Saturday, June 30, 2018

Pondering Human Intelligence

That dot is Earth!

One of the ideas that I have toyed around with for years is the philosophical question as to whether Homo sapiens are a true intelligent species. My overall point being that most animals have enough sense not to crap in their homes, fight to the death, or practice fanatical or fantastical beliefs when there is no evidence to support them. Yes, I know some exceptions exist, such as chimps who have shown disturbing human-like behavior such as organized group warfare and murder.

If humans were truly intelligent it seems to me that we wouldn't totally trash the planet for resources nor destroy whole ecosystems for short term gain. But yet we are still doing both of those things all in the name of capitalistic profit even though we have ample information that those practices cannot go on for much longer. For Americans, water shortages are a relative minor pain in the ass that stop us from washing our cars or filling the backyard pools. In many regions of the world there is a real possibility that countries might have to go to war in the decades ahead to secure enough water for basic existence. And as for ecosystems, the world's oceans were once thought to be inexhaustible, but some species of fish are now commercially extinct because of decades of industrial scale fishing.

Nor would humans instinctively divide the planet into competing ant hills. Yes, world government is foolish wish given that our species can't really shed our primitive tribalist tendencies. That being my whole point, evolution has forced us to cooperate for the benefit of our individual groups but we can't seem to connect the dots and realize our species is just one big tribe. We gleefully divide each other into countless groups for the benefit of economic exploitation or outright genocide. If a starship full of intrepid alien explorers discovered our planet and after some observations realized we had divided the planet into over two-hundred omnipotent, self-serving nation-states the best thing they could do would be to quietly get the hell out of Dodge before we notice them.

On the matters of faith, while numerous religions have promoted the ideas of serving the greater good and that all men and women are brothers and sisters, you can't ignore the fact that many people believe that only they know the will of God. That delusion has brought about some of the bloodiest wars in history. Even now fanatical and self-serving devotion to various invisible friends causes otherwise decent people to commit monstrous actions. You would think that an intelligent species might be able to realize that if some A-hole religious leader commands his followers to kill their neighbors because that is what God commands, they wound just find a new holy man. 

I was raised Christian, but the idea that God would only let the followers of Jesus into heaven while truly saint-like Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and countless others have to burn in Hell because they practice a different faith is ridiculous. While officially agnostic, I still follow what I was taught in Sunday School as a young kid. As long as people treat each other decency and respect and don't trash the planet, they should get their Heavenly ticket punched. Yes, I believe that would even allows atheists and sorry ass agnostics like me through the Pearly Gates. Screw it, not to insult anyone but given the hypocritical and even monstrous behaviors of supposed “holy” men and women in all faiths, if all they have to do to wipe the slate clean is whisper a halfhearted prayer of forgiveness to get into Heaven, otherwise decent idjits like myself should be in like Flint.

Given my criteria on what it means to be an intelligent species Homo sapiens pretty much fails across the board. Yes, there are personal exceptions, but overall I tend to agree with a character from a science fiction movie, humans are more like viruses than mammals. No, this isn't some John Lennon-like lament over an imagined Utopian society, our species will never achieve such perfection.

On a personal level, what supports my idea is that we live in a wondrous universe filled with mysteries and intriguing possibilities but can't stop our squabbling for very long to explore it. There are questions that beg to be answered but we seem content to continue to crap in our home, fight to the death over stupid shit like who has the better ant hill, and obey the commands of delude psychopaths who believe they and God have one-on-one conversations. 

Mudskippers, humans are little removed from their behavior

This is sad to write, but my one of my few hopes is that Elon Musk succeeds in getting his dream of a permanent human colony on Mars established. I firmly believe that in such an alien and hostile environment where survival is the primary concern the age-old human sins that have kept us bickering like little mudskippers will be burned away. That over time humans would evolve into an intelligent species, not gods by any means, but a species that could look beyond their primitive desires and delusions and find a worthy purpose for our existence.

Well shit, after rereading this it did get a little John Lennon-like. Frak it, I'm getting a beer.


Harry Hamid said...

I've thought that perhaps, so far as evolution goes, we're not a particularly good bet. Some species are extremely well suited for their environment. Ideally, a species has developed in a particular environment FOR that environment, and they pretty much stay within the limits of that environment.

The very fact that we try and break into other areas of the planet where we didn't evolve - and the fact that we're incredibly unhappy about the past and the future when we can't bust into other environments - is probably a fault.

If no ecosystem around here can hold us by mere food/reproduction limits, then... well, we're broken as a species, right? No matter how well we can build things?

The challenges of Mars might keep things within limits. Maybe we won't have a choice but to try that to continue the species.

Pixel Peeper said...

I think it'll take more than a beer to improve your outlook - ha!

I question the intelligence of humans, too - especially the current population. But I still have hope. Humans have done really stupid things in the past and seemed to learn their lessons just in time. And there are times I really want to diss religion, but I just can't. Buddhism is looking better and better these days.

I have a feeling my youngest son is totally planning on being on that first ship to Mars...

The Bug said...

I vacillate between hope & despair these days. As my dad has often said to me (after yet another idiotic thing I'd done) - for someone so smart, you sure are stupid! I think that applies to everyone these days. It's maddening!

Ranch Chimp said...

I was talking to a christain minister one day, I usually dont, but had some time to burn, and I have actually read the entire bible, although I certainly am NOT a christian, just as I have a hard copy of Mein Kampf, but I am NOT a Nazi or even German (my grandma was one of the german jews, actually), or many other books that many line my bookshelf, doesnt mean it's me. But this minister was of course trying to enlighten me, on going to Heaven, sins, and so forth ... which was nice and kind of him I reckon, and it was somewhat entertaining too, but he knew nothing about me, and never met me before. After he had done lecturing me, I asked him, in a nice curious way "Why would God want to reward me when I die?", he told me because God loves me, and related love stuff. So I told the minister "I do nothing but destroy Gods creation ... I drive a car which pollutes the air, I have alot of trash, I hate those that hate me ... in other words "eye for eye", I killed animals and ate them. I use electricity in large quantity, I was in the printing industry, where we printed on paper that was made from the trees, I live in the city, where everything is torn up as far as the natural environment, to create cities of concrete, etc ... I dont see no reason why I would be rewarded by God, since my existence alone is destructive to his creation" ... as I was telling him this, he looked somewhat confused, I dont know why?, I was honest with him. Anywayz, he basically told me that God loves me. So I guess I should feel like one of God's little personal Teddy Bears, special or whatever, eh? I mean, I can destroy everything that God creates and he loves me for it, eh? Some of these Christian fundamoralists are annoying just having to listen to their hangups and rants on petty shit. I'll tell you Bum, it's bad enough having to live around them here on earth, I dont think it would be so great, to have to spend eternity with them after I die in Heaven. Later ....