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Breaking News: Man Insignificant

Starling revelations from the Washington Post today.

World Helpless Against Assaults of Nature

WASHINGTON -- In a more hopeful time, buoyed by the promise of science, it was thought hurricanes could be tricked into dispersing, earthquakes could be disarmed by nuclear explosions and floodwaters held at bay by great mounds of dirt.

Such conceits are another victim of a year of destruction.

The planet's controlling forces romp over dreams like those. Usually the best that can be done is to see the danger coming long enough to run.

Rich and poor nations have taken the hit over a period so twisted in nature's assaults that one month, rich is helping poor and the next, poor is helping rich as best it can, and then the poor gets slammed once again. ...

More than 176,000 people died in the earthquake and tsunami of December; an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 in the quake Saturday; perhaps 1,000 or more in Guatemalan landslides last week; more than 1,200 in Katrina. Asian beaches, mountainous Kashmir villages and American urban streets and casinos all were overwhelmed.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

After World War II, nothing seemed too far-fetched for science, not once the atom was split and, again, not once men stepped on the moon.

In one of the most enduring efforts, still alive but hardly about to happen, man thought he could seed clouds, make it rain reliably and put a stop to devastating drought.

The effort continues, especially in China; there, rockets, anti-aircraft guns and aircraft regularly pelt the sky with chemicals. The results so far: China has lots of experience, but limited success, in making the rains come.

If humans are inexorably warming the globe, they've proved unable to fine-tune the megaforces to their benefit.

They can cause earthquakes, little ones, by injecting fluids into deep wells, filling huge reservoirs with water or setting off nuclear explosions, but they can't prevent any, says the U.S. Geological Survey. Any notion of "lubricating" tectonic plates to relieve destructive tension would only make things worse, if it made any difference.

Earthquakes can't be forecast, either. Danger zones and long-term probabilities can be surmised, but "there currently is no accepted method to accomplish the goal of predicting the time, place and magnitude of an impending quake," the survey says.

I'm still trying to figure out why this is in a newspaper. - Any newspaper, much less the Washington Post.

That mankind is an insignificant spec mostly meaningless to the universe at large should be obvious to even the most casual observer of the world around us. To put mankind's importance into scope we are about as significant to the universe as a gnat is to an elephant. -- And that is being generous.

That's why I routinely mock the people who believe in global warming or folks who can -with a straight face- tell me the origins of man and the universe. To paraphrase the story above, "Such conceits are destined to the victim of a greater knowledge."

Our very existence is do to the benevolence of fate. (or if you prefer a higher power) It is only the ego of man that will not accept this simple reality.


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Comments (37)

That's why I routinely m... (Below threshold)
Snarf:

That's why I routinely mock the people who believe in global warming....

Of course, it does not follow from the fact that we cannot stop hurricanes that our activities do not have any effect on global temperature. Do you also mock the people who believe we could destroy the earth, or at least the vast majority of life on it, with nuclear weapons?


Our very existence is do to the benevolence of fate. (or if you prefer a higher power)

0 for 2. If our existence is due to the benevolence of a higher power, that higher power cannot at the same time be indifferent to us. Your view of man's role in the universe is therefore incompatible with the idea that there is a benevolent higher power.

Snarf: What ... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Snarf:

What if we are just one of many "forgotten" creations by a benevolent higher power taped to that big fridge in the sky?

I have a question. I've be... (Below threshold)
jim:

I have a question. I've been on travel for a week so perhaps I missed it.

Have the Muslim emirs or imams declared the Pakistan/Kashmir/India earthquake that killed so many of Islam a warrior of Islam or some other faith yet?

moseby,Then that h... (Below threshold)
Snarf:

moseby,

Then that higher power is a right bastard.

Snarf, if that's case then ... (Below threshold)

Snarf, if that's case then he or she isn't alone.

Bullwinkle,Of cour... (Below threshold)
Snarf:

Bullwinkle,

Of course not. If he or she was, he or she wouldn't have gotten distracted and left us to languish on the fridge.

The reason this is in the <... (Below threshold)

The reason this is in the Post is that the Post is stuck in a liberal mindset wherein everything is within the scope of man to alter, for better or worse. Of course, the orthodoxy strongly leans toward "Excelsior," "Ever Upward."

When something that is not subject to human control comes by (or at least, should be under human control), it literally rains on the parade. Then you get mopey journalists venting about their lack of Author-o-tay.

Articles like these are simply expressions of discouragement, akin to those following the 2000 elections, but producing a serious double bind in which Mother Earth cannot be criticized, nor is there anyone else really to blame. Of course, Kos & Krew will always seize the default Bush/Rove/Cheney did it, but we know they're asshats.

I guess that going to the m... (Below threshold)
monolithfoo:

I guess that going to the moon is out then. Or crossing over that deep dark ocean. Too bad that man is incapable of taking fate into his own hands. Imagine what we could have done. Ah well, back to the cave paintings. What? Not that either? I even have to put out the fire? What a pain.

You mean we really aren'... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

You mean we really aren't the center of the universe? Well burst my bubble! This is news!

I guess I'll have to update my astronomy mobiles again. Sigh.

Hmmmm."Our very ex... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

"Our very existence is do to the benevolence of fate."

Actually this is very likely true. Our existence IS due to the benevolence of fate. Considering the very narrow environmental window within which human beings can survive, it's unlikely that anything more than the barest fraction of all planets are inhabitable by humans.

Ain't we lucky to have been originated on a planet that can support us?

RE: ed's observation (Octob... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: ed's observation (October 11, 2005 07:28 PM)
Ain't we lucky to have been originated on a planet that can support us?

Another one of the side benefits of evolution. Wait a minute. Change that to the sine qua non of evolution.

From the article: "...T... (Below threshold)
BR:

From the article: "...The effort continues, especially in China; there, rockets, anti-aircraft guns and aircraft regularly pelt the sky with chemicals...."

No wonder the chickens are getting sick of it!

Considering the very nar... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Considering the very narrow environmental window within which human beings can survive, it's unlikely that anything more than the barest fraction of all planets are inhabitable by humans.

Of course condsidering the size of the universe, that barest fraction could be millions or billions of planets.

Moost of the eco-wackos at ... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Moost of the eco-wackos at WORLD WATCH and GREENPEACE would rather see fewer people on the earth becuase they have read erlitchs phonie book THE POPULATION BOMB they are so bent out of shape by erlichs malarkey they think that their car wont start when ever a tree is cut down

Something that occurred to ... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

Something that occurred to me the other day, the people most pro-evolution, anti-ID, the extreme left it you will; a fair number of them only seem to feel that way about the past. They, like the above author, seem to feel that the future of the planet can be controlled and "Intelligently Designed" by mankind and evolution circumvented.

And a fair number of the religious far right, the pro-ID, anti-evolution crowd, seem to lean toward social Darwinism and a rather fatalistic future vision, and consider ID a past phenomenom.

I know not everybody believes this way, I am speaking of selective generalities here, just something I thought rather curious and more than a bit ironic.

Hmmm."Of course co... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

"Of course condsidering the size of the universe, that barest fraction could be millions or billions of planets."

True, but what are the odds that *this* planet would fit that description?

Now you cannot possibly refute that!

In other news I almost lost a finger tonight because I wasn't paying attention while cutting onions. In terms of evolutionary theory I very nearly became a Frodo.

Moral of this story? Don't nominate Miers to the Supreme Court!. Hehe.

Hmmm."I know not e... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

"I know not everybody believes this way, I am speaking of selective generalities here, just something I thought rather curious and more than a bit ironic."

It's a fair point.

One prime example is the Endangered Species Act. If you really believe in evolution, then why would you support a law that seeks to prevent it?

In order for new species to evolve, existing species have to die to make room. If you don't allow existing species to die off, then you are seeking to prevent evolution.

Which has always struck me as being rather odd.

You know I read this and wh... (Below threshold)
Robert:

You know I read this and what immediately popped into my head was the beginning of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the dolphins are singing So Long and Thanks for the Fish...I have no idea why this came to my head.

RE: ed's post (October 11, ... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: ed's post (October 11, 2005 10:31 PM)
In order for new species to evolve, existing species have to die to make room. If you don't allow existing species to die off, then you are seeking to prevent evolution.

The difference is our capacity to change the environment in such dramatic ways to expedite an unnatural rate of extinction. I guess one could argue that human impact is part of the natural dis(order) of things and interfering with that is antithetical to evolution too. Since evolution requires geologic time rates, our modern activities accelerate unnatural imbalances, or at least test the limits and natural buffers that normally temper dramatic changes detrimental to species viability.

I find a substantial difference between letting a species die off and the proactive killing of it and don't really feel comfortable attributing such terminology as "evolution" to these changes. Of course, this is the naturalist in me talkin'.

In other news, General Fran... (Below threshold)
Insomniac:

In other news, General Francisco Franco is still dead.

Well, there are some assaul... (Below threshold)
epador:

Well, there are some assaults we are more susceptible to than others, but we are also susceptible to our own stupidity - building fragile housing in earthquake zones, flood plains, tsunami basins or around volcanoes. Or regurgitating whatever psychobabble political offage appeals to our hearts or minds, and then choking on it and not even noticing...

Thank you so much; for sayi... (Below threshold)
ron:

Thank you so much; for saying something I fervently espouse regularly in my daily life, so eloquently.

AnonymousDrivel: I guess... (Below threshold)
JGrams:

AnonymousDrivel: I guess one could argue that human impact is part of the natural dis(order) of things and interfering with that is antithetical to evolution too.

Human interference, then, would be covered under the same umbrella, "the natural dis(order) of things", and thus part of that process, would it not?

@B Moe: You've described the essential character of the liberal and conservative perspectives very well. The former is convinced that human nature can improve, particularly under the "guidance" of those who consider themselves "enlightened" (advanced representatives of that improvement), and that problems can be solved rationally by liberally applying untested theories based on simple principles that look good to them on paper, while the latter is convinced that the world is too complex, human nature is static, and that we should stick to what works and be conservative in making changes. And that, I believe, is why it seems to be backwards: the acceptance or rejection of the ToE or ID is rooted not in the particular theories themselves so much as the association with the traditional institutions conservatives tend to favor (e.g., religion) vs. rational theories that lend themselves to overly-simplistic calculations of liberals (even when there is no valid argument either should be used in such manner).

I have always loved the out... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

I have always loved the outdoors, and consider myself an environmentalist, but most of the positions taken by modern mainstream enviromentalists I find absurd. Man is no longer a part of nature, it seems, although it is unclear what they think his actual origins are.

As far as global warming goes, it looks like the earth may be getting warmer, but until we are absolutely positive it is our fault I am not in favor of tearing down the air-conditioner factories.

"...we are also susceptible to our own stupidity - building fragile housing in earthquake zones, flood plains, tsunami basins or around volcanoes..."
Why isn't it that obvious to everyone?


Global warming,acid rain an... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Global warming,acid rain and O-zone hole and depleting species what other amount of malarkey will they come up with i mean its a whole load of bull kaka the whole idea these enviromentalist wackos are so rediclous most enimate scientists are scepitcal of all this eco-malarkey that makes big headlines in the usial liberal left-wing rags

You've described the ess... (Below threshold)
Snarf:

You've described the essential character of the liberal and conservative perspectives very well. The former is convinced that...problems can be solved rationally by liberally applying untested theories based on simple principles that look good to them on paper

Sweet! George W. Bush is a liberal, since he wants to solve "[Iraq] by liberally applying untested theories [invading Iraq will spread democracy throughout the Middle East] based on simple principles [Freedom Good. People like Freedom.] that look good to them on paper."

RE: JGrams' post (October 1... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: JGrams' post (October 12, 2005 04:39) AM
Human interference, then, would be covered under the same umbrella, "the natural dis(order) of things", and thus part of that process, would it not?

Yes, technically, and I acknowledged that. It still concerns me though that our actions can be so impactful to out limited petri dish. We are able to do things that, while not purging the entire human species, can make things pretty uncomfortable. We may or may not survive well enough to evolve with the rapidly changing environmental conditions.

There's an assumption that we (the species and not us as individuals) will be here forever. We won't. Our perspective of time is so short that we really don't appreciate what we have and often abuse our capabilities. It won't be that long until we become a distant memory and some other Kingdom (as in Phylum, Class, Family...) rules the globe. I'd prefer to delay that inevitability and make our surroundings as biologically pleasant as possible without going overboard. The danger is that we can make it quite uncomfortable very quickly and will not have the capacity to evolve fast enough to survive our offense assuming we even know what our offense is.

The great thing about evolution, if you subscribe to the greatness of the concept and regardless of its manifestation, is that it has no loyalty and life will persist in some form or another. I'd prefer that we were the chosen ones but we aren't. We are a snapshot in time and evolution dictates how long our visage remains in the frame.

So, yes, human interference is part of the natural order of things as is our demise should we remove too much media from the culture, overpopulate, or introduce some pathogen. Quite humbling really despite our greatness.

This just in...Wom... (Below threshold)

This just in...

Women also insignificant.

While the hosts of this bl... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

While the hosts of this blog appear intransigent, and refuse to face the facts many of the posters here, finally seem to be have moved from a denial of human induced global warming to its acceptance. HOWEVER, many do not wish to change the gas guzzling, air conditioned nightmare or dream that they live in. Unfortunately , it may already be too late to avert catastrophic, planet-wide ecological collapse brought on by anthropogenic global warming, within the next 25 to 40 years, unless the burning of fossil fuels is severely restricted, or even eliminated . I wonder what those who have their heads, ostrich-like in the sand, will tell their children, and grandchildren as to how they stood on this issue? Will they mock them as well?

What if we stop burn... (Below threshold)
B Moe:


What if we stop burning fossil fuels, and the world economy collapses, with millions dead from starvation and plagues, and we revert to a near stone age existence, and then the climate keeps getting hotter because of sunspots or other natural reasons we don't even begin to fucking understand. What are you going to tell your grandkids then? Will they mock you? Will you have gained the ability to make a reasoned argument instead of hysterical hyperbole by then?

What are you going to te... (Below threshold)

What are you going to tell your grandkids then?

"I don't care what anybody says, this is all Bush's fault!"

Whether one considers globa... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Whether one considers global warming a serious threat or not, our hand will be forced soon when the oil reserves run out in a few decades; peak oil is expected to occur in a couple of years. Those government that are moving their economies away from fossil fuel dependence are gong to be in much better shape economically to cope, than those countries who are overdependent on a diminishing resource at probably more than 100 dollars/ a barrel oil prices. It is race as to which will happen first; a world ecological disastor from the consequences of a long dependence on fossil fuels, or the attendent economic crash with the end of the petroleum era, when the the supply is exhausted For a reasoned agument ...without hyperbole read It's Better to Cry Wolf Now Than to Wait Until the Oil Has Run Out

If that is your noti... (Below threshold)
B Moe:


If that is your notion of a reasoned argument, I guess I will just wish you the best and farewell.

Snarf: George W. Bush is... (Below threshold)
JGrams:

Snarf: George W. Bush is a liberal

In many ways, yes, I would say so.

@AnonymousDrivel: I dislike the "sky is falling" rhetoric, not because I think that people are forever, but because I don't trust the reasoning and don't buy the premise that fear mongering is an acceptable or useful model for change, or even for the prevention of change.

RE: JGrams' post (October 1... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: JGrams' post (October 12, 2005 05:30 PM)
I dislike the "sky is falling" rhetoric, not because I think that people are forever, but because I don't trust the reasoning and don't buy the premise that fear mongering is an acceptable or useful model for change, or even for the prevention of change.

Sure. Ideologues are to be avoided. A bit of humility would be useful for all sides. That, and good science that warns us unalarmingly but honestly to the best of its abilities. Critical thinking of its determinations is warranted as is the following of its conclusions when it gets things right. Our limitation still remains in our time frame of reference and the requirement for multigenerational observation... no small task.

@Steve Crickmore:Y... (Below threshold)
MikeB:

@Steve Crickmore:

You might also recall that there was 'evidence' presented back in the 60's that given the rate of the consumption at the time and the known oil supplies that we'd run out of oil in within about 10 years. So, some have been crying wolf for nearly 50 years. The problem is that typically this 'evidence' ignores basic economics. As the price of oil rises, so does the incentive to find new harder to locate and harvest supplies and creates an incentive to find ways to consume less and creates an incentive to find alternative sources of energy. Until one day either an equalibrium between the multiple sources is reached (that equilibrium could very well be that oil is just to expensive to harvest).

JGrams, great point. I ofte... (Below threshold)
monolithfoo:

JGrams, great point. I often am at odds with Lib's because of their simplistic socialistic ideas and refusal to even peek at the disasters of history due to the same kind of medling. I often am at odds with conservatives over creationism vs. TOE. I see both of them sticking irrationaly to simplistic unworkable but maybe very personally satisfying ideals. It can be very agravating.




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