Friday, January 15, 2010

Nature

This is a riff on something I heard some mad philosopher say on NPR, so the original idea isn’t mine (I don’t have any original ideas). This guy was ranting that “Nature” had replaced “God” as our cultural conscience. The clich├ęd assumptions are everywhere: everything that is Natural is good, Nature is harmonious and in balance,  humanity should strive to align itself with Nature - if/when we ever do, all will be well.

In truth Nature is anything but balanced. It only looks that way to us because our timescales are so ridiculously short. "Nature” is one giant cataclysm after another. Not once, but five times has this planet seen mass extinctions where, for example, 70% of the land species were completely wiped out. Massive floods of magma could bubble up from the Earth’s core (tomorrow) and wipe out the human race (along with all other mammals, most birds, reptiles, etc.). To “Nature”, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Nature isn’t our mother and Nature doesn’t care if we live or if we die. “Nature” doesn’t care if we do or don’t try to “live in harmony” with the current equilibrium point (however short-lived it may be).

I think we should stop deifying Nature and get pragmatic. Take the best telescopes we’ve got and look out at the universe. Do you see, anywhere, any place where humans beings can live that we can get to? No. Alright then, what we have here is a liferaft situation. We are living in the only place that we can live and we have to take care of it because we have no idea how long we may need it to last.