Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An Interesting Question.

MC Etcher, on his truly fantabulous blog “Etch-A-Sketch Attention Span”, relayed a question asked by the great Stephen Hawking. I wanted to comment on this, but realized I had far too much to say to fit into a comment.

So, I’ve hijacked his topic, and I’ll attempt to deal with it here.

The question is: "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?"

Well, let me begin my answer to this with a very wise old saying:

“Those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”

I’ve posted before hundreds of times on the subject of history repeating itself, and I think this question highlights that point extremely well.

You see, people talk about social, political and environmental upheaval as if it’s a new thing; As though we’re the first people to go through problems like these. It almost makes me laugh when people talk about today as ‘dangerous times’, when less than 60 years ago, World War Two was in full swing.

I don’t want to go off topic here, but it’s strange that we can be so worried about a possible terrorist attack, when on this date 66 years ago, which is by no stretch of the imagination a ridiculously long time ago, people living in London had the fear of nightly bombings by the Luftwaffe.

You see, there has never been a time in human history when one group of people wasn’t at war with another group of people. There has never been a time when the world, environmentally, wasn’t going into or coming out of a major change…and there certainly has never been a time when political strife wasn’t commonplace.

It’s like in modern times, people complain about our governments being corrupt and self-serving.

I hate to sound cynical, but it’s almost the primary function of a government to be corrupt and self serving.

Take the war in Iraq for example. Many people hold the belief that the War on Iraq is about oil and nothing else. America is simply serving her own interests.

I don’t want to get into a debate about that issue, but it certainly isn’t a new thing. As a prime historical example, take The Crusades. The official line is that us, the ‘Good Christians’ were trying to liberate the Holy Land. It, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with Empire building.

There are even parallels with Al-Queda. Religion has been the number one rationalization for war for centuries. In modern times, we in the West are corrupt, decadent ‘infidels’, who must be destroyed. There’s no arguing with that logic. God is on our side, those people are Godless heathens, so we’re 100% completely right.

In England, in medieval times, it was commonplace for British Kings to bribe the Church into proclaiming anyone who just happened to have something they want as ‘Godless heathens’, because it was the perfect excuse and justification for an invasion.

As an aside, the thing I find most laughable about this notion is that the first of the Ten Commandments never seems to apply in a Holy War.

The only difference between now, and the entirety of human history is that our weapons are more sophisticated. Nukes could end things pretty quick.

However, when we go back into history, things even out. Yes, our weapons are more sophisticated, but so are our enemies’. There are also a hell of a lot more people around.

For example, in the year 1750, central London had an approximate population of 650,000 people. Today, that number is around Three Million.

So where am I going with this?

Basically, what a sustained bombing of London would do today, is the same relative damage that an army armed with swords and battleaxes could have done back in the 1400’s.

In other words, the world was in just as much danger back then as it is now. They might not have had sophisticated weapons, but the point is, you don’t need sophisticated weapons when your target is a town of a few thousand people.

In simplest possible terms, a few thousand men armed with swords was just a big a threat to civilization back then, as stealth bombers are to us today.

So, to sum up my answer to Dr. Hawking’s question:

Yes, the human race will sustain another 100 years. Things are no different today than they were 500 or even 5000 years ago. People still faced the same challenges, and still had the same problems, only instead of it being a terrorist detonating a dirty bomb in the center of New York, it was an enemy poisoning a town well.

Again, not 60 years ago, the human race lost over sixty million people in World War 2, but it didn’t take very long for the human race to ‘grow back’. For example, the world population just 30 years ago was 3.9 billion as opposed to 6.6billion today. In 6 years 60 million people died, however, the human race gave birth to around 3.7 billion people in less than 30 years!

Politically, nothing has changed and environmentally things will even out for the simple reason that we’ll have to make changes. We’re using up the last of our oil and will soon have no choice but to switch to alternatives.

So will the human race last another 100 years?

Yes. Yes it will.


mistyforeverlost said...

Great post and so very true. I'mnot really sure what all the bub-bub is about wrt nuclear weapons. Granted, the US managed to flatten two cities with an atom bomb...but on the otherside of the token...what country is going to send off a nuclear today and have it retaliated so even they are not left.

In any case, the reason harp about the world going to shit in a handbasket today is because of the media. Media has the ability like none other to spread mass confusion and terror into the hearts of citizens everywhere. I was born in the 70's and I can guarentee my parents had no idea a little girl in NYC was kidnapped. Today? You know about every single kidnapping world wide.

MC Etcher said...

Well said! It does seem to balance out in the end.

We weren't capable of destroying the planet even 100 years ago, so I think the question has a lot of merit.

Biological warfare scares me a lot more than nuclear war. Now it takes only 1 guy with 1 bomb or 1 vial of evil germs to kill millions of people - they don't have to worry about their country being nuked in retaliation.

Before much longer, we'll have weapons capable of killing the sun - imagine that in the hands of a crazy sect who just wants to end it all.

In that event, even colonies throughout the solar system wouldn't guarantee mankind's survival. We need to spread out as much as possible.

Oh, and there's always earth-killing asteroid impacts to worry about. Fun!

Paulius said...

A couple of excellent points...especially Misty's point about the media.

Etcher : That's the problem with terrorism. No power on earth can challenge America and her allies and hope to succeed. But when it's a terrorist attack, who do you retaliate against?

I wouldn't worry about sun-killing weapons though. Not only could the sun swallow every single nuke on the planet without so much as a burp, the logistics of getting a weapon to the sun puts it out of the reach of a few mad zealots.