Edification Wednesday
Reader Comments (1)


Hmmmm, "Disciplined self interest" leads to positive outcomes huh? "Rule Utilitarianism" in other words.

Well, here goes....

The modernist in me states truthfully that the ability for some societies to prosper and live safely and happily is greater now than at any point in history. That is of course, an entirely Western viewpoint of the world from which I am unabashadly.

I can also state that the likelihood of my demise due to war or invasion is lower now than at any point prior to the invention of the nuclear bomb, and I can show a steadily escalating death rate per millions of humans alive right up to August 9, 1945, where it drops off a cliff and remains low. If the most basic tenant of his thesis is that staying alive is a good thing, then he's correct. Disciplined self interest- enforced by the invention of the atomic bomb- has lead to a period of peace and prosperity at a planetary level unknown prior to its invention.

Now, the other side of the coin is that the Arawak Indians would definitely disagree with him if any were still around that modernity is a forward pointing arrow. However, that example is kind of unfair of me to use because it's a microscopic event on a macroscopic timeline.

So where does that leave us? His thesis has been tested in terms of warfare and modernity. It hasn't been tested in terms of our ability to reduce our consumption and population growth in order to live on this planet. At some point there is a line where the ability to eat and consume natural resources in order to live as well as your predecessors is crossed and remains crossed no matter how much your society advances in other ways. In other words, until this moment in history, the "pie" has always been larger than our ability to eat it. During our lifetimes, that will change unless we also change the size of the pie. The pie can be changed through technological innovation, or it can be changed through disciplined self interest- e.g. having fewer babies and consuming less at any given rate of societal contribution. Finally, the pie (the world's ability to support us) also changes over both micro and macro time scales, and since the rise of oxygen consuming animals, this has been for the worse. For instance, even if we could clone a dinosaur, it wouldn't live to be an adult, because the atmospheric oxygen level is too low.

So, in closing, to save yourself from the inevitable cloned dinosaur attacks, breath harder and have more babies. It's the enlightened thing to do.

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