April 21, 2005

The End of the World as We Know It

Posted by Mary Madigan

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed between 20 and 40 million people. It killed more people than World War I. More people died of that flu in a single year than in four years of the Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the 1918 pandemic was a global disaster.

During the 2001 anthrax scare, after an elderly woman in Connecticut died after having been exposed to “lingering” anthrax spores, I started to worry about my 90+ year old grandmother’s habit of ripping up junk mail. She laughed about that, saying that she had survived the flu of 1918 and she’d survive the anthrax thing.

And she did.

On the other end of the disaster scare spectrum are the Armageddon groupies, people who believe that God, or the earth will use any small excuse to get rid of the majority of the annoying, sinful, wasteful human race. They don’t need a massively fatal flu to launch into their Armageddon dreams. A vague prophecy or an unusually warm winter will suffice.

These Armageddon fans have funded Jerry Jenkins and Timothy LeHaye’s outrageously profitable "Left Behind" industry. Environmentalists’ various end times prophecies fund a series of NGOs. These Armegeddon groupies don’t agree about how the world will end, but they do agree on one thing – the end of the world as we know it is coming, and there’s not much that we can do about it. Oh, we can prepare a little, but, human nature being what it is, we’re doomed.

The funniest example of this attitude was Bill Moyer’s essay Environmental Armageddon, where he raged about how unfair it was that conservatives’ end times scenarios were taking precedence over his end times scenarios.

The least funny example was from 'Critter' Marshall, an activist currently in jail for bombing a Chevy Dealership, who said this about our environmental problems: (NY Times)

..there is no easy solution..for life to survive as we know it, millions of people are going to have to die. It's sad to say that, but it's true. Millions of people are already dying - it's just gonna have to start happening here.
On Winds of Change, 'Cicero' analyzed James Howard Kunstler's predictions that 200 years of modernity will be brought to its knees by an energy crisis. 'Cicero' concluded that “What is truly worrisome is not that there will be an energy crisis in our future; it's that so many of our best and brightest can't positively imagine a future that we can all live in.”

I’ve been wondering about that kind of self-destructive behavior too. As usual, science provides an answer, from Stuart Blackman, a Shakespeare fan and science writer who described the research of Stuart West & collaborators at the University of Edinburgh on the use and results of the tactic of suicide bombing in the E. coli community:

Take bacterial suicide-bombing: Why should an E. coli bacterium go to the bother of blowing itself up to release toxins that kill its closest competitors when it kills itself in the process? Part of the answer is that the spiteful gene can proliferate in the martyr's clonal relatives. But it also requires very intense competition on a local scale to allow sufficient benefit to accrue to those kin. Therefore, spite tends to occur in parasitic species, where host resources are limiting, and where the sphere of competition is confined to the host organism rather than the whole population.
He also asks, “What happens..when mankind perceives that we are outgrowing our host?
Environmentalists would perhaps argue that publicising worst-case scenarios spurs people into action. But the question is: what sort of action will it spur us into? Will it make us more inclined to cooperate to sort out problems, as environmentalists no doubt intend, or will it push us in a different direction - one that is detrimental to our collective survival? Will we be more inclined to use (or refrain from using) resources for selfish (spiteful?) reasons rather than cooperative ones? In which case, is there a self-fulfilling element to those worst-case prophesies?..

..For those sections of the green movement that view humanity as a plague or virus, this might be a welcome prospect. But for those of us who prefer to see Homo sapiens as a remarkable species whose cooperative endeavours have got us through many a tight squeeze in the past, and who are optimistic that, when presented with the best available scientific evidence, we can do the same when faced with the problems that inevitably await us in the future, anything that makes us more like nasty, spiteful, self-destructive Iago is well worth resisting.

The theory that optimism helps us stay alive and healthy has already been proven by history and science many times. We may as well work with it.

Posted by Mary Madigan at April 21, 2005 12:51 PM


Good thoughts and good information in a concise manner. Thanks

"Self fulfilling prophesy" or "The sky is falling". Two ways of thinking to stay away from. And, yes there are people who act like the e-coli bacterium but there are enough (we hope) that act in the best interests of the species.

Posted by: Gene at April 21, 2005 01:15 PM

I have always found strange the emphasis on environmentalists as fringe lunatics and radicals. The difference that I perceive between religious and environmental "catastrophists" is that while religious end-timers perceive the end of the world as a good thing to be welcomed, and impossible to oppose, environmentalists (most of whom, for the record, don't seem to be preaching that the world is coming to an end) are worried about problems that negatively impact people's lives and can, through human effort, be mitigated or solved.

But the term "environmentalism" has become so caught up in political discourse with ideas like "tree-hugger" and "hippie" and "end of the world" that even the suggestion that there's a problem is read as an endorsement of the most extreme program of the most extreme environmentalists.

There are significant environmental issues to be dealt with: is the earth getting hotter? Is oil running out? Fish too? And forests? That sort of thing. But the reaction to a lot of these, let's take global warming, seems to be: the very fact that you raise the question of whether the world is getting hotter implies that you hate America and capitalism and want to destroy them.

It's just an impression I get, but seriously, optimism can only get you so far, and there's nothing "political" about saying: it's possible that there is a problem with dire consequences, so let's investigate and, if there is a problem, do something about it. Conservatives seem to enjoy telling people that there is no problem and, furthermore, only hippies are worried about it because any attempt to lower greenhouse gas emmissions would be a direct attack on all that makes America great.

I also find interesting the emphasis on environmental extremists over other extremists. Again, this does not have to be a political issue. If you were concerned about potential threats, you might make a list of those threats. Then you might try to rank them by some criteria, so as to prioritize your response and best use finite resources to combat these threats. Let's pick some criteria, such as the number and frequency of past terrorist acts, the level of violence of those attacks, the threat of future attacks, the nature of the rhetoric of those groups, and so forth.

At the top of the list, to no one's surprise, would come al Qaeda. Below them would likely come a number of associated radical Ismalist groups. Below them, I would predict you would see a number of domestic right-wing terrorist groups and individuals. These are, after all, the ones who carried out the attacks in Oklahoma City and Atlanta, who have attacked abortion clinics and providers, and who have promised to continue those attacks. Below them, we'd likely see environmental groups like ELF and ALF that have so-far limited their attacks to property and have declared that they seek to avoid hurting people.

Is this an endorsement of environmental radicals, a defense of them? Of course not. Acknowledging that there are people more dangerous does not excuse them. Acknowledging that resources might be better spent combatting threats that are more dangerous does not defend. It's simply a rational cost/benefit analysis when it comes to defending against terrorist threats.

So, I don't really understand the emphasis placed on them by, say, Mary, or the Department of Homeland Security, when there are much larger threats.

None of this means, of course, that Mary shouldn't write about this issue if she wants. I'm just saying, is all.

Posted by: The Commenter at April 21, 2005 01:22 PM

Commenter - if you can demonize some people who disagree with you by equating them to other people who disagree with you, then you can ignore their arguments without expending much precious mental energy. If we wanted to demonize people who believed that the government was an overreaching burocracy that infringed on our rights, we'd say that Tom Delay and Tim McVeigh were peas in a pod. I, of course, don't do that, and am perfectly happy to address Tom Delay's lunacy without needing the crutch of putting other people's words in his mouth. Mary? Not so much.

CF: Caroline/Socialists.

Posted by: FC at April 21, 2005 01:40 PM

What we call the Industrial Revolution was sparked by -- an energy crisis. Shortage of firewood, coal was an alternative, but difficult to obtain, mine shafts flooded. The first steam engines were developed to pump water out of the mines, then someone realised, we can do other things with these new devises. COOL!

The Coal age was replaced by the Oil Age in the mid 20th Century, the Oil Age has not been around near as long as the Coal Age was dominant and certainly not anywhere the length of the Wood Age.

Malthusians so far have been consistant in one thing.

They have been wrong.


Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 21, 2005 01:46 PM

FC: "CF: Caroline/Socialists."

FC - excuse me for asking but what are you talking about? Who did I demonize on the previous thread? Mary was talking about socialism and as I happened to be reading a Kocher article about HRC, I linked to it. Certainly Kocher demonized HRC but who did I demonize? As I stated, I voted for Clinton twice. I also voted for Gore in 2000. I stated that Europe was a cautionary tale. I stated my concerns over open borders. But who did I demonize? Quote me if I did. (and what does CF stand for?)

Posted by: Caroline at April 21, 2005 02:10 PM

Capitalism, unfettered and extreme, trumps all. Until this is addressed, we are headed off the cliff.

Posted by: at April 21, 2005 02:12 PM


April 21, 2005, 5:58 AM.
April 21, 2005, 8:40 AM.

Honestly? You're unbalanced. You see socialists around every corner. You're googling for garbage at the farthest-of-the-far right blithering idiotsville sites. Next you'll tell us that Transnational Socialism has taken over the Democratic party.

Posted by: FC at April 21, 2005 02:47 PM

FC - I also said this:

“I tend to read alot on the right mainly because most of my natural assumptions about how the world works are left of center so reading what the right has to say has been quite an eye-opener” (10:58am)

It is flat out ridiculous for you to say that I "see socialists around every corner" because I linked to the Kocher article. I rarely mention socialism in fact.

"You're unbalanced"

FC - given your particular posting style, I am rather inclined to think it is you who are unbalanced. I get the impression that you have absolutely no sense of humour, if nothing else.

Posted by: Caroline at April 21, 2005 03:13 PM

'I have always found strange the emphasis on environmentalists as fringe lunatics and radicals.'

Of the people I've come into contact with who would ever describe themselves as being 'environmentalists', I would describe them as best 'flaky' and at worst, well 'radical lunatics'.

'The difference that I perceive between religious and environmental "catastrophists" is that while religious end-timers perceive the end of the world as a good thing to be welcomed, and impossible to oppose, environmentalists (most of whom, for the record, don't seem to be preaching that the world is coming to an end) are worried about problems that negatively impact people's lives and can, through human effort, be mitigated or solved.'

The only substantial difference would be how they view the end of the world, yes. But this doesen't absolve the environmentalistas, who range from the admittedly docile neo-hippie sandal-clad greeny 'natural foods'ters who spend their time in front grocery stores and warn about the perils of genetically altered foods, to the radical nihlistic anarchists and eco-marxists who populate the ranks of the ALF and the ELF and who's strategies to achieve their goals include, but are not limited to, strategic domestic terrorism, a hard-luddite response to modernity and technology and sometimes near-Stalinist solutions for population control. They're still crazies.

'There are significant environmental issues to be dealt with: is the earth getting hotter? Is oil running out? Fish too? And forests? That sort of thing. But the reaction to a lot of these, let's take global warming, seems to be: the very fact that you raise the question of whether the world is getting hotter implies that you hate America and capitalism and want to destroy them.'

I agree and it seems unfair to me too. Granted, the Right or whoever has been very good at equating people concerned with environmental issues with the most hardline eco-crazy stereotypes imaginable; but that's only half the equation. Those people who do care about the environment and want to see it as more of a focus have to be more active in distancing themselves from the radical eco-crazies. Green issues are a tough area for Republicans because surprisingly a large percentage of people who tend to vote republican ARE concerned about the environment much more so than people that make up the organized Republican party. The Repubs are forced every election to resort to Lakoffian language and rhetoric strategies to assure their electorate with green concerns that they actually care about the environment too.

Posted by: Epitome at April 21, 2005 03:14 PM

I know this is off topic, but...

"Hillary will complete the last link in assembly of a chain in which America was the last link and holdout...Within this coalition America has been declared as using an unfair amount of the earth's resources. Those resources will be reclaimed or reparations will be demanded. America, itself will be declared a world resource to be shared by the world's citizens...Socialist demagogues will demand confiscation of America's productivity (what little now remains of it) to make up for, and continue, the deficiencies of socialistic and similar systems. Under an extended version of pluralism, degenerate, irrational, or parasitic cultures will have a teat to support them in the style to which they want to become accustomed while they are simultaneously liberated from the logical consequences of their behavior or cultures. Individuality will be seized to become the property of the greater good of world equality as well as to the greater good of one-world oriented demagogues."

Jesus Harold Christ. speaking of 'end of the world lunatics'. Too bad this guy isn't quarantined somewhere.

Posted by: Epitome at April 21, 2005 03:25 PM

Mary/Dan - here is something right up your alley. It is a speech by Matt Ridley titled Technology and the environment: the case for optimism which I guarantee you will enjoy.

A few excerpts:

Tonight I want to make three main points.First, that we are habitually too pessimistic about the environment. Second, that the invention of new technology is not necessarily a threat to the environment, but is usually the best hope of environmental improvement. And third, that pessimism about new technology and the environment can itself be harmful.
Why are these Malthusian predictions so spectacularly wrong? After all, resources are limited and at some point we will surely run out of them. We optimists have been compared to the man who said `So far so good' as he fell past the tenth floor of the skyscraper. The answer brings me to the second part of my argument: the invention of technology. Julian Simon argued, and I believe we need to start taking him seriously, that almost no resource is actually finite. He used to say that `resources come out of people's minds more than out of the ground or air'. He meant that everything we use, whether it is food or oil or copper or clean water, can be made more abundant by applying ingenuity to its extraction and use. And that is what we keep doing. By plant breeding, we make agricultural land a more productive resource. By inventing offshore drilling we discover reserves of gas we did not think were there. And by inventing fibre-optic cables, we replace copper cables. In all cases, the size of the resource depends on the technology used to exploit it.
I cannot emphasise this point too strongly. The environmental movement is perpetually chastising us for our profligacy and urging us to be more ascetic and to return to older ways. Given what we know about human nature, and given the lessons of ascetic movements in the past, this will not succeed. We'll throw a party on the eve of Armageddon. But my point is that it is the wrong sermon anyway. Economic development and ecological salvation are not alternatives; they go together. Six billion people going back to nature would simply destroy nature. But as we become more affluent, more technologically dependent and more isolated from nature, so we can afford to look after nature. It may seem a deeply paradoxical idea to today's greens, but it deserves a fair hearing.
So there you have the heresy. I think it possible to be in favour of saving the planet without being a pessimist or an enemy of new technology. Like Yogi Berra I subscribe to the maxim `Never make predictions, especially about the future'. But I'll break my rule just this once to predict that in 2050 the 9 billion people in the world will have a far better living standard than today; large parts of Scotland and Brazil will be managed wilderness devoted to wildlife and recreation; the air in Bangkok will be cleaner than today; most cars will run silently on hydrogen fuel cells; fossil fuels will be barely needed; GM crops will grow in butterfly-rich fields. Oh yes, and we will have dismantled every last wind turbine in Wales.

Posted by: markytom at April 21, 2005 06:46 PM

environmentalists (most of whom, for the record, don't seem to be preaching that the world is coming to an end) are worried about problems that negatively impact people's lives and can, through human effort, be mitigated or solved.

Simple question – can you find any study of global warming that proves that there is any action that human beings can take to stop, solve or reverse the effects of global warming?

It’s clear that some form of global warming exists, but as far as I know, there is absolutely no proof that the effects can be mitigated in any significant way, stopped, or slowed. If environmentalists cared about humanity in general, they would be making efforts to adapt to unavoidable change. They don’t.

Below them, we'd likely see environmental groups like ELF and ALF that have so-far limited their attacks to property and have declared that they seek to avoid hurting people.

Yes, the IRA said that before the blew up many grandmas and small children. Please don’t tell me you believe the promises of terrorists. They seek to avoid hurting people?? They’re f*cking arsonists.

Posted by: mary at April 21, 2005 09:02 PM

Caroline – The anti-Hillary article in the previous thread is a little extreme, but you are right about FC.

Posted by: mary at April 21, 2005 09:05 PM

Markytom – thanks for the link. If more environmentalists could make such positive predictions about the future, the world would be a better place - and their NGO’s might get more funding.

Posted by: mary at April 21, 2005 09:27 PM

Mary: "The anti-Hillary article in the previous thread is a little extreme"

There's no denying that Kocher is over the top. I would link to some of his other articles but frankly I don't want to cause anyone to suffer an aneurysm. Best to stick with the approved reading list. :-)

Posted by: Caroline at April 21, 2005 09:36 PM

"Conservatives seem to enjoy telling people that there is no problem and, furthermore, only hippies are worried about it because any attempt to lower greenhouse gas emmissions would be a direct attack on all that makes America great."

I'm a conservative. I'm also involved with engineering, and understand that we almost-four hundred million Americans enjoy the highest standard of living and the cleanest air/water/trees per capita on the planet because we can afford to.

Clean water downstream from any factory is easier to achieve than clean water downstream from a city - but we do a pretty decent job of doing either task. Ever been to eastern Europe? How about Beijing, or just about any population center in Africa?

I'm not worried about hippies. I'm worried about political opportunists who exploit the technical ignorance and paranoia of activists as a tool to gain power.

We all like trees; breathing is cool, too. And until a large enough asteroid falls on us, countries that restrict the power of government to regulate individual property or economic choices will do the best job of protecting the environment they have to live in.

I'm a LOT more worried about the worldwide repurcussions on the way from the Chinese communists' attempt to solve their population problem via the 'one child' strategy.

They've built the perfect demographic suicide weapon. I've seen figures of seven or eight men to each woman. Suicide, unless they point the weapon at someone else, of course.

Within a decade, they'll have a population stacked with young men with little prospect of finding a decent jobs AND without a prayer of findng wives... and if the current regime still exists as a quasi-marxist dictatorship by then they will have a huge manufacturing base, a crap economy, and plenty of incentive to use war as a tool of domestic control.

It's going to be a horrible war. It won't be the end of the world - but it will change a lot of things, as all global conflicts always do.

Posted by: TmjUtah at April 21, 2005 11:26 PM

Interesting little essay, middle eastern politics is wearing thin with me at the moment. Thanks Mary.

TMJ- You're forgetting India is getting almost as bad as China in this regard. Selective abortion is a big reason I don't fear china in the future.

Years ago I dated a woman who worked at a fertility clinic back east. She talked about how their main clientele were wealthy middle eastern women who automatically aborted female fetuses, sometimes 3 or 4 at a time, then come right back a few months later. I'm still undecided where I sit on abortion, but selective abortion troubles me on several levels. Interesting how the liberals don't seem to give a rat's arse about it though.

Posted by: Raymond at April 22, 2005 02:29 AM

Below them, we'd likely see environmental groups like ELF and ALF that have so-far limited their attacks to property and have declared that they seek to avoid hurting people.

And of course you exclude the assasin of Pym Fortuyn from your praiseworthy environmentalist terrorists who only attack property?

But let us look at the larger picture, the ban on DDT and the blockage of the Green Revolution in Africa has caused the lives of more human beings in one generation than all the wars and tyrants in the entire 20th Century.

The Environmentalist Lobby has been the greatest acheiver of genocide in our times.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 22, 2005 03:47 AM

mary - studies don't do what you want them to do. They look backwards and project forwards. If human emitted CO2 were cut substantially, the forward projections of temperature would all be lower. No reputable study has disputed this. Global Warming is not unavoidable - it's a consequence of human actions.

The "ban" on DDT did no such thing. There is no ban on DDT for vector control. Tim Lambert has covered this falsehood in detail - see http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/science/DDT/

Posted by: FC at April 22, 2005 05:06 AM

At UNC, there is research which promises to eliminate rice blast, affecting a crop that feeds a majority of the world's peoples.

**Duncan Macintosh, a spokesman of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), agreed this is a major breakthrough. "This research also has potential for protecting the environment," he told the BBC News website. "The intent of everybody is to reduce the use of fungicides and harmful chemicals and that is exactly the kind of strategy that can be developed now we understand the rice blast fungus."

Gene sequencing is a fast-moving area of biotechnology. By identifying the genes of crop pests and seeing how they work, scientists can target ways of blocking them chemically or of breeding plants that are resistant to the invader.

Ideally, these solutions would be cheaper and environmentally safer than dousing crops with expensive, broad-spectrum pesticides."**

It isn't necessary to poison people and animals, or ecosystems. With responsible methods, this world can be protected from parasitical industries such as the insecticide sector.

Posted by: Ruth at April 22, 2005 05:49 AM


You're right that this is a significant problem. I don't think it will be as big a problem as you do (I don't foresee any apocalyptic war), it's still worth worrying over. Like the environment!

Dan brings up the good example, which I had forgotten, of Pym Fortuyn. This does not, however, detract from my argument (in my ever-so-humble opinion). Dan and Mary, the point of my post, which I tried to explain very carefully, was that while environmental radicals are in fact a threat (arson is treated as a serious crime because it is a serious crime), if one were to do a dispassionate analysis of various extremist threats facing this country, environmental radicals would probably rank very low.

The reason for this is that, based on their past actions and their statements, they do not seem to pose as great a threat as, say, people Eric Rudolph who actually murdered people and said that he would continue to do so if he had the chance. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people. How many doctors and bystanders have been killed at abortion clinics? My point was that, if you set aside all issues of ideology and cared only about allocating limited resources in such a way as to maximize your ability to prevent terrorist attacks, especially ones targeting people, then chances are, you wouldn't spend as many of those resources fighting ALF and ELF as you would various right-wing extremist groups. Furthermore, you would probably spend fewer resources combatting domestic terrorists than you would foreign terrorists, because foreign terrorists have demonstrated both greater violence and announced a greater desire to kill and hurt Americans.

Thanks, FC. What you said. Vector control and stuff...

Posted by: The Commenter at April 22, 2005 05:54 AM

I get the impression that you have absolutely no sense of humour, if nothing else.


Leftists generally don't when it comes to politics. It's like talking religion to a christian, or any person of faith. It's not funny. Same thing with Leftists, because it's their faith. Thus, their reaction is always visceral. There's always tremendous emotion behind their posts. So your impression is right.

Posted by: spaniard at April 22, 2005 07:39 AM

The Spaniard is right.

It's amazing how, from a small amount of writing by one person on one or two topics on one website, we can discern the psychology of millions (billions worldwide) of people. Truly, truly, the Lord has blessed the Blogosphere, that we can peer into the hearts and minds of strangers with such ease. I was totally wrong about blogs.

Verily, I have seen the light.

Posted by: The Commeter at April 22, 2005 07:53 AM

Haha, I misspelled my fake-blog name. Now that's funny.

Posted by: The Commenter at April 22, 2005 07:55 AM


I've got at least a few years of experience under my belt with Leftists.

Amazing how you could infer what you did though, all that from my solitary post.

Posted by: spaniard at April 22, 2005 07:55 AM


I am, if you pardon the phrase, tickled by your statement that you have got "at least a few years of experience under my belt with Leftists".

Recall, dear Spaniard, that "Leftists", loosely defined, number in, I believe, the billions globally. If not billions, then at the very least we can include hundreds of millions of Americans, Europeans, and so forth.

So. You're telling me that you feel comfortable generalizing about hundreds of millions of people based....what you have under your belt?

Posted by: The Commenter at April 22, 2005 08:02 AM


I feel very comfortable making that generalization.

But I'll throw you a bone-- it's only a generalization, not a statement about every Leftist that ever walked the planet. Happier now?

And it generally applies to Leftists who are atheists and who have replaced traditional religion with a secular political faith. And that tends to be most.

Posted by: spaniard at April 22, 2005 08:10 AM

Hi all,

The numbers for the Black Death of the 14th Century do not look right. I surfed around and found the wikipedia article for the Black Death. It stated a death rate of 40% for Europe, or 25 million killed. This is in line with the deaths for the Spanish Flu epidemic.

The Black Death was actually a world wide pandemic, with substantial mortality in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. They did not give total deaths (or I missed them while skimming the article) but they did mention a 2/3 (!) mortality rate in China alone. The time scale is much longer than the Spanish Flu, but then travel times were much longer in the 14th century than 1917.

So the Black Death was no slouch in terms of mortality, though its instructive to remember that the modern era still was susceptible to pandemics.

Marlon Clark

Posted by: Marlon Clark at April 22, 2005 08:10 AM

TC Formerly Known as TCFKAPC:

"...I was totally wrong about blogs.

Verily, I have seen the light."

Hey, you trying to be funny or somethin?

Posted by: VinoVeritas at April 22, 2005 08:11 AM

I will hold Spaniard's generalization up as an example of what is wrong with a great deal of blogging, and public discourse in general.

"I know X people of a certain category. Therefore, I feel comfortable telling you how X times 100,000,000 people in that category feel and act".

Sweet deal, right?

Most Leftists are atheists? I suppose that raises a lot of questions like, what do we mean when we say "leftist" and "atheist"? Also, what are you smoking?

All important questions.

Posted by: The Commenter at April 22, 2005 08:15 AM

Most Leftists are atheists?


maybe you should take a class in critical thinking. You don't actually have to meet billions of Leftists to make a generalization.

Or make some effort to improve your reading comprehension. I didn't say most Leftists are atheists (though it's likely). Try again.

But I do appreciate your attempts at humour.

Posted by: spaniard at April 22, 2005 08:26 AM

I have a great number of leftists under my belt as well. Oh, wait....

I mean that I know and am friends with many leftists and conservatives. Both political ideologies have their crackups. And both have their sticks that wouldn't laugh at something funny if it was dropped in their lap.

To paraphrase Michael Caine's character in a recent popular movie: "There's two things I can't stand - people who are intolerant of other political ideologies. And conservatives."

This whole "leftist atheists have no sense of humor" is as stupid as Glenn Reynold's contention last year that conservatives were more attractive than leftists. Geesh. Talk about your minimalist political analysis.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 22, 2005 08:29 AM

You're very welcome!

Here's where the confusion arose:

"And it generally applies to Leftists who are atheists and who have replaced traditional religion with a secular political faith. And that tends to be most."

I can see how that might happen. Leftists who are atheists...that tends to be most VERSUS most Leftists who are atheists have replaced traditional religion with secular political faith.

Kind sir, perhaps I should invest in some remedial reading classes per your advice. Certainly I am quite the buffoon for having misread you!

Anyway, did you catch my attempt at meta-irony? Making a generalization about blogs making generalizations? Eh? Eh? Eh...

Posted by: The Commenter at April 22, 2005 08:32 AM

Regarding the end of the world. Western cultures all have a fascination about the end of the world. I blame the early Scandanavians, with their bleak Ragnarok doomsday obsession. If it's not nuclear war, it'll be nuclear waste. If not that, comets hitting earth. Or pandemic. Or swiss scientists accidentally creating a black hole, or some new particle that consumes all matter. Or nantoech grey goo. Or terrorists. Or plague. Or supervolcanos. Or megatsunamis. Or a giant space goat eating the planet.

To cheer everyone up, I've just come across the concept of quantum immortality. As it turns out, the universe is spawning an infinite number of parallel universes every second. You only percieve the ones in which you exist (IE - the ones you didn't die in). The net result is that you never cease to exist.

So cheer up.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 22, 2005 08:39 AM

I will hold Spaniard's generalization up as an example of what is wrong with a great deal of blogging, and public discourse in general.

A great deal of blogging? Discourse in general? Sounds like you just made a generalization on your very limited experience, as I doubt you've been to even a small percentage of blogs out there, or engaged in discourse with even a fraction of a percentage of living, discoursing people.

Fun, we can both play this game. More!

Posted by: spaniard at April 22, 2005 08:55 AM

Silly Spaniard, I already said that. If you were to scroll up, you would read:

"Anyway, did you catch my attempt at meta-irony? Making a generalization about blogs making generalizations? Eh? Eh? Eh..."

I can't be your punchline if I am already my own! Wah wah wah........

Posted by: The Commenter at April 22, 2005 09:20 AM

Well that is that and this is this.
Will you tell me what you saw and I'll tell you what you missed,
when the ocean met the sky.
You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye.
When the earth folded on itself.
And said "Good luck, for your sake I hope heaven and hell
are really there, but I wouldn't hold my breath."
You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?

-Modest Mouse

You're wasting life, why wouldn't you waste death?

Posted by: Anony Mouse at April 22, 2005 09:22 AM


I missed it, silly me.

Tell me what you think of this rule of thumb: nobody likes generalizations unless they're favorable, or until it's their turn to make one.

Posted by: spaniard at April 22, 2005 09:44 AM

Based on my experience with spaniard, Conservatives are hypocrites with no sense of humor or irony. Also, they all have MSN accounts, don't capitalize proper names, and can't debate points, instead going right after the personal morals and motives of the other side.

Posted by: FC at April 22, 2005 09:51 AM


lighten up. You zealots are such a drag.

Posted by: spaniard at April 22, 2005 09:56 AM

Spaniard: "Tell me what you think of this rule of thumb: nobody likes generalizations unless they're favorable, or until it's their turn to make one."

Like everything else, it has an element of truth.

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I think this photoshop from Fark depicts the spaniard and The Commentator flame war rather well.

Posted by: markytom at April 22, 2005 10:15 AM

I've just come across the concept of quantum immortality. As it turns out, the universe is spawning an infinite number of parallel universes every second. You only percieve the ones in which you exist (IE - the ones you didn't die in)

You just came across that? I guess you missed the Star Trek Next Generation episode with Worf and the Chocolate Cake. (someone must remember, I can't be the only geek here)

The good news is, we never die (of course, if time isn't linear, and it probably isn't, that would be the case)

The bad news is, if we were ever to invent a time machine to repair past misdeeds, we would change or generate more timelines/dimensions but our timeline with past misdeeds would stay the same.

Speaking of random blog conversations..

Posted by: mary at April 22, 2005 10:19 AM

In some other timeline, I probably spell perceive correctly.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 22, 2005 10:23 AM

The bad news is, if we were ever to invent a time machine to repair past misdeeds, we would change or generate more timelines/dimensions but our timeline with past misdeeds would stay the same.

Yeah, but that's irrelevant, as when you returned to the future, it would be on the changed timeline. Who cares what happens to the losers in the original timeline?

Besides, it's likely that the Chronology Protection Agency would prevent time travel, even if it were possible. In other words, if anyone actuallt built a time travel device, the sun would go nova or something.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 22, 2005 10:34 AM

The best sci-fi book on time travel I ever read is "The Man Who Folded Himself" - very old and probably out of print. I can't remember the author. It nicely shows the many possible absurbities of time travel. (But then Riemann Geometry Geomentry was dismissed just because it seemed absurd, so I guess that proves nothing.)

One passage I remember "Time travel is cumlative but not retroactive. In other words if you went back and strangled yourself in the crib, you'd still be alive, but you'd also have a dead baby in your hands."

Posted by: VinoVeritas at April 22, 2005 10:48 AM

Yeah, but that's irrelevant, as when you returned to the future, it would be on the changed timeline

If you were experimenting with multiple dimensions and time travel, it's not clear which future you would wind up in. Not that time travel is likely in the (relatively) near future, given the limitations of the event horizon...

it's likely that the Chronology Protection Agency would prevent time travel, even if it were possible

Oh, now you're just making stuff up..

Posted by: mary at April 22, 2005 10:52 AM

Oh, now you're just making stuff up.

No I'm not.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 22, 2005 11:06 AM

The chronology protection conjecture makes sense but the chronology protection agency is made up.

Sending people forward & back thru time is unlikely, but some form of communication with the past & future is more likely. It would be easier to figure out how to send wires or signals thru an event horizon, rather than a human being. And i think a few experiments have broken the speed of light laws, although I can't find them right now.

I should get back on topic, but I guess this is about optimism.

Posted by: mary at April 22, 2005 01:27 PM

The chronology protection conjecture makes sense but the chronology protection agency is made up.

That's what they want you to think.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 22, 2005 02:28 PM

It's great to see that someone's read my essay on spite. However, I do want to point out that I'm not a biologist, and haven't done any research on the suicide-bombing bacteria. That was done by Stuart West at the University of Edinburgh and his collaborators. I'm a science journalist. There's more on the evolution of self-destructive, spiteful behaviour on my website - scroll down for a link to a feature in The Scientist magazine (Spite: evolution finally gets nasty).

Posted by: Stuart Blackman at April 22, 2005 04:53 PM

"The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis, according to a survey of befuddled volunteers."


Posted by: me at April 22, 2005 05:52 PM

Stuart B. – thanks for the correction! I just posted the changes.

I hope a lot of people read your essay on spite. Since the Y2K scare, when more than a few American scientists decided to run off to the hills of New Mexico and become survivalists for fear that the world would end on Jan. 1, 2000, I’ve been wondering why so many apparently intelligent and educated people have been turning into survivalists, end-times nuts and Luddites. It’s also nice to see that there’s someone in the scientific community who thinks this the-end-is-near trend is a bad thing. Many don't. Thanks again.

Posted by: mary at April 22, 2005 06:52 PM

Kunstler may be off the money but don't make yourself look foolish too by spelling hs name wrong.

Posted by: David Sucher at April 22, 2005 09:47 PM

In some other timeline, I probably spell perceive correctly.--DPU


Posted by: dougf at April 23, 2005 06:34 AM

David - thanks for the helpful yet less tactfully presented correction. Just to let everyone know, due to the overwhelming numbers of errors in this post, my editorial board and every member of my research team has been sacked. What do I pay these people for, anyway?

Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti

Posted by: mary at April 23, 2005 06:45 AM

But if you read e-mail/blogs and smoke pot at the same time, they cancel each other out, right?



Posted by: Knemon at April 23, 2005 04:46 PM

“What is truly worrisome is not that there will be an energy crisis in our future; it's that so many of our best and brightest can't positively imagine a future that we can all live in.” — Then, obviously and simply, they are neither.

BTW — The Man Who Folded Himself was a novel by David Gerrold...

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