Category Archive 'Human Vanity'

18 Mar 2016

Human Vanity and Environmental Catastrophism

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Steinberg_New_Yorker_Cover

Betty Gorisch discusses the exaggerated sense of self-importance which so wildly misunderstands the comparative scale and importance of humanity and its activities in the great scheme of things. There is consequently always an imminent danger of our producing one or another species of grand natural catastrophe if we fail to listen to our experts.

[H]umans tend to see themselves as the causes of a great many natural-world disruptions, which allows applications of political pressures imposing behavioral control on humanity. I suggest we may be looking at a kind of infantile egoism extending into individual and collective maturity and throughout our species; human agency as causative should accordingly be looked upon with skepticism. The view seems to be that if it were not for human activity, the natural world would not change much, and certainly not much for the worse. When challenged with specifics on such matters, most people would be quick to acknowledge that there are indeed other engines of destruction, but there is a default tendency to blame people and the things they make and do first. Any other possible causes are generally evaluated later — not only after human agency has been ruled out, but also after media attention on the matter in question has faded.

Some few of these people almost certainly know better. We can only speculate about their motives. I myself find it almost incomprehensible that they think their own accumulation and exercise of power will be unimpeded by reality. In similar fashion, it is difficult believe that they can be motivated by the gaining of wealth. They already have wealth in nearly monopoly quantities, and while it is clear that they are not merely interested in living extravagantly and intend, instead, to purchase more power, they have not many serious opponents in this world for that either. They come perilously close to being whisperers — the kinds of faint seductive whisperers who inspire humanity with, “You will be like God!”

Read the whole thing.


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