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Spot on, Dave, and expressive of the narcissism of this species. The great irony of a species evolving with not only the capacity for but the inclination toward parameterizing and delimiting the universe of which they are a product is, to me at least, nowhere more poignantly expressed than in the euphoric proclamations of science populizers Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson "We are a way for the universe to know itself.'

It still makes me shiver with disgust when I hear it.


Excellent post, Dave...

You said, "... at no point did the various humans involved manage to take a non-anthropocentric view of the natural world."

A typical response from a typical "doomer" site: "It is so sad to think that my kids are playing with stuffed toys, and learning about animals that will soon only exist in that form and in pictures."

Yes, it is so sad that it is all about us and the precious children's entertainment.


I think Taoism - as described in the Tao Te Ching - is non-anthropomorphic. However, I doubt Taoism will ever be a mainstream POV.

There's nothing much to worry about. This civilization will crash soon enough and conversations like this will crash right along with it.

I believe humans will survive right along with crows and rats. But the Tower of Babble won't and human organization will return to fragmented tribal forms until such time "good fortune" provides another opportunity to prove they ain't no smarter'n yeast.

Mike Roberts

Absolutely right. I haven't had time to listen to the podcast yet but this is something that frequently comes to mind; it's impossible for us to think in anything other than human terms. It's the same for all species but possibly worse for us since we invented words to think about stuff and, as far as I'm aware, can now only think with those words, at least when trying to string thoughts together.

Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. -- Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic

Still somewhat anthropocentric, as beauty is in the mind of the beholder. But a step away ethically, putting the biotic community at the center.


To me the issue is not whether we think in "human" terms or not. The issue is whether we can "understand" the world we live in in a "sustainable" manner. It's a modeling problem. Humans have brains that function as "anticipatory systems" (AS) and, as such, are always "looking for an edge". Now we have computers which mediate corporate AS in the service of short term profits and "shareholder value". Humans are simply component parts of these larger systems. Individual humans are pretty much powerless to direct corporate activity in any way that doesn't conform to the above criteria.

The problem is that the self-correcting feedback loops needed to stabilize collective behavior don't exist. Our collective behavior is, in other words, stupid.

And there ain't no cure for stupid.


I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

T.S. Eliot


Even people who may be able to see intrinsic value in non-human things cannot generally explain it to others in non-human terms. Even the languages we would use to do so are largely based on human perception, being, after all, human languages. Anyone clued in enough to recognize this catch-22 would realize that most people need to be able to frame concepts in human terms in order to process them, and that they will simply tune out as irrelevant anything that does not affect them (as defined by not being easily able to place it in human terms). So, most people can't see it, and those that can can't really talk about it to anybody else anyway. In the end, the only lens that can be used by humans to view a world with humans in it is a human lens. It's literally the only context we have.

Andrew McIntosh

"For example, the host Jad Abumrad keeps referring to the "aesthetic" value of nature, and seems to confuse this with the natural world having intrinsic value."

Exactly. But two points -

1 - at the risk of changing the subject, every other species has their own "-centrism". Of course, only we post-hominids have the kind of power to rape this planet to death, but there'd be a lot of other species who'd do it given that same power.

2 - nature is a fucking charnel house of pain and devouring. Given that, I often wonder if we're that removed from it as we think we are?


I can only sigh and nod in agreement. The last quote from McKinnon left me with my jaw on the floor. Dude's completely clueless.

@Andrew: the key word in your comment is "think". The human species is the only one (to our awareness) that processes its reality within as many cognitive layers as we do. That process creates a heightened "centrism" for us, and it helps to separate us from nature in ways that other species probably don't experience, at least at our level.

All species are selfish, yes, but because of our brains, we actually see the world with different glasses than other species, and we experience and process our reality in ways that don't exist to other species. Dave's Flatland series is an examination of these abilities. We like to believe our brain "power" makes us better than other species, but this isn't clear at all when trying to look at it from a more objective perspective. It is pretty clear that it does make us more powerful (in the metric of an arms race) than many other species.

The irony being that these processes are an evolutionary offshoot created by nature. In a real way, we aren't removed from nature at all. But, we "think" we are.

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