The moon, a train station, a species of monkeys, and more

It’s Monday again, a day named for the moon (at least that’s what I’ve always been told), and as I looked up this morning, the moon was a tenuously thin crescent—what Dr. Becky might call a “thumbnail moon”.  Even when so effaced, it’s a lovely sight, especially when clouds move across one’s view, partially obscuring the moon and making it take fantastical configurations*.

Other than that, I don’t know what to write about today, really.  Currently, my footnote is longer than the main text of this post, though that won’t last.  I don’t particularly like writing about current events because, for the most part, I see them as the behaviors of baboons going through meta-level (and not so meta-level) primate dominance displays and hierarchical jockeying, throwing metaphorical (and not so metaphorical) feces at each other, and it’s just so pathetic that people actually think their lives and deeds are in any way sensible or rational.

I just now saw (case in point) a young man climb clumsily over the fence between the northbound and southbound train tracks—thus, crossing the tracks very far from an official, safe crossing—having to stop and go back while doing so because he dropped something in the coarse gravel as he went over.  Meanwhile, the elevator and overpass bridge were less than twenty yards away.

Either he’s too stupid to know what an elevator is** or he thought he was being a rebel, declaring himself not subservient to “the man”, impressing at least himself with his daring, if that’s the proper word.  Meanwhile he put himself at some non-zero risk of being hit by a train, two of which were arriving shortly (though admittedly, in the early morning you can see their headlights from quite a long way off).  This would almost certainly have killed him, even if the trains were slowing down, and worse still***, it would have stopped all the trains for quite some time, until police had thoroughly investigated everything.

In case anyone wonders why I tend to be misanthropic, and indeed, nearly pan-antipathic, occurrences like the above are quite influential.  I suppose that, at least to some extent, this trouble is in the eye of the beholder, but it cannot entirely be that, because surely no one can deny that there is an astonishing amount of idiocy in the world.  Innovations, advances, improvements are made by a tiny percentage of the human race, while if it were up to most people, the species would still be living in caves (in the few places where they ever did such a thing) or chasing game across various savannahs and scrounging for fruits and nuts and such.  In other words, if it were up to most humans, most humans would never have been born because none of their ancestors would have survived to reproduce.

I sometimes think it would be a good thing for more people to be rewarded for being voluntarily sterilized, at least until they were in some reasonable position to be able to raise a family.  Of course, that’s really what ordinary contraception allows, but those needs to be used on a daily, or per-occasion, or per month basis, or similar, and people are very good at dropping those balls (no pun intended, honestly).  Nature selects for people who like to have sex without thinking about it too very much, because they tend to have children somewhat more frequently than those without that proclivity.

Of course, such a system would be subject to abuses and bigotry which would make it problematic to enact.  And most religions wouldn’t go along with it, including our currently Catholic Supreme Court.  Those religions that continued and spread under the influence of their own version of natural selection were the ones that encouraged their adherents to “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply”, or some equivalent thereof.  The Catholic Church allows its priests to be celibate****, but it definitely wants the hoi polloi to keep dropping progeny as fast as they can.

That is a reasonably successful evolutionary strategy for a religion, at least in the middle term—on the scale of a couple of millennia, for instance.  Other religions have had and still have similar imperatives.  But of course, even if there were no other issues with the various religions, if their populations continued to grow indefinitely, there would of necessity be war between them (because ecumenicalism only applies when there is plenty of room or resources to go around, and/or when people don’t really believe their religions), possibly until they’d all killed each other completely and everyone else as well.

Yes, it’s possible for a strategy that’s very evolutionarily stable in the short or middle term to lead to extinction in the long term, and to take everything else with it.  If you don’t believe this, just think about cancer.  Every cancer is the product of the natural selection of mutated cells that have become, through various alterations, more aggressively reproductive than ordinary bodily cells.  And the individual cells among billions to trillions (before long) in a tumor that are further mutated to become yet more aggressive in their reproducing and spreading come to dominate ever more and more, iterating and accelerating the pattern as things go along.

That is, until they spread so successfully that they kill the body in which they originate.  Then everything dies, even those most successfully reproducing cells.  Thus, cancer can be a useful metaphor for a society, for a species, for a planet, as well as of course for organizations and other groups of people.  It’s possible, and even common and easy, to mutate into an unsustainable form that seems and feels like success while its happening.

An intelligent species might recognize and learn from this and be highly mindful, watchful of their own actions, and frequently reevaluate and even (gasp!) question themselves and their fellows, not out of malice but out of care for the future.  An intelligent species would strive to be self-aware and adjust its course and be on the lookout for ideas and organizations and practices that might become malignancies.  An intelligent species might well do all this and more.

The human race…not so much.

*Or to seem to take them.  The moon, of course, no more changes physical states due to clouds than it does due to the fact that it’s currently a crescent rather than a full moon.  Actually, the latter circumstance changes it more, because when the sun is shining on it directly, that part of the moon’s surface gets very hot, whereas when it’s in shadow the moon is very cold.  So, there is certainly some change brought about to the surface of the moon by the changing phases.  But not by the clouds.

**Which seems unlikely for someone in the Miami area.

***Not because his life is inherently worth less, necessarily, but since he is the one who chose to risk it, he’s apparently okay with the risk, and he certainly bears responsibility for it, whereas all the other people his actions could affect are, in this circumstance, innocent.  And there are many more of them.  There may even be lives lost in the aggregate along with significantly increased suffering caused by people being late for work—lost jobs, shifts at hospitals started late, consequent overwork of the previous shift and diminished attention, stress leading to poorer judgement during the day of various people, dogs and cats living together…you know the rest.

****Nominally so, at least.  Of course, the Catholic Church also made Darth Ratzinger into its previous Pope not so very long ago, even though he’d been part of covering up some portion of the vast child sexual abuse scandal that inundated the organization like measles.  It and they are fine moral exemplars for the world, don’t you think?

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