RE: Can You Live Forever? Esquire article

Billy Brown (
Thu, 13 May 1999 09:58:31 -0500

J. R. Molloy wrote:
> "To What End?," asks the biologist Wilson. "It is the custom
> of scholars
> when addressing behavior and culture to speak variously of
> anthropological
> explanations, psychological explanations, biological
> explanations, and other
> explanations appropriate to the perspectives of individual
> disciplines. I
> have argued that there is intrinsically only one class of
> explanation. It
> traverses the scales of space, time, and complexity to unite
> the disparte
> facts of the disciplines by consilience, the perception of a
> seamless web of
> cause and effect." p. 266

Arguing about the "ends" of an entire civilization is one of the most useless exercises I can imagine. Civilizations don't have goals, purposes, desires or ends - those are attributes of individuals.

> Read the book, then decide..

If the author seriously believes that resource depletion and ecological catastrophe are urgent survival issues for mankind, he is so far out of touch with reality that I'm not particularly interested in his opinions. If his book happens to be devoted to proving that we should actually be concerned about these things (using hard evidence, not anecdotes and hysteria), I might give it a look just to make sure there isn't some new evidence I've missed. If, however, he takes these things as given, then there is no reason for me to waste my time.

> >There is no good reason to believe that their concerns are real. The
> >species that we actually depend on for survival are in no danger at all.
> >Exotic species have some limited significance as sources for new drugs,
> >that is rapidly diminishing as our ability to design such things
> >The only real risks I see are to the tourism industries of the third
> Concerns come from real people. You need not believe in the reality of
> people's concerns. But I hope you had no trouble believing your mother's
> concerns for you had at least some basis in reality. <burp>

Playing word games does nothing to support your position. There is no scientific basis for the belief that current or anticipated levels of ecological damage pose any danger whatsoever to mankind's survival. If you (or Wilson) think otherwise, let's see some evidence.

> > From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, we can convert the entire planet into
> > farms, ranches and shopping malls without endangering ourselves in the
> > slightest.
> Try converting the Sahara desert or the Antarctic to farmland.
> Then check back with me. (But not before.)

The Antarctic isn't worth bothering with (although we could cover it with indoor farms and/or hydroponics facilities if we really wanted to). Irrigating and fertilizing the Sahara would require a few trillion dollars worth of nuclear power plants, chemical plants and heavy equipment, but it is perfectly doable.

Of course, this is totally irrelevant to my point, which was that we can easily survive the destruction of virtually every species of life on the planet. All we need for survival is a few hundred species of domestic animals, a few thousand species of plants, and the various insects and microorganisms that will naturally survive in any environment where these species are preserved.

Even the most extreme eco-destruction scenario won't make things as bad as that. Relatively modest preservation efforts are enough to ensure that a large majority of the ecology survives even after an area becomes heavily populated. The species that don't make it are not important to our survival.

Now, as I said before, I don't think that means we should just let everything die. It simply means that we must be honest enough to argue for preservation on moral grounds instead of making up bogus threats.

> Yes, like we can leave it up to the Albanians, the Bosnians, the Haitians,
> the Ethiopians, and the Elbonians to restore their respective ecologies..
> <ha!>

Please see my reply to Brian on this topic.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I