Saturday, June 13, 2015

Progress = Plenticide

In our grandparents' time (the Era of Progress), believe it or not, 'increasing biodiversity' was seen as the problem not the solution!

And their solution to this 'problem' was wholesale plenticide of all this unneeded and hence unwanted biological plentitude ------ via the chemists' synthetic autarky.

Man-made food pills would replace all the plants and animals we used to eat but now would no longer would need.

They'd all become "useless mouths" and "life unworthy of life".

And artificial wool and other synthetic fibres (remember artificial leather shoes ?!) would replace all those now useless sheep and cotton plants etc that we used to need hanging around.

Fossil fuels - and ultimately atomic fuels - would replace our need to burn trees and crop residue.

No longer would we need wind, water and sun to make mill wheels turn or to dry hay (what was hay mommy ?) - we could all move permanently indoors under plastic domes - atomic energy would split water held in rocks to provide us with oxygen and hydrogen fuel.

Progress was taught to all of us in the form of a metaphor -- viewed as a sort of arrowhead, moving forward and upward through evolutionary time and space.

This arrowhead was very wide, back in the distant past when there were lots of species hanging about but as time moved forward, evolutionary progress ensured that were fewer and fewer, bigger and bigger species - ending at the pointy end of the arrowhead with just one big - dead clever - species remaining : us.

Evolution's progress all made it inevitable --- but still it never hurt for the fit among us to 'speed the plow' by tugging gently at the ankles of the 'unfit' at the end of their rope.

Here cue Eugenics, Euthanasia, Aktion T4, the Hunger Plan Est and the Holocaust.

Progress consisted in draining much of the gene pool as possible, as fast as possible, by dividing the world into normal and deviant or into successful 'progressive' species and living fossils.

Deviant homosexual Romas would be converted to normality - or jailed.

Other Romas - a sort of living fossil among humanity - would fade away in time, it was certain.

Though some, like the Nazis, very much wanted to 'gas up' the process .

It was a great tale, a Man-flattering tale, but was any of it true ?

Nope !

The fossil record instead showed that the arrowhead was totally the wrong scientific metaphor (and trust me - truly successful scientists don't need to be good accountants but they all need to be great poets.)

The more accurate metaphor to express the movement of Life through Time from its tiny beginnings was a radiation outwards.

Still the arrowhead shape, yes, but with the tiny pointy end now at the beginning of Life on Earth with one tiny microbe, The Mother of Us All, and the broad end of the arrowhead at our present day - with our millions of discovered and undiscovered separate unique species.

Within that broad width of Life, species constantly came and went and some new species were bigger and more complex than their forebears while others were smaller and less complex than their forebears.

Biodiversity was abundant in all directions but there was no trend to a linear progress in any direction forward or backwards.

Worse ---- the whole social value theory of evolutionary linear Progress actually hung on a fragile intellectual claim.

For it wasn't enough for the proponents of Progress to show the original many many small species gradually reducing over time to a few big species, not if they were very big but not really any smarter than their tiny forebears.

Ever upward evolutionary Progress had to be ever upward progress in intelligence, however difficult it was to define intelligence across the species.

Ever upward linear Progress required that the tiny, ancient, simple microbes to be very stupid in intelligence - just as it required the newest species at the pointy end of Progress (Civilized Man) to be very smart in intelligence.

In 1945, two Manhattan-based scientific events (science being seen as the top intellectual activity) hit this theory so hard that it never really recovered.

Progress then quietly died away, circa 1965.

In August 1945, a whole bunch of the good guys of science dropped a bomb that they had just invented, a bomb that was seen as capable of destroying all human life on Earth.

That alone made it awfully hard to square this sort of high scientific intelligence with the other meaning of intelligence that we are always lecturing our errant teenagers about - intelligence as the ability to recognize the right choice and then to do it.

The other Manhattan based scientific event was actually a non-event : the failure of the the smartest (human) chemists in the universe , centred at Cornell University's Manhattan medical campus, to make commercial synthetic penicillin.

Far too difficult a scientific feat for the smartest beings in the universe to pull off - but something tossed off easily by some of the oldest, simplest , stupidest beings around --- tiny penicillium cells.

Progress's solar plexus : meet the fatal punch ......

No comments:

Post a Comment