Given our biological limits for adaptation, the intellect's ability to deceive itself, and society's ability to advance class exploitation, how do we avoid the sins described here? Traditionally, the answer has been education or adherence to a code. Education, what is taught, usually controls codes. Nothing challenges us more than maintaining intellectual honesty, without which truth becomes the servant of agendas. Agendas have virtually buried any interest in intellectual honesty. Proofs, consistent logic, and selfless appraisal do not appeal to agendas. The denial of global warming provides a good example. The fact that certain gases trap heat and that we produce million of tons of those gases cannot be denied. Two and two is still four. Measurements confirm the fact. Given what is at stake, any doubt should be resolved by avoiding the risk. The same goes for atomic energy. Endless arguments over what cannot be denied lead to adaptation by default to agendas. Long-term strategies remain impossible.
Intellectual dishonesty inhibits debate by misrepresenting what people say. Politicians avoid debating the merits and specifics of programs for fear of ridicule and confusion. All kinds of litmus tests replace debate on the merits. Are you American enough, or conservative enough, or red-headed enough to be president?
Natural selection provides the starting point in the search for truth. It teaches the facts we need to construct a sustainable moral code. The genome and the structures that support it reflect the results of natural selection. Introducing elements into the environment that the genome cannot tolerate (poison) is a sin under the ethic of survival of the species. We all do it, particularly in conjunction with technology. Reducing this sin must become a major purpose of science and all people.
The other cardinal sin disclosed by natural selection concerns inefficiency. Driving oversized, overpowered cars may increase one's status in the money game but the waste of energy and materials does not enhance survival of future generations. Improved gas mileage for personal cars will never match the efficiency that the universal use of public transportation provides. The number of examples provided by consumerism is endless.
How we measure efficiency presents the difficult question. Again, money does not provide the best test. It merely avoids value judgments. For example, if it costs less to use more energy than to use a new material in a manufacturing process but the material is renewable, which choice do you make? Today it would be to save the money, not the energy. What if the material used to generate the energy is far more important to survival then the material saved by using the energy? Do we still save the money as the first choice? Is the energy undervalued? Should an added tax correct that situation?
No one asks these questions or makes a decision based on survival of the species. Few regulations address the long term; few receive scientific input based on all the impacts involved. Politics decides. How to maintain the species must become the political question.
One of the things Marx got right is the preeminent influence that means of production of goods and services has in human affairs. The means has changed so significantly that much work has become marginalized. The old jobs are disappearing or paying a lot less. Hence the huge rise in unemployment that stimulus by government no longer cures. Keeping people employed now requires the sacrifice of resources to maintain growth--capitalism's only answer to economic disaster.
Capitalism has failed to provide a future. Turning resources into cash and making it big mortgage future generations with debts to the environment that cannot be repaid. Anticipated technological miracles provide the apologies for taking the risk. Technology, in fact, played a major role in creating the danger. It provided the means for upsetting the equilibrium that millions of years of natural selection established.
Systems that require never-ending growth to survive must, in the long term, fail. Survival requires an anticipatory design strategy (see Buckminster Fuller) that employs technology for increased efficiency, not financial profit. The fact that we can build it and profit from it does not justify its use. Only advancing survival of the species can justify a technology.
1. Natural Selection's Paradox: The Outlaw Gene, the Religion of Money, and the Origin of Evil , by Carter Stroud, for the basis of these assertions and related matters.