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Sep 19, 2007

For the last week of my existence as a bachelor, we're examining an idea spawned by the ongoing struggle of how to approach the environment. Would the environment, and our world in general, benefit if we began to take a more 'mechanized view' of how things work? Aren't there advantages to approaching life as a series of systems, similar to the mechanics of a car or a computer? We break down why we think that the 'mechanized view' in all things might help us reach what is truly essential to anything in in life: balance.

Opening Music: "Fire In The Sky" by Dave London
Closing Music: "ET" by Peplab


over twelve years ago

Hey yous twos, I haven\'t finished listening to this episode yet, but I have to say I started laughing, because about 30 minutes in you talk about how people don\'t read their manuals before using their car. I\'m proud to say I did! And it\'s because I bought a hybrid car and didn\'t know how to start it! :P

over twelve years ago

It sounds to me that you guys are arguing for a logical, sceptical, and scientific kind of viewpoint. I think a scientific worldview is very much analogous to a mechanised view. After all, science is a method of understanding and describing how things in the world work.

I’ve always thought that the best possible course of action for humanity is for it to take great pains to inform itself with the best possible science of the day before making important decisions that could have serious effects on the planet (or any decision really). This is because science actually has the useful tendency of *working* and *making sense* - it *is* based on reality after all. Funny that. Of course I’m not advocating a completely ‘by the numbers’ approach (I think you guys used the term ‘cold’), but I think we could all be well served by taking a more rational look at things instead of relying on our instincts, emotions and ideologies all the time.

If the science says you’re fucking something up, doing something the wrong way, or that you could tweak something to make it perform better, you implement changes to address the problem. It works; indeed, it works so well that I’m consistently amazed (although I shouldn’t be) when people ignore better solutions and increasingly sustainable ways of doing things. The stupidity of it all!

New age thinking, religion, and politics often rub science the wrong way and can intersect in a frustrating manner. You guys also mentioned philosophy playing a negative role in this area, and although I definitely think the field has its uses, I believe that it can overstep its boundaries when it comes to dealing with science issues, and, more often than not, winds up muddying the waters and needlessly confusing everyone and complicating things. As covered in the show, a particularly ubiquitous and pernicious way of thinking is asking someone to prove a negative. You guys hit on it – you can’t prove a negative. Once you educate yourself about logical fallacies you can’t help but see and hear them everywhere, and you can’t help but want to punch people in their faces when they use them to advance their poorly constructed arguments. In terms of the whole proving a negative thing, and in addition to the FSM, some amusing ideas worth checking out would be ‘Russell’s Teapot’ and the ‘Invisible Pink Unicorn’. You’ve probably heard of them already, but if you haven’t they’re both on Wikipedia.

As to Lando’s theory about homosexuality as a reaction to overpopulation, I tend to disagree (forgive me if I’ve made a straw man of your argument). To me this theory seems to imply a kind of ‘global consciousness’ or a group-selectionist point of view. When I say group-selectionist, I mean thinking in terms of what is good for the group, or in other words, what is good for the species. I don’t think I would be overstating things when I say that this point of view is somewhat discredited in terms of Darwinian theory. It makes much more sense when it comes to understanding natural selection and evolution to think of things on an individual level, or when that level is insufficient, to take it down to the genes themselves. Perhaps I’ve betrayed myself as someone who subscribes to the selfish gene theory.

Regardless, I can see little reason to think that homosexuality is a means by which humanity is attempting to control its numbers. Firstly, it makes little sense when it comes to the main aim of all life: to replicate, to reproduce. Secondly, by what mechanism would a person ‘know’ how overpopulated an area is and how to act accordingly? I’ve read about birds hearing the intensity of calls in roosting areas and drawing conclusions about how many other birds there are and how that effects resource availability, but this information is only used to plan the optimal number of offspring for those unique environmental conditions. This usually means having fewer children because the likelihood of scarce resources is high – it says nothing about making children gay or somehow sacrificing the continuation of their genetic line for the betterment of the species. The bird doesn’t particularly care about the welfare of the species or if they’re overcrowding, only of itself and its relations. It fully intends to bear offspring in order to continue its genetic line. Finally, the genes ‘for’ homosexuality and/or delaying breeding completely and absolutely (for simplicities sake) when the organism senses high populations would tend not to passed on for obvious reasons. Other animals with better strategies would proliferate at the expense of the needlessly altruistic ones.

I think it’s better to think of homosexuality simply as an aberrant manifestation of genes and the environment, not as some reaction to overpopulation and a kind of amazingly altruistic gift to the species as a whole. I think you might be giving humanity a little too much credit!

This all plays into the fact that moderation is not the inherent base state of humanity or any organism for that matter. To come full circle, this harkens back to the scientific or mechanised view of the world. I think the reason it’s difficult to get people to accept this kind of viewpoint is because it could be argued that we’re hardwired to consume and to be greedy. In primitive times when resources were scare and life was difficult, it was part of our nature and in our best interests to consume and consume when the going was good. It paid to be greedy. Of course nowadays things aren’t so difficult and we’ve gotten to the point when it’s even easier to consume the planet’s resources due to industrialisation etc. The problem is that we don’t have an ‘off’ switch when it comes to our fundamental nature. This is why people are fat among other things.

I think the only thing that will bail us out and allow us to make good, rational decisions for the future is science. We need to educate ourselves and society. We need consciously address the follies that make us human and compel us to relentlessly exploi

over twelve years ago


As usual, we\'ve been fortunate enough to have our fans provide truly layered opinions on our show topics. I have to say I agree with your mention of the seeming predisposition we have towards greed and consumption: these are the potentially the rusted rungs that keep us from reaching the top of the ladder in our evolution. Maybe we can still make the reach and climb on top, but some days I wonder. Also, I will definitely check out the SGU and if things work out maybe there will be another interview in our future!

over twelve years ago

Hi Joe,

Indeed, I fully recommend the SGU podcast to any and all. (Let me state here that whilst I’m loath to sound like a pathetic fanboy, I do think that my harping is justified.)

Allow me to spruik the podcast for those sitting on the fence:

\"The SGU is a skeptical podcast with an emphasis on science. The production quality is excellent and the content is intellectually stimulating without being dry. The hosts debunk the bullshit entertainingly but rigorously, and encourage their listeners to develop their critical thinking skills. These people are doing very important work.\"

I think there\'s a very good chance that anyone who listens to and enjoys the Ozone Nightmare will find something interesting in an SGU episode.

As I said, based on your current show topic I think you guys will enjoy it too. It seems to me to be very much in line with the issues you are concerned about.