It seems obvious that our brains have so far developed to optimise our survival just as you state. However, evolution has no intention in the sense that, although we can understand our immediate intentions, evolution has no particular interest in one species surviving as opposed to the next. Humans, like other animals, do have intention. But we uniquely have forms of technology too, and these two things combined create a new, untried and untested evolutionary experiment. But crucially, there is no reason to believe that we are knowledgable enough to properly conduct that experiment, understand the results and act accordingly in our own best interests. For me, the signs are that we always have and still do exploit technology for power over our environment and others. But we have no real interest in the bigger picture — other than those who exploit such issues for political mileage.
Note that all the proponents of technology are slow to acknowledge that the US actually spends the majority of its available funds on weaponry. So is it not a myth that all this technology is all for our good? I always feel it necessary to make the point here that I am not anti-technology — the real point has to do with what motivates us and are we motivated to help our fellow humans or to exploit them? I think both are partially true and under our control… but we are typically involved in the wrong debate in that we talk of the wonders of technology and how it is going to solve everything — forgetting that nothing moves at all without human motivation. It is a bit like the endless conversations about how money will sort problems… money is utterly useless other than that it can coerce people into all sorts of behaviour. Basically, it exists to control people.
BTW, the idea that the Earth orbits the Sun is just a relative idea… I would say like all ideas. Sit put on the ground anywhere on Earth for 24 hours and you’ll see that the Sun orbits the Earth. Einstein debunked absolutes, so the idea that there is somehow a true point of reference in such situations is just schoolroom indoctrination.
As regards probabilistic knowledge, is not culturally-accepted a better qualifier? Reality can be cognitively split in truly endless dimensions and through endless intellectual disciplines. So in the way that people say all religions except one at most must be wrong, all our endless conceptualisations of reality tend to look at the same phenomena through different lenses, and so are all arguing with one another. Academic respectability and the fragmentation of science into specialisms is used to obscure this, and so what you get is simply those versions of reality that are considered ‘true’ because they are culturally accepted for the time being.
Nevertheless, I believe we are getting closer to the truth over time, though we will never get all the way there. The fastest way to explain this is to refer you to Isaac Asimov’s “The Relativity of Wrong”. Perhaps, but we need to change our model of knowledge — not amass yet more of the same kind. Einstein made this argument — not that that means I am right — it just makes it socially harder for others to call me a fool! I’ll try to look at that Asimov book sometime — means nothing right now.
It seems to me, and I have read a bit on this, that what has effectively happened is that production and its pollution have just been outsourced to China and similar nations. The levels of pollution in China and rising levels of cancer are truly shocking. Meanwhile, many have just been shoved off farming land to make way for polluting industries. This is kept from our eyes in the West — profits might suffer. Pre-faded jeans are just one example. The changing processes used so that Westerners can feel trendy wearing these things have been the causes of widespread medical problems and deaths, but we are served up images that wearing these things is cool. Fuck the consequences — be in fashion! Yeah, no doubt L.A. is cleaner. It can afford to offshore its dirty work. The world is not what the media wants us to see it as.
The consensus solution is that we need to hurry them to post-industrial or advanced-industrial status. Really? How many people on Wall St are pushing for that? There is just so much BS about to placate the people and keep them chained to the values of the consumer society. They want you to believe all that stuff because you will begin to question the world order as soon as you look outside those ideas. Imagine we could have the pros of industrialization without most or all of the cons. Wouldn’t that be a net benefit compared to nonindustrialization? Sure. However, and I don’t want to sound rude, but suppose Santa came every day. Reality is not what any of us think would be a happy ending… we are looking at a mass extinction event remember. The clock is ticking.
I agree that puritanical approaches that nature cannot be touched at all are stupid. We are here with our technology and exploding populations. The world cannot revert to some former age. However when you state … it doesn’t generally significantly affect us if rainforest species go extinct … I don’t think you can be sure of that at all. We just do not know — and never will — the full interconnectedness of things. We are an organic life form. If the mere melting of water at the poles is going to have a huge impact on us, why would you be sure that the extinction of other organic species is of minor importance? This is like yesteryear’s thinking that burning fossil fuels just produces energy and it is no big deal. What you do not know is by definition something you do not know.
I take your point about science being less well paid than before. Power always operates to make matters more ‘vertical’ and the shift over the last 50 years or so has diminished the role of the scientist and his technological miracles in favour of the financial institution and monetary control.
I think guilt is more complex than the you did it view. We all know we live in a hugely unfair world of gross inequalities. And anyone paying attention knows that our leaders in the affluent world just pander to our selfishness by talking primarily about domestic matters of pay and fairness — not about the fact that the world is a set of rich nations that got to where they are by exploiting and pillaging other nations. Okay, you and me did not do it directly, but we sit and enjoy the spoils of all that and do not argue for corrections be made to rectify the ongoing inequalities. It’s a bit like the nazi soldier who says he is only following orders — except that you and I do not even have his orders to follow. We see the situation as being to our benefit and so we just go with the flow. But repressing the truth as I have just laid it out is required — however deeply it is hidden within us.
Most fundamentally, we cannot change human nature (etc.). I was not talking about your view or mine here — I was talking about the cultural perspective that social reality is basically a set of fixed truths with which we have to work, as opposed to the view that we are dynamic and capable of acting outside what the social scientists would have us believe are our limits.
Most scientists I know are not doing what they do to enable consumerism. They are trying to improve life at a more fundamental level. I think most and maybe all people are motivated by self-centred goals — which is not to deride them. Evolution made us that way. Our mind may have the goal of being a good person, but even that can be seen as pursuing a self-centred goal. So it becomes important to be able to criticise the self and others without judging anyone. Most people in my experience struggle to get here — to a position where blunt and initially unflattering views of who we really are are appraised impartially as potential learning experiences. On a slightly lighter note — since you work in medicine — I saw this question yesterday: would you take health advice from someone who profits from your illness?
Been a good chat. We’ll need to wrap it up at some point… but I see you have more replies.