Monday, May 29, 2006

Some Thoughts on the End of Us

Currently reading Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything," or, What Regular People Ought to Know About Science. Probably because of the class I'm in, and the paper for said class I should be working on right now, my thoughts while reading often drift to the Christianity-science relationship. But not Christian Science. I'm not spending any of my time on those fools.

1. I wrote that paper last semester about the bad rap wolves get in children's books, which could prejudice them for life. To Native Americans, the wolf was a competitor but peer, a creature to be respected. To agrarian Europeans, however, the species embodies evil, those theives of sheep and other livestock. Don't those canus lupis bastards believe in private property rights?? Oh, wait...

Certain parts of nature have long represented light, and some darkness. But as Gary Larson brilliantly illustrates in There's a Hair in My Dirt!: A Worm's Story, such good-evil distinctions with which too many religous people base their worldviews in totally out of step with God's true totality. Wolves are evil, but without them their prey's population grows too fast and wrecks the ecosystem. Volcanoes are evil because they kill people, often lots and lots of people. But without plate tectonics and the earth's molten outer core, we would have no magnetism. Before you cry over a bare refrigerator front, consider this: no magnetism means no magnetic layer sweeping harmful radiation away from the surface. Not only would we lose both auroras if it weren't for volcanoes and earthquakes, we'd all be dead.

Without a holistic view of the earth, we're left to the all-star dichotomy of the invisible hand and survival instinct. Do what's best for you, and hope it all works out. Which brings me to my next point:

2. Despite the seemingly perpetual nature of the world and the universe at large, we are totally capable of wrecking shit that took longer than you can possibly imagine to create. Then consider the fact that the country with the greatest disparity between its population and the damage it inflicts on the globe is led by a man who is willing to take the environmental regulations off gas production because our prices soared to half of what Europeans already paid.

3. Here's the real kicker about our fate: Man is too smart not to destroy the earth, but not smart enough to save it. Think about it for a second. When I read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, he got through to me with his main thrust -- how much better shape the earth would be in if man had never grown out of hunter-gatherer society, or more precisely, if he had never taken that step beyond the laws of nature into beleiving the earth was made for him. But we did. Sometime, somewhere, somehow we got smart, maybe because Adam lunged for God's finger, maybe because surviving the Ice Age required our forefathers and mothers to turn on brain cells they hadn't used before.

In any case, once we had those brain cells, and we didn't need every single one to keep from freezing to death, we had to employ them on something. So created myths and tortured each other, and eventually wrote books and became industrial. Really, it had to happen. When I read Quinn I think, "yeah, it'd sure be good for the earth, but modern man could never be happy as a hunter-gatherer. I'd sure get fucking bored."

Our brains destined us to create things. But our creations set in motion destructions. And we can't stop them, not only because we probably don't have the means, but because we could never be smart enough to fully understand all the interrelations of the earth. It may be too late anyway.

This keeps reminded me of the Biblical mocking of man's wisdom, and that this is what God had in mind. The apocalypse isn't Jesus riding in on flaming chariots and seperating sheep from goats. It's when we finally drown in our place, and God gets the last sardonic chuckle.

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