12 February 2009

Happy Birthday Big Man

Two hundred years ago the most important human to walk the planet thus far was born into a comfortable middle-class existence in leafy Shropshire. By the time of his death, 73 years later, he had completely reshaped our understanding of life on this planet and had laid down the bedrock upon which all modern biological science is based.

If you claim to have an interest in anything vaguely biological, from cutting edge oncology to the finer points of redpoll taxonomy, you really should have read On the Origin of Species and The Decent of Man. The majority of Darwin's written works are available absolutely free of charge here. I would, however, suggest you invest in physical copies of the aforementioned masterpieces as, in addition to being beautiful things in their own right, they also happen to be precisely the correct dimensions and heft for beating door-knocking evangelical religious types over the head with (my personal favourite edition in this regard is the 1928 Everyman's Library version of On the Origin of Species [the one with the Jurassic fossil on the dust-cover] although I daresay the cracking new Penguin anniversary edition [complete with Damien Hurst cover] would prove equally efficient at rendering Jehovah's Witnesses unconscious).


"...above all, Darwin has shown us that we are not apart from the natural world, we do not have dominion over it, we are subject to it's laws and processes as are all other animals on earth to which, indeed, we are related." David Attenborough, Tree of Life. Or,... to put it another way, Darwin's works prove you are just another animal, so stop thinking you are something special and stop believing that some fantastical deity will appear and save your arse in this, or the next, world; take some responsibility and start working towards ensuring this planet is not utterly f*cked during the period of time you spend on it.

PS. For the truly lazy, attention span deficient, members of generation Facebook, gentle little introductions to the great man's work and its consequences are presently being aired by the BBC, see here for details.
PPS. Finally, for information on the sterling work being undertaken in the name of Darwin see here.

7 comments:

Cardiff Clive said...

I am not in the least afraid to die.What a star.

Peter Alfrey said...

Darryl,
You said.......
above all, Darwin has shown us that we are not apart from the natural world, we do not have dominion over it, we are subject to it's laws and processes as are all other animals on earth to which, indeed, we are related." David Attenborough, Tree of Life. Or,... to put it another way, Darwin's works prove you are just another animal, so stop thinking you are something special and stop believing that some fantastical deity will appear and save your arse in this, or the next, world; take some responsibility and start working towards ensuring this planet is not utterly f*cked during the period of time you spend on it........ (Darryl Spittle 2009)

I detect a slight contradiction here and perhaps there is an argument for a little slack for our mystic friends....

What other animal can possibly start working towards ensuring that this planet is not utterly f#cked? We are the causes and the solution to this problem. We have the power to destroy all the large mammals and larger animals and ourselves- in effect we do have dominion over these poor bastards. I agree we dont have dominion over microscopic and small life- this is about dominion over the bits we like most. The planet doesn't give a f#ck- it is our loss if we f#ck it up.

Is it all about our survival and our state of being- in this respect we are very different from every other animal. We can choose to improve our world or destroy it- more than just chance with a little thinking and action. I think this is what religious people are trying to say.

I agree they (religious fundamentalists and extremists) speak a load of shit but not total shit. All guilty of that one to varying degrees- unless we are omnipotent and then there is a God after all.

Darryl said...

Evening Peter,
I'm not entirely sure I follow your train of thought here but...

I think there is a slight misunderstanding regarding the precise use of the word 'dominion'; in this instance it is referring directly to Genesis 1:26 - And God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

This bollocks is then followed with - So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

The point being made in The Tree of Life is that an adjunct to Darwin's work was that it underlined our direct connection to the rest of the natural world and provided the foundation for a complete paradigm shift in our relationship with our environment. It completely refutes the standard Abrahamic teaching that we are special, separate from every other species, and blessed with the right to use and abuse everything around us.

Apologies for the sloppy use of the term 'planet', I was using it as shorthand for 'the planet's biosphere in approximately the condition it was in prior to the industrial revolution'. I agree that environmentalism is about our survival; it is all about maintaining those conditions that we, and an awful lot of other organisms, have evolved to live in.

Regarding "what religious people are trying to say", I don't believe religious people form a unified category with a single voice on anything. Believers are thousands of disparate groups all claiming to be the chosen few and spewing out so many contradictory statements that it is impossible to sum anything up in a paragraph or two. I'd just prefer it if they were removed from the loop and all the important decisions were made by rational empiricists. It is bizarre (bearing in mind this is the 21st century) that, had the US election gone the other way, the second-in-command of the 'free world' would have been someone who: a. had been blessed to protect her against witchcraft; and b. had worshipped all her adult life at churches where the congregation believes in the literal truth of every word in the Bible.

PS. Just for the record, I think all religious fundamentalists do talk total unadulterated shit.

Peter Alfrey said...

Good morning Darryl,
I agree, you don't quite follow my train of thought. I will elaborate.

A rational empiricist will make the observation that most human beings are not rational empiricists. Those who fail to recognise this come up with ineffective models of how planetary systems operate e.g. economists hence the crisis situation now.

It would be nice to have a group (your rational empiricists for example)of people who operate in a system without opposition or conflicting ideologies. It would also be nice if I had ten Swedish girls caressing me as I write this message. This not the world I observe or find myself in.

These 'people'(indeed an inadequate term or for the sake of arguments, lets call them religious fundamentalists)appear to not be going anywhere fast. Intricate to their belief system is that they are persecuted for the cause they serve. In essense, opposition (of the persecuting type) makes them stronger.

I totally agree we are interwoven into nature. Logically this means everything we do is part of nature-industry, development, economics, ideological battles etc etc.

If environmental problems are to be solved, distractions such as bitter fighting between ourselves must be resolved first. These are global problems, which need global solutions which needs global co-operation.

The mystics, the religious, the skeptics, the cynics, the technocrats, the hippies, industralists, the empiricists, environmentalists etc are all on the board. The game is how to get these groups to work together.

I quite fancied Sarah Palin- fiery little number- tenacious. She spoke some sense but more nonsense in my opinion. She will need to tone down her insanity a bit if she wants to get into the White House. I suspect she is probably thinking this herself and ways to re-model her image. She is not all bad.. just a bit.

I think a rational empiricist should make that observation- religious fundamentalists do not speak total and utter shit- just a lot of it.

I know of many 'rational empiricists' who also speak a lot of shit. Last year many economists were saying we were not heading for a recession.

In conclusion, bullshit is not the preserve of any one particular group. We are united by our ignorance.

Darryl said...

Evening,
Yep, the human mind is not naturally rational, nobody is born a rational empiricist/'good scientist'. However, an irrational human mind working in a rational empirical framework (i.e. science) is a quantum leap in validity as compared to an irrational mind working in a framework based on fairy stories. [NB. Investment bankers/economists have only a passing relationship with science, most have a BA not a BSc and, despite a fair dose of maths and stats, they spend their lives guessing and betting, that ain't science.]

If science were the 'guiding light' of decision-makers worldwide you would have a group of people who operate in a system with one less strata of potentially conflicting ideologies, there is only one science. Of course, you would still have nationalism, politics, racism, etc., etc., etc.

I disagree that opposition necessarily makes religious groups stronger. In recent years silent majorities have allowed noisy religious minorities a disproportionate amount of influence.

With regard to the 'we are natural, therefore, everything we do is natural' train of thought, I simply don't see where this gets you. Whether unsustainable actions are natural or not, it doesn't change the fact they are unsustainable.

Yes, it would be nice if we all worked together. Religion hasn't helped to unite the globe over the last 3,000+ years and is not helping now.

In the next c.30 years 66% of Polar Bears will disappear due to arctic warming; Sarah Palin supports aerial hunting of Polar Bears,... she is borderline insane.

Yes, all humans have a wonderful natural flare for bullshit.

Darryl said...

And now, a reward for all those poor readers that have struggled this far,... a musical interlude.

I give you 'My fat baby' by Stewie Griffin and the buck-toothed porch band,...

Met her on my CB,
Said her name was mimi,
Sounded like an angel come to earth.

Come to earth

When I went to meet her,
Man you should have seen her,
Twice as tall as me, three times the girth.

Three times the girth

Oh my fat baby loves to eat.

Loves to eat

A big old booter belly,
And her breasts swing past her feet.

Feet

My fat baby loves to eat,

E-e-eat

My big old fat-arsed baby loves to eat.

Peter Alfrey said...

Here is another little ditty. One that I just wrote and is of very poor quality:

Mimi was a rational empiricist
but looked like a fat stuck pig
All the hot ladies are mad and if that means a few polar bears getting aerial sniped than I will have to live with it.