photo & text by nacrowe
years ago when i was working abroad and my family was living in PITTSBURGH of all places, members of my family went to a speech by OXFORD UNIVERSITY EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY professor RICHARD DAWKINS. i believe it was at CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY or the CARNEGIE LIBRARY, but again, i wasnt there. it was interesting for them because during the post-speech Q&A, several young people would stand up and say where they were from and the room would chuckle. apparently they were from rural backwater towns in central PENNSYLVANIA or OHIO and everyone knew what was coming. they talked about how their families/parents/neighbors were all creationists and JESUS freaks who didn't believe in CLIMATE CHANGE or basic SCIENCE. how should they talk to them?
DAWKINS wrote THE GOD DELUSION (HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT, 2006) as a means of dismantling the very idea of supernatural creator being and how to go about engaging in said arguments with sound, factual, logic and SCIENCE-based arguments. just as importantly he outlines the oppositions arguments, which are largely if not wholly founded in establishing perceived, so-called shortcomings of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. essentially anything science can't prove, god can.
how convenient, right?
the counterargument is such a con and obviously intellectual insufficient and downright counterproductive. but i get it, because it seems CHRISTIANITY and western thought is about progress when it comes to material comforts and economic efficiency, yet rigid and conservative when it comes to the complexity of human relationships and behavior. on both accounts if you don't play ball you are deemed an outsider, a loser.
noted GERMAN philosopher FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE famously stated that "God is dead" but what he was essentially stating was that the idea of creator being was an invention made by mankind and essentially all human creations are fallible in nature. Thus the idea of God by definition is a term that doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
now i read THE GOD DELUSION years ago, but its core arguments against the idea of GOD have never left me, in fact they've only grown in relevancy since the BUSH administration with the rise of the TEA PARTY and TRUMPISM. now we face an existential threat with the COVID-19 pandemic and people are still throwing around the idea of GOD's WILL as an excuse for their horrendous decision-making.
and i don't see anything changing. these people don't read. they don't think. they don't question. only believe in this gold calf of a president (don't think they'd get that reference either, not like they actually read the bible). ugh.
great book. well worth the time and effort. immediately rewarding in providing proper context to analyze these sorry lunatics.
photo & text by nacrowe
you think you know how bad things are with nature, and then you read THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY (PICADOR, 2014) by ELIZABETH KOLBERT, WILLIAMS COLLEGE fellow and staff writer on environment for THE NEW YORKER. and now you are officially overwhelmed and depressed.
where KOLBERT excels is in her ability to provide context to the geological time scale involved in any discussions surrounding the evolution of life and extinctions. the problem is not that change hasn't happened in the past that has resulted in mass extinction, it has. the problem currently is the rate of change. life in this context does not have the time to evolve or adjust to new parameters and the implications are disastrous. it is as if the rules of nature have been one way for millions of years and then humans post-INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION have shifted the climate and environment to the point that old rules dont apply. this emerging geological age we live in now is called the ANTHROPOCENE and it is marked by GLOBAL WARMING, OCEAN ACIDIFICATION, HABITAT FRAGMENTATION, the flattening of global biodiversity through the creation of a NEW PANGEA where foreign predators are introduced via international trade and commerce among other mechanism. in the end they all result in human initiated incursions that are projected to result in an historic sixth mass extinction that will be visible for millions of years via the geological record.
that is not to say that the world wont continue. it will. new speciation and relations between organisms will emerge and continue to run unabated in a future post-human era. it is just that our presence and the collective choices of mankind have resulted, from our inception, in the death of countless species. it is really quite remarkable and it is a testament to her ability as a writer to paint these problems with such crushing force. these mechanism of extinction are all introduced with her describing a visit to a relevant locale (PERU, ICELAND, WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS, BRASIL etc.) and elaborating for us about what is special about the plant and animal residents of this era and the unique parameters that brought on their evolution and specialized rituals and adaptations to the area. and then we learn how humans, usually unintentionally, have affected their ability to live. each time in a uniquely destructive manner.
arguably the most depressing thing about this book is that it isnt empowering. it is not about our individual choices that have gotten us here. this destruction is all seemingly hardwired and inevitable. it is essentially part of our nature as humans. as long as we prosper we will continue to impact the planet and these irreversible mechanism will continue to run unabated, destroying life and leaving our world that much less diverse and rich to leave to future generations. it is our creativity and ability to pass on knowledge via communication systems that have led us to live apart from nature, apart from evolution. it is our ability to innovate that led us here. in 500 million years since complex organisms rose up, this is the first mass extinction of geological scale predicated on the influence of a single species.
and that is our true legacy as humans. not art. not technology. just death.
this is an incredible book that i could not recommend any more passionately. it presents deeply disturbing and affecting ideas that linger and claw at you long after finishing the book.