December 19, 2009

Homo Sapiens Commits Suicide in Copenhagen

Just for the record, I think life is meaningless and always have. Of course, when making such a statement, one should define what one means by "meaning." Okay, I think I can do this by contradistinction. To borrow a trick used by religious people, for example, who prove the existence of God by a kind of process of elimination: they can't think of any other way to explain the existence of the Universe, so they say someone must have created it. The psychologically-attuned will immediately recognize this as an instance of massive, teleological projection. It is typical of the arrogance of human beings to believe that anything mysterious must nevertheless be within human ken, and that absolutely nothing could be beyond our comprehension. So we're actually able to "think up" the way the Universe started.

So, by contradistinction (in this definition of "meaning"): I don't believe any of that. I don't think the human corpus has a "soul" or that this nonexistent soul has a destiny, that it's on a preconceived journey mapped out by a Supreme Being, or any other religious notion. Why such things would give life "meaning," I have no idea, but if that's what is meant by "meaning," then I disagree.

I think we're just here, like other species, and that's all we can say. Among mammals (and all other life forms on Earth) we have the most complex central nervous systems, and we have this apparently unique ability to conceptualize. Our mistake (which many make, I mean) is in believing that this limited ability to conceptualize would nevertheless be adequate to understand, or co-extensive with, the complexities of the Universe. Why should such a congruence exist? It's why I believe that Einstein's meditation, that "the most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it's comprehensible," was actually a subtle and ironical joke. What this greatest of all conceptual thinkers was actually saying was that the Universe is incomprehensible to us, but that we have a facility for mathematical modeling of Reality which has deceived us into reducing the Universe into a simulacrum of itself which we take for the real thing, yet that real thing remains beyond our understanding. So that the Universe, by presenting itself to our senses in such a way that it appears understandable, remains hidden from us. All we are doing is manipulating the data received by our senses and deducing, incorrectly, that this is the same thing as Reality. The so-called Copenhagen Hypothesis, which holds (I think correctly) that one cannot separate the observer from the observed, and that no "independent" reality exists which can be accurately observed by a so-called objective observer, is a metaphor for this basic impossibility.

So we return to Copenhagen to finish off the human race. It is not surprising that humans were not able to deal with climate change, because we did not evolve to deal with "conceptual" problems except as subjects for thinking. We cannot act in the face of an unseen danger. When the danger of global warming can be seen in its immediacy, it will be too late. Oddly enough, David Letterman, talk show host and insightful thinker, has been saying all along that "we're screwed" and we'll never deal with global warming. His informed and politically-motivated guests, such as Al Gore and James Hansen, took issue with this view, but Dave never varied.

Dave was right, the rest were wrong. One should take genius where we find it. Don't ask me how Dave knew, but he did. The remaining question concerns how great a tragedy this will be. The main problem I see, insofar as the ecosphere is concerned, is that the die-off of Homo Sapiens will inevitably take a lot of other "innocent" species with it. Some estimates say 50-60% of all mammals, birds and fish, for example. Still, with humans gone, the sun will still have just about as much time left in its Main Sequence as it has had since the formation of the solar system. So there is plenty of time left for evolution before the Big Finish. The PBS special entitled "After We're Gone" demonstrated how little time it will really take for all evidence of human civilization to disappear from the Earth, and for nature to reclaim a more natural state from the human artifacts currently in place. Even the Pacific Garbage Patch or Gyre will eventually degrade and stop killing marine life.

I'm not one of these people, like Kurt Vonnegut and Gore Vidal, who regard humans as a "virus" that the Earth is trying to get rid of, or "burn off." That's a little too ontological for the likes of me. We're not a "mistake." In Kurt's case, it was just the depression talking. There are many ways that a species finds its way to extinction, and global warming may be ours (disease or nuclear war being a couple of other routes). I was thinking that it's perhaps true that humans would not actually die off completely anyway, even with global warming (unless we have the runaway greenhouse effect called "going Venus"). We might just be reduced to a smaller, tropics-loving group with a rich gene pool. You know, of the kind found in East Equatorial Africa.

1 comment:

  1. hammerude2:51 PM

    "It is typical of the arrogance of human beings to believe that anything mysterious must nevertheless be within human ken, and that absolutely nothing could be beyond our comprehension." A couple thoughts from a Christian perspective. The Bible says, "God's greatness is unsearchable and His understanding is infinite;" and Ecclesiastes also says that man cannot discover how God did what He did. So, at least if one accepts scripture, one can accept the his the limitations of our finite state. Another point is that faith is not limited to belief in God. It takes every bit as much, if not more, faith to believe that what we can see resulted apart form intelligent input. Scripture makes that point in stating "the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that man is without excuse." Without excuse for what? For not seeking Him, the One whose existence can be inferred from what is seen. It turns out He can be found, but the problem is that the belief required to find God is a heart issue. Scripture states, "After that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom did not know God; it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those that believe." It also says that not many noble, mighty, famous etc are called (will be come to the knowledge of God). Scripture elsewhere states that pride is a big part of the problem. We won't seek Him -- not because seeking Him does not make sense, but because we convince ourselves that it does not make sense or we only pretend to seek Him. God is there in reality, but many do not want to find Him.

    Also, we do have eternal souls and will be conscious after this body passes away. The problem at that point, however, is that, at that point, the train has left the station. Now is the time to humble ourselves and seek God. We don't know everything, but we can know the One who does.