will they. T/F
The overpopulated world keeps overpopulating, with 10 billion predicted by 2050. However, by 2050 much of the world will be uninhabitable unless something happens. T/F
Nothing will happen. T/F
Anything to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in time would be so unpopular as to be totally unacceptable to almost everyone. T/F
So here are some of the unacceptable alternatives that would theoretically work:
Declare world war on global warming. All countries would mobilise and follow orders to reduce their carbon emissions immediately and without question, before the enemy overpowers them.
Lower everyone’s carbon footprint by ending all economic growth, through deliberate deflation and huge environmental taxes, lowering everyone’s “standard of living,” (i.e. amount bought, amount polluted). If all fuels had a realistic environmental tax added, at least tripling their price, people would burn less and only the richest few would fill up their vehicle or fly. Cheap electric cars would be popular for those who don’t mind a 12-hour fill up from green power sources such as Toronto’s nuclear power plants.
Compared with global warming, this would be less of a disaster. Research has found that income inequality, not level of income (beyond subsistence) destroys societies and leaves people depressed and angry. Equality might become almost acceptable after a while.
Ban population growth in all countries, by ending all immigration including refugees from failed counties, where food and water has become scarce, and war and desertification advances every day. Banning religious pressure to have large families, and stopping any financial benefits for having children. Also encouraging free abortion of every unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, offering free male and female contraception world-wide, paying a bonus for vasectomy, tubal ligation and so on. Only India tried this for a while, but men kept lining up to have multiple vasectomies. Only China has limited family size, for a while.
THEREFORE SOMETHING UNPOPULAR HAS TO BE DONE. T/F
Because human behaviour will not change in time, the human population will have to be reduced immediately by half to let future generations escape misery and extinction. T/F
Though inconceivable, this would work. T/F
How can 3.5 billion people be murdered fast, and which 3.5 billion?
For fairness, people with the largest carbon footprint, North Americans, should go first, but then who?
Russia and Korea would be easy targets for MAD, mutually assured destruction, if one launched a nuclear attack on the other. A real attack would not be needed, just a computer hack that showed incoming missiles and devastating nuclear strikes on all major cities. Trump would be quick to react, and this would trigger a real all-out war. Or some hacker might order an American submarine to launch its missiles and destroy half a dozen Russian cities.
Chinese cities would be easy targets for actual nuclear strikes, leaving self-reliant farmers intact.
Low carbon-footprint fast-breeding areas (e.g. in Africa and Indonesia) could be hit with chemical warfare, again instigated by drones, remotely controlled not by governments but by responsible hackers saving the planet itself from devastation.
With a relieved population of 3.5 billion, Earth could survive and prosper with forests re-growing and wildlife and sea-life recovering. A few centuries later humans would again have stripped and overpopulated the planet and the process would have to be repeated.
Would you launch such an all-our nuclear war?
Neither would I.
But consider the mind of some brilliant young hacker, living where he or she would be confident of surviving (Iceland? New Zealand?) who believed, as I do, that no other solution exists for saving planet Earth from soon being destroyed by overpopulation leading to intolerable global warming.
Deer and elephants solve the problem of eating themselves into starvation by dying. But they do not kill the Earth. Humans are doing this without thinking, in our own lifetimes.
Killing people is wrong. But so is ignoring the huge risk that global warming will soon make much of the Earth unliveable, perhaps dooming humans to extinction. We all want to stay alive, and to some extent we all want our children and their children to stay alive and prosper. Against this, the slaughter of billions of people is wrong (though killing a billion is no worse than killing a billion. Or killing a hundred.)
Well-written and nicely put over.. Lots to think about.
Nature will eventually sort everything out, one way or another. It’s got a very good plan that always works even if it kills a few millions/billions off by wars, disease, disasters and famines. Everest, The Grand Canyon, cockroaches and The Rolling Stones will still be here when civilisation isn’t…
This one deserves more reads. And a magazine slot.
Thanks, Stevef Stones, yes, but Everest will get taller and then wear away completely. I’ve just finished CLIMATE OF HOPE, by Michael Bloomberg (New York mayor) and Carl Pope. It’s brilliantly researched and makes sense to me: climate change can be handled, reduced and prepared for. But they don’t mention population control except to predict 8 billion people by 2050. My guess is that by 2050 most people will be dead. Kill half of ’em now, is my suggestion. “President” Trump is itching for WWIII but this won’t kill nearly enough to reduce CO2 and methane emissions.