Sunday, October 19, 2008

Noah's Ark and Misanthropy

hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind.

There are always those among us who are so overwhelmed with such a sense of self-loathing, that they project their disgust onto the rest of mankind. These people are misanthropists. Today, we typically think of radical Islamic fundamentalists as misanthropists. They are driven by a general hatred of humanity, fueled by their own self-loathing. Certain theological sects within Christianity, especially among Calvinists, use theological arguments to justify a general loathing of humanity.

But it is not only the ignorant, backward or social rejects who are misanthropists. The wealthy and powerful harbor misanthropy, as well. What was Hitler's Holocaust fueled by if not misanthropy? The pseudo-science of eugenics which was once very fashionable among the wealthy elite (and which is still alive and kicking today, though it has gone underground and today calls itself "social biology") is fueled by a caustic mixture of misanthropy, self-loathing and narcissism. Population control. Deep ecology. All these movements attract the misanthropic among us, and the wealthy and powerful are among their members.

Here's an example from Prince Philip of England, "In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation." Ted Turner expressed the desire to see the world's population reduced by 95% but has softened in his old age and has recently revised his target to a mere 67% reduction in world population. Henry Kissinger advocated the use of food incentives to encourage 3rd world countries to adopt population control measures.

So, you have to ask yourself - who is more dangerous to human survival, a bunch of goat herders armed with AK-47's and RPGs, or wealthy and powerful individuals with self-esteem problems and a penchant for reducing the human population by 95%? Personally, I lose more sleep over the latter, but you make your own call.

This brings me to Noah's Ark. I read an economist who suggested that the reason the Cold War did not end in nuclear holocaust is that the costs and benefits of nuclear warfare are much different than conventional warfare. In the case of conventional warfare, the decision making class (the wealthy, and powerful politicians) are very unlikely to lose money, family or friends in the war. The reason is simple: if the risks of loss to property, family or friends in an aggressive war were too great, it would likely lose support among the decision-making class, and the decision would be made not to go to war. In short, aggressive conventional warfare is common because the decision-makers reap the benefits (booty, increased political power, natural resources, etc.) but do not bear the costs (money spent, lives lost, etc.) By contrast, the decision-making class is very likely to bear the costs of a nuclear war. If anyone survives, it will likely be natives on some remote island, or anyone not living in any civilized area... where the decision-making class lives. So, the decision-making class feels the costs as well as the benefits of a decision to engage in total nuclear war and is much less likely to do so, as a result.

Back to Noah's Ark. While it is a fascinating scientific project and could conceivably be of use in some extremely unlikely natural disaster scenarios, e.g. a massive volcanic eruption or direct comet strike, I question the wisdom of lowering the costs to the wealthy and powerful (who are the decision-making class, and therefore control things like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault) of misanthropy. While not all wealthy and powerful individuals are misanthropists, certainly, a few of them are. These individuals are extremely dangerous as they have the means, resources and connections to realize their ideas and goals, where goatherders in Afghanistan largely do not. Maybe it would be better to not prepare for a (highly improbable) natural extinction event in order to avoid increasing the probability of an (already much more probable) artificial extinction event.

Just a thought.

1 comment:

Leo said...

Thanks for introducing me to this word. I will use it well. And I just had a thought. If things get really bad in the future and we're in the midst of World War III, the best way to stay safe might be to live near the power elites waging the war.