A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Monday, March 07, 2005

Morality as a Determinitive Force

Following up on Can Morals Matter?, I'd like to extend on the idea of morality as a determinitive force.

I think that Morals do more than just create the guidelines for how we act individually. Indeed, I believe they are the framework by which we as a species have separated ourselves from the beasts. Morals provide us the rationale for doing things that may seem counter-intuitive at the time.

I submit the following premises:

A: All morals can be distilled down to one fundamental principle.

B: That principle is so important, that it trumps all other moral principles that may conflict with it.

C: That principle is, simply, Preservation of the Species.

The driving influence to my moral framework is simply a recognition of that penultimate moral imperative: Humanity must survive.

Where are we going? As a species, as a sentient, diverse, introspective, inquisitive, and yes contentious animal, what is our destiny? As is often the case, it helps to look back and see where we've come from.


It is estimated, under the weight of geological evidence, that this planet suffered a catastrophe some 75,000 years ago. A super volcano we call Toba exploded in the area that would later be Sumatra. This event brought the world to its knees. Mitochondrial DNA evidence further supports this estimation, in concluding that about the same time frame, the people of the world numbered between two and ten thousand.

As little as 75,000 years ago, humanity almost went extinct from the global effects on our climate of a volcanic eruption most experts agree was smaller than what will happen when Yellowstone pops sometime within a 200,000 year window that started, give or take a few millennia, 20,000 years ago.

From a population of ten thousand people, we have the world today, in all its glory and its horror. Incredibly, we have an opportunity to immunize our species against those things that almost destroyed us entirely, and that did wipe out a succession of dominant species on the planet in its past. We have the resources and we have the technology. Fortuitously, we have these during a window of relative world peace in which to pursue that immunization.

Can we afford to put that off and instead spend our resources and time on pursuing the root causes of every dysfunctional human mechanism on this planet? Can we afford to put humanity at risk on the bet that our enemies aren't serious about imposing Sharia? Can we risk putting off taking the extinction vaccine another fifty or a hundred or a thousand years until humanity finds the way to allow Sharia and Secular societies to live in peace?

I say No. I say that we should have our eyes on the Ultimate prize of humanity's survival past the bounds of this Earth. If from a do-over consisting of no more than a few thousand individuals we humans still found a way to tyrannize each other, then I say that this propensity for violence and domination is hard-wired into our systems and it will likely be a struggle against our baser instincts until the Universe whimpers out its last rattling breath.

There are those among us, indeed one of my dearest friends is fairly adamant on this point, who believe that humanity does not deserve to survive. That if we visit such horror upon the world with such unrepentant regularity, we have failed the test to be worthy of continued existence. They are horrified at the idea we could spread such constant conflict outside of the cosmic quarantine delineated by this globe we treat like romper room, and we so many ADD children of priveledge. I can deeply and sincerely empathise with this point of view, and indeed, at one time in my past, I shared it.

But I learned to love humanity despite all its faults. Because as evil as we can be, as backwards and as inhumane our actions sometimes are, we are equally capable of the sublime. I believe that as long as a human being exists with the ability to be stunned by a sunset, to smile unconsciously at the antics of a child, or to just simply act on the hope for a better tomorrow, that humanity has a chance to transcend our violent tendencies.

Do we not owe it to ourselves, our ancestors and our progeny to permit that chance to exist?


In my mind, we have two ultimate destinies.

One is to suffer inaction in the face of conflicting ideologies and the uncertain results that paralysis may bring. The most likely end in my estimation being a never ending cycle of tyrannies imposing an absolute roof on the advancement of the species.

The other is that humanity breaks the inertia of endless debate as well as the bonds of gravity and leaves it's nest, taking wing in the broader skies of our universe.

Many idealists argue that eventually, and despite the aggressive tendencies of despots, the meek would indeed inherit the Earth and, united in our peaceful intentions, our advancement would then be assured. I find this to be uncertain at best.

I propose, quite bluntly, to grab this world by the balls, and drag it kicking and screaming into a far more certain end; to give it a chance at survival if the worst, which is inevitable, occurs. We don't have to give up any of our precious freedoms to achieve this. We do have to take action however. I shudder to think the last environmental impact study we may ever see is the one that stymies the first launch of a seed-ship just prior to a global catastrophe.

See, in the end, all the arguments about methods and all the pleas for endless talks to resolve differences become irrelevant in the face of one very hard and very certain fact: This planet is a dead man walking. Be it tomorrow in the eruption of Yellowstone or a disease we can't cure fast enough or a planet buster impacting Earth; or be it 3 or 4 billion years from now when the Sun uses the last of it's hydrogen, starts eating it's helium, and expands until Earth is burned to a crisp, This Planet Is Doomed.

I am an idealist just like my brethren on the left. I believe the people of the world can live in peace and prosperity, and that we can achieve great things, and that yes, indeed, the human spirit can overcome any obstacle and survive any indignity. We have proven that throughout our colorful history.

But I am also a pragmatist. Being so demands action when faced with problems. Being so recognizes that actively participating in solutions is far a more expedient and efficient practice than patiently waiting for organic fixes, especially when there is no organic fix within the realm of understood physics that fixes the problem of Yellowstone, of a Planet Buster, or of an Expanding Sun.

Before our November election, I said we face a turning point. The choices we faced were far larger than the narrow focus of turning back the rise of 7th century barbarism. Indeed, the choice we took highlighted that there is a place for Morals as a determinative force for the betterment of humanity.

This whole exercise started on the moral underpinnings of the Bush Doctrine, but President Bush's vision is far bigger than world peace. He aims to not only help the world find peace, but to also help the world find a higher purpose.

The next line I'm about to say is heresy to today's Democrat: President Bush is far more a man in the mold of John F. Kennedy than any popular democrat today.

Fiscally, the comparisons are inevitable. There is a direct link from Kennedy to Reagan to Bush II on the issue of taxation.

There exists the same link on the issue of the American Military, and its use in America's foreign policy.

And there is the same link on those transcendental visions of what America's destiny is.

Kennedy faced down Kruschev in the Cuban Missile Crisis and took us to the moon. Reagan funded the Space Shuttle and led the world in ending the Cold War.

George W. Bush, in his turn, has led the world in challenging terrorism, and voiced the goal of putting human beings on Mars. Just like Kennedy and Reagan, he has championed the idea that we can achieve great things simply by setting our sights high enough.

And in the end, it really doesn't matter if you believe Bush can achieve this, or even whether it's really what he wants. All that matters is that we Americans dare to make such goals our own. The power still resides in we, The People. If we decide that we want to become more than simply Earthlings, and if we voice that desire steadfastly, Our votes will accomplish the rest.

I want humanity to survive independent of Earth's destiny. I dream of High Flight. We are This Close to achieving that goal.