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The Genocidal Species

2017 December 21
by Ian Welsh
The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

As a species, humans are genocidal.

This is a fact. We are genociding multiple species right now, we have genocided many in the past. We are driving so many species to extinction that the fossil record will show this as a great die-off.

And, if we decide one part of our own species isn’t “of the tribe,” well, we happily genocide them too. (A genocide is ongoing in Yemen, and, despite all our caterwauling about “never again,” we are doing nothing about it. Indeed, the US is aiding and abetting it.)

Humans commit genocide, a lot.

Now there are two ways to look at this tendency: with a view to free will and a view without. If humans don’t have free will, well, we have no moral culpability. It’s like blaming a fox for killing all the hens in a hen-house even though he won’t eat most them: He can’t help himself. In this model, humans are just animals and are no different from any other in terms of moral culpability. We’re biological machines governed by cause and effect.

That doesn’t make those we kill any less dead but it does mean feeling remorse is silly. We’re serial killing mass murderers, but it’s not our fault. We might as well be bacteria in a petri dish, eating everything they can, polluting the dish, and wiping themselves out amidst their own waste.


The other model suggests that human beings do have some control over ourselves. Some ability to use reason and reasoned emotion to control ourselves. We can model the past, present, and future and we can act to manage that future. We identify with and feel the pain of not just fellow humans but that of animals and even plants, and we can act on those feelings to reduce the amount of pain we cause.

Because whether we have free will or not, this we know: Suffering is real.

Even from a completely self-interested point of view, we know what we’re doing is bad: The species we’re killing are important for the health of eco-systems upon which we rely. If the ocean plankton go away, we are so screwed. If various other ecosystems collapse, well, we rely on them to keep the world habitable by higher lifeforms.

And the genetic wealth we are destroying, which we could use with our unfolding biological technologies, is incalculably large: Miracle cures and genetic modifications we will never know.

All this leaves aside the non-trivial possibility we could wipe ourselves out and the reasonable chance that we will destroy our civilization and plunge ourselves into a dark age.

If the other species could vote, surely most would vote to have us be the next genocide victim, in order to spare so many other species.

Looking at all of this leads to a fairly simple conclusion: We can’t handle the technology we have. We do not have the ability to manage ourselves. As a species, we cannot control our breeding, or manage limited resources and sinks, nor plan for any future more than a few years out. When we broke the Malthusian trap, we set ourselves up for disaster. When we learned how to exhume large amounts of carbon and burn it, we set most of the world’s species up for catastrophe.

We are dangerous to everyone, including ourselves, not primarily out of malice (though there is plenty of that) but out of selfishness, greed, stupidity, and short-sightedness.

And it’s not clear we can learn. Oh, individuals and groups can learn. The lessons of the Great Depression were learned well by those who were adults then, but they couldn’t pass those lessons on to their kids and grandkids, who went on to pursue essentially the exact same policies which caused the Great Depression (as well as fascism).

So if we make it through the great climate change and ecological collapse and learn our lesson, how long will it be before the grandkids or great-grandkids say, “Oh, we would never do that again. Let’s loosen some regulations, they’re stupid and get in the way of making a profit!”

As a species, we now have three great tasks:

  • Get through the ecological issues barreling down on us
  • Learn how to live in space and get off the planet so all our eggs aren’t in one basket (jump to more petri dishes!)
  • Most importantly, learn how to create stable, sane societies that aren’t a menace to themselves and every living creature around them.

The first two are clearly possible (though we may not manage them).

The third?

I don’t know. Can humans truly learn? Or are we just bacteria in a petri dish, too stupid to control ourselves?

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75 Responses leave one →
  1. Willy permalink
    December 21, 2017

    Some of us can learn. Maybe those of us who can learn, will concoct a virus that wipes out anybody else who cannot learn. Um, wait a minute…

  2. different clue permalink
    December 21, 2017

    Some humans genocide, and some humans don’t.

    If we wish to apply the word “genocide” to exterminating species other than our own, whole grouploads of humans have done no genociding at all. It is claimed by some that the Ice Age Indians genocided all the great Ice Age beasts in North America. Even if that claim were to be accepted, it must be admitted that their post Ice Age descendants genocided zero further species between the end of the Ice Age and the arrival of the first Boat People from Europe.

    So if any Indian knowledge and wisdom and advice has survived the Boat Person Genocide down to our own present day, that knowledge etc. can be referred to for learning and adopting the attitude of Let Us Genocide No More.

    And that is just one example. So examples exist.

  3. Dan permalink
    December 21, 2017

    Why is human survival as a species important to you? Or at all?

    Task #2 is impossible and deeply undesirable, so I am curious what drives your deep irrationality on this point. I find the desire for species survival expressed in this way is usually a imaginative proxy for actual progeny — an immortalization fantasy of male egos who have not learned from the discipline of a long term female partner and children.

  4. Dave Dell permalink
    December 21, 2017

    What Dan said and better than I could. My only hope is that we don’t turn the Earth into Venus II.

  5. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    December 21, 2017

    Uh, evewn if we fix the mess we’ve made, the Earth and the Sun still will not survive eternally.

    So, Task #2 is necessary for the really long-term survival of our species.

  6. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    December 21, 2017

    *sigh* “Even”, that is.

    I can haz edit feechur, plz? 😛

  7. Jay permalink
    December 21, 2017

    Even if interstellar travel is necessary, it’s still impossible.

  8. Jessica permalink
    December 21, 2017

    #3 is more crucial than #1 and #2.
    The key to #3 is that we need to develop a we, a species-wide we. There may be half-way houses that could do in the mean time, but ultimately the species needs to be conscious as a species. (This is different from individuals thinking like a species.)
    If we can do that (again, or for now attain something half way to that), then #1 and #2 will not actually be particularly difficult. If not, they will be quite difficult and even if we stumble into solutions, we will run into analog #1’s and #2’s at a higher level.
    I suspect that for most people, the species achieving species consciousness sounds impossible, or worse completely woo-woo rainbow unicorns. In this regard, it is worth remembering that those considered the best and brightest by our current social configuration have dedicated a large amount of their time and energy to convincing us of our own incompetence and unworthiness and of our need for their tender ministrations. We are much better than we currently think we are.
    And we have reached a point where we must grow up yet more.

  9. scruff permalink
    December 21, 2017

    Task #2 is perhaps the most evil of all possible tasks to proffer, especially since it could in theory be actualized before task #1 was complete, or more to the point before sane behaviors that would make task #1 a moot point became expressed throughout the species. Surely there can be no ethical basis for suggesting that an omni-genocidal species that just happens to survive an ecological collapse of its own creation should be given the chance to fuck up anything else in the universe just to abate their fears of death.

    No; when you have spoiled child who cannot balance income and expenditures, repeatedly bailing that child out of debt is both a disruption to the economy around them and an inhibitor to the potential of that child to fully mature. The kid won’t ever become a responsible adult with repeated influx of cash, and civilized humans won’t ever become responsible members of the planetary community or the universal community or any other community with repeated influx of new technologies like AI, nuclear power, fusion, or literally anything else. Any possible technological advance that allows humans to get around the consequences of their own behavior (including cultural behavior they’ve inherited from older generations who actually started the problem) only can serve to exacerbate the problem rather than fix it.

    What’s uncomfortable for pretty much everyone in the world is that the only thing that actually addresses the problem is cultural comfort with individual death, and our culture has precisely none of that. Not surprising, as it has done all it can to push individual hopes as far to the future as possible in order to make the shitty present bearable.

    If the Pleistocene Overkill Hypothesis is correct, it’s basically the same problem as we face with any invasive species – either a balance is attained with the environment, or it dies out – and the balance was attained thousands of years ago. Can anyone seriously say that they expect this culture to attain balance any time soon, or ever? Deliberately or otherwise?

    At this point, the most ethical thing a person can do is to kill scientists and engineers. If enough of them could be “genocided”, there might actually be some hope for ecological maturity. Until then, bring on the dark age. By definition, it can only be an improvement.

  10. someofparts permalink
    December 22, 2017

    “So if any Indian knowledge and wisdom and advice has survived the Boat Person Genocide down to our own present day, that knowledge etc. can be referred to for learning and adopting the attitude of Let Us Genocide No More.”

    Years ago in an intensely feminist online community, an Indian woman in the group posed an interesting question for all of us. All she did was ask us what we thought our communities would be like seven generations from now. No one had anything to say, not one word, because none of us had ever put the question to ourselves.

    also this

    “I find the desire for species survival expressed in this way is usually a imaginative proxy for actual progeny — an immortalization fantasy of male egos who have not learned from the discipline of a long term female partner and children.”


  11. Alan Coovert permalink
    December 22, 2017

    Humanity is a cancer on this beautiful blue planet and nature wants us dead. But nature isn’t trying hard enough.

  12. December 22, 2017

    Perhaps its just as well we are wiping ourselves out. That way we can save the planet and all the other species.

  13. John permalink
    December 22, 2017

    I always liked the question posed by a repeat poster on the Oil Drum…” are humans smarter than yeast?” in reference to what yeast does in the presence of excess grape sugars….they party down like it’s 1999 and die in an alcohol or acid bath. Of course the remainder is always useful for other species. It’s not looking good.
    Regarding #2: I pose that we are so specifically designed for this gravity well and chemical environment that to self impose the constraints to recreate it at scale would imply the self discipline to do #3 many times over.

  14. realitychecker permalink
    December 22, 2017

    Maybe we need to just get over ourselves as a species.

    I’ve always choked on the notion that we unilaterally declare ourselves to be the supreme animals.

    How convenient. (h/t The Church Lady)

  15. Some Guy permalink
    December 22, 2017

    I guess ‘Oryx and Crake’ was Margaret Atwood’s take on this topic, with her view being that we are irredeemable, and that Willy in the first comment above was on the right track. It’s hard to look at our track record and conclude she was wrong.

    I also have to echo some of the commenters above about space. If we are a broken species that inevitably destroys life when it encounters it, the last thing anyone should want would be for us to leave earth (even if this were possible, which it certainly does not seem to be). It’s like saying ‘here’s this toxic bacteria that is fatal to everything it encounters, but we’re worried it’s going to wipe itself out, so we’re going to spread it far and wide so that it can survive (for a little while longer at least) it’s own destructiveness. How does that make sense in any way?

  16. Webstir permalink
    December 22, 2017

    The Wachowski brothers got it right a long time ago. We’re a virus that is destroying our host. Our reptile brain’s “prime directive” to procreate over-rides any frontal lobe insight into the logical conclusions that flow from our present predicament.

    I like to think we could change that from the nurture side. But, as is often the case, it’s impossible to convince someone of the truth when their paycheck depends on not understanding it. Zero population growth is a bogey-man ever haunting the dreams of neoliberal economists, the oligarchs, and the political class that benefits from their largesse.

    I couldn’t track it down, but it sticks in my head that Steve Keen is of a mind that any economic growth we’re currently experiencing is solely due to continued population expansion. We continue to add a City the size of Boise to the planet every damn day.

  17. Anon permalink
    December 22, 2017

    Some of you sound like serial killers. And that is not meant as a compliment, although I’m sure you’ll take it as such.

  18. Webstir permalink
    December 22, 2017

    Anon: yes, here there be sociopaths.

  19. highrpm permalink
    December 22, 2017

    @webster & anon,
    what planet are you folks from?

  20. highrpm permalink
    December 22, 2017

    What’s uncomfortable for pretty much everyone in the world is that the only thing that actually addresses the problem is cultural comfort with individual death, and our culture has precisely none of that.

    Our reptile brain’s “prime directive” to procreate over-rides any frontal lobe insight into the logical conclusions that flow from our present predicament.

    I’ve always choked on the notion that we unilaterally declare ourselves to be the supreme animals.

    how might the pervasive abrahamic belief systems have anything in common with the above?

  21. realitychecker permalink
    December 22, 2017

    @ highrpm

    Of course the religions love the superstitious stuff, but to me it’s just superstitious stuff.

    I don’t let that pollute my own thought process.

    Frankly, I find it abusive that atheists and agnostics are forced to live with so many rules that represent nothing but abject pandering to Judeo-Christian religious pressures.

    Just sayin’ . . . 🙂 Not claiming victimhood lol.

  22. Webstir permalink
    December 22, 2017

    I think my comment you quoted from indicates the I’m from the same one as you. My sociopath comment was not necessarily related only to this thread. But more to the way people just talk around other commenters on here rather responding to the merits of the discussion. It indicates a certain narcissism if not full blown sociopathy. That said, I’m no fan of actively seeking to “genocide” the human race. We do collectively learn. It just takes terrible beatings over the head before we do. I’m a case in point if you followed the thread on Ian’s last post.

  23. Webstir permalink
    December 22, 2017

    rc said: “Frankly, I find it abusive that atheists and agnostics are forced to live with so many rules that represent nothing but abject pandering to Judeo-Christian religious pressures.”

    I can heartily “Amen” that statement.

  24. Webstir permalink
    December 22, 2017

    highrpm said: “how might the pervasive abrahamic belief systems have anything in common with the above?”

    I think they’re oil and water. There’s a war on Christmas don’tchaknow?

  25. Willy permalink
    December 22, 2017

    Now the astronomers are saying there are planets around every star, with stars ranging in size from ours down to red dwarves which exist stably for incredibly long times. That’s a lot of life potential.

    Yet as far as we know, there’s never been a peep from out there. The thought that life can will itself to become intelligent, yet cannot survive very long in such a willful state seems realistic.

    But if weird creatures actually did arrive in their impressive ships, they’d be greeted by Donald Trump. And intelligent people everywhere would be diving under their beds.

    Maybe they’d ignore Donald’s furious tweets, and would gather together the humans worthy of their respect and discuss with them how they became ‘stable and sane and less of a menace’, maybe even help them tweak exactly the variables humanity needed to achieve the same, if we only just helped them refuel their ships so they could continue on their way.

    Not sure what those variables would be… But wouldn’t that be a good novel? The antagonists would be power crazed kleptocrats. Trump of course, would be comedy relief.

  26. different clue permalink
    December 22, 2017


    Well there you go. Enough people still survive with enough of the old wisdom-knowledge to be able to ask the question. Being able to zap oneself into the headspace where the question makes sense and an answer is at least thought towards is a first step towards psychocultural improvement.

    And then behavioral improvement after that.

    A lot of modern industrial civilization people mistake “modern industrial civilization” with “humanity”. The two overlap, but are not congruent.

    I notice that some people here at least pose as being anti-humanitic self-hating antihumanites.
    I used to feel like an anti-humanitic self-hating antihumanite. Some decades ago I heard/read something that slowly set me free from that attitude. I read that the braincase capacity of skulls was measured by pouring dry rice into the braincase till it was full, then pouring it out into graduated beaker. For some reason I thought about how many live cockroaches could fit inside one human skull if you could get all those cockroaches to hold still. I thought it must be at least ten thousand cockroaches.

    WOW! One human brain is as big as Ten Thousand Cockroaches! And it occurred to me that we too evolved during the Great Pleistocene Evolutionary Radiation. And that we are to primates as the Irish Elk was to deer. Our brain is our antlers. We ARE one of the Great Ice Age Beasts. As long as we live, the Ice Age is not quite dead. We are as interesting an animal as any other animal.

    How might non genocidist culture-bunches of humanimal beings help life keep life alive through the Bonfire of the Genocidists?

  27. Tony Wikrent permalink
    December 22, 2017

    Regarding ” selfishness, greed, stupidity and short-sightedness” —

    One of the past year’s events that worsened my depression over Trump and the Democrats’ ineffectual identity politics response to him, was Matt Stoller’s attack on Alexander Hamilton for being an anti-democratic elitist. Like all other mindless lefties–and I never though of Stoller as such until he posted this drivel–Stoller trotted out Hamilton’s rejoinder to Thomas Jefferson, “Your people, sir, are a great beast.”

    Yeah, well, take a look at this photo and tell me again Hamilton is wrong.,+Marion,+Indiana,+1930.jpg

    What I find so powerful and so beautifully elegant about what the American founders did was that they fully realized that humanity is of a dual nature. Men and women are capable of the most horrible crimes and violence–indeed, we call it “inhumanity”–while at the same they are capable of great good and brilliant constructive achievement. Just look at Al Franken and Harvey Weinstein for the most recent spectacles of this dual nature.

    So, the American founders fully realized this dual nature of humanity, and set about designing and erecting a system of government that would restrain the worst parts of human nature, and allow freedom of action for the better parts of human nature. Washington has been called the indispensable man, and I would argue that Hamilton was equally indispensable, because he not only was effectively the prime minister under Washington, but he also fully grasped this dual nature of humanity, and figured out to manipulate it to specific ends so as to install the new government and put it into operation.

    So, how did we get to this point? This is where I really part way with most leftists, because they basically deny the agency of the world’s oligarchs. What do I mean? Well, at what point did the monarchs, aristocrats, and plutocrats of old Europe become reconciled with the American experiment in self government? After the Treaty of Paris in 1873? After the Treaty of Ghent? After Appomattox? After USA was manipulated into World War One on the side of the British? After USA was maneuvered into being the replacement of the British Empire?

    Why are these families still around and running the show after five or more centuries?

    And even if we don’t inquire into what the monarchs, aristocrats, and plutocrats of old Europe have been doing for the past two and a quarter centuries, there are plenty of studies and books that have come out on what American plutocrats like the Smith-Richardsons, Murchisons, Adelmans, Kochs, Mercers, DuPonts, etc. etc. etc. etc. have been doing. The latest is the book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
    Book by Nancy MacLean, which begins by highlighting the successful efforts of South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun to redefine and subvert the definition of liberty so that it could be misused as a protective cloak for the “property right” to own other human beings, and even kill them if that is what “good management” required.

    I am beginning to wonder if most leftists who cling to “historical materialism” or some other appellation of an inanimate historical force, are not simply cowards who cannot face the admittedly terrifying power and inhumanity of most oligarchs who have striven to mislead and misdirect our experiment in self government.

    The Constitutional mandate to promote the General Welfare is key. It is what established the USA as a republic above and apart from the other governments of the world at the time. It was so powerful that many other countries copied it, sometimes word for word.

    How did we get here? “Selfishness is a virtue.” Who the hell funded and promoted that?, I want to know. Those are the bacteria in our petri dish.

  28. December 22, 2017

    The human genocidal genetic make-up posited herein will always have us place becoming worthy of survival down the road once we figure out how and where to survive.

  29. Willy permalink
    December 22, 2017

    @ Tony Wikrent,
    I may only be saying what you already know, but here goes anyways…

    In that photo I think most of those bystanders believed they were doing something positive for their way of life, by eliminating perceived threats to it. I don’t believe they were simply enjoying killing for sport. We see it as being horrifically wrong. But we don’t depend on the views of our culture and sanctioned elders. Most of us visiting here aren’t made that way.

    I believe most people are hardwired to be hump-of-the-bell-curve ‘normal and traditional’ feeler-thinkers, who prefer to run with the herd and not upset what they see as everyday normal. In one age they’re screaming for more gladiatorial killings. In another, clapping at little league games is violence enough. Same people, same genetics. Different “normals”. Unfortunately for the independently thinking minority, there are a lot of them out there.

    And extreme personalities exist. Like severe autistics, they can be far more difficult to ‘cure’ than say, moderate aspergers. At the flanges of the bell curve there are agoraphobics, empaths… etc. with their own unique extreme qualities. But we also have the morally insane dark triad personalities, with very low agreeableness and very high need for power and control. The lower intelligence ones wind up jailed, maimed or dead. But there are higher functioning ones out there. And I have dealt with some personally.

    After experiencing the camouflaged corruption of sociopathic personalities one time too many, I finally studied them. The successful ones operate like hunters of game. They learn their prey’s habits. Then they learn how to camouflage themselves and their intentions. Then they learn how to bait the prey so they can catch or kill them. Everything is based on stealth, deception, and in the end, power over the prey.

    But unlike most game hunters, they seem to care little or nothing about sustaining their game environment. The rush they get from having power over many is all that’s important to them. They have an extremely strong sense of entitlement, believing that others are weak and inferior. They are also the closest the human species can get to a “superman”. (But unfortunately what god giveth god taketh away. They’re so emotionally strong they feel nothing for others. But that’s another subject.)

    The degree of the success of the morally insane in doing what they do, depends on their intelligence, especially their ability to hide. Sometimes it depends on cultural norms. What can they get away with without arousing too much resentment from the ‘normals’ who vastly outnumber them?

    Norwegians were once ruthless pirates. Today they’re mostly known for winter sports and bad food. Of course, the genetics are all the same, good or bad. I’m sure there are still hardwired ruthless warriors living amongst them, but where have they gone, what are they ‘limited to’ doing today?

    Whatever happened to Norwegian culture may be the general direction we all need to think about going in

  30. highrpm permalink
    December 22, 2017

    @tony w,
    i’m a simpleton. what you describe i see as tragedy of the commons. the 5% alpha-types will always try to impose their will on the beta…omega others. jungle law. rather than rule of law. fuk equal respect for other members of the human race. the result? evil. stealing/ killing/ destroying. so rather then pull up a chair to that gaming table, i choose to operate in the simpler world of the individual rather than the bigger competitive collectives. i’ll try to be kind, gentle and polite to those i meet daily in life. and leave the solution to how to deal with the brutal and cruel collective consciousness to nature. perhaps in another orders of power of K or M years, evolution will have found a way.

  31. December 22, 2017

    This is one for the book. Remember we have never been, until recent, a dominant species, unlike the pine tree or beaver. It takes time – genetic time.

    ( Stone South Wind is done – not my usual style. Towards the bottom of the page.

  32. December 22, 2017

    Mostly O/T (though fake and censored news facilitates genocide; note that they recently exposed a whitewash of the White Helmets):

    “OffGuardian is the creation of people from different parts of the world committed to the original vision which drew us together on The Guardian‘s CiF pages. We followed with dismay and disappointment the increasingly distorted and tendentious news reporting on Libya, the proxy-war in Syria, and the Ukraine Crisis. Tired of being censored by our beloved, once-upon-a-time left-of-centre newspaper, in February 2015 we decided to create our own platform for airing our unacceptable opinions.

    Our small group is dispersed globally, with representatives from North America, Britain, and Southern and Eastern Europe. The site is our own work, and is not supported by any governments, institutions or pressure groups.

    We believe in the concept of truth itself — not merely in that of competing narratives — and in the sanctity of facts themselves. For that reason, we shall try to track them down, present them to the public, and preserve them as best we can. We believe in a true free press that (consistently) speaks truth to power. And we’ll be doing our little best to remind our mainstream media, including The Guardian itself, that this is supposed to be their duty. They probably won’t listen, but we’ll keep saying it anyway.

    If you’re also sick of being stifled, moderated, abused or slandered as Putinbots or worse, and censored to oblivion on any of the Readers’ Comments sections of our mainstream press, come and tell us about it. We operate a completely open comment policy, and all shades of opinion are welcome.”

  33. highrpm permalink
    December 22, 2017

    you might try giving koestler’s “ghost in the machine” some time for his experience of the two distinct behaviors of humans, the individual and the collective minds. genetics. likely both behaviors coded in somewhere in the dna.

  34. Charlie permalink
    December 22, 2017

    The downfall of our species is the limited ability of the individual human to feel they have enough. Most other mammals, and even microscopic organisms, on a singular level get whatever it needs, and then goes, even though groups of mammals and microscopic organisms such as yeast can do much damage as a group, the individual human in many cases can’t say, “I have enough.” Though some individuals can, they are few. Once there are enough who are trained to want resources without an individual limit, you get genocide.

    Limit what the individual can acquire, then task #3 becomes possible, task #1 would be easier, and we wouldn’t need to worry about task #2.

  35. darms permalink
    December 23, 2017

    The first two are clearly possible (though we may not manage them.)
    The third?

    And the missus & I are from small families who do not breed much and we have no children at all. When we’re gone it’s ‘game over’. @ 61 I’ve got at most 10-15 good years, years we will spend under the radar in a small liberal town in an environment we like…

  36. V. Arnold permalink
    December 23, 2017

    I don’t know. Can humans truly learn? Or are we just bacteria in a petri dish, too stupid to control ourselves?

    Some learn. But rarely does one recognise such; because they learn to shut up for the most part.
    Realizing the futility of blah, blah, blah to the madding crowd…
    Civilization and technology have dumbed us down and away from true intelligence and wisdom.
    The only thing we have valued is stuff and the shiny and to be a clever fellow.
    How many honored the solstice just passed?
    A genuine event, not magical thinking of made up things.

  37. wendy davis permalink
    December 23, 2017

    this r cobb cartoon is from 1971; a very prescient man who’d even seen surveillance cameras on every street corner coming, as well as an out-of-cntrol police state. i can’t believe that humans on this planet will survive eco-collapse, especially as the sixth extinction seems baked in already. but yeah, the cockroaches and dolphins may survive. i say let’s give it back to them and see what…evolves next.

  38. Peter permalink
    December 23, 2017

    There is no mass extinction happening today except in the junk science filled minds of CAGW alarmists. They will wave papers filled with numbers, up to 70 species extinct each day but can’t identify many if any of those species because their numbers come from computer models like the rest of the hysteria they try to create.

    About a thousand species have been observed to go extinct in the last 500 years probably mostly from the expansion of agriculture/population. The best guess is that today the rate of extinction is at about 1% while during past mass extinction events 50 to 90% of all life died off.

  39. Achilles permalink
    December 23, 2017

    I hate when people read Atwood and miss all of her subtext. Ms. Atwood knows we homo sapiens sapiens are fool-hardy apex predators who are bad at loving one another. If you have read her Maddaddam trilogy, note the love that resounds throughout it. Toby is her dark heroine who finds love in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Will does not flinch at Toby’s darkness. They discover the power of love *to heal* together, after losing everything materially. Atwood tends to view our capacity as a species to learn how to love in the midst of hell on earth as our saving grace. This is why her writing confuses people. Her dark, unflinching vision of human monstrosity is tempered by how much she hurts for us to learn how to love against the odds. She can be cryptic as a cheerleader for love. Me, I am Toby, through and through. Ian, are you still coming here or not?

  40. Hugh permalink
    December 23, 2017

    Humanity has had 5,000 years of pretty awful history. We are currently faced with the existential threats of overpopulation and human induced climate change. And after the cringe worthy spectacle last week of our political elites mewling and prostrating themselves before the maw of adolescent masturbatory emptiness that is their Dear Leader, all in celebration of a malevolent, destructive piece of looting and theft, we have a right to despair. But that would be childish.

    I am reminded of the passage from Corinthians: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. This is where we are, at childhood’s end. It is time for us, both as individuals and as a species, to start acting like adults. We can be informed, not imprisoned by our history. We can take a stand against the criminal fools who lead us. We know there are better ways. The future is not set in stone, and even if it were, I prefer to go down fighting. I choose not to despair. I will not surrender my reason or compassion. I will stare into the abyss and do not care if it stares back. To me, this is what being an adult is about, taking on what is hard –because if it were easy, it would be for children.

  41. realitychecker permalink
    December 23, 2017

    I agree with you, Hugh, but you’re going to upset the children.

  42. Willy permalink
    December 23, 2017

    If the children start acting really weird, then we’ll know it really is Childhoods End. No wait… still confusing reality with something I read once, my bad.

    I’m thinking that we in this place are not like the others. These others, if you say “AGW”, they think it’s a company. If you say “global warming” they say it’s a hoax. If you say “but what if it’s not?” they tell you that god will make sure we’re okay, and why don’t you believe, and then they start preaching and we don’t have time for that that.

    The mob controls everything. The problem is, they don’t know it. And there have always been a few who’re talented at manipulating the mob, usually for the purpose of making the ground most fertile for their own kind. But killing them off would be considered “genocide”. So we try again.

    Maybe we need to deprogram the mob. Then we might need to take control of the mob, since they tend to stampede easily and get into trouble without some kind of authority restrictions. What do we do after taking control of the mob? Still working on it.

  43. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    December 23, 2017

    Apparently, some people think our species and its technical civilization should not survive, even if we can, because according to their alleged wisdom, we do not deserve to survive.

  44. Webstir permalink
    December 24, 2017

    It occurs to me that it’s only a matter of degree between being The Suicidal Species and being The Genocidal Species.
    Come on, Ian?
    Is it surprising that we’re genocidal when we are perfectly willing to slit our own collective wrists?
    What value is there in somebody else’s life, when it’s so obvious we don’t value our own.
    It’s death by cop writ large.

  45. Webstir permalink
    December 24, 2017

    For example:

    How rare is this —,8599,2043123,00.html

    As compared to this —

    I think this tells us everything we need to know about the future of our species.

  46. Compound F permalink
    December 24, 2017

    perhaps your greatest post yet;

    but we never broke the Malthusian trap;

    we just exacerbated it!

    still, beautiful writing on the way out.

    I honestly don’t know the answer

    to your question of will.

    I still keep an eye on The Druid!

    The science, art and magic of changing consciousness.

    I’m fully grateful to your contributions

    on all our accounts.

  47. Dean Rao permalink
    December 24, 2017

    God’s noblest work? Man. Who found it out? Man.
    – More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

    Copied from website:

  48. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    December 24, 2017

    Perhaps this blog should be named “Advice to the Hatelorn”. 😛

  49. different clue permalink
    December 24, 2017


    “We” . . .Webstir? Certainly not you. Certainly not me. Certainly not numerous others. So who is this “we” you refer to?

    There is no We. There is only Us and Them. Either Us will crush Them or Them will crush Us.
    If Them crushes Us, then all of Us and all of Them will die together in the Bonfire of the Ecosystems.

    If Us crushes Them, then at least Us has a chance to survive.

  50. Webstir permalink
    December 24, 2017

    Touche’ different clue. Touche’.

  51. Webstir permalink
    December 24, 2017

    WE are all complicit, however. I admit I am. Sure, I do all the right virtue signalling things. For example: reduce, reuse, recycle, have only one kid, bike to work, etc. etc.
    But by way of anecdote, I think the reason WE don’t see the pitchforks being polished is because people are still “consumer comfy.”

    I live in a tiny little town with two grocery stores: Safeway and Super 1. Both are on the outskirts of town to avoid paying city taxes. We used to have a third right downtown. However, Safeway actually owns the building and jacked up rent on the little grocery store when Super 1 came into town to compete with them, essentially driving the little grocer out of business. Now, anyone living in town has to drive to get food and there is now a big vacant building in the center of town for the last 3 years.

    People bitch INCESSANTLY about this. However, you mention boycotting Safeway to drive them out and force them to sell the vacant property people will go, “oh, that’s a good idea.” But they won’t DO anything. WE all suffer from the collective bullet in the head:
    People in general aren’t willing to inconvenience themselves in the LEAST to actually change a shitty situation.

  52. bruce wilder permalink
    December 24, 2017

    Your point goes directly to the construction of political entities for governance, something humans seem remarkably ill-equipped to do. Political history is full of betrayal. And the inability to marshal political will even in the face of acknowledged problems.

  53. capelin permalink
    December 24, 2017

    great comments upthread.

    #1 and/or #2 are not achievable without three. #2 doubtfull even then.

    if we can’t make a go of it here, in this amazing biosphere, with it’s layers and layers of redundency and resiliency, it ain’t gunna happen with something we build, especially if we still soil our nest and act stupid. could get tense (and stinky) out there on the frontier.

    “it’s only a little planet, but how beautiful it is”
    only one we got. take good care of it. make or break, here. etc. duh : )

    happy return of the light to one and all in the northern hemisphere!

  54. Jessica permalink
    December 24, 2017

    “Ms. Atwood knows we homo sapiens sapiens are fool-hardy apex predators who are bad at loving one another.”

    I suspect that the fact that we are apex predators who were prey for most of their evolution accounts for a good portion of the problem.

  55. Achilles permalink
    December 25, 2017

    @wendy Davis: Eat a dick, neolib buttwhore.

  56. ralph m permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Ian, with all due respect you are falling into a trap that I believe is being deliberately set by the plutocrats who control most of the world’s wealth, run major corporations and use their money to buy the politicans and legislation they need to have their say over how we are governed!

    Most of us have no say and have never had any say on policies that either deliberately cause death and destruction, or knowingly allow it as a secondary effect to meet their goals and objectives.

    Anyone who says the human race is a genocidal species has to explain the long course of human history prior to the rise of patriarchal empires and barbarian marauders four to five thousand years ago. Prior to that, hunter-gatherers had protocols for avoiding conflict with other groups if they were moving into areas that might not have enough food. The first neolithic farming settlements that developed into the first cities- like Catalhoyuk in Southwestern Turkey, had no walls or perimeter defenses nor had any natural features that would be sought after when later cities were being built.

    So, if we’re a genocidal species today, what in our DNA changed in the last few thousands of years? It’s more likely that the ‘civilizations’ that we have come to worship as advances in human progress, have led to us having to live in unnatural ways that are stressing us out today.

    So, in extremely and increasingly hierarchical capitalist societies today, I’ll put the blame for genocides and looming collapse on the sociopaths who excel at the game of rising to leadership and having power over millions of people who go about their lives and have little if any choice in the matter.

  57. Willy permalink
    December 26, 2017

    ralph m raises a good point.

    I’m unaware of any studies of psychopathy in small tribes, studies which may be out there. More specifically, about how members of newly contacted tribes (or those still functioning autonomously primitively) deal with the occasional ‘moral insanity’ power personality which is sure to crop up. Somebody like that is going to have a hard time hiding in small clan based organizations, especially where the cooperation of every individual is so important for survival.

  58. realitychecker permalink
    December 26, 2017

    @ Achilles

    ” Achilles permalink
    December 25, 2017

    @wendy Davis: Eat a dick, neolib buttwhore.”

    Well, I’m no fan of Wendy’s, but I know enough to know that when you call her a neoliberal, you have shot an arrow deep into the heel of your own credibility. Down you go.

    Has anybody else noticed that the MQ (Madness Quotient) is getting mighty high around here lately?

    Just sayin’ . . .

  59. Peter permalink
    December 26, 2017

    I didn’t think Trump’s little tax-cut victory would be the cause of the snowflake’s wall of denial beginning to crumble. Too many of the comments here are too perverse not to recognise what has been festering behind, and now oozing out of, that wall of negation.

    Defeat and humiliation are tough pills to swallow but most adults use their strength to move forward and resist the base urges to strike out blindly. Some of these snowflakes don’t seem to recognise any limits. they want all humanity to die, or be reduced to a stone-age existance, because they aren’t going to get the iron rule of the utopian NWO they crave.

    Fortunately, for humanity, there aren’t too many of these death-wishers and they are mostly powerless but they could still cause mayhem if they act on their hate and anger. It’s probably too much to expect that the people preaching doom, gloom, catastrophe and alarmism will recognist they are feeding this death-wish but one can hope.

  60. Willy permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Trump is the least popular president presiding over the least popular congress with his one political “victory” being one of the least popular bills ever in US history.

    But the topic is about humanities history of killing each other, and now the earth. Most commentors have chosen to stay on this topic.

  61. realitychecker permalink
    December 26, 2017

    No commenter here has even dared risk his/her alleged ‘moral purity’ by openly and unequivocally declaring, “I would choose to let my own child die rather than torture a bad guy who could save it, if that issue was squarely presented to me.”

    Absent that, nobody here is really showing any willingness to grapple with the issue at the most basic level, which is, in fact, the only level where we as individuals could ever conceivably have direct control over the outcome.

    Why try to build a moral position on that conflicted base?

    Maybe we should just get real about that conflict, instead, before we move on to gasbag and virtue-signal the topic to death?

  62. realitychecker permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Oops, thought I was on the torture thread.

    Never mind lol. I’ll put it over there.

    Ian, feel free to delete.

  63. Lex permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Lord, Tony’s little apologia for the Founders is a big part of the problem in the US. Those guys were the oligarchs. That’s it. The whole experiment was for their sake to compound their riches, particularly in western lands that England wouldn’t let them settle. Washington was a swindler. He first got a rule about land in return for being a veteran of the seven years war changed to apply to officers like himself, then took the best land, and then swindled enlisted men out of their share. And he may very well have started the seven years war single-handed. Jefferson would be writing for Breitbart if he was alive today. Read some of his white nationalist-type screeds on “real” Englishmen. And Hamilton? His great accomplishment was to devise a tax that fell only on the lower classes and promote large industry.

    There is nothing worth admiring in our founders, and that admiration we cling to holds us back and traps us in the nation we have, functioning just as they designed it. For the rich.

    In any case. Humans are just animals. We have the capacity for reason and forethought, etc But we’ve convinced ourselves that Reason is intrinsic in our nature and so assign ourselves a place to which we probably don’t deserve. Combine our belief in intrinsic rationality with overt and less obvious facets of Abrahamic religions and … well, you get this genociadal species without enough rationality to recognize that it’s killing itself.

  64. Hugh permalink
    December 26, 2017

    I agree with Willy. Very well put.

    It is the job of trolls to tell us that day is night and that shit is gold. You are never going to change a troll’s mind. It has none.

  65. realitychecker permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Strange bedfellows lol.

  66. Willy permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Focus rc, focus.

  67. realitychecker permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Willy, I notice all your big mistakes, so I guess it’s only fair you should take note of my little ones lol.

    Like, you’re making another big mistake over on the Torture thread, where that comment was intended to go.

    Now, take your hand off your penis! 🙂

  68. Peter permalink
    December 26, 2017


    I’m almost jealous because you are getting all the stalker attention lately. TB hasn’t threatened me with anything in over a week so I’m feeling neglected.

    Willy is looking like it could be an escaped Correct the Record bot with faulty programming. I have trouble believing a real human would desplay whatever you csll this behavior.

  69. realitychecker permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Willing to share this attention with you anytime. 🙂

    I’m getting a real education in how much the population has really been dumbed down over the last few decades.

    It’s hard to accept, but it’s being beaten into me.

  70. Willy permalink
    December 26, 2017

    Dementia is an affliction which will affect some of us as we age.

    But with a dementia buddy, you and a like-minded other will be able to “project” all of your addled thinking onto virtually any passers-by, keeping the depressing self-knowledge of your worsening Alzheimer’s at bay.

    My apologies for the current comment thread derailment. Sadly, I suspect these little thread derailments are going to be happening a lot in the future, in this place.

  71. Jessica permalink
    December 27, 2017

    @Ralph M
    Good post above about how humanity behaved better before the rise of hierarchical societies.

  72. realitychecker permalink
    December 27, 2017

    Sadly, you need to apologize to your parents for the way you turned out.

    You are the prime thread-derailer here as you stalk me, then you apologize for this derailment, while promising much such in the future. Do you even know how fucked up you are? Brain damage must be considered as a real possibility.

    Nobody I’ve seen here demonstrates more psychological dysfunction in real time than you have shared with us over and over and over since you started turning up to try and make this place about you and your own personal challenges.

    Get a fucking diary, already. Stop stinking this place up with your endless, obnoxious, juvenile antics.

    Proudly self-admitted feces flinger. That’s what you are. Calling others trolls. So pathetic.

    I note that your neighbors blocked you in this weekend. They know you best. 🙂

  73. realitychecker permalink
    December 27, 2017

    “while promising more such”

  74. Willy permalink
    January 2, 2018

    As you would put it, LOL.

  75. realitychecker permalink
    January 2, 2018

    You just can’t quit me.

    How many times do I have to tell you to take your hand off your penis while you stalk me?

    WATCH OUT! The psychopaths are coming to get you. They’re everywhere!

    The lunatic is in your head. 🙂

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