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If one wants to really ponder how screwed we are, one only has to realize that people like Grinspoon are the ones actively trying to save us, and what that means. People who don't understand the root causes of our present and future problems, who minimize multiple complications and difficulties, and who wildly overestimate positive trends, are the same ones most engaged in solutions.

As a species, we might as well be the guy whose retirement plan is to buy a lottery ticket every week. Maybe we'll get lucky. There's always hope, no?

I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that at least guys like Grinspoon aren't yet calling for misanthropes' (or however they want to demonize those that don't agree with them) heads on spikes. If the spewers are JUST as bad as actual carbon emissions, an implied threat exists, though.

I don't consider myself a misanthrope, either. I like most people I meet. I just don't trust them farther than I can throw them.

Cheers to 2016, while raising a glass to the next.

Dave Cohen

Happy new year, Jim.

Tried to take the high road today. Wanted to polish off this miserable year without making it worse.


-- Dave


Happy new year in advance Dave. Thanks for all your commentary in 2016.

Dave Cohen

Looks like this post was a bit overwhelming, even for DOTE readers.

The future looks pretty bleak when I lay it all out like this, doesn't it?

Well, there's human bullshit and there is reality.

Happy new year all.

-- Dave


Up front honesty and refusal to knuckle under to "human bullshit" is as fine a benediction for the terminus of calendar 2016 and oncoming rush of calendar 2017 as anything can be, in my humble opinion.

Best to you, Dave, and may the next year be somewhat less odious.

(Sorry, best I can muster at the moment)

Mike Roberts

David Grinspoon seems to think that talking/writing about humans having the propensity to do the right thing will convince the majority to do just that. And look at how he has refined the climate change problem down to just moving to clean[er] electricity sources (as if that is more than 20% of the problem) and that it will happen eventually anyway. He also dismisses the biodiversity crisis as being addressed.

Grinspoon also mistakes an understanding of reality for misanthropy. If he is an example of the best humanity has to offer, god help us. And that last bit is another example of false hope.

I would say happy new year but you already know the basics of how next year will turn out so the best I can do is "have a good break" and I look forward to reading about reality on this blog next year.


Thanks Dave for the steady guidance this year-- it's been a tough one. Hope you manage to get at least a bit of rest and calm these few remaining days before we tackle the next one.

Regarding misanthropy, it's coming to seem like that's just another dog whistle word used by the secular humanist crowd to virtue signal to each other. It'll probably work out as well as xenophobic, sexist, ignorant, etc. did for the liberal status quo boosters. You can't have an open or even mildly nuanced conversation with anyone any more. You're either with them or against them in whatever polarized view they hold. You're either in their tribe or you're an enemy. Even if it were possible to have some collective awakening of humanity, I see no evidence that we're heading remotely in that direction. Expect more ideological Balkanization and finger pointing as we continue to chew up the biosphere in 2017.

Jim B

Thank you for a productive 2016. Always look forward to each new post.

Dave Cohen

From Grinspoon's article, emphasis added--

Can we at least envision a behavioral mode, a way of working with the rest of the world, a version of ourselves, that we could celebrate? If not, then what path is there but nihilism, fatalism, and resignation? If we really believed we could not change course, then concern about our future would be as useless as agonizing over an approaching comet in a world where we had no space program, no way to stop it. Yet we are the species with a unique ability to envision futures and sometimes work together to manifest them. As long as we can imagine a better path, of course we are obligated to seek it. This is why unwarranted pessimism about our future is actually irresponsible. The naysayers, prophesiers of certain doom, are giving us a way to avoid responsibility. Don’t listen to them. If we don’t know enough to know that we’re doomed, then the drumbeat of gloom is not helping, it’s hurting. Let’s replace it.

Ah, the argument from ignorance. The problem is that we do know enough to know that we're doomed. That's what the Flatland hypothesis is all about -- a "good enough" theory of human nature.

-- Dave


Misanthrope. Cynic. Troglodite. Pessimist. Naysayer. Defeatist. Luddite.

The list is endless. If you suggest to most people that reality is not always warm and fuzzy, that life does not inherently grant a favored status to human beings, that the future is not a pre-determined technological utopia of electronic wizardry and space exploration, or that humans have limitations, these are words you will hear, repeatedly.

The inability to recognize humans for what we are requires filtering at fundamental levels. It precludes the ability to make the behavioral effort that is a core component of what you call authentic hope. Without that effort, hope is nothing more than wishing, a faith-based activity based on a belief that something good will happen, in the absence of supporting evidence or even in the presence of contradictory evidence.

2016 was simply filled to the brim with what seems, to me, to be an ever-increasing number of examples of this kind of faith-based human activity. I'm not talking here about religion (although, of course, religion is one common source of cover for such activities). I am talking about the human behaviors that increasingly are explained with no more rhetorical logic and substance than "Because!". Technology is always good. Humans are special. Americans are exceptional. Growth is good. More is better. The future is always better. Humanity is destined to travel to the stars. Because we can. All of these, and many more, represent faith-based belief systems, stories we can tell ourselves that provide false hope, that provide us with rationalizations that allow us to continue behaving as we do, without the need to explore, or even recognize the devil in the details of our own behavior. We see, sometimes, the problems our behaviors create. Yet, we cannot seem to acknowledge the reality that we are the source of that behavior. Somehow, we are the problem and the solution, at the same time, without the need to change. We know that something is not right, but willingly, eagerly, accept the premise that it will get better, that it will fix itself, if we just keep doing what "we were meant to do." These instinctual drives and our inability to adequately acknowledge them result in our increasingly faith-based rationalizations and the false hope they engender.

On a more personal note, Dave, thanks for the writing you do. While it is not always easy to digest, and while the content is often necessarily grim and depressing, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read your ideas.

Wishing you and yours a safe and healthy 2017.


I'm not sure there's much difference between Grinspon's complaint that you've emphasised here and the more standard complaint that science takes the wonder out of religion, or atheism undermines (dictated) morality.

I'm not trying to make this about religion, it was just a parallel that came to mind. We mustn't learn new things, because it might upset some people, or it might change minds, maybe it ways we don't anticipate or don't personally prefer. Well, yes, it fucking might, but how one expects to get anywhere without searching for truth even (especially!) when that truth is difficult is beyond me. Honesty, especially about ourselves, can make some people pretty pessimistic, but it also is pretty bloody necessary to at least try and improve.

To take a timely example, I feel that someone like Grinspoon wouldn't argue, for instance, that we ought not to ruminate on how vicious or tyrannical governments usually come to power with the approval of the populace. But that, too, is a question of understanding human nature, our tendency to place ourselves in exclusionary social groups, and our, well, flatland mental processes. Grinspoon's complaint is an argument against studying history at all. Or, well, anything. God forbid we learn something troubling! How ridiculous.

Anyway, incidentally, my thanks to Jim for kicking me in the gut with his first comment. A sobering way of putting things.

Happy New Year to all, I hope it finds you as well as it possibly could. :V


Love this post - thank you Dave! Having both types of hope clearly spelled out like this is incredibly useful.

Brian Sheller

Hi, Dave

When you're right, you're right and there's not too much else to say.

With this Grinspoon guy you've riled lately, I really love the way he envisions a happy future like he's seen in the movies. Humans embracing equality and justice working hand in hand toward an ever brighter future in a high tech paradise, clean skies and fluffy clouds in every direction...

He seems entirely without the idea that those, as you say, predatory humans with control of military and machine power will likely exert extreme authoritarian pressure on their ignorant subjects while competing fiercely with one another during an era of increasing scarcity and decline. Worse he seems to believe that the present is unlike the past in terms of human behavior and that we humans, and our rulers, have at this point moved beyond the tendency for barbaric treatment of fellow humans or competing societies.

If we entertain Grinspoon on the notion that (some) humans might have some bright future in some high tech paradise, (Yes We Can!...) we might still note that this 'paradise' is built atop a stinking, criminal pit of despair and that none of us are invited up, the Grinspoons neither. It occurs to me though, that this high tech 'future' for some humans is this very moment in time.

But, that's FlatLand, Blank Slate, Instinctual Optimism, Whistling in the Dark, and more, all on display every day at all hours in all languages.

That's what makes reading your posts so enjoyable. With open eyes, it may not be difficult to hit a dangling piñata (especially a piñata stuffed so tight that it spits candy when it talks) but there's a lot of sweet stuff to be had in any case.

Have a happy New Year!

Mike Roberts

It's funny that people like Grinspoon would support scientific research to seek out what makes species tick, what laws the physical world may follow and so on. But if we find out that humans can't change their characteristic behaviour (as you've done an excellent job of showing, Dave) then people like Grinspoon would rather stay ignorant and seek solace in false hope.

jay moses

i'm perfectly content to be a misanthrope. who knows what good things may happen if homo sap is taken out of the equation? evolution did not start with the human race and there is no particular reason to believe that it has ended. bring on the intelligent cockroaches.


Humans individually (some) are pretty much ok, humans in the aggregate are horribly destructive. They make cockroaches, viruses and rats look great. If that's misanthropic, so be it. Thanks for all the posts! You keep me sane.



So what does Authentic Hope look like practically, on the ground for the individual and collective. What physical steps would an individual and society need to take in order to realize Authentic Hope as action?


John Wheeler

Dave, would you consider it Authentic Hope that rising forces of greed and nationalism will collapse the global economy and prevent the worst of the projected climate change? Naturally, the billions who depend on the global economy will die off, and there is the danger that while so they do significantly more damage like starting a nuclear war, but is it at least possible that some who are better stewards of the Earth can make it through?

John R

I think what's missing from any hopeful view is a realistic scenario of a future world in which we've solved all our big anthropogenic problems without a massive human die-off. Can anyone envisage a human civilisation of many billions of people which is sustainable using known physics and technology, i.e. doesn't rely on any finite resources, doesn't grow, and doesn't degrade the natural world? It's no good just imagining that someone somewhere will come up with discoveries and inventions to make such a thing happen - that's just wishful thinking, as others have said. If we can't imagine how that end result would actually work, then we can't make progress towards it - in fact, anything we do would be more likely to make things worse, like continuing to strip the planet of its natural resources to make limited-life infrastructure.

The reality is that there is probably no way to have a sustainable human population of 7+ billion at *any* level of existence, whether high technology or the most basic way of living off the land. We might dream about a future of unlimited energy, and technology which uses no new raw materials and produces no waste because everything is 100% recycled, but that's probably just science fiction. It may be that *any* level of technology beyond living like chimpanzees is inherently and unavoidably destructive, and unsustainable.

John R

There are some ways of living in the world that are less destructive than others, but we all know what happens to people who try to live like that - they get walked all over by more powerful and more destructive societies, their lands are stolen and strip-mined, the people are murdered. Everyone has to keep up with the technological arms race or be snuffed out.


@SomeGuy: I'll answer, but it won't be comforting.

Dave's Authentic Hope listed above is purely hypothetical. It actually can't exist in the real world. An individual could take limited steps. In fact, Dave is doing that by posting here. He's drawing attention to the problem as best he can.

Has it affected our species as a whole? Will it?

The problem resides in our nature. We can't be what we aren't, especially not on a group level. We'll ignore our nature and continue to pretend we are things we are not using the very same adaptive filtering that brought us to this moment in time.

A certain toolbox was created in us to thrive and prosper on this Earth, but it's wholly inadequate to address future problems created by human expansion. The very best we can hope for are forms of false hope from the deluded - from those that don't understand the depth of the problem in the first place, who deny and ignore complications, and who grossly overestimate human abilities and technologies.

Welcome to the Ship of Fools:

"Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better. The sailors are quarreling with one another about the steering––every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the noble captain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not––the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?"

Or a spewing misanthrope?

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