Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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In this bracing talk, coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse. Astonishing photos and stats make the case. So in a nutshell: we’ve wrecked everything around us: the water, the air, the animals, the climate, and any illusion of world peace we ever had. We’re technologically advanced, yet we’re dependent upon drugs for everything, and we’re politically indecisive, and distrustful of science. Worse, we can’t decide upon gay marriage and abortion. If there’s one thing we need, it’s to legalize same-sex unions and abortion, because both of those accomplish the one thing that can help humanity: creating fewer people. Basically, this overpopulation problem WILL be addressed one way or another, but if we don’t take immediate action, nature will, and believe me, we won’t like it.


A leader in the study of the ecology and evolution of marine organisms, Jeremy Jackson is known for his deep understanding of geological time.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts.

Comments

  1. #1 Luna_the_cat
    May 7, 2010

    Let’s face it, legalising same-sex partnerships and marriages is not really going to control world population. But we should do it because it is the RIGHT thing to do, out of fairness to fellow human beings.

    Supporting women’s rights, women’s education and economic opportunities, and women’s access to all forms of birth control and healthcare, now THAT provably cuts population growth. Let’s not forget those.

  2. #2 "GrrlScientist"
    May 7, 2010

    what you say is true, luna: supporting women’s rights has the greatest influence over reducing the runaway human population. and yes, same-sex marriages is more of a human rights issue than a world population issue, but every little bit helps.

  3. #3 yogi-one
    May 7, 2010

    Humans are stupid, that’s the root of the problem, or to use the Buddhist word, ignorant.

    We solved the problem of breeding long ago, yet most humans still breed as if the species will go extinct if they don’t have offspring. The simple drive to propagate our genes is what drives most people. Men have an overwhelming drive to mate, and women have an overwhelming instinct to raise a child. Battling basic instincts with intellect is…well, good luck with that!

    Also, we don’t know how to organize society. We are still evolving that. We are trying to organize a global civilization using the same models we developed when we were traveling nomadic clans. Which means distrusting the people who live on the other side of the hill, organizing raiding parties to kill them, steal their women (so that yes, we can make even MORE offsping!), and steal all their resources. Our heroes are people who are the most successful in killing off the other tribe.

    Also, our models for success always include destroying something else. To be successful means – you beat up whoever you are currently calling the “bad guys”. This means we still glorify war. Our heroes are great warriors that kill a lot of people, destroy lots of property, and yes, sire dozens of offspring. That’s still the model of a great human being we carry in our heads. Most guys would gladly re-incarnate as Genghis Khan if they could, believe me.

    Our model for the natural world (our environment) is this: man vs wild. Man conquers (=destroys) nature. The ultimate triumph over nature is to replace a tract of forest with a Super-Walmart, or blow up a mountain to get its coal. Now that’s progress!

    I submit that for all our grand bragging about being the intelligent species, we are actually simply too gaddamn stupid to figure it out. We haven’t evolved the level of intelligence needed to solve the problems we’ve created by overbreeding and destroying everything in our path.

    So, get ready for the next round of Dark Ages.

    Maybe what happened to us will be encoded as the mythology that helps prevent our children’s children’s children from making the same stupid mistakes.

    But if evolutionary history is any guide, we will keep making the same dumbass mistakes until some random event forces us to do the things we should have been doing all along.

    Usually that comes in the form of a mass exctinction event.

    Have a nice day.

    PS – someone please prove I’m wrong! I’d feel a lot better about the whole thing! In this case, being wrong is actually the preferred outcome.

  4. #4 darwinsdog
    May 7, 2010

    Usually that comes in the form of a mass exctinction event.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of the sixth great mass extinction episode of the Phanerozoic, and it’s wholly anthropogenic in etiology. I don’t expect any vertebrate much larger than a bullhead catfish, starling or rat, to survive it. “Our children’s children’s children…” won’t have the opportunity to repeat our mistakes.

  5. #5 MadScientist
    May 8, 2010

    Unfortunately any solution requires cooperation, and that runs against nature. Let’s say Population X voluntarily reduces its fertility rate. Population Y doesn’t. What do you do? On top of that, governments have always had the attitude “increase population, increase taxation income, leave the problems for the future to solve”. There are quite a few places on earth where water is scarce and yet the governments encourage population growth. Oh, that’s OK, we just have to restrict water use. Too many cars? Build more roads! Too few houses? Build apartments with even smaller rooms! It’s crazy – we’re like giant cockroaches on the planet.

  6. #6 TB
    May 10, 2010

    We don’t seem to be able to stop – so the population collapse of the human species will happen…..one way or another, mass starvation seems most likely. Regarding the comment about th urge to breed – men can satisfy that without procreation and women should chose to parent only one offspring of their own, second children should be adopted until there is no need for adoption. A lot of that blame can be placed on religions that still insist on “fruitful and multiply”.

  7. #7 James
    June 5, 2010

    Mad Scientest has stated that cooperation runs contrary to nature;obviously Madscientest is also a bad scientest because anyone who has observed,termites,ants,bees,wasps,birds,fish and a host of other creatures including most humans, has seen glaring examples of behavior characterized by large scale cooperation! One could even argue that in nature cooperation is in fact the norm.As far as humans are concernend for tens of thousands of years intertribal conflicts were realitivly benighn,breif and often resolved by means other than warfare.There is also evidence that when warfare did occour, combat which resulted in as many as ten or fifteen deaths was considered particularly brutal and an indication that the dispute must be resolved by peacefull means.The fact of the matter is that throughout human history uncoopertive,warlike behavior on a mass scale has nearly always been ilicited by small groups of powerfull people who have gone as far as to even teach our young people that cooperation is some how immoral and not in the best interest of humanity.Consider the fact that the institution of private land ownership is indeed a very new,not to mention most unnatural institution which must be supported by a myrid of other realitivly new and unnatural institutions.Again prior to the middle ages,humans except for a very small minority,related to the land of the earth and one another much the same way we moderns relate to the air and the sunshine which all humans depend upon.We should take heed of the fact that tribal cultures world over are when first introduced to the concept of private land ownership,appaled at the unnaturalness and even immorality of that concept ! Indeed private land ownership is not an institution which was instigated without immense use of force and human bloodshed.And again that use of force was instigated not by the masses but again by small groups of undulely powerfull people.I would argue that coopertive behavior is a natural norm that is surplanted by uncoropertive behavior only in unnusual circumstances and at the goading of powerfull elites who can be compared to cancerous strands of DNA which act to wreck what otherwise would be healthy cells, leading to the destruction of entire organisms.

    TB has made an excellent point.I would like to point out however that prior to Judio-christianity there did exist relegious,or spiritual beliefs and institutions which placed great value upon all life forms not just human.Another words I am saying that we should not consider all relegions as a bane to life supporting behavioral balance,just those relegions comprised of teachings which run counter to behavioral principles condusive to the continuation of all life.

    One must wonder why deity would bother to command humans to multiply given the fact that the urge to do just that is hard wired into our genes to begin with ! I am compelled to add also that unless I am mistaken that command was also given to the animals of the world also.Surely then even the bibical God would frown upon human rates of reproduction which made animal life and reproduction impossible ?

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