In short wise sentences written in “Origins” in December 2009 Phil Poland expressed the possibility that the planet’s next mass extinction may have begun. The topic merits a thread of its own. Title and the discussion’s introduction follow here, slightly modified.

“The next mass extinction may be underway. On a geological scale, a few hundred years is an almost instantaneous event. Population growth and environmental destruction are out of control. Meanwhile, technology builds a house of cards that is higher and more fragile every year. There is no evidence of a political will to fix the problem. Even now, we cannot begin to talk resolutely about world population control. A huge collapse and mass extinction within a few hundred years seems inevitable for these reasons and because of the intransigence of authoritarian religions and the alarming, hostile actions of fundamentalists.”

How did it come about that Homo sapiens in the space of its 200,000 years got itself into such a mess?
What CAN be done about it?
If religion is a principal cause, can religion be marginalised and the threats reduced and eliminated?
Don’t we need to start now? ---- and can the movement be initiated by the piercing discernment of freethinking atheists?
Indeed, can atheists become influential enough to provoke governments and the United Nations into decisive action about a substantial and meaningful population and arms control?

Phil Poland and Terence Meaden

Views: 252

Replies to This Discussion

200,000? It only took 10,000 or thereabouts; and the real damage began less than two centuries ago - that's when we learned to farm and where the rot set in.

Atheists have the answers, of that I have no doubt, but we're outnumbered and outgunned by idiots and uneducated masses driven by what they read in the low-brow press.

We're all screwed (but that doesn't mean we should not fight).
Ah yes. Homo sapiens has seen about 200,000 years go by----ever improving and learning all the time, but the first major checks to progress of which we know came with the goat herders and the camel people who got the mean and selfish monotheistic religions under way.

The scientists go on advancing their work and discoveries in the free countries.

Atheists begin to emerge and issue warnings in the free countries.

. . . and the religionists carry on walloping up their credulous populations regardless.
Actually, Hitler was a Christian, Catholic to be precise. And there's evidence of that in Mein Kampf among other places. There is, however, lots of evidence that people have been told and believe he was an atheist. But that would be one of those places where reality is not a democracy.
Marc, we've certainly been farming more than two centuries. I suspect this was just an oversight on your part.
I will absolutely say that religion and poverty are a principal causes of the out-of-control population growth. People don't (won't?) stop having sex just because they don't have the money or food for children. Birth control isn't always available, financially or socially. (Personally, I'm planning to adopt. Those kids are already here, and they need someone. I don't have any need to add another person to the world that's falling apart.) Set that next to religions who say birth control is a sure way to hell, and ta-da! Population explosion. In America, the model seems to be that wealthier families have fewer children.

As for atheists growing influential enough? Whew. That's tough. There's no question that more and more people are becoming aware that we're here, we're normal, and we generally know what we're talking about. Sadly, we're still hugely distrusted my the majority. The people in power? They listen to the majority.
The most often stated estimate on population is that there will be 9 billion by 2050. The current world population growth rate is 1.14% which means a doubling of the population in 61 years. In 1999 the population reached 6 billion so by 2060 the world population will be 12 billion and in 2121 - 24 billion.
At some point the immutable laws of ecology take hold. When a population outgrows the carrying capacity of the environment - massive die offs occur.
If the next mass extinction has begun, and there are good indicators that it has or will very soon, much of the problem can be traced to the effects of humans on their environment. In particular, the development of technology has far outstripped the development of human wisdom.

I am using technology in the broadest possible sense. This sense includes agriculture, animal husbandry, building, transportation, communication, and social systems. Because the advancements in technology have seemingly allowed us to do more with less, we have been remiss in our duties of stewardship. We procreate more than a strictly evolutionary requirement indicates. We have defeated some of the forces that would act upon our place in the world. In some ways, we have defeated the effects of natural selection. By doing so, however, we have adversely affected the natural selection processes impinging upon other kingdoms of the world.

The changes we have wrought mean that the selection pressures will also change.

We will run out of space for agriculture without developing more productive crops. But when we develop more ways to produce food, we will have to deal with the transportation and distribution issues. As we reduce limitations to our ability to move about, we are also digging out and pumping up resources in a massively unsustainable way.

In attempts to reduce movement while still allowing widespread communication, we have created networks that are so complicated that single-point failures can have drastic consequences. These networks themselves require massive amounts of raw minerals, manufacturing energy, and deployment energy.

One of the crowning abilities our species is our tool building. We have been doing it for millenia and will continue. But in the past, the effects were mostly local, not global. Stone arrows and spears may have devastated local herds but the hunters could move on. This provide new resources but also allowed the previous environment to recover. It was not a perfect system but it worked most of the time. Our tools now have global effects. We can't move on to the next herd because there is no next herd. And the local herds can't recover. So the animals disappear, the wells run dry, the mines become depleted.

We have used our abilities — thinking, communicating, problem-solving, adaptability — to bring many of us to heights that could only be dreamed of (if that.) These abilities have been with us for millenia, at least. But, our social engineering has barely advanced beyond the hunter/gatherer stages. Technological generations can be measured in ages, centuries, decades, even years. But our social generations require ... well, generations.

The blinders of religion, power, xenophia, etc., have stayed as firmly on our visions as they were centuries ago. Religions have adversely affected us as much as any other simplistic mode of analysis but it is not the only one. Any system which puts humans on a pedestal and promises a better future at the expense of the present is just as bad. When those systems actively fight against reason, against concern for each other, against careful testing of changes before jumping in with both feet, against embracing the wide gamut of life, against stewardship of natural resources and environments, they need to be fought with as much tooth and nail as we can remember how to use.

We need critical thinking. And our need for it has reached critical proportions. We need to fight against religion when it holds back our need to find reasonable, i.e., reasoned, ways for all of us to survive. We need to fight against xenophia, racism, NIMBHism, spin-doctoring, political expediency, miseducation, and anything else which results in people thinking that reality is a democracy.

In general, atheists have been doing the kinds of analysis that is required longer and more deeply than most people. But we need to be in the vanguard as purveyors of reason and enemies of ineffectual mysticism and spirituality of all stripes. Our generally superior knowledge of religions can put us in good stead while fighting the good fight. When new ideas don't work, turning believers' tenets against them may be the most effective strategy.

I don't think there should be an Atheist Response or Answer to the issues we face. There can only be Human responses. But part of our humanity is just that — our humanity. Not unfounded wishes for a future escape from the trials of existence. We're all in this together; we need to make it the best situation for all of us. And for all the forms of life and all the places where it flourishes.

If we don't, we will indeed be on the short end of the maxim that evolution is smarter than we are.
'Education', yes of course,
so long as it is the right kind of education,

i.e., shall we say, using atheists, secularists, humanists, logicians, men of science, . . . to do the teaching.

Unfortunately, most people who are in education today dance like dumb puppets under the manipulation of the gangster religion of a religious timetable.
Dr. Meaden - I find myself in agreement with you once again. Even a good education is sometimes not enough to wipe out pseudo-sciences/beliefs/religions...

In India, where I am from, I have seen IT specialists consult astrologers before marriages. Chaps who graduate at the top of their class in mathematics prostrate themselves on the temple floor to ask for boons from the Gods. Mechanical engineers sit down before they drink water (an optional practice for the adherents of Islam). A pilot-trainee who stops playing music in a rock band because his pastor told him "secular rock" music is the devils tool.

This leads me to believe that education is not imbibed the same way across all sections of the population. Some people read their textbooks just to get a passing grade and for no other reason.

If one doesn't apply what one has learnt, does not use his faculties for critical reasoning and does not question authority - then I think education has been wasted upon him/her.
Since you replied, it seems, to my post (because you had already replied to everything else in your prior post) ...

If a reasoned response and thoughts is taken as "arrogance, envy, jealously, greed, intransigence, narcissism", then indeed we have problems. The options seem to be that a) I don't know what is reasonable, b) it doesn't matter what I think is reasonable, c) none of my suggestions about values (which seem to match your most specific points) were clearly expressed, d) expressions of values and goals are taken as answers and fixes, e) clear identification of problems must include guilt about the problem, f) that I must have been dreaming when I wrote my post and need to "WAKE UP".

If attempting to "[f]ix myself" in public (which is what almost any kind of writing is), I should have the decency to retreat to someplace where it is not visible and not come out until I'm perfect.

Since I've never met anyone who doesn't have at least one, or portions of some/all of your identified character flaws, I've not had suitable role models, I guess.

[BTW -- I think such aggressive attacks are a perfect example of "self-destructi[on] as a population." At the risk of further accusations of arrogance and intransigence, may I suggest the old maxim: Physician, heal thyself.]
OK -- the timing and layout made it, at least to me, confusing I guess. Hammering things out together is always easier than hammering alone. Welcome aboard!
I'm 100% with you on this one Onur. Somehow I think if an atheist/s got control of today's oil conglomerates or other large polluting industries, they would be looking at the bottom line and not what's best for the environment (unless there was money to be made there also) just like most other businessmen.




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