Thursday, June 22, 2006

What is humanity's worth

After talking about Stephen Hawking and his opinion that space exploration is essential to the long term survival of the human specie I came up to something I find disturbing and strange. Many of the people that argued against Dr. Hawking's idea where not opposed to space exploration they where arguing against humanity survival. No I do not mean they did not see space exploration as a way of human survival, I mean they flatly said that human did not deserve to survive. My first reaction is simply a flabbergasted: WHAT???

As far as we know the human specie is the only sentient race in the universe (highly unlikely to be true but until we meet another sentient specie we can't disprove it), that means we are the only specie that can realise it's own action are bad for itself and other. We are the only specie that as the knowledge and the self awareness to change our ways and to improve our self. We are unique and that makes us precious (and even if sentience is the most common things in the universe change are not too are alike.) in fact as far as I am concerned that makes humanity the most precious thing in the universe by far.

Then we must remember that humanity only has it's own experience and it's own reference to make statement about itself. The proponent of humanity eventual extinction argue that humanity is a dangerous species it fight and kill it own, it pollute it environment it doesn't care for it sick and weak and generally as all kind of fault. But I argue, what tells you that humanity is not the most noble of sentient species that if you looked at all the sentient species in the universe you would only find species that are worse then us in every respect. Species where killing another member of the specie is not just something that happen but actively encouraged, species where the environment is not something that they are slowly realising need to be protected but something to be destroyed. True that argument can be reversed easily we could also find that we are the worse of the worse but the point is not what we are but that we do not know. And since we do not know we cannot be objective about our self, we have not external reference.

In short, despite all it's flaw and all of its failing humanity deserve a chance to survive into eternity. Sentience is a precious thing and the simple fact that it allows us to change our ways should give us a second, third, fourth... one millionth chance at survival. At least that my opinion.


yofed said...

Men deliberately destroy their environment, and if they go elsewhere, they will do the exact same thing. That is unacceptable. It's bad enough that we're doing that to ONE planet, so therefore until we learn to behave like in Star Trek, we don't deserve to go elsewhere to survive. I'd rather see the human race somewhat decimated, with the drop in knowledge, than see our children destroy more places. Science and technology don't make a species more important than the one who lives simply in the nature. If you want to defend mankind, find better.

asaathi said...

Overcrowding of any species on earth will destroy the environnement, willfully and deliberatly. Their are two solution, killing off part of the population or finding more space to reduce the density, since killing off part of the population is inhuman we are left with space.

Also I'd like you to notice that I purposefully never mentioned science, technology or human achievement as a reason for survival. And I agree that having science and technology doesn't make you better then the one that lives in nature, however sentience does make you better then non-sentience.

A non-sentient specie cannot change it's way, it cannot take concience if any of it's action are better or worse for itself or the environnement. A sentient specie can, that might seems like little but it is a world of difference, we know we pollute diliberatly but we can try to find way to reduce and eliminate pollution.

You would answer: but the animal they don't polute they are better then us because of that... Take any species any at all, and give it the same characteristic as the civilised world and you will see that it will have the same effect on the environnement that we do. The difference is that they will never be able to take step to reduce or eliminate their effect we can.

yofed said...

1- I never talked about killing people voluntarily... letting nature chose the fittest to live, though, isn't bad. I wouldn't be here, neither would my son. But quite frankly, in nature where there are preys and predators, things tend to equalize themselves so there is rarely overpopulation accuring naturally. We are not in that cycle anymore.

2-Being self-aware is one thing, but before we take over any other world, maybe we should learn to be less selfish. Without that, we'll just keep comitting the same mistakes, and therefore, parasiting the whole solar system, or wherever else we go!

asaathi said...

1- neither did I but considering the resources availalbe to us, we can survive most of what nature can throw at us and what we cannot survive their is a good possibility nothing on earth would survive either.

You say that you wouldn't be there neither would your son be... how do you know lets say a pandemic happen tomorrows.. you here and your son his too.. should we let nature take it's course or try to cure the disease? (little note, I'm all for curing the disease)

2- Maybe we need to colonise another planet or another solar system before we understand that we need to be less selfish... I belive in the principle that we cannot change if we try to keep things as they are and I hope that exploration would help our specie evolve culturaly and personally to a point that we understand the value of all life and all life bearing world.

A little note, I hope I do not sound harsh in my answer because I really respect your opinion and while I do not agree you still have very valid argument.

yofed said...

lol... and I like to argue too! I don't say we should not try to survive with what we have... actually, that's exactly what I mean... If there is not enough food and we can't adapt, too bad for us. Too much radiation for us? Roaches will thrive! Too cold like in "the day after tomorrow"? Some other life form will prevail! That's all. A killer flu? Sure, we can try to fight it! What I was saying about my son and I are not fit to survive in nature, is that without our science, my son would be blind in one eye, probably dead due to infections in his birthmark, or choked by it. I would have died as a child. It is nice that we can save so many people, but keeping so many unhealthy people alive contributes to all the bad things that happen to the planet. No offence, but this planet is getting seriously crowded, which would not happen if we couldn't save so many. I don't want anybody to die, really I don't.... but we're not helping the human race when sickly people like me add their bad genes to the rest of the population. In a way, I believe that once upon a time, when more people were dying of numerous disease, only the strongest could make it. When it comes to life, stronger also means better!

asaathi said...

Eugenic then, convince the people who risk to spread bad gene into the population not to reproduce. I'm personally agains that solution since we really don't know enough about genetic right now to do this.

Now what I fail to understand is why you do not consider space travel a form of adaptation. If their isn't enough food production on earth why is building food production station in orbit bad? or why is settling another planet bad also?

One of human greatest evolutionary advantage is knowledge. It give us the ability invent new means of being strong.

yofed said...

Stephen Hawkins(ing or whatever it is)'s "plan" was in part to make colonies. I'm against going elsewhere to destroy an other place. Period. If we manage to do better here at some point in the future but the planet gets too crowded, sure. But as we are doing now, polluting and destroying, no. We can't go elsewhere where would could do more damage.

As for the gene thing, I mean even if most human would be killed by some disaster, some might live, and would adapt to the new reality, even if it means no civilization as we know it. Quite frankly, less humans would mean a good break for the planet. I don't think men need any type of advance civilization to thrive. So no matter what, I am hopeful for our future, even if that means that all my kids and the world as we know it disappears. As for the health thing, let's say we are in an other time or world with no medecine like we do. Infancy death would probably closer to 10%. Those who are really sick would not make it. Those who would probably would be the strongest. Less people would become in age for reproduction, therefore, less population growth. Less population grwth also means less chances to have an overcrowded planet. Even if it would get overcrowded, many would die of hunger for a very long time, then things would go back to normal. As for the "bad genes"... people who are weaker wouldn't make it as long, only the strongest, and that would make stronger babies, that you want it or not. It seems that some diseases are not all bad. For instance, on its recessive form, sickle cell anemia makes people more resistant to malaria, and it seems to be why that disease is more prominent in those areas where malaria is common. The recessive form heals, hte full disease kills. In Northern europe, same thing. There is some disease that in its recessive form (I think it's cystic fibrosis, but I'm not too sure), it helps against influenza. So yes, there are so many things possible... but you wouldn't get many half dead people walking around like me. Impending death would probably be a big incentive for people not to get too fat, etc. As for me, I get every cold every little bug around. As a kid, I had countless complications due to that. In nature, I would have been dead a long time ago. Do I deserve to live? Yes, since I'm a decent human being. Would I be sad to lose my child to disease? Definitely. But if we were in SURVIVAL mode, in nature or else. I'd rather nature let the fittest live, so that humanity goes on longer. Period.

asaathi said...

Well this is where I disagree with you completly, colonies are probably what will help us solve the problem on Earth. You're probably thinking what the frag??? but it's simple, necessity is the mother of invention and one think you cannot have on space flight is waste and on a colonie in a new world it is polution from normal human activity. To colonise other planet in our solar system we need to find a way to recyclate almost 100% of the waste produced by a human, while in our solar system pollution won't be much of a problem since our closet neighbor are unlivable planet, it would be a good idea for furtur plans to devellops clean production. The problem of clean production becomes even more important when you get to the generation ships needed for interstellar travel (at our level of technology at least) you cannot make a 200 years journey without production facility and you cannot hope to carry onboard all the raw material you will need for the journey. That means you need very efficient and clean recycling and production. Humanity pollution problem on Earth comes mainly from our polution and faillure to recyclate product and I'm pretty sure that until the problem becomes critical (read the earth becomes unlivable) their will not be enought incentive to truely change our way. That is another reason why space exploration is important the challenges we find their will help find solution to the problem we have here. And before someone give the job argument remember that space exploration is actually bad for astronomie at the moment as the two are competing for founding.

That the problem presently to kill a significant fraction of the population you need a disaster that would kill the ecosystem basically. Off the top of my head I can think of only a few way to kill a sufficently large number of human that it would actually impact the growth curve of humanity (which I'd like to point out is a perfect exponential except for a very small barelly measurable dip in plague year): a nuclear war, a impact from a gigaton range asteroid and a supernova nearby. All three are gonna leave earth pretty much incapable of supporting life. If we killed every second human right now it would only take 23 years to get back to the same population as we have now, that means that you have to kill close to 80-90% of humanity in a short period of time to have any impact at all on the futur population of the world.

Well men do not need an advanced civilization to thrive they need it to support the number we have now. I'm hopefull for the future too but I'm pretty sure our pefect future are very different. While mine also ask for a reduction of Earth's population it doesn't involve the disparition of the majority of human. Their is also a flaw (at least in my opinion)in your argument that I can see, up to now the growth of humanity as always been exponential, yet efficient medecin and survival of just about everything is a thing of the last century or so. Most of the time an higher infant mortality rate (it could reach as hight as 40-50% in some period of history) only meant that more children where concived.