Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Thin Layer of Oily Rock

It's easy to see that we've made a mess of earth, but harder to grasp that being apex predators this is primarily a problem for US, and particularly for our fascinating but exceedingly fragile technological civilization. Sure human extinction would suck for species that depend on us, e.g cows, dogs, cats, corn, pigeons, roaches, etc. but for most species it would be a HUGE WIN. Within a few thousand years (an eye-blink on the geologic time scale) earth would be replenished with new lifeforms. If it's anything like the Permian-Triassic extinction, initially earth would be populated by slime, bacteria, dinoflagellates, etc. but in the long term, giant apex predators would almost certainly reappear. They might evolve back into humans, but they might not too, and either way it wouldn't be our concern.
ALL life changes its environment, it's only a question of degree. At the time when plants evolved the dominant lifeforms were anaerobic bacteria, to which oxygen is deadly poison. Plants nearly exterminated the dominant lifeforms by drastically changing earth's atmosphere, in what could be considered the greatest crime of earth's entire history. Anaerobes didn't go totally extinct, they hung on deep in earth's crust, in your gut and gums, etc. but still it was a disaster from their point of view. Yet without this epic interspecies violence animals wouldn't be here, including us.
The history of life is chaotic and full of errors that turn out to have monumental consequences. In fact error is the very essence of the system, the engine of evolutionary adaptation. This is what Richard Dawkins means by his catchy phrase "the blind watchmaker": there's no designer, no top or bottom, no good or bad organisms. There's just stuff trying to survive, by mutating in an environment of differential survival. It's a horrible blind force from our human perspective, but it's how we got here; it's our creation story whether we like it or not. Cancer is just another family of successful patterns of GTCA code. It's bad news for us, but from the perspective of evolutionary success, cancer persists and therefore has as much right to be here as we do.
God, the Buddha, etc. are fairy tales. You might as well worry about the Easter bunny. The universe is vast, mostly empty and hostile to life, and totally indifferent to our fate. People will either stop behaving like children and start planning rationally for long-term survival, or the future won't include us.


Hugh Jazole said...

I'm surprised you're holding out any hope at all. Siberia has had highs in the 90's recently, and it's only June. I'll admit I was a climate change sceptic/agnostic for many years. Your blog was one of the first I came across on the subject. I tend to be attracted to subversive art, and thought the COE was hilarious. I've now spent the past couple of years learning everything I can about climate change, and have come to the conclusion that we're fucked. I can't conceive of any scenario that would change our predicament at this stage. Everyone, including most climate scientists were entirely too conservative. Rather than being alarmists, they grossly underestimated the problem. It's not their fault, as more data comes in, we have one "oh shit" revelation after another. It's certainly possible the recent volcanic activity could be climate related. Temperatures have been running about 10 degrees above normal save for a few places since late April. We're getting close now. The average climate change denier is about to have their oh shit moment.

Hugh Jazole said...

Chris, would you be interested in doing an interview with this gentleman? If so, his email is