Monday, January 28, 2013

Humanity is to Tall Termites as Earth is to a Titan Tree.

Huh. I seem to have logically proven that we were designed to destroy the planet and thereby ourselves.

I figure I’ll save everyone the time of reading this by stating my thesis outright: logically, I have proven that, as creatures of this planet being subject to its rules of life and biology, we were predestined to destroy it. If one believes that life was consciously created by some sort of god-like being, then we are merely serving our purpose by contributing to the destruction of this planet and any benevolent act to try to save it goes against what we were apparently created to do.


The Earth was destined to get to this point: polluted, filthy, war-torn, ravaged and dying a very slow and painful death from the inside out. And we were designed to bring it there.

The primary purpose of any living organism is to survive, and not only to survive, but to reproduce to ensure the survival of not only itself, but of the species. This, taken to its logical end, means unbounded and unbridled population growth and similar levels of resource exploitation to obtain this. Sure, the planet had some checks to try to keep any species from becoming too prolific like disease and larger and larger predators, but one species was bound to come along and break all the chains that held it back from expanding too much too quickly. Our planet is simply too fertile and lush to have not created a species as powerful as us.

Arguably, something set up a set of rules on our planet (or Universe, if you want to go out that far), pressed play, sat back and stayed silent while this experiment of life has worked its way out. Whether that something was mere random chance, a universal consciousness, god, aliens, or god-like aliens, we currently don’t know and humans, in our current form, may never know simply because it looks like we’re not meant to have the tools we currently posses for that much longer. All of the scramble to unravel the mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything might all be washed away in a giant tidal wave, or eradicated by a zombie apocalypse much sooner rather than later.

It seems, though, that the rules of Life, The Universe and Everything, at least here on planet Earth, dictate that a dominant and intelligent species will, regardless of intentions, pillage and destroy the planet simply because of the laws of biology and evolution in their current state. Reproduction, survival of the fittest and consumption as the most basic instincts of our bodies essentially mean that, without any predators, we will continue to expand until we exhaust our planet. Human population growth in the past few centuries has been staggering and we only seem to be getting more and more prolific. It would be dangerously naive to assume that humans can continue this exponential growth without disastrous consequences for our environment. Where the hell will we fit four billion more people? We’re going to tip the scales towards catastrophe pretty quickly as there simply aren’t enough resources for all of humanity. We’re going to destroy ourselves and we’re going to take the entire planet down with us.

If you believe that all of this is merely the structure of life and that life is simply the product of chance, then that’s fine. But if you have any gnostic, spiritual or religious tendencies, then this theory creates a bit of a problem. It means that God, Nature with a capital n, Aliens, or whatever, created us with the intention of us getting to this point of calamity and most likely past it. Our creator knew we could destroy ourselves and our planet with wild abandon. Simply put, we were wired for self-destruction.


In the Astronomy class I took as an undergrad, out of the many fascinating things I learned, one small idea in particular stood out to me: we, and all living things, are merely slaves to DNA. Our DNA is what drives us to survive and is what ultimately drives us to reproduce, only to ensure that more and more complicated strands of DNA are created and sustained. At its most basic level, life seems to be solely about the replication of DNA and we, as inhabiters of living bodies, are subject to this.

I suppose the frightening part to this is that I’m starting to notice that our emotions, for all their complications, are simply body-based reactions to external stimuli designed to ensure our survival and, in the end, the planet’s and our destruction.  The first point is that we are nothing more than animals. Regardless of whether or not you believe in a soul, at our basest level, we are creatures of this planet, created on this planet and subject to the rules of this planet. And as described previously, the most basic rules of life and being an organism on Earth include striving for survival and reproduction. If one observes animal behavior, most of it hinges on obtaining food and water or obtaining the best possible mate.

Envy is a very good example of how our emotions are designed to ensure survival and proliferation. It’s an emotion particularly designed to feed our desire for dominance in society. If someone has something we want, we become envious because that something guarantees that person higher societal status. However, societal norms keep us from behaving in outlandish ways to acquire whatever we’re after. If we were left to our own barbaric desires, we would steal whatever they had. Or, at worst, we would kill the owner to obtain it. As animals, having high status assists us in obtaining the best possible mate, which, of course, ensures the continued survival of the fittest.

We experience envy because someone who has something we don’t threatens our ability to obtain the best mate. This is likely because the person who has what we’re envious of will get the better guy or girl, possibly leaving us with someone inferior. Nice cars, lots of money, and a big house don’t necessarily guarantee success in finding a mate, but I don’t think anyone will argue that they help.

The need for sex is something that is hard-wired into every animal capable of it, and the primary biological reason is to bring about more life. Once again, we just find ourselves committed to slavery by our DNA as the price for inhabiting these mortal forms. Love is just an extension of this need to reproduce, as well. We feel it so strongly because, short of eating, sex is a one of the most important biological tasks, at least according to our DNA. Perhaps we are wired to feel love so strongly as motivation to reproduce. I suppose, then, It could be argued as well that we care so much about our kids because we’re designed to, and we’re just playing out that role embedded in our code.

Really, so much of what we do is just animal and ape-like behavior but with more advanced tools in a more complex society. We can pinpoint typical dog, cat, and other animal behavior, and we attribute much of their actions to their species, but if that’s the case for so many creatures, why not us, too? Sure, we’re a bit more advanced than them intellectually, but we’re still animals.

But, I guess realizing and understanding that emotions are predetermined reactions hardwired into us through our DNA helps one to be freed from the roller-coaster ride that is emotionality. Once one recognizes that our emotions were evolved in our bodies for the purpose of survival and obtaining reproduction, they have less of a sting than they used to and aren’t able to control us as easily. Maybe if everyone understood why we feel what we feel, we’d all be a hell of a lot less emotional.


Here’s one thing we rarely hear when talking about climate change: the Earth, ultimately, will be fine whether or not we solve this problem.  It’s going to get a hell of a lot sicker before it gets better, but it will recover, and the recovery may take millions and millions of years.

This has been something I’ve been fighting with since I got home from Beijing. What most people are concerned about when they speak about stopping global warming is really the survival of humanity. We worry about our lives, the lives of our children, grandchildren and if we’re really forward thinking, maybe our great-grandkids, too. Rarely is the actual health of the planet truly involved, and when it is, it’s only a desire to retain the Earth as we currently know it. I personally would hate to see the beautiful biodiversity on our planet wrecked because of our selfish actions, but knowing this is the outcome of my current lifestyle doesn’t stop me from eating meat, driving a car and pursuing my dreams. I don’t think anyone will dramatically alter their lifestyle until some major catastrophic event happens, but we’ve seen so many of these crazy climactic changes happen over the past few years. Katrina should have been a turning point. The major wildfires and droughts we’ve been experiencing should be turning points. Hurricane Sandy should have been a turning point. But none of them have been, and they have all been fairly major events. I suppose it will take the loss of a major U.S. city populated mainly by rich white people to possibly force us to ever change. And at that point, maybe we’ll start to see these major storms and climate changes as immune responses of the Earth as a colossal organism to try to rid itself of a disease, infection, or sickness. 

We are, at worst, a pretty major flu that the Earth is experiencing. Who knows, maybe our purpose is to help strengthen the immune system of our planet, much like exposure to bacteria and germs strengthens our immune systems. Perhaps we were created to doom the Earth because the Earth is some sort of galactic villain at heart, vibrating on a level of consciousness and awareness that we can’t perceive. Maybe we were created, in our greed and arrogance, to kill a greedy and arrogant superbeing.  Or, maybe, we were created by evil aliens to kill a benevolent superbeing. Speculation is fun.

I think we’re beginning to understand that we are just mere cells in a giant body. Who knows, our cells might be aware of our consciousness, but to our current state of understanding, they’re just teensy little creatures living and dying in us until they get out of hand and kill us one way or another. As above, so below, and such. Just as cells are created, do their jobs, reproduce and die so that we might continue on, we are doing the same exact process for the giant organism on which we live, which happens to be a giant blue and green ball floating through space.

One could argue that all of us trying to save the world are doing the exact opposite of what being an organism on planet Earth seems to be all about: consuming anything and everything and reproducing as much as possible. Those of us working to save humanity and the planet look to be preventing what might need to happen: humanity and the current state of the Earth, through climate change caused by free market economics, unrestrained population growth, religious fundamentalism, and other factors, seem to be meant to destroy ourselves and our planet.

And, of course, once our Sun decides to go supernova, all of the greenhouse gases we’ve released and toxins we put in our soil and gun laws we’ve implemented won’t matter a damned bit because our little planet will be fantastically destroyed, hopefully in something as awesomely fun to watch as a Roland Emmerich destruction scene.

So, global warming looks to be predestined if you believe that the creator of life was a conscious being. I suppose that the question is, then, do we willingly and knowingly destroy most of the biodiversity on our planet because we are merely fulfilling DNA’s apparent extended purpose or do we rise above our most basic urges? Then again, perhaps a more pertinent question would be: do we assume, in probable arrogance, that we know better than whatever created us and buck our apparent purpose as the dominant species of this planet by trying to be some benevolent force that attempts to heal and cooperate rather than destroy and compete?


While writing this, I did think a few times about how cynical it seems; that we’re nothing more than tall termites whose purpose is to consume, reproduce and ruin.  Maybe, instead, we were wired to have this insatiable desire to eat, destroy and propagate so we could rise above it.  Maybe whatever it was that created us created us with the intent to destroy everything in our path to see if we can overcome our most basic urges and until we begin listening to our better angels, we won’t be able to contact aliens or meet with god or move into the next evolution of consciousness or whatever the case may be. Perhaps being hard-wired for extermination means that we were created with the test built in us.

My theory about emotions and love being strictly ways that DNA guarantees further propagation is limited. It could be that we were wired to have sex and reproduction be such important impulses so that we would be forced to experience love because apparently love is the guiding force behind the Universe according to so many religions and spiritual doctrines. I sat down with my cat last night and realized that my theory doesn’t account for the love we have for pets. Obviously, the model is imperfect and I can’t speak to the ultimate purpose of these incredibly long chain of events. If I could, I would be very rich. Very rich, indeed.