James Lovelock knows of what he speaks: personal experience allows him to say that a lot of humans aren’t that bright.
But Lovelock forgets that while there are many—half!—who are below average on the IQ scale, it takes an academic to say something really stupid.
Take the Gaia hypothesis—now elevated to “theory”—Lovelock’s creation. Life forms a complex web of interactions, Lovelock says. Has anyone in all of history ever disagreed with that? It is trivially true, and noticing it is not the least worthy of praise. Yet several grant-awarding agencies still gave Lovelock a hearty pat on the back after he gave that banal observation a cute name.
And a healthy dose of pre-civilized mysticism, without which Gaia theory would never have caught on. The Earth itself is “alive”; it is one self-regulating organism, says our sage. In which, Gaiaists (Gaiaers? Gaiaphytes?) say, humans are a “cancer” that ma Earth would like to rid itself of. Etc., etc.
Since it is Lovelock’s comment about human ignorance that is our subject today, it is well to point out that Lovelock himself lacks the mental capacity to see the inconsistencies in his theory, despite being given plenty of time to notice them, and being given the able assistance of many critics.
Take the statement “humans are too stupid to take care of themselves.” This implies that Lovelock has somehow discovered a way to become non-human. By which I mean, he has found a way to circumvent his humanity, to rise above it. He has found Enlightenment! He is Earth’s Prophet!
There is no avoiding this simple conclusion. Lovelock must not be one of us. How else can he know that we “[h]umans on the Earth behave in some ways like a pathogenic micro-organism, or like the cells of a tumor or neoplasm.” Gaia must have told him. He could not have figured it out as a human because, as a human, he would be part of the organism.
For example, the heart doesn’t know it’s a heart. It doesn’t even know it’s a mass of muscle tissue. It doesn’t know anything. It’s just one piece of a body. And it cannot decide whether the body would be better off without it. Neither can a cancer cell. It, too, is just mindless tissue. In order to judge it harmful, we have to be above it, to be something greater than cancer.
Now, it is logically possible that Lovelock has become something greater than human. The universe, as it has been said, operates in a mysterious way. He might be the key to our future. It is also logically possible that the Gaia theory is true and that we human beings are a cancer.
But if so, Gaia is one sick planet. She’s as cancer-prone as a four-pack-a-day smoker. Tumorous species are regularly cropping up, and just as regularly being purged from the body Earth. And talk about fickle? How about the radical cosmetic surgery Gaia did to herself 250-million years ago? The old Permian look was out; Triassic was in. So she ruthlessly carved out 90% of her own species! This was way before George W. Bush was elected to any office.
Think I’m joking? Prophet Lovelock himself wrote The Revenge of Gaia. Although it sounds like something that would have ran on channel 50 during Monster-Movie week, it is instead a book which lovingly details how our Earth goddess will pick us humans off, one by one. John: “I think I just saw the Earth move.” Sally: “Don’t be silly. We’re invincible.”
But I’ll tell you what. I agree with Lovelock about one thing. Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change. The climate will change and there is nothing we can do about it.
Forget that we’re powerless to quiet Earth’s orbital variations, or to quell the as-yet unknown cycles of old Sol, the very fact of our existence is enough to change the climate. No amount of intelligence can change this. Every breath we take, or movement we make alters the climate. Not by much, and a lot less than the sun does even when it isn’t trying. But alter it we do.
So what? Do I win an award for this commonplace observation? All I have to do is name it and success is mine! Titles and catchy names aren’t my specialty, unfortunately, so the floor is now open for suggestions.
It’s national Pass On The Briggs month here at wmbriggs.com. If your interpretation of this phrase is on the generous side, email a link of this page to a friend who hasn’t been here before. The best kind of friend is one who has need of a statistician and who has a lot of money.