One of the followers of this blog, R. Lee Darby, suggested that I/we watch George Carlin‘s stand-up routine about our place in the Universe, and Saving the Planet. It’s eight minutes of comedic challenges to humanity’s existence in this Universe, that I also recommend to you. Carlin brings to our attention many categories of things that we, as thoughtful individuals, need to think about and make our personal adaptations to our world.
I began by comparing him to myself. In the Wikipedia article about George Carlin it states that he was born May 12, 1937, and died June 22, 2008. I was born in October, 1935, and am still living in 2020. Thus, I was almost two years older than Carlin, and I presently have lived almost twelve years beyond his death. I have really enjoyed those extra thirteen and a half years. In the photos taken in his last years, he looks old, even elderly, and essentially a burnt-out husk of his earlier self. My question to him would be something like, “Did you voluntarily give up your life to help save your audience from their probable follies?” It is not very different from a similar question to myself, “Did I voluntarily give up my life to save humanity, the Earth, and the Universe?” Those are absurd claims, but I can give examples of those ideas that were my motivations at various times.
Carlin was correct about the problems he brings to us in his sarcasm, but his solutions to those problems are pure nihilism. “Existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.” He promotes the idea that our species is a plague on our planet, and on the universe, and our best behavior would be to die. The Earth will get by just fine without us. The Earth will continue going around the Sun, whether we are here or not. Even though many species are dying every day, life will recover and continue long after we are gone and have quit killing other creatures with our technological overspill.
Every living thing is programmed to survive and reproduce, and we as human beings are no exception to that generalization. I, being a human being, strive to promote my species and help it find niches where it can thrive. But, being a thoughtful species whose individuals can foresee the consequences of their behavior and preadapt to future situations, we have risen to a place of top predator. We have become super-successful and are squeezing out other species. In the long run of a thousand years, or a million, we need to find a sustainable balance rather than simply consume every last bit of resource that makes life possible and then vanish. Of course with our technology, H-bombs, DNA manipulations, etc., we are at serious risk of near extinction in a few weeks. Some well-informed people from the original atomic scientists who made the first bombs are astonished that we are still here.
Our potential role in the grander development of the Universe’s potential is to mutate the intelligence of our species into a silicon-based one that would be more stable, not across a thousand years, or a million years, but billions. That form of intelligence could permit the Universe to evolve into a thinking being. It would become something we probably can not conceive of, but which can not come into existence without us.
I enjoyed Carlin when he was alive, and with our technology, I can still enjoy him right now. Unfortunately for him, he can’t say the same about us.