Richard Carrier on overpopulation, technology, and the Pope

I was reading an old essay by Richard Carrier, and stumbled accross this gem:

Of course, technology only works when you use it. Population growth is a serious environmental problem, for example, but we solved that one decades ago–people just refuse to use all the technologies we invented for the purpose, many because of superstitious voodoo beliefs promulgated by an uppity potentate who thinks he was chosen by God, others because of primitive stupidities opposing the liberation of women, still others because First World countries who ought to know better, can’t figure out that funding the sound use of technologies in Third World countries will actually benefit the First World countries more than amply to justify the cost. And so on. But these are all political failures, ideological failures. That’s where our focus should be, because it’s those things that are getting in our way, not technology. Similarly, the problems technology creates are largely the result of similar stupidities on the political and ideological stage. Technology must be used wisely to work. Thus increasing our wisdom is what we should focus on, not abandoning technology

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  • Alex SL

    Thus increasing our wisdom is what we should focus on

    We ARE doomed, then.

  • kraut

    What wisdom is he talking about?
    The political class in our capitalist societies has one goal only: To ensure the that the owners of the means of production (good old Karl Marx for his precise terminology) which now includes the financial instruments creating wealth without tangible products can continue to live off the profits of the production of those without means in perpetuity.

    That is clearly shown in Canada at present by the Harper Neocon government, where anyone disagreeing with the strategies of unfettered and deregulated exploitation of natural resources is labelled as an enemy of the Canadian people, as happened in their reaction to protests against the Northern Gate pipeline by Enbridge.

    There is no wisdom, no concern for a future beyond the four or five year mandate the parties enjoy. There is only supporting the existing power and financial structure of an elite that in actuality owns the wealth of societies and to whose benefits alone decisions are made.
    And woe to those who actually might get into a position where changes could be made in the interest of the totality of a populace.
    The best eaxmple is the sad intellectual and ethical demise of a former – as it seemed at the time – progressive candidate for the presidency of the US – a puppet now even worse than the much maligned (and rightly so) GWB.

  • plutosdad

    During Bush’s term he was talked into increasing SNAP funding, aid for Africa, etc, on this same basis: it helps the wealthy to help the poor, especially when it comes to making sure they are well fed. I’ve read that hunger and malnutrition cause $280 billion in losses to productivity each year due to illness etc, and it would only cost $10 billion to feed all of those people. (That was from a TED video by someone from the UN on hunger). (disclaimer: i work for Feeding America so I spend a lot of time reading about hunger issues)

    But the Republicans in Congress now are a different breed. They see SNAP and TANF as welfare only, and are more concerned with moral hazard than with practical effects of helping, or even morality. It is amazing. Only a decade ago we could convince people that helping others was practical and they’d do it for that reason alone, having nothing to do with right or wrong. Now we have people in Congress who think helping others is actually immoral.

    I’ve been reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and it’s much about the same issue: how way back after Bacon’s Rebellion the ruling class realized they had to drive a wedge between poor whites and poor blacks. And they’re still doing it now, making poor and lower middle class whites think that it’s the poor blacks that are their problem.

  • left0ver1under

    Unfortunately, any attempt to mention population control will inevitably attract some nut labelling it calls for “genocide” and “euthanasia”.

    Such false labels are not limited to the religious. I’ve met atheists who are deluded into believing enough technology will solve everything. They think that the human population can grow without limits, that we can produce an infinite amount of food for an infinite number of people if we
    just invent enough things. And that’s without mention of the fact that people are living longer, hence consuming even more food.

    We can’t go on like this. It’s a pyramide scheme, doomed to eventual collapse. Either we reduce the human population voluntarily through birth control, or nature will reduce our numbers for us through starvation, flooding caused by global warming, war over food, brides and arable land, etc.

  • Richard Norris

    I have to say, that if a technological solution cannot be put in place for a given problem, then that problem is NOT solved. With that little caveat out of the way, there is a larger problem than world hunger that looms on the horizon. Peak oil. We seem to have hit peak oil across the globe between 2005-2008. We are currently seeing countries like Germany, Japan, and America experience increasing blackouts due to lack of available energy. America has an even worse problem due to its decaying electrical grid. With energy shortages and a lack of surplus energy available to industrialized nations, it is now impossible to develop serious alternatives to fossil fuels. Industrialism itself, and the modernity it produces, seems threatend with a fatal disease.

  • kraut

    Sorry to bust your bubble, but Peak Oil is a has been. As long as the price of oil stays at above 70$/Barrel, there is enough oil for several hundred more years through shale oil deposits and condensates from shale gas deposits.
    The estimated non conventional resources for the US alone is more than the present Saudi Oilfileds, including past production.
    The same goes for Canadaian Oilsands which stretch throughout Alberta into Saskatchewan, and non conventional off shore deposits.

    The supply of oi is not a problem, the problem is the foreseeable increase in usage and the likely effect on global climate.

    Industrialism is not threatened, add to that new findings of rare earth deposits in Japanese coastal waters.

    What is threatened is our own survival by population increase and the threatened food supply by climate changes, including problems of distribution because of the capitalist market place.

  • Richard Norris

    The idea that technologies like oil shale development or tar sand development, which are more energy intensive than other energy providers, will be the tech that pulls us out of our peak energy crisis is wishful thinking of an almost religious order. The net energy return on such a project will be much lower than those begun at the start of the twentieth century. Two fields, no matter how large, will not even temporarily quench the thirst for oil we will see coming from places like India or China, a fact that has to be accounted for in a global economy. Finally, if the environmental cost of such energy is too great, then for all intents and purposes we will still have reached peak oil as it can no longer be used to fuel the industrial machine. We have quite simply hit a wall.

  • kraut

    I was just arguing aside from the environmental impacts.

    There still is a net energy balance in non conventional oil developments.
    Conventions drilling and extraction was rated at about 1/10 in vs. output, non conventional one are closer to 1/3 – so whatever your argument is, there still is a net energy balance to non conventional extraction – and those fields are extensive and outweigh conventional resources.

    add to that the development of non combustible energy sources for vehicles, or alternate hydrocarbon sources like Natural Gas, the likely hood of an oil crush is even further removed.

    My contention that peak oil is old news and no longer valid still stands.

  • kraut

    read crunch, not crush.

  • Richard Norris

    Here is a quick primer on why massive oil reserves don’t mean an end to peak oil, Kraut.

  • Richard Norris

    And here is a final article pointing out the mistakes made in the Belfer report.