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Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Darwinist's perspective on climate change: Billions going to die?

Billions are going to die in the next few decades, according to Darwinist Susan Blackmore, who appears to have never had any doubts about Darwinism.

In all probability billions of people are going to die in the next few decades. Our poor, abused planet simply cannot take much more. As Jim Lovelock points out in his "Revenge of Gaia", she has a fever, and we are the bug that's causing it. The carrying capacity of the earth is possibly a billion or two; it's certainly far lower than the current plague of humans.

Of course, within fifty years, billions will die no matter what, because man is mortal, so her prophecy is certain to come true, but hardly likely to be important.

What is interesting is that she views humans as a plague, when we are in reality the only creatures who can actually comprehend an environment problem and decide to solve it. Does she imagine that the buffalo that rendered the North American prairies treeless would come up with an answer? But then Blackmore has been trying to persuade us that consciousness is an illusion for years.

I know this. The science has been building up for years and is now clear. When sea levels rise further millions will drown, when the deserts grow bigger millions will starve, when the glaciers end their present flood of excess melt water vast cities will become uninhabitable almost overnight. Then what?

Well, she may know that, but I certainly don't know it. I remember Paul Ehrlich's hundreds of millions who were supposed to starve in the 1980s, when the "battle to feed humanity" was supposedly over.

In reality, all famines in recent decades have been of political origin. I mean, goodness knows, we can drop boxes of crackers from airplanes anywhere on earth. Nowadays, people only starve when other people permit or promote it. Currently, a worldwide plague of (human) obesity is a growing problem, aided by the fact that in many cultures, men prefer women with plenty of pudge. (A complex problem in this area, to which I do not have answers, is that only decadent cultures promote anorexic females, but obesity is as much of a health problem as anorexia.*)

Blackmore, having ticked off a list of undesirable options about what to do in what appears to me to be an imaginary crisis, suggests that one option is,
... we have to work out what to save and which people would be needed in a drastically reduced population - weighing the value of scientists and musicians against that of politicians, for example - a prospect that does not look at all easy from here.

Of course, Blackmore's solution entirely overlooks the fact that a high human population is precisely what makes most scholarly, scientific, and arts occupations possible. That is, a population of one thousand could only afford to let a a few people follow intellectual pursuits, but a population of 50 million can allow many more to do so. Economies of scale, if you like. That is one reason why far more young people get degrees now than did when my grandmother was a girl. In largely empty rural Saskatchewan, my grandmother counted herself lucky to finish elementary school. After all, she was needed on the farm. My daughters both have good degrees from prestigious universities. It would be merely silly for me not to see that the rise in Canada's population was one of the factors that made that possible.

(Note: Anyway, let's not get too carried away by the fact that one billion are obese. Keep in mind that historically most humans did not live to old age. Generally, people - like trees - gain in girth as they age. The increase in average life expectancy may explain part of the increase in avoirdupois. You can sue McDonald's if you like, but you might also want to sue the estates of Lister and Jenner and Salk and Sabine and Fleming and, oh, the local clean water plant too, and the estate of the guy who invented the indoor flush toilet. They largely created the longevity that eventually makes you fat. P.S.: Yes, I agree that childhood obseityisa sserious problem, but the computer game generation exercises only its fingers - and that is a choice.)

Darwinism, intelligent design, and the culture wars: A Simpsons' episode on intelligent design

So claimed an interview in the Seattle Times with a key Simpson voice:
Q: Seattle is the home of the Discovery Institute. What would Ned Flanders have to say about intelligent design?
A: There's actually an episode next fall, I believe, where he pressures the local school to start teaching intelligent design, so you'll know then.

Actually, The Monkey Suit ran May 14, 2006, and - from its description - seems to be the usual sort of stuff which takes for granted that Darwin's theory cannot be critiqued on the evidence.

One is reminded of Darwin's staunch defender Thomas Huxley's warning,

History warns us . . . that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly rash to anticipate that, in another twenty years, the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in dangerof accepting the main doctrines of the "Origin of Species," with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries, twenty years ago, rejected them. Against any such a consummation let us all devoutly pray; for the scientific spirit is of more value than its products, and irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors. (T.H. Huxley, "The Coming of Age of the 'Origin of Species,'" in Darwiniana: Essays by Thomas H. Huxley [1896], (New York: AMS Press, 1970), p. 229.)

Survival of the most oblivious: Clawless house cat trees bear

From the CBC News we learn:

West Milford residents Suzanne and Jack Giovanetti first noticed a bear huddled in a tree in their backyard on Sunday afternoon.

Sitting beneath the tree: A seven-kilogram, orange-and-white, declawed neighbourhood cat named Jack.

The bear remained in the tree for about 15 minutes, frequently looking down at Jack.

When it slid down the tree and ran off, Jack was hot on its heels.

(Note: Some animals are protected, not by any special adaptations, but by sheer obliviousness.)

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove ?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.

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