Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Survival /
Fear is an essential survival response. Fear cannot afford to be reasonable.
On the other hand, consistently unreasonable fear will impact negatively on survival. These are sliding scales, spectra; not absolutes. We should temper our fears with reason — as much as we believe we can afford. After that, as with all things, we take our chances. It’s a crap shoot. Sometimes we win … in the long run we will always lose. Point is: to have as long (and reasonable) a run as possible.
Parts of things can be affected by us; but certainly not all. Never as much as we would desire.
But then when was desire ever reasonable?
I come to this theme today after watching Penn & Teller pillory public fears of second-hand smoke.
They provided some reason for doubt that the “statistics” bandied about were reliable: our “facts” had been cooked: by someone else’s agenda.
Therefore what? Don’t legislate against smoking in public places? As far as I’m concerned, don’t legislate about anything. Groups of people are quite capable of regulating group behavior by non-kleptocratic means. We weren’t born yesterday. Nature, evolution … god, whatever … have already given us regulatory mechanisms in sufficiency. Fuck up and we die. (What could be more reasonable?)
Therefore, don’t appeal to smokers’ consciences about who they might be endangering? Oh, smoke all you want. In the face of your baby, in the face of your lover. …. No one has proved anything.
No one has proved that a bullet in my heart will kill me either. No one has proved that nuclear winter would follow a nuclear war. All we have are predictions, inferences, suppositions; no proofs. Proof would require a bullet in my heart, with me dead. Or a nuclear war, followed by a nuclear winter. Short of that, it’s all theory. It doesn’t matter that everyone who’s ever had a bullet pierce their heart then died. I’ve never had a bullet pierce my heart: therefore no conclusions necessarily follow as to what would happen to me!
Sound foolish? Damn foolish; but it is reasonable. Reason and foolishness are not incompatible.
OK: soft pedal my extreme examples. The point remains: we cannot afford to wait for proof in making survival choices. And when it comes to tobacco (to which I have been addicted more often than not since childhood), I don’t see how any group determined to survive (that let’s us out), can countenance rights to addictions to poisons.
Hell, addiction may be defined as a habit with no survival value.
Native Americans had tobacco. They smoked it ritually. The group smoked. Not all the time. Not every day. Were native Americans addicted to nicotine? Not the way modern smokers are. And the indigies prepared their own tobacco. They didn’t buy it already jimmied by a corporation with labs to juice up the poisons.
I believe in groups’ rights to smoke themselves blue every midsummer night: and every New Year’s Eve. But every day? Cigarette instead of breakfast? A pack or two while getting drunk? Burning each other on the bus? like the Japanese?
Then again, every time some species over-blooms, the ecology will invent some way to get rid of it. When I made my own beer, the yeast boomed for six days, then had a mass die-off. Man has boomed for six thousand years. Smoking, nukes, bullets to the heart … Maybe they’re all to the good.
2005 10 30 I’m enjoying the hell out of Michael Crichton’s novel, State of Fear. In particular I’m enjoying how he dramatizes waxing concern, waxing ignorance, about global warming. Somebody’s suing somebody over the possibility of rising sea levels flooding some islands in the Pacific. The hot shot lawyer clarifies for the yoyo lawyer that litigation is about conflict resolution; not about truth. The hot-shot is good about distinguishing theory from fact. Global warming, in which he believes, is a theory. Oh, goody. You mean we can do anything we want until somebody proves we shouldn’t? We can’t warn people about possible dangers; only about proved dangers?
Proof of one sort exists in mathematical tautologies: Pythagoras proves his theorem in terms of his axioms. Proof of another sort exists in legal systems: Washington can prove that the US owns the Mohawk’s land (DC doesn’t have to prove that the Pentagon stole the internet, because nobody who counts cares.
But dammit, we’re talking about human survival (and not just humans) when it comes to global warming. We should forget about impossible proofs and concentrate on reason to believe.
2006 07 27 Neat. One of the scientists Crichton specifically cites as supporting skepticism about global warming specifically argues how Crichton got it all wrong!