Humanity’s Hubris

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

As a visceral person who loves film, I am easily moved when I watch productions that connect the struggles of human beings with the vicissitudes of life. This week I watched such a creation and its’ genius was that it led me to thoughts larger than the particular subject of the program. Hubris is an ancient Greek word that can be thought of as indicating: “a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris . To the ancient Greeks, hubris played an important part in their philosophy and in their philosophic expression in Greek dramas. In those times sexuality was also deeply intertwined in its examples. However: “In its modern use, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of humility, though not always with the lack of knowledge.” I intend to extrapolate from one desperate time in American history a sense of what fault it exposes in a macro-cosmic human sense.

Along with the “Great Depression” in the United States, an ecological disaster occurred and added to the general economic misery of the country. This was the advent of the “Dust Bowl” in the agricultural “heartland” of our country. The documentary I watched was “Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl” which I’ll link at the end of this guest blog. From 1930 through 1940 immense dust storms, with ever increasing frequency, began to plague this area along with a parching drought, devastating this formerly fertile region. As the farming economy shrank, children died and farm folk were driven into despair, it became apparent that this ecological disaster was brought about by the people who had worked the land into becoming among the most productive farmlands in the world. I watched this documentary, tearing up frequently at the human misery I saw and clenching my jaw in anger at the sheer cupidity that caused it. I was rediscovering a part of our history that I had known little about except for where it happened. By retelling this tale though I want to make a larger point. The Greeks had it right about humanity in general, in that as we have become masters of this planet, so many of us have so often been laid low by the hubris of thinking ourselves completely in control of our world and immune to the effects of nature.

 

The map above shows how much of our country was directly affected by the “Dust Bowl Climate”. The center of the storm activity was at a small farming community known as Boise (pronounced “boys”) City, Oklahoma. First let me relate the history of this deadly phenomenon and then I’ll draw conclusions as to my belief that it is a metaphor for humanity’s hubris developed by our being the most powerful life form on this planet.

Before people emigrated in great numbers to this area of the country it was covered with “Prairie Grass”, innumerable bison and Native American Tribes. It was a beautiful Eco-system, similar to the Russian Steppes in its fertility and in the viability of its ecosystem. “The Prairie Grass” had through eons of evolution become the hardy plant that held the rich soil together by extended roots reaching down into the plentiful moisture below, thus supplying life sustaining water to the vegetation of this relatively arid region. The millions upon millions of bison added to this ecology and it reciprocated. The Native American tribes lived with and off the “buffalo”, in a manner that befitted fauna’s interaction with an ecosystem to the mutual benefit of its ecology. The incursion of American hunters and settlers began in the 1840’s, but did not become a problem for the Native tribes until after the Civil War. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was given that nickname during the Civil War when he contracted to supply buffalo meat to the Union Army. Prior to this, treaties signed in 1834 had acknowledged that this was to be lands solely for the use of the various native tribes and it was deemed the “Indian Territory”, though reduced to a size approximating today’s Oklahoma. It was not incorporated into the United States, meaning the natives had sovereignty.

Cody’s success with supplying the highly nutritious buffalo meat had brought other hunters to the area. A thriving commercial operation started and the Native Americans seeing the slaughter of the animals increase exponentially began to attack the hunters and the few farmers that had encroached on their lands. The bison though were slaughtered almost to the point of extinction putting the Native Americans into a precarious ecological bind and thus fighting back against the incursions. This resistance led to the U.S. government sending in the U. S. Calvary and General George Armstrong Custer. You know how that wound up.

By 1889 the former “Indian Territory” had been pacified, Native Americans placed in reservations away from their former hunting grounds and then unsurprisingly:

“On March 2, 1889, Congress passed an amendment with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which provided for the opening of homesteading settlements in Unassigned Lands, to be known as Oklahoma. President Grover Cleveland announced that Oklahoma would be opened on April 22 via land run. The land run was to be held at noon and was open to all people of at least 21 years of age. The Land Run of 1889, the first land run in the territory’s history, opened Oklahoma Territory to settlement on April 22, 1889. Over 50,000 people entered the lands on the first day, among them several thousand freedmen and descendants of slaves. Couch and his Boomers, now numbering some 14,000, also entered the race. Those who entered Oklahoma before the official start of the race were called Sooners. ”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma_Territory & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_run

This was to be followed by several more “Land Runs” over the next decade as thousands came to Oklahoma to take up farming and or cattle ranching. The farming predominated and the “Prairie Grass” was being uprooted to make way for golden stalks of wheat. By the time of World War I, Oklahoma was producing immense wheat crops and empty land, some of it hardly fit for cultivation was being hawked back East to people hungry to move up in the world by owning their own land. It was your typical land boom scheme and surprisingly some of the swindles were so brazen and the land they sold so worthless, that the perpetrators actually went to jail.

When the U.S. entered World War I the price of a bushel of wheat needed for our Armed Forces doubled to two dollars. This brought it City Folk known as “Suitcase Farmers”. They would ride in by rail. Buy up land. Pay people to farm it to its limits, go back home and then return for the harvest. Their interests weren’t to live on the land, but to exploit it to its fullest potential. Plowing that used to be done by creating furrows that captured water, while limiting erosion, was replaced by a plowing method that destroyed the cohesiveness of the soils ability to fight erosion. However, this new method provided for even greater crop yields in shorter time periods. This more environmentally destructive method was also adapted by regular farmers greedy for increased profits, even though they knew that it was destructive.

After World War I the price of a bushel of wheat fell to about one dollar. To make up for the lost income, production was doubled by farmers and throughout the 1920’s the harvests became increasingly plentiful and the farmers became prosperous and land values rose. For this region the “Roaring Twenties” were the “Golden Twenties” as well. Even the start of the Great Depression in 1929 did not at first affect this region and in 1930 it was considered one of the United States’ most prosperous areas.

“The unusually wet period, which encouraged increased settlement and cultivation in the Great Plains, ended in 1930. This was the year in which an extended and severe drought began which caused crops to fail, leaving the plowed fields exposed to wind erosion. The fine soil of the Great Plains was easily eroded and carried east by strong continental winds.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl .

 The first great Dust Storms began in 1930 and continued to increase in frequency until April 14, 1935 when the area was hit by a storm of much greater magnitude and destructiveness than had previously occurred.

http://video.pbs.org/video/2250514396 . The effects of this storm weren’t confined to this region but spread east across the country to the Atlantic Shore. From this devastation’s wake, the entire country and the Roosevelt Administration had a vivid demonstration that this was a threat to the entire nation and not just one specific area. FDR’s administration had been targeting programs and resources into this problem from almost the beginning of his taking office in 1932. Primarily it was hunger and shelter assistance, with the provision of public works jobs through various New Deal programs like the WPA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_Progress_Administration  The New Deal also promoted a scientific farming program that discovered how wheat could be grown with much greater care for the land and which would effectively forestall soil erosion. This was gradually adopted by farmers towards the end of the 1930’s, though not without opposition to the use of new techniques.

Often overlooked in this tale of the “Dust Bowl Era” was that since these fine particles were unavoidable to humans in this region a deadly medical phenomenon call “Dust Pneumonia” developed that caused innumerable deaths of children and adults, besides residual health effects that lasted way beyond the time of emergency:

“The prairie dust was extremely fine – smaller than the period at the end of this sentence – with high silica content, which caused a type of silicosis similar to the black lung disease seen in coal miners back east. Asthma, influenza, eye infections, sinusitis, laryngitis and bronchitis were common ailments.” 

We also know of the history of migration to the West coast from these areas by people who were called “Okies”, although they didn’t just come from the specific Dust Bowl areas. Their mistreatment at the hands of the fellow citizens was brought home in John Steinbeck’s classic novel “The Grapes of Wrath” and in the songs and activism of Woody Guthrie. In the Burns film one thing that brought this ill treatment home to me were the various signs put up in California in that era that proclaimed: “No Niggers or Okies” allowed. The brutality with which these migrants were treated at the California and other Western States borders was indeed the equal of “Jim Crow” excesses in the South.

With the end of the Dust Storms and the beginning of World War II and the need to feed the Armed Forces, this areas area again prospered and the “Suitcase Farmers” returned, this time though in the guise of huge Agra-business firms. Although the end purpose of those who live on the land as farmers and the Agra-Business industry are the same aim of making a profit, those who live on the land see themselves as stewards simply because they are trying to create a future for their children.

The land therefore is their “heritage” to be nurtured and continued through generations. Agra-Business views the “land” through “corporate eyes” as a resource and profit center to be used to extract the greatest amount of return o their investment. While the lessons of proper plowing were indeed learned, the persistence of drought in these areas, caused the search for new ways of irrigation. Thus the huge Ogallala Aquifer is now being tapped to maintain a constant water supply.

 “The Ogallala Aquifer, part of the High Plains Aquifer System, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. One of the world’s largest aquifers, it covers an area of approximately 174,000 mi² (450,000 km²) in portions of the eight states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. It was named in 1898 by N.H. Darton from its type locality near the town of Ogallala, Nebraska. About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies this aquifer system, which yields about 30 percent of the nation’s ground water used for irrigation. In addition, the aquifer system provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people who live within the aquifer boundary” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oglala_Aquifer#Environmental_controversies

Many environmentalists have commented on the drop of the water levels throughout this hugely important water source. This is only a finite source of water and the ever growing usage and depletion of it portends a future where fresh water, the essence of life, becomes a sought after and ever decreasing commodity. Many predict that the Wars of the future will be fought over fresh water supply. So while for now this region has conquered the problem of the “drought cycle”, In the future this solution appears to again be threatened by the depletion of the Aquifer and our belief in our human ability to conquer all adversity and thus only think in the ego gratifying short term, will again merely be a manifestation of our hubris.

I felt I needed to go into the Dust Bowl in depth in order to give the reader background the essential thought, these two documentary programs brought to mind. Humanity has for thousands of years preened itself with the concept that we are “Masters of the Earth”. Many of our religious traditions posit that this supremacy is a “gift” that God has bestowed upon us. With this “gift” we are risen above our environment and it is not a place where we live, but is our realm, to do with as we please. When we see a natural calamity like “Super-Storm Sandy” wreak havoc on perhaps the most infrastructure intensive area in the nation, our horror boils up, but in truth these are important lessons that get quickly forgotten as the clamor for progress, profits and proliferation echoes with a steady drumbeat.

This is in effect the Hubris of Humanity. We ignore the truth that we are but advanced animals, technologically proficient, but still able to be laid low by the catastrophic and uncontrollable forces of nature. We don’t just ignore our place as part of an environment, we disdain it with the belief that we are so powerful an entity, so unique, that we can overcome the mere demands of the ecology we live in. This to me is the definition of Hubris and it is a fault of humanity and not just the United States. The desire for land, status and profits motivated those masses coming into the territory that became the “Dust Bowl”. I don’t fault them for their desire to make their way to a better life for themselves and their children. I do fault them for not understanding the forces they unleashed and how their pride in their accomplishments could so easily be made naught because of their unwarranted belief that their environmental conditions would always be the same. Their success led them to believe they were capable of overcoming anything as individuals only responsible to themselves and their families.

The idea of intelligent farming, husbanding the land, is perhaps ten thousand years old. For many humans the tradition of farming has been handed down for generations and with it the knowledge of the need for humans to be humble before nature. Simply the understanding that Nature is far more powerful than we. Humans that forget this truth are doomed by their Hubris and in its throes doom us, as the Greeks well understood more than 2,000 years ago.

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest Blogger

These are the links to the two-part Ken Burns documentary “The Dust Bowl”.

http://video.pbs.org/video/2304010308

 http://video.pbs.org/video/2304008606

65 thoughts on “Humanity’s Hubris

  1. Mike,

    Saw an interesting segment on CBS this morning about evolution and the dumbing down of humans…… Just had an experience of dealing with a rather dumb or misinformed individual today….. Stupidly of human is inevitable…..

  2. One point of view which i heard several times in Oklahoma, is that many of their low lifes left during the dust bowl and moved to California. And they say good riddance. They who remained do not like the glorification of those folks who left.

  3. “One point of view which i heard several times in Oklahoma, is that many of their low lifes left during the dust bowl and moved to California. And they say good riddance. They who remained do not like the glorification of those folks who left.”

    CaptRatty,

    One of the things about Hubris in people is that even after going through great tragedy, some never learn the lesson which is that our faults lie within us and it is so easy to cast aspersions on others, to not see ourselves. Oklahoma is today one of the most conservative states in the nation. They have forgotten that were it not for the efforts of the “New Deal” their land would be desert today. Many in FDR’s administration and many Republicans of the time believed the “Dust Bowl” should not be aided and the land should be allowed to become a desert akin to the Sahara. FDR refused to give up on it.

  4. Mike:

    It seems that the structure of what you applied to natural resource plundering being hubris is the same structure which gets people, organizations, gov’ts, etc into the same trap in other systems or environments. Now it seems to me at least here in the US with our elected officials the same thing. An effect of this is to allow problems grow to crisis levels before anything is done about it and the solution is often so extreme it causes another set of problems.

    I watched the Dust Bowl series on PBS a few days ago. The more people accept your writings and this documentary as self evident truths the less the world will have to endure the hardships.

  5. Read an interesting bit about genetically modified corn this morning. Completely surprising to nobody that stayed awake through High School Biology, the pests have developed defenses against the insecticides ‘built in’ to the corn. But don’t worry your pretty little head, Monsanto and a couple of others have a new, “this time we can’t miss” GM that will solve the problem. H-U-B-R-I-S

    Then, in the second section of the paper, was an article about the deaths of bees that keepers are starting to think might have something to do with the GM crops & insecticides.

    The farmers in the dust bowl region never really understood THEY were the ones that caused their problems. But we are so much smarter now, right?

  6. “The farmers in the dust bowl region never really understood THEY were the ones that caused their problems.”

    Frankly,

    Actually in the documentary there were clips of a few who lived through the times who did understand it was their fault. However, I think today that those in power and the rest of the populace there have conveniently forgotten that fact.

    Darren,

    Thank you for “getting” my more global point. Hubris seems endemic to us humans and I say that as one who has himself suffered from it at times. One of the hardest, yet most necessary tasks we have in life is constant re-examination of our own behavior and its effects. Without that self awareness hubris infects us.

  7. Mike,
    I agree that hubris is common to all world citizens, but especially so here at home. The “suitcase farmers” that you described above sound a lot like the Bain Capital mentality.

  8. “The Greeks had it right about humanity in general, in that as we have become masters of this planet, so many of us have so often been laid low by the hubris of thinking ourselves completely in control of our world and immune to the effects of nature.”

    Yep. Earth could shake us off like a bad habit and keep on keeping on. Nature is a self-correcting system that seeks equilibrium . . .

    “We ignore the truth that we are but advanced animals, technologically proficient, but still able to be laid low by the catastrophic and uncontrollable forces of nature. We don’t just ignore our place as part of an environment, we disdain it with the belief that we are so powerful an entity, so unique, that we can overcome the mere demands of the ecology we live in. This to me is the definition of Hubris and it is a fault of humanity and not just the United States.”

    and we are the only creature that despite our “intelligence” seems to fail to understand the importance of maintaining that equilibrium. It’s a truth we keep forgetting. Treebeard lamented in “The Two Towers” that “Nobody cares about the forests anymore.” In many ways, Tolkien’s books are not just a commentary on war, loss and human nature, but a commentary on man’s hubris regarding nature – especially the parts dealing with Saruman. Complex life, including humans, didn’t arise because some magical sky daddy wished us into being but because of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution in a relatively stable environment. No good can come from destroying that balance.

    Excellent job, Mike.

  9. I watched the documentary as well, though, truth be told, after seeing Part 1, it was hard to bring myself to even watch Part 2, the bleakness of it being that great. I think the worst part of all of it was at the end, when it was noted that the aquifer is now at 50%. With climate change and, what I think are generally near desert conditions in the best of times, there is a very finite length of time remaining for the “farmers” (generally big agra). Most of the human race today seems to focus on today only, and immediate gain (witness Black Friday), and then they balk at limitations on logging, fishing, farming, or being told what they can do by the “gubment”. It doesn’t bode well for the future. As much as one might yearn for one’s youth, most times I’m glad I’m in my 60s and childless.

  10. Spot on Mike S:

    Humanity has for thousands of years preened itself with the concept that we are “Masters of the Earth” … we have become masters of this planet, so many of us have so often been laid low by the hubris of thinking ourselves completely in control of our world and immune to the effects of nature.

    Much of that hubris comes from thinking that we are the most intelligent species in the cosmos.

    There is mounting research information to counter that faith, including the type your guest post today reflects about the collective hubris of our species.

    You mentioned “eons of evolution” of biological entities which followed a far greater amount of time when abiotic evolution was the only evolution going on.

    It was during that time of abiotic evolution which preceded biotic evolution that the nature of stars and planets evolved a mechanism which ensures human hubris will not survive but instead will become extinct.

    But there is a choice for our species: either we make hubris extinct or our Sun will.

  11. “truth be told, after seeing Part 1, it was hard to bring myself to even watch Part 2, the bleakness of it being that great. I think the worst part of all of it was at the end, when it was noted that the aquifer is now at 50%.”

    Maxcat07,

    Yes Part I was hard too watch and my emotions ran from extreme sadness to anger. What kept me going through Part 2 though was that early in Part 1, I knew I wanted to write about this, seeing the hubris that brought it about. The other impetus was that I truly knew little more than the basics about that era, in that region and so wanted to learn more. The pictures and the music too held my interest, keeping me along for the ride.

  12. I followed up with Frontline’s “Poor Kids”, a contemporary look at struggling families. It didn’t make for a merry holiday.

    The shots of crops being irrigated by water from the ogalala were appalling. We should be insisting on conserving drip systems, not a system that wastes 50% due to evaporation.

    Link to Poor Kids:

    http://video.pbs.org/video/2306814133

  13. ever notice that some times you just can’t tell anyone something? you must let them fail.

    the photograph of the family reminds ME of MY childhood.

  14. Mike – I saw the shows. The kids do now 80 years later but the farmers (many at least) certainly did not get that they caused the problem. Assuming our grandkids live another 80 years in the hellscape we are building they may recognize the disaster was our fault but it is obvious the people who could actually prevent the looming nightmare are blind to anything but their own profits and power

  15. THE LIVING GOD 1, November 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    ever notice that some times you just can’t tell anyone something? you must let them fail.

    ==============================================
    The Senator from that area, James Mountain Inhofe has said that the notion of global warming is the greatest hoax ever fostered on the public.

    Learning cannot be done without the ability to do critical thinking.

  16. It appears that the author is uninterested in any role the government might have played to alleviate the situation, just as a somewhat analogous situation has been unfolding, especially in the past 30 years, with illegal immigration – which has the blessings of the Volvo crowd as well as corporate America — with the middle and lower classes paying a larger percentage of their income taxes for programs that virtually guarantee things will only get worse. But hey, Obama says he is going to give us immigration reform (sic).

  17. @Dredd: There is no scientific evidence proving any species, alien or not, is more intelligent than man; to our best knowledge we ARE the most intelligent species in the cosmos.

    That fact doesn’t mean we cannot make mistakes, but we are the only species of any kind that makes conscious plans and predictions for events beyond our own lifetimes that actually get executed and / or come to pass. I presume you will now, like all ideologues, just redefine the word “intelligence” to suit yourself. Proceed.

  18. Bill McW

    Both Mike and the film address administration efforts to improve farming and soil conditions. You might have heard of the program: the WPA.

  19. The XL pipeline for the movement of tar sands oil was originally planned to go through the Oglala Aquifer. A replan may happen which may move it farther east and mostly miss the aquifer is possible. Great idea they have to run tar sands oil over this great aquifer. Tar sands oil that WILL spill and for which they haven’t a clue for cleanup. Is it hubris? or just plain greed?

  20. We can’t change mankind, witness TonyC attack on Dredd.

    But we can educate and change the political system so that people will be informed correctly and choose the right candidates, etc to achieve husbandry-like
    decisions.

    Food, water—both needed and limited. Cheap solar energy will give us desalinated water. But we can not currently stop the rising temperatures.
    As I jokingly emphasuzed the point, by saying that we will have alligators and opossums soon in NYC.

    But if methane escape starts, then we will end up like Venus, and no intelligence of our species will help us, or any other species.

    Of course, Dredd will give me an argument saying that halogenic thermophilic bacteria might start building macroorganisms. :-)

  21. The Hubris of rulers requires sycophants, enablers, and sheep. The first two must be manipulated for selfish gain. The sheep are simply expected to be ignorant and sacrificial. This formula has worked for centuries and is quite refined now.

  22. Bill – you really should watch the documentary. You might learn that the government had a program that was trying to convince farmers that they making the situation worse & that there were things they could do to make them better. They even had a guy running around the Southwest explaining the techniques. He set up a large scale demonstration plot in Texas that showed real improvement.

    But a lot of those good ol boy farmers were not gonna let some pointy-head Easterner tell em what to do. Seems they knew more in their gut than an actual scientist could ever hope to know.

    Sort of like how some people know that the government did nothing to help despite the actual history.

  23. Good point, David. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to demand accountability and speak truth to power . . . especially when they don’t want to hear it.

  24. We are doomed unless we appropriate all our military dollars to alternative energy R&D. As a matter of global security.

    Anything less is still pretty hellish:

  25. Thanks for the discussion Mike, I watched this last night, couldn’t stop watching because I know this area of the nation very well. More New Mexico, the area near Watrous, all grasslands and high steppes. Directly east of this Spanish settled area is the heart of the dust bowl. Oceans of grass.
    The Santa Fe trail still showing wagon marks and ruins of old forts…..

    I thought it was a great film. So interesting a woman novelist lived there to record the life, and all the photographers who shot film.

  26. Tony C. 1, November 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    @Dredd: There is no scientific evidence proving any species, alien or not, is more intelligent than man …

    I presume you will now, like all ideologues, just redefine the word “intelligence” to suit yourself …
    ====================================
    After your straw man “more intelligent than man”, which is not found anywhere in my text.

    Then in your own imagination and on your own authority, as Dr. Dogma as usual, you have not stopped there, but have also defined “scientific evidence” to suit yourself.

    However, your definition does not fit with the definitions of scientists I link to, who do define that phrase properly.

    Even Wikipedia has an expanded and appropriate definition:

    Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving.

    Intelligence is most widely studied in humans, but has also been observed in animals and in plants. Artificial intelligence is the simulation of intelligence in machines.

    (Wikipedia, Intelligence, emphasis added). Your position is not sufficiently intelligent as a result. Proceed in a more intelligent manner with less hubris.

  27. Human hubris leads to the false notion that humans have the only intelligence on the Earth.

    The following Video, which has a transcript, discusses plant intelligence:

  28. Human hubris concerning intelligence is shown to be old and worn out when it comes to scientific reality:

    People generally define intelligence in terms that place our own species at the apex, but recent studies on other animals suggest skills such as abstract thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and language — once thought unique to us — may not be so uncommon after all.

    “The closer we examine animals, the more they surprise us with their intelligence and awareness,” said Jonathan Balcombe, a research scientist at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC.

    “Chickens practice deception, pigeons can categorize images in photographs as quickly as we can, a gorilla plays a joke on a human teacher, and a tiny fish leaps from one tide pool to another using a mental map formed during high tide.”

    Balcombe did admit that in the evolutionary lottery, humans got lucky. Factors such as climate, the need for socialization, and challenges associated with foraging for intermittently available food may have contributed to our unique skill set.

    Taken individually or in other combinations, though, these skills are being increasingly noticed in other creatures.

    A prevailing view, which at least dates back to French philosopher Rene Descartes [1596 – 1650 … a French philosopher] and was reiterated by noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner, holds that all examples of non-human intelligence are simply conditioned behaviors.

    Recent studies are putting that view to rest.

    (Discovery). RIP human hubris, Grandpa’s dictionary is not what it once was cracked up to be.

  29. Human hubris offers the tasty egotistical notion that intelligence is competition between species which we won.  Upon losing the hubris we find that intelligence involves co-habitation in an environment, without destroying it.

    For example:

    At the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (LINV), about seven miles outside Florence, Italy, Mancuso and his team of nine work to debunk the myth that plants are low-life. Research at the modern building combines physiology, ecology and molecular biology.

    If you define intelligence as the capacity to solve problems, plants have a lot to teach us,” says Mancuso, dressed in harmonizing shades of his favorite color: green. “Not only are they ‘smart’ in how they grow, adapt and thrive, they do it without neuroses. Intelligence isn’t only about having a brain.”

    (Wired). Humans are having a real problem with solving the global warming induced climate change problem and the nuclear holocaust danger problems.

    Survival of the species as well as its apex of intelligence is legitimately in question.

  30. Frankly,

    I hope your comment about the govt and the good ol boy farmers is not used as a point to drive home that govt is ineffectual in informing and changing.
    If so let me remind you that the ag info service has
    been working for years with success. The farmers are also knowledgeable that their local universities is doing research to provide better strains, etc.

    Check it out if you’re curious.

  31. HUBRIS,

    We know less about the human cell than we do in the rest of physiology combined. Studying the human cell is akin to studying quantum particles, the observation changes the conditions, ie disturbs the results.

    Oak trees communicate. When one is attacked by insects it will emit a signal substance which is detected by surrounding trees, who respond by erecting their defences too. This helps the group by making the habitat less inviting than before.

    The list is longer. We have lots left to learn.

    But, we know how to extinguish the earth as a habitable planet. HUBRIS

  32. 707 – no it was a reply to Bill who was trying to assert that the government was no help to these farmers:
    ” It appears that the author is uninterested in any role the government might have played to alleviate the situation – argle-barggle-immigration fail”

    Ignoring that his point on immigration was wrong I wanted to suggest he should actually learn something about the gov. efforts to straighten out the dust bowl before saying they didn’t do anything to help.

  33. idealist707 1, November 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

    HUBRIS,

    We know less about the human cell than we do in the rest of physiology combined.

    But, we know how to extinguish the earth as a habitable planet. HUBRIS
    ================================================
    You and Mike S hit the nail squarely on the head.

    Mike S by the use of “Humanity’s Hubris”, and you by using the words “we know” have fingered the problem, the difficult problem.

    That problem is not purely individual hubris, but a group hubris.

    It is clear to me that others who came before you two have also made that same astute observation:

    Instead, together we are bringing about the destruction of our home world as we also fail to prepare for demise of the Sun:

    Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

    The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    (Brainy Quotes). Something is infantile about a species when it gathers together to protect itself but instead destroys itself.

    (The Life and Death of Bright Things). That mystery of sorts is a function of group psychology.

    Mike S, I am quite sure, realizes that in some ways group hubris is like individual hubris, however, he also grasps that individual psychology is also different when compared to group psychology.

  34. Hubris: 10,000 years from cultivation to extinction
    ===================================================

    Attention is a limited and energy craving function.
    Animal groups solve danger detection by a constant “changing of the guard”, security attained while minimizing the burden.

    Why this? Because civilization performs partly the same function for humans. Specialists are created to watch for and detect, well in advance, approaching dangers.

    But humans know that such warnings must be valid to the point that skitterings hither and you in not unnecessarily done. Those whose interests are impacted influence the herd so as to calm and help it ignore the disturbing signals from the experts. Experts have their individual/group interests to serve.

    Today, the herd is controlled by the executive branch and its co-rulers.

    Today it is sufficient for the administration to declare war, it is sufficient to produce false evidence of WMDs or torpedos fired at our ships to unleash a war.

    BUT, if we ignore the warnings and allow the artic
    methane to melt, then the whole planet dies.

    We once lived and died comfortably without private automobiles. We have now created an economy which makes it necessary to feel “comfortably middle class”.

    Cars will kill us if fueled by fossil fuels.
    That is unequivocally so.

    We possibly CAN survive if we reduce fossil fuels to XX percent in YY years. MAYBE.

    Otherwise NOT A CHANCE. Predicted over a hundred years ago.

    A planet for the pleasure of an automobile which consumes fossil fuel, when electrics will soon meet commuter needs, and trains long distance ones.
    Planes? Hydrogen fueled, possibly.

  35. Dredd and ID707,

    I mostly agree with the direction both of you are taking and yes though you both have gotten more into the specifics of hubris, your extensions were definitely in my prior thinking.

    Hubris is both an individual and collective trait of humanity. It may also exist in animals, but while I can imagine those possibilities, I don’t think there is experimental proof of animal hubris. The psychological pathology that we have defined in individual humans can also be present in the actions of a society as a whole.

    The fear reaction triggered by 9/11 for instance, infected most of this society with a credulousness that was easily exploited and channeled into a misdirection of effort. Repugnance against torture, for instance, disappeared in the need to control our worst fears of disaster triggered by the recurring sight of planes crashing into the World Trade Center.

    Part of the confusion that science has regarding the definition of intelligence came about because of the “brain/body split”. The popularity of this notion arose through religious dogma regarding sexuality. If sexuality was a part of humanity’s “base” nature, then it must be controlled by the “brain”(mind) which represents in this concept an ability to act without the constraints of emotion and towards “higher” aims.

    To me this is nonsense and indeed my training in Gestalt Philosophy, is to see the individual as an organism, or entity made up of many parts. I believe, and my life experience has taught, that my “intelligence (such as it is) is a product of my entire organism, not merely my brain. As such, functionally, important information is derived from my entirety, not just my brain. In my own long psychotherapy I came to understand that my “feelings” were not just the productions of the brain, but actually messages bearing intelligence throughout the entirety of my organism.

    A clear example of this type of concept is the age-old expression: “This person is a pain in my ass (neck etc.). When confronted by an obnoxious person parts of our organism send us messages that inform us to avoid this individual. This intelligence aren’t thoughts, but sensations. “You make me sick” (in my stomach?) represents another message. The dictum taught over and again to Gestalt Therapists (and other Existentialists) is trust the “Wisdom of Your Organism”. Hubris then can be defined in one instance as not trusting the wisdom of your organism.

    How how do I relate this back to where I’m going with “hubris”? I believe that one common form of “hubris” occurs when our conscious mind “overrules” our feelings. NAZI’s machine gunning helpless humans naked in ditches may have had innumerable bad feelings of revulsion occurring in their individual organisms, yet ignored them and kept shooting. We know that there were soldiers participating in the “My Lai Massacre”, haunted for the rest of their lives by their part in it. I would contend that many who farmed the “Dust Bowl” in reality were aware on some level that they were being destructive, yet they overrode perhaps the sickness in their stomach, to follow the messages in their brain that they had the power to succeed and fulfill their fantasies of wealth.

    Collectively, this is much easier to conceptualize. Looking back at 9/11 my first “feelings” (actually thoughts from my brain) were those of revenge and death to the perpetrators. While the attack on Iraq first seemed a good idea, the whole concept was undercut by internal alarms that something was wrong here. As I listened to these internal alarms, feelings of a “not rightness”, I began to realize the whole Iraq enterprise was wrong. There we some who from the beginning of the Iraq buildup had feelings that it was wrong and spoke out, only to be drowned out in the mass hubris of revenge and the illusion of world conquering U.S. power.

  36. idealist707 1, November 24, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    We can’t change mankind, witness TonyC attack on Dredd.

    Of course, Dredd will give me an argument saying that halogenic thermophilic bacteria might start building macroorganisms. :-)
    ===========================================
    I have ordered the halogenic thermophilic bacteria [which] might start building macroorganisms to perform an exorcism on Tony C when they finish their construction project.

    Hat tip to David Blauw who up-thread linked the “It is good to be the king” LOL video.

  37. Mike Spindell 1, November 25, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Dredd and ID707,


    To me this is nonsense and indeed my training in Gestalt Philosophy, is to see the individual as an organism, or entity made up of many parts. I believe, and my life experience has taught, that my “intelligence (such as it is) is a product of my entire organism, not merely my brain.

    ====================================
    So do you still not believe in “my little pretties” the microbes? ;)

  38. “So do you still not believe in “my little pretties” the microbes? ;)”

    Dredd,

    I don’t “disbelieve” in them. First, I’m not that scientifically minded, but second I think that at our current early stage of intellectual development and scientific knowledge, it is mankind’s “hubris” that we think we know so much more than we do. :)

  39. Actually Dredd, alternative doctors (you know, the quacks) have been studying the 5 or 6 pounds of bacteria we carry in our gut.

    They contend that this is our ‘second brain’. Since we actually have more bacteria cells than actual human cells (this blows my mind) finding out which bacteria are beneficial and which are harmful seems to be a worthy task.
    Will the conventional medical researchers take on this complex investigation? Will doctors in the future inoculate babies with good bacteria in order to protect health?
    The hubris seems to be caused by profitability- can it be patented? If not, then it is not important, haha

  40. MikeS and Dredd,

    First MikeS, you put the answer to the dust bowl on the table as hubris. It was very concretely put, with “hurt” as reinforcement.

    All I did, if anything, was to move if from the past, where we make mistakes, to now, where we are too smart to do so. And I clamped it there by showing where we will end up. With an extinguished planet.
    All else is wishful thinking.

    I go, as you know to an internationally certified
    (I believe) gestalt therapist. He never uses the terminology, however he has inquired what I was feeling when I showed signs of being in contact with my whole organism. I have since identified my stomach as my chief giver of notices. Followed by many others.
    To hear it described by you is interesting. I have believed in the totality of myself, more and more in recent years.

    Animals do have hubris, as I understand the word. Lusse, my cat had a favorite route to run from the lawn to the porch to then hop up on it to greet us.
    Suffering from cancer, one day she slipped and fell. I could perceive that she felt that this was not ordinary slip, but of greater significance and she realized it.

    Her hubris had consisted of that which we all acquire—-that we master what our body learns that it can, we function ss we think we can. and then we can no longer. We were assured that we could by our experiences—that was the hubris, and now we can’t.

    So it is collectively with climate warming, we will adjust or we die.

    So with mankind. We even learned to fly, change hearts, transfer genes—-all just a matter of time, we say. But now we can not sweep this one under the rug nor fix it.
    =======================

    Dredd,

    Aothough it sounds spooky when talking of the little ones, some of them and their functions are well established. However, we who are interested in how the body works in cooperation with bacteria find the mechanistic aspect easy to swallow.

    I’m waiting for the research to go from the gut to the mind, and on the the whole regulatory system in terms of effect.

    NOW, we know the POSITIVE effects of helicobacteria pyloris (ulcer bacteria) on regulating hunger feelings. It is also involved in Sodium hydrocloride regulation in the stomach.

    Someday with the help of bacteria, we will re-grow new fingers, renovate our circulaltion systems, etc.

    ====================0
    Hubris is also there in deciding to arm with nuclear weapons, live in a constant state of war, etc.
    It is unhealthily opposed by the kneejerk reaction of saying “We never did that before.”
    Yes, and we would still be sucking at our mothers’ dried teats if they had not shooed us on with a half a banana in our hands.

  41. Shano, you’re onto it.

    My son was diagnosed with a horrifying incurable disease in 2005. He had 11 providers between that time and now; three of them were and are licensed, establishment MD’s and he has benefitted from their help, but the other eight were and are “alternative” providers and he has benefitted even more from theirs. He now does not say that he has the disease; he says that he has “the diagnosis” of the disease. And he uses the word, and explains the difference between “having” it and having the “diagnosis” of it. The difference is that he has educated his body-mind into dealing with it successfully so that although it is not technically “gone,” his healthy and vigorous being has it completely regulated and subdued.

    Yet when he had a motorcycle accident and a nurse in the emergency room saw what he wrote on the chart for medical history, she asked him why he had not listed non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs on his medications list. He answered, “I don’t take them.” She freaked out at him, shouting that he had to immediately start taking his meds or he would be crippled. He calmly informed her that he had chosen to avoid those drugs and that he had been using other means for four years successfully. She still couldn’t get over it and her parting words to him were that he had to get with the program.

  42. Shano and Dredd,

    A year ago, a very rich American couple donated almost 750,000,000 dollars to a research institute in their name for research in complementary/alternative medicine.

    Karolinska Institute decides who gets the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology yearly. It has oodles of cancer funding, etc.

    I could maybe check on bacteria symbiosis.

    For my own sake, of course. I want to be first with a fevamped brain.

  43. Idealist, you say “I want to be first with a fevamped brain.”

    I don’t know what that is but I want to be second. :razz:

  44. Now they are fracking as many gas wells as they can on the western edge of the dust bowl. What could go wrong?

    Yea, Malisha, almost every health problem I have had could not be addressed by conventional medicine, unless I wanted to be a opiate addict or take steroids, etc. These past 10 years or so I have been very healthy. I try to stay away from doctors altogether, so although alternatives are a lot more trouble than taking a pill, I am motivated to stay the course.

  45. Malisha,

    Change one typo and you get a “revamped brain”. Can that be understood (revamped?) in today’s jargon.
    I can’t imagine you needing it, but besides improvement I was considering the great adventure. With the aid of microbes and not LSD, etc.

  46. Idealist: OH! :oops: I thought it was an actual scientific name for something like cold storage so they could wake you up when it was “over” or something.

    :grin:

    Shano, if you’re near Dallas, Texas, Look up Dr. Constantine Kotsanis. He is an M.D. but he doesn’t just write scrips for the NSAIDS and he’s brilliant!

  47. shano 1, November 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Actually Dredd, alternative doctors (you know, the quacks) have been studying the 5 or 6 pounds of bacteria we carry in our gut.

    They contend that this is our ‘second brain’. Since we actually have more bacteria cells than actual human cells (this blows my mind) finding out which bacteria are beneficial and which are harmful seems to be a worthy task.
    Will the conventional medical researchers take on this complex investigation? Will doctors in the future inoculate babies with good bacteria in order to protect health?
    The hubris seems to be caused by profitability- can it be patented? If not, then it is not important, haha
    =========================================
    I don’t indulge quacks.

    You provide no link to them.

    The microbiologists I listen to are world class top of the line.

    Your cheap shot cheapens you and no one else.

    Here is one of those world class scientists I subscribe to:

  48. shano 1, November 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Actually Dredd, alternative doctors (you know, the quacks)
    ================================================
    Here is another world renown scientist and professon at a top notch university, like Bonnie Bassler above.

    He speaks of microbes that do brain surgery on humans and other species that 25,000 neurosurgeons do not know how to do.

    Your senseless post indicates you are an Akinoid.

    Dr. Sapolsky on Toxoplasma Gondii

  49. DR. ROBERT SAPOLSKY is a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University and of neurology at Stanford’s School of Medicine. He is also a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya. While his primary research, on stress and neurological disease, is in the laboratory, for twenty-three years he has made annual trips to the Serengeti of East Africa to study a population of wild baboons and the relationship between personality and patterns of stress-related disease in these animals.

    His latest book, A Primate’s Memoir, grew out of the years spent in Africa. He is also the author of Stress, the Aging Brain, and the Mechanisms of Neuron Death, and two books for nonscientists, The Trouble With Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping.

    ************************************
    DR. BONNIE BASSLER is a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University. She has made important discoveries about quorum sensing, or the process by which single-cell bacteria communicate with one another. She hopes to use quorum sensing to create anti-microbial drugs to counteract bacteria. For her work, she received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002 and the National Academy of Sciences elected her one of its members in 2006. She wakes up prior to 6 a.m. everyday to teach an aerobics class.. because otherwise she would just be lazy.
    ========================================
    Your HUBRIS is shameful shamo shano …

  50. shano 1, November 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Dredd, sorry, I agree with you. It was ‘snark’. You know, those quacks with no sense of sarcasm. snarkasm.
    ================================
    My snark detectors have had a busy day. Sorry I missed the snarkasm.

  51. Self-organization, be it abiotic or biotic, is still not the equivalent of conscious intelligence. It’s probably a precursor, but to think that it is equivalent is a false equivalence.

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